Because of an unusually warm summer, the warehouse office felt hot and muggy. Lewis longed for a cold drink as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat while waiting for Freddie. His sweaty shirt clung to his overweight body, and a fly's incessant buzzing rang in his ears. Lewis felt nervous and as a result hardly noticed the fly which was the least of his worries. Bodies had begun to turn up with increasing regularity, and Lewis knew more would follow. No one was safe, least of all him.
Finally Freddie came through the door into the office with two cold beers in his hand, startling Lewis. "These are dangerous times we live in my friend," he said to Lewis as he passed him a beer and put his feet up on his desk. After polishing off half the can with one swing, Lewis asked pleadingly, "What everyone's saying isn't true is it Freddie? I'm too young to die," he almost sobbed.
"I wish it weren't true," Freddie replied. "But the only thing we can do now is prepare and arm ourselves. I called you down here to tell you to get out of town while you still can. I've got a cousin I'm going to stay with until this is over. I suggest you find somebody to stay with and do the same."
"We can still stop him before it is too late Freddie," Lewis said. "Round up your boys that are still left and…" Suddenly the two men heard footsteps in the hallway, and Lewis stopped midsentence. His heart seemed to stop as he asked Freddie, "You posted a guard at the entrance to the building didn't you?"
* * *
When he decided to run for mayor two years ago, Lewis quickly realized he couldn't do it fairly. He knew he would need the help of someone powerful and rich, someone like his old friend and former classmate Freddie. Lewis and Freddie first became friends because of their similar proclivity for bullying in high school. They teamed up and, along with their respective followers, terrorized their school's hallways. Like a pack of wolves seeking out the weakest in a herd, they picked out those lowest on the social rung to beat up and humiliate. Freddie acted as the brains, and Lewis acted as the brawns by using his large size to force those weaker than them into submission. They made a good pair, and many years later Lewis sought out Freddie, by now a powerful criminal boss, for help. Freddie quickly agreed to use his underlings and money to help Lewis win the election. Freddie ran his criminal operations at a warehouse on the outskirts of the city. His office there was where Freddie and Lewis would meet many times in the coming months to discuss mutually advantageous strategies.
Because of Freddie the race for mayor took a drastic turn when the candidate favored to win disappeared, pivoting Lewis into the lead. Huge anonymous campaign donations further bolstered Lewis's campaign, and with no small help from Freddie, Lewis won the election to the dismay and surprise of many. Freddie climbed to new heights in the criminal food chain due to his partnership with the now Mayor Lewis. The state of affairs in the city began to go downhill fast after Lewis took office. He appointed a new police commissioner who didn't mind turning a blind eye to Freddie's illegal activities, and crime ran rife through the city.
* * *
Some called Dave Henson a man of the people. He possessed that ineffable quality that makes some politicians great. He cut an impressive profile with his tall frame and handsome face, yet, from talking to him the listener could discern that he wasn't just another man in a suit. Passion shook his voice when he spoke letting people know he really did care, so when Dave decided to rigorously clean up the city and criticize the Mayor's office, Freddie and Lewis became increasingly worried. People began to take notice of Dave, and Lewis came under increasing pressure. Lewis knew something needed to be done about the guy and phoned Freddie.
"Have you seen this nobody out criticizing us on TV and in the newspapers?" Lewis asked as he paced the floor of his luxurious house.
"Well, he ain't a nobody no more. It looks like we've got a serious problem on our hands here Lewis," Freddie replied.
"He's already announced he wants my job in the upcoming election, and he'll get it too. I can't compete with that kid."
"I'll take a few of my best guys and pay him a friendly visit tomorrow night. You don't need to come along on this one. We can't have you in deeper water than you're already in if something goes wrong," Freddie said.
"Come on, Freddie. The guy's a fuckin pansy. He'll probably be pissing his pants by the time we get done with him and never show his face around here again," Lewis said.
"All the same, you stay back and cover us from PR stand point. With all the shit you've been getting lately you need to go on TV and slander this guy. You make him out as a coward to the public, and I'll go to his house and see just how much of a coward he really is," Freddie replied.
* * *
Dave fixed supper while discussing his upcoming bid for mayor and what it would mean for the family.
"I need this honey," he said to his wife who had disapproved of the idea from the start. "This could be my one chance to make an actual difference and people are counting on me."
"You could put us in danger though. You know what people say about Mayor Lewis. The guy's a psycho. "There's no telling what he might decide to do to us if he feels you're a real threat which by now you are," said.
"I think I can protect my own family," Dave said angrily. "You know I love you guys and would do anything for you.
* * *
Freddie loaded shells into his shotgun as he sat in the passenger seat of a stolen van with two of his best men. As the van skidded to a halt outside the Benson residence, Freddie donned a balaclava, and motioned for his men to do the same. Right before the action started was the part Freddie loved best about doing a job like this. Adrenaline coursed through his veins as he and his men ran up to the door and prepared to breach it. Surprise proved paramount in situations, such as this. Freddie had implicitly warned his men that no one they were to kill no one. This mission was to terrorize and threatened Benson into dropping out of the race for mayor and leaving town. Freddie nodded to his men and yelled, "Now!"
* * *
"I hope you guys are in the mood for pizza," Dave said to his children as he turned on the gas stove to cook it.
"Of course we are dad," his son said.
"Well, I guess I'll get to cookin then," Dave told them. "We'll let your mother rest up since she's not very happy with me right now."
While cleaning up fom supper, Dave stood at the kitchen sink mentally rehearsing an interview he had to give the next day on the corruption in the city. It was a controversial topic but one which Dave felt needed to be addressed as step to making the city he loved better.
* * *
People really need to invest in stronger doors Freddie thought as he kicked open the door. Freddie and his two men fanned out to clear the house. Screams children's screams erupted from an adjacent room to Freddie, and he felt grateful he wasn't he unlucky one who had to deal with the kids. He came upon the wife sitting on the couch with a glass of red wine in her hand that she promptly spilled all over herself. Dave Benson's a lucky bastard he though as he hungrily gazed at the beautiful blond haired woman. After he and his men tied up Benson, he might take her up stairs Freddie thought with glee. This was just too easy.
* * *
Dave heard the door open and dropped the dish he held in his hand. Tiny pieces of glass scattered all over the floor. It took him a few seconds to realize what was happening, but by then it was almost too late. A man appeared in the doorway to the kitchen brandishing a shotgun. The man attempted to hit him in the head with the butt of the gun, but Dave reacted too quickly for him. He grabbed the barrel with one hand, and reached for the man's throat with the other. Using his height and strength to his advantage, Dave managed to send the man onto the floor gasping for breath. By now a black haze overcame Dave, and he put the barrel of the shotgun to the man's head. Without ceremony he pulled the trigger; blood sprayed all over the kitchen. Dave wiped hair from over his eyes, and advanced to the room living room where his children's screams reverberated off the walls and through the house.
* * *
Freddie heard the deafening blast of the shotgun, and rushed toward the room where it came from. He initially feared his man had acted against orders or inadvertently killed Dave, but he was unprepared to see his own man's head blown off. Two more blasts went off followed by man's screaming. Freddie knew he needed to find cover fast. He went back to the room with the wife who was still frozen in place. He toppled a table in the room and dived behind it, grabbing the wife to take with himi.
* * *
Dave discarded the gun now was now out of ammunition. Looking spied a large shard of broken glass on the floor to use as weapon, and he ran to find his children. Another man stood next to them seemingly at a loss for what to do. He had heard the other blast but couldn't decide whether to stay with the children or go help his comrade. When he saw Dave, he attempted to empty both barrels of his shotgun at him. The first shot missed, and created a gaping hole in the wall next him. The second barrel misfired, sending pellets into the man's face and torso. The last thing he saw was a piece of a dish coming toward him before in pieced his neck. Then only the screams of the children could be heard as they ran to their father. Then silence. Only the muffled sobs to the children crying into their father's shoulder could be heard.
* * *
Recovering from her paralyses the wife hit out at Freddie. He attempted to restrain her and keep an eye on the door at the same time. The wife clawed at his face, and her fingers found his eyes. "You bitch," Freddie screamed and lost his struggle to hold on to the gun as well. He managed to free a knife from his belt and stabbed wildly. His knife struck flesh, and he dug the knife in deep. Her body went limp, and Freddie pushed her body of himself. He pulled the knife free, and thought it was a shape that such a beautiful woman like that had to die. He ripped off his sweaty balaclava to massage his scratched face, and then he decided he didn't want to chance waiting around for Dave if he still lived. He took out his lighter and held it up the frilly curtains that adorned the window. Flames climbed up the curtains and spread to the carpet. Freddie pulled himself up from the prone position. He stumbled toward the smashed door, and glanced in the room from whence the most recent shots came. The Dave lay bleeding on the floor. Freddie and Dave's eyes met. Freddie knew a painful death awaited Dave, but he only felt sorry for his children as he continued towards the door. Fits of coughing overcame him from the smoke a few times before he finally managed to reach the car that thankfully still had the keys in the ignition.
* * *
Dave struggled to remain conscious as he looked down at his bloody shirt. Part of the first shotgun blast from the intruder guarding his children had gotten him, and he struggle to remain up right. He saw orange flashes of felt searing heat but struggled to comprehend what it meant. People seemed to be saying something to him, but it was if they were very far away. He hauled his battered body off the ground and made for the door. He could only think of escaping the smoke and heat. He somehow found the door and collapsed in the grass right before the house exploded.
* * *
The house was so badly damaged after the gas explosion that none of the bodies could even be found. Everyone thought it was just a tragic fire, and no one could have guessed what actually happened inside the house. Dave Benson, the only survivor, neither attended the funeral of his wife and children nor could anyone locate his whereabouts. Paramedics took Dave, who was still unconscious, to the hospital, but later that day when a nurse went to check on him, Dave was missing from his hospital bed. People thought his disappearance for a day or two was understandable because of the grief he must be going through, but after he didn't show up for several days, folks became worried. People attempted to look for him, but no one could find him.
* * *
Freddie and Lewis accomplished what they set out to do: Dave Benson no longer posed a challenge to Lewis in the next election. This came at a far greater cost than either Lewis or Freddie anticipated though. Even for a man like Freddie, leaving two children to burn to death was hard to stomach. In addition, Freddie lost two of his best men. They held several conferences on the best course of action to take if the bodies of Freddie's men were found, but they never were because of the gas explosion. Election season eventually rolled around, and Lewis won the election once again. In his victory speech he praised Dave Benson highly and expounded on what a great loss the city had suffered. Lewis experienced a high approval rating in the weeks after his election, and he and Freddie began to move on the botched mission. Live was good for them, but Dave's disappearance still bothered them, especially Lewis. Where could he have gone, and would he ever come back to tell the truth of what really happened that fateful night?
* * *
The police commissioner that Lewis appointed in his last term turned up dead first. The commissioner's wife found him dead in the bathtub when she came home from bridge club. It appeared to authorities as though he had been downed. Next, workers in Freddie's crime enterprise began to turn up dead. First a dope dealer, then Freddie's second and third in command. More would follow. The press had a field day with the murders as well as reports of Dave Benson sightings. No one had seen Dave Benson in months, but just when his absence started to fade from the news, a few people claimed to have seen him.
* * *
Lewis and Freddie began to take extra precautions as they began to form a picture of what was happening. Lewis could barely sleep at night, and he took to eating even more than usual as a way to cope. In fact the corpulent mayor was rarely seen out in public anymore. Freddie prepared to leave town, and called a last meeting with Lewis. After discussing what to do for a while they heard footsteps in the hallway. A shadow of someone's feet appeared beneath the door, and Freddie and Lewis knew their day of reckoning had arrived.