When I got home that night, I noticed the smiling jack-o-lantern in my front yard was crushed. It had been sixteen hours since I’d stepped out the front door into darkness, knives tucked into my boots, mask pulled low. I sucked in a sharp breath and swore, stepping inside and slamming home the deadbolt. I knew what this was — a warning. Jonathan Edwards knew where I lived, had sent his watchdogs to my home, my home where I ate and slept and cared for a one-eyed cat named Marty. Maybe he had come here himself, I thought with a cold shiver of dread. Maybe he had come inside. Could he get inside, past the biometric scanner I’d painstakingly secreted in the molding of the front door? If he could murder people in broad daylight and still be the mayor of this town, I reflected darkly, he could probably fool even advanced biological recognition tech. I drew the knife from my right boot and padded silently into the kitchen.
The silver blade preceded me through the house as I systematically checked each room — not that there were many. Vigilante justice didn’t exactly provide a six-figure paycheck, even when you factored in the ever-lucrative retail job that I worked during the day. Kitchen clear, living room clear, bedroom-slash-office-slash-weapons-storage clear. Bathroom clear, aside from Marty, asleep in the sink. Hi, furball, I whispered, and stroked his head once. He opened his eye and blinked it at me balefully. I thought about prying him out of the sink and decided it wasn’t worth it. I’d taken enough damage today.
After I’d finished cleaning my knives, I took inventory. Nothing broken this time, which was good. My insurance company had started to notice me the third time I showed up at the ER in the span of six weeks. I was missing a good-sized chunk of scalp, though, and although I’d managed to stop the bleeding I was pretty sure this was going to require some creative hairstyling. I cleaned the wound slowly, gingerly, in the kitchen sink, mapping it by feel. No bone exposed, I thought to myself. Thank Edwards’ idiot goon for only catching the back of your head — at least you’re not bald from the front — but you knew ponytails were a bad idea. I rolled my eyes at myself as I started in with the shears. The good thing about working at the mall was that they almost expected you to show up with weird asymmetrical haircuts, so this would go pretty unnoticed. As I sawed away at my hair I laid out what I knew so far.
Jonathan Edwards: bad man. Bad, bad man. Bad — something. He wasn’t technically a man, so much as he was an… assemblage. Like that joke about six kids in a trench coat trying to see an R-rated movie, only the joke here was that the six kids were pure evil, which was generally a sort of viscous bubbling horror-mist, and the trench coat was a pudgy balding man. The R-rated movie was tearing the souls out of as many human beings as possible in order to create more trench coats (read: human-shaped containers) for all of Edwards’ kid friends (read: horror-mist). Me: for some reason, the only person in town that could see this happening. I’d been fighting a one-person war against Edwards and his growing legion since the middle of summer, and I hadn’t been caught or found out. Until now.
I peered out the window, rubbing my newly shorn head. The ruined jack-o-lantern grinned brokenly at me, silhouetted by the streetlight. As I am, so shall you be, it leered. Smashed in your own front yard. I shuddered and shut the blinds, making my way toward bed. As I checked the lock on my bedroom door and placed my knives gently on the bedside table, I realized something. Edwards had wanted to scare me, and he had, a little. But he did it because he was scared. He knew that I was hunting him. And tomorrow, I thought, tomorrow is another day. We’ll just see who ends up with their teeth kicked in. I reached up and clicked off the light.