1

Twenty-eight years later and Lanvale is a dying city. Crime was as rife as ever and past mob wars had scarred the city's heart. Only four major gangs now remained, and rarely did they come into contact anymore. Despite this, violence was still abhorrently high between smaller gangs; these small groups ranged from teenagers to young adults, male and female, floating around the city starting violent battles with each other and targeting innocent civilians for things as pitiful as money or possessions.

During the day Lanvale seemed like any other normal city, even though there was still violence in the streets, but it was at night when everything changed. People still went outside, but rarely did they venture out alone into the streets where any number of beasts lay waiting for them. Though most people made careful precautions about going out after dark most murders occurred past sundown.

At night the whole of the city's central core took on a near-physical change: buildings were more menacing, almost looming over the streets below, ready to swallow up anyone foolish enough to pass by; shadows took on lives of their own, becoming blissfully sadistic; the air grew denser and more grey; sounds were piercing, almost intentionally hurtful and the few streets left with working streetlights seemed like new havens, oases of light where it felt like nothing bad could happen. Of course that was just wishful thinking, the mini-gangs often inhabited those lit streets more than any other.

Murders were often, at least half of them unsolved. Many people were killed as a result of physical assault, stab and gunshot wounds etc. and more often than not the perpetrator(s) were caught and punished but many brutal deaths could not be investigated properly, for there was no evidence left behind, and for the most part it seemed like they had been torn apart by a large, powerful animal; an animal that, in this country, could only possibly be seen in a zoo, like a tiger or a lion.

For some time there had been a series of killings uncannily similar to some committed during the eighties. Police knew they weren't dealing with a gang nor an animal, just a man with a heavy object and brutish strength. The victims had been beaten, almost exclusively around the head and face, to the point where their skulls were viciously concaved and their teeth painfully shattered.

Evidence was found, however, and the DNA gained led the police to Stanley Dwayne Mayer, a computer programmer who had been arrested for rape two years previously. Although they knew who they were after they had no idea where he was. According to his neighbours he had not been to his home for months and no matter how much his face was shown on posters and on television nobody ever saw him.

The situation would eventually bring Mayer and the police to a short but devastating standoff.

Somebody choosing to remain anonymous had seen him enter a warehouse in the old industrial quarter of Lanvale, which seemed odd due to the fact that most of the factories and warehouses in that specific area were abandoned and that nobody, save for drug dealers and the homeless, had any reason to be there. And it was unlikely that any drug dealer would help the police and probable that the homeless in that area had no idea who Mayer was.

Even stranger was the fact he was seen in the daylight.

It was not expected, and the police were ill-prepared.

In the time it took them to get to the warehouse Stanley could have disappeared once more, had he the means he could have escaped the city itself. But it wasn't through luck that he was still there.

A substantial number of armed officers surrounded the large warehouse, which was adjoined to two other warehouses with one on each side. It had no windows and only one door that wasn't boarded up. Several television, radio and newspaper reporters and journalists were lining up behind barriers, struggling to get the best views.

The air was still and the sun beat down hard on the scene. There were no noises, nor, for that matter, any sign at all of anything happening inside the building.

Suddenly a knife-like scream devastated the mid-afternoon air and in seconds the one wooden door splintered to the floor and a dozen armed men flooded through.

Five bodies lay at the foot of the wall at the back of the room, their faces grotesquely misshapen and broken, with dark blood pooling around them. The glow from the flashlights attached to the squad's rifles revealed strange markings and what looked like words, smeared in blood, all along three of the walls.

The stench was unbearable.

One of the bodies let out a gurgling moan and rolled over onto her back. Her hands were bound and her bloodied gag had fallen down around her neck. It was her who had screamed and interrupted Mayer's assault, who was nowhere to be seen. One of the men approached her, his stomach turning over from the sight of her cut and swollen face. One of her eyes was closed and the other rolled back into her skull, her head lolled from side to side as she moaned in pain.

'My name's Jenkins,' he whispered down to her, not really knowing if she could hear him, 'you're safe. Don't worry, we'll get you help.' He signalled to the others and they began their search of the darkened building. A number of extremely tall shelves lined half of the room, splitting it into six long aisles. Parting off into groups of two the team ventured tentatively into the shadows, quietly they swept down the aisles with their backs against each other.

They were halfway down when someone cried out a warning and a flash-bang grenade lit up the room, followed by a burst of muzzle flash, which was in turn followed by shouting, then silence. Jenkins and his partner, their heads buzzing from the grenade, ran down their aisle in the direction of the commotion and found one of their squad members dead, his throat slit. A couple of feet further on there were more aisles and a cone of light flickered between the shelves. The rest of the squad gave chase, only to find the corpse of the second team member, a knife protruding from his throat, and his weapon missing.

Further down the light still flickered at them.

Jenkins cursed under his breath and pressed himself against the shelf between him and the light. The others followed suit and as soon as they did a burst of gunfire flew down towards them, tearing through boxes and ricocheting off metal. They returned fire and knew they'd missed when the light dodged into another aisle. Half of the team did the same, laying down cover fire for the other half, led by Jenkins, with their lights off, as they sped up a neighbouring aisle, hoping to flank Mayer.

The noise was deafening, and between bursts the sounds of spent cases tinkering onto the floor could be heard over manic giggling and whispering. Just as Jenkins' team emerged from between the shelves Mayer spun to face them and opened fire once more before they could get to cover. Bullets hit one of the men to Jenkins' right in his vest, but then he brought the gun upwards and tore into his face. The man collapsed and Jenkins returned fire.

Outside, a suffocating silence weighed down on the press, paramedics and the rest of the police. The paramedic teams had everything prepared for when they would be allowed to enter. Just from looking through the door, even at a distance, they knew there was at least one survivor. There was however no telling if any of the raiding team, or even Mayer himself, were injured, but they were prepared for all outcomes.

A quick, static-filled burble popped over a radio and the paramedics were given the go-ahead to enter the warehouse. They tended to the surviving victim, quickly hauling her into an ambulance, the press horrified at the extent of her injuries, and then speeding away to the city hospital.

They started removing the bodies from the scene. One by one they were wheeled out, the squad member last after being declared dead at the scene.

Then came Mayer.

He was alive, though only barely.

The rest of the raiding team followed the paramedics out, with Jenkins yanking off his helmet and barking 'you do everything you can to keep that bastard alive! He killed one of my men. Son of a bitch's not getting off that easy.'

He was a tall man, nearly a full six feet, with very short brown hair. His steely eyes and square face beset by the severity of his job, which often put him in situations such as the confrontation that just took place. He was in his mid-forties, though he looked much older. His skin was pale, almost greyed, and lightly creased; physical evidence of the emotional struggles he'd experienced throughout his life, and a look that helped perpetuate his reputation as "hard-boiled."

He watched the ambulance holding Mayer shriek through the estate, escorted by several squad cars when another, shorter, member of his team appeared next to him and removed her helmet, letting her blood-red ponytail fall down her back. She stood as high as Jenkins' shoulders and her hair fell just past her shoulder blades; her petite and curved exterior completely contrasted that of her friend's, masking an interior that matched his in almost every way.

'Why'd you let him live? '

Jenkins shrugged, scratched his head and sighed 'I don't know, Cass. I suppose death's too easy a way out. I want him to rot.'

'Yeah, in a taxpayer-funded cell where he'll have a better quality of life than us.' Cass muttered.

Jenkins shook his head. 'Oh no, not where he's going. He's going to Parkwood.'

'Parkwood? How do you know?'

He looked down at her, the seriousness of his expression belying the lightened tone of his voice, as if he were happy about Mayer going to that place. 'They're not going to let him go to a normal prison.'

Parkwood, an asylum for the criminally insane located a few miles from the city itself, was a place where lives ended and people were forgotten. The very worst of criminals were housed there, with very little fanfare – usually none at all. Whenever someone was condemned there it was like they had just fallen into oblivion, completely disappearing from the light of decent society and plunged into a world far more horrible than the streets of Lanvale and much worse than any prison.

The sudden barrage of questions and camera shutters broke the silence that followed the sound of the last ambulance leaving the estate. Jenkins and Cass pushed their way past them, ignoring all questions and flashing lights.

Jenkins hated these people, it wasn't the seemingly lack of respect for the victims, however that was a factor, but he hated them simply because every time there was an incident such as this their questions would always go unanswered because they would always release a statement later on to explain the situation. They were akin to a nest of chicks, each one fighting against the other, vying to be the one who would receive the next scrap tossed into the pulsing crowd. He just couldn't understand why they couldn't just wait until the time when the police would have all, or at least most of, the facts at hand.

One journalist was not asking questions. She hadn't moved from her original spot, which was directly opposite the warehouse entrance, since the team entered and while they were bringing the bodies out. She saw one of the bodies through the doorway, and she saw the condition of the surviving victim.

It horrified her beyond measure.

As she stared into the blackness of the warehouse her fingers unconsciously found their way to her face and lightly traced themselves along a thin scar that ran down from her left temple to the middle of her cheek, a blemish made almost invisible by makeup but to her could never be covered enough. It was always there, like a hideous crack down her face. She shuddered and continued to stare.

She recognised this method of murder.

Her father had died the same way.

Bethany sighed shakily. It was either coincidence or Mayer was a copycat, but either way it brought up terrifically unwanted memories of that terrible night. She watched when he was wheeled out and wished him dead, wished all freaks like him dead, and continued watching when the police began taping up the doorway.

As they did, she moved to try and find a better angle to see into the warehouse, and caught a glimpse of one of the weird symbols spattered on the wall before it was obscured by yellow tape.

A hand planting itself on her shoulder roused her from her daydream.

'You okay, Beth?'

Bethany turned and was met with the concerned look of her long-time friend and colleague, a thirty-six year old Canadian named Tyler Fontaine.

She smiled weakly and nodded before saying 'yeah, I suppose.'

Tyler raised an eyebrow. 'You suppose?'
'I'm fine, Ty.'

'You don't look it.'

'Well I am.' Bethany snapped as she started towards her car. Tyler followed, wrapping the strap of his camera around the device itself. He climbed into the passenger seat as Beth turned the engine over before heading away from the commotion caused by the rest of the press. 'I'm sorry,' she said quietly, 'it's just not a good day for me.'

'You don't say.' Ty muttered. 'So what's wrong? We've been friends for years but you hardly ever talk about your problems, I mean it's not outside the realms of possibility that I might be able to help y'know.'

'Honestly, Ty, it's nothing you can help with. I can deal with it.'

Tyler rolled his eyes and leant against his window, staring blankly at the old industrial architecture that wasn't just prevalent in the old manufacturing estate. A vast percentage of the city was built like this, and any new buildings were made to look the same; not because people liked it, it was only for continuities sake. Those ugly brown buildings managed to make the nicest day in summer so far, and every other day, summer or not, as drab and as dull as the brickwork itself. He hated it, and every day prayed for his yearly holiday to California to come a bit quicker.

Tyler and Bethany had known each other for five years, Beth the journalist and Ty the photographer, both of them freelance and fairly well known in the industry. They were close, like anyone would be after five years of working together, but she would never open up completely. She hardly ever spoke about her problems and when she did she did it very reluctantly. At first Ty thought she didn't trust him enough to talk with him about her troubles, and took it rather personally, but since then he'd realised it's just how she was and while he didn't like her keeping things to herself he no longer took it as personal as he once did.

The police's statement was given not too long afterwards outside the city's station, and all the while Beth stood and stared, not taking any notes, not even listening to what was being said. All she could think of were the symbols written on the walls of the warehouse, and it seemed to her she was the only one who saw the markings because nobody asked a single question in relation to them and the officer giving the statement didn't say a word.

It was then that she'd realised that Mayer and his standoff wasn't the big story here. Everyone was going to relay the same thing to their respective studios and papers, and none of them would have information on what was inside the warehouse. But she would.

The car ride back to the small suburban neighbourhood where Ty lived was long and quiet, save for the burble coming from the engine of Beth's hatchback. Very little had been said between them since they left the crime scene and the tension was exhausting them both; the relief they had been hoping for finally came when she pulled up outside Tyler's orange-brick home, which looked exactly the same as all the other houses in the cul-de-sac.

The Canadian opened the door and glanced at his visibly troubled friend, who was blinking silently down at the steering wheel. He watched her brush her long blonde curls behind her ear and smile at him, a smile he'd gotten accustomed to pretty quickly after first meeting her – it was the one she always gave when she didn't feel like smiling, which was almost all of the time.

'Are you sure you don't want to talk?'

Bethany nodded slowly, still showing her false smile. 'I'm sure. Hey, I'm going to need you tonight, okay?'

Tyler blinked and frowned lightly. 'What for?'

'Guess I should come clean.' She sighed. 'I saw something on the walls inside the warehouse. Symbols, I guess, and nothing was said about them in the police's statement. I want to know what they are,'

'And why the police didn't say anything.' Ty finished. 'How do you propose going about getting into the scene? I assume that's what you're going to do, right?'

Beth nodded. 'Yeah. I'll figure that out when we get there.'

'But why do you need me?'

Her answer was simple. 'You've got a camera with night-vision.'