Excerpt for Slaughter: Collections by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Slaughter: Collections

An Ever-Growing Collection of Slaughter Shorts

By: James Beltz

(Books, Bio, More)

The following is a list of short stories featuring characters from The Slaughter Series on Amazon. Having read the series is NOT a requirement. The following is written in such a way as to introduce you to the characters and their universe yet entertain you as a standalone set of stories. It is written for both your enjoyment, and to market my other works. If you like what you read and long to know more of the characters featured here, simply search for the following titles on Amazon.

Book I – “Slaughter: Origin Story”

Book II – “Slaughter: White Out”

Book III – “Slaughter: Skeleton Key”

Table of Contents

Slaughter: Infiltration

Slaughter: Holiday Row

Slaughter: Eye Witness

Slaughter: Day One

Slaughter: Infiltration

DJ Slaughter reached down and grabbed the bottom of his apron, pulling it up to mop away the beads of perspiration from above his brow. The summer heat was oppressive enough in the windy city of Chicago. Add in the extra humidity of hand washing dishes in the grungy back room of a diner on the southside, and it was almost unbearable. His employer, the wrinkled and hairless old black man who owned this dive, had air conditioning. The unit was old and on its last legs, however. As such, he had redirected all the air into the front of the establishment for his customers. DJ only had the beat-up box-fan perched on an old rickety chair for relief. Both fan and chair were held together by grey duct tape, much like the rest of this aging roach trap.

DJ was working in this place, and under the scrutiny of the grumpy old owner, as an undercover FBI agent. The diner owner had no idea who DJ really was. He thought him to be a wandering stranger in desperate need of a job that paid cash and asked no questions. The man didn’t even know DJ’s real name. For this op, he was going by the alias David Kirsch.

His plan was to use this place as a launching point to infiltrate a group that had transcended from being a gang of tattooed youths at war over perceived territory. They had descended into the underworld of organized crime, and now they were on DJ’s radar.

Whoever was running this newly focused group was secretive and calculating. The mysterious leadership had transformed this ragtag bunch of carjacking misfits into something larger and far deadlier. Gone was a neighborhood plagued by the random drive-by, and gold-teethed roaming drug dealers. In fact, DJ was now slaving away in a diner located in the center of a virtually crime-free area of South Chicago. It was what had tipped off Abbi that something was up here.

Abbi was brilliant when it came to techy stuff. His wife, and team-member, had become a crucial part of his clandestine FBI group. The small, super-secret division of the FBI tucked away in the middle of Nowhere, Texas, depended on Abbi’s smarts. If it involved number-crunching, cyber-sleuthing, or sciency stuff, she made it happen. And, it was her algorithm thingy designed to track trends in crime, that had alerted her to the bizarre goings-on in this small section of Chicago.

His team was a unique weapon in the arsenal of the FBI. They functioned with no over-sight and answered to no one but the Director himself. They had free reign to tackle any problem they saw fit. They could jump into any ongoing investigation or launch a brand new one without reporting to a single person.

They weren’t hindered by having to carve their way through departmental politics or red tape. They were a small, focused scalpel of perfection when it came to finding and catching the bad guys. Their self-determined mission was to go after organized crime and terrorism. And, unchained as they were from the larger bureaucracy of the FBI, they were exceptionally effective.

Chicago was one of the most crime-ridden cities in the US. The outer boroughs were historically infested with gang-members and random acts of violence. More bodies were dropped into the streets here than some third-world countries. And, this particular section of the southside had been the most notorious for years.

And then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t.

In tracking crime statistics and looking for a new target to focus on, Abbi found that this small section of town had gone from the most dangerous part of the city, to the safest. And, it seemed to have happened over a thirty-day time frame.

Special Agent in Charge Brett Foster, his best friend and leader of his group, immediately wanted to know what local law enforcement had done to initiate such a radical change. After a few days of searching, Abbi reported that she could find nothing in the way of crime prevention by either the locals, or the feds. Nothing at all. It just suddenly turned into a crime-free bubble in a sea of evil. Additionally, both the feds and local law enforcement seemed unaware of the overnight change in this neighborhood.

Dogs don’t crap where they eat,” Brett announced to the team aloud. “Somebody has taken charge. A criminal newcomer to the area; or the result of a recent leadership change among the gangs. Either way, whoever’s in charge has instituted an iron-clad policy that no crime happens close to home. It means, they don’t want to give the cops a reason to go snooping around.”

Further researching on the entire city resulted in interesting findings. First of all, crime had managed to decrease in most other parts of the city. None had plummeted to absolute zero like the area DJ was standing in, of course. But still, miscellaneous and violent gang-related crime was down. Secondly, and very telling, drive-by shootings were down citywide to almost zero as well. Gangs were not fighting among themselves; they were getting along with one another. And finally, there was a new drug permeating the city called “Vision”. It was being spread through both rich and poor neighborhoods alike. Rich people were buying a purer version, of course, but it was spreading through the city like a malignant cancer. And, authorities had no clue where it was coming from.

From their perspective, Brett and his team of off-the-books FBI agents could only conclude that someone had now focused the rival gangs into a larger connected entity, and they were working together to distribute Vision.

That is why DJ was here now. He would infiltrate the group; find out who was running it and report his findings to his team. They would then take them all down.

DJ needed to settle into the area without arousing too much suspicion, but he also needed to be noticed as a potential recruit by the leadership of whatever entity had called this section of the southside home. So, DJ got a room at a rundown motel that focused more on hourly rates, and then looked for a job where he could observe the goings-on. When he saw the help wanted sign in the window of this diner, he thought it was as good a place as any to start his sleuthing.

He was starting to think he made a bad decision, however. The working conditions were miserable, and the back room was oppressively humid. And, if the old owner called him a cracker one more time, DJ was not sure he would be able to resist drowning him in this dirty dishwater.

Speaking of dishes…

DJ dropped his apron onto the counter next to the large three-compartment sink. He grabbed a stack of newly cleaned dishes and headed into the main room to drop them off. Crossing through the swinging door brought him to a halt, and he just stood there soaking in the cool air blasting out of a ceiling vent directly over his head. He closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath. The thermostat may have only been set for 72, but the temperature was such a drastic change from the backroom it seemed as if DJ had stepped into the arctic circle.

His moment of cool peace was shattered by a bark from his crotchety employer sitting on a stool by the cash register. “If I wanted you to just stand around looking pretty, I would have hired a hooker off the corner.” DJ’s jaw clenched as he struggled to keep his mouth closed. The old man noticed the reaction and cackled his direction before continuing. “That’s right, cracker. Keep it buttoned up. Not too many places whitey can get a job around here,” he snickered.

DJ shoved away his anger and moved towards the back-shelving area behind the counter. He placed his load of dishes in a stack on the shelves and began to sort them out into their rightful place for the waitress. The leather-faced owner turned to ignoring him, going back to jotting down notes on a small pad of paper while he sat in front of his register.

The old man sat in that same spot most of the day; scribbling in his notepad, reading his magazines, or chatting it up with the customers. The register was broken and didn’t really function for more than a place to store cash. The money tray wouldn’t even latch closed but sat extended out with all of the cash exposed. Judging from what DJ could see, there was usually a few hundred dollars sitting in the tray most of the time.

DJ was curious, so he voiced his question directly to the old man while organizing the dishes on the back shelf. “Aren’t you worried about being robbed? Someone could just run through and do a snatch and grab on that open register. Why not replace it?”

“Don’t nobody steal from Old Man Lucas,” the wrinkled black man sneered.

DJ stopped stacking dishes and looked the old man’s way. “Why is that?”

Old Man Lucas dropped his notepad down to rest on top of his coffee mug perched on the counter. He pivoted on his stool to face DJ fully before replying. “Cuz’ I’m scary,” he growled. There was no smile or sense of humor in the old man. DJ was very aware that his boss was trying to convey a message in his steely stare. The way he leaned forward a bit off of his stool to address his hired help, was not done in a way to intimidate DJ, but to directly challenge his hired help.

DJ was never more overcome by the desire to break the man’s nose than right then. He was tired of being called a cracker and whitey. He was tired of the never-ending barrage of racist condescension. He had reached his limit. He felt the muscles in his back tighten, and his knuckles whitened as he gripped a freshly cleaned dish. He was going to knock the old codger off of that stupid stool. Right now. That was all there was to it. He was going to smash his smug little face in with one of these dishes.

And, then he didn’t.

The room was occupied by a handful of patrons; clustered together in pairings of two or three and scattered around the row of booths against the far wall.

All of them were young, DJ noticed, with none of them more than thirty-five or so. There were no older forty-plus generation occupying the diner. Other than the old owner, of course. It was a dynamic he had noticed as he walked the streets as well. It was as if once people crossed the middle-aged mark, they got smart and left this part of the city.

A couple of early twenty-somethings dressed in ghetto garb sat in the far corner near the restroom entrance. A man and a woman. They sat chatting in heated tones that had grown from agitated whispers into full-on arguing. The entire room had been ignoring them up until now. But finally, a single word was issued by the young man, who was adorned with gold chains and a silver tooth, and directed at the young woman, who was wearing way too little clothing. It was sharp, loud, and vulgar. And, it carried all the way across the diner to catch everyone’s attention.

Including DJ.

It was a word no woman should ever be called. No matter what she had done.

DJ had been in need of a distraction or he would have snapped the old man in half. The foul-mouthed idiot in the far booth offered him that distraction. He refocused his anger away from the old man on the stool, and onto the impudent young man in the back of the room.

DJ seldom let anger consume him. Allowing emotions to guide one’s actions was always a foolish course. But right now, he didn’t care. He needed a release. The all-consuming heat and humidity of the back room, combined with the abrasive personality of Old Man Lucas, had finally built his frustration level to the breaking point. If he did not find a way to vent his anger, he might do something he would regret.

Knocking that silver tooth out of the idiot’s head might give him the release he so desperately needed.

DJ turned to the window separating the rest of the room from the short-order kitchen. The cook had dropped two plates for the lone waitress to pick up and distribute. She was currently occupied by the front door. DJ had no idea where the plates were supposed to go, but he decided right then they needed to go to the idiot and his verbally abused girlfriend.

Snatching up the two plates on the window, DJ abandoned his task of stacking dishes and wheeled away from Old Man Lucas. As he started his trek towards the back of the diner, he was aware that people were one by one stopping their conversations and turning their attention to him.

Good, he thought to himself. It’s time I introduced myself to the locals.

He expected the old man to bark at him, telling him to go back to his dish duty. But, the grizzled owner said nothing behind him as DJ stalked his way to the far corner. By the time he arrived, the only sounds that could be heard, were the blasting air-conditioner and the gold chain-wearing idiot as he proceeded to get more inventive with his name-calling of his girlfriend.

DJ sat both plates down in front of the couple with a hard clatter. The young wannabe gangster, whom DJ now referred to as Silver Tooth, was now pointing his finger and leaning across the table-top, as the girl was visibly shrinking into herself. DJ decided to give the idiot with his cornrows and gaudy jewelry one last chance to shut up and turn into a respectable human being. But, just one.

He cleared his throat and spoke up over the loud ranting by the punk, who was clearly ignoring DJ to focus on his girlfriend. “Maybe,” DJ spoke through gritted teeth, “you should shut up and apologize for your language.”

For a long second the entire room went silent and still. DJ could feel every eye in the place boring into him. Again, he expected a stern rebuke by his employer over by the register. But, DJ heard nothing behind him as he focused on the young man before him.

Silver Tooth’s face went from unmitigated surprise, to incredulity, to rage. And then, he both started to stand, and reach for his waistband at the same time.

DJ smiled inwardly at himself. Well, of course you would be armed, he thought.

Time slowed down for DJ in moments like this. He processed violent events in a methodical listing of choices and options. His brain labeled all the threats around him and categorized them by priority. As such, he allowed the young man to stand and step out from the booth. Doing so gave Silver Tooth the ability to completely draw the handgun he had concealed under his shirt and in front of his navel.

With this move by the young man, DJ was completely free to act as he saw fit.

DJ considered himself to be more than an undercover agent for the FBI. He was a righter of wrongs. He corrected situations born of evil, setting them back right with the world. He had no qualms with bending the rules and regulations of the FBI, or the law for that matter, in his quest to administer his own understanding of justice. If it were possible to apprehend a criminal and bring them before the justice system to be prosecuted, he would make every effort to do so. If he was sure they would indeed end up buried in a prison somewhere, and if it did not get in the way of pursuing a bigger fish in the criminal pond.

DJ saw what was happening here as killing two birds with one stone. He would be administering his own brand of justice, and advancing his goal of infiltrating a secretive gang. Once Silver Tooth plucked his chrome plated .45 1911 pistol free from his waist, DJ considered that to be a choice the thug made with repercussions he must live with. If it also meant DJ might create a name for himself with the people he was looking to get to know, well, all the better. In short, DJ could now do anything he wished.

And what he wished to do, was make Silver Tooth remember this moment as the single worst mistake he had ever made.

DJ was armed, of course, with two handguns carefully hidden away. He had one tucked behind his back and another on his left ankle. After all, there was no such thing as too many guns. He also had a spring assisted knife clipped to his right-front pocket. He was sure he could at least draw the pistol from behind his back and shoot Silver Tooth between the eyes before the young idiot could ever do any damage with his own gun. But, DJ had other plans. More painful plans.

He stepped in close to Silver Tooth, latching on to the man’s gun wrist with his right hand in a talon-like grip. He then stepped across his own body and shoved his right hip into the man’s groin; while simultaneously grabbing a handful of gold chains hanging down over his wife-beater t-shirt. He bent over at the waist and twisted Silver Tooth over his hip, using leverage and the man’s choice of gaudy jewelry to flip him end over end. It was a fluid move issued with practiced speed and purpose, and the young man never knew what happened.

Silver Tooth smacked the stained floor hard on his back, and the wind left his lungs in a rush. The sudden encounter with the floor weakened his grip on the .45 and DJ took possession of it with little effort.

DJ was now in total control. The fight was over. But, he wasn’t done yet. Not by a long shot. Ruthlessness was traded among criminals and thugs like currency. The more you had, the richer you were. Now it was time to show this roomful of witnesses just how ruthless he could be. If everything worked out, these eye-witnesses would leave this place and start spreading their own accounts of what happened. Hopefully, word would filter back to whomever called this bubble of criminality in Chicago home. Then, they would come calling. He would have effectively submitted his resume to the group he was trying to infiltrate.

From his new angle, he could see the room beginning to react to his sudden unarming of Silver Tooth. His back was towards the backroom where DJ washed dishes. To his left, the extreme back of the diner and the restrooms. There were no more booths or patrons in that direction. To his right, the rest of the diner was now beginning to stand, and at least two of them were drawing weapons. Friends perhaps? With his right hand, DJ pointed his new .45 in their direction and they stopped where they were in mid-draw.

This left DJ’s other hand free to make Silver Tooth pay for his sins. He reached down and grabbed hold of the young man’s genitals shielded only by a pair of red and white loose-fitting athletic pants, and simultaneously planted a foot into the throat of Silver Tooth to keep him pinned down.

DJ squeezed and pulled at the man’s groin with everything he had, lifting the punk’s waist completely off of the ground with his effort. His left leg extended outward towards the man’s chin, locking Silver Tooth into place, and DJ put his back into the effort.

It would be impossible for him to actually rip the man’s penis and testicles from his body, but DJ aimed to try as hard as he could. His left hand was full of the idiot’s manhood in a death-grip, and even though Silver Tooth desperately struggled to free himself, he had no leverage. All he could do was scream a high-pitched squeal of agony and flop about, his hands clawing at DJ’s blue jeans.

DJ had no need to look at Silver Tooth to know what was going on. He literally knew everything about his struggles by the feel of what was going on his left hand. He, instead, kept his attention focused on the rest of the room and the two with their hands still on their own handguns. He issued them instructions as he looked at them through the sites of the chrome-plated pistol in his right hand. “Place them on the ground,” he commanded through clenched teeth. “Slowly. And, don’t be stupid. I promise I won’t miss.” Keeping their eyes on their struggling comrade, who was now gasping for breath in between screams that were making him hoarse for the effort, they did as instructed.

The rest of the room was in almost as much physical distress as Silver Tooth below him. They grimaced at the scene as they all imagined how much pain the guy was in. They winced, twitched, and cursed as they sympathized with his agony. Despite that, all of them sought the best view possible and began to fan out so they could better see the show.

The young girl who had been the subject of Silver Tooth’s abuse, had scrambled up and over the back of the booth and into the next as she tried to get away from this display of brutality. She stood on the seat, one booth over, looking down at her boyfriend with her hands to her mouth. Her body was half turned away, but her eyes were glued to the handful of genitals DJ held clenched in his hand.

And then, gruesomely, DJ made it even worse.

Still keeping his eyes on the rest of the room, he shoved the pistol into his back pocket; using it as an impromptu holster. And then, his right hand gave aid to his left, reaching down also and grabbing more of the man’s genitals. Taking a deep breath, he pulled upwards with all of his strength, his left foot still locked against Silver Tooth’s chin. If it were possible, the man’s back arched upwards even more in horrific agony.

The whole room erupted in noise. The poor man below him screamed all the louder in one long, ragged bellow of pain. The onlookers gasped and moaned with increased volume. Some of them shouted in mock pain themselves. One girl squealed and buried her face into the chest of the man she was standing near. And finally, DJ himself growled a throaty grunt of effort as if he were working out in the gym; all the while hoisting the man from the hard floor. Silver Tooth’s feet kicked and jerked, but neither touched the ground, suspended in the air as he was from his tortured manhood.

DJ’s show of force was not original. In truth, he had seen the same thing happen to a bad guy watching an old Charles Bronson movie when he was a kid. Just like now, Charles Bronson had been defending the honor of a young woman. That was partly DJ’s goal here as well. Partly. But, it had a much more focused purpose as well. The criminal group he was looking to infiltrate had to know what he was capable of, and what he was willing to do. This excessive display would hopefully accomplish that mission. And yet, DJ would not have to kill anyone in the process. Not that DJ had an issue with killing dirt bags. He just didn’t know who was who just yet.

Besides, making Silver Tooth here wish he were dead should accomplish the same goal.

DJ paused to draw in another breath for both show and painful purpose, and then began to yank and twist the man-meat in his hands both right and left while still suspending him from the ground. He smashed, twisted and wrenched with all his strength.

His show was having a serious effect on the roomful of witnesses. They were all backing away involuntarily. The thing before them was just becoming too much to watch. DJ was sure they were envisioning things like walnuts being crushed in a vice, or sausage being squeezed out of its casing.

Exactly what he was hoping for.

It had also finally run its course with Silver Tooth. He was no longer kicking and twitching. He no longer screamed or moaned. He had gone silent and limp. DJ chanced a glance downward to find with glee that the young man had finally passed out.

That should about do it then, DJ thought to himself. He released Silver Tooth to collapse unmoving on the hard diner floor.

He stood upright; towering over his defeated foe, and addressed the rest of the room. “Does anyone have an issue with this?” he pointed to the unconscious man at his feet. “Speak up. We can settle this right now.”

DJ caught a glimpse of subtle movement from the group. Another male, dressed in a wife-beater and wearing sagging jeans, was slowly maneuvering a pistol into position. DJ was unsure where the man could have concealed it with his pants below the crack of his butt, but never the less, he had one. A Glock. G19 by the look. He must have thought his slight movements would allow him to aim it at DJ before he could detect the danger.

He was wrong.

Now DJ would get a chance to show the other side of himself. The shooting-side.

DJ could fight. He trained all the time to improve that skill set. As such, he could hold his own in most normal situations. The truth was, however, when facing off against others trained in martial arts or boxing, DJ tended to lose. When pressed, he had a nasty habit of falling away from practiced technique and reverting to simple back-alley brawling. All he had done to Silver Tooth to flip the man onto the floor was execute two simple back-to-back moves. Had his adversary been more skilled, things might have happened differently.

But shooting… Now that was a different story. DJ’s skills in all things firearms-related were exceptional. He looked at shooting the way a left-brained thinker would look at anything involving creativity. Like painting or photography. While he understood marksmanship to be a skill honed from both study and repetition, he considered it to be more of a seat-of-the-pants feel than anything else. In other words, shooting was an artform. And as such, DJ was something of a Picasso.

He was reasonably sure the .45 in his back pocket had a round in the chamber, but he couldn’t risk it. He needed to be positive.

He reached behind himself, quicker than thought, hand darting beneath his sweaty dark t-shirt. Bypassing the commandeered .45, he went for his trusty Sig Sauer tucked neatly away. The heavily modified P320 X-series found its way into his hand as if it were always there. He loved this gun. He even named it Mitch in honor of one of his favorite authors.

Despite the other having a gun already out, and halfway raised, his adversary was simply unprepared for how explosive one could be who was practiced and drilled in the art of armed conflict. DJ was lightning quick in his draw and dead-on accurate with his aim. His 9mm round took his enemy through the wrist of his gun arm just below the elbow. The Glock tumbled away from useless fingers as the man who once held it screamed a curse of pain.

DJ glanced around the group. “Anyone else?” he asked the collective.

The familiar, grating voice of the diner owner spoke up.

And did so directly behind him!

How had the old man slithered around without DJ seeing? “Drop that right now, whitey, or this sawed-off will rip you in half.”

Somehow, someway, the wrinkled old geezer had gotten around behind him. But how? The last time DJ had seen him, the man was sitting on his stool shooting a menacing glare his direction. But, after that…

DJ tossed the weapon on the seat of the booth nearest him. He loved this gun. The last thing he wanted was to drop it to the hard floor and ding it up. The old man may have gotten the drop on him, but DJ didn’t think the end was near. He just didn’t get that feeling. So, he fully intended to get his gun back. And he would like it to be undamaged when he did.

The old man barked at him again. “Now, Ray-Ray’s gun in your back pocket. Real slow-like. I don’t miss none either. Specially with this thing.” Ray-Ray must be the unconscious form with bruised testicles at his feet, he realized. DJ did as ordered, and then slowly turned around to face Old Man Lucas.

Then it dawned on DJ how captain cranky-pants managed to slip around behind. Over the diner owner’s right shoulder was a section of wall that had been rotated out of place. The man had a secret passage entrance across from the bathroom. He must have slipped into the backroom when DJ had engaged the gang-banger and his girlfriend and circled around behind using it. There must be a secret room with a couple of entrances in the back of the diner. Maybe for storing contraband?

Which meant this was no ordinary diner.

And Lucas was no ordinary diner owner.

Everything began to rapidly fall into place for DJ. Lucas not being afraid of anyone stealing money from the cash register always left open, and the secret room/passage in the back of the building all made sense now. It could only add up to one thing. Old Man Lucas was running things around here. He was the one DJ was trying to meet.

Not exactly what he was expecting.

DJ was still armed with his ankle-gun but getting it would be tricky. Plus, DJ no longer wanted to snap the old man in half like minutes before. If this was indeed the man in charge behind the drug known as Vision, and the cause of the focus for all of the gangs around town, then DJ needed to get to know him. He needed to learn all about his operation, so he could take the entire thing down. Trying to perform some fancy move going for his backup gun and ending the old man was not the most optimum approach. If there was anything DJ had learned, criminal enterprises had a tendency to function like a mythical hydra. Cut off the head, and two more would just grow back to replace it.

No. What was needed here was careful negotiated strategy. All he needed to do to gain the old man’s confidence was get him to ask the right question.

DJ nodded to the secret passage opening behind the diner owner. “Well… It looks like nothing around here is what it seems to be. This diner isn’t really a diner at all, is it? And you just aren’t the arthritic owner you appear to be, are you?”

The old man smiled over the top of his double-barreled shotgun. “And you ain’t all you appear to be either, are ya? I knew you was on the run from something. Just didn’t figure you to be a hitter. Thought maybe you was a thief of some sort. Maybe you embezzled money from someone. You don’t have that killer look in your eye. Don’t got no swagger to ya’ step. Why don’t you do an old man a favor. Tell me your real name. I’ll end it quick for ya’. No pain. Just, click, and lights out.”

And that was the question DJ was hoping for. DJ had the best cover story ever for infiltrating a criminal empire. All he had to do was tell people his real name and his way in was assured.

His name, after all, was the stuff of legends. And, like most legends, it was mixed with both fact and fiction. The legend said that DJ Slaughter pulled off an impossible job for the notorious mobster Charles Kaiser. Big Chuck, as he was called, decided he didn’t want any fingers pointed back to him as the one who ordered it. So, he decided to tie up loose-ends by killing Slaughter. Slaughter somehow turned the tables on his murderers, and then focused on vengeance by killing not only Big Chuck, but his three sons as well. Along with a great many of his men.

It was one man against hundreds. But the killer known as Slaughter somehow came out on top.

And then, the story got even better.

Big Chuck had a strong working relationship with the Russian mobster Sergei Romanoff. Angered that his reach into the US was thwarted by Slaughter, Sergei hired the infamous hitman known as El Gran Blanco to kill DJ. But Slaughter was far more ruthless and won that battle as well. He then tracked down the Russian and killed him too.

After that, the legend known to the criminal underworld as Slaughter, vanished into the unknown.

The actual story about all of that was far different, of course. But the legend gave DJ a pedigree to present when going undercover. He presented it now.

DJ took a menacing half step forward with hands raised. “I’ll tell you, but for your sake I hope you got your adult diapers on. You may tinkle yourself, old man. And that would be embarrassing even for a man of your advanced years,” DJ said with sarcasm.

Old Man Lucas took his own menacing half step forward, tilted the shotgun up a bit to aim at DJ’s head, and fire began to dance in his eyes. “Try me, whitey!”

DJ tilted his head to one side and fired one word the old man’s direction, hoping the diner owner was fully versed in the legends. If he wasn’t, this was going to be a short conversation. “Slaughter,” DJ said.

There. DJ saw it. Recognition flickered in the brown eyes of his adversary. The eyelids opened a bit, and the sneer that seemed to be permanently engraved in the wrinkled man’s leather face, faded just a touch.

It was there but a moment, and then was completely eradicated by anger and venom. The man took another larger step forward, raising the shotgun as he did, with the intention of pressing the barrel into DJ’s face. The leathered man bellowed his disbelief in the form of a string of profanity.

And that was his undoing.

The number one rule in holding a person at gunpoint was this: Never get close. You just don’t know how trained, agile, and speedy the other person is. Pressing in close to your enemy affords them the opportunity to pull some ninja crap you never saw coming.

And DJ did. He wasn’t a great fighter when the fight stretched on over a length of time. But, he was always good for a couple of quick moves. And, most of those were lethal and effective.

DJ’s left hand swept across his body and snatched the end of the barrel, pressing it to his right and upwards at an angle. Thankfully the old man did not have a tight grip on the trigger or the resulting gun-blast would probably have left DJ with impaired hearing for the rest of his life.

Next, he continued the rightward motion of his own body and spun around in a hard three-sixty, balling his right fist and extending his arm outward as he did. The shotgun came free from the old man’s grip, and DJ smashed the side of the old man’s temple with the full momentum of his spin.

The diner owner did a spin of his own as he collapsed to the ground.

It was almost unfair, DJ thought. Almost, but not quite. The wrinkly man was leading a secretive criminal empire, after all. And, he was about to blow DJ’s head off. So, all in all, DJ didn’t feel too bad about hammering the old man into the dingy floor.

He could sense movement from the group now behind him, collectively coming to the old man’s aid, so DJ gave them reason to reconsider. Like Silver Tooth before, DJ planted a foot into the old man’s throat, then pressed the double-barreled shotgun into his victim’s groin. He jerked his head towards the rest of the room. “Back off! Or we’ll have ourselves another Ray-Ray moment.”

The room froze, and DJ turned his attention back to Old Man Lucas. “You know,” DJ said, “I’m going to do you a favor. I’m going to prove it you. Not because I need to, but because I’m tired of killing all the people that should be paying me a nice salary for my talents. If I keep killing all of you, there won’t be anyone left to hire me. Then, I’m walking out that door. And if you know what’s best for you, you won’t try to stop me.”

DJ switched the shotgun to his left hand while keeping the barrel firmly connected to the man’s crotch. Leaning forward, he retrieved his Sig Sauer still sitting in the booth across from him and then addressed the man on the floor. “So, in everything you’ve heard about the legendary Slaughter, what is he supposed to be the best at?”

Old Man Lucas stared up at him in defiance, refusing to answer.

Come on,” DJ said, pressing even harder into the man’s groin with the barrel of the shotgun. “Humor me.”

“He could shoot,” Lucas grudgingly replied.

DJ nodded and never took his eyes off the man. “He could shoot. Right. Well let’s just see if I can shoot then. Behind me, over by the register, you leave an old coffee cup sitting on the counter. The cook told me it’s your favorite mug. Reads, ‘The Boss’ on the side. He said your son gave it to you at some point. That it means something to you because your son died a few years ago.”

DJ saw a new round of anger flare up in the wrinkled man’s face, so he sought to reassure him. “Relax, old man. I’m not going to shoot your mug. If everything goes right, I’ll miss it completely,” he said with a grin.

And then suddenly, DJ stood upright, his foot leaving his adversary’s throat and pivoting to give himself a flat-footed platform to shoot from. At the same time, he tossed the shotgun high into the air while simultaneously aiming Mitch at the coffee mug sitting twenty-five feet away on the counter. Precision was critical here as the actual target was only an eighth of an inch thick. It was the small notepad laying across the top of the cup, placed there by the same man lying at his feet. What was on it, or why the man positioned it there was irrelevant. It was his true target nonetheless.

He couldn’t risk a one-handed shot. He needed as much stability in his aim as he could get. His left hand came up instinctively and wrapped the Sig in a vise-like grip from the opposite side of the handgun, locking the weapon into an extension of his outstretched arms. DJ had no need to close one eye and look through the sights. He was no novice. He was more skilled and accustomed to shooting than that. Instead, he could clearly make out his target silhouetted in perfectly aligned sights with both eyes open.

The gun jumped and recoiled with familiar feel as he sent the 9mm projectile speeding to his target with confident accuracy. It caught the edge of the notepad just to one side of the mug, sending it cartwheeling and flipping through the air exactly as DJ planned.

Perfect performance with a firearm was often incorrectly portrayed by Hollywood. While some things were certainly possible by the action heroes they sought to glamorize, what was never shown or explained was the requirement for such feats to actually be attainable. The key to making a shot like what DJ had just done, was two-fold. Constant and relentless training combined with the expenditure of large quantities of ammunition. Training involved possessing an abundant resource of time. Large quantities of ammunition required a large stockpile of cash. Few characters depicted on the screen could realistically be associated with such things. DJ’s dark backstory, however, granted him access to both.

But, that was a story for another time.

In the here and now, the shotgun DJ had pitched into the air was now on its way back to earth, and DJ focused his attention back on it. He crouched and caught the scattergun in one fluid motion with his left hand, while bringing his Sig around with his right to be placed into the groin of Old Man Lucas. He sat there, perched on one knee, eyeing the diner owner with contempt.

Old man Lucas stared first across the room at his precious coffee mug, and then back into the eyes of DJ. They flickered with heated emotion for a moment, but then quickly faded as the understanding of who was standing over him sank past all of those wrinkles and into his criminal mind.

His demeanor changed then. Quickly. It went from a desire to see the man above him killed, to respect and honor for the ruthless killer DJ was rumored to be.

Perfect, DJ thought. Resume has now been delivered. Now I just need to sit back and wait for the job offer.

With DJ recognizing the look of understanding in the old man’s eyes, he stood away. He tucked Mitch back into his concealed holster behind his back, and then turned away and headed for the door. The small crowd of diner occupants parted before him, quietly, sharing nervous glances with each other. Approaching the front door, he broke open the breach to the shotgun and plucked both shells from their chamber. He tossed them across the room and dropped the shotgun to the floor behind him.

As his left hand closed around the handle to the door, allowing his right to remain free, the old man spoke from behind him. “Wait, Slaughter. Just answer me two questions before you leave.”

DJ paused at the door but did not turn around to face him. “What?”

First, how did you really get that scar on your forehead? When I hired you to wash dishes, you said it was from a skateboarding accident when you was a kid.”

DJ turned to address the old man head on, then. Lucas had managed to get to his knees and was looking at him with a strange sort of admiration, and DJ almost laughed at the role-reversal the cranky diner owner had suddenly gone through.

He quietly composed himself; lest he giggle at the stupid old man in his response. Finally, “Shot in the head. Glancing blow from a ricochet. I guess you could say being hard-headed saved my life. Now ask your other question. I’ve got a bag to pack. I’ve decided I don’t like this neighborhood.”

How would like a real job again?” the old man asked. “One where you get paid for what you’re good at instead of washing dishes.”

You couldn’t afford me,” DJ replied, and he turned to go.

And that is when the old man practically shouted a number his direction. An astronomical number. A number with a lot of zeros separated by commas.

DJ paused at the door again and smiled inwardly at himself. Mission accomplished. Phase one of his infiltration was now complete. Phase two was simple. He already had the confidence of the number one guy in charge. He simply had to spend a few weeks learning all about the operation, and then call in the cavalry.

This was a satisfying moment, DJ realized. A criminal kingpin was on his knees before DJ, begging him to come into his house and tear him apart.

DJ would be happy to oblige. He dearly loved his job. It certainly helped that he was good at it.

The end.

Slaughter: Holiday Row

She pointed a finger at his nose as a flicker of anger danced in her eyes. “I’m only going to tell you this once, David John Slaughter; you take it off right now and drop it in this box, or I’ll remove it while you’re lying unconscious on the floor. Your choice.”

DJ blinked in response and considered. He loved Abbi. So much so, he had married her. She was the best thing to happen to him in a long time. But when she was wrong, she was wrong. And, there was no way he was going to back down from anyone when they were wrong. Even if he was married to her.

“Abbi, think about what you’re asking me to do,” he reasoned.

She placed her hands on her hips and canted her head sideways before replying. “I’ve already done that, you doorknob. As long as you have that thing on you, it won’t really be a vacation. Now take it off.”

She was referring to the heavily modified Sig Sauer P320 concealed along his waist under his shirt. It was a tool of the job. There was nothing sinister about its presence, as DJ and Abbi both worked for the FBI. Abbi was a technician that tinkered with computers and software, things with buttons and lights, frequently referring to the components of her job in acronyms and terms that DJ often didn’t understand.

DJ was a shooter. Although the FBI didn’t use the term, the truth was that was exactly what he did. He would go undercover infiltrating the world of organized crime and terrorism. Doing so meant he was often called on to place finger to trigger and do what DJ did best. Shoot.

DJ and Abbi were both members of a secretive off-the-books spin-off of the FBI. Their clandestine group answered to no one but the Director himself. In the world of good versus evil, their elite team was a highly specialized tool of precision. True, the sum total of the FBI existed to be nothing more than a governmental tool. DJ’s group, however, was specialized equipment. The kind you set on the top shelf and kept polished. The kind you didn’t loan out to friends.

DJ wasn’t always a member of an elite FBI team fighting the enemies of good. In truth, he started his relationship with them as a fugitive on the run. But, how he found himself to be an owner of a badge was a story best left for another time. Right now, he had to explain to his wife why he would always have his favorite weapon in the ready position at all times. Even if he was on vacation.

Abbi, listen to reason,” he began. He didn’t get a chance to continue because of the verbal assault he instantly found himself under.

Reason? Reason, you soft-headed Neanderthal?!” Abbi was in full-on warrior princess mode, advancing on him in angry measured steps of determination, forcing him to back away from her lest he be trampled. “Are you saying I’m an unreasonable woman?” she demanded.

Crap, DJ thought to himself. This is not what I would call a vacation.

In the end, he stopped her in the only way he knew how. He halted his retreat and kissed her. She resisted at first. But then, like ice melting near an open flame, she leaned into his arms and gave in. Her body language soon told him she was wanting to take this to the next level. But DJ was going to stop her vulnerability in the moment to advance his own agenda. After a long few passionate seconds, he pulled away from her and looked down into her almond-colored eyes.

“I am an officer of the law. This gun, like the IDs we both carry, are a part of who we are now.”

She looked up at him with genuine sadness now. The fiery commitment to getting her way was now gone; melted into nothingness by his embrace and kiss. “But we’re on vacation,” she pleaded. “We are in a remote cabin in the middle of nowhere. I allowed you to choose this spot so you could be secluded. I gave into that when I would rather be shopping and walking on a beach in the Caribbean somewhere. I let you choose the location for a getaway. You can at least act like you’re on vacation and store that gun in the box on the bed.

Besides, there is nothing around here but the trees, birds, and the fish in the pond out back. What could you possibly need a gun for?” Those beautiful brown eyes blinked her plea.

And just like that, he gave in. He begrudgingly reached around, plucked the Sig from the holster under his shirt, and handed it over.

She accepted it, then looked at him for a moment with a slight smile. “I love you, DJ. Thank you.” She grinned at him for a moment more, then spun around and made her way back to the bed. She placed the gun into the lock box, input the electronic code on the small display, and locked it away for the remainder of their week-long stay. She bent down then and slid the small gun safe under the edge of the bed. “Now why don’t you go see if you can find the boat he told you about while I go start putting supper together.” He nodded his consent and turned to go.

He loved her so much it left a knot in his chest at times. And she was right, they both really needed this vacation. They both needed to completely unplug from their hectic jobs and disappear from it all. The gun would only be a reminder of what awaited them once they made their way back down that gravel drive. Storing it away would be for the best.

DJ headed in the direction of the long porch at the rear of the cabin. Tomorrow morning, he would get in some fishing. But first, he had to find the small boat the home-owner had told him about and then dust off the fishing gear stored in a tiny closet near the back door.

The cabin belonged to a friend he had met at work. His group had to frequently work with military assets when dealing with overseas objectives that involved tracking down and targeting terrorists. As such, they had been partnered with an Air Force Colonel whose job it was to reach back through the Pentagon whenever it was required. Colonel Jack O’Kieffe owned this remote cabin. When he heard about them planning a vacation, and that DJ was adamant that he would only go on one if it meant total seclusion away from everyone and everything, the Colonel had offered up this place.

They were in northern Maine, close to the Canadian border. The area was covered in dense stands of trees and separated only by the many ponds and lakes that dotted the landscape. The cabin had its own pond; a big one of about seven acres in size and shaped like a giant kidney bean. On the western edge of the pond, in the area where the “bean” made its bend, Colonel O’Kieffe had said a two-seat pond boat was stashed in the trees. DJ was headed there now. He would find the boat, make sure it was free of spiders and critters, then he would launch it and row it closer to the house. There, he would connect the trolling motor and battery stored in the spare bedroom. The Colonel used to keep the pontoon-like pond boat closer to the home, but would occasionally find it missing when he made his three times a year trip to visit and relax. So, he took to storing it further away when he was gone, which served to make it harder to find.

It was easy to see why the Colonel told him that fishing the pond was best done using the small boat. The trees grew right up next to the bank, making casting impossible from the shore. The only clear spot to fish from the edge was a section maybe fifty feet long right behind the cabin. It was still covered in trees, but the limbs had all been trimmed back to provide a clearer view of the water from the back porch. If one wanted to fish this thing, they would need to take to the water.

To be honest, DJ was unsure of how much fishing he would get done the first day. He was mentally worn out. He had been imagining himself floating along and napping in the summer sun for days now. He couldn’t wait to pull the brim of a cap down over his eyes, and just let all of the stresses of work fade away. Abbi may have been wanting sandy beaches and turquoise water, along with shopping in outdoor markets among vendors with thick accents, but he wanted something far more low-key. He wanted to hear birds chirping. He wanted to hear the sound of crickets singing in the night air. He wanted the feel of a fishing rod in his hands, and the thrash of a large mouthed bass as it broke the surface of a still, wooded pond.

In the end, Abbi caved and said that was fine. She had a few books she wanted to catch up on anyway. As long as she was with him, it didn’t matter. But the next one, she declared, better have a cruise ship involved and umbrella-decorated drinks, or divorce was going to be on the table in the debate.

DJ exited out the back door, crossed the porch, and headed around the left-hand side of the large pond. The undergrowth was not thick at all and easily navigable. The dense canopy provided little in the way of light for anything less than hearty vegetation to flourish. Add in the thick carpet of leaves, and only the occasional offspring of the trees above, or robust understory plants like poison oak, stood any chance.

After stomping around for about thirty minutes, DJ finally located the plastic pond boat covered by a tarp with camouflaged print. He would have to drag it over sixty feet in order to get it to the bank of the pond. But, the boat was small and light, and shouldn’t be a problem.

He was plodding his way through the trees, dragging the boat behind him with a short section of rope, when he took a moment to pause and catch his breath. When he did, he heard the distant sound of wheels on gravel coming from the house. Someone was approaching down the drive.

There were no neighbors anywhere close. But, the Colonel had said a game warden who lived in the area agreed to check up on the house from time to time. He had told DJ he would call ahead and warn him the place would be occupied for a few days, and everything was fine. Could it be the officer coming to visit and say hello?

DJ hurried with his task and finished lugging the boat to the edge of the pond at a brisk pace. He hated leaving Abbi alone. She was more than capable of taking care of herself, but she was his wife. There was nothing more precious to him in the world. And, you guard with a watchful eye the things that are most precious. Society could brand him a male chauvinist all it wanted. He still believed that a husband’s role was to be that of a protector.

He would hasten the launch of the boat, then use one of the long paddles found within to make his way as quickly as possible to the back of the house. It was probably just the game warden checking on things, and he was sure he was overreacting to the sound of a vehicle approaching, but DJ was beginning to regret locking his gun away in that box.


Merle was almost in a full-scale panic. There wasn’t supposed to be anyone here. He received word over the phone in his hand a little over fifteen minutes ago that the first part of their plan had gone off without a hitch. All of the others were on their way here now to meet him. But, here… Here was a problem. In his haste to get down the long, twisting, gravel drive, he didn’t notice the small sedan parked in the shadows of the trees until he was almost next to the cabin. But there it was; sitting there with a rental car logo on the back bumper.

This was a very big problem. Problems needed solutions. Merle was not a solutions guy. Merle was a following orders kind of guy. He needed his brother to tell him what to do, but that was out of the question right now. There was precious little cell service out this far and he had no signal at all. He could not call his brother and the others making their way here now. He had no guidance.

He stared at the screen of the phone and willed it to make a connection to service. Any minute someone was going to come out of that house and want to know why a moving truck was parked in the drive. He needed a plan. He needed an idea on what to do. He needed his brother to lead the rest of the guys up the drive behind him and take over.

He looked up from his phone to see an attractive woman step off the back porch and take a few cautious steps in his direction before pausing. She stood there in the gravel next to the house, looking curiously at him behind the wheel. He slowly placed his hand on the Glock sitting on the seat next to him. He had never killed anyone before. Didn’t want to do it now. But, if he didn’t do something soon, this whole plan of theirs was going to erupt into flames. Along with his cut of the money.

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