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No Good Deed (Part 1)

It was nearly midnight when I first saw her. There was only one 24 hour grocery store in my small hometown and she looked as out of place as anyone could possibly be. Rather than wearing the old faded denims that all the townspeople seemed to prefer she was dressed in a white, pressed blouse and an obviously expensive black, pencil skirt that reached to just above her knees. She stood out like a sore thumb. Unlike most of the working class farmers in our area she didn't dress plainly nor did she look old before her time. Her smooth, creamy white skin and long blonde hair revealed a pampered lifestyle that none of the townsfolk here could possibly afford. She also had wide, innocent green eyes that seemed oblivious to the harsh realities of this world. And I...well I was instantly smitten.
We had both arrived at the mom and pop shop at the exact same time. Myself, I had come for some late night microwave pizza and a few beers. And she, well I could only wonder as to what had brought such a beautiful and sophisticated young woman to this small place and at such a late hour. I froze in my steps when I noticed her. She swept by me with a shy smile and continued into the small establishment. I shook my head in an effort to clear my thoughts and followed her through the dimly lit entrance of the store. I made my quickly to the frozen food aisle to grab my pizza and then moved on to the wider beer and liquor section of the market. I was pleasantly surprised to find the same woman also standing there, seemingly debating over two brands of red wine. She looked up at me as I approached and gave me another quick smile as she hastily returned one bottle to the shelf and turned to walk purposely toward the checkout line. I hurriedly picked up a twelve pack of my favorite brand of imported lager and followed after her.
Due to the late hour, there was only one checkout lane open and I impatiently took note of the other shoppers standing in line. There was an old woman whom I instantly recognized as Dorothy Woodsworth at the front. She watched with an eagle's eye as the checker rang up her meager items, her fist tightly clenched over what looked to be stack of painstakingly clipped coupons. Behind her was a rather disheveled and dirty looking man in his late 30's. I didn't recognize him but with his numerous piercings, tattoos and the strong stench of alcohol and body odor, I was instantly on guard. The town had so few residents and even fewer tourists that I found it very odd to come across two strangers in the same night, especially at the same location.
He must be a drifter, I decided, and a rather suspicious looking one at that. Even more disconcerting then the man's appearance was the suspicious items that he was purchasing. I saw a box cutter, zip ties, garbage bags and large amounts of duct tape crowded into his small shopping basket. I somehow doubted that a man like this was starting some late night home improvement project. I instantly felt myself reacting as any young, hot blooded male would. I puffed out my chest, flexed my muscles and met his dark eyes in a "You don't scare me" kind of way. Behind the drifter but in front of myself stood...her, the beautiful young woman that I had been ogling this entire trip. Much to my dismay, the dirty man's gaze also seemed to focus on the young woman. His tongue kept darting out to wet his dry, chapped lips as his eye's raked up and down her body in a clearly lustful way. I felt my protective instincts roar to life as I watched her uncomfortable gaze dart quickly from old Mrs. Woodsworth to the strange man and back again as though seeking a safe place to land. I wracked my brain for some form of conversation that would distract the girl from the man's inappropriate scrutiny and put her more at ease.
"H-hi there, buying some wine, huh?" The words just fell out of my mouth and I visibly winced as I stated the painfully obvious in a choked voice. The unkempt man snorted and gave me an amused and knowing look. "I mean..."
"Yes, I am having a late dinner with a friend." She calmly said with a relieved smile. Her voice was as soft and alluring as the rest of her and I instantly felt my body start to relax. I couldn't help but hope that there was more than just gratitude behind that smile.
"Oh, dinner that sounds nice." I replied awkwardly "must going on a date then, huh?" She opened her mouth as if to reply to my question but after a moment she shut it again and turned her eyes toward the cashier without answering me. Too shy and embarrassed to press her further, I also turned my attention solely to the cashier and attempted to pretend that no one else existed. The young man, whom I vaguely recognized as the grandson of the owners -Timmy or Jimmy I think was his name- made quick, competent work of everyone's purchases and before I knew it I was all paid up and walking towards the store exit. The same mysterious woman walking only a short distance in front of me. Once I reached the parking lot I watched as she quickly walked to a car a few spaces away, placed the wine in her trunk and unlocked her car doors. I was already at my truck, as I was parked closer to the store than her and was about to climb into the driver's seat when something came over me, a last ditch attempt to catch the girl of my dreams, I suppose. "Hey." I called out to her. "My name is Sam and I...don't mean to bother you. But, I would really like to know your name...and well do you have a boyfriend or anything?"
The girl paused in her motion to open her door and raised one perfectly groomed eyebrow in answer to my question. Damn, that had sounded awkward and far too needy to be anything even approaching casual. But then I had always been somewhat awkward around the ladies. "I mean well, do you?" She smiled briefly, revealing a cute little dimple in her left cheek and I felt my heart melt even more.
"I am Mina. And no, I don't have...anyone like that. But please just trust me when I say that you don't want to get involved with me. I am...too much trouble." With that she flicked back her long hair with a careless movement of her pale, perfectly manicured fingers and slid into the front seat of her luxury car. Following suit I plopped down into the driver's side of my beat up pickup and sighed. "Wow, smooth," I sarcastically taunted myself, "I can't imagine why she didn't just fall into your lap after such a brilliant line like that." Punching my steering wheel in several frustrated movements I gloomily watched her car back up and head towards the exit of the parking lot. It was then that I noticed the top of a head peeking out of her rear window, barely visible in the backseat of her car.
"Wait. What the..." I trailed off and quickly backed out of my parking space to follow her car towards the exit. It was only when I was directly behind her that I realized I recognized whose head I had seen peering at me from her rear windshield. The long, greasy hair together with the reflection of the store's lights glinting off his many piercings finally clued me into who this was. Somehow, the same dirty man who was in line before us had slipped into the back of her car without her notice! He quickly ducked back down below eye level until I could no longer see him. Meanwhile, she had switched on her turn signal indicating that she was going to turn left out of the parking lot. Even though my home was in the opposite direction I too flipped on my left turn signal and prepared to follow her. I was concerned for her safety, given the rough appearance of the man and the fact that he was obviously hiding out in her car. I knew he must have bad intentions, there was just no other explanation. I fought the urge to simply blare my horn at her, knowing that the man was quite possibly armed and able to cause her fatal injury if he knew that he had been discovered.
Instead I followed closely behind her as she slowly made her way through the streets of downtown and then turned off to a smaller, less brightly lit road. I considered then rejected several strategies that might get her out of her car without alerting the menacing stow away in her backseat. Several nerve wracking minutes passed as she navigated through town before finally turning into an all night gas station and my heart leapt. Thank God, this was my chance! I quickly turned in behind her and stopped at the pump adjacent to hers. At this time of night I could see no other patrons and only one scrawny teenage boy who seemed to be manning the register from inside the small building. There was really no one else in sight. I could see no sign of the man in her back seat and concluded that he must have flattened himself onto the floor of her car. I climbed out of my front seat and pretended to start gassing up my already full tank. I tried to appear nonchalant as I knew I had to be smart about this. If I just ran over to her screaming as my first instincts demanded then I would likely just frighten her back into her car then be back at square one.
She got out of her vehicle and looked at me somewhat suspiciously as she began pumping her gas. I opened and closed my mouth several times, my mind racing to come up with a plan to get her away from her car."You know this place has great coffee." I began, "Could I buy you a quick cup?" She made an exasperated sound in the back of her throat before replying. "Boy, you just don't give up, do you?" Attempting a casual smile I said "I just really think we should get to know each other, that's all. Just give me ten minutes, one cup of coffee and if you're still not interested you can go on your way and I promise to never bother you again." Please, please let this work my mind chanted over and over again."I really can't," she finally said. "Look you seem like a nice guy but I am just not interested. Sorry."
"Damn." I hadn't meant to say that out loud and once it came out it sounded rather angry. I watched helplessly as she took a frightened step back and looked down at the gas nozzle that I had just been holding, not even bothering to put it into my tank as it was already full. "You followed me here, didn't you?" she asked accusingly. "Listen man, I have tried to be nice but if you don't back off right now I am going to call the cops, do you understand?" She angrily finished pumping her gas and slammed the nozzle back into position at the pump. She had every right to be upset and I knew that I was probably scaring the hell out of the poor girl. I just didn't know what else to do. I was not the kind of man who could just leave a helpless woman to the wicked plans of a deranged man. I returned the nozzle to it's compartment as I briefly considered calling the police myself.
We only had one sheriff, who always left the station promptly at six every evening. That left only a single, young deputy whom the whole town knew to be drunk far more often than not. I couldn't help but think it would be the wrong move to involve him. If this guy was armed and got spooked he could kill her long before we got close enough to stop him. This situation required far more delicacy then an inebriated and inexperienced cop would be capable of. But then what should I do? She was just about to climb back in her car when I desperately called out, "Wait Mina, don't go. You...your tire is flat! Come see." She made a movement as if she was about to get back out to check but then she merely shot me a fearful look over her shoulder and started her engine.
I quickly jumped back into my pickup and fired up the engine. When she turned out of the parking lot I hesitated a few moments before turning behind her. I followed slowly at what I hoped was a discreet distance and tried to plan my next move. I was cursing myself for not thinking of writing her a note and slipping it discreetly to her somehow. If only I had thought of that sooner! She made several turns which led her out of the downtown area and eventually turned down what appeared to be a long dirt road. I had thought I knew every inch of this city but I soon found myself in unfamiliar territory. I followed about 200 yards behind her and the tall stalks of corn on either side of the narrow road caused eerie shadows to dance on my windshield. My heart and mind seemed to be in a competitive sprint and I knew that the finish line lay somewhere at the end of this rural road.
There was no other option, I would just keep my distance until she reached her destination and then once she stopped I would intervene when the man made his move. I was too far away to see into her vehicle now but would still catch the occasional glimpse of what looked like the top silhouette of a head through her back window. I took a mental inventory of everything I had in my truck that could aid me. I had a cellphone with a flashlight and thankfully also had an old shotgun that my dad had lent me for a hunting trip several weeks prior. I hated hunting, I was not a violent man and couldn't understand the thrill my friends seemed to get from taking down a defenseless animal. But there wasn't much to do in my hometown and hunting had always been my buddies favorite pastime. I was actually very thankful for that now. After driving through the darkness for what seemed an interminable amount of time I suddenly realized that I could no longer see the back light's of Mina's car. I slowed my speed down to a crawl and scanned the area up ahead and to the sides. Thinking that the man might have decided to force Mina to drive into to corn fields I watched the road closely for any fresh tire tracks, but I saw nothing.
After traversing the road for another couple of minutes I pulled my truck over, removed the shot gun from the rack behind my seat and cautiously climbed out. The sounds of night creatures and crickets was nearly deafening way out here and the still, hot air began to coat every inch of my skin with slick sweat. I could see nothing around me and was just about to give up to my crushing defeat to save Mina when I heard a loud, shrill cry. I quickly turned in the direction of the scream and it was only then that I noticed what looked to be a huge old barn roughly 300 yards behind me."How the hell did I miss that?" I cursed myself as I jumped back into my truck, tossing the shotgun into the passenger seat and somehow managing to only take out a few of the towering stalks of corn in my haste to get turned back around on the road. No longer concerned about stealth I roared down the road as dirt and bits of rock hammered at my truck. Realizing that the situation had escalated far beyond my control I quickly whipped out my cell phone and dialed the emergency police number. It rang eleven times and I was near to hanging up when a sleepy male voice finally came on the line.
"Emmergacy. Whas-tss yer locatioon?" Came the familiar slurred voice of the deputy. Damn, why couldn't he have been sober, just this once? As quickly as I could I relayed the night's events, trying to speak in a clear, concise voice so that even a drunk hillbilly could comprehend the urgency of the situation."This had better not be a prank." The deputy said after I had finished my explanation. Suddenly sounding far more sober, with only a tiny hint of the slur still evident in his voice, I felt my hopes rise slightly. "We've had a string of people go missing this week and so far there have been zero real leads. If what you're saying is true than this girl could be in very real danger."
"It's definitely not a prank," I quickly assured him. "My name is Sam Larsen and I don't know the exact address but I am in a large cornfield roughly eight miles west of the Hilliard's farm. There's a huge barn or something in the center and that's where I believe the woman is being held. I heard a scream a few minute's ago but nothing else since and I need to go in-" I was abruptly cut off by several fast beeping noises on the line. Looking down at my phone I realized that the phone was no longer getting a signal. In such a rural area cellphone's here were notoriously unreliable. I tried calling back but it quickly became obvious that I had no service.
"Damnitt!" I yelled and threw the phone onto the seat in frustration. I was on my own now, there was no time to try to move to a place with a better signal. The poor woman might already be dead at this point and I needed to act NOW. I switched off my headlights and slowed the truck down to a slow crawl as I approached the old barn. I could see Mina's expensive black car parked carelessly in front of the decrepit old building, both of it's doors left wide open. Beyond that there was no other sign of life. Quickly scooping up the shotgun and re-pocketing my cellphone I opened the driver's side door and stealthily slid out of my truck. I was hyper sensitive to the slightest noise as I cautiously made my way towards the structure. Peeking into the nearest, grime smudged window I could vaguely make out two people. One was seated in a chair and seemed to be struggling against some type of restraints. The other stood a few feet away and it looked as though they held something large and threatening with both their hands. Both figures seemed to be arguing based on their hand movements and the muffled shouts I could barely hear through the thick walls. I walked around the entirety of the structure until I came to a large hole where the wood had disintegrated just enough so that I could crawl through without alerting them of my presence. Once inside, their voices were much clearer to me.
"Please just let me go, I will give you whatever you want and...and I won't tell anyone what happened here, I swear!" It sickened me to hear this sweet young woman begging for her life and I felt a white hot rage begin to well within me, replacing my earlier fear. It was almost completely dark inside, the only light seemed to come from a small candle or lantern towards the front of the building where the voices originated. I could see several long shadows cast onto the floor and walls of barn. Two of them clearly belonged to Mina and the drifter but there were also at least half a dozen large shadows that seemed to hang down from the ceiling. They were raised several feet of the ground and seemed to sway gently back and forth. I assumed that they were simply large farm tools and paid them little heed beyond the thought that I could potentially use one of them as a weapon. There was a thick, putrid odor that seemed to permeate the air and I had to choke back bile as it rose in my throat. Creeping closer I crawled my way around the moldy bales of hay and fallen beams, trying desperately to be swift but silent.
"Anything I want, huh?" I heard a man's deep, menacing voice say. "Well that's a mighty tempting offer and one I plan to take you up on. Of course, what I really want is you. I just want to have some fun, you know? There ain't much to do around these part's except hunt, and I believe I have already bagged my prize. Just as with any fine young doe, I will start by stringing you up, I will skin and gut you and then separate the...choice bits." The woman began to sob hysterically and I quickened my pace, only slowing when I was mere feet from the their location. I could see small tufts of smoke rising from an old fashioned oil lamp that was set on a work bench next to several sharp knives and what looked like ancient, dirty surgical instruments. The lantern gave off so little light in the cavernous old barn that I felt I was still sufficiently hidden from view. I quickly turned my attention to the woman who did indeed appear to be strapped tightly to an antique wooden chair. She was softly whimpering what sounded like a garbled prayer and her long hair was tangled around her tear streaked face.
Before I could pinpoint exactly where the male stood I felt several beads of sweat trickle down from my forehead into my eyes, stinging them and blurring my vision. I hurriedly swiped at one eye with my free hand before pressing it back down onto the ground. I was surprised when my hand landed in something wet and sticky and on reflex I recoiled and looked down. Even in the low light I could still make out the small pool of thick dark liquid. Oil? That was my first thought but after a quick sniff I realized that it was blood. I froze when another drop landed from above my head to join the growing puddle. Slowly, reluctantly I raised my head and nearly screamed in horror. A naked corpse, strung up by the feet, dangled only a few feet above me. It had once been a man, though he had been savagely mutilated beyond all recognition. Though he was clearly deceased, fresh blood still dripped from several gaping wounds. I felt bile rise in my throat once again and the urge to flee was so strong that it nearly overpowered me.
Only the thought of Mina, her beautiful body stripped of both flesh and dignity and strung up like an animal kept me from "noping" my way out of there right that second. You can do this, I told myself. You have the shotgun and you know how to defend yourself. Besides, the cops will be here any minute now. That is if they can find you. How can you be sure the deputy even heard your description of this place before the call was dropped...? No, don't think like that! The cops will come and if not you can always just shoot the guy! Just as I was wrapping up my internal pep talk two large black boots suddenly came stomping into my line of vision. My eyes darted up the entire length of the drifter, who suddenly seemed ten feet taller and twice as broad in my panicked state. He was holding a large machete and kept tightening then loosening his grip on it in a very unsettling away. It was clear that he was anxious to use it. He smiled broadly before saying "I thought I heard a rat scurrying around in the dark, looks like I was right. Such a determined little guy. Mina said it best I think, 'you just don't give up, do you?' Well you know what they say, no good deed goes unpunished."
"And you will be punished, that much I can promise you." That voice, it was...Mina? I watched in shock as she sauntered over to stand next to the huge brute. The same wide, eerie smile on her beautiful face. How had she gotten out of the chair? That was the only question my terrified brain could conjure at the moment. I clumsily struggled to my feet still gripping the shotgun in one hand though at the time I don't think I was even aware I still held it. Everything seemed to move in slow motion and my mind felt like an old computer that had been unceremoniously shut down and was now struggling to reboot. "My hero," Mina said in an ugly, mocking tone. "You came to save the poor damsel in distress from a cruel trap. I bet you never once thought that trap might have actually been set for you. Don't feel bad though, you're not the only one, they never see it coming. Men like you make this only too easy, almost takes the fun out of it all."
I could only stare blankly at both of them for several seconds as I felt my stomach swiftly drop and my comprehension slowly dawn. They were in this together, they planned this whole damn thing...and the disappearances the deputy mentioned...?
To be continued...
submitted by Ayaneve to mrcreeps [link] [comments]

Eminem spits the entire alphabet on MTBMB (and much more!)

I noticed that Em was doing a lot of wordplay with letters and numbers on this album so I started writing down the lyrics and organizing them. I noticed that he spits the whole alphabet, all the numbers, and a whole lot more. (I'm not sure if this is a common thing in rap and I've just never noticed it before)
Here is the list I've made. This is not entire album, but just what I've come up with so far (includes some lyrics from other artists on the album as well)
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z

Alphabetically
Letter
Words
Adjective
Verb
Comma
Question
Dictionary
Definition
Spell
Plural
Capital
Caps
Similies
Idioms

0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12

Hundred
Thousand
Million
First
Second
Third
Fourth
Fifth
Ninth
Tenth
Half
Single
Double
Triple
Couple
Few
Several
Dozen
Percent
Plus
Minus
Counting
Countless
Infinite

Color
White
Black
Gray
Red
Orange
Green
Blue
Gold
Silver

Money
Penny
Nickel
Dime
(25 cents)
Dollar
Cents
Change

Curse
Swear
Shit
Fuck
Ass
Damn
Motherfuckin
Cocksucker
Bitch
Cunt
Shit
Crap
Piss

Human
Body
Head
Hair
Face
Eye
Eyeballs
Pupils
Tears
Eyebrows
Forehead
Nose
Ear
Earlobe
Mouth
Lips
Teeth
Smile
Frown
Tongue
Chin
Jaw
Neck
Throat
Esophagus
Shoulder
Back
Spinal Column
Arm
Hand
Finger
Index
Middle Finger
Palm
Fist
Chest
Torso
Belly
Stomach
Butt
Ass
Groin
Lap
Vagina
Penis
Cock
Dick
Balls
Pussies
Snatch
Boobs
Hip
Leg
Foot
Toes
Brain
Heart
Veins
Blood
Skin
Bone

Sex
Straight
Bi
Kiss
Blow
Suck
Lick
Cunnilingus

Clothing
Pants
Levi's
Button
Zipper
Fly
Pockets
Socks
Combat Boots
ProWings
Wife Beater
Cape
Miniskirt
Dress
Visor
Crown
Tattoo
Wedding Ring

Mom
Dad
Father
Mother
Husband
Wife
Stepmother
Stepdad
Stepparent
Stepchild
Son
Daughter
Baby
Boy
Girl
Grandkids

Pregnant
Abortion
Stillborn
Birth
Life
Death

Murder
Kill
Suicide
Dead
Eulogy
Funeral
Obituary
Coroner
Stabbed
Slain
Strangle
Coffin
Grave
Corpses
Skeletons
Psycho
Killer
Monster
Grim Reaper

Brutal
Savage
Choke
Bruise
Abuse
Beat
Fight
Hit
Bite
Tortured
Tormented
Punch
Kick
Cut
Destroy
Obliterate
Incinerate
Eliminate

Weapon
Gun
Trigger
Barrel
Ammo
Loaded
Shots
Clips
Magazines
Armed
Pistol
Beretta
Missile Launcher
Colt 45
Scope
Sniper
Target
Killshot
War
Soldier
Sword
Knife
Blade
Grenades
Shotgun
Machine Gun
AK
Bombs
Explosives
Cannon
Dynamite
Nuke Bomb
Chainsaw
Guillotine
Arrow
Slingshot
Bat
Louisville Slugger
Aluminum Bat
Lethal Injection
Liquid Cyanide

Heaven
Hell
God
Devil
Angels
Demon
Lord
Lucifer
Soul
Church
Cross
Garden of Eden

Emotions
Love
Hate
Crying
Laugh
Happy
Angry
Joy
Pain
Afraid
Scared

Anxiety
Paranoia
Mania
ADHD
Insomnia
Schizo
Psychotic
Mentally Ill

Animals
Arachnid
Spider
Black Widow
Tarantula
Dog
Cat
Pet
Rabbit
Grizzly
Bear
Bengal
Chick
Fish
Deer
Killer Bee
Ape
Gorilla
Duck
Flies
Tiger
Bird
Bat
Hog
Sheep
Pitbull
Chihuahua
Snakes
Mountain Lion
Ant
Horse
Goat

Plum
Chips
Cheeto
Cheese
Cake
Cheesecake
Butterfingers
Nut
Bread
Dough
Carrot cake
Ranch
Hot Dog
Milk
Minute Maid

Dish
Plate
Cup
Napkin

Drink
Drunk
Alcohol
Liquor
Booze
Bottle
Cocktail
Jack Daniels
Bacardi
Vodka
Colt 45
Courvoursier
High
Smoke
Indo
Joint
Blunt
L
Pills
Benzo
Xanax
Valium
Ambien
Meds
Medicine
Motrin
Ibuprofen
Excederin
Hydroxycut
Tylenol
Risperdal
Codeine
Promethazine
Lean
Dope
Heroin
Blow
Yayo
Meth
Overdose
OD

World
Earth
Ground
Rock
Stone
Grass
Dirt
Marsh
Wetlands
Lake
Ocean
Sea
Mountain
Sky
Wind
Air
Oxygen
Sun
Moon
Storm
Puddles
Rain
Thunder
Cloud
Fire
Flame
Ice
Icicle
Igloo
Darkness
Light

Time
Second
Minute
Day
Week
Month
Season
Years
Morning
Night

Ohio
Cleveland
Toledo
Cincinnati
Dayton
Las Vegas
Santa Fe
Orlando
Colorado
Columbine
Detroit
Louisville

Home
House
Crib
Trailer
Mansion
Fence
Lawn
Door
Living Room
Furniture
Sofa
Cushions
Window
Curtains
Blinds
Walls
Lights
Hallways
Chair
Kitchen
Sinks
Faucet
Oven
Stove
Table
Floor
Staircase
Bed
Pillow
Covers
Carpet
Floors
Fan
Dresser
Toilet
Plunger
Bathtub
Washers & Dryers
Deck
Gutter
Garden
Shovel
Neighbors

Toy
Slinky
Nintendo
Cartridge
Game
Tricycle
Bicylce

Car
Truck
Coupe
Monte Carlo
Cadillac
Mercedes
Audi 5000
Steering Column
Backseat
Car Windows
Back Window
Gas
Tank
Engine
Limo
Ambulance
Airplane

Road
Curb
Parking lot
Store
Club
Hotel
Bank
School
Orphanage
Morgue
Abortion clinic
Mental Hospital
Nuthouse
Asylum
Dollar Store
Motel 6
Motel 8
Ritz
Long John Silvers
Checkers
Rally's
Best Buy
Meijers
Trader Joes
Kroger

Baseball
Bat
Ball
Glove
Dugout
Pitching
Hitters

Boxing Gym
Gloves
Punching mitts

Poker Chips
Card Dealer
Cards
Deck
AA
AK
Wager
Bet
Odds

Directions
East
West
South
North
Left
Right
Up
Down

Voice
Whisper
Talking
Singing
Yelling
Screaming

Music
Song
Beat
Kick
Snare
Lyrics
Pen
Ink
Pad
Paper
Pencil
Lead
Rap
Spit
Stage
Mic
Mic stand
Curtains
Crowd
Concert
ipod
Radio station

Album
Music To Be Murdered By
Kamikaze
Revival
Relapse
Infinite

Thanos
Superman
Bruce Wayne
Shredder
Incrdible Hulk
Godzilla
Loch Ness
Cinderella

Atilla
Saddam Hussein
Ayatollah Khomeni
Osama bin Laden
John Wayne Gacy
Manson
Albert Desalvo
OJ
Richard Ramirez
Christian Rivera
Junior Seau
JonBenet
Sharon Tate
Marylyn Monroe

Big Bobby The Brain Heenan
John Travolta
Bill O'Reilly
Harvey Weinstein
Octomom
Jay Leno
Harry Caray
Oprah
Brady
Kaepernick
Ariana Grande

Redman
Blueface
White Gold
Black Thought
Trippie Redd
Skylar Grey

Young M.A.
Q-Tip
Jay Z
LL Cool J
Ray J
Notorious B.I.G
K Dot
Schoolboy Q
K-Solo
G Rap
Eric B
X-Clan
Big L
DJ Polo
Tony D
Kool Moe Dee
Run DMC
Ed OG
EPMD
DOC
Ice T
Evil Dee
King Tee
UTFO
Schoolly D
PE
BDP
YZ
NWA
Eazy E
ODB
MGK

Tech N9ne
2 Chainz
50 cent
Royce Da 5'9"

D12
Proof
Bizarre
Denaun
Switfty McVay
Kuniva (Conniving?)

Dr Dre
Ice Cube
Wu Tang
Method Man
Inspectah Deck
Anderson.Paak
Juice WRLD
KXNG Crooked
Joell Ortiz
Ed Sheeran
Don Toliver
Kanye
Beyonce
Snoop
Earl
Tyler the Creator
Puba
The Poor Righteous Teachers
Trugoy
Kid Ink
Slick Rick
Onyx
Del
Treach
Chi-Ali
Rakim
Bushwick Bill
Tay Keith
Swae Lee
Fat Joe
Lord Jamar
Diddy
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Countdown to Kickoff 2020: Portland Timbers

Countdown to Kickoff 2020: Portland Timbers

Basic Info:

Club Name: Portland Timbers
Location: Portland, Oregon
Stadium: Providence Park. Beautiful timelapse of the recent renovations.
Head Coach: Giovanni Savarese (3rd year)
Captain: Diego Valeri
CEO/Majority Owner: Merritt Paulson
USL Affiliate: Timbers 2
Kits:

2019 in Review

Final Standings: 14-13-7 (W-L-D), 49 pts, +3 GD, 6th in the West
In one word, the 2019 Portland Timbers season was draining. It was an endurance test for the players. It was an endurance test for even the most ardent supporters. And it was certainly an endurance test for a Front Office that invested serious capital into organizational infrastructure. Bookended by snowy affairs in the Rocky Mountains, a year filled with tantalizing potential melted away, leaving a passionate (some might say capricious) fanbase searching for explanations. So, what went wrong?
Well, it was always going to be an uphill battle from the opening kick. Starting with the coldest game in MLS history in Colorado, the Timbers faced a daunting 12-match road trip to accommodate the impressive renovations to Providence Park’s East stand. After accumulating 1 pt from the first six matches, including blow out losses to both FC Cincinnati (!) and then-winless San Jose, the fanbase collectively smashed the panic button entering a match against ex-coach Caleb Porter and his Columbus Crew. However, for the next few months, we witnessed a different team and a different mentality. Three consecutive quality victories against Columbus, Toronto, and RSL brought the team back from the abyss. And a subsequent win against upstart Philadelphia saw Portland finish its road marathon at a respectable 14 points.
Suddenly, the narrative flipped. Pundits consistently listed the Timbers at the top of their power rankings, and with 17 of the final 22 matches at one of the best home-field advantages in MLS, it seemed the positive momentum would prevail indefinitely. More importantly though, the Timbers had found their final piece to the puzzle: an elite, ruthless, and fiery DP striker in Brian Fernandez. Fresh off an impressive campaign with Necaxa in Liga MX, the Argentine became the first player in history to score in five consecutive regular-season games to open an MLS career. His clinicality and intensity raised the level of the squad, leading Steve Clark to don the classic Michael Myers mask from Halloween, declaring Providence Park as a “House of Horrors” for the opponent.
But as it turned out, the team never truly reacclimated to the friendly confines of its home pitch. After four months (incl. preseason) away from home, the squad’s lethal counter-attacking style was far more suited for road matches which provided no impetus to play attractive soccer. Away victories at elite opponents including NYCFC, Seattle, and LAFC provided a stark contrast to disheartening home performances against the likes of Colorado, Orlando, and 10-man Chicago. And soon, the atmosphere off-the-field began to match the team’s sudden struggles on the pitch.
Political viewpoints aside, the Iron Front protests and Diego Valeri’s contract impasse ignited an already contentious relationship between the Timbers Army and FO. Meanwhile, as the squad racked up disappointing home results due to uninspired offensive play, home attendance began to waver more so than years past. While the home sell-out streak remains to this day, the increased number of empty seats in Providence Park was a pretty blunt indication of increased apathy towards the organization.
And then, there was the cherry on top. After missing consecutive matches due to a reported “stomach bug,” it became pretty clear Brian Fernandez was not the same player he was in the early summer. With a complicated and somber family history, Fernandez had struggled with substance abuse issues in the past but seemed to be on the path to full recovery during recent years. However, in October, Fernandez entered the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, and just as his story arc in green-and-gold faded to black, the Timbers season finished with a whimper. Jefferson Savarino’s 87th-minute goal in snowy Utah knocked the Timbers out of Cup contention. Eleven months following an exciting run to MLS Cup, Portland entered the 2020 offseason weary, drained, and searching for a new beginning.

The Coach

Giovanni Savarese
I expected 2019 to provide more clarity on Giovanni Savarese’s coaching aptitude, but as I sit here one year later, I’m still left with more questions than answers. Gio’s passion and fervor was a refreshing juxtaposition to Caleb Porter’s often smug demeanor, but his far more conservative style still ruffles the feathers of fans who yearn for the days of “Porterball.” While Savarese implemented a high-pressing, dynamic, and open style during his time at the Cosmos, he has yet to find similar success doing so in the Rose City. The past two seasons have exhibited nearly the same progression: start the season trying to play pressing-style soccer, get beat badly, and then resort to a conservative, counter-attacking approach.
The truth of the matter is the conservative style fits the Portland Timbers. When the defense is solid, Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco are talented enough to win the game on the counter by themselves. However, this tactical inflexibility is essentially the sole on-field contributor for why the team struggled so mightily down the stretch. When teams packed it in and eliminated the possibility of counter-attacks, Portland could not break down the opposition, resorted to launching an MLS record number of crosses, and got scorched on counters going the other way. A taste of their own medicine if you will.
In 2020, Savarese has no excuse. There’s no road trip to start the season, he has a loaded arsenal of complimentary attacking weapons, and now it’s abundantly clear the Timbers must learn how to control games from the front foot. An identity is useful, but flexibility is a requirement to be great. The club wants to (has to) win now, and they’ve invested significantly into personnel and infrastructure to do so. Now, it’s up to Savarese to lead the team to silverware.

Departures

Brian Fernandez (ST): This one hurts. There are no two ways about it. Fernandez truly convinced GM Gavin Wilkinson and TD Ned Grabavoy that he was past his struggles, but unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be the case. As Wilkinson stated in The Athletic, “if we could go back and do it again, we wouldn’t have done it,” adding “what I will say is the word fraud exists for a reason.” Rumors suggest Necaxa covered up a failed drug test, and MLS is currently launching a lawsuit to help the club recoup the transfer fee. While Wilkinson suggests Fernandez was a bust, the truth is he scored 15 goals in ~25 games in all comps, showing a ruthlessness in front of goal that rivaled the Martinez’s and Ruidiaz’s of the league. As people who have met him can attest, he’s a vibrant and kind individual regardless of the fact he continues to face difficult obstacles off the field. It's just such a disappointment that it didn’t all come together, and I pray for his health and safety.
Zarek Valentin (RB): This one hurts too. Zarek was a staple of the community, someone who embraced Portland as his home, and was as approachable as any professional athlete. With initiatives like wearing a rainbow ribbon in his hair to fundraise for homeless LGBT+ youth, Zarek was an ideal steward for the club and community. With our lack of fullback depth, leaving him unprotected in the expansion draft was far from a popular decision - one that strained an already frayed relationship between the Front Office and some fans. That said, as amazing as Zarek is, his lack of athleticism was starting to catch up to him. He even admitted some struggles down the stretch, and as more talented/athletic wingers enter the league, his minutes might soon reflect it. Zarek’s versatility, eccentricity, and civic involvement will certainly be missed though. Houston, you’ve got a great dude.
Claude Dielna (CB): The most puzzling move of 2019, it didn’t take an acute observer to recognize that Dielna struggled in MLS. Wilkinson and Grabavoy took a one-year flier on Dielna to be the 4th-stringer, and the outcome was fairly predictable. He possesses a silky left foot which allows him to pick sharp passes out of the back, but he can’t run, can’t jump, and can’t defend 1v1. All of those attributes are pretty essential requirements for playing CB in any league, so it’s no surprise to see the organization not renew his contract. In the end, I wouldn’t suggest Dielna self-immolated like many horrific Timbers CBs of yesteryear (see McKenzie, Raushawn), but I highly doubt anyone will be pining for his return.
Foster Langsdorf (ST): Langsdorf may be used as an example of a Homegrown the Timbers failed to move through the ranks, but letting him go makes sense (unfortunately.) In a 2019 season essential for his development, he failed to make any significant impact at the USL level, and at 24, he would’ve entered the 2020 campaign in the exact spot he did the previous two seasons. Despite some clever finishes in the 2018 USL season, he’s not a legitimate option for the first team in this day in age - especially when similarly-aged strikers Felipe Mora, Jaroslaw Niezgoda, and Jeremy Ebobisse boast far more developed skillsets.
Modou Jadama (CB/RB): Jadama made two total appearances for the first team over two seasons, including one start at RB at Montreal in 2019. To be frank, he didn’t particularly shine as an MLS-caliber player during that time, so his opportunity to cement himself in the organization’s plans came and went. Now at Atlanta United 2, I think he’ll be a good fit for a full-time USL position, although we probably could have used CB depth with Bill Tuiloma’s injury.
Kendall McIntosh (GK): McIntosh was an undersized goalkeeper whose frame and athleticism is reminiscent of the likes of Nick Rimando. For the most part, he was a career T2 netminder that was far too raw in some areas to mount a challenge against experienced keepers like Jeff Attinella and Steve Clark. Now a member of the Red Bulls via the Re-Entry Draft, I doubt McIntosh finds many more minutes outside of the USL, but he seemed like a good dude and we all wish him the best.

2020 Outlook:

So, where does that leave us for the 2020 season? Well, pretty close to the same spot we found ourselves last year. In the preceding two seasons, it was clear the Timbers possessed enough talent to capture silverware, yet surpassing the final hurdle proved to be too much. As a result, continuity in terms of roster management remains among the league’s most stable. Ultimately, Portland took the field March 3 in Colorado with 10 of the 11 starters from MLS Cup the previous December, and this season, the only departure considered a surefire starter was Brian Fernandez.
However, the main difference in 2020 comes down to the acquisitions. The Timbers FO utilized the abnormally long break to load up with an arsenal of talent, providing a stark divergence from the quiet transfer window in 2019. As much as I want to compliment the FO for its hard work this offseason, acquiring fresh blood was essential. Key pieces of the core including Larrys Mabiala, Diego Chara, Sebastian Blanco, and Diego Valeri are all exiting their prime window, and the Timbers must capitalize before that window slams shut. Consequently, four of the five names you’ll see listed in the acquisitions section below were brought in to have an immediate impact and elevate an already talented squad.
As a result, in terms of pure on-paper talent, this is a Top 5 caliber MLS team. Whether Savarese can coalesce that talent into a functioning, dynamic, and successful unit is an entirely different story however. It honestly feels like a boom-or-bust type season, and I’m worried about how they’ll navigate the natural roller-coaster swings that MLS’s parity generates. So, I’ll leave you with this: if the Timbers figure out how to maintain defensive structure without resorting to a conservative shell, they’ll be one of the best teams in the league. If not, all bets are off.

Acquisitions:

Jarosław Niezgoda (ST): The Polish DP doesn’t have to single-handedly replace Brian Fernandez’s goal contributions, but make no mistake about it, the Timbers brought Niezgoda in to make an immediate and profound impact on the scoresheet. At only 24, Jarek arrives with a high pedigree having notched double-digit goals in multiple seasons for one of Poland’s powerhouses in Legia Warsaw. Ultimately, it makes sense European clubs like Bordeaux and Torino were sniffing around the striker, as he’s quite mobile for his size, can finish well with both feet, and is clever with his movements inside the box. And say what you will about the Ekstraklasa, it has a strange knack for producing efficient goalscorers, including Niezgoda’s Legia predecessor Nemanja Nikolic.
However, there is a massive catch: Niezgoda has struggled with injuries throughout his career. In a league famous for physical play, and on a team that has experienced its fair share of injury-riddled seasons, Jarek’s fitness is a legitimate concern. While his congenital heart issues seem to be held in check, Legia fans are quick to mention “he's made of glass, and it's hard to keep him in shape for the whole season.” The Timbers’ physio staff will have their work cut out for them to keep Niezgoda on the pitch and scoring goals.
Note: Niezgoda has yet to feature in preseason due to the recovery timeline from a heart ablation procedure during his medical. We likely won’t see him in the XI for the first few weeks of 2020.
Felipe Mora (ST): Niezgoda’s injury-checkered past is an important factor for why Mora’s arrival is such a critical addition. The 26-year-old Chilean seemingly fell into the Timbers lap in a series of fortuitous circumstances, as they acquired him on a TAM loan deal from Pumas in Liga MX. Normally, Mora would be a DP caliber acquisition, and in fact, he was considered a serious target for the final DP slot last year before the club opted for Fernandez. However, after falling out of favor, Pumas were willing to let him go in a manner that accommodated Portland’s limited remaining budget space. Mora provides a divergent style from Niezgoda’s channel-running and Ebobisse’s hold-up ability. He operates on a true poacher’s instinct, and his industrious approach will provide a complementary presence to any of the other strikers.
Dario Župarić (CB): If there’s one offseason acquisition that is more critical to the team's success than the others, Dario Župarić is that guy. Throughout the Timbers MLS history, CB has easily been their most troublesome spot, and they’ve yet to replace Liam Ridgewell’s contributions since his departure last year. Say what you will about Liam’s off-the-field persona: his magnetism, leadership, organizational skills, and distribution were undoubtedly influential to the club’s performance.
Župarić, for lack of a better statement, is essentially the true Ridgewell replacement. At 27-years-old, the Croatian arrives with 90+ matches under his belt at Pescara in Italy and Rijeka in Croatia, a club that has already produced productive MLS players like Héber and Damir Kreilach. Early reports in training regard him as “smooth and confident,” and even if that confidence has gotten the better of him occasionally, those characteristics exemplify why Gio had never received “more messages from friends saying you’ve brought in a very good player.” In the end though, the pressure is on Dario to perform on the pitch. MLS athleticism poses a unique challenge, and there’s little flexibility to compensate for any struggles. His adjustment to MLS must be quick.
Yimmi Chara (RM): Recognize the last name? In a courtship that has lasted as long as the Timbers MLS era itself, Wilkinson finally brought the youngest Chara brother to the Rose City. Acquired as a DP from Atletico Mineiro, there is concern about whether Yimmi’s G+A output will justify the reported $6 million transfer fee. Throughout his career, he’s never been the type of player to light up the scoresheet, but it’s difficult to dispossess him and he provides lightning-quick pace that this roster lacks. With multiple attacking options, I honestly don’t anticipate much pressure to fill the stat sheet, and his familial connection to the organization should facilitate a more seamless transition. Plus, it’s difficult enough for the opposition to face one Chara - it’ll certainly be a pain in the ass to confront two.
Blake Bodily (LM): The HG left-footer is a fairly highly-regarded prospect coming out of the Pac-12, and he showed flashes of quality during his time at T2 a few years ago. With the depth on the wings, I can’t imagine he’ll see much of any first-team minutes. I could be wrong, especially if things go south for any reason, but let’s revisit this signing a year or two from now.

A word on everyone else:

Goalkeepers:
Steve Clark (GK): Without a doubt, Clark was the surprise player of 2019. Boasting the highest save percentage and second-lowest GAA in the league, Clark made numerous highlight-reel saves after taking over for Jeff Attinella in late April. While the occasional mental lapse defined much of his career up to this point, the 33-year-old was nearly flawless in all phases of play last season. However, there’s legitimate concern that this outstanding form is not replicable throughout the next campaign. After Attinella’s regression to the mean following a career year, one can understand why the Front Office might have been apprehensive to give him a sizable pay raise - even if his performances warranted it. That said, Clark’s got the new deal in his pocket and will certainly be the starter opening day vs Minnesota.
Jeff Attinella (GK): As highlighted above, few Timbers had a more ill-fated 2019 campaign than Jeff Attinella. After a torrid 2018 season, Attinella’s performances were marred by poor decision after poor decision until his year concluded with season-ending shoulder surgery. You have to feel for the guy too, as for the first time in his career, he entered an MLS regular season as the unquestioned starter. We’ll see how he recovers from the shoulder injury, but if Clark’s consistency remains and Aljaž Ivačič shows promise, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Timbers move him while he still has some value.
Aljaž Ivačič (GK): If there’s a Timber who had a more disastrous 2019 than Jeff Attinella though, it’s probably Aljaž Ivačič. The 26-year-old Slovenian was acquired last offseason to be the goalkeeper of the future, but a significant leg surgery last February took him out of team activities for most of the year. When he did return with T2 in late summer, things did not look great to say the least. It is undoubtedly difficult to adapt to a new country, but Ivačič’s struggles were worryingly apparent. Most of his goals conceded for T2 looked similar to this, where he was either in the wrong position, extremely hesitant to come off his line, or strikingly late to react to the opponent. These are fundamental issues that can hopefully be chalked up to rust and then addressed with a full preseason. If not, Aljaž might go down as one of the worst signings in club history.
Defenders:
Jorge Moreira (RB): Moreira possesses the talent to be the best RB in the league, but sporadically found himself a liability last season. After years spent with Argentine powerhouse River Plate, the 30-year-old Paraguayan was naturally inclined to push up the pitch since his teams had often dominated the game’s flow. As a result, the Timbers’ conservative style and league’s athleticism caught him off guard, as he had an unfortunate propensity to be out of position early in 2019. However, he mostly adjusted over the course of the year, and his power, crossing ability, and dynamism are crucial to the team.Even with the occasional poor clearance, Moreira is a lockdown starter and few RBs in MLS have his offensive weaponry and pedigree. His loan only lasts until June 30 however, though I’d fully expect the Front Office to lock him down on a permanent deal.
Update: the Timbers right-side defense has been tragic this preseason, and much of that has to do with Moreira’s play. He’ll have to re-adjust or else he’ll revert back to being a liability again
Larrys Mabiala (CB): With his pearly-white smile, cool demeanor, and commanding aerial ability, the big French-Congolese CB is one of the most respected players in the Timbers’ locker room. In a position that is a perennial revolving door of underperforming wreckage, Mabiala has been the one “written-in-ink” starter since mid-2017, and his veteran savvy is integral to the squad’s success. But at age 32, Larrys’ value is not embodied by his individual qualities but more so the partnership he forms with Župarić. His physical presence will always be vital to an otherwise undersized team, however, he lacks the turn of pace and distribution ability that would place him among the elite CBs in MLS. As a result, Larrys and Dario must discover how to paper over each other’s weaknesses by performing to their unique capabilities: Župarić covers ground well and can initiate attacking movements while Mabiala handles physical strikers and cleans up loose balls in the 18. In the end, his consistency will be as influential as any player on the roster. If for any reason he performs below the norm, there is simply not enough quality depth behind him to overcome it.
Bill Tuiloma (CB): Tuiloma is not spectacular by any means, but he’s an ideal player to provide sporadic minutes. The 24-year-old Kiwi is cheap, versatile, and possesses enough technical quality to score the odd banger. It’s a shame a calf injury will rule him out for the next few weeks, as the team could use his flexibility for spot duty at CB, RB, and even defensive midfield. If he recovers fully and Župarić struggles to adapt to the league’s athleticism, expect him to mount a challenge for starting minutes.
Julio Cascante (CB): The Costa Rican CB is best described as a high-ceiling, low-floor player whose ceiling continues to lower year after year. As far as backup CBs go, he’s probably adequate, but the guy went from a fringe national-teamer to virtually off-the-radar since his arrival in Portland. Though his height and build forge a formidable aerial presence, he’s yet to resolve occasional mental lapses and improve his subpar distribution. But Julio’s most maddening characteristic is his inconsistency. Perhaps the best thing you can say about a Cascante performance is that you didn’t notice him. Unfortunately, he tends to stick out for all the wrong reasons. Maybe a little more familiarity with the league will help the 26-year-old raise his level in 2020. I’m not exceedingly hopeful though.
Jorge Villafaña (LB): El Sueño hasn’t been the same player since his departure to Santos Laguna after MLS Cup 2015. Still an excellent crosser, Villafaña really struggled with pacey wingers towards the beginning of the season, although there are some whispers he was often gutting through minor knocks. Even with an uptick of form over the course of the campaign, there is legitimate concern he’s lost a step and will be a liability in the backline. I love the man as much as the next guy, but I’d say the uneasiness is valid. Let’s hope he proves us all wrong.
Marco Farfan (LB): The lack of confidence in Villafaña would be less of an issue if Zarek Valentin were still suiting up in the green-and-gold because Marco Farfan is as fragile as a potato chip. The HG LB is not the most athletic individual, but his technical quality is probably proficient enough to play at this level. Farfan still has to evolve as a 1v1 defender, though he’ll certainly get looks this year if he can manage to stay healthy.
Note: We still need a backup RB. It could be former NYRB, IMFC, and Dynamo player Chris Duvall. 20-year-old Venezuelan Pablo Bonilla is another option, but he’s at T2 for the meantime.
Midfielders:
Diego Valeri (CAM): When all is said and done, I hope MLS fans and media take a moment to appreciate just how good Diego Valeri was. Since 2015, we’ve witnessed impressive names take home the Landon Donovan MVP award including Giovinco, Villa, Josef, and Vela. Sandwiched in between those names you’ll find Diego Valeri. Only the ninth MLS player to reach the elusive 70G, 70A Club, Valeri took the Timbers from a hapless expansion side to a perennial playoff contender. And from my admittedly biased perspective, I don’t think he gets enough credit for doing so. But don’t take it from me, take it from Albert Rusnak, who accurately captures the true essence of the Maestro in this interview. For the miracles performed on the pitch, his importance and presence in the community are just as admirable.
However, times are changing for Valeri, and it’s best exemplified by the fact we almost lost him over a contract dispute this offseason. By taking a TAM deal, Diego not only affirmed his commitment to the organization but allowed them to make moves to best ensure he doesn’t retire with only a single major MLS title to his name. I’d expect the Timbers staff to exercise more load management with him this campaign, but by no means does that change his status as a pillar of the club and community. Build the statue.
Sebastian Blanco (LM/RM): Sebastian Blanco is one of those guys who never seems to score a bad goal. The fiery Argentine may not be the face of the franchise off the pitch, but the decision to extend his DP contract over Valeri is a hint towards Blanco’s importance on the field. After posting his second consecutive double-digit assist campaign, Blanco’s quality across all attacking midfield positions is unquestioned. That said, 2020 is a pivotal season for the Timbers’ oldest Designated Player. Soon to be 32, the clock is ticking on Blanco’s heyday, and he’ll certainly aspire to outperform 2019’s underwhelming tally of six goals from 106 shot attempts. Now surrounded by a wealth of complimentary attacking pieces though, I’d expect a rejuvenated Seba come March. Bet the over on six goals.
Diego Chara (CDM): If there’s anyone who can conquer the inevitability of fathertime, Diego Chara is the guy. Soon to be 34-years-old, Chara’s performance metrics — involving areas such as speed and distance covered — reached all-time highs last year. His importance to the club over the past decade cannot be overstated, and we were all ecstatic to see him finally partake in an MLS All Star Game last season. The Colombian possesses a pillowy first touch, an immense soccer IQ, and a fearless presence in the middle of the park, and there simply will be no replacing him when he finally does choose to retire. But to be honest with you, I think he’s still got a few more Best XI caliber seasons in him. He just ages like a fine wine.
Andrés Flores (CM): Hell, I’m just gonna copy and paste exactly what I wrote last year because it’s still just as applicable. Andres Flores is like a Toyota Camry - solid if unspectacular. He doesn't have the sexy style that will garner all the attention, but when push comes to shove and you need to get from point A to point B, he’ll do the job (at a very low price too!). Look for him to assist in spot-duty once he returns from injury, but his most important contributions will likely be found in the little things off the pitch.
Cristhian Paredes (CM): At only 21 years of age, the full Paraguayan international started over 30 matches the past two seasons and has also emerged as the surefire midfield partner to Diego Chara. After a 2018 campaign that saw a significant adjustment period, Paredes looked far more composed in 2019, adding late-runs into the box into his arsenal midway through last season. However, no longer on loan from Club America, Paredes will face more organizational pressure to be a day-in, day-out starter this campaign. His ranginess and ability to break up play are unquestioned, but he needs to become a bit cleaner on the ball and more confident playing out of tight spaces. That said, there’s a reason the club has invested more capital into the promising midfielder: he has the potential to be a significant contributor for years to come.
Marvin Loría (LM/RM): In the next few seasons, I’d wager Marvin Loría will become the poster child for the Timbers youth development structure. With a comparatively underdeveloped and shallow Homegrown talent pool, Portland picks up guys like Loría out of foreign youth programs to develop through the Timbers pipeline. The 22-year-old Costa Rican international showed significant promise last season, and he can play a true inverted winger role - a unique style in terms of this roster. While he may see time at LM and CAM, I love him cutting in from the right, as he can deliver bangers like this and allow Jorge Moreira to bulldoze forward. At a league minimum salary, Loría provides the cheap and talented depth which makes this attack’s outlook so promising. I can’t wait to see what strides he makes this season (once he returns from an underpublicized/undisclosed injury).
Andy Polo (RM): Not many people in the Timbers fanbase understand why Andy Polo is still on the roster, let alone competing for starting minutes. In 2,860 MLS minutes, the Peruvian winger has only managed a dismal one goal and three assists - a statline that is considerably worse than ineffective wingers of the past including Kalif Alhassan, Sal Zizzo, and Franck Songo’o. He’s not an outright liability, and occasionally puts in a shift defensively, but he essentially exists solely to occupy space. Now entering his third season, Polo’s best string of matches came as the third CM in a 4-3-2-1 just before the 2018 World Cup. He’s since gathered looks in preseason as a #8 in a 4-3-2-1 and showed flashes but is still incomplete. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Tomas Conechny (CF/LM/RM): The 21-year-old Argentine enters the 2020 campaign a relative unknown, and though the club thought enough of him to exercise his full-time purchase option from San Lorenzo, his fit on the squad has yet to be fully discerned. Rumored to be one of the better headers-of-the-ball on the team, he showed occasional creative sparks in late-game situational appearances but has yet to prove he deserves starting minutes. We hear quotes akin to “he doesn’t yet know how good he can be,” but it still isn’t obvious that a particular position suits him well or if he even possesses a skillset that allows him to be a difference-maker at this level. For all intents and purposes, he’s likely to end up Diego Valeri’s understudy even if Conechny has yet to show the same precision and danger at a playmaking second-forward role. As a result, it remains to be seen if the high-rated prospect grows into a significant piece of the puzzle or if his lack of positional clarity ultimately hampers his development.
Dairon Asprilla (RM): Dairon Asprilla plays at an all-star caliber level if one of two things are true: the Timbers are on the verge of postseason elimination or he’s playing on T2. If neither of those two things are true, he’s often more useless than a turn signal on a BMW. Some wonder if he possesses compromising pictures of Wilkinson or MP, otherwise there’s very little to explain why he’s one of the longest-tenured Timbers - especially considering he’s been in-and-out of the doghouse almost every year. Word out of training suggests he’s been one of the best players in camp, but we’ve been down this road before - if it’s not Oct. or Nov., Asprilla often looks lost on the pitch.
Sidenote: 99% of Dairon’s shot attempts get thwarted due to his foolishly long windup, but when he does get a hold of one, they stay hit.
Eryk Williamson (CM): The HG midfielder (by way of D.C.) found starting minutes in spot appearances last fall, and he looked competent if unremarkable. For T2, Williamson often occupied more advanced positions, but I think he projects best as a ball-shuttling #8 in this squad. In particular, I can see him fitting into Andy Polo’s old role as a CM next to Chara and/or Paredes in a 4-3-2-1, as his passing and combination play provide a diverse look from the other two. Overall, Williamson finds himself in a decent situation to get game action this year, and I’m interested to see how he develops and grows in confidence in 2020.
Renzo Zambrano (CDM): Another international brought through the T2 pipeline, Zambrano is essentially Diego Chara’s backup at the #6. Since George Fochive left following the 2015 season, the Timbers have struggled to find a suitable defensive backup in the central midfield. Renzo is now that guy. The 25-year-old Venezuelan appeared in 10 matches last season and struggled immensely in fixtures against Colorado and Atlanta, but showed flashes of positivity in thrashings of Houston and Vancouver. 2020 will require more consistency from Zambrano who doesn’t possess the same physicality or power as Chara - but then again, few do. As a result, if I were Savarese, I’d try to mold Zambrano into a fulcrum/anchor type midfielder in the form of a Uri Rosell or Scott Caldwell. He’s a capable passer, and if he simplifies his game to shield the backline, he’ll be an asset to the team. If not, he’ll likely over-extend himself, and his midfield partner will be forced to work more tirelessly to maintain solid defensive shape. Renzo is likely the first option off the bench whenever Chara or Paredes are unavailable, so his growth is critical to the team’s success this year.
Forwards:
Jeremy Ebobisse (ST): Since Niezgoda and Mora’s arrival, some fans and media have denounced the organization for burying the 23-year-old American on the depth chart and hindering his development. Here’s why I think that’s an overly-sensationalized viewpoint:
  1. As Wilkinson has correctly identified, Ebobisse will miss a good chunk of the early season for Olympic qualification, and with Niezgoda’s injury history, there needs to be other legitimate options to start upfront (i.e. not Dairon Asprilla).
  2. In 2018, Ebobisse entered the season ‘stuck’ behind two DP-type strikers in Fanendo Adi and Samuel Armenteros. Guess who emerged on top? Ebobisse. There will be multiple competitions, two-striker formations, and rotations that allow him to earn quality minutes.
  3. This idea that the organization is almost trying to sabotage his development is an outrageous claim. Ebobisse was the only player on the squad to play in every match last season and only finished behind Chara, Blanco, and Valeri in terms of total minutes played. Granted, he played a fair few matches at LW (not ideal, but he wasn’t outright terrible), but the team did have its best stretch of success with him and Fernandez on the pitch together.
But the one factor people must acknowledge is this: Ebobisse still hasn’t developed the it factor that other MLS strikers have - at least not yet. When Fernandez arrived, his ruthlessness was a stark contrast to Ebobisse’s often less-goal-hungry runs and occasional lack of clarity in the final third. Jeremy is a decent finisher, even with a few missed sitters, but he’s still not consistent enough with the direct runs off the shoulder that separate good from great. He’ll hopefully continue to develop a wider range of skills, but he’s not yet the guy to put this team over the top.
Predicted Starting XI:
Primarily: 4-2-3-1
Other likely options: 4-3-2-1 or 4-4-2
Best Case Scenario:
A top playoff seed and a challenge for either the Supporter’s Shield or MLS Cup. Savarese effectively implements tactical flexibility, Niezgoda and Mora combine for 20+ goals, and Cristhian Paredes takes the next step forward in his development. While Župarić locks down the defense, one of Valeri or Blanco mounts a Best XI campaign, and Diego Chara makes a second consecutive All-Star Game appearance. Sprinkle in a Cascadia Cup alongside a harmonious relationship between the Front Office and Timbers Army, and you have a damn successful year.
Worst Case Scenario:
Pretty much the opposite of what you see above. Niezgoda can’t stay healthy while the core pieces’ form collectively falls off a cliff. Those in the Army who hold a personal vendetta against Merritt Paulson blow a trivial issue out of proportion causing a full-on revolt from the supporter’s group. Savarese proves to be an average coach with exploitable flaws, and the team fails to qualify for the playoffs in a competitive Western Conference. Significant spending, no tangible results. A wasted year.
Realistic Scenario:
Well, either of those two scenarios could qualify as realistic. But like all Timbers seasons, it’s most realistic to be somewhere in between. There’ll be stretches of outright panic, and there’ll be other times where we all convince ourselves the Timbers will win MLS Cup. Some of the signings hit: let’s go with Župarić - while other signings underwhelm due to extenuating circumstances: probably Niezgoda (and his glass skeleton). The team finishes in the middle of the pack - a team that no one wants to face in October - but one that is equally liable to beat themselves.
Prediction:
Even for someone as pessimistic as I am, I won’t predict the worst-case scenario. Nevertheless, I can’t shake the discouraging feeling that the Timbers will squander its immense talent again. A disappointing 6th or 7th place finish is in store after another taxing roller-coaster season. However, I’ll go out on a limb to say Portland does win a Cascadia Cup or USOC - some sort of silverware that convinces everybody the obvious flaws can be overcome in 2021. Blanco has a great 2020 season. The other pieces show flashes brilliance, yet can’t quite string together enough consistency to let the attack fire on all cylinders. Savarese will keep his job but enters the 2021 campaign on the hotseat. It’ll be another case of “close, but not close enough.”

Online Resources

Official Links: Website | Twitter
Local Coverage: Oregon Live | Stumptown Footy
Best Twitter follow: Chris Rifer
Best Read: Jamie Goldberg’s article on Fernandez didn’t age well, but it’s extremely important to understand his tragic life story.
Subreddit: timbers

#RCTID

submitted by NewRCTID22 to MLS [link] [comments]

No Good Deed (Part 1)

It was nearly midnight when I first saw her. There was only one 24 hour grocery store in my small hometown and she looked as out of place as anyone could possibly be. Rather than wearing the old faded denims that all the townspeople seemed to prefer she was dressed in a white, pressed blouse and an obviously expensive black, pencil skirt that reached to just above her knees. She stood out like a sore thumb. Unlike most of the working class farmers in our area she didn't dress plainly nor did she look old before her time. Her smooth, creamy white skin and long blonde hair revealed a pampered lifestyle that none of the townsfolk here could possibly afford. She also had wide, innocent green eyes that seemed oblivious to the harsh realities of this world. And I...well I was instantly smitten.
We had both arrived at the mom and pop shop at the exact same time. Myself, I had come for some late night microwave pizza and a few beers. And she, well I could only wonder as to what had brought such a beautiful and sophisticated young woman to this small place and at such a late hour. I froze in my steps when I noticed her. She swept by me with a shy smile and continued into the small establishment. I shook my head in an effort to clear my thoughts and followed her through the dimly lit entrance of the store. I made my quickly to the frozen food aisle to grab my pizza and then moved on to the wider beer and liquor section of the market. I was pleasantly surprised to find the same woman also standing there, seemingly debating over two brands of red wine. She looked up at me as I approached and gave me another quick smile as she hastily returned one bottle to the shelf and turned to walk purposely toward the checkout line. I hurriedly picked up a twelve pack of my favorite brand of imported lager and followed after her.
Due to the late hour, there was only one checkout lane open and I impatiently took note of the other shoppers standing in line. There was an old woman whom I instantly recognized as Dorothy Woodsworth at the front. She watched with an eagle's eye as the checker rang up her meager items, her fist tightly clenched over what looked to be stack of painstakingly clipped coupons. Behind her was a rather disheveled and dirty looking man in his late 30's. I didn't recognize him but with his numerous piercings, tattoos and the strong stench of alcohol and body odor, I was instantly on guard. The town had so few residents and even fewer tourists that I found it very odd to come across two strangers in the same night, especially at the same location.
He must be a drifter, I decided, and a rather suspicious looking one at that. Even more disconcerting then the man's appearance was the suspicious items that he was purchasing. I saw a box cutter, zip ties, garbage bags and large amounts of duct tape crowded into his small shopping basket. I somehow doubted that a man like this was starting some late night home improvement project. I instantly felt myself reacting as any young, hot blooded male would. I puffed out my chest, flexed my muscles and met his dark eyes in a "You don't scare me" kind of way. Behind the drifter but in front of myself stood...her, the beautiful young woman that I had been ogling this entire trip. Much to my dismay, the dirty man's gaze also seemed to focus on the young woman. His tongue kept darting out to wet his dry, chapped lips as his eye's raked up and down her body in a clearly lustful way. I felt my protective instincts roar to life as I watched her uncomfortable gaze dart quickly from old Mrs. Woodsworth to the strange man and back again as though seeking a safe place to land. I wracked my brain for some form of conversation that would distract the girl from the man's inappropriate scrutiny and put her more at ease.
"H-hi there, buying some wine, huh?" The words just fell out of my mouth and I visibly winced as I stated the painfully obvious in a choked voice. The unkempt man snorted and gave me an amused and knowing look. "I mean..."
"Yes, I am having a late dinner with a friend." She calmly said with a relieved smile. Her voice was as soft and alluring as the rest of her and I instantly felt my body start to relax. I couldn't help but hope that there was more than just gratitude behind that smile.
"Oh, dinner that sounds nice." I replied awkwardly "must going on a date then, huh?" She opened her mouth as if to reply to my question but after a moment she shut it again and turned her eyes toward the cashier without answering me. Too shy and embarrassed to press her further, I also turned my attention solely to the cashier and attempted to pretend that no one else existed. The young man, whom I vaguely recognized as the grandson of the owners -Timmy or Jimmy I think was his name- made quick, competent work of everyone's purchases and before I knew it I was all paid up and walking towards the store exit. The same mysterious woman walking only a short distance in front of me. Once I reached the parking lot I watched as she quickly walked to a car a few spaces away, placed the wine in her trunk and unlocked her car doors. I was already at my truck, as I was parked closer to the store than her and was about to climb into the driver's seat when something came over me, a last ditch attempt to catch the girl of my dreams, I suppose. "Hey." I called out to her. "My name is Sam and I...don't mean to bother you. But, I would really like to know your name...and well do you have a boyfriend or anything?"
The girl paused in her motion to open her door and raised one perfectly groomed eyebrow in answer to my question. Damn, that had sounded awkward and far too needy to be anything even approaching casual. But then I had always been somewhat awkward around the ladies. "I mean well, do you?" She smiled briefly, revealing a cute little dimple in her left cheek and I felt my heart melt even more.
"I am Mina. And no, I don't have...anyone like that. But please just trust me when I say that you don't want to get involved with me. I am...too much trouble." With that she flicked back her long hair with a careless movement of her pale, perfectly manicured fingers and slid into the front seat of her luxury car. Following suit I plopped down into the driver's side of my beat up pickup and sighed. "Wow, smooth," I sarcastically taunted myself, "I can't imagine why she didn't just fall into your lap after such a brilliant line like that." Punching my steering wheel in several frustrated movements I gloomily watched her car back up and head towards the exit of the parking lot. It was then that I noticed the top of a head peeking out of her rear window, barely visible in the backseat of her car.
"Wait. What the..." I trailed off and quickly backed out of my parking space to follow her car towards the exit. It was only when I was directly behind her that I realized I recognized whose head I had seen peering at me from her rear windshield. The long, greasy hair together with the reflection of the store's lights glinting off his many piercings finally clued me into who this was. Somehow, the same dirty man who was in line before us had slipped into the back of her car without her notice! He quickly ducked back down below eye level until I could no longer see him. Meanwhile, she had switched on her turn signal indicating that she was going to turn left out of the parking lot. Even though my home was in the opposite direction I too flipped on my left turn signal and prepared to follow her. I was concerned for her safety, given the rough appearance of the man and the fact that he was obviously hiding out in her car. I knew he must have bad intentions, there was just no other explanation. I fought the urge to simply blare my horn at her, knowing that the man was quite possibly armed and able to cause her fatal injury if he knew that he had been discovered.
Instead I followed closely behind her as she slowly made her way through the streets of downtown and then turned off to a smaller, less brightly lit road. I considered then rejected several strategies that might get her out of her car without alerting the menacing stow away in her backseat. Several nerve wracking minutes passed as she navigated through town before finally turning into an all night gas station and my heart leapt. Thank God, this was my chance! I quickly turned in behind her and stopped at the pump adjacent to hers. At this time of night I could see no other patrons and only one scrawny teenage boy who seemed to be manning the register from inside the small building. There was really no one else in sight. I could see no sign of the man in her back seat and concluded that he must have flattened himself onto the floor of her car. I climbed out of my front seat and pretended to start gassing up my already full tank. I tried to appear nonchalant as I knew I had to be smart about this. If I just ran over to her screaming as my first instincts demanded then I would likely just frighten her back into her car then be back at square one.
She got out of her vehicle and looked at me somewhat suspiciously as she began pumping her gas. I opened and closed my mouth several times, my mind racing to come up with a plan to get her away from her car."You know this place has great coffee." I began, "Could I buy you a quick cup?" She made an exasperated sound in the back of her throat before replying. "Boy, you just don't give up, do you?" Attempting a casual smile I said "I just really think we should get to know each other, that's all. Just give me ten minutes, one cup of coffee and if you're still not interested you can go on your way and I promise to never bother you again." Please, please let this work my mind chanted over and over again."I really can't," she finally said. "Look you seem like a nice guy but I am just not interested. Sorry."
"Damn." I hadn't meant to say that out loud and once it came out it sounded rather angry. I watched helplessly as she took a frightened step back and looked down at the gas nozzle that I had just been holding, not even bothering to put it into my tank as it was already full. "You followed me here, didn't you?" she asked accusingly. "Listen man, I have tried to be nice but if you don't back off right now I am going to call the cops, do you understand?" She angrily finished pumping her gas and slammed the nozzle back into position at the pump. She had every right to be upset and I knew that I was probably scaring the hell out of the poor girl. I just didn't know what else to do. I was not the kind of man who could just leave a helpless woman to the wicked plans of a deranged man. I returned the nozzle to it's compartment as I briefly considered calling the police myself.
We only had one sheriff, who always left the station promptly at six every evening. That left only a single, young deputy whom the whole town knew to be drunk far more often than not. I couldn't help but think it would be the wrong move to involve him. If this guy was armed and got spooked he could kill her long before we got close enough to stop him. This situation required far more delicacy then an inebriated and inexperienced cop would be capable of. But then what should I do? She was just about to climb back in her car when I desperately called out, "Wait Mina, don't go. You...your tire is flat! Come see." She made a movement as if she was about to get back out to check but then she merely shot me a fearful look over her shoulder and started her engine.
I quickly jumped back into my pickup and fired up the engine. When she turned out of the parking lot I hesitated a few moments before turning behind her. I followed slowly at what I hoped was a discreet distance and tried to plan my next move. I was cursing myself for not thinking of writing her a note and slipping it discreetly to her somehow. If only I had thought of that sooner! She made several turns which led her out of the downtown area and eventually turned down what appeared to be a long dirt road. I had thought I knew every inch of this city but I soon found myself in unfamiliar territory. I followed about 200 yards behind her and the tall stalks of corn on either side of the narrow road caused eerie shadows to dance on my windshield. My heart and mind seemed to be in a competitive sprint and I knew that the finish line lay somewhere at the end of this rural road.
There was no other option, I would just keep my distance until she reached her destination and then once she stopped I would intervene when the man made his move. I was too far away to see into her vehicle now but would still catch the occasional glimpse of what looked like the top silhouette of a head through her back window. I took a mental inventory of everything I had in my truck that could aid me. I had a cellphone with a flashlight and thankfully also had an old shotgun that my dad had lent me for a hunting trip several weeks prior. I hated hunting, I was not a violent man and couldn't understand the thrill my friends seemed to get from taking down a defenseless animal. But there wasn't much to do in my hometown and hunting had always been my buddies favorite pastime. I was actually very thankful for that now. After driving through the darkness for what seemed an interminable amount of time I suddenly realized that I could no longer see the back light's of Mina's car. I slowed my speed down to a crawl and scanned the area up ahead and to the sides. Thinking that the man might have decided to force Mina to drive into to corn fields I watched the road closely for any fresh tire tracks, but I saw nothing.
After traversing the road for another couple of minutes I pulled my truck over, removed the shot gun from the rack behind my seat and cautiously climbed out. The sounds of night creatures and crickets was nearly deafening way out here and the still, hot air began to coat every inch of my skin with slick sweat. I could see nothing around me and was just about to give up to my crushing defeat to save Mina when I heard a loud, shrill cry. I quickly turned in the direction of the scream and it was only then that I noticed what looked to be a huge old barn roughly 300 yards behind me."How the hell did I miss that?" I cursed myself as I jumped back into my truck, tossing the shotgun into the passenger seat and somehow managing to only take out a few of the towering stalks of corn in my haste to get turned back around on the road. No longer concerned about stealth I roared down the road as dirt and bits of rock hammered at my truck. Realizing that the situation had escalated far beyond my control I quickly whipped out my cell phone and dialed the emergency police number. It rang eleven times and I was near to hanging up when a sleepy male voice finally came on the line.
"Emmergacy. Whas-tss yer locatioon?" Came the familiar slurred voice of the deputy. Damn, why couldn't he have been sober, just this once? As quickly as I could I relayed the night's events, trying to speak in a clear, concise voice so that even a drunk hillbilly could comprehend the urgency of the situation."This had better not be a prank." The deputy said after I had finished my explanation. Suddenly sounding far more sober, with only a tiny hint of the slur still evident in his voice, I felt my hopes rise slightly. "We've had a string of people go missing this week and so far there have been zero real leads. If what you're saying is true than this girl could be in very real danger."
"It's definitely not a prank," I quickly assured him. "My name is Sam Larsen and I don't know the exact address but I am in a large cornfield roughly eight miles west of the Hilliard's farm. There's a huge barn or something in the center and that's where I believe the woman is being held. I heard a scream a few minute's ago but nothing else since and I need to go in-" I was abruptly cut off by several fast beeping noises on the line. Looking down at my phone I realized that the phone was no longer getting a signal. In such a rural area cellphone's here were notoriously unreliable. I tried calling back but it quickly became obvious that I had no service.
"Damnitt!" I yelled and threw the phone onto the seat in frustration. I was on my own now, there was no time to try to move to a place with a better signal. The poor woman might already be dead at this point and I needed to act NOW. I switched off my headlights and slowed the truck down to a slow crawl as I approached the old barn. I could see Mina's expensive black car parked carelessly in front of the decrepit old building, both of it's doors left wide open. Beyond that there was no other sign of life. Quickly scooping up the shotgun and re-pocketing my cellphone I opened the driver's side door and stealthily slid out of my truck. I was hyper sensitive to the slightest noise as I cautiously made my way towards the structure. Peeking into the nearest, grime smudged window I could vaguely make out two people. One was seated in a chair and seemed to be struggling against some type of restraints. The other stood a few feet away and it looked as though they held something large and threatening with both their hands. Both figures seemed to be arguing based on their hand movements and the muffled shouts I could barely hear through the thick walls. I walked around the entirety of the structure until I came to a large hole where the wood had disintegrated just enough so that I could crawl through without alerting them of my presence. Once inside, their voices were much clearer to me.
"Please just let me go, I will give you whatever you want and...and I won't tell anyone what happened here, I swear!" It sickened me to hear this sweet young woman begging for her life and I felt a white hot rage begin to well within me, replacing my earlier fear. It was almost completely dark inside, the only light seemed to come from a small candle or lantern towards the front of the building where the voices originated. I could see several long shadows cast onto the floor and walls of barn. Two of them clearly belonged to Mina and the drifter but there were also at least half a dozen large shadows that seemed to hang down from the ceiling. They were raised several feet of the ground and seemed to sway gently back and forth. I assumed that they were simply large farm tools and paid them little heed beyond the thought that I could potentially use one of them as a weapon. There was a thick, putrid odor that seemed to permeate the air and I had to choke back bile as it rose in my throat. Creeping closer I crawled my way around the moldy bales of hay and fallen beams, trying desperately to be swift but silent.
"Anything I want, huh?" I heard a man's deep, menacing voice say. "Well that's a mighty tempting offer and one I plan to take you up on. Of course, what I really want is you. I just want to have some fun, you know? There ain't much to do around these part's except hunt, and I believe I have already bagged my prize. Just as with any fine young doe, I will start by stringing you up, I will skin and gut you and then separate the...choice bits." The woman began to sob hysterically and I quickened my pace, only slowing when I was mere feet from the their location. I could see small tufts of smoke rising from an old fashioned oil lamp that was set on a work bench next to several sharp knives and what looked like ancient, dirty surgical instruments. The lantern gave off so little light in the cavernous old barn that I felt I was still sufficiently hidden from view. I quickly turned my attention to the woman who did indeed appear to be strapped tightly to an antique wooden chair. She was softly whimpering what sounded like a garbled prayer and her long hair was tangled around her tear streaked face.
Before I could pinpoint exactly where the male stood I felt several beads of sweat trickle down from my forehead into my eyes, stinging them and blurring my vision. I hurriedly swiped at one eye with my free hand before pressing it back down onto the ground. I was surprised when my hand landed in something wet and sticky and on reflex I recoiled and looked down. Even in the low light I could still make out the small pool of thick dark liquid. Oil? That was my first thought but after a quick sniff I realized that it was blood. I froze when another drop landed from above my head to join the growing puddle. Slowly, reluctantly I raised my head and nearly screamed in horror. A naked corpse, strung up by the feet, dangled only a few feet above me. It had once been a man, though he had been savagely mutilated beyond all recognition. Though he was clearly deceased, fresh blood still dripped from several gaping wounds. I felt bile rise in my throat once again and the urge to flee was so strong that it nearly overpowered me.
Only the thought of Mina, her beautiful body stripped of both flesh and dignity and strung up like an animal kept me from "noping" my way out of there right that second. You can do this, I told myself. You have the shotgun and you know how to defend yourself. Besides, the cops will be here any minute now. That is if they can find you. How can you be sure the deputy even heard your description of this place before the call was dropped...? No, don't think like that! The cops will come and if not you can always just shoot the guy! Just as I was wrapping up my internal pep talk two large black boots suddenly came stomping into my line of vision. My eyes darted up the entire length of the drifter, who suddenly seemed ten feet taller and twice as broad in my panicked state. He was holding a large machete and kept tightening then loosening his grip on it in a very unsettling away. It was clear that he was anxious to use it. He smiled broadly before saying "I thought I heard a rat scurrying around in the dark, looks like I was right. Such a determined little guy. Mina said it best I think, 'you just don't give up, do you?' Well you know what they say, no good deed goes unpunished."
"And you will be punished, that much I can promise you." That voice, it was...Mina? I watched in shock as she sauntered over to stand next to the huge brute. The same wide, eerie smile on her beautiful face. How had she gotten out of the chair? That was the only question my terrified brain could conjure at the moment. I clumsily struggled to my feet still gripping the shotgun in one hand though at the time I don't think I was even aware I still held it. Everything seemed to move in slow motion and my mind felt like an old computer that had been unceremoniously shut down and was now struggling to reboot. "My hero," Mina said in an ugly, mocking tone. "You came to save the poor damsel in distress from a cruel trap. I bet you never once thought that trap might have actually been set for you. Don't feel bad though, you're not the only one, they never see it coming. Men like you make this only too easy, almost takes the fun out of it all."
I could only stare blankly at both of them for several seconds as I felt my stomach swiftly drop and my comprehension slowly dawn. They were in this together, they planned this whole damn thing...and the disappearances the deputy mentioned...?
Part 2: https://www.reddit.com/nosleep/comments/gvc4bc/no_good_deed_part_2/
submitted by Ayaneve to nosleep [link] [comments]

Room 420: Three Ships

A cold driving rain fell as Adam Thompson’s Uber pulled up to the front of a gothic brick hotel on the outskirts of Austin. Located well outside of the downtown area, the twenty-story building was the only break in the sky for miles around. It seemed out of place here, perhaps a relic held over from an older downtown area that was razed and allowed to return to nature, the hotel the only holdover of a bygone era.
A metal awning over the driveway curved from the front of the Hotel Non Dormiunt, a juxtaposed recent addition to the otherwise retro luxury appearance. The car bounced as pavement switched to cobblestones as they pulled to a stop out front.
“This is you,” the driver said.
The wipers flicked back and forth on the windshield in time with the song on the radio. Adam recognized it as the Spanish version of Hotel California. Not Adam’s choice, but when asked his music preference for the thirty-minute ride to his hotel he simply shrugged. It didn’t matter. It was just the first day of the conference, but Adam knew he was blowing it. After a day of going to panels of his favorite writers, surrounded by managers, agents, and filmmakers, the people he came here to network with, but he was never able to work up the courage to say hello or introduce himself to anyone. And here he was in an Uber headed to his hotel after an awkward hour by himself at the conference kickoff party with his blazer pocket still full of business cards. He never handed out a single one.
He pulled one from his pocket. Emblazoned on the front in a shiny impact font was his name: Adam Thompson - Screenwriter. He even paid an extra ten bucks for a hundred additional cards, all packed tightly away in his suitcase in the trunk of the car.
He let out a heavy sigh as his mind chewed over his underwhelming day like a cold piece of saltwater taffy. “A goddamn semifinalist, invited to all of the top-level meet and greets. Yet you can’t work up the nerve to even introduce yourself to one person. Not one. Total waste of time and money. You’re not a screenwriter. You’re a thirty-eight-year-old shipping clerk at a trucking company. You know it, they know it. Why you thought you belonged at an event like this is-”
SNAP!
Adam looked down at his wrist to the rubber band, his coping mechanism to pull himself out of a negative spiral and back to the present. A red welt radiated heat under the rubber band on the inside of his wrist. Handwritten in blue ink on the inside of the band was the phrase STFU Anton.
“Sir? This is you,” the driver repeated.
“Oh, thanks,” Adam said, stopping himself short of apologizing. He massaged his thumb over his wrist and slid his sleeve back into place.
A brisk wind blew rain in Adam’s face as he opened the car door. The cobblestones were slick underneath his brown leather oxford shoes, his “grown-up shoes” as his wife called them. She bought them for him before the trip. “You can’t wear your ratty old New Balance tennis shoes when walking the red carpets,” she said. “You’ll embarrass yourself, but more importantly, you’ll embarrass me.” She said it with a laugh and followed it with a kiss, all in good fun. But tonight, he might as well have been wearing clown shoes for as out of place as he felt.
He considered giving the band a flick but decided against it. That wasn’t a negative thought; he did feel out of place.
“Pity about the rain,” the driver said as he popped the trunk and sat Adam’s bag on the cobblestone drive under the awning. “Texas is usually warmer than this.”
“Must’ve brought it with me,” Adam replied, adding a fake laugh kicker.
“You can small talk about the weather with the Uber driver but you can’t pick your head up long enough at a cocktail party full of industry professionals to introduce yourself-”
SNAP!
No more, stop it.
Adam winced after that one. The driver noticed, giving Adam an ‘it’s whatever, dude’ shrug, eager to get back downtown where the fares were triple at this time on a Friday night.
“Later, bro,” the driver said, then rolled up the window and pulled away from the entrance. He cranked up the radio and sang along as Hotel California hit the chorus. Adam could still hear singing as he stepped through the manual revolving door entrance of the hotel.
Adam wasn’t even planning on attending the conference until he received the call that his screenplay had reached the semifinals. But after looking over the attendees and discussing it with his writing group and his wife, they convinced him that it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Lots of writers get managers at these events, after all.
He registered so late that all of the downtown hotels were fully booked, and the only place he could afford was here at Hotel Non Dormiunt, which oddly had zero ratings or reviews considering its age. But before he could investigate further, a notification popped up that only one reservation remained in his price range so he had to book now. So he did, and here he was.
The lobby was dimly lit by an enormous crystal chandelier that hung in the middle of the entryway. The tiny bulbs flickered like candlelight, but it seemed less intentional than just old bulbs on their last gasp of filament. Floor to ceiling ebony wainscoting on the walls added to the dark foreboding feeling as Adam stepped inside. The lobby felt both massive and claustrophobic at the same time. His grown-up shoes clacked against the black and white checkered tile as he carried his bags to the check-in desk.
A blackout curtain along the inside of the glass partition separated the hotel offices from the hotel lobby. A printed sign hung in between the curtain and the glass, “Back in 8 minutes.” A handwritten sign on the desk said to “ring bell for service.”
A thin wire ran across the counter from the base of the glass window to a small red button. Adam pressed it. Inside the office, a bell rattled like a throat-clearing cough that doesn’t quite get the job done.
“Hello?” a voice answers from the small speaker in the middle of the glass partition, startling Adam.
“Yes, hello, um reservation for Adam Thompson,” Adam replied.
“One moment.” A shrill squeak of feedback echoed from the speaker before clicking off.
On the wall next to the check-in counter in the back of the lobby was a massive silk tapestry of a castle with the same exterior design as the hotel, with a raised drawbridge in place of the metal awning. Rows of archers lined the lower level walls, lobbing flame tipped arrows at an advancing army of knights. Each figure was depicted with amazing detail down to the facial features and expressions, especially the ones impaled on the spiked rows of chevaux de frise at the base of the castle walls. It was here that Adam noticed, upon closer inspection, horned imps and demons cracked whips at the backs of the archers defending the castle. The attacking army, however, was entirely human.
On the wall below the tapestry was a plaque: Final Siege of Castellum Non Dormiunt
“First time staying with us?” the voice crackled from the speaker.
Adam turned away from the tapestry and nodded. “Yep, first time here. First time in Austin too, I’m in town for the-”
“Who's Anton?” the voice interjected.
Adam did a doubletake at the speaker. “I’m sorry?”
“On your wrist,” the speaker voice said. “Who is Anton?”
Adam looked down at the band, then to the dark curtain inside the glass partition. No light passed through it, as if all of the lights in the office were off as well. He looked around the lobby for a camera, certain they were watching him but unsure how.
He laughed nervously as he slid his sleeve back over his wrist.
“Anton, right. It’s a technique my therapist gave me to help me deal with my anxiety issues. If you give your inner critic a name, you can see it for what it is and prevent it from derailing you. Anxiety, negative thoughts, overthinking, ‘n so forth.”
“And so forth?”
‘N so forth,” Adam corrected. “ A-N-T-O-N, Anton.”
The speaker crackled with white noise of the line left open. It continued for an extended, awkward moment before the voice spoke again.
“Did it take a long time to come up with that?”
Adam scratched at a spot on his neck, tugging uncomfortably at his collar which all of the sudden felt too tight and itchy.
“Like… three hours or so,” he answered. He gave the band a small snap.
A drawer opened from a slot along the front of the counter, like a gas station pay window. Inside was a key attached to a brass oval fob. The number 420 was engraved in a circle below a relief drawing of the hotel outline.
“You’re in room 420, Mr. Thompson,” the speaker squeaked. “Shall we ring the bellhop for you?”
“That’s okay, I just got the one bag so I’m good,” Adam said as he picked up the key from the slot in the drawer. He jumped back as the drawer slammed shut with a loud metal CaTHUNK!
“The elevator and stairs are at the end of the hall to your left,” the voice crackled. “Do enjoy your stay, Mr. Thompson.”
“Thank you,” Adam trailed off, realizing he was speaking to no one.
The elevator and stairs are at the end of the hall to your left. Why mention both, Adam wondered. Was it a subtle implication that with his admitted anxiety issues he might be afraid of elevators?
A metallic screech vibrated down the elevator shaft as Adam pressed the call button. He made a sideways glance to the door with the pictogram of the stairs on it as the elevator rattled to a stop, the doors opening as the elevator floor dropped the last few inches into place. The car was smaller than expected too, maybe held three or four people tops. Didn’t feel much bigger than a coffin.
His heartbeat quickened as his mind ran through what-if scenarios. What if the elevator gets stuck, what if the power goes out, what if it gets stuck between floors, what if-
His finger slid under the rubber band, but he didn’t snap it.
“Get on,” he told himself under his breath.
It was a bumpy ride up to the 4th floor, but otherwise uneventful. There was that moment as the elevator pulled to a stop where the doors didn’t open as quick as Adam had hoped that almost spurred a panic response but the doors thankfully opened and he stepped out into the hall.
Like the lobby, the hall was lined with ebony paneling with flickering candle wall sconces on the spaces between each door. The hall felt more claustrophobic than the elevator as if the walls were lined with soundproofing foam, dampening any noise from traveling far even though lights under the doorways showed the movement of the other guests.
The laminated placard with the room number was missing from the door of room 420. In its place, a small unpainted circle on the wooden door with rings to show all the different colors the door had been painted over the years. Around the edge of the circle, pry marks of keys and knives showed the handiwork of the thieves who repeatedly stole the door marker for its slang connotation. One could only guess that the hotel grew tired of replacing it, so the number 420 was scratched into the wood with a ballpoint pen.
Mint green low pile carpet greeted him as he stepped inside. Two pyramid wall sconces lit up the strawberry red walls of the queen bed suite. A small dresser, a desk with a high wooden back chair, and a nightstand were the only furniture besides the bed, which was under a slightly less garish floral comforter. It looked like the sixties threw up in here, and they tried to scrub it away with some of the seventies.
Adam sat at the end of the bed and removed his shoes. His feet ached after a long day, arriving on an early flight this morning and heading straight to the conference. On the bright side, the conference went on for three more days, so he had more opportunities to reverse his fortune.
A painting of four galleon style ships tossed in heavy seas hung on the wall across from the bed. Like the tapestry in the lobby below, the detail was far greater than Adam expected from hotel art. The foam on the crests of the waves and the pulsing veins in the forearms of the helmsman as he braced the ship’s wheel to keep the vessel on course, the detail and depth of the painting could nearly be mistaken for a photograph if not for the texture of brush strokes.
He hung his dress shirts and pants in the small wardrobe closet and dumped his toiletries in the bathroom. Then, he turned on the water for a hot shower to rinse the day’s failure away. Let tomorrow be a fresh clean start.
His phone vibrated on the bed as he exited the bathroom in a towel. His wife’s smiling photo lit up his phone screen.
“Hey babe,” he said and then smiled for the first time since before his flight that morning. “Just got to the hotel.”
“How was the conference today?” she asked. He could hear the excitement in her voice and prepared his own to match. “Did you meet anybody famous? Did you talk about your script?”
“No, no one famous, although I got to see a few of the writers from Pixar today,” Adam answered. “I’m going to one with the writer from Rogue One tomorrow afternoon, and then the Game of Thrones guys.”
“Look at you rubbing elbows with the Hollywood elite!” she giggled. If only she knew that he hadn’t talked to any of those people. Hadn’t talked to anyone at all, really.
“They’re screenwriters, Lori, pretty much the opposite of Hollywood elite,” he corrected.
His eyes were drawn back to the painting on the wall, new details seem to pop every time he looked at it. Sailors on one of the galleons hoisted harpoons and hurled them towards a swirling maelstrom at the center of the painting.
“Oh hush, let me brag about my husband! I know how difficult it was for you to go on this trip, and I’m proud of you for putting yourself out there,” she said.
Adam stifled a sigh.
“Let her have this. Let her believe she didn’t marry a total failure. Let her believe you didn’t just waste all of your savings on a trip where you didn’t open your mouth once to-”
SNAP!
“Adam? Did I lose you?”
“I’m here,” he said. “I’m sorry, it’s been a long day and I’m beat with the time difference and the kickoff party tonight. I think I’m gonna get some sleep.”
He laid back on the bed in his towel, resting his head against the pillow.
“Good idea, get some rest so you can get you a manager tomorrow, okay?”
“A manager, right.”
SNAP! Shut the fuck up, Anton.
“Sure thing, sweetie. I’ll keep you posted if anything develops. Love you.”
“Love you, babe! Go sell some scripts tomorrow!”
Adam hung up and rolled onto his side, closing his eyes as he took a deep meditative breath, letting himself relax and sink into the bed.
“You can’t change what happened today,” he told himself. “All you can do is make tomorrow better.”
“Fat chance.”
SNAP!
The voice in his head chuckled. “Fuck you too, buddy.”
He opened his eyes, staring into the side of the nightstand next to the bed. The black veneer along the side had been peeled away, revealing the particle board underneath. There appeared to be something written on the side. Adam reached over and turned on the lamp on the nightstand. As he moved in for a closer inspection he saw five words written on the wood:
There are only three ships
It was lightly written, perhaps in pencil, although it could’ve been ink that had faded over time. Adam ran his thumb over the words as he read them.
“Weird,” he said, then turned towards the painting on the wall across from his bed. In the painting, the sailors held fast against the raging sea that swelled around the ships.
Three ships. Not four, as Adam originally counted.
“That’s not,” he began, bolting up from his bed for another look. “No. There were four.”
He stood in front of the painting, his head tilted as he studied it again. He hovered his finger over the ships, counting out loud.
“One. Two. Three.”
He chewed his lip as he searched the upper left part of the canvas where swore was a smaller black galleon with orange sails. He was sure of it because the color of the sails caught his attention. But there was nothing there, only the swirling inky black water of the sea.
Maybe it was a testament to the detail in the painting, drawing the viewer in to see more than was actually there. Looking at it again, it looked incomplete without a fourth ship in that area of the canvas. The image was off balance. Or perhaps it was one of those optical illusions where the picture changes when you view it from a different angle?
Adam moved slowly from one side of the painting to the other, looking for a shift in the image depicted there. Nothing. Three ships circling a swirling maelstrom at the center of the painting with black tentacles just below the surface tension of the water-
Wait- was that there before? He looked closer, and yes, there were tentacles under the water, green and black with a pattern of white puckered suction cups and sharp hooks for dragging sailors down into the dark waters. A chill ran up his spine, standing the hair of his neck on end.
“You’re tired, it’s been a long day,” Adam said, then looked down. “And you’re naked.”
He turned away from the painting (after a quick turn back, as if he would catch the fourth ship there by surprise, but nothing) and headed to the bathroom to finish getting ready for bed.
He put on his boxers, brushed his teeth and washed his face, finishing with a splash of cold water as he stared at his reflection in the mirror. HIs eyes were weary with defeat.
“You earned this,” he told himself. “You want this. Tomorrow you’re going to be confident, charismatic, and wow the socks off some managers.”
“Do these pep talks actually work? Listen to yourself, you sound ridiculous.”
“Stop,” he said, gripping the bathroom counter until his arms shook. “Just, stop, please.”
Adam looked down at his wrist but before he could flick the band, his eyes were drawn to a flap of the wallpaper that had curled back from the corner of the wall, revealing the letter ‘T’ underneath. He let go of the band and pulled at the loose strip of paper.
There
The handwriting was similar, if not identical, to the writing on the side of the nightstand. He kept pulling, revealing an entire sentence underneath. The chill on the back of his neck and moved to his ears as he read it:
There must never be more than three ships
Adam looked up to the bathroom mirror, seeing the reflection of the painting on the wall of his hotel room. The fourth ship had returned.
He stared unblinking into the mirror, eyes locked on the image. Four ships. Four goddamn ships. The sails weren’t orange as he had originally thought. They were on fire.
“The fuck is going on?”
Adam ran back into the bedroom to the painting where he expected the fourth ship would be gone, replaced again by the dark swirling water. But it was still there, looming larger than before. A tentacle from the leviathan under the maelstrom lofted an unlucky sailor high above the waves, the hooks digging deep into his flesh as his face twisted in agony.
There are only three ships There must never be more than three ships
“How is this happening? Is someone fucking with me?”
He picked up the phone on the nightstand to call the front desk. In the cradle of the handset, he found another message written on the plastic.
They can’t help you
In the painting, the fourth ship with flaming sails was on a ramming course with a ship wrapped in the tentacles of the leviathan. A fork-tailed demon stood at the helm, a crooked bicorn hat comically wedged between its horns. The deck swarmed with imps and hellhounds as it bore down on the doomed vessel.
He buried the heels of his palms into his eyes. “I can’t be seeing this. It’s not there. It’s not there. This is not real!”
His heart nearly left his chest when the phone rang on the nightstand. It rattled with the same sickly rasp of the bell in the hotel lobby.
Adam backed away from the painting, not wanting to look away lest it change on him again. He fumbled behind him on the nightstand, retrieving the receiver.
He swallowed to clear his throat before speaking. “Hello?”
“Mr. Thompson, we just wanted to check that everything was to your liking in the room?”
He glanced at the message on the phone’s cradle.
They can’t help you
“Mr. Thompson?” the front desk clerk repeated. “Did we lose you?”
“No, I’m here,” Adam answered.
“Do you require anything additional to make your stay more comfortable? Perhaps another pillow, or additional towels?”
He returned his gaze to the painting to find it had returned to its original form. There were three ships again.
There must never be more than three ships
“I, um, is there anything special I need to know about this room?” Adam asked, his eyes once again looking at the warning on the phone receiver.
A voice popped up in his head, no longer a whisper in the corner of his brain. “I read the message too, dipshit,” it said. “They can’t help you.”
Adam snapped the rubber band on his wrist.
Maybe they can’t help me, but if they can educate me about the room perhaps-
“I’m sorry, Mr. Thompson, we don’t quite follow. Is there a problem with your room? We realize the number 420 is popular with vandals, but the maid service-”
“The only problem is he can’t fucking count ships,” the voice in his head replied. It was much louder in his mind, drowning out the front desk caller. “There it is, plain as day. One, two, three, ships. THREE SHIPS! THREE SHIPS! THREE!”
Adam snapped the rubber band over and over.
“The room’s fine. I’m fine. Thank you.” He hung up the phone.
His stomach rolled and gurgled, all the sudden overcome with the urge to throw up. The room was unsettling. The red walls seemed darker now, less strawberry, more blood. His forehead dripped with sweat as his heart pounded in his chest.
“I’m stressed. I’m anxious about the trip. And I’m imagining things. I just need to get some sleep.
“Hey dipshit,” the voice said, but it was his voice. “How many ships do you see?”
“Shut up!” Adam yelled.
“Oh, so you do hear me,” the voice, Anton, said. “You gonna slap your wrist with a rubber band again? Fucking do it, I dare you. Do it and see what happens.”
Adam slid his thumb under the band.
“Do it! I want you to.”
He pulled back the elastic, further than before.
“Do it!”
He released the band. SNAP!
Adam let out a yelp from the sting. In his mind, Anton laughed.
“That doesn't hurt me, idiot. It just hurts you.”
“It shuts you up,” Adam said. “Reminds me not to listen to you.”
“You better start listening to me, because it’s coming. Look.”
Adam turned to the painting, the fourth ship was back. The bow slammed into the side of one of the other galleons as the hellhounds and imps swarmed the deck, ripping chunks of flesh from the terrified sailors. Blood poured over the deck into the water, giving it a red tinge. At the top of the painting a fifth ship appeared, a man-o-war, all of its sails blazing with fire. Its long guns fired cannonballs into the broadside of second of the other galleons. The leviathan had fully surfaced, wrapping it’s tentacles around the third ship, crushing the wooden planks of the hull in its mighty grip as a row of circular teeth bit a sailor in half.
“What’s coming?”
“You’ll find out.”
Adam sat on the side of the bed, closing his eyes and taking a deep calming breath, focusing on his breathing. Inhale. Exhale. This isn’t real. Inhale. Exhale. This isn’t real. Inhale. Exhale.
“Look at the painting.”
No.
Breathe in. Breathe out. This isn’t real. Relax. Calm.
“You need to look at the painting. Look!”
Adam opened his eyes after one last slow exhale, feeling centered and calm. When he turned his head towards the wall, the tentacles of the leviathan were no longer contained by the painting. They reached out of the picture, curling over the edge as the hooks dug into the grain of the wooden frame. He could still see the brushstrokes on the now three-dimensional tentacles. The churning water surged against the edge of the frame, splashing out onto the dresser.
Adam screamed and ran for the door, giving the painting a wide berth. He grasped the knob on the door and tried turning it. Nothing. He yanked it hard but it wouldn’t budge. He pounded his fist against the door, screaming for help.
“Help me! Anyone, please help!”
Behind him, a wave of water crashed through the painting, dousing the carpet. The smell of sea spray and salt filled the room.
“No one is coming to help. Go to the mirror.”
Adam rattled the doorknob, putting his foot on the wall and pulling with all of his might. Nothing. He pounded the door, shouting for help. “Please God help me! I’m trapped in here!”
A low chittering sound emitted from the wall behind him as more tentacles prodded the opening.
“Bathroom. Now!”
Adam gave up on the door and ran into the bathroom, throwing the door shut behind him. He leaned back against the door, catching his reflection in the bathroom mirror. Looking back at him, his reflection was himself, but also not himself. There was a coldness in the eyes, a sneer on his lips. Anton.
“We need to work together,” the voice that both was and wasn’t Adam’s said.
“What’s happening here?” Adam asked his reflection.
“Well for one, you made a huge mistake booking us here.”
“It was last minute, there weren’t any other rooms I could affor-”
Anton reached through the mirror and smacked Adam across the face. “Fucking Christ in a Corndog, if I hear you whine one more time I will bash your skull against this mirror until it’s wet and floppy. Now FOCUS.”
Adam nodded, massaging his face. “Sorry.”
“This place has a history to it, Hotel Non Dormiunt,” Anton said. “Strange things happen here. Dark things. Evil things. This place has more suicides and people spontaneously dying of natural causes than any other building in the world. That tapestry downstairs? That wasn’t a depiction of the hotel. That was the hotel. It exists across time. It has always existed as a portal between our world and a darker dimension.”
Adam couldn’t believe the words he heard coming out of his mouth from his own voice. “This is crazy, this doesn’t happen,” he replied. “Things like this don’t happen outside of movies or books.”
“It’s happening,” Anton said. “If you don’t believe me, check the painting again.”
Adam unlocked the bathroom door and stole a quick glance at the painting. An armada of fire-sailed warships flooded in from the top of the painting. The three original ships were reduced to debris as the leviathan shoved bodies of dead sailors into its maw.
“The messages are a warning: There are only three ships/There must never be more than three ships. If you can see them, then you are giving them power to exist. You give them power to cross over. They know you can see them, Adam, and they are coming for you.”
A loud THUD landed against the wall of Adam’s hotel wall behind the painting as if someone had thrown a bowling ball against it. Another loud THUD followed by the clang of something heavy dropping from the dresser onto the carpet.
He opened the door, watching through the mirror. Not a bowling ball. A cannonball.
Anton watched along with Adam through the mirror.
“They’re breaking through.” Anton said. “Let me help you.”
“How?” Adam asked.
“Do I need to spell it out for you?” Anton looked Adam in the eyes. “You’re weak. Your mind is weak. Fuck, man, you can’t even shut me up and I’m your inner demon. How do you think you’re going to fare against an actual legion of forked-tail devil-horned fire breathing motherfuckers?”
Adam opened his mouth to speak but said nothing. Anton continued.
“So you can wait for them to breakthrough and see if that stupid rubber band has any effect on them, or you can give me control.”
“Give you control?”
“Yes. So I can protect you, protect us. Which has always been my only purpose.”
“You don’t protect me,” Adam said. “You attack me, tell me everything I do wrong.”
“So you can be better, so we can be better! That’s why I’m here!”
A loud crash from the bedroom jolted Adam from his staredown with Anton. He looked out and saw a harpoon sticking into the wall over his bed. A rope tied to the end led down into the painting to the Man-o-war. A rubbery tentacle of the leviathan curled over the edge of the dresser inching its way down the front towards the bathroom door.
Adam slammed the bathroom door, locking it and hunkering down on the bathroom floor as fear overtook him. Tears poured down his face as he sobbed, crying, pleading for it to stop.
“Why is this happening to me? I didn’t ask for any of this!”
Outside the door, the dresser splintered and cracked as something far too heavy for the wood to support stepped on top. The chittering grew louder, as did the low whispers and growls of the hellhounds.
“Adam, there isn’t time,” Anton said. “They are only here because you’re too weak to stop them. They know this. I know this. And you know this. Don’t you?”
Adam nodded his head between sobs.
"Say you’re weak.”
Adam wiped his nose with the back of his hand. “I’m weak.”
“I can protect you. I can protect both of us,” Anton stroked the side of Adam’s face. “That’s all I ever wanted. Just give me control, and this will all go away.”
Adam sniffed loudly and wiped tears from his eyes. “What do I need to do?”
“Close your eyes and focus on your breathing as you listen to the sound of my voice,” Anton whispered. “Think of it as a guided meditation exercise, you like those. I want you to visualize yourself in a car.”
Adam did as instructed, thinking of himself in a car. His mind went to his first car, a 1993 Ford Taurus. Anton continued.
“You’re in the driver’s seat. The car is running. Now visualize yourself turning off the ignition key.”
In his mind, Adam reached out and grasped the key, turning it to the left. His mind’s car shut off, sputtering much like his Ford Taurus used to.
“Now look to your right, in the passenger seat. I’m sitting there. I want you to hand me the keys and say, 'it’s your turn to drive.'”
Adam pictured himself doing as instructed, handing the keys to Anton beside him. Anton gripped his fingers over the keys as Adam said, “It’s your turn to drive,” repeating it with each exhale.
“Keep breathing like that, and repeating those words. Focus on your breath.”
Adam focused on his breath, feeling the cool rush of air as it entered and exited his nostrils. He repeated the phrase like a mantra with each exhale as he felt a wave of euphoria wash over him, almost like he was floating, neutrally buoyant in a vast empty space. The crash of the bed being ripped from the floor outside disappeared in a chorus of white noise. The cold sensation of the bathroom tile under his legs was gone.
When he opened his eyes, he was no longer in the bathroom.
Adam was in a white room, but it wasn’t really a room. It was a void of infinite whiteness all around him, stretching for eternity in every direction. Directly in front of him was what looked like a small window. Through the window, he saw his hotel room bathroom, just as he had left it before closing his eyes.
He was looking through his eyes, but they weren’t his eyes anymore. The image through the window shifted as it got up off the floor and looked in the mirror. Anton smiled back, smirking.
“How’s the view from the backseat?” Anton said.
Adam tried to scream, but nothing came out.
“I didn’t know how to speak when I first showed up in there either,” he said. “I’ll be damned if I'm giving you any tips.”
Anton opened the bathroom door. Instead of the scene of carnage Adam expected, he saw his hotel room, undisturbed. No shattered dresser, no mattress shredded by the claws of demons and hellhounds. No harpoon.
And in the painting? Three ships.
“It took me a long time to figure out how to plant suggestion in our brain, make you see things that weren't there,” Anton said as he walked to the painting, running his fingers over it. “I told you I’d only see three ships.”
Inside his brain, Adam wordlessly screamed and pounded his fists against the window. Memories flooded back, memories that had been blocked from his part of the mind. When he closed his eyes on the bed after his phone call with his wife, he saw himself getting up and writing messages on the side of the nightstand, on the phone cradle, even peeling off the wallpaper to write the message there.
He had done all of it. Not Adam, but Anton.
“Only took about five minutes. Longest I’ve held control when you weren’t fully asleep. It took a lot of focus to hide that from your side of our brain. Luckily what I said about this hotel is true. It’s a fucked up place. It’s a special type of fucked up that I can feed on, grow stronger. That’s probably why it was so easy to trick you into booking here.”
Another memory flashed back of the travel website. Adam saw himself scrolling through rows of vacant hotels downtown, all well within his price range. He kept scrolling until his cursor landed on Hotel Non Dormiunt. No pop-up warning announcing only one room remaining. Anton had orchestrated it all.
“So as much as I’d like to, I can’t take all the credit,” Anton said. He opened the wardrobe and pulled out a fresh shirt and slacks.
Adam slammed his fists over and over on the window, screaming but unable to make a sound. His fists against the window didn’t even register. He was surrounded by infinite nothingness. He heard infinite nothingness. What part of his consciousness he still controlled spiraled into madness, unable to grasp the unbounded reality he found himself in.
Anton finished getting dressed and sat down on the bed to put on his shoes.
“You call these grown-up shoes? Jesus man, you’re fucking pathetic,” Anton said. He stood up and slid into his blazer, giving his reflection finger guns before exiting the room.
He checked the time on his phone, it wasn’t even eleven yet. The opening night kickoff party that Adam bailed on lasted until 2 am, but Anton was pretty certain he could charm his way into an after-party event. He tapped for an Uber as he walked down the hall, passing the elevator.
“Oh, I was with you on that deathtrap, Adam. Fuck that elevator. Fuck it straight in the ass. No way am I riding in that thing again.”
Locked away inside his own mind, Adam curled into a ball, screaming over and over, but making no sound.
Anton exited the stairwell, giving the front desk window a nod as he pushed through the revolving door, going around a second time just for fun.
His phone dinged, announcing that his driver Luciana was five minutes away. Anton clicked on her photo, making it bigger on his phone. She was an attractive young Hispanic girl, maybe early twenties. She looked like a tiny thing but she probably had an ass like Shakira that she could shake faster than the paint mixing machine at Lowes.
“I bet with a little sweet talking I could-”
“Don’t.”
It was just one word, but it rang out loud and clear. From his corner of their shared mind, Adam steeled his gaze at Anton’s reflection on the glass of his phone.
“You’re a quick learner,” Anton said, smiling as he turned his collar up to the rain. “Don’t worry, the only thing I’m sticking my dick in tonight is this party.”
The car pulled up under the awning and Anton held out his phone as he waved at the driver. She smiled, brushing her long brown hair from her eyes. Damn, she was cute. The Shakira caliber ass, however, was still in question.
“Hola senorita!” Anton said as he hopped in.
He pulled the door closed and they sped off towards the city.
Locked away inside his own mind, Adam watched the Hotel Non Dormiunt disappearing behind them in the fog and rain. He screamed, but no one heard him. Not even himself.
#GUEST BOOK
submitted by writechriswrite to nosleep [link] [comments]

No Good Deed (Part 1)

It was nearly midnight when I first saw her. There was only one 24 hour grocery store in my small hometown and she looked as out of place as anyone could possibly be. Rather than wearing the old faded denims that all the townspeople seemed to prefer she was dressed in a white, pressed blouse and an obviously expensive black, pencil skirt that reached to just above her knees. She stood out like a sore thumb. Unlike most of the working class farmers in our area she didn't dress plainly nor did she look old before her time. Her smooth, creamy white skin and long blonde hair revealed a pampered lifestyle that none of the townsfolk here could possibly afford. She also had wide, innocent green eyes that seemed oblivious to the harsh realities of this world. And I...well I was instantly smitten.
We had both arrived at the mom and pop shop at the exact same time. Myself, I had come for some late night microwave pizza and a few beers. And she, well I could only wonder as to what had brought such a beautiful and sophisticated young woman to this small place and at such a late hour. I froze in my steps when I noticed her. She swept by me with a shy smile and continued into the small establishment. I shook my head in an effort to clear my thoughts and followed her through the dimly lit entrance of the store. I made my quickly to the frozen food aisle to grab my pizza and then moved on to the wider beer and liquor section of the market. I was pleasantly surprised to find the same woman also standing there, seemingly debating over two brands of red wine. She looked up at me as I approached and gave me another quick smile as she hastily returned one bottle to the shelf and turned to walk purposely toward the checkout line. I hurriedly picked up a twelve pack of my favorite brand of imported lager and followed after her.
Due to the late hour, there was only one checkout lane open and I impatiently took note of the other shoppers standing in line. There was an old woman whom I instantly recognized as Dorothy Woodsworth at the front. She watched with an eagle's eye as the checker rang up her meager items, her fist tightly clenched over what looked to be stack of painstakingly clipped coupons. Behind her was a rather disheveled and dirty looking man in his late 30's. I didn't recognize him but with his numerous piercings, tattoos and the strong stench of alcohol and body odor, I was instantly on guard. The town had so few residents and even fewer tourists that I found it very odd to come across two strangers in the same night, especially at the same location.
He must be a drifter, I decided, and a rather suspicious looking one at that. Even more disconcerting then the man's appearance was the suspicious items that he was purchasing. I saw a box cutter, zip ties, garbage bags and large amounts of duct tape crowded into his small shopping basket. I somehow doubted that a man like this was starting some late night home improvement project. I instantly felt myself reacting as any young, hot blooded male would. I puffed out my chest, flexed my muscles and met his dark eyes in a "You don't scare me" kind of way. Behind the drifter but in front of myself stood...her, the beautiful young woman that I had been ogling this entire trip. Much to my dismay, the dirty man's gaze also seemed to focus on the young woman. His tongue kept darting out to wet his dry, chapped lips as his eye's raked up and down her body in a clearly lustful way. I felt my protective instincts roar to life as I watched her uncomfortable gaze dart quickly from old Mrs. Woodsworth to the strange man and back again as though seeking a safe place to land. I wracked my brain for some form of conversation that would distract the girl from the man's inappropriate scrutiny and put her more at ease.
"H-hi there, buying some wine, huh?" The words just fell out of my mouth and I visibly winced as I stated the painfully obvious in a choked voice. The unkempt man snorted and gave me an amused and knowing look. "I mean..."
"Yes, I am having a late dinner with a friend." She calmly said with a relieved smile. Her voice was as soft and alluring as the rest of her and I instantly felt my body start to relax. I couldn't help but hope that there was more than just gratitude behind that smile.
"Oh, dinner that sounds nice." I replied awkwardly "must going on a date then, huh?" She opened her mouth as if to reply to my question but after a moment she shut it again and turned her eyes toward the cashier without answering me. Too shy and embarrassed to press her further, I also turned my attention solely to the cashier and attempted to pretend that no one else existed. The young man, whom I vaguely recognized as the grandson of the owners -Timmy or Jimmy I think was his name- made quick, competent work of everyone's purchases and before I knew it I was all paid up and walking towards the store exit. The same mysterious woman walking only a short distance in front of me. Once I reached the parking lot I watched as she quickly walked to a car a few spaces away, placed the wine in her trunk and unlocked her car doors. I was already at my truck, as I was parked closer to the store than her and was about to climb into the driver's seat when something came over me, a last ditch attempt to catch the girl of my dreams, I suppose. "Hey." I called out to her. "My name is Sam and I...don't mean to bother you. But, I would really like to know your name...and well do you have a boyfriend or anything?"
The girl paused in her motion to open her door and raised one perfectly groomed eyebrow in answer to my question. Damn, that had sounded awkward and far too needy to be anything even approaching casual. But then I had always been somewhat awkward around the ladies. "I mean well, do you?" She smiled briefly, revealing a cute little dimple in her left cheek and I felt my heart melt even more.
"I am Mina. And no, I don't have...anyone like that. But please just trust me when I say that you don't want to get involved with me. I am...too much trouble." With that she flicked back her long hair with a careless movement of her pale, perfectly manicured fingers and slid into the front seat of her luxury car. Following suit I plopped down into the driver's side of my beat up pickup and sighed. "Wow, smooth," I sarcastically taunted myself, "I can't imagine why she didn't just fall into your lap after such a brilliant line like that." Punching my steering wheel in several frustrated movements I gloomily watched her car back up and head towards the exit of the parking lot. It was then that I noticed the top of a head peeking out of her rear window, barely visible in the backseat of her car.
"Wait. What the..." I trailed off and quickly backed out of my parking space to follow her car towards the exit. It was only when I was directly behind her that I realized I recognized whose head I had seen peering at me from her rear windshield. The long, greasy hair together with the reflection of the store's lights glinting off his many piercings finally clued me into who this was. Somehow, the same dirty man who was in line before us had slipped into the back of her car without her notice! He quickly ducked back down below eye level until I could no longer see him. Meanwhile, she had switched on her turn signal indicating that she was going to turn left out of the parking lot. Even though my home was in the opposite direction I too flipped on my left turn signal and prepared to follow her. I was concerned for her safety, given the rough appearance of the man and the fact that he was obviously hiding out in her car. I knew he must have bad intentions, there was just no other explanation. I fought the urge to simply blare my horn at her, knowing that the man was quite possibly armed and able to cause her fatal injury if he knew that he had been discovered.
Instead I followed closely behind her as she slowly made her way through the streets of downtown and then turned off to a smaller, less brightly lit road. I considered then rejected several strategies that might get her out of her car without alerting the menacing stow away in her backseat. Several nerve wracking minutes passed as she navigated through town before finally turning into an all night gas station and my heart leapt. Thank God, this was my chance! I quickly turned in behind her and stopped at the pump adjacent to hers. At this time of night I could see no other patrons and only one scrawny teenage boy who seemed to be manning the register from inside the small building. There was really no one else in sight. I could see no sign of the man in her back seat and concluded that he must have flattened himself onto the floor of her car. I climbed out of my front seat and pretended to start gassing up my already full tank. I tried to appear nonchalant as I knew I had to be smart about this. If I just ran over to her screaming as my first instincts demanded then I would likely just frighten her back into her car then be back at square one.
She got out of her vehicle and looked at me somewhat suspiciously as she began pumping her gas. I opened and closed my mouth several times, my mind racing to come up with a plan to get her away from her car."You know this place has great coffee." I began, "Could I buy you a quick cup?" She made an exasperated sound in the back of her throat before replying. "Boy, you just don't give up, do you?" Attempting a casual smile I said "I just really think we should get to know each other, that's all. Just give me ten minutes, one cup of coffee and if you're still not interested you can go on your way and I promise to never bother you again." Please, please let this work my mind chanted over and over again."I really can't," she finally said. "Look you seem like a nice guy but I am just not interested. Sorry."
"Damn." I hadn't meant to say that out loud and once it came out it sounded rather angry. I watched helplessly as she took a frightened step back and looked down at the gas nozzle that I had just been holding, not even bothering to put it into my tank as it was already full. "You followed me here, didn't you?" she asked accusingly. "Listen man, I have tried to be nice but if you don't back off right now I am going to call the cops, do you understand?" She angrily finished pumping her gas and slammed the nozzle back into position at the pump. She had every right to be upset and I knew that I was probably scaring the hell out of the poor girl. I just didn't know what else to do. I was not the kind of man who could just leave a helpless woman to the wicked plans of a deranged man. I returned the nozzle to it's compartment as I briefly considered calling the police myself.
We only had one sheriff, who always left the station promptly at six every evening. That left only a single, young deputy whom the whole town knew to be drunk far more often than not. I couldn't help but think it would be the wrong move to involve him. If this guy was armed and got spooked he could kill her long before we got close enough to stop him. This situation required far more delicacy then an inebriated and inexperienced cop would be capable of. But then what should I do? She was just about to climb back in her car when I desperately called out, "Wait Mina, don't go. You...your tire is flat! Come see." She made a movement as if she was about to get back out to check but then she merely shot me a fearful look over her shoulder and started her engine.
I quickly jumped back into my pickup and fired up the engine. When she turned out of the parking lot I hesitated a few moments before turning behind her. I followed slowly at what I hoped was a discreet distance and tried to plan my next move. I was cursing myself for not thinking of writing her a note and slipping it discreetly to her somehow. If only I had thought of that sooner! She made several turns which led her out of the downtown area and eventually turned down what appeared to be a long dirt road. I had thought I knew every inch of this city but I soon found myself in unfamiliar territory. I followed about 200 yards behind her and the tall stalks of corn on either side of the narrow road caused eerie shadows to dance on my windshield. My heart and mind seemed to be in a competitive sprint and I knew that the finish line lay somewhere at the end of this rural road.
There was no other option, I would just keep my distance until she reached her destination and then once she stopped I would intervene when the man made his move. I was too far away to see into her vehicle now but would still catch the occasional glimpse of what looked like the top silhouette of a head through her back window. I took a mental inventory of everything I had in my truck that could aid me. I had a cellphone with a flashlight and thankfully also had an old shotgun that my dad had lent me for a hunting trip several weeks prior. I hated hunting, I was not a violent man and couldn't understand the thrill my friends seemed to get from taking down a defenseless animal. But there wasn't much to do in my hometown and hunting had always been my buddies favorite pastime. I was actually very thankful for that now. After driving through the darkness for what seemed an interminable amount of time I suddenly realized that I could no longer see the back light's of Mina's car. I slowed my speed down to a crawl and scanned the area up ahead and to the sides. Thinking that the man might have decided to force Mina to drive into to corn fields I watched the road closely for any fresh tire tracks, but I saw nothing.
After traversing the road for another couple of minutes I pulled my truck over, removed the shot gun from the rack behind my seat and cautiously climbed out. The sounds of night creatures and crickets was nearly deafening way out here and the still, hot air began to coat every inch of my skin with slick sweat. I could see nothing around me and was just about to give up to my crushing defeat to save Mina when I heard a loud, shrill cry. I quickly turned in the direction of the scream and it was only then that I noticed what looked to be a huge old barn roughly 300 yards behind me."How the hell did I miss that?" I cursed myself as I jumped back into my truck, tossing the shotgun into the passenger seat and somehow managing to only take out a few of the towering stalks of corn in my haste to get turned back around on the road. No longer concerned about stealth I roared down the road as dirt and bits of rock hammered at my truck. Realizing that the situation had escalated far beyond my control I quickly whipped out my cell phone and dialed the emergency police number. It rang eleven times and I was near to hanging up when a sleepy male voice finally came on the line.
"Emmergacy. Whas-tss yer locatioon?" Came the familiar slurred voice of the deputy. Damn, why couldn't he have been sober, just this once? As quickly as I could I relayed the night's events, trying to speak in a clear, concise voice so that even a drunk hillbilly could comprehend the urgency of the situation."This had better not be a prank." The deputy said after I had finished my explanation. Suddenly sounding far more sober, with only a tiny hint of the slur still evident in his voice, I felt my hopes rise slightly. "We've had a string of people go missing this week and so far there have been zero real leads. If what you're saying is true than this girl could be in very real danger."
"It's definitely not a prank," I quickly assured him. "My name is Sam Larsen and I don't know the exact address but I am in a large cornfield roughly eight miles west of the Hilliard's farm. There's a huge barn or something in the center and that's where I believe the woman is being held. I heard a scream a few minute's ago but nothing else since and I need to go in-" I was abruptly cut off by several fast beeping noises on the line. Looking down at my phone I realized that the phone was no longer getting a signal. In such a rural area cellphone's here were notoriously unreliable. I tried calling back but it quickly became obvious that I had no service.
"Damnitt!" I yelled and threw the phone onto the seat in frustration. I was on my own now, there was no time to try to move to a place with a better signal. The poor woman might already be dead at this point and I needed to act NOW. I switched off my headlights and slowed the truck down to a slow crawl as I approached the old barn. I could see Mina's expensive black car parked carelessly in front of the decrepit old building, both of it's doors left wide open. Beyond that there was no other sign of life. Quickly scooping up the shotgun and re-pocketing my cellphone I opened the driver's side door and stealthily slid out of my truck. I was hyper sensitive to the slightest noise as I cautiously made my way towards the structure. Peeking into the nearest, grime smudged window I could vaguely make out two people. One was seated in a chair and seemed to be struggling against some type of restraints. The other stood a few feet away and it looked as though they held something large and threatening with both their hands. Both figures seemed to be arguing based on their hand movements and the muffled shouts I could barely hear through the thick walls. I walked around the entirety of the structure until I came to a large hole where the wood had disintegrated just enough so that I could crawl through without alerting them of my presence. Once inside, their voices were much clearer to me.
"Please just let me go, I will give you whatever you want and...and I won't tell anyone what happened here, I swear!" It sickened me to hear this sweet young woman begging for her life and I felt a white hot rage begin to well within me, replacing my earlier fear. It was almost completely dark inside, the only light seemed to come from a small candle or lantern towards the front of the building where the voices originated. I could see several long shadows cast onto the floor and walls of barn. Two of them clearly belonged to Mina and the drifter but there were also at least half a dozen large shadows that seemed to hang down from the ceiling. They were raised several feet of the ground and seemed to sway gently back and forth. I assumed that they were simply large farm tools and paid them little heed beyond the thought that I could potentially use one of them as a weapon. There was a thick, putrid odor that seemed to permeate the air and I had to choke back bile as it rose in my throat. Creeping closer I crawled my way around the moldy bales of hay and fallen beams, trying desperately to be swift but silent.
"Anything I want, huh?" I heard a man's deep, menacing voice say. "Well that's a mighty tempting offer and one I plan to take you up on. Of course, what I really want is you. I just want to have some fun, you know? There ain't much to do around these part's except hunt, and I believe I have already bagged my prize. Just as with any fine young doe, I will start by stringing you up, I will skin and gut you and then separate the...choice bits." The woman began to sob hysterically and I quickened my pace, only slowing when I was mere feet from the their location. I could see small tufts of smoke rising from an old fashioned oil lamp that was set on a work bench next to several sharp knives and what looked like ancient, dirty surgical instruments. The lantern gave off so little light in the cavernous old barn that I felt I was still sufficiently hidden from view. I quickly turned my attention to the woman who did indeed appear to be strapped tightly to an antique wooden chair. She was softly whimpering what sounded like a garbled prayer and her long hair was tangled around her tear streaked face.
Before I could pinpoint exactly where the male stood I felt several beads of sweat trickle down from my forehead into my eyes, stinging them and blurring my vision. I hurriedly swiped at one eye with my free hand before pressing it back down onto the ground. I was surprised when my hand landed in something wet and sticky and on reflex I recoiled and looked down. Even in the low light I could still make out the small pool of thick dark liquid. Oil? That was my first thought but after a quick sniff I realized that it was blood. I froze when another drop landed from above my head to join the growing puddle. Slowly, reluctantly I raised my head and nearly screamed in horror. A naked corpse, strung up by the feet, dangled only a few feet above me. It had once been a man, though he had been savagely mutilated beyond all recognition. Though he was clearly deceased, fresh blood still dripped from several gaping wounds. I felt bile rise in my throat once again and the urge to flee was so strong that it nearly overpowered me.
Only the thought of Mina, her beautiful body stripped of both flesh and dignity and strung up like an animal kept me from "noping" my way out of there right that second. You can do this, I told myself. You have the shotgun and you know how to defend yourself. Besides, the cops will be here any minute now. That is if they can find you. How can you be sure the deputy even heard your description of this place before the call was dropped...? No, don't think like that! The cops will come and if not you can always just shoot the guy! Just as I was wrapping up my internal pep talk two large black boots suddenly came stomping into my line of vision. My eyes darted up the entire length of the drifter, who suddenly seemed ten feet taller and twice as broad in my panicked state. He was holding a large machete and kept tightening then loosening his grip on it in a very unsettling away. It was clear that he was anxious to use it. He smiled broadly before saying "I thought I heard a rat scurrying around in the dark, looks like I was right. Such a determined little guy. Mina said it best I think, 'you just don't give up, do you?' Well you know what they say, no good deed goes unpunished."
"And you will be punished, that much I can promise you." That voice, it was...Mina? I watched in shock as she sauntered over to stand next to the huge brute. The same wide, eerie smile on her beautiful face. How had she gotten out of the chair? That was the only question my terrified brain could conjure at the moment. I clumsily struggled to my feet still gripping the shotgun in one hand though at the time I don't think I was even aware I still held it. Everything seemed to move in slow motion and my mind felt like an old computer that had been unceremoniously shut down and was now struggling to reboot. "My hero," Mina said in an ugly, mocking tone. "You came to save the poor damsel in distress from a cruel trap. I bet you never once thought that trap might have actually been set for you. Don't feel bad though, you're not the only one, they never see it coming. Men like you make this only too easy, almost takes the fun out of it all."
I could only stare blankly at both of them for several seconds as I felt my stomach swiftly drop and my comprehension slowly dawn. They were in this together, they planned this whole damn thing...and the disappearances the deputy mentioned...?
To be continued...
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