Updated: May 25, 2022
Lying on the cot, eyes open, Cinnamon stared up at nothing, hoping to penetrate its emptiness, but the totality of the dark defied her every effort to see through its black veil. It didn’t help, being locked up in a room not much bigger than a janitorial storage closet. It made her claustrophobic, like being laid to rest inside a closed coffin.
“Might as well be in one, I suppose,” she said, filling the emptiness with her voice.
All that awaited her outside the darkness of the cell was a syringe filled with liquid death. The presiding judge had delivered the sentence swiftly and without emotion: Death—ten counts of first-degree, eight counts of second-degree, and one count of third-degree murder.
All the blame for those homicides didn’t fall squarely on Cinnamon’s shoulders. Other assassins carried out many of the murders she would die for, killers like herself, remorseless and lethal.
The police and the prosecutor had presented all they needed for the trial to indict her, and damn any other evidence that forced them to seek others involved. Cinnamon could have fought the ruling, tried to tell the judge and jury her side of the story, but she had too much pride for that.
Besides, she figured, there’s more than enough blood on my hands to justify the judgment. A warranted outcome, and she could live with that. The thing that irritated the assassin about the sentencing was having to be stuck with the third-degree verdict.
When I kill someone, she reflected, I damn sure do it deliberately.
Once she was inside prison, her reputation made her equally a target of guards and inmates. After surviving multiple violent incidents, killing some of her attackers and seriously wounding others, the warden had quarantined her, denying the prisoner’s legal right to be let out into the yard for sun and exercise each day.
She was well into the tenth day of her latest stint inside solitary confinement when a baton’s hard rap struck the metal door on the opposite side. The blow resonated inside the small room like a thunderclap. She had been expecting the intrusion. Each night since being quarantined, the guards felt compelled to hassle her. One of two things always happened: either they banged for an hour on the cell door or hosed her down in the enclosed space. One guard had made the mistake of thinking he could rape her. When she drove her knee into his nuts hard enough for his balls to crawl up his throat, no one else dared come near her.
She lay on her back, staring up toward the ceiling, wondering which torment it would be: constant banging on the door or being hosed down. The door swung open. Corroding decades-old metal hinges shrieked loudly in protest. Artificial light flooded inside from the hallway, asserting itself into the darkness of the small cell.
The hose, then, she grasped; otherwise, there wouldn’t have been a need for the guards to enter. She craned her head to the side, craving the light, and was rewarded by pain. She blinked, squeezing her eyelids shut for a few seconds. A soft curse escaped her lips. She had been in darkness too long. When she dared to open her eyes, a shadowy profile of a man stood in the center. His right arm seemed to slowly stretch to an unnatural length as he let his baton slide down his hand into sight.
It seems this guard wanted a little variety tonight, she thought. This man intends to beat me.
“You must be new,” she said. “Otherwise, you’d know better to come in here alone.”
“Who said I was alone, prisoner?” the guard shot back. More figures crowded in behind him, varying in shapes and sizes, their number made up of men and women.
“It’s a party, then,” she said.
She gradually rose in her cot, letting her bare feet drop over the side to the concrete floor. Counting heads, there were a total of six: four men and two women. The space inside the room would make it impossible for all of them to file inside at once. They would either come one at a time or have her step out into the hallway, where they would have a more significant advantage.
“Woods is back from the hospital, and he—” the one in the doorway said.
“Who?” she asked.
“Woods! The guard you kicked in the balls.”
“Oh, him,” she said, grinning. “I’m surprised he’s still able to walk.” She stood up and stretched her muscles.
The rattling of large chains reverberated beyond the doorway. Manacles dangled in the hands of several of the guards. They planned to shackle her as they did their dirty deed.
“You won’t be kicking anyone in the balls tonight, bitch,” one of the shadowy figures said.
Taking on a fighting stance, she said, “Come in and get me, then.”
No one crossed the threshold of the doorway.
She wondered if they would chicken out until the all-too-familiar electronic crackle of a Taser filled her ears. More than one hummed to life.
The guard in the doorway took a tentative step forward and then another. His cohorts filed in behind him, arms extended with their Tasers ahead of them like villagers carrying pitchforks. Crackled energy from the devices they held in their hands reverberated off the walls. The air in the cell was thick with the tang of charged ozone and the sounds of their uncharitable laughter.
After incapacitating her, they dragged their prisoner into what she’d guess was an interrogation room. They secured her to a metal chair bolted into the floor. She could look left and right as well as wriggle her fingers and toes, but that was all she could do. They’d stripped her down to her bra and panties.
The six attackers circled her chair akin to a pack of hungry vultures in one of those old westerns, readying to feast upon the wounded cowboy left for dead in the desert. One of the female guards, an Asian woman, licked her lips; her piercing gray eyes ranged freely up and down the prisoner’s body. The baton swayed back and forth in her hand.
The Asian woman stopped her stalking, no more than a foot away from the prisoner. Gripping the baton in both fists, she stroked her right hand slowly up and down the length of the slender metal cylinder. “Oh, the things we’re going to do to you tonight,” she said with a knowing leer. “I don’t know if I should envy you or feel sorry.”
“I’m going to kill all of you,” the prisoner shouted, trying desperately to break free of her restraints. It wasn’t out of fear. What bothered her more than anything was being unable to fight back against her tormentors. She hated being helpless more than being locked up in the darkened room.
All the guards laughed.
The door swung open, silencing the room. The guard she had hurt, Woods, catapulted into the room with a severe limp that he tried desperately, but failed, to cover up. His huge gut hung over his belt. The buttons of his shirt threatened to pop off if he inhaled too hard. His thinning head had a horrible comb-over trying to hide his bald spot. Woods’ gaze fell onto the prisoner’s.
“Hello, bitch,” he said.
“How ya doing, dickless?” she shot back.
He scowled while she smiled.
Woods pointed his beefy finger at her, about to utter his threat, when the lights flickered. It hadn’t just been inside the room, either. Through the opened door, the hallway toggled between bright and dark.
“What the fuck?” Woods yelled, awkwardly trying to spin around. He stuck his head out the door and shouted his question again. “What the f—”
He never got to finish. Between the flicking light show, Woods’ head exploded in a spray of blood and bone. His body stayed upright, oblivious to its missing head. Screams of fear and confusion filled the room as darkness took hold. When the blinking stopped and the illumination was fully restored, the headless body finally gave in to gravity, falling to the floor in a wet heap.
“Shut the door,” the Asian guard demanded.
The prisoner was laughing, now reveling in the madness that seized hold of the guards as they tried to drag Woods’ heavy body out of the way of the entrance. They planned to lock the door, barring anyone from entering to save themselves from the same fate as their headless coworker. But they were too late.
Two men, each holding one of Woods’ legs, were beginning to drag his corpse out of the way when one of the female guards screamed for dear life. They all looked up in time to see a man clad in all black standing at the entrance with a sound suppressed pistol. Cold eyes stared through the slits of a balaclava, taking in everyone inside the room.
Everything went dark.
We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Keith's story. Don't miss this and more exciting tales from the upcoming Spyfunk! Anthology. Preorder your paperback today!