azombiewrites: (Psych)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: 98 Cannibal Road
Rating: PG
Warning: Violence and Nudity.
Fandom: Psych
Genre: Hurt/Comfort
Summary: 98 Cannibal Road. It looked friendly enough from the outside, like an invitation to a child’s tea party: bright, colorful, and cheerful with a very large welcome mat at the front door. But that didn’t necessarily mean that everyone was welcome. Inside, it was not friendly, not friendly at all: dark, dull, morbid and uninviting. The interior a warning that something wicked – possibly evil – lived there. A warning our hero, Detective Lassiter, was unable to grasp.
Main Characters: Lassiter. An OC. A bit of O'Hara. And a smidgen of McNabb.
Disclaimers: All things Psych owned by Steve Franks and the USA network.
More Disclaimers: Style of chapter titles shamelessly stolen from John Connolly's book 'The Gates'. Cannibal Road actually exists in Loleta, California. The 'Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, volume 69’ also exists.
Thank you: [livejournal.com profile] meimichan for telling me that my plot idea for chapter four was feasible. That our hero could stay in a room with a particular chemical for a couple of minutes.
Beta: My wonderful comma wrangling-ninja-meh monkey-whacking-spyentist virtual spouse [livejournal.com profile] winks7985 and Silverluna.
Note: Written for the monthly Whumpathon challenge over at Psychfic.com
Prompt: Shower curtain - Must include: old lady, seagulls, kitchen knife.
Spoilers: None
Word Count: 4,400
Status: Complete



98 Cannibal Road


Prologue
Where we find out about copulating turtles, little old ladies
and impending doom for Detective Carlton Lassiter.


The case was supposed to be simple, boring in such a way that it would remind Lassiter of copulating turtles. But even turtles, particularly snapping turtles, engrossed in the activity of sex could become nasty, resulting in the threat of life or even the potential loss of a sexual organ. Especially if the male is having a very good time and does not want his orgasm to be interrupted in any way.

And little old ladies were supposed to be nice, frail, with tiny, weak bones; grandmothers with toothless smiles and sagging breasts. They carried bags, canes or umbrellas, sometimes a walking frame, just so they could hit you over the head when you tried to help them to cross a busy road. They obeyed the rules when riding their Mobility Scooters to the local store, running over your foot in a last ditch effort to get their hands on the last tin of cat food, even if they didn’t own a cat.

Sometimes little old ladies weren’t frail at all. In fact, sometimes they could be very unpleasant indeed. If you were in close proximity of one of these particular unpleasant crone’s, you might be lucky enough to smell a repugnant odor, possibly see a yellowish discharge, or hear a few vulgar profanities. And if you were unlucky . . . well, let’s just say that Detective Carlton Lassiter is about to be very unlucky.


Chapter One
Where Detective Carlton Lassiter is invited into the home of the very
nice Mrs. Ajurck only to find out that she isn’t very nice at all.


98 Cannibal Road. It looked friendly enough from the outside, like an invitation to a child’s tea party: bright, colorful, and cheerful with a very large welcome mat at the front door. But that didn’t necessarily mean that everyone was welcome.

Unaware of the evil it contained inside, Detective Carlton Lassiter knocked on the front door of 98 Cannibal Road, the home to Mrs. Edith Ajurk.

The door opened, a small frail-looking old woman peeking through the small gap.

“Mrs. Ajurk?” Lassiter removed his identification from his pocket, shoving it toward squinting eyes. “Detective Lassiter. I’d like to ask you a few questions about your neighbor.”

“Mr. Degree?” asked Mrs. Ajurk.

“No,” said Lassiter. “You’re other neighbor, Mr. Gladwell.”

“Are you alone? I don’t like crowds.”

The words of a man, unaware of his fate, were spoken. “I’m alone, Mrs. Ajurk.”

“Then please,” Ajurk nodded, opening the door just wide enough for Lassiter to step through, “come in. I was just about to make some coffee. Would you care for some?”

“Only if it’s not decaffeinated.”

As Lassiter squeezed through the small gap, his chest brushing against Mrs. Ajurk’s shoulder, he couldn’t help but notice the smell of mothballs, or the fact that Mrs. Ajurk’s breasts drooped like two empty beanbags in desperate need of a refill. He grimaced, whether at the smell or at the sight, we will never know.

Inside, 98 Cannibal Road was not friendly, not friendly at all: dark, dull, morbid and uninviting. The interior a warning that something wicked – possibly evil – lived there. A warning our hero was unable to grasp.

The door closed as Lassiter stepped further into the house, drawn into the living room – as many before him – by the inability to even conceive that a little old lady was more than capable of hitting you over the head with her handbag.

Dust mites feeding on flakes of human skin caused Lassiter to sneeze.

An odor, strong, thick and sickening, cloaked him, pulling him down, drowning him. Urine and feces. He gagged, unable to pull in a fresh breath.

Doleful eyes looked at him with concern. “Is something wrong, Detective?”

What could he tell her? That her home smelled like a blocked lavatory, overflowing with shit and urine?

“Allergies,” Lassiter lied, his smile barely hiding his disgust. “You don’t have a pet do you?”

“No.” She frowned, shrugged, her empty breasts rising, falling. “Maybe some of that coffee I was making would help?”

He didn’t know how. Surely, the smell of feces and urine would only make the coffee taste like it had come straight from a toilet. “Thank you.”

“Please make yourself comfortable, Detective,” said Ajurk. “I won’t be long.”

Lassiter didn’t know where to sit. The furniture, old and decaying, looked as though it would break under his weight. Instead, he stayed on his feet, moving.

He began to walk the perimeter of the room, curious; his eyes searching to occupy an already bored mind. He became accustomed to the lingering smell. It faded, no longer stinging his sinuses, or eyes, feeding the need to gag, retch.

Souvenirs and collectables filled every space, making the room feel crowded, claustrophobic.

On a mantel:

A small mouse, long dead, lay behind a small dust covered clock, its outer shell – the color faded beyond recognition – sunken, the insides eaten away, the head crushed. Something crusted, spread out from the skull.

A work hammer, the handle grip worn, the hammer head rusted.

A turtle shell, unwillingly abandoned by its previous owner.

A book, titled ‘Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, volume 69’, its spine in tatters, stood tall beside a jar full of a liquid that was questionable, almost yellow. Lassiter took the book in a gentle grip, almost afraid of breaking it, opening it and reading the hand-written inscription.

Dear Edith,
May all your deaths be a creative joy.
Unless, of course, my death is yours.
Your loving husband, John.


“It was a present from my husband on our first anniversary.”

Ajurk, that close; he could almost feel her breath on the back of his neck. Carefully, Lassiter returned the book to its resting place and turned. Not as close as he had thought, but close enough, standing a short distance from him.

“I’m sorry,” said Lassiter.

“No need to be, Detective.”

“No. I mean, I’m sorry, the book.”

“I’m an amateur mystery writer.”

“You write?”

“Yes. Fiction.”

“Anything I might have read?”

“I haven’t been published, Detective. I’m an amateur.”

Silence.

Awkward silence.

“Please, sit down,” said Mrs. Ajurk.

Lassiter did as he was told, sitting down on the nearest piece of furniture, a small wicker chair, its cushion rotting, the frame shifting beneath his weight.

Ajurk stood before him, watching him.

“How much do you weigh, Detective?”

Words repeated. “I’m sorry?”

“I’ve never killed a detective before.”

“You’ve lost me,” said Lassiter.

A dismissive wave of her hand. “Call it research. For a story. It doesn’t matter. You wanted to ask me about Mr. Gladwell?”

“When was the last time you saw him?”

“Mr. Gladwell?”

“Yes.”

She began to move, her steps slow, methodical.

His gaze followed her as she disappeared.

Behind him, out of his line of sight.

“The last time I saw Mr. Gladwell was four days ago,” said Ajurk.

Lassiter could feel her warm breath stroking the back of his neck.

He frowned. “He went missing three weeks ago.”

Sudden understanding. But too late.

Lassiter gripped the arms of the chair, turning his upper body.

Just in time to see the hammer, its head rusted, before it struck the side of his skull. Hard, more powerful than one would think an old lady capable of.

Lassiter’s upper body fell forward, his grip on the chair failing him. The edges of his vision blurred, faded, becoming clear once again.

Another blow, this one to the back of his head. His balance lost, Lassiter fell to the floor, dust billowing around him.

A third and final blow. His tunnel of vision shrinking into nothingness.



Chapter 2
Where Detective Carlton Lassiter finds out that being hit
about the body with a hammer can be quite painful.


Pain.

Dizzying pain.

Worse than any hangover Lassiter had ever had.

The origin of the pain, he was unsure.

Something tugged, pulling at his legs, his body moving, his back scraping against something. A grunt, a sweetened curse, the voice not his own. Female but not his partner, not O’Hara.

Confusion settled in, the act of thinking difficult. He tried to concentrate but couldn’t. His memory broken, shattered, he couldn’t remember.

His words useless. “I’m a cop.”

Pain exploded in his chest: a blunt throbbing. Lassiter grunted as the aching pain spread, and his breath caught in his throat. He tried to lift his upper body, curl in on himself, protect his body from more pain.

Something struck his forehead, forcing him back down.

A noise between his ears, bees buzzing, talking to each other in hushed tones. Everything slowed, like moving through mud.

Lassiter forced his eyes open. Blinked. Above him, a ceiling, fuzzy, blurred, moving slowly, inch by inch as the tugging on his legs continued.

His gun.

Did he have his gun with him?

Of course he did. His gun was like a deformed appendage, something he was unwilling to live without.

He blinked. His eyelids sticky, crusted.

Lassiter lifted his right arm, heavy, lethargic, reaching for his weapon.

Again, something struck, this time his hand. More pain, the sound of something within breaking, snapping.

Voice now slurred. “Son of a . . . bitch.”

“Language, Detective.”

An unfamiliar voice, yet something pulled at his memory, an image, faded like an old black and white photograph, fading even more as his mind squinted, fading back into nothingness.

Movement stopped. Time stood still for a few moments. A thud, the sound causing Lassiter to flinch. His left foot lifted, the shoe removed, followed by the sock. Repeated with his right foot.

Cold, bony fingers gripped his ankles, pulling him again, dragging him somewhere.

Lassiter pulled back, his legs weak, the knees bending slightly. He lifted his head. Harder, heavier, than he had thought.

Before him, crouched over him, a woman, old. Then Lassiter saw the hammer, its head covered in blood, his blood, moving, slicing through the air, blood dripping onto his trousers.

He watched. The motion deceptively slow as the hammer slammed into his right knee. The pain, quick, hot, eyes-watering sharp. Lassiter cried out in pain, his voice hoarse, tearful. He was sure something shattered, physically and mentally.

He struggled to sit up, confusion and pain trying to bring him back down.

“Stay down, Detective.”

It was a warning Lassiter chose to ignore.

His vision, blurred with tears of pain, blinded him to what was coming.

A shadow over him, the hammer struck again, a glancing blow above his left ear.

Darkness encroached on his pain, taking over, sending him once again into oblivion.











Pain.

Blinding pain.

In his skull. His hand. His knee.

A physical war fought and lost? Lassiter couldn’t remember.

An alcohol induced bathroom tumble? It sure as hell felt like it.

Lassiter felt pain. He felt nauseated, dizzy, sluggish. His body slow to react, it shifted, finally, his eyes opening.

Repetitive.

A ceiling, familiar but not his own. The smell of mothballs tugged at his memory. Everything seemed so familiar but he couldn’t place any of it, forgetting all of it.

He blinked, the movement slow, drawn out.

A kitchen knife, the blade long, sharp, the tip hovering just above his right eye.

Not a bathroom tumble.

Something more violent. Something more sinister. He couldn’t remember. Thinking was difficult, complicated.

A weight on his chest, making it difficult to breathe.

“Detective.”

His gaze shifted, from the knife, to a woman, old, frail, toothless, breasts empty.

Lassiter rolled his head to the left, difficult under the circumstances, the movement nauseatingly slow, searching for her accomplice. Because she couldn’t have done this to him, not on her own, not this small, aged woman.

Seagulls.

Dozens of them.

He frowned, certain that he was in some hellish nightmare.

The weight lifted and she moved away from him, taking the knife with her, occupied with something else.

The seagulls rushed away from him, floating just out of reach.

Then light.

Bright blinding light.

Lassiter squinted, his eyes sensitive.

“It’s time, Detective.”

Eyes watering, vision blurring, it was difficult to see.

Something above him moved in the mist that was his vision. The light bouncing off something metallic.

The knife.

He tried to struggle, to fight back. It was useless, his body weak, tired. He closed his eyes, his thoughts drifting, wandering, his mind lost.

Let it be quick.

Let it be painless.

There was no pain, only a feeling of being pulled, lifted.

Lassiter opened his eyes, afraid of what he would see. The woman, leaning over him, so close, her breath on his face. The knife in her right hand, the strap of his shoulder holster in her left. The knife sliced through the leather easily.

He watched as she put the knife down.

He had to fight.

He couldn’t.

Her pale, bony hands reached for him, touching his forehead.

His voice a whisper. “Why?”

“Because you came.”

Her fingers, soft, gentle, drifted downward, over his eyelids, closing them. Ghosted over his lips, pulling the bottom lip down, leaving his mouth open.

His breathing shallow, ragged.

His heart beat rapid, out of control.

His fear strong, pungent.

He could do nothing to stop it. His limbs heavy, burdensome. His mind mislaid.

Cold fingers crept under his shirt collar, easily flicking open the top button. She removed his tie, carefully, slowly.

She was diligent, undoing each button of his shirt, like sensual foreplay before a sexual act. She pulled the shirttails from his trousers.

Quickly, suddenly, she rolled him onto his stomach.

The movement unbalanced him, nauseated him.

The shadows, lingering up until now, moved in, taking over once again.

Darkness.

Oblivion.


Chapter 3
Where Detective Carlton Lassiter wakes up to
find himself naked and ashamed.


Cold.

Chillingly cold.

Painfully cold.

Not just his hands, his feet, his face. His entire body, cold, chilled, like ice.

So cold it felt as though his flesh were on fire.

Something was wrong.

Something was terribly wrong.

He wasn’t safe.

His life threatened.

He knew it.

He could feel it.

Lassiter struggled to open his eyes, to find an explanation. He couldn’t, his eyelids too obstinate.

A breeze, faint, brushed his body, head to toe. He shivered, pain erupting in his skull, his chest, his hand, his knee.

He breathed through his nose, a deep aching breath, a futile attempt to ease the pain, to control it. Something burnt his sinuses, an odor unfamiliar to him, unknown to him. Another odor, more familiar, more recent but he couldn’t quite grasp it, not yet.
A sound, something scraping on a hard surface. It scared him and he didn’t know why.

Lassiter groaned, in fear or in pain, it was uncertain.

A hand on his cheek, colder than his own flesh, the touch gentle as it began to turn his head. A warm breath on his face, on the lids of his eyes, the lips of his mouth. Lassiter tried to resist, pushing against the touch but his body seemed immovable, broken. The movement, as little as it was, nauseated him. He swallowed, not wanting to throw up.

A voice, female, a whisper pressed against his right ear, so close he could feel her lips, dry and cracked.

“Open your eyes. I want you to see.”

He resisted, an easy thing to do, his eyelids too heavy, like lead.

Fingers gripped his jaw, short nails digging in, drawing blood.

Lassiter grimaced, his brow creasing in pain, his eyes squeezing shut.

The voice persistent but not angry, like speaking to a child. “Open your eyes.”

The hand removed, a gentle slap to his face. His eyes sprung open, involuntarily, in surprise.

His vision blurred, he struggled to see the face so close to his own, her lips now brushing his, but not in an intimate way, her breath rancid.

She smiled at him, her dry lips cracking even more, her smile unnatural, creepy.

Lassiter didn’t recognize this woman, still so close to him. He didn’t remember her. He couldn’t remember her. He frowned, his confusion evident on his face, in his eyes; a question on his lips.

His voice whispered, slurred. “What . . . ?”

She didn’t answer him, didn’t explain the what or the why, allowing him to stay confused, to continue to question what was happening.

He blinked, the movement unhurried.

She was gone, no longer in his line of sight, her hand no longer against his cheek.

Lassiter took a deep breath, the air in front of him now clear of her sour breath.

He smelled urine, feces. The faded, distant memory of the odor screamed at him, its voice so low he couldn’t hear it, deaf to its warning. He couldn’t remember.

He shifted his gaze, trying to take in as much as he could before she came back. And he saw it. Why he was so cold.

So bone chillingly cold.

So achingly cold.

He was naked.

He was naked, lying in a bathtub, his legs struggling to curl under him – the right knee, the right hand, bruised, bloated, ugly – his hands in his lap.

The memory of what had happened to him lost, its return highly doubtful.

He shivered again, his teeth clenching against the pain almost numbed by the bone aching cold.

He blinked, slow, tiring.

Seagulls.

Seagulls on a shower curtain, shifting, giving the impression they were moving, flying, soundless.

He was going to die here. He was sure of it. He knew it.

He struggled once again to fight back, to sit up, to crawl out of this bathtub, out of this room, this house.

Dizziness overwhelmed him, threatening to send him back into unconsciousness. That couldn’t happen. He may not wake up again, dying without knowing why or who . . . or how.

Lassiter blinked, it was getting harder to lift his lids open, almost beyond heavy now.

A face, smiling down at him. She was back.

He wasn’t going to get out.

She knelt down beside him, beside the bathtub, her fingers reaching for him, ghosting over his flesh, his face.

He blinked, his mind fading, disappearing.










A touch.

Gentle.

Warm.

Comforting.

Lassiter sighed, his breath pushing through closed lips.

A cloth, damp, warm, against his face, wiping his forehead, his mouth, his chin, his eyes . . . slow, meticulous, spending so much time on his eyes. It felt good.

But he was still cold.

Painfully cold.

So frighteningly cold.

He frowned, his forehead creasing, the warm damp cloth hesitating before continuing.

His body pulled him back down, back into ignorant bliss.











An explosion of pain.

Agonizing pain.

Hot, sharp, stabbing pain.

Lassiter’s eyes shot open, a scream on his lips, his right knee on fire.

A hand over his mouth, his scream muffled, useless.

He breathed through his nose, his breath jagged, his heart rate erratic.

A face above him, smiling, excited, pleasured.

“You’re awake. I want you to see.”

The hand removed. The face still close, too close, still smiling, still excited.

“Look,” said Mrs Ajurk. “I want you to see your end.”

Her touch gentle, she turned Lassiter’s head, his right cheek resting on the side of the bathtub, his distorted gaze finding the containers, settling on them.

Large.

Black

Four of them, an even number.

Their labels facing him, taunting him, terrifying him, the letters coming into focus long enough for him to read them.

Hydrochloric Acid.

Highly Concentrated Hydrochloric Acid.

She was going to make him disappear, evaporate. His skin, his flesh, his muscle and bone spiraling out of control down a bathtub drain.

He turned his head away, his body fighting against weakness and despair to get up and fight back. A growl, low, deep in his throat, animalistic.

If he had thought to scream.

He didn’t see the hammer, only felt it when it struck his cheek, throwing his head sideways, a black void swallowing the pain and the harrowing thought that he would never wake again.


Chapter Four
Where Detective Carlton Lassiter finds out
that fate can be a fickle thing.



Awareness.

Stammering awareness.

His consciousness stuttering . . . in and out.

Off and on, like a flickering neon light.

Darkness.

Light.

Darkness.

Light.

Blending. Confusing him. Nauseating him.

His head felt bloated, dizzy, faint. His stomach was in turmoil, rolling, swaying, and threatening to erupt. Pain, now distant and numb, consumed his body.

Lassiter swallowed, his throat dry, scorched.

He tried to move, an arm, a leg, anything, but he couldn’t, his body cold, heavy, tired, beyond exhausted.

Why?

He couldn’t remember.

Darkness.

Light.

A touch, soft as a feather, against his face.

He opened his eyes, agonizingly slow. The bright light caused him to squint, his eyes to water. He wanted to raise his hand, shade his eyes but he couldn’t.

Beside him, a blur of movement.

His eyes, unfocused, followed its progress, like watching an old silent movie – out of focus, jerking, jumping from one scene to another.

He blinked.

Darkness.

Light.

A female voice – so soft, humming an unknown tune – caught Lassiter’s attention, pulling his gaze toward the source. A silhouette, dull against the bright light, bent over, working on something Lassiter couldn’t see.

A memory tugged at the edges of his mind, pulling him toward remembrance but its pull wasn’t strong enough, surrendering, letting go before he could reminisce with it.

Instinct though, was another thing.

It suddenly screamed at him to move, to get out. He didn’t know why but his instinct was something he never ignored.

He tried to move. To get up. To run.

He really did.

Darkness.

Light.

A grunt, not his own, a whispered curse, mild vulgarity.

Lassiter’s mind struggled, fought to remember, to understand what was happening; it was lost, scared, and vulnerable.

Why couldn’t he remember?

Darkness.

Light.

Stuttering awareness.

A woman, old, a lustful smile on her face, carrying a large black container in her hands, moved toward him.

He watched as fate – fickle as it was – stepped in, doing what Lassiter couldn’t, saving his life.

She fell, as simple as that, her back to the floor. Slipped, tripped or stumbled, we will never know.

The contents of the container spilled onto the woman, her face, her chest. Onto the floor.

A scream, sudden and loud, cutting through the silence.

The scream quickly became repetitive, heart wrenching.

Lassiter tried to get up, to help her but he couldn’t. Nothing would move, not his legs, not his arms, his body lacking the strength. He couldn’t even raise his hands, to press the palms against his ears to numb the sound of her screams.

So powerless to help, he could only watch, unable to pull his gaze away from the old woman thrashing on the floor, her toothless smile now contorted into an ugly grimace. Her screams – now guttural, wet – continued, becoming fainter as the seconds passed until stopping altogether.

He still didn’t understand why this was happening.

He couldn’t remember.

Darkness.

Light.

He felt a burning sensation, in his nose, his throat and his eyes began to water.

Lassiter’s head fell forward, his shoulders hunched as he began to cough, to choke, his breathing more difficult, more painful. Sharp, severe, tearing with each struggling breath.

Darkness.

Light.

Voices.

Familiar.

Welcomed.

His gaze searched, finding her, his partner, O’Hara, her features blurred, fuzzy, but her smile . . . her relief was clear.

Her face so close to his, her breath like peppermint, the palm of her hand now resting on the side of his face.

He coughed, painful.

He breathed, oxygen drawn into his lungs as though through a straw.

An exchange of words, orders given and then she was gone. Not from the room he was sure, just from his line of sight.

A flash of dark blue, a uniform. A face in front of him. McNabb.

Seagulls.

Seagulls moving. Toward him, above him, around him, the feel of vinyl on his skin, covering his nakedness, an attempt to allow him his dignity.

Everything happened quickly, efficiently.

He was lifted, his teeth clenched against the pain, a groan escaping as he was carried from the room. The old woman, now dead, left behind, her death her own.

Darkness.

Light.

Stuttering awareness.

A smell of urine. Feces.

He opened his eyes, his lids fluttering with fatigue.

Above him a ceiling, familiar.

His body cold, in pain.

He didn’t know why.

He couldn’t remember.

“Carlton.”

A touch, soft and gentle, on his cheek, on his forehead, fingers through his hair, stopping at the side of his neck, resting there, feeling his pulse. It calmed him.

Lassiter lowered his gaze.

He could see his flesh, his nakedness, seagulls standing on his groin.

“Carlton?”

“Here’s a blanket, Detective.” McNabb. Loyal, faithful, happy and damn good at his job.

He watched as O’Hara, his partner, pulled the seagulls from his body, revealing all, quickly covering his cold flesh with a blanket, thick and soft, warming him already.

Darkness.

Light.

“Carlton!”

He stared into his partner’s worried gaze.

“Was there someone else?”

His voice dry, his throat sore. “Wha . . .”

“Carlton, look at me,” said O’Hara.

His gaze had drifted, becoming lost, like his memory.

“Did the old woman have an accomplice?”

Lassiter frowned, his forehead creasing. “I don’t . . . remember.”

He coughed. Once. Twice. He couldn’t stop – his head, his cheek, exploding with pain.

O’Hara, the best partner he’d ever had, ever would have, pulled his upper body toward her, placing his forehead on her shoulder, her hand rubbing his back.

“Where’s the damn ambulance?”

She was tense, scared. He could feel it.

But she didn’t think of herself, of keeping it professional. She only thought of him, of what he needed.

“You’ll be fine, Carlton,” she said. “You’re safe now. It’s over.”

He believed her.

He still didn’t understand what had happened. How it happened.

He couldn’t remember.

A siren, in the distance, coming closer.

Lassiter closed his eyes.

Darkness.



Epilogue
Where Detective Carlton Lassiter realizes
that it will never be over.



His eyelids snapped open as he sat upright, sheets gathering around his waist.

His heart pounded against his ribcage.

His body covered in a cold sweat.

He breathed, dragging in deep breaths, struggling to calm himself.

Lassiter remembered in his dreams, his nightmares. The pain. The cold. The screams.

It wasn’t over.

It never would be.





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