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Continued from: Sanctuary

His head pounded from inside. Like a cracked bowling ball, heavy and unsteady, he lifted his eyes and found the world blurry. Didn’t matter. He stretched outward.

..But everything fell numb. There was no wall to punch through, no barrier to breech. But something remained, a glimmer of light unattainable as grasping stars in his hands, but with all his might he tried, harder and farther than ever under Nox’s tutelage to seize it to his control. Tightness gripped his chest. Fear rising and falling like a vengeful tide. His head throbbed blood in his ears.

Minutes lost to failed attempts, he had to stop. Take a breath. Two breaths. Steady, slow. Even. Focus on the internal.  Slow the heart rate. Breathe steady. Mind calm and logical. Breathe and assess. Cold stretched under his forearms; fingers tingled with diminished blood flow. The pinch of zip ties clamped wrists to a metal chair. The same bound his ankles. More squeezed his chest.

He remembered them tying him down. Remembered flexing every muscle in his body; enlarging the circumference with which they’d tighten the restraints. Little things, like the shape of hands fists or flat, opened that constriction. Even a small amount of movement would be enough to break free.

Eyesight returned with the calm permeating his body. The room was dark; ceiling low. Concrete and cinderblock. Machinery filled an entire corner of the room; but he couldn’t tell what kind. Pipes and vents. A giant tank rotted with rust. That didn’t bode well. There was one door around which glowed a dim light, enough to realize there were few items he could use as weapon when he escaped.

His eyes roamed the corners and ceilings. Smelled the flavors of the air. Survival was the first priority. All else could be determined later. They wouldn’t kill him so long as Cayli was free. That was his only hope. She was with Natalie and Jensen. If all went according to plan, they’d disappear in the Custody.

He carried a razor blade in his boots, but given that they were already removed, he anticipated the enforcers that worked him over were trained enough to anticipate the tool. Many of the best cartels recruited from special forces of lower tier nations. Given that most of those were trained by the US in the first place, Jay wasn’t foolish enough to underestimate what he was against. He had to get free before they decided he was too comfortable sitting around waiting.

As quietly and swiftly as possible, he scooted the chair toward the rusted tank, seeking a sharp edge to shave through the ties at the wrist.
Only darkness shows you the light.

Hood Wrote:The door to the old school's equally old boiler room was  swung open, rusting hinges letting out a brief screech of protest. it opened smoothly; it was used regularly, it just hadn't seen a drop of oil in too long not to complain. The door briefly revealed an open room beyond, evenly spaced concrete pillars holding up the weight of the old building. Scattered furniture; old plastic lawn chairs, old student seats and desks, set up with some semblance of intent. A spot for the enforcers and goons that regularly used the place, whether guarding goods or people.

In through the door came three men. None were particularly tall, none looked particularly important. Common thugs, with the sort of dress their sort wore on the streets to mark their allegiance, their outlooks. Two were carrying old TV trays, on which sat an old, stained and hole-filled tool bag and a dirty plastic milk crate holding jugs of fluids and bundles of crudely rolled wire and cordage.

The third's hands were empty, the muscle meant to ensure their newest guest wasn't ready to start any trouble. None missed that he had managed to move himself a few feet, and as two sought to set their mismatching TV trays down near the center of the room, the third unceremoniously grabbed the chair back and dragged it over to the spot they had apparently chosen.

Moments later, as the chair was still scraping across the floor, a fourth man entered. Button-down blue dress shirt, salt-stains in the armpits from sweat, wrinkled and poorly tucked into his slacks. He was in the process of unbuttoning the sleeves, rolling them up above his elbows to reveal toned, lean arms with myriad unthemed tattoos. They ran a wide gambit of styles and meanings; anchors and names and gang or cartel markings, even American, Mexican, Colombian military or police insignias. Some were ruined by scars, likely from past knife fights; a man that wasn't afraid to shield with his arm when the need arose. And skilled enough to have still come out alive and intact.

A five-o'clock shadow of black stubble, a deep tan that made his almost too-blue eyes pop against otherwise dark features. Close kept hair; not a proper buzz cut, but not far off. He met Jay's eyes as he strolled in, flashing a smile that might have been charming if he wasn't missing two teeth on the left side of his upper row, or if his too-blue eyes weren't also too cold.

A towel was pulled off his shoulder when he was done with his sleeves, and he walked up to stare down at Jay from a few feet off; far enough to avoid the brunt of any spit attempts or similar futile attacks.

Tables set, two of the men walked out of the room to return moments later with 45lbs plates, their centers crudely chisseled a bit wider. They were set on the floor in a square pattern, then they hoisted up Jay and his seat and set the chair legs down into the plates, jostling him about and scraping the plates on the floor for a moment to get the chair legs to line up and slide into the holes. They weren't fastened into place; the chair could still be tipped if one had the leverage to do so, but it would prevent Jay from any easy movement when not under supervision.

None of the four men spoke. The blue-eyed man because he had no interest to. The three enforcers because they seemed uneasy around blue-eyes. And once they had him settled into the weights, had checked his bindings again, the three enforcers walked out, closing the door behind them. And blue-eyes still just stood there, staring at Jay without speaking.
Only darkness shows you the light.

They dragged him unceremoniously away from the tank. A sad defeat given how much effort was expended to scoot the distance in the first place. His wrist rubbed raw at the attempt for freedom. Missing the plastic tie as much as it was snagged, red lines scrawled the skin nearby, but if that kind of pain was enough to slow him down, the pounding head and puffed skin on his face would have done it first.

The three that filed into the room barely looked at him, but Jay studied each in return. None were faces he recognized from the rail yard nor any other outdated lists of McBads bubbling to memory. A few grunts and the migration was over, chair secured. Actually, the plates were clever anchors or so he discovered with first few tests of the contraption. Himself and the chair were definitely going no where anytime soon. He was watching the nearest one, waiting for whatever to come to come, when a fourth entered the room. Worry crept down his spine. Unlike the others, this one looked him in the eye. Strong, lean, methodical. Jay recognized some of the shapes among the tattoos.

Jay knew exactly why this one was here, knew exactly what awaited his immediate future. It was definitely bad, he thought, glancing at the makeshift display of instruments arranged nearby. Cayli and Natalie were safe. Cayli and Natalie were safe. Or so he told himself, forcing focus on that single mantra.

When the three stepped carefully around the fourth, avoiding his gaze and going out of their way to arrange things to his liking, finally closing the door gently on their departure, Jay licked his lips as he reached frantically for the power once again. Meanwhile, those dried out lips parted into an uneasy grin. “So… where you from? What do you do?”
Only darkness shows you the light.

Hood Wrote:The man dug around in the basket on one of the two beaten up old trays, before pulling out a pair of braces, which he attached to the back legs of the chair Jay was strapped into; it was also a chance to double check the bindings himself. Once done, he somewhat awkwardly lifted and tilted back the chair, leaving Jay seated at an angle, balanced on the rear legs of the chair, anchored in place by the heavy weights on the floor and the braces mounted to the back legs.

Confident that they would hold, Jay was lowered back to the floor, all four legs once more resting in the restraining weights. He ignored Jay's question, for the moment at least; he wasn't there to learn anything. Just to hurt the man, as creatively as he could without killing the cocky idiot.

Minutes passed, and the group of thugs returned with buckets of water, and a large basin, which was placed behind Jay's chair, the buckets to one side. The water was murky, fetid stuff, likely pulled from the old building's water tanks. Below that smell of rust and decay was a tinge of bleach; a few drops into each bucket to shock it. Just enough to shock the water, sterilize it a bit. Not drinkable by far, but less likely to cause illness from water-born diseases.

"I am paid a very nice sum of money to do things to people." He nodded then, and Jay was again leaned back in the chair, now with two of the thugs bracing it so he wouldn't be able to tip it over easily if he struggled. The blue-eyed man then pulled the towel from his shoulder, and pressed it into one of the water buckets, making sure it was good and soaked before it was thrown over Jay's face and the third thug grabbed Jay's head, holding the towel in place.

The sound of a bucket lifting from the floor, that brief scrape of metal against concrete floor. The creak of the handle in its hinges, the subtle slosh of water, the pitter-patter of drops falling to the floor, soaking into Jay's pants. And then began the slow, tempered pouring of water onto that towel, robbing Jay of air, the sense of drowning conflicting with the sense of being able to breath. Blind and bound. The water coming fast or slow, stopping occasionally to let Jay try and take gasps of breath through the soaked towel through which no air could be drawn. Only foul tasting water fighting its way in his nostrils, his mouth, weighing heavily against his eyes, his throat. Muffling what little he might have been able to hear, closing him in to hear only his laboured, useless breathes.
Only darkness shows you the light.

A time comes in every man’s life when he truly regrets choices made, and Jay lamented a lot of bad decisions. When he danced with another girl at prom knowing full well that Anna Marie hated her, he later regretted that choice. When he lied to his parents and enlisted without telling them, yet another lapse of judgement. Killing that evil motherfucker Zacarías Amengual should count high on the list. Strangely, he didn’t regret dropping that bastard. Probably shouldn’t laid into him with a machete afterward, but to this day, Jay couldn’t rationalize the blind rage that animated his entire body toward violence in that moment.

As the chair tipped backward, he looked the shitface motherfucker narco defiantly in the eye just as the cloth draped over his face, blinding him from knowing what came next, and the fist of regret gripped tight on his gut. Bad fucking idea. This whole fucking thing. Texas. Axel. Amengual. Fuck them all. When he cut down all these fuckers with one of the eight-hundred ways he knew how to kill a man, they’d be grateful for the swift deaths. The kind of anger that sent machetes into Amengual’s chest gripped his hands on the chair. “Is that the best you have, you motherfucking dicksucker?”

He sucked in as much air as he could before it was stolen away.
The towel was cold. Water cold. Stink of ass-shits spread like poisoned gas over his face. The first gasp of air sprayed shitty water on his tongue. The taste made him want to gag, but a calm mind clenched the stomach tight. Choking on his own vomit was definitely not the way he wanted to die.

Sight gone. Sounds amplified. The slosh of water buckets. Footsteps. Methodical and steady. Nobody spoke to him. Nobody asked questions. Just cold water splashed his lap, his stomach: pasting his shirt to the skin. He knew it was coming. Knew it was coming. Gone through it once before in training, but still wasn’t prepared. He gasped frantically. Stabs knifed the lungs. Don’t panic, survive, he told himself, but the body revolted. Hands gripped the chair tight, he lifted his ass up and flicked his head to throw off the towel. Don’t panic. Resist. Hands grabbed his skull, yanked it back. Muscles in the neck corded tight. The towel pulled tighter. No sounds except his own gurgles flooded the ears. His throat spasmed. Ribs flared, sucking in air.

Water poured around his eyelids. Burning. More sprayed his tongue disgusting. Plugs stuffed the nostrils. He had to open his mouth for air, but the cloth stuffed cotton down his throat. When they gave him the chance to breathe, it was a choking, gagging, panicked act. Worst thing was, he knew this was only the beginning.

He was as alone as someone could be.
Only darkness shows you the light.

Hood Wrote:"...eep them guessing." The towel was pulled from Jay's face after...well, Jay would have no real way of knowing that. But the towel was pulled free, and the chair was lowered to sit upright again, which would give the man a chance to try and cough the water clear of his lungs. The fetid, soiled water was tossed to a slight depression in the floor where a drain let most of it run out of the room, and then two of the thugs grabbed the chair, hoisted it free of the plates, and dragged it over to a dry patch.

The plates were brought along a moment later, the chair was anchored to the floor again.

When Jay might clear his head enough to get his bearings, the blue-eyed man was seated in front of him, leaning forwards with elbows on his knees, and he grinned and held Jay's eyes for a moment, before raising his hands to show what he was holding. In one, a pair of jagged-toothed alligator clamps attached to cables that ran out of Jay's line of sight. No live current yet, it seemed, as they were touching without sparking.

In the other hand, a simple, cheap Exacto knife. He pressed his thumb to the slide, and an inch of blade slide forth; it was at least shiny and clean looking. Sharp.

"Choose your own adventure time. Which one do you want?" The man still grinned, amused. Excited, perhaps. Jay's shirt had been cut free at some point during the water-play; the weight of the shirt pressing against his wet body would have helped convince his mind that they were under water, would have helped sway him away from involuntarily gasping, trying to draw air through the wet towel. Remove the shirt, remove the weight on the chest, remove that primal instinct to not breath.

The blue-eyed man had removed his own shirt, leaving only a plain grey beater. It revealed more unit and gang tattoos up his arms and across his chest. Mismatched, disorganized. The Exacto knife blade was retracted and extended again, and the man's gaze finally let Jay's go to glance at Jay's arm. At his bicep, at a tattoo there.
Only darkness shows you the light.

[Image: zac-2.jpg]
Zacariás Amengual,
El Tiburón, The Shark


There was little fanfare at the border; Amengual crossed it often. He operated a number of legitimate businesses, after all and his tourism industry was growing like leeches on decayed wood. It was one of many reasons he flew into Dallas-Fort Worth International rather than that of his home country. There were partners to meet and operations to oversee. The Governor asked to meet with him again as they finalized arrangements between them: Ascendancy’s tasks loomed in the back of his mind. First and foremost, he had an errand to complete: one he eager to pursue. 

Ryker joined him at curbside, sunglasses pushed high on his face. He seemed to be bothered by the aroma of exhaust and the general filth of the sidewalk judging by the sweep of his gaze and scowl on his face. The sunglasses, however, were ridiculous. “Those do not hide your scars. Do not pretend otherwise,” he said, plucking dark rims from the pocket of his own sport coat. Ryker glared but kept his tongue wisely to himself. Passengers glanced at them while the car pulled forward. A bastard whose face was buried in his wallet wheeled a suitcase close, brushing the white of his jacket. Skilled hands clamped down on the offender, pulling him from arm’s reach. Zacariás stepped around the scene to climb into the car. Ryker watched blandly, content to let others carry out the man-handling. He joined Zacariás in the car a moment later.

There was a smile on his face when he emerged 45 minutes later. Nobody impeded his path to the front door. Wide gates walled off the outside world. Within, he was king. Ryker and others followed at a respectful distance. The smile held steady as he wound through the large home, dropping his sport coat on a bar stool and undoing the top few buttons of his shirt as he spied the targets in the back yard.

Splashes of a pool party filled the air. It took a moment before they realized he was there.
“Papá!” A girl yelled. Immediately afterward, his soaking wet daughter slammed into him, hugging him tightly.

He cupped her chin, tilting her tanned face into the sun. “You are bigger. My daughter is growing into a beautiful woman.” He looked up, “Speaking of beautiful women,” he said as his arm slithered around the bare waist of his wife. He peered down into her doleful eyes, cupping her hip with the palm of his hand, “lovely bikini,” he whispered just as he drew her body close. Their embrace was long overdue.
Only darkness shows you the light.

Fingers dug drills into his skull. But he fought them. Muscles corded tight in his neck, whipping his head side to side. Rage fueled the resistance. Anger at Amengual; at Axel, even himself pulsed the will to fight through every limb until he thought he might rip the chair apart piece by piece.

But the fingers dug deeper, crushing his skull to stillness. The first gasp of air pooled the towel heavy into his mouth, sinking like a gag sliding farther and farther into his throat. Were they going to let him swallow it? Choke? Plug up his lungs like a rag stuffed in a gunshot wound? He’d die before vomiting in front of these motherfuckers. He twisted. Legs pushing against the floor. Core writhing, trying to shake it off.

Then relief. The weight lifted. Precious seconds were filled coughing the fire from his throat. In training, he held his breath 2.5 minutes, but before the spasm ended, more water fought its way through, crawling inward like parasites. Training didn't seem to help now.

It went on. And on. He had no idea how long.

The chair heaved again, sitting him upright, but he hung his head to his chest. Eyes squeezed tight. Fire wracked his ribs. He snorted sprays from his nostrils, landing on bare chest. He’d no idea when they’d cut away the shirt. His head throbbed from the lack of oxygen. Dizziness sinking his chin low. Water rolled rivers from his hair, landing on his lap. At least his jeans were soaked enough that when the time came to piss himself, nobody would notice. Maybe he already had. Drool dangled from the corner of his lip. When he looked up, it was only to find clamps filling the view in front of his face.

He was suddenly very grateful that his pants were still on.

It wasn’t the clamp that sparked a line of fear down his spine, though.  It was the smile. The way the blue-eyed man roamed his skin like he was searching a piece of meat for the best cuts. If he’d been able to speak, he’d tell the son of a bitch to get to it. All these fucking tools were a shitshow of anticipation. Get it the fuck over with, asshole.

When his eyesight cleared – they burned like lighters pressed fire, hopefully that wasn’t next – and the box-cutter slid free. In and out. Taunting him. Jay followed the cockroach's gaze defiantly toward his own arm, settling on the tattoo presented there. Force recon: a relatively rare design for an elite group. A winged skull before crossed knives decorated the inner curve of muscle. Three bullet holes pierced the forehead, one for three brothers fallen in the field. His stomach, sloshing sick with bleached water, tightened to knots.

The water dripped down his cheeks inconsequential then. The myriad display of the blue-eyed man’s designs sparked obvious significance. They covered his arms and chest, disappearing beneath his tank. Gang and prison signs, sure, but also police. Military. More than Jay even recognized. Dozens? Hundreds?

When the blade bit flesh, his scream was louder than he thought it could be.
Only darkness shows you the light.

Hood Wrote:The cutting was slower then it really needed to be. Slow drags of knife against flesh. Two men held him down, while the blue-eyed man diligently sliced and separated and eventually removed the patch of skin that held the tattoo. The piece of skin was slipped into simple Tupperware filled with ice. Bandages were applied; clean, surprisingly. They didn't want him to die of an infection after all.

He was left alone for a time then. They checked his bindings, made sure the chair was secure, then left for...well, who knew? Hours? Minutes? Left him to the pain of the lost skin, the burn of air against ravaged throat and lungs, wracking, throbbing pain of over-taxed, stressed muscles. The cold would settle in after not too long though; as the shock began to wear off, as his over-taxed body began to calm down. Left in relative silence; the subtle drip-drip-drip of the water still pooled on the floor across the room falling into the floor drain. The smell of it still thick in the room. The sight of the alligator-clamp cables laying on the floor not far from the chair, the cable snaking away behind him; a promise of what was to come. The crates still sitting on the distant old TV trays, filled with tools and who-knew-what, another promise of things to come.

There could be no doubt left in his mind that they were not after information. He knew nothing they seemed to care about. The blue-eyed man had a very simple, entertaining task set to him; break a man that thought himself hard, strong. Thought himself untouchable.

And then they returned, the blue-eyed man with his many tattoos, a clean shirt and pants, the hint of a shiny patch seen under the collar near his neck. He seemed happy, smiling, a bit more energy to his step. Not that it touched his too-blue eyes of course, and the man soon came to a stop to stand in front of him again, smiling down in a display of too many teeth. A predatory smile, well matched to the cold blue eyes. He tugged the shirt down a bit, to show a hint of his newest tattoo. Jay's old tattoo. To join the myriad that already adorned his body.

No questions. No conversation. The cables came next. When he picked them up, when the heads touched, sparks danced briefly. There was no play of it either; no threatening gestures, no move to build up Jay's unease. The man just went to work with the cables. No soft touches to skin either; the alligator clamps were opened and allowed to snap shut on Jay's skin, pinching and biting against his skin. Pulled free roughly, skin tearing and burning.
Only darkness shows you the light.

[Image: zac-2.jpg][Image: Catalina017.jpg]


He watched his family frolic and play from a poolside lounger. Occassionally, he was distracted by a message that required immediate response, but primarily, Zacariás was content to enjoy the moment of respite. This was why he worked hard all these years. Other than the regular snacking of plantain chips and sipping of a coconut slushie, he was motionless but for the smile to tip his lips when his daughter performed some great feat of acquatics.

Which was why he was none too pleased when his moment of peace was interrupted. Mauricio was tough as a river fighting its way through rocky paths and just as dangerous, but when he crossed into Zacariás' line of sight, it was with an eager pace that tipped brewing anger toward curiosity. The handler nodded reverently for the family and knelt alongside the lounger to whisper.
"There's been a development, jefe," he said, casting a wary look at the family that told Zacarias the conversation needed to out of earshot.

Expressing his apologies, he left his refreshing drink behind and proceeded indoor. The glass door slid shut behind him.
Mauricio offered him the flexible screen of a scroll, which upon unrolling, Zacariás smiled quite happily.

The man in the image was nearly unrecognizable.  A huge relief swelled his chest.  "Great work, Mauricio. Keep him alive and cognizant, but tell Placaso to enjoy himself,"  he said. The angle wasn't the best, but he zoomed in on the chest, roaming the options that his primary enforcer, a man nicknamed Placaso, may or may not select for future body-art.

He returned the scroll to Mauricio,  "Show me a new picture every hour," he said.


Dinner was served on the patio. Fire globes blazed around the pool with beautiful, glowing lights. He sipped cold wine grown from Argentinian grapes, and had just announced the need to take his daughter out into town tomorrow.

She wasn't pleased with the idea.
"Papa! I wanted to see a movie with my friends tomorrow," she said.
Zacariás scooped another delicious bite with full confidence nothing was poisoned. His staff-chemist and taste-testers already conducted thorough analysis of the meal. Alana was completely ignorant of such behind-the-scenes efforts her father exerted to keep them safe.
"You can see your friends later. This has to do with your tio Andre. I have apprehended his murderer," he said, laying the fork aside.

She sat straighter, "Really? That's great news," but she licked her lip, eyes downcast.
"Why does this make you somber, daughter?" He asked.
Her lips pushed to a thin line. That night was quite traumatic for her. "Tio Andre was a good man, and sometimes I still have nightmares."

Zacariás pushed from his chair immediately, joining her side. He gripped her by the hand and forced her to look him in the eye.
"This is weakness, daughter. You must purge the fear from your mind or you'll never control it. I'm taking you to visit the man who murdered Tio Andre before your eyes. I will show you that evil does not go unpunished. You will help me. Then you will sleep better at night," he said. The words were harsh, but he pulled her forward and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. She smelled faintly of cholrine and tanning lotion.

His wife watched nodding along, silently mouthing thank you, as he embraced their daughter.
Only darkness shows you the light.


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