Expo Burn It All Down




There was a loud crack as Sam swung her hammer. It was a sickening kind of crack, metal on bone, and she knew for a fact she had shattered his kneecap. She knew this, because she had broken twelve kneecaps in the last month. All of them had been deserving– except maybe this one.

The young man howled in pain, tears pouring down his face. His blonde hair fell in his face, and she sighed. This wasn’t how she wanted this one to go. She thought for sure he would just tell her where he had gone. That was all she wanted. And yet, none of the six men had been able to tell her something useful. Not until the last one had let spill that her “boyfriend” had been the one in charge of the local branch.

This one, this one felt bad. Really bad. She’d been too angry to process the others as heinous behavior, but this one she was getting the full brunt of. Maybe it was because she had let him get close, had let him in just enough for him to develop real feelings for her. She had let him believe that they meant something, that they were something. She had given him hope and just enough affection to believe that she really was just some sweet small-town girl.

And that was why seeing him bloody and fucked up was so hard. His knee was the wrong shape now, but it wasn’t anything compared to his lower leg, which was bleeding profusely and bent at an odd angle. If she had to guess, beneath his jeans his bone had pierced through the skin.

She had resorted to the hammer only after he hadn’t responded to the aggressive show of force beforehand. His eye was turning purple and swollen, his lip was busted and she was pretty sure that from the amount of blood he had spat out she had knocked a tooth loose. His eyes were unfocused, his dark brown eyes that had looked at her with such adoration.

It was too bad he ran the Columbus branch of Slate.

She had been tracking them for two years, ever since Alice’s death. It had been hard to think of anything but finding the man who had done this, who she now knew was going by “Obsidian”. He was slippery and hard to catch up to, but according to Mr. Timothy Belmont, Someone knew where he was headed next.

It really was too bad it was Connor.

He had been sweet to her, she thought as she circled him. He had been sweet and adoring and patient when she had claimed she was too nervous to really go out with him, that she was worried about how he was older than her, and how she had just never dated before. Well, at least that last part was true. She was nineteen, and her first “boyfriend” was now tied to a chair and barely conscious.

She grabbed him by the hair and pulled his head back up. He looked at her with those eyes, so full of betrayal and pain and heartbreak. She hardened her eyes and leaned in close. “Tell me where he is, Connor. This can all be over right now.”

“I thought you loved me, Samantha.” His voice was slurred, but she could still understand him. “I loved you.”

“It was an act. All of it. You have to realize that, Connor. You mean nothing to me. You never did. You were always a tool to find Obsidian. Now tell me where he is so you walk away from this with one of your legs intact.”

Sam felt like she was at her breaking point. Heat was roiling off her, enough that Connor’s skin looked feverish. She didn’t want to be hurting people like this, but the rage she felt was so barely contained that it was all she could do to not kill them. She left just enough of them that when she dropped them outside the hospital, they would survive. She had worn her mask and her hoodie for each one of them. But the moment she had spoken, Connor had recognized her. She had simply taken off her hoodie and mask, realizing there was no point in keeping the façade going.

Sam’s rage was mixing with her unease and her remorse for what she was doing. It was all just too much, but still, the rage was winning. When Connor didn’t speak up, she turned the hammer around in her hand and punched him in the stomach with the handle. He wheezed out all of the air in his lungs and tried to breathe in. It took him five seconds this time to get his wind back, and he coughed up another mouthful of blood.

“Please, Samantha. Stop. I can’t… I can’t…” He started to fade out, and she reached out and grabbed his hair, yanking it as she ripped his head back up to face her.

“No, you don't get to pass out. Tell me what I want to know. I’ll stop right now if you just tell me where his main base of operation is.”

“Will it.. Satisfy you? Really? Or will you just do this again until you find him?”

She looked him in the eye. Somehow, there was still a tenderness in the way he looked at her. That made her more mad than anything. She wanted his hate, not his love. She had never deserved anyone’s love, and never would again. Not after the shit she had been doing.

“I will do whatever I have to to get in a room with Obsidian and kill him, Connor. But I don’t want to kill you. So please just tell me what I want to know.”

There was silence, and then a sigh of defeat, followed by a cough with more blood. He was bleeding internally, likely in his lungs or stomach. She waited, and just when Sam was about to take a swing at his other kneecap, he spoke up. “Philadelphia. He’s based out of Philadelphia. Least likely place and all that.”

Same stepped away and turned her back on him. She screamed and let heat roll off her. “All this time, all this time I have been looking for him in Columbus, and you’re telling me he’s in Philly?

She pulled at her hair, trying to calm down, but the rage overtook her and she spun and threw her hammer at the wall with a scream–

–and heard a sickening crack as it hit Connor right in the face.

She stopped, freezing to the spot and she looked at him. His face was crushed in on one side, the hammer stuck in the top of his broken skull. There was blood and brain matter and chips of bone in a spray across the wall and ground. Blood was pouring from the gaping hole. His eye had popped out of the socket with the force of which she had thrown the hammer. It was dangling, and blood was trickling out from the socket. She stared as his body slumped forward, the hammer dislodging and falling to the ground.

Blood was quickly spreading across the floor of the warehouse she had been using for the last year of her investigation. She stepped back, and then further back until she bumped into a shipping crate and fell down the side of it, her hand dragging to keep her upright. She couldn’t stop looking at his broken face, at the blood pouring from the deep crack and his nose.

She breathed in.

She breathed out.

She breathed in.

She breathed out.

Then she pulled her cell phone out of her pocket. She didn’t really register what she was doing until Joshua’s voice came through the speaker. “Hey, Sammy! What’s up, kid?”

She didn’t speak, she just made a choking sound. There was a moment of silence and then her brother’s voice came back through, serious and but soft. “Sammy, what’s wrong? What’s happened? Are you injured or in trouble?”

“I need your help. I did something terrible, Joshie."

“Sammy, slow down. Tell me what’s happened. You know I can fix anything for you.”

“I killed him. It was an accident.”

Silence. The sound of shuffling, and a door closing. “Where are you, Sammy? I’m on my way.”

She told him her address and then waited, knees curled to her chest as shock set in. By the time Joshua arrived an hour later, she had started to come to again, her eyes refocusing and her body listening to her.

He ran into the building and saw her, hurrying over to her. “Sammy, there you are, now what exactly– Fuck.”

He looked at the tied-up corpse in the chair and promptly turned away and threw up. He threw up until he had emptied his stomach, and she just passively watched. Then, he turned to her, disgust and anger on his face. “That’s not a fucking accident, Samantha! That’s torture! You brutalized that man– wait. Are you… did you attack those men who have been on the news? The gangsters who were turning up at the hospital.”


Joshua was silent for a minute, his hand running through his strawberry-blonde hair. He pushed the long curls back from his face and looked at her. “Jesus Christ, Sammy. It’s not worth this. It’s not worth breaking your moral code! You have that for a reason. I know you’re emotionally driven, and that’s why we all sat down and established rules for you, and you’re breaking them!!”

“I fucking know, Joshie, okay!! But if there was anything worth breaking my rules for, it’s this! This is for Alice!”

“Alice wouldn’t have wanted this!! She wouldn’t have wanted you killing people!” He spun around, facing away from her, and dragging both his hands through his hair, knotting them together behind his head. He leaned over, bending his knees slightly until he was practically folded over. Then he straightened back out and looked at her, his face soft and sad. “You’re not going to stop, are you? Not until you get the guy who killed her.”

“No, I won’t. I will burn it all down until I find him. This, this was an accident. I threw my hammer, I wasn’t aiming for him. I’m not just going around killing people. But I will do anything to get this bastard, Joshie. Please help me.”

He looked at the bloodstained floor and nodded slowly. “We’re going to need lye. And a lot of it. Like a shit ton of it. We use it at the hospitals for donated bodies after we’ve finished use with them. We’re going to need to hit up craft stores. We’re also going to have to move the body or you’re going to be busy for a while because we need to heat it to boiling. We’re going to need a barrel too, an oil drum maybe from out by the airport or from a junkyard, if we can find one. A metal bathtub would work too. Just something big that can be poured into, or boiled in. It will eat the body in two hours, maybe three. He looks– shit, Sammy, is that Connor?”

She nodded, looking over at the body. “Yeah. He’s in charge of the Columbus branch of Slate.”

“What the fuck is– no, it’s better I know as little as possible in case this bites us in the ass. I’m going to go and get the lye, you find a metal container for this, and we’ll reconvene. This place is abandoned so I can’t imagine anyone finding the body before then. And Sammy?”

“Yeah, Joshie?”

“You know I love you, right? “

It wasn’t a calm reassurance of his love for his little sister. It was a shaky assurance that the only reason he was doing this, helping her, was because he loved her more than anything else. It was a statement that conveyed that the only reason he wasn’t turning her into the cops was that he loved her more than he was horrified with her. She nodded her head in return.

“I know. Thank you.”
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Sam unlocked the door to her apartment, only for the lock not to click when she turned the key. It was already open and unlocked. She sighed and took her backpack off. This was great. This was exactly what she needed right now. She fished through the bag, pushing aside the blood-splattered clothes inside until she found her hammer. The head was wrapped tight in cloth, protecting the rest of her gear from blood and brain matter that still covered the metal object. She picked the bag back up and slung it over her shoulder before stepping into the apartment.

She held the handle tight in her hand. Earlier that month she’d had another break-in, one she had dealt with in a gruesome manner. The man had specifically looked for her as he suspected her of being the one picking off the Slate members in Columbus. She had proven him right, and he hadn’t lived to regret it.

She strolled into the apartment, tossing her backpack down onto the ground. She didn’t bother being quiet, but stalked through the apartment and into the living room…

… And immediately stopped. Her brother Joshua was sitting on the couch. He was leaning forward with his face in his hands. She lowered the hammer and he lowered his hands. Her eyes darted to the table and she saw the spare key to her apartment lying on the table. Her blood ran a little cold as she realized it was off his keychain. He was staring at her, his expression unreadable.

Joshua had always been the cool and collected one. Unlike Sam, he was always in control of his emotions and he had good control over his abilities, as if they weren’t tied to a bottomless rage at the world.

“Well, here we are.”

“I don’t understand what that means. Why are you here?”

“I had some suspicions,” he said, his hands folding into his lap as he leaned back into the sofa. “About what you’ve been doing lately. So I came over while you were gone.”

“You went through my things? What the fuck, Joshie?”

“I had to. You’ve been acting weird for a while, and you’ve been missing family events and what else was I supposed to do when you don’t tell me anything anymore?!” His voice suddenly rose, and he darted to his feet. Sam backed up a step, her hand gripping her hammer just a bit tighter. Joshua noticed and his gaze became hard. “Are you going to hit me, Sammy? Bash my skull in like you’ve been doing to those men?”

“... I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Sammy, I found the receipts. You’re using what I taught you about dissolving bodies to get rid of corpses, aren’t you? That’s the only reason you would have gone through so much lye in such a short period. You’re not fooling me, Samantha.” The shift from her nickname to her full name registered in her mind, and she took a few cautious steps forward as she shook her head.

“You’re right. I am… killing people. People who deserve it. Horrible, terrible people, Joshua. People the world is better off without.”

“Samantha, you can’t do that! You aren’t a judge, jury, and executioner! You’re allowing yourself to be just as bad as the people you’re killing. You’re supposed to be a symbol of justice! That was what you wanted–”

“Well, maybe I don’t want to be that anymore!” Sam’s voice rose to match Joshua’s. “Maybe the part of me that wanted that died with Alice!”

Her brother stopped as he opened his mouth to speak. It snapped shut and she watched him run his hands through his curly strawberry blonde hair. His golden eyes flickered to her. “Christ, I know you miss her, Sammy. But she wouldn’t want this for you. She wouldn’t. And you know that.”

“Well, she’s not here anymore, and that’s the problem. This is what happens when you take away someone’s moral compass. They become a fucking problem. I am this now. Nothing is going to change that!” Sam slammed her hand into the wall, and it visibly cracked, with spiderweb fractures emanating from the point of impact. They cracked just like the look on her brother’s face. Gone was the concern and love. Now there was anger, shining through like it never had before.

Sam had always assumed that Joshua was hiding just as much anger inside him as she struggled with. Now she was seeing it bleed through as he strode over to her. He grabbed the hammer from her hands and threw it, where it clattered across the floor. He stepped close enough that she backed into a wall, trying to move out of his way. Joshua was nowhere near as strong or resilient as she was, but she knew that that wouldn’t stop him from doing… something. If he felt like he needed to.

“You’re out of control, Samantha. You need to stop. And until you can, I want nothing to do with you.”

“What, you’re going to just leave? Just walk out and not speak to me again?”

“That’s exactly what I’m going to do, Samantha. I can’t deal with this. I can’t help you if you don’t want to be helped. I love you, you’re my little sister, and neither of those things will ever change. But until you fix yourself, I can’t be a part of what you’re doing anymore, and that means I can’t be part of your life. I’m sorry.”

Joshua moved past her, toward the door. He stopped, looking back at her, a hopeful light in his eyes. They held eye contact for a moment, but then she turned, turned her whole body away from him.

She couldn’t bear to see that hopeful light in his eyes die.

There was a moment of silence, and then, without a word, without a breath, Joshua exited her apartment and her life.​