Michael Cooper was the sole owner and operator of the lounge. He had been since his wife died almost twenty years ago. His widowed father Eugene had started the business in an old renovated roadhouse after the second World War and Michael had inherited it after his untimely death.

Keith, his only son, had joined him in the real business about three years ago and at twenty was finally showing a little potential. He still lacked discipline and experience of course, the two areas that Michael was particularly demanding about but his willingness to learn made up for his shortcomings.

The Oasis Lounge was the last bar of any kind for the next rural and desolate 210 miles. Two dry counties stretched out westbound from the Oasis, so when the young pair saw several billboard signs go by with the familiar warnings of last chance and last stop, it caught their attention.

David and Sarah were still some four hundred miles or so away from their destination but exhausted from driving all day. They were at least off to a good start on their trip and weren’t feeling too hurried or rushed. It seemed they had been successful in getting away unnoticed.

At the very last second, they decided to stop at the Oasis and took the RR 4 exit ramp. There was an economy hotel off this same exit. It was also the last of its kind for about the next one hundred and fifty miles. They pulled into the lot from the frontage road and parked the car alongside a half dozen others.

* * *

“Hello there folks, welcome! What can I get for you tonight?”

The middle aged man with glasses behind the bar was pleasant and amiable. They liked this place already.

“Well, we’ll have… a Chardonnay and a Makers Mark, three cubes…”

“Kendall Jackson is the house, that be okay ma’am?” Michael Cooper asked with upraised eyebrows and a warm smile.

“Sure, yes that’ll be fine.” Bone tired, Sarah slung her purse up on the bar.

As they got settled at the long and polished bar with a large mirror behind it, they were actually somewhat impressed. Not bad for an interstate watering hole. Glancing around they took note of several other customers who were spotted around the roomy lounge.

“By the way folks my name is Mike Cooper and I’m the owner, bartender and chief bottle washer” he smiled. “Anything you need, anything at all, I’ll take care of it.”

“I’m David and this is my fiancée Sarah. We’ve been on the road all day and we’re bushed, so we decided to stop. Tomorrow is the big day for us.”

“Congratulations, to both of you! Next one is on the house kids” Cooper said over his shoulder as he walked down to the register.

“Keep them coming.”

For the next forty five minutes and three more drinks each, the young couple relaxed and talked with each other quietly. Whenever the owner came by or stopped to wash a glass or two, he didn’t butt into the conversation or hang around too long.

David liked that, last thing he wanted was chit chat. Sarah had gotten quiet, just drinking mostly, but he figured she was relaxed and comfortable.

Cooper meanwhile did what he always did and studied them from a distance. He paid close attention to their mannerisms, the clothes, jewelry, cash in the wallet if it was opened, conversation and body language. In case this worked out other preparations were being made.

In a very short while, all the customers would be rang up and told quietly of closing time. A closing time that would be an hour earlier for everyone except David and Sarah.

All that being said, Cooper was not ready to commit to anything just yet. He hadn’t been doing this for a couple of decades without learning a few things. The only way this kind of thing worked and kept working, was if you don’t get anxious and you don’t force a situation. When a situation presented itself and everything added up, then and only then did he go with it.

In the past there had been long dry spells without a special night and that’s where the importance of discipline, caution and self control came in to play. He always did things by the book.

About an hour later and yet two more drinks, David called to Cooper down at the other end of the bar.

“Mike, I think we’ll have one more round please.” He could hear his voice getting furry and his eyes were heavy, but he thought he had one more in him.

“Remember now, just across the overpass and to your left is the motel okay? It’s cheap, but clean. I’m sure they’ve got vacant rooms. Have you called them yet?” Cooper asked helpfully.

“NOPE,” David responded a little loud while reaching and fumbling just a little for his phone. “S’alright though, I’ll do it right now.”

“No, no, no, I’ll get it. Don’t you worry about it” Michael said waving his hands and walking to the bar phone about twenty feet down. He smiled back at them and punched in a fictitious number with an excited and trembling finger.

“He’s nice” Sarah said, in a barely audible voice now, trying to focus down where the bar owner stood. She was having trouble talking and felt like sleeping for a couple of days.

“Yep he is that, and I’m either drunk or very tired…or both” David managed to say without slurring too badly.

“Prob’ly both. Me too.” she leaned her head drowsily on his shoulder and added, “you know I think we did the right thing, they’ll understand, they’ll have to. I think we’re perfect for each other….I mean, don’t you think? …I…” Sarah trailed off with her head still leaning against David’s arm.

Almost at that very moment the parking lot lights of the Oasis blinked off. Inside you couldn’t tell because the blinds were always pulled down, giving the lounge a secluded, cozy feel both day and night. One by one, the other customers had already left.

Outside, a dark figure with a broom and keys on his belt came around the front corner of the building. He swept the stoop in front of the Oasis then quietly locked the oak doors from the outside.

He would not touch the car until it was decided upon and his dad gave him the go ahead, but he felt good about this one and he was anxious. She was really something, this one was. Keith was having trouble concentrating on the job at hand. All he could think about was her, what that was going to be like. What had the man called her? Sandy? No, no, it was Sarah, yeah Sarah. He smiled and his pulse speeded up.

* * *

Cooper was very close to giving his son the final go ahead. The couple was oblivious to the empty bar around them and they hardly noticed when he brought them two more drinks. If they ordered yet another he’d add a little more of the sleep aid but he was sure this one would do the trick. It was funny, most of these cattle almost acted like they wanted it to happen, almost seemed to welcome it. They wanted to be harvested.

They were normally desperate in some way, maybe in trouble to begin with or running from something. Other times they just let their guards down. They ignored the warning whispers in their heads and just offered themselves up to him…but there were always some who would narrowly escape, without even knowing what fate had awaited them. They would luckily regain their dulled or relaxed senses just in the nick of time, finally listening to that little whisper after all. That voice in their head that was telling them that something wasn’t quite right here, telling them that it was time to go.

Studying them out of the corner of his eye he was positive that these two would not hear that inner voice. Yes, and they were definitely leaving something or someone behind them. If people were running, it was that much harder for authorities to track them later.

He noted Keith was sweeping the floor around the far corner of the bar, casually going about his work and blending right into the background as he’d been taught. He was waiting for his signal.

“Michael my man, it appears I’ve been talking to myself for awhile” David slurred quietly and he craned his neck down in an exaggerated way to where Sarah’s head was on his arm. Bringing his head back up with a jerk, he gave the approaching bartender a lopsided grin.

Cooper, who had been slowly drifting closer, now stood only about ten feet away and was polishing glasses. Smiling, he said “Yes sir, looks like it’s the end of a long day for her. You want to cash out?” then added quickly “It’s almost eleven and closing time at the old Oasis anyway. I’ll call the motel again and tell them you’re on your way?”

“Now I gotta do all the work when we get over there. Know what I mean?” David exaggerated a leer at the older man and winked.

As soon as his father said the magic words of ‘old Oasis’, Keith put down his broom without missing a beat and began sitting chairs upside down on the tables. He was making his way over to where the couple sat at the bar. He went about the chore slowly, no rush. The short piece of stout metal pipe with one end taped for a good grip was stuck under his belt in the small of his back.

* * *

The black Mercedes S Class had been parked across the interstate in the hotel lot since 9:45 or so. They were looking directly over the highway and straight at the Oasis Lounge. The driver was Steven Meeks, a retired FBI field agent and passenger Kyle Simmons who was a former naval intelligence officer and retired as well.

Simmons ran his own security company and had hired his old friend Meeks, cutting him in as a business partner several years earlier as the business continued to grow. They had been successful. Their account and client list these days included some very big names and players. They would occasionally handle special requests and some unique situations personally. Simmons and Meeks were here tonight because this was certainly one of those occasions.

About a week earlier, Simmons had received an unexpected call from U.S. Senator Clifford Hamilton’s personal press secretary, requesting a private meeting. He had initially met the Nevada Senator after doing some security work for him at a private wedding some 3 years ago. The Senator had been impressed and pleased by the security provided at the wedding event.

Simmons was offered the current job they were on and consulted with Meeks on whether or not to accept the job. The amount of money they would receive was huge, but contingent on the fact that they personally handle it and not pass it off to one of their field employees. Finally they had both agreed. It was just too much money to pass on.

While it was different than the security jobs they now concentrated on, it was actually pretty damn simple. Carry out surveillance and if she left town, follow her. She in this case, was the Senator’s wild ass twenty year old daughter. However, if Sarah Hamilton did leave town, they needed to be prepared to detain and or block her from even getting close to a judge or a wedding chapel.

Senator Hamilton was convinced that she meant to runoff and marry a twice divorced and probably alcoholic, professional gambler. It was true that he was charming, a very successful gambler and a well known guy in some circles. To the Senator though, it was already decided, he would simply not allow this marriage to happen.

There was one more thing Hamilton had been adamant about; they were to do whatever they needed to do to keep Sarah out of danger. It seemed that the dashing professional gambler, David Kaufmann, also had a history of associating with the wrong people.

* * *

“Well partner what do you think is going on here?” Steven Meeks asked.

Simmons just shook his head.

“Its 1:30 in the morning, the parking lot over there has been dark for too long and main interior lights have been out for over an hour now. Oh yeah I forgot, that is not a hotel we’re staring at, this however is.” Meeks pointed back at the building behind them.

“Hey, all I know is cryptic codes, voice recognition systems and surveillance cameras. Figuring out this kind of shit is your department sparky, you’re the FBI guy here. Hell that’s why I hired you. You tell me, Sherlock”, Simmons smiled while peering through his night vision Bushnell’s. He was scanning the adjoining lots to the Oasis.

“Okay, I’ll tell you one thing for sure. We need to move in closer now, or move all the way in – like right the fuck now. We’ve waited long enough. Two more things; I really don’t like this at all, there is something else going on here that we don’t know about. Number two, half of this assignment is to keep her from not getting married, but the other half of it is keeping her safe. Who knows what that dumbass Kaufmann is up to.”

“Yeah, the impromptu poker game after hours doesn’t sound like too good of a scenario anymore does it? No additional cars showed up. Plus the fact that Kaufmann, or I think it was him, moved the car around back.” Simmons wasn’t grinning anymore, as he shifted the binoculars to the front of the building.

“Could be snorting it up in there with the bartender or manager?” he added half heartedly.

He tapped his finger on the dash and looked at Meeks who continued to stare across the interstate.

“Okay, half hour more. She’s not some fucking little kid you know.” Simmons said tight lipped with his jaw muscle working overtime.

“Fifteen minutes.” Meeks was firm.

* * *

The man really turned out to be no problem at all. He had gone down easily, like a felled tree. All they had needed to do was cuff him and drag him down the flight of stairs. She had been even easier. Already passed out and light as air to pick up.

Downstairs, they were re-cuffed and somewhat revived. Keith turned his sound system on in the room, locked it behind him and went to hang his clothes up in the storage closet. His father was on his way back down after making sure everything was squared away upstairs.

They had always tried very hard to regulate themselves by inflicting measured pain, making an effort to recognize the different thresholds of their victims. Possible mortal wounds and quick death was avoided at all costs. Once, the lounge had been closed for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as usual and they successfully kept a young couple alive for about thirty hours. They had watched that particular tape many times.

From time to time though, they did suffer a failure. They would get carried away and go too far, too quickly. It wasn’t always their fault though. People just died too easy sometimes, either through low pain tolerance, fright or pure shock.

Cooper had become better over the years at reviving their victims. A variety of things were used; ice cold water, smelling salts, ice cubes, brief low wattage shocks or even a hit of speed. Occasionally he would actually apply bandages to temporarily stop excessive bleeding.

* * *

The time was about 11:45, as the father and son team unbolted and unlatched the heavy padded door. The heavy bass music hit them with a pounding rhythm as they entered the room and closed the door quickly.

David Kaufmann, fully conscious now as was Sarah, jerked his head towards the door as he caught the sudden movement in the room. They were both lashed to tables and cuffed tightly. He stared with wild eyes at the two naked men.

Sarah, seeing them as well, strained against her cuffs and turned her head trying not to look at the younger monster approaching her.

“Daaaaavid!” she screamed, turning her head back to look right into his eyes, her face was so full of fear and terror he hardly recognized it.

“Sarah, I … just don’t, don’t…..” David was hit with a wood baton square on his left jaw. It was delivered by the older man who had circled around his table form the other direction.

Drifting in and out of consciousness Kaufmann heard a mix of Sarahs shrieks, screams, excited giggles, demonic laughter and yelling – sometimes his own. All the while the steady constant dark music thumped. The giggles were the worst.

“David, Davey boy, hey…..you…..look here” Michael Cooper’s voice came close at one point. He was talking to Kaufmann in an almost conversational but insane tone. A voice that even Cooper didn’t totally recognize.

Kaufmann whipped his head around to the demented voice and yelled, “you sick little fuck, you…” but he stopped yelling because of what he saw.

A large filet knife was in Cooper’s hand and coming closer. David’s eyes were wide as he watched the madman begin to use the thin knife like a scalpel. The knife was gliding smoothly down his side, starting from the armpit and going down, opening him up like the zipper on a long dress. David shifted away as far as he could but it didn’t help and he screamed so loud it made his own ears ring.

Cooper was undaunted though, with only the corners of his mouth turned up in a slight smile, he concentrated on the job. Nice and steady, and not too deep, less than a third of an inch maybe…dammit, be careful….. he scolded himself.

He wanted Kaufmann to be in terrible agony, but to stay alive and be coherent. He wanted the man to see his son doing the girl too. He would hold his head and tape back his eyelids if need be, just to make sure he watched.

After performing the long slice, Michael was immediately worried that the long cut might bleed more than he thought. He cursed his carelessness because of going too deep several times while Kaufmann was thrashing around. Disgusted, he abruptly stalked away and came back quickly with the baton.

With no words at all, he hit David several times on the bottoms of his feet, then moved up and hit him in the chest with it. In a building rage, he used the baton again on the arms and legs, then punched his captive in the face twice in a slobbering fury. Kaufmann lost consciousness.

Some time later, while standing over David with a nail gun and panting with an excited blood lust, Cooper looked at his watch and saw that it was almost 1:00 a.m. Going strong for well over an hour, they needed to let their victims recover slightly – but only a for a little while. He shot one more nail into the man’s forearm and walked to the work table.

They had plenty more to do with them, a day of more fun hopefully. In the meantime though, they needed to drive the car to the old abandoned dumpsite over in Capshaw. That was a two hour drive through the desert and then they needed to get back to open the Oasis by noon.

He looked over at Keith who was on top of her pumping and pounding away. His son stopped suddenly and rose up on his knees to slap her. He shifted again and straddled her, ducking his head down to the neck of the unconscious girl. Keith had always been a biter.

“HEY!” Slow down…. Hey, slow down NOW!! Michael screamed at him, “I want some of that.”

When his son finally turned up and around to his voice, Keith looked like someone he’d never seen before, blood on his chin and cheek. He stared at his father with seemingly no recognition of him, or where he was. Eyes full of fevered frenzy and definitely not in control.

This was just not acceptable.

“KEITH!!……Stop it. STOP!” Michael again screamed, this time with a tinge of concern in it. Cooper had to maintain discipline here and prolong this. Without the ability to stop himself, Keith would end this far too fast.

His son blinked once slowly, turned to start again on her and then froze. Slowly he turned his look back to Michael and coughed, blinked three more times and then coughed again.

Finally he seemed to comprehend and managed to mumble, “Sorry dad.”

“We’re going to take a break. Right NOW” Michael shouted firmly and locked his eyes with his son’s, taking control again. He saw his son’s shoulders begin to ease and slump. The normal submissive look returned at last.

“We’ll come back in about an hour or so, have some more of these two and then get back to our schedule” he added with authority.

“Sorry Dad” Keith said with a small smile. A drop of blood had came off his chin when he spoke.

* * *

They awoke almost simultaneously, looking across at each other through swollen eyes and bruised faces. The pounding thud of music still played on. Sarah seemed calm, almost serene for a moment and stared at him. Then she screamed. The most piercing scream she had left in her, chock full of insanity.

David grimaced as he shifted his weight, he was sliced and cut badly with various broken bones. He felt the weakness of blood loss. Turning his head away from her, he wept.

Sarah just kept on screaming until her voice finally wore out, gasping and coughing for air. She was almost unrecognizable. Long blond hair wild and tangled, blouse ripped and shredded off of her. A black bra, panties and jean shorts lay on the floor.

Blood and saliva was running out of the side of her mouth. With her head straining up as far as it could possibly go, she was hyperventilating physically, and mentally she was gone. Total delirium was a half step away.

With a fresh lightning bolt of pain, David raised his head up and looked around the room again. They were lashed hand and foot, cuffed to heavy metal loops that were bolted down to two long and low wooden tables.

The walls of the room around them were white washed cinder block and there were two bare high watt light bulbs, lighting the room. An open shower stall was on the far wall. Another table displaying different knives and small strange shaped implements was against the wall on his right.

A small clock on the same wall said it was almost 2, but he didn’t know if that was right. Everything was all scrambled up in his head.

The door to his left looked heavy and reinforced. He squinted through pain and blood, noticing that a thick strip of foam was all around the door frame as well. A tripod with a video camera was against the opposite wall. It was aimed directly at them. The lens eye was alive and evil. A small blinking green light told him they were being taped even now, saving all this for that pair of crazy bastards.

His head hurt terribly and his lungs didn’t seem to be working right. He felt very weak, almost like things were loose inside. He thought he might black out again, but he wanted to say something, anything, to her. As he began to fade, all he got out was a whisper.


* * *

The black car glided across the dark and deserted overpass with lights out. It pulled onto the frontage road that accessed the Oasis parking lot. They rolled on past the building by some hundred feet and pulled into a closed Chevron gas station. A large dumpster was partially blocking them from view.

It was 1:45 a.m. and Meeks was biting at the bit, convinced that something was clearly not right. Something was probably very wrong in fact.

It was the FBI in him and the things he’d seen over the years, working the field cases, seeing the things people are capable of doing to each other. There was also a premonition or sixth sense that he got from time to time, a sixth sense that had rarely failed him for twenty plus years.

For his part, Simmons was still not as convinced as his partner. He still thought that there was an outside chance it might just be a drinking binge, a game of strip poker, sharing some snort with the closing bartender, or a combination of all that. This case had been a pain in the ass from the beginning, snooping around some campus for a month and playing watchdog for a spoiled little 20 year old daughter.

“We’re babysitting basically, babysitting a frickin’ twenty year old woman” he had grumbled to Meeks earlier. “Never again, no matter how much money is on the table.”

It had begun when Kaufmann pulled up to the sorority house yesterday. Sarah Hamilton had come running out and down the steps with two small travel bags in hand. Meeks and Simmons had looked at each other in their car and shook their heads. It was a journey that had so far logged some 600 miles.

Along the way, Simmons placed a call to the Senator and he’d apprised him of the situation. The Senator told them to only monitor at this point. They were only to intervene when and if it was absolutely necessary.

What troubled Simmons was that this would all need to end at some point. They couldn’t just keep taking turns following these two around while they shacked up, drank, got high and partied. Maybe this was for the best and they should just bust it up now. Try to send the gambler on his way and taking the distraught daughter back home to Daddy.

Then again, maybe his partner was right. He sure as hell wasn’t wrong very often.

Both wore field phone headsets and both were carrying a firearm just in case. They had no idea what they were getting into and so decided to play it safe, going in with arms drawn.

There would be a sense of urgency to their work because of the illegal nature of what they were going to do and what tactics they might have to resort to. This would most likely involve breaking privacy laws, maybe even some degree of assault and threats of bodily harm. Almost assuredly a tripped alarm system when they were breaking and entering.

There were two advantages they had and they were banking on them. Complete surprise and the long reach of a U.S. Senator – especially in this situation.

They got out of the car quickly, minding the interior lights and easing their doors shut. Squatting low, they approached the building at a trot from the east side which had only two dark windows. When they reached the wall, Meeks went to the front of the building and Simmons to the back.

Simmons peeked at both the front and back seat of Kaufmann’s car, just in case. His Sauer P226 held pointing up and ready, he scanned the back of the building seeing four windows and two doors, one a larger delivery door. He opted for a small window on the left that was weathered and loose.

“I’m in position…give me 30 seconds here to jimmy this thing…then start banging and raising hell at the front. On your go” he whispered to Meeks.

* * *

In the killing room again, Sarah was muttering and moaning to herself while staring at the ceiling. She couldn’t look at David anymore and might not know him if she did. She was hallucinating or in some form of shock. She rolled her head back and forth repeatedly.

Starting to fade again, a veil was being slowly lowered over her eyes and she couldn’t focus or think straight anymore. She finally did look at David but his face was turned the other way. Her eyelids closed for a second, then struggled back open only to roll down once more. She felt light, light as a feather, able to float. Her thoughts spiraled up, hung suspended for a moment and then drifted off like smoke.

* * *

Meeting at the top of the steps again, the father and son were ready to go downstairs. As always they had tried to wash up a little before coming upstairs. His son was very sloppy in his work. Keith had gotten something to eat and Cooper had actually taken a short cat nap.

Michael glanced at his watch and it was 2a.m., right on schedule. He looked at his son and smiled “I get that hot little whore for awhile. Take it easy on the guy, I might have overdone it a little….make it last son.” His eyes gleamed.

Keith nodded, already drunk with anticipation and grinning absently. He unbolted the basement door leading down and pulled it open. At the bottom of the steps a dim light bulb above a single closed door beckoned them. Through that door and then through another hidden door in what seemed to be a closet, their prize waited.

* * *

Meeks said “GO” into his headset and immediately pounded at the sturdy front door of The Oasis with a heavy duty flashlight. Kicking with this foot as well, he held his gun in the other hand, pointed down to the ground, parallel to his left leg. Continuing to kick, he stood to the side and shined the flashlight through the small front door window.

“This is Investigator Meeks with the Sheriff’s Department! We have a warrant! Open the door! Do it NOW!” He yelled this again and continued to pound and kick at the door while standing just off center of the entryway.

The pounding on the front door of the lounge came just as Michael Cooper had started to go down the basement steps. It made him jump so badly he almost lost grip of the railing. They both heard the yelling then and then a crash of the small window of the door. He whipped his head around with surprise, glancing quickly at his son who was wide eyed and frozen in place.

This had never happened before, but they did talk about it from time to time. What to do, where to go and what to say. Thirty three killings in all and never, never had one been interrupted.

They both ran back up the four or five steps already descended and closed the door quietly. Michael could tell Keith was in trouble so he grabbed him by the shoulders and shook his son hard.

“I’ll go to the door. You go to the supply room and get some clothes on.” He was whispering fiercely, but he was calm. “Get your gun, but you stay in there. You STAY in that room. Go now. GO.”

Cooper pushed the boy again to get him going and dashed into his small bedroom to get his robe.

* * *

Simmons was inside now and crouched in the dark. Not knowing the layout, he waited briefly for his eyes to adjust. He focused on the area in front of him and gradually, faintly a partially opened door and hallway appeared. He could also hear Meeks banging and yelling up front.

It was at that moment that he realized that his partner had been right again. Something was very wrong here. He could feel it, and it, wasn’t good. Not good at all.

Meeks was ready to pound again when he heard a bolt slide, then another bolt slide and a small light came on above the front door. Standing aside even further he lowered the flashlight and raised the Glock in his other.

“Open the fucking door and take two steps out. Two steps, interlock your hands on top of your head. Do it now, do it right the fuck now!” Meeks yelled hoarsely.

He heard the door starting to open and shifted over a little more, giving him a better angle to view the doorway. A middle aged man appeared, blinking and confused.

“Officer, I don’t know what this is about, but I…” Cooper was cutoff before he could finish.

“I said two steps forward dickhead, your hands interlocked on your head…NOW!…do it NOW!” barked Meeks again.

Michael decided to do that and see where this went. He took two steps out with hands on head and looked straight at Meeks.

“Don’t you look at me, you look straight ahead” Meeks said threateningly, noticing the robe and the ruffled up hair. What Meeks had always described as the intentional ‘Who me? Hey, I just got out of bed’ look. Maybe, maybe not.

Cooper looked away but then back at Meeks.

“I said don’t look at me ass wipe” Meeks growled.

“Okay, I’m only going to ask you this one time….Where are they?” Meeks asked him evenly and leveled his light and pistol on the man, a total bluff at this point. When he did though, he happened to see a dark red smear on the side of the guys neck and another behind his ear.

“Who? Who are they?” Cooper blinked at him innocently.

Before an angry Meeks could step forward and deliver a kick in the nuts to the robed man, a gunshot boomed from deep inside the building.

At that point Meeks did deliver the kick with an expert’s aim, sending Cooper down in a hollering, groaning ball.

* * *

Keith had hurriedly dressed in the dark of the supply room at the end of the hall and grabbed his gun as he was told. He just couldn’t resist though and he peeked back out the door, looking down the hallway towards the front of the lounge.

Just at that moment, a dark figure came inching out of the delivery room. The figure was between him and his dad at the front door. He could tell it wasn’t his father, way too big of a man and he was coming out of the backroom delivery area.

He heard a man yelling and his father saying something. Keith nervously watched the figure from behind, now noticing the dark shadow of a gun in one hand. The figure was slowing starting to creep up the hallway towards the voices in front. He raised his badly shaking pistol in the direction of the dark shape.

Simmons stayed put for a moment listening to Meeks and another man.

Finally he began to move again. He’d just taken a small tentative step when he heard it or felt it, almost like a slight rustle of clothing or even a push of air. Someone was behind him. He tried to duck back in the room he’d come out of but he was a half second late.

The gun boomed behind him and he felt a heavy punch in his side instantly, then the burn. The pain pulsed as he rolled onto his back. He’d been spun around by the hit and then fell back in the room he had just exited.

Lying on the floor, Simmons raised his head only slightly in the direction of the dark doorway and waited, absolutely still. A dark shadow quickly materialized in the hallway door, peeking around it at first and then stepping out into the doorway more decisively. Probably thinking Simmons was dead or incapacitated; the man was presenting a dim outline of himself in the doorway.

Not waiting for a second shot that he knew was coming, Simmons raised his arm and fired his Berretta twice in quick succession. The figure was banged back into the wall across the hallway and fell hard, with no sound or movement.

“Simmons, I’m in! You all right?” Meeks yelled after entering the dark lounge and hearing the second and third rounds.

Gun still trained on the fallen shadow, Simmons answered, “HERE, down the hallway.”

Meeks navigated his way through tables lit only by the soft red exit light over a side door in the corner of the main seating area. He still managed to bull over two chairs on the way.

A moment later, Meeks found him, “I gotta go cuff this other bastard, you alright bud?”

As he spoke, he had been closely watching the slumped figure of Cooper’s son in the hallway. He could just make out a dark pool around the body.

“Oh, I’m wonderful…and you?” Simmons hissed through a tight grimace as he struggled to his feet. “Wait though, I’m coming with you.”

“No. Stay put. Be right back pard, won’t take a second” Meeks said, already turning on his way back down the hallway. Two flashing loud cracks came from Michael Cooper’s pistol, the one that he always kept clamped underneath the bar.

Both rounds hit Meeks square in the chest from about 15 feet. He was knocked back down the hallway, almost to where Simmons now stood staggering at the doorway. His partner was dead almost before he hit the floor.

Cooper slid his aim over to fire at Simmons, but he wasn’t nearly quick enough. Simmons put him down with a practiced quick shot, a round to the sternum. Then he pumped two more into the dark form of Cooper after he’d gone down.

As Michael Cooper lay there staring at the dark ceiling of the Oasis, his life was quickly draining out of him. He had no guilt or regrets really, except getting caught and not being able to continue.

He grinned up at Simmons who had painfully hitched and shuffled his way over to him.

“You killed my partner.”

“Yes. Yes I did. Many, many more than just him though.” The smile got bigger.

He watched Simmons take careful aim at his forehead.

“Fuck you.” Simmons said and his Berretta barked.

He turned on the first few light switches he could find, making his way back to the other little bastard in the hallway and gave him a headshot too. He couldn’t think of a better way to waste a round.

Searching rooms, walls and closets, he found the basement door. Halfway down he knew he didn’t want to open the door at the bottom. The hair on his arms and neck were sticking straight up. He chunked in a new clip into his Beretta.

This was an evil place, something bad was going on here. There was no doubt about that. Muffled, thumping music could now be heard. Another minute passed and then Simmons now in that first basement room, found the other door in the back of a small closet.

When he opened the heavy lined door with his gun ready, the scene and noise jumped at him. Two bodies lay prone on low wooden tables. He found and yanked the cord on the music.

David Kaufmann had either bled to death internally or died of shock. He could see a gaping, running wound that almost traveled the entire length of his body. That was only part of it. His body was a fucking mess. Beat, cut, nails driven in him and God knows what else.

Sarah Hamilton on the other hand was miraculously still alive, but barely hanging on. Her eyes were void and blank, like black marbles. Her breathing was shallow and irregular. He just couldn’t bring her back, couldn’t get her to focus or center on anything at all.

Looking around the room in a daze, it began to sink in. What kind of fucking, bat shit crazy bastards had he and poor Meeks stumbled onto here? How many more have there been? He wasn’t sure he wanted to know that.

Finding the keys to her handcuffs hanging neatly on a nail above the table of assorted tools and knives, he loosed her hands and feet. He got Sarah to dribble at least a little water down but he didn’t move her for fear of injuring her even more. He settled with covering her up the best he could with a blanket he found in the closet.

Simmons then headed painfully back upstairs. Straightening up with a grimace at the top of the steps, he got his cell phone out and made a call to Senator Hamilton’s private number.

When he was done talking, the Senator’s chief of staff told him a Life-Line medical response helicopter and an entire crime scene unit from the State Police would be there in less than thirty minutes.

After the call, Kyle Simmons went to his old friend and partner Meeks. He grabbed a large white tablecloth and draped it gently over him.

What he really needed right now was behind the bar. Spying a half bottle of Makers Mark on the middle shelf, he grabbed it and a glass.

On his way back down to Sarah, he slugged straight out of the bottle. No need for a glass.

Jim J. Wilsky is a central Illinois native with a lifelong passion for writing and storytelling. He has written over 200 published and unpublished short stories in the genres of suspense, crime, westerns, and historical fiction. His work has appeared, or has been recently accepted by; A Twist Of Noir, Yellow Mama, Darkest Before The Dawn, Mystercial-E, Boston Literary Magazine and others as well as several print anthologies. He is supported and strengthened by a wonderful wife and two beautiful daughters, who are somehow able to understand him.

"The Oasis" © Jim J. Wilsky • Photo features Legend of Suzi by Suzi Lorraine • PLOTS with GUNS © Anthony Neil Smith