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I was a bank robber who came face-to-face with an ancient evil

I was a bank robber who came face-to-face with an ancient evil


Estimated reading time — 33 minutes

My name is Hunter Bell and – at the time of writing – I have a week left to live. Five years ago, I was convicted of thirteen counts of first degree murder and sentenced to death. The DA’s office, police and media have portrayed me as one of the most evil killers in recent times, holding me directly responsible for a bloody and sadistic massacre. But I’m not guilty of these heinous crimes. I want to make that clear before I go any further.

My account of the events on that horrific day were dismissed by the judge as a desperate attempt to get off on an insanity plea. This isn’t true, but I was found mentally competent and convicted on all charges. All my appeals have been exhausted and my execution date is scheduled for next week. I might receive a last-minute reprieve from the governor, but I very much doubt this will happen.

As far as the public are concerned, I’m evil incarnate…but they have no idea. I’ve seen true evil and looked him straight in the eye.

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So, with my death appearing imminent, I’ve decided to set the record straight. I’m not going to claim I was a saint. I had my run ins with the law during a misspent youth and spent some time in juvie. But I’d been on the straight and narrow for years and I never would have planned and executed an armed robbery if it hadn’t been for Max.

That’s my younger brother. Max was always a troubled kid. I guess you could describe him as emotional, immature and impulsive. He was always getting in trouble when we were young – picking fights with older kids and doing all kinds of crazy shit. As his older brother, I felt responsible for Max and was constantly bailing him out.

This pattern continued into our adulthood. Max developed a drug problem in his late teens and this led him down a dangerous path. He ended up owing 30k to a particularly violent drugs gang who demanded payment in full. To demonstrate they were serious, the gangsters chopped off Max’s pinkie finger, and their boss said he’d kill Max if he didn’t get the money within a week. There was no way my brother could come up with the cash on his own, so once again I stepped in to help.

The bank robbery we set up wasn’t a professional job by any stretch of the imagination. We certainly weren’t Ocean’s Eleven and – at best – our plan was a smash and grab job. But I was desperate to save my brother’s life and willing to cross the line into criminality to do so.
It was never our intention to hurt anyone. If all had gone to plan, nobody would have died. I guess we were naïve heading in, although I never could have anticipated the horrors we’d witness inside of that damned bank.

The crew I put together was four strong. This included Max and me of course. I considered keeping my brother out of it altogether, but this was his mess and it seemed only fair that he play a role in its resolution. Besides, I believed I could control Max as long as I kept a close eye on him.

The third man going into the bank was Dante. He was definitely the loose cannon of our number – a violent criminal with a long history of reckless behaviour. Still, Dante was the closest thing we had to a professional gangster, as he’d done five years for his involvement in a previous robbery and maintained links to the criminal underworld. And he was able to supply us with untraceable guns and a clean car.

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Our getaway driver was another potential problem. Dante had an associate who’d agreed to do the job, but he got arrested the day before the robbery and so we needed to find a last-minute replacement. That’s where Arnold came in.

Arnold was an old friend from high school who I knew I could trust, but he was no criminal. I explained our situation to Arnold and he reluctantly agreed to help on the condition that he wouldn’t carry a gun or step inside of the bank. His only job was to drive us to safety once the robbery was done.

As for the bank itself, we chose an old establishment located in a quiet suburb outside of the city. There was nothing particularly special or notable about the bank in question – no dark history that I was aware of. We only picked this establishment because it was a soft target. The nearest police station was ten minutes’ drive away, so even if the silent alarm was triggered, we should be able to make our getaway before the cops arrived.

We had a plan of sorts. While Max and I held the tellers and customers at gunpoint, Dante would force the manager to give us access to the vault. He reckoned we could take anywhere between 50 and 100k from the job, enough to pay off Max’s debt and still provide a healthy profit, although most of that would be Dante’s cut.

On paper it sounded easy – but of course there were a thousand things that could potentially go wrong, and our plan was amateurish at best. I knew the robbery was a high-risk venture and I did seriously consider calling it off on the morning of the robbery, but I couldn’t think of any other way of getting my brother out of this jam, so we went ahead. This is a decision I’ll regret right up to the moment they put the needle in my vein, because nothing the gangsters could have done to Max would have been worse than the horrors that followed.

The atmosphere inside the car was understandably tense as we drove to the job. Barely a word was spoken as Arnold parked up on the sidewalk and the three of us donned our masks and gloves and readied our guns. I was armed with a 9mm pistol, Max had a Magnum revolver, and Dante carried a twelve-gauge, pump-action shotgun. All our guns were loaded but – if things went to plan – not a shot would be fired.

I looked to our driver Arnold as we exited the vehicle, seeing the fear in his eyes as he gripped a tight hold of the steering wheel and sweated profusely. My friend wasn’t built for this, I knew as much. I placed a firm hand on Arnold’s shoulder, forcing him to look me in the eye as I tried to project confidence into my voice.

“Don’t worry buddy. We’ll be done before you know it.”

He broke eye contact and nodded his head whilst still maintaining a tight grip on the wheel. We both had walkie talkies to communicate in case there were any changes to the plan – but again, I hoped this wouldn’t be necessary.

Arnold’s demeanour didn’t exactly fill me with confidence, but I put this to the back of my mind as the three of us exited the vehicle and stepped out onto the sidewalk.

I’ll admit to experiencing intense trepidation as we approached the reinforced glass doors of the bank, tinted so we could not see inside. It was perfectly natural for me to feel apprehensive in this moment. I was about to cross the Rubicon and descend into the world of criminality. But it was more than this.

I felt a cold shudder running through my whole body as if a sixth sense had been activated inside of me. Something deep in my gut was screaming, telling me not to step inside. But it was already too late. Dante charged through the door first, and Max soon followed. The job was on and I had to do my part.

I had only limited time to assess my surroundings once we got inside, but immediately I could tell something wasn’t right. A tedious piped music played through speakers attached to the high ceilings. I found this continuous drone mildly irritating but thought little of it at the time.

Meanwhile, the bank’s interior was impressive – on the surface at least. The floors beneath our feet were adorned with marble tiles, and grand, Roman-style pillars stood on either side of us. However, on closer inspection, one could tell that the establishment had seen better days.

I noted the row of cashier tills in front of us but was surprised by the near total absence of people. There were no customers that I could see, and only one member of staff. We all saw the single, middle-aged woman with blonde hair tied up in a bun and her face caked with too much make-up. She stood behind the counter and metal security cage and surely saw us coming in.

One would expect a bank teller to react with horror when she saw three masked and armed men running towards her counter, but this lady didn’t bat an eyelid or move an inch. As we got in close, I saw the disconcertingly wide smile etched across her lips and a dark look in her brown eyes – one of barely concealed mischief and malice.

We pointed our guns in her face but she still didn’t flinch, and her smile did not falter as she spoke.

“Good afternoon gentlemen.” she said calmly, “What can I do for you today?”

The three of us looked at each other in confusion, our eyes meeting from beneath our balaclavas. Eventually it was Dante who replied, snarling through his clenched teeth as he did so.

“What – are you stupid or something? This is a robbery!”

The woman’s eyebrows rose as she responded in a surprising manner.
“Oh, how exciting!” she said. “Now gentlemen – this is my first robbery, so you’ll have to let me know how it all works.”

I saw Dante’s eyes narrowing in angry frustration as his finger was poised on the trigger. I feared my hot-headed companion was about to blow the woman’s head clean off, so I quickly intervened to prevent this – placing a firm hand on Dante’s shotgun before forcing him to lower his weapon.

And then I looked to the still grinning cashier, reading the plastic name tag attached to her light blue blouse which read – ‘Alice’. I lowered my own gun, trying to talk with the woman calmly in an attempt to defuse the tense situation.

“Listen Alice, we don’t want to hurt you…” I said.

“Oh, that’s good! Thank you so much for your consideration.” she interjected as her eyes lit up.

I paused for a moment, struggling to understand Alice’s bizarre behaviour. Was she in a state of shock? Did she even understand what was happening here?

“Alice, I need you to open the cash registers.” I instructed.

“Oh sure, no problem sir.” she shot back, her smile never fading.

She slammed her palm against a conspicuous red button on the counter in front of her, and suddenly all ten tills along the counter shot open at once. I saw my brother’s eyes light up in anticipation as he ran down the line, but his expression soon turned from one of excitement to disappointment and frustration.

“They’re all empty!” he exclaimed in dismay, “Every damn one of them!”

I glanced over the counter and discovered my brother was right. There wasn’t a single dollar or dime in any of the open cash registers.

“What the hell?” I muttered under my breath.

For a moment I was paralysed by confusion, but Dante’s patience had run out. I could only watch as our hot-headed comrade raised his shotgun and aimed it directly at Alice’s head before he shouted – “Listen you dumb bitch! You’re going to take me to the manager – now!”

“Ah, you want to see the manager.” Alice repeated, “I’m afraid he’s quite busy at the moment.”

“You’ll bring me to him or I’ll blow you the fuck away!” Dante snarled.

I knew Dante meant it, and there was nothing more I could do to control him. I watched as Alice’s eyes narrowed and her painted-on smile dropped for the first time.

“Well, if you insist sir.” she eventually replied.

With that, she pushed another button which opened the cage door, allowing access to the area behind the counter. Meanwhile, Alice calmly left her station and walked over to the now open door before inviting us inside.

“Well gentlemen, shall we proceed?”

We all looked at one another once again. No words were spoken, but I think the three of us were unsettled by how the situation was developing. Thus far, we’d witnessed the absence of customers, the cash registers all being empty, and the bizarre behaviour of Alice – the sole staff member on duty. It all seemed to add up to something disturbing, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong.

I just hoped that the manager would co-operate and grant us access to the vault. This seemed to be the only way we could still get something out of this damned job.

We followed Alice past the steel barrier and went through a second door which led to the corridors and offices in the rear of the bank. Alice – who I suppose was now our hostage – led our procession at a leisurely pace while the three of us followed with our guns trained as we scanned the corridors for other staff members. But we found none.

This only made me more suspicious, not to mention nervous. I looked up at the CCTV cameras affixed to the ceiling and realised that they all appeared to be switched off, which I found curious. And much to my annoyance, I realised that the piped music was also playing back here in the backrooms, except it seemed even louder and more intrusive.

But then, all of a sudden, the speakers burst to life and a horrific, high-pitched din blasted out, temporarily drowning out all other sounds. The awful noise assaulted my eardrums, but thankfully it ended after a few short seconds. A moment of silence ensued before a new and even more disturbing sound blared out.

To our collective horror, we heard a deep and disturbing laughter emitting from the speakers – a foul and sadistic cackling which sent a cold chill down my spine. We all stopped in our tracks, except for Alice – who continued her slow march down the windowless corridor without concern, her back turned on us as she went.

The sinister laughter continued for around 5 to 10 seconds, and then we heard his voice for the first time. I don’t quite know how to describe the voice which communicated through the bank’s speaker system. All I can say is that it was a deep, almost inhuman bellow full of malice and an almost sadistic glee.

“Three flies enter the spider’s web. They come willingly in search of easy pickings. But the spider sees everything, and there is no escape.”

My jaw dropped and the pistol shook in my hand. Max turned to face me and his eyes were filled with cold terror. But Dante continued to play the tough guy, growling as he tightened his grip on the shotgun.

“Somebody’s trying to fuck with us. I’m going to teach the son-of-a-bitch a lesson.”

I thought about this for a moment. Dante wasn’t the smartest guy in the world, but maybe he was right. The most likely explanation was that the manager or somebody working in the bank was trying to scare us off. But, if this was a ruse, was Alice in on it?

The bank teller ignored the strange warning, walking to the end of the corridor and opening the door on the left-hand side. Then she turned to face us, the twisted smile back on her lips as she addressed us in a typically polite but bizarre tone.

“The manager’s office. He’s ready to see you now.”

Max and I gave each other another look and I reckon we were both thinking the same thing. As brothers, we’d got into more than a few bad situations in our time. Sometimes we stood and fought, other times we ran. Max was the more impulsive of the two of us – the kind of kid who jumped off the cliff or entered the old, abandoned house without thinking. In fact, it was Max’s reckless behaviour which had gotten us into this mess in the first place.

But right then, my brother looked genuinely terrified, and he froze to the spot, seemingly unable to move forward. But I was the big brother and I needed to stay strong for Max, so I slapped him on the back and simply said – “Let’s go.”

Dante was either too dumb or too stubborn to be afraid however, and so he was first into the manager’s office, roughly pushing past the still smiling Alice as he went. Max and I followed behind our comrade, but suddenly Dante recoiled in horror, retreating from the doorway with a look of shock etched across his face.

“What the fuck?” he swore in disbelief.

I didn’t want to look inside of that room. Whatever Dante had seen, I knew it couldn’t be good. But somebody had to take charge in that moment, so I stepped up.

When I entered the office I discovered a scene of chaos – with furniture overturned and the computer monitor smashed. And in the centre of the wrecked office, behind the overturned desk, was a man who I guessed was the bank’s manager.

The middle-aged, grey-haired man was a mess. He’d been beaten to a pulp – his ripped shirt covered in blood, his nose broken, and his left eye swollen shut. He was tightly tied to his own chair with wire that cut into his skin, and he was unconscious or possibly dead. It was hard to tell, but clearly someone had done a number on him. But who was responsible for this brutal assault? And why had they done it?

I stood in the doorway with my two companions for a long moment, looking upon the bloodied and bound bank manager. I read the tag on his shirt which read – ‘Hello, my name is Andrew’. It seemed like a sick joke given the circumstances.

I felt a hand on my shoulder which made me jump, and I turned to see my brother, easily recognisable despite the mask covering his face.

“Hunter, what the hell is going on?” he exclaimed.

“Don’t use my real name!” I shot back angrily, although my anger softened once I saw the regret in my brother’s eyes.

Looking back at the beat-up manager – who I now knew was called Andrew – something suddenly clicked in my head.

“It’s another crew.” I said firmly.

“What?” Dante asked in confusion.

“Think about it man.” I replied knowingly, “The bank’s empty. Some psycho’s calling us out on the PA. And now we find this poor bastard, beaten to hell. Another crew got here before us, and we’re both robbing the same bank!”

It was the only explanation that made sense to me in that moment. Max looked as concerned as I was at this revelation, but Dante remained defiant.

“Those assholes are going to regret stepping in on our patch.” he spat, as he cocked his shotgun.

I wasn’t so sure however. It seemed like this job was going south real quick, and I didn’t like all these deviations from the plan. My instincts were strongly telling me to call Arnold on the walkie talkie and abort the whole operation. I wanted to run the hell out of there, but it was Max who persuaded me against this course of action.

“That guy…” he muttered whilst pointing to the chair-bound manager, “Is he dead?”

I walked in closer and saw the man was breathing.
“He’s still alive but out cold.” I confirmed with some relief.

“We’ve got to help him.” Max said suddenly.

I shot around in surprise, meeting my brother’s eye and soon confirming that he was indeed serious.

“This isn’t on us brother. He’s not our responsibility.”

“You said no-one would get hurt.” Max reminded me, “We can’t turn a blind eye.”

I sighed aloud. This was a hell of a time for my brother to develop a conscience, but deep down I knew he was right. Dante had a different perspective however.

“Sure we need the manager.” he proclaimed, “He’s the only one who can get us into the vault.”

I snorted before replying. “What about Alice?”

Dante’s eyes suddenly shot open as he looked from side-to-side and out of the door.
“Oh shit!” he swore.

I almost flipped out in that moment because I realised that Alice – the bank teller turned hostage – had disappeared, slipping away whilst we were arguing amongst ourselves.
“God damn it man!” I screamed, shouting at Dante. “Find her and bring her back!”

Dante nodded his head before darting through the doorway and out into the corridor as he searched for our escaped hostage.

I shook my head before speaking to Max, saying – “Okay then. Let’s get this guy loose. “

I withdrew my pocket knife and cut the wires binding the manager’s wrists and ankles, and then I repeatedly poked the man on his shoulder to wake him up.

The manager named Andrew slowly regained consciousness. After a moment, his eyes shot open and he screamed, making me retreat in shock.

“Oh my God!” he cried, “Please, no more!”

I just stood there awestruck, looking into Andrew’s wide, terror-filled eyes and wondering who the hell had done this to him. In the end, it was Max who ran forward and attempted to calm the man down, saying – “Hey, don’t worry buddy. We’re not going to hurt you.”

He held Andrew down as the man thrashed in a blind panic, but Max’s efforts were ultimately successful, as the manager adjusted to his new situation and regained some level of composure. But still, he looked over at Max and I with understandable suspicion, no doubt noting our masks and guns.

“You aren’t the cops.” he said cautiously.

“No, we’re not the cops.” I confirmed, “We came here to rob you, but I guess somebody beat us to it.”

Andrew shook his head vigorously. “You don’t understand. You have no idea what you’re dealing with. We have to get out of here now!”

With that he tried to stand up from his chair, only to stumble whilst clutching his bleeding forehead. Max and I darted forward to grab him before he collapsed.

“We need to get you some help.” I said with concern, “Do you have a first aid station in this joint?”

“Yes. In the kitchen.” Andrew confirmed with a meek nod, “But we need to be careful. He’s still out there.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll take care of this asshole.” I said, whilst pointing to the gun in my waistband.

But Andrew was right – I had no idea of who or what we were facing. Max went ahead, his revolver drawn, as Andrew and I lagged behind. Andrew directed us towards the staff kitchen with a weak nod of his head, but we didn’t make it that far.

Suddenly we were all alerted to a sound coming from behind us, a loud and surprisingly jovial whistling accompanied by the thump of heavy boots on the tiled floor.

We all swung around in time to see a man casually walking down the corridor towards us, smiling and whistling as he came. The man was a security guard dressed in a crisp, dark blue uniform. He was of advanced age – his skin wrinkled and hair white, and there was a strange, almost crazed look in his eyes. But what really concerned me was the gun he carried in his holster.

The security guard halted about ten yards away from us, his grin widening as he stopped whistling and said – “Howdy folks, what’s going on here?”

I slowly reached for my pistol, but – before I could do anything – Max pushed past me and aimed his gun at the guard’s chest.

“Freeze asshole!” my brother ordered.

“Don’t! Don’t shoot him!” cried Andrew, as the injured bank manager suddenly found his voice.

“That’s just Carl.” he explained further, “He’s our guard – close to retirement. A good man.”
I continued to support Andrew as he mustered the strength to shout over to his employee.
“Do as these men say Carl. We don’t want any trouble.”

Carl’s smile turned to a frown as he replied in a disappointed tone.

“Oh man! I’ve been waiting my whole career for this. I want to be the hero who stops the bad guys in their tracks!”

I was concerned and baffled by the old man’s response, but when I looked to Andrew, I saw his good eye widen in terror as he whispered fearfully in my ear.

“Oh God. It’s him! He taken on Carl’s form!”

“What?” I exclaimed in disbelief.

But there was no the time for an answer. Max cocked his revolver, aiming as he shouted his final warning.

“Throw your gun down and put your fucking hands up!” he cried.

I wanted to intervene but found myself lost for words. I knew Max was scared, even though he was acting tough. My brother was many things, but he wasn’t a killer. But ‘Carl’ – or whoever he really was – would not back down.

“Hey pal,” he exclaimed with an almost child-like excitement, “How about we settle this with an old-fashioned shoot out? I’ll even give you the first crack. What do you say buddy?”

“Don’t do this old timer!” Max replied, his voice starting to break, “I will shoot you!”

“Okay!” Carl replied enthusiastically, as his wrinkled hand made for his gun holster, “On a count of three then. One…Two…”

BANG. Max fired a single shot from his revolver, and it struck Carl in the centre of his torso. The old man keeled over and grasped at his chest in an overly dramatic manner, crying – “Oh man, you got me!”

But, when he removed his hands, there was no bullet wound or blood. Perhaps he was wearing a Kevlar vest, but something definitely wasn’t right. My brother still held his smoking revolver aloft but his hand was now shaking and he seemed paralysed by fear.
Meanwhile, Carl smiled cruelly as he said – “My turn.”

With that, he drew his own gun with incredible speed and aimed at my brother.
“No!” I screamed, dropping Andrew like a sack of potatoes as I darted forward to protect Max.

But there was no time. I saw Carl squeezing the trigger and braced myself for the worst, but all we heard was an empty click. With that, Carl burst into hysterics – emitting a cruel, inhuman cackle as his dark eyes lit up.

“No way man!” he chuckled, “I’m not letting you guys off so easy.”

And with that, the security guard turned on his heels and sprinted down the corridor in the opposite direction, soon disappearing around the corner.

“What the fuck?” I muttered under my breath, as my exhausted brain attempted to make sense of what I’d just witnessed.

I looked to Max and saw my brother was frozen, his gun still aimed at the empty space. Slowly and carefully, I placed my hand on his shaking arm and forced him to lower his gun. Next, I went to the aid of Andrew, who was still sprawled on the floor where I’d dropped him.

I was helping the manager back up to his feet with my left hand when I spotted a figure running towards us from further along the corridor. Drawing my gun with my right hand, I aimed and prepared to fire, only just stopping myself when I saw our masked and shotgun-wielding companion running towards me.

“Whoa! Take it easy boss!” Dante cried.

I lowered my weapon and addressed him.

“What the hell happened to you?” I snapped.

“I was looking for the woman.” he replied defensively, “Heard the gunshot and thought you guys needed help.”

I nodded my head in acknowledgement.

“Did you find Alice?” I asked, suddenly remembering about the missing hostage.
Dante paused before replying and I swore the fire behind his eyes had faded, as if something inside of him had broken.

“Yeah, I found her…and the others. I think you’re going to want to see this boss.”

I didn’t like what I was hearing, not at all. Nevertheless, when Dante turned and slowly started walking back down the corridor, the three of us followed, and I believe we all dreaded what we would find.

We smelt it before we saw it, my nostrils assaulted by the foul stench of death. I saw the trail of dried blood on the tiles, leading us towards the scene of a mass slaughter. We turned another corner and discovered the much sought after vault. The security cage in front lay open although the thick, steel door of the vault remained firmly shut.

But between the cage and the safe lay a pile of mutilated corpses – human beings butchered like animals in a horrific scene. I counted ten bodies in total – some wearing staff uniforms and others dressed in casual clothes or business suits. All had their hands tied back their backs with wire, and their throats had been cut from ear-to-ear, spilling blood all across the tiled floor.

Andrew cried out with grief when he saw the bodies and I realised that many of the victims had been his co-workers. I watched as the bank manager scanned the dead faces as if searching for someone, and he appeared relieved when he didn’t find them amongst the pile of corpses.

My brother didn’t react well to the bloody scene, recoiling in horror as he removed his mask and retched in the corner. Even Dante remained solemnly silent and it seemed the bloodbath was too much for him to bear. I fought against my instincts as I walked over to the stack of bodies and examined the victims in closer detail.

I almost jumped out of my skin when I saw the name tag on one of the dead women, because it read ‘Alice’. Looking at her face, I realised she was the very same blonde-haired, middle-aged woman who’d met us at the front desk, except this Alice had her throat cut open. She might have been murdered in the few minutes since we’d last seen her, but her body was cold and pale, and she was bled out. By my reckoning, Alice had been dead for hours.

But it got even weirder. As I inspected the other corpses I soon came across Carl – the white-haired security guard who’d confronted us in the corridor only two minutes before. He’d been killed in the same brutal manner as the others and had clearly been dead for some time.

This made no sense at all, and I didn’t know how to explain it. But I had a feeling that the bank manager could provide some answers. I turned towards Andrew who was leaning against the wall with his head in his hands.

“What the hell happened here?” I demanded, “Who did this?”

Andrew trembled, not making eye contact as he whispered his reply. “I don’t know what he is, not exactly. I just know that he’s not human.”

“What the fuck do you mean?” Dante snarled.

Andrew raised his head, glaring at Dante with his good eye.
“Call him a demon or a shapeshifter if you like. You’ve seen how he can take the form of those he’s murdered. He’s a ruthless killer with super-human strength, and your bullets won’t stop him.”

“That’s bullshit!” Dante replied, although his voice seemed uncertain.

As for me – I could hardly believe what I was hearing, but I couldn’t think of any other logical explanation for the horrors we’d witnessed.

“What does he want?” I asked firmly, although I’ll admit that I dreaded hearing the answer.
A coldness came across Andrew as he lowered his head and his voice reduced to a whisper.
“There’s a sealed lock box in the vault that’s been there for decades – long before I took this job. My predecessor told me to never let anyone get their hands on that box, no matter what. I didn’t understand why at the time, but now I do. I don’t know what’s inside the box or what it means to him, but this monster will do anything to get to it.”

He paused briefly, nodding towards the pile of dead bodies. “He killed them all to try and get inside, but I’m the only one who knows the combination to the safe. The bastard beat the shit out of me…and he might have broken me if you guys hadn’t arrived when you did.”

I shook my head in disbelief, trying to come to terms with the hell we’d unwittingly walked into. I was still considering our next move when there was a further development. Our attentions were drawn back to the pile of bodies as we heard a sudden, spluttering cough as someone we thought was dead suddenly sat up, his eyes filled with terror as he cried out.
“We’ve got a live one!” Dante exclaimed.

I climbed over the bodies, offering a helping hand to the survivor. He was a young man of slim build and sporting a tidy beard. The kid was covered in blood but I couldn’t see any injuries on his body. His hands were bound but I soon cut him loose with my knife.

“Oh shit! Oh shit!” the kid kept repeating as he slowly recovered from the shock.

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I helped him up to his feet and guided him away from the other bodies. Meanwhile, my brother came over to assist.

“Hey man, are you hurt?” Max asked sympathetically.

“No…I don’t think so.” the kid whimpered through trembling lips as he glanced back wearily at the corpses.

“What’s your name buddy?” I asked.

“Marco.” he replied shakingly, “My name’s Marco.”

“Are you a customer Marco?” Andrew asked suspiciously.

“Yeah.” he replied whilst meeting the bank manager’s eye. “I just came in to make a deposit, then this pyscho took us all hostage and started killing people. I played dead and hid myself under the other bodies until he was gone.”

I took a deep breath before I next spoke, feeling that our group needed leadership in this moment.

“We’re going to get out of here. All of us.” I said firmly.

“Are you fucking kidding?” Dante exclaimed, “What about the money?”

“To hell with the money.” I replied, “We need to get out before this thing kills us all. Come on.”

There were no further arguments as our motley crew swiftly proceeded back towards the lobby.

However, we were stopped in our tracks by Marco, who suddenly exclaimed – “Hey, do you guys hear that?”

I turned around and saw Marco placing his ear up against a closed door off the corridor. We all went silent and – right enough – I could hear a soft whispering coming from the other side of the door.

“What’s in there?” I asked, addressing my question to Andrew.

“Nothing.” he replied, “It’s just a storage closet.”

I sighed deeply, not liking the direction this was going.

“It could be another survivor.” Max stated hopefully.

Yeah, or it could be a trap, I thought but did not say. But, despite my doubts, I slowly made my way over to the cupboard, my gun in my right hand as I reached out while using my left to carefully turn the handle. I yanked the door open and aimed my pistol, but I lowered the gun once I saw the hostage.

The young woman inside was bound and gagged on the floor next to the maps and cleaning products. She was dark-haired, olive skinned and wore the same light blue blouse which marked her out as a bank employee. Her green eyes were initially full of fear but lit up with a spark of hope once she saw us.

To my surprise, Andrew shoved past me, seemingly forgetting about his own injuries as he rushed forward to untie the young woman.

“Isabella, thank God!” the bank manager exclaimed emotionally as he removed the woman’s gag. “I feared the worst when I saw the others.”

Isabella was equally emotional, passionately embracing the manager once her hands were free.

“Oh Andrew, what have they done to you?”

The way they acted together, I thought there was more to Andrew and Isabella’s relationship than a simple boss-employee dynamic, but this was not my concern.

“Come on guys.” I interjected, “You can have your reunion later. We need to get out of this damn bank.”

All were in agreement on this point, and so we kept on moving. When our party walked back out into the bank’s lobby, I think we all experienced a grim foreboding. The CCTV cameras were non-operational, and Andrew explained that the system had been shut down by the intruder just before he entered the building. Nevertheless, I had the unpleasant feeling that someone was watching our progress.

It was only once we reached the tinted glass doors that I remembered about Arnold, our getaway driver. We’d been out of contact for several minutes and he was no doubt wondering what had occurred. Reaching for my walkie talkie, I made the call to my friend.
“Arnold. Do you copy? Over.”

There was a brief crack of ominous static before he replied.
“Hunter. Where the hell have you been?” came the excited response.

“It’s a long story. But we’re coming out. And we’re bringing some people with us.”

“People?” Arnold shot back through the static, “What do you mean?”

“I’ll explain everything. Just get the car ready.”

With that, I placed my hand on the door handle, only to find it was locked. A moment later and I tried the other door, only to get the same result.

“God damn it!” I swore in frustration, before raising the walkie talkie to my lips.

“Arnold. We’re locked in. I need you to open the door from your side.”

“For God’s sake.” Arnold swore, but a moment later we saw his dark silhouette on the other side of the glass as he tried in vain to force his way in.

At this point, Dante lost his patience, and before I could stop him he cocked his shotgun, shouting – “Fuck this!”

And then he stepped forward and opened fire. The sound of the shot was near deafening as it reverberated around the empty lobby.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” I shouted angrily at Dante.

He merely shrugged his shoulders. But of course, the glass was bulletproof and had failed to shatter. Suddenly my walkie talkie burst to life.

“What happened?” Arnold asked in a panic.

“Never mind.” I replied in an attempt to reassure him, “We’re going to have to find another way out. Arnold, I need you to sit tight.”

“No.” came the firm reply, “Screw that Hunter! I didn’t sign up for this!”

I sighed in frustration, trying to maintain a calm tone as I spoke into the radio.
“Listen Arnold. I know this isn’t what we planned, but we really need you now.”

“No. I won’t go to prison for you.” he replied emphatically, “I’m sorry Hunter, but you’re on your own.”

With that, Arnold ended the communication and his silhouette disappeared from the doorway. I rolled my eyes, looking upon my bedraggled and scared companions. I could see the hope slowly disappearing from their bloodshot eyes. But they were looking to me for leadership and I needed to keep their hope alive somehow.

“Is there another way out?” I asked, addressing my question to Andrew.

“Yes.” he confirmed, “But odds are he’s blocked that door too.”

“Can we call for help?” Max asked.

“No cops!” Dante replied firmly.

“It’s not an option.” Andrew said with a shake of his head, “He cut off the phone lines before he came in. Even the cell service is down. The bastard’s thought of everything.”

There was a moment of silence before the bank’s speakers burst to life and our captor spoke to us with his chilling words.

“The flies attempt to escape, bringing a few strays with them. But the spider is not finished with them yet. Still, now is not the time for despair. A deal can be made. All parties can obtain what they desire.”

With that, the broadcast ended, and we were left in ominous silence.
“He wants to make a deal with us?” Max eventually asked.

“You can’t give him what he wants.” Andrew said firmly.

“Why not?” Dante interjected, “He wants into the vault, and so do we. What’s the problem?”

“You can’t let him win!” Andrew shouted angrily.

A heated argument might well have ensued, except I intervened.
“We’re not going to play this pyscho’s game.” I stated firmly, shooting a hard glare towards Dante as I did so.

This meant I needed to come up with an alternative plan. I was still thinking when I heard a foul laughter coming from behind me.

We all shot around to look upon Marco – the mysterious survivor we’d found amongst the bodies. But he wasn’t Marco anymore. The man had transformed into something demonic – growing in statue as his eyes lit up with a predatory zeal and his teeth turned into fangs. And to make matters worse, the nails on his left hand had grown into talons – each six inches in length and as sharp as daggers.

“Oh Jesus! It’s him!” Max exclaimed.

“Wow!” the demon replied sarcastically, “I guess he’s the smart brother, right?”

“What do you want from us?” I shot back, meeting the demon’s gaze despite my fear.

“I told you. All I want is a deal. Let’s work together, then everyone can go their separate ways.”

“Don’t trust him!” Isabella screamed, “He’s evil!”

He shot her a murderous glare and raised his claw menacingly.

“Fuck you psycho!” Dante suddenly swore, before he fired at near point-blank range.
The sheer force of the shotgun blast threw Marco backwards, and his limp body lay motionless on the tiled floor of the lobby. Dante laughed nervously, turning away from his victim before saying – “You see? He’s not so tough!”

But a moment later and Marco was back on his feet – the hole in his chest miraculously healing itself as he roared with all the fury in hell. Dante’s eyes widened in terror as he swung back around. He tried to re-aim his shotgun but the demon was on him in an instant.
In one swift action, Marco knocked the shotgun out of Dante’s hands. And then the demon thrashed out with his clawed hand, slicing deep into Dante’s jugular. Our comrade clutched at his cut throat as his blood sprayed in all directions. Dante managed to turn and face us, his eyes filled with shock and pain, and then he collapsed heavily to the floor, bleeding out in a matter of seconds.

I was overcome by anger, raising my gun and firing shot after shot at the murderous demon. Max followed suit, shooting from his revolver. But of course, it was futile.

“Really?” Marco exclaimed, as the multiple bullet wounds on his body healed instantly.

A second later, he used some kind of black magic to tear the guns from our hands and fling them across the floor.

And then, ‘Marco’ – or whatever the hell he truly was – looked upon us like a spider observing its trapped prey. It was a terrifying experience. It’s not just that he was virtually invincible and capable of ripping us all to shreds. It seemed he could also see into our black hearts, revealing dark secrets about us that he couldn’t possibly have known.

As he stared through me with those dark, demonic eyes I felt my resolve melting away.
“Hunter Bell.” he sneered, “The ‘good’ brother. Always coming through for his younger sibling. That’s your story, isn’t it?”

I didn’t answer, lowering my head as I could no longer meet the monster’s gaze.
“Let’s be honest Hunter, shall we?” the demon continued, “You’ve always felt superior to your little brother, haven’t you? You secretly want him to fail so you can step in and play the hero.”

I shook my head vigorously but couldn’t find the words to respond. And then Marco delivered the killer blow.

“Tell me Hunter, did you ever tell your brother about that time in high school? You know, when you screwed his girlfriend behind his back?”

Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. I meekly turned to face Max, seeing the disappointment and hurt in his eyes. Thankfully for me, the demon soon turned his attention to a new target.

“Andrew Bailey. A respected bank manager and family man. But isn’t it strange how he doesn’t wear his wedding ring to work? How odd that he spends so many nights working late with young Isabella…”

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I saw the look of guilt in the manager’s eyes and realised he was indeed having an affair with his employee. But Marco wasn’t done with him yet.

“You’re going to open that vault for me.” he snarled aggressively.

“I won’t.” Andrew replied defiantly.

“Oh, I think you will.” Marco said menacingly.

What happened next was a violent blur as the demon shot forward at incredible speed, reaching out and grabbing hold of Isabella before any of us could react.

He held his sharp talons to her throat, making it clear that he could end her life with a mere flick of his wrist.

“Oh God!” Isabella whimpered as she froze in terror.

“No! Don’t hurt her!” Andrew cried out in a panic.

“You know what you’ve got to do to save her.” Marco replied ominously.

“Okay, I’ll do it. I’ll open the vault.” Andrew confirmed, his resolve now broken.

“Good.” said Marco, a cruel smirk now evident on his twisted face.

“The manager will open the vault and the two of you will go inside and get what I want.” he said, whilst pointing to me and Max.

“Why do you need us?” I asked nervously, “Why can’t you get it yourself?”

“He can’t cross the threshold…” Andrew interrupted.

“Silence!” Marco spat out angrily before turning his attention back to me.

“You shall retrieve this item for me, or your brother will be the next to die. Everything else inside the vault is yours to keep.”

It seemed like a fair deal on the surface, but I felt sure that this evil entity could not be trusted. But in that moment we had few options, and so I reluctantly agreed to co-operate in the hope that the demon would keep his word.

Soon after and we were forced to climb over the pile of corpses to get to the vault. The entity calling itself Marco kept a close eye on us all and continued to keep the sobbing Isabella in his tight grasp, with his claw around her throat.

Andrew hesitated before he entered the combination to the safe, but he gave in once Marco threatened his secret lover once again, drawing blood from her neck and making the poor girl squeal in terror.

With a shaking hand, the bank manager did what was required of him, entering the combination before turning the handle and opening the heavy steel door.

Once he’d done so, Andrew snarled at our captor, shouting – “I’ve done what you asked. Now, let her go!”

Marco grinned sadistically, and for a moment I thought he would slit her throat just for the hell of it. But thankfully, he didn’t do so.

“As you wish.” he eventually answered, and he kept his word.

As soon as she was free, Isabella ran over to Andrew, and the two embraced emotionally.
“Now.” Marco continued, whilst staring at Max and me, “You two need to get me what I desire.”

Max and I exchanged a fearful glance. I nodded to my brother and we both slowly walked towards the artificial light inside of the vault. We saw bundles of cash and sealed lock boxes stacked up on metal shelves on either side of us.

“The item I require is the third along on the top shelf, on your left-hand side. Bring it to me.” Marco ordered sternly.

I walked over to it and placed my hands on the cold metal box, feeling a terrible foreboding as I did so. The box was small – only six inches in diameter – but it felt heavy in my arms. I struggled to carry the weight over to the monster known as Marco, seeing the deep hunger and desire in his dark, inhuman eyes, as he held out his claw-like hands in greedy anticipation.

“Give it to me!” he ordered in a booming voice, “Give it to me now!”

I delayed for a moment, glancing across at Andrew who shook his head fearfully. But, to my eternal shame, I gave the monster what he wanted, placing the box right in Marco’s hands.
The beast roared in joyous celebration as he smashed the box open. Looking inside, I saw a small amulet attached to a golden chain with a blood-red ruby at its centre. It didn’t look like much at first glance – a simple piece of jewellery of no great significance. But clearly the necklace was of great importance to the entity masquerading as Marco, as he placed it around his neck and cried out in triumph.

“At last – after all this time – my full power is restored! Now nothing can stop my ascent to glory!”

Those prophetic words chilled me to my very bones, and I realised I’d surely made a terrible mistake. But it was done now, and I couldn’t take it back.

I turned away from the monster, looking back into the vault and watching as Max filled bags with bundles of cash.

“There’s more money than we thought bro. Maybe a quarter of a million in total.”

This brought some hope back into my weary heart. Could we still make it out with the loot? Maybe, in spite of all the death and suffering, we would be able to pay off my brother’s debt and still have enough money to start over. It seemed like salvation was within reach.

Marco continued to watch our progress carefully before he suddenly made an unusual request.

“That bag of coins beside the door. Bring it to me.”

“Why?” Max asked in confusion, “We’re here for the dollars, not the cents.”

“I want it.” Marco snapped back, “Drag the bag outside of the vault and leave it there.”
Max shrugged his shoulders and complied, dragging the sack of coins out through the doorway and placing it at Marco’s feet.

Soon we had grabbed and bagged as much money as we could carry. Then I turned back to our captor, not liking the malicious glint in his eye as he watched over us.

“We’ve done as you asked.” I said cautiously, “Now, will you keep your word and let us go?”
“Of course.” he replied with a sly grin that was far from convincing, “The doors are open. All you need to do is walk out…But, before you leave, I would like to give you all a parting gift to show my gratitude.”

I didn’t like the sound of that, not one little bit.

“That’s really not necessary.” I replied nervously, “We just want to leave.”

“Oh, but I insist!” Marco answered ominously, his eyes lighting up with a sadistic glee.

I knew something bad was coming but couldn’t have predicted what the monster was capable of. We all just stood in awestruck horror as the demon lifted his arms and spoke an incantation in a language I could not understand.

And, as he spoke the words, the coins from the bag rose up into the air – hundreds of pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters – all pulled towards Marco like he was a giant magnet. Soon, the coins swirled around his body like debris captured in a tornado – their speed increasing as the whirlwind reached a terrifying crescendo.

Marco began to cackle maniacally, and we all backed off, fearing the worst. But, on this occasion, my brother saw what was coming and stepped into the fray, pushing me to one side and standing between me and the coming attack.

“No!” I screamed.

But it was already too late, because a second later and the weaponised coins fired outwards at incredible speed, cutting through walls, flesh and bones. I saw my companions struck down as hundreds of coins penetrated their defenceless bodies. All fell simultaneously with awful, surely fatal wounds.

Andrew and Isabella died together in each other’s arms. For what it’s worth, I believe their love was genuine. And then there was my little brother.

Max had been cut to shreds, bucking the trend of a lifetime as he sacrificed himself to save me. He was still alive and conscious but only barely, as he bled from dozens of deep wounds.

I used all the strength in my body to lift my little brother and carry him to safety, as the demon continued laughing cruelly behind us. I thought Marco would finish off the job and strike me down, but instead he allowed me to leave with my dying brother.

I made it back to the lobby and discovered the door was indeed unlocked. All I wanted to do was leave that cursed bank, and so I carried Max just a little farther, carefully laying his broken body on the sidewalk as I looked down into his quickly fading eyes.

I tried to hold back the tears as I grasped hold of my brother’s cold hand, and he struggled to speak between laboured breaths.

“I’m sorry brother. This is all on me.”

“Don’t say that Max.” I replied with emotion, “You saved me.”

“At least I finally did something right.” he answered weakly.

Max tried to laugh but he spluttered as the pain overwhelmed him.

“I love you, big brother.” he managed to say.

“Love you too Max.” I replied tearfully.

And then he coughed up blood and closed his eyes for the final time.

I was overcome with grief, burying my head in my hands as I sobbed uncontrollably. But my attention was drawn upwards as once again I heard the foul laughter of the demon known as Marco. I saw the beast on the roof of the bank – casting me a final, spiteful glare before he leapt onto the roof of the neighbouring building and disappeared from sight.

I continued to hold onto my brother’s body as my ears were assaulted by sirens, and within minutes a dozen police cars sped onto the street, with heavily armed officers jumping out and aiming their guns at me, demanding that I surrender.

After my arrest, the police pinned all thirteen deaths on me. I was charged with murdering every person who died inside of the bank – including Dante and Max. I believe the cops and the DA knew more than they admitted in court. But I was a convenient patsy, and what could I say in my defence?

The account I gave to the police sounded like bullshit. There was no evidence that Marco – or whoever the hell he really was – had ever been inside the bank. There was no CCTV footage of what occurred in the building that day and no other survivors to back up my story. They knew I’d gone into the bank armed and ready to commit a criminal act, so the jury had little sympathy for me.

In the five years I’ve been on death row, I’ve had plenty of time to think – about Max, my life choices, and the beast I encountered on that fateful day. My brother’s death wounded me greatly, but perhaps Max was always destined for a tragic end.

But my greatest regret is handing the amulet over to Marco. I don’t know what he’s done or intends to do with his newly restored power, but it can’t be anything good.

As for my own fate, in recent years I’ve come to accept that I will die in the execution chamber, and I had made peace with that fact. But then, just yesterday, I received a most unwelcome visit to my cell.

I heard whistling early that morning and it brought back horrific memories. Second later, a guard appeared at my door, looking in at me through the hatch. I knew straight away who it really was. Those dark, inhuman eyes and the cruel smirk were an instant give away.

“Howdy pal!” the demon said jovially, “Long time, no see.”

I should have been frightened but instead I was furious. I couldn’t believe that this monster had come back to taunt me in my final days.

“What the fuck do you want?” I spat.

“Now now, Hunter.” the demon replied, his grin never faltering, “I’ve just come to drop in on my old friend in his hour of need.”

I shook my head in disgust, laughing in spite of the circumstances.

“I’m not going to play your sick games any longer.” I replied defiantly, “You have no leverage over me. My brother’s dead, and I’ll be following him soon enough.”

“Yes, your brother’s mortal life ended five years ago.” he confirmed, “But his immortal soul is still suffering. You’ll be going to the same place very soon, and no doubt Max still needs his big brother’s help in the afterlife. Luckily for you, I have some influence over in the other realm. I can help you and your beloved brother once you cross over. For a price of course.”

My heart sank in that moment because I knew he had me once again. I thought my worries would end once they put that needle in my arm, but this was wishful thinking. And in the end, I have no choice. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep my brother safe, even if I have to fight through the pits of Hell to do so.

Credit: Woundlicker

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