BLOODBATH IN PURGATORY
(A Dack Shannon Story)
By Steven L. Shrewsbury
"I go the way that Providence dictates with the assurance of a sleepwalker." -- ADOLF HITLER Speech in Munich 3/14/36
"Get down, James," Dack Shannon snarled at the man beside him. Like an iron vice securing a target, Dack's gloved hand seized the younger agent by the collar and yanked. Once James joined him behind the wall of decaying cars, a spray of bullets whizzed past. Sharply, James sucked in air as he flattened against the wall of autos. Dack raised a silver .45 caliber auto-magnum, but never looked back at the younger man in black clothing. The magnum rested aside Dack's pallid face, his pink eyes darting back and forth. His senses were full of the echoes of the gunfire and the scent of oil intermingled with mice wafting from the cars. They stood in a small cul de sac in the vast junkyard full of old, rusting vehicles. The agents tried to be invisible in the darkness as best they could. The tall albino agent from Majestic Services muttered, "You get sloppy today, son, and you get dead. We are teetering on a ladder against these mafia gunmen and about one wrung out of Hell."
James opened his mouth, but more gunfire stifled his voice. The bullets rained over the edge of the stack of cars, sounding like a swarm of thousand pound wasps strafing a junkyard in the night. The younger man lifted his 9-millimeter automatic pistol and blinked when Dack handed him a black silencer. "We always use a silencer?" James asked as he palmed the silencer.
Dack sighed, then fished in his black trench coat and produced a small object that resembled a glass, ribbed saltshaker. "Usually. Oddly enough, it makes one get used to silence." Abruptly, Dack twisted the top of the glass object and flung it over their heads, clearing the mound of cars. Dack then sprinted out of the cul de sac of dead autos. James followed him close, breathing hard.
Not far away an explosion ripped through the night and they could hear screams intermingled with a metallic rattle. The moans of agony never ceased as the sound of scraping metal screeched in their ears, punctuated by a dull crash.
Dack and James maneuvered around another wall of debris and hid behind a wall of car husks similar to their previous shelter. James shook his head from side to side. "Christ, why don't they stop yelling?"
The senior Majestic agent looked back the way they came, not answering James. In their ears, the cries of a suffering man droned on and on...
"Jesus, how long can he bawl like that?" James asked, biting his bottom lip.
Dack turned, imparted James an indignant look and stated, "Easy. That thug will scream as long as it hurts."
James gravitated the opposite way of the cries and Dack clutched him by the elbow. Dack frowned and indicated a silent "NO" with the motion of his head, making his snow-white hair quiver in the dim moonlight. "The object is not to get away, son. The goal is to find a way out of Purgatory when one falls into it." Dack set out running parallel to the place where they hid before. He doubled back and circled around, still aware of the cries of the man across the yard. James stuck close to him, crouched over and never once deviating from the cover of the cars.
Dack went to his haunches and directed James to do so as well. They slinked around a corner, slow as turtles.
Suddenly, a dark figure tackled Dack, sending him tumbling to the dirt. James aimed at the man, but could not get a bead on him. The figure grappled with Dack, over and over, neither man getting clear or gaining an advantage. Dack kicked his knees up, removing the man off his body at last. Quickly, the two men rose. Dack's pink eyes stared at the ground where the silver auto-magnum lay. The big man who attacked Dack giggled and made a dive for the gun. James, frozen at the sight, did nothing but watch. Dack reached back toward a junk car fast, putting his elbow through a car door window. As the attacker scooped up the gun, Dack's gloved hand grabbed a hunk of the shattered glass from the doorframe. The stocky man leveled the auto-mag at Dack and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.
"Safety," Dack said quietly to his aggressor, and then threw the large, triangular piece of glass at the man's face like a Bowie knife. The glass lodged in the dark haired man's left cheek and he howled, forgetting about the gun in his hands. Dack then ran a few steps and launched himself into the air, drop kicking the man in the face...his boot connecting with the cheek...inserting the glass further.
When they went down, Dack rolled over and chopped the writhing man in the throat one time. The flailing motions of the thug ceased.
James glared down at the ruined face of the mobster, pulped and bloody. "Christ Dack, I..."
Dack picked up his gun, snapped off the safety as the cries of suffering beyond the cars grew louder. Dack motioned for James to go around a mound of dilapidated mid-70s Chevy's to the right. He was going left. James took a breath and ran around that side. Dack held up his motions a little, letting the younger agent navigate the other side first. In a few seconds, Dack slithered around the mound of cars and beheld James aiming his pistol at a man on the ground.
"Oh Jesus," the man on the ground moaned, clutching his left forearm, "Don't kill me!"
James' face was pale at the sight of the bleeding man, obviously winged by Dack's grenade. The man's right hand was scarlet and wet, his face a twisted, tearful vision of agony. James pointed his gun at the suffering man in an Armani suit. The young agent's hand shook a little as his eyes kept going from the man and then to the object at his feet. Near the toes of James' boots lay a forearm, partially clad in dark material from the suit, holding a .38 caliber revolver.
Dack observed the scene for a moment, heard the man plead again for his life and watched James hesitate. Weary of the scene, Dack shot the wretched man in the scalp himself. James jumped back a little as the man's head snapped forward, his bottom lip and tongue ripped loose as Dack's bullet exiting made a terrible gouge in the plain face.
"God," James breathed and blinked, his eyes on Dack. "You..."
Dack motioned James to follow him. "Come along James. Do not be so surprised at what a single bullet can do."
"I woulda got him!" James insisted, whispering as Dack ducked low.
"His partner must have a machine gun. That spray earlier was not from a revolver," Dack informed him, his cool demeanor never changing.
"How the hell do ya do that?" James asked quietly.
Again, Dack ignored him and moved on.
James touched Dack's left elbow, causing the tall albino to whip around and aim his gun into James' nostrils. He knew the boy could smell the discharge from the weapon. He hoped James would remember it. James hissed, "Hey! Don't get pissy! I..."
Dack let his grip go and said, "All I can say is they do not manufacture Green Berets as good as they used to."
James was about to argue but Dack suddenly yanked the boy to one side. A man with an Uzi appeared behind them, firing. Dack fired twice, but took several of the bullets. He fell to the ground and James raised his weapon.
Again, he hesitated. This time there was no albino in black to save him. The awkward spray of the Uzi rippled across James' young face, piercing his left cheek and putting out his right eye. The young agent tumbled back and hit the dirt, rolling to one side. As gray fluid poured out of his bad eye, his dying vision was that of Dack Shannon...also lying with a face full of bullet holes...not breathing...
When James sat up on the leather-covered table, he saw Dack Shannon standing across the room. The albino was dressed in black pants, boots and his black shirt, but no tie, coat or hat. He was drinking coffee with an elderly man in a white smock. This old man looked at a series of computer screens beyond the table Dack just disembarked from. James ripped off the Virtual Reality visor and then freed himself of the heavy gloves before removing the sensors on his body. He looked at the tiled floor of the AREA 68 research facility in Arizona, ashamed of what he had done. His green eyes focused on the screens at last, seeing the computer generated salvage yard. Over the small map of the area flashed the words PURGATORY-LEVEL IV in yellow light.
"Poor, poor, boy," the aged man with gray hair said with no sympathy in his tone. "You expect to be trusted in the field with test scores like that?" He had a heavy German accent and eyes as blue as the sky.
James' eyes drilled holes in the floor once more and Dack sipped coffee. He said to the doctor, "Dr. Steiner, perhaps Hank is wrong in trying to add to our numbers using ex-Navy SEALS and Green Berets. Not many ever could be found worthy to climb this high in the PURGATORY program, much less escape."
"Ach! It is a waste of time," the old man grunted and waved his hands in the air. "You and your brothers, Ja, you were chosen correctly! Your groups were properly formulated. I do not recall Thor, Alex, Rick or Jess not escaping the junkyard! These kids these days..." His blue eyes gawked at James as if he were a festering boil, "...a different breed, indeed! Hank should stick to the original methods that made MAJESTIC SERVICES what it is! He should go back to the drawing board to add to his cabal, Mein Herr! That is where the truth lies, not trying to find new blood sifting through these new kiddies!" With that, Dr. Steiner turned sharply and made his exit from the testing area.
Dack stood motionless as James stood up. The young man then headed to the door. At last, Dack Shannon spoke to him. "This does not mean you are useless, James, just not Majestic material. Hank will understand."
Dack put his coffee down and sighed. He never smiled as he told James, "Look at it this way. There is always the C.I.A."
Copyright 2003 Steven L. Shrewsbury
You can reach Mr. Shrewsbury at: revelator@Route24.net