The Vigilante - A Short Story
“You caught me,” he said as he coughed up blood.
The Man was duct taped to a foldable metal chair in the middle of the woods, somewhere outside Black Mountain, underneath a blood moon. The bonfire crackled and radiated enough heat barely to keep the men warm. The fire was there for effect, to help in a righteous ritual.
“How many times have we danced this jig? I do my crimes; we fight, you catch me, and they let me out of jail because of a technicality. But my lawyers are always too good for you. A man like me, well-funded from ominous maneuvers using both legitimate and illegal enterprises. Mainly through loopholes though, I fear the IRS more than you. You think someone with as many connections as me and much money as a ‘legit’ CEO would quickly go to jail. Penitentiaries are for the lesser.”
If you were sitting in the Man’s chair, then you wouldn’t be able to see anything past the aura of the bonfire. But, just beyond the aura, under cover of darkness was a silhouette of an imposing man. His long black coat danced in between frigid gusts. Though only seeing his silhouette, it was eyes which pierced through the heated aura. Maybe it was the glare from the fire or the reflection of the blood moon, but the figures eyes beamed a red rage.
“You’re a creature of habit aren’t you, my friend?” The Man snickered. “You always work in the shadows. Never seen until you want to be seen. Like a predator hunting his prey.”
“We’re not friends.” The low, soul-piercing voice silently drifted with the gusts.
“Oh, but we know each other intimately, even though I never learned your name or seen your face. Years we spent at each other’s throats. You tailing me, surveilling me. Me evading you and trying to find out who the man is behind the mask. Fighting to the death countless times but you never took the fatal step to end me, even when I stuck you like a pig. Oh, how I fondly remember the one fight outside Arlington Cemetery. You were bleeding more than a Quentin Tarantino character, but you still disappeared into the night. Not a drop of blood was found when the police came. I venture to guess you planned the fight to be in the storm or maybe something…otherworldly aided you.”
The Man took a deep breath and exhaled a thick white mist from his breath. Then spits out a bloody tooth into the fire. “It's either luck or you're not human because you somehow make it out alive from dangerous situations a trained SEAL with unbreakable skin can’t get out off. What’s your superpower?”
“Sheer will,” the haunting voice whispered into the ear of the man duct taped in the chair.
He shrieked. “Jesus Fucking Christ, that’s what I mean! You have this rare skill that borders on the supernatural. This power, the discipline, and intelligence to take down the untouchables of America. But, you can never go full measure. You could never do what’s needed to be done.
That’s why you will never win. You should have killed me ten years ago after our first tango. If you killed me, then you would have sent a message of absolute, true justice. If you killed any one of those men you battled with, then countless lives would have been saved.
You apprehended arms dealers with government contracts and a privatized army and handed them over to the F.B.I.; only for them to be escorted to Club Fed. You found drug kingpins in the countries they owned only for them to escape due to the corrupt system. You beat the shit out of wimpy ass white collar CEO’s who bankrupted countries, but then they are taken under the protection of Congress who bail them out.
Doesn’t it wear on you? That your efforts are constantly undermined and futile That there is no justice anymore?”
“YEEEESSSSSSSSS.” This time the voice echoed violently through the woods, causing the bonfire to whimper.
The Man shifted in his seat and got comfortable as he can. “Alright, let's get started. How long is this ass-kicking going to take, I’m freezing my balls off.”
The Vigilante stepped in front of the bonfire, and his mere presence brought the woods to a complete still. Dressed in a simple long black coat, black jeans and a turtleneck with his face concealed by a black scarf and a domino mask.
“Oh, your uniform, your ‘scary’ costume.” The Man mocked. “I never cared for your identity because I know your mask is your real face. That costume represents your true self, which isn’t a hero.”
His fierce eyes pierced through the domino mask. A tense moment of silence filled the aired as the two enemies stared into each other’s souls.
The Vigilante pulled his scarf down and took off the mask and revealed his face.
“That’s it?” The Man said disappointedly. “You’re a nobody. I thought you would be an ex-cop I framed or a billionaire with a dissociate disorder. Did I murder your parents? Your wife? Did we ever cross paths? Who the fuck are you?”
“I’m nature’s counterbalance.”
A sudden fear came over the arrogant Man as he briefly realized why the Vigilante revealed his face.
The Vigilante took a slow step forward towards the man.
“Holy shit…You’re going to do it. I’ve broken you. You’re finally going to cross the line. Please…please. Don’t kill me. You can’t; you’re the good guy. You have a code, you never kill!”
The Vigilante took another slow step forward and removed a dull, rusted knife from his pocket.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” The Man manically yelled.
The Vigilante took the last step forward and towered over the Man, who once believed he was in control.
“Shh…” The Vigilante said with an unnerving calmness. “I’m not going to kill you.”
An expression of relief came over the man, and he stopped pissing himself.
“Ha, I knew it. Half measure. You can never stop being the good…”
The Vigilante shoved his hand down the Man’s mouth and pulled his tongue out.
“Bha…yu…doin?” The Man had managed to muffled out.
“Sending a message,” the Vigilante said as he began slowly cutting the Man’s tongue out with the dull, rusty knife.
The bonfire’s light and firey crackle began to dissipate and was replaced with screams, blood, and terror.
The following morning the police were sent an anonymous tip with the location of the Man, and they were asked to bring an ambulance. They arrived at dawn and found a gruesome scene that will forever haunt the criminal underworld.
Though left alive, the Man’s tongue was sawed off so he may never speak. His eyes were gouged so he may never see again. He punctured his eardrums so he may never hear anything beautiful again. And he cut off the thumb and index finger from both hands, so he may never use a gun again.
A terrible price has been paid, but the message was sent. The Vigilante is coming.