NOTE: This is an entry for The Friday Challenge, which can be found Here.
Rick leaned on the balcony overlooking the bay, and took a long pull on his cigar. Behind him, inside the house, the raucous noises of a birthday party were still blasting. His party. But at his age, he felt the need for a little quiet.
The quiet didn't last long.
"Grampa Rick! Grampa! Come on, tell us a story!"
"Yeah! You always tell good stories! Tell us how you made all your money!"
Nine grandkids--plus a handful of their friends--makes for a very intimidating, albeit small, army. So, Rick reluctantly put out the cigar, but he refused to abandon the brandy snifter, and allowed himself to be led back inside, to the fireplace.
"Come ON, Grampa! How did you get to be rich?"
He looked over to the table, where the remaining adults were cleaning away the mess and lost in their own conversations. This was just him, and the munchkins...not that anyone would believe him anyway. It had been over sixty years ago, after all. He settled into his big overstuffed chair, took a sip, and started the story.
"You refused to take a fall." Big D was a giant of a man, and even sitting behind a desk, he still dominated the large office. His figure was partially hidden by the stacks of money on the desk--his take of the gambling proceeds from today's fights. But he hadn't received much from Rick's fight. "All my fighters know that sometimes it's their turn to lose. You won when you weren't supposed to. What, exactly, were you trying to do?"
Rick could only glare at him in cold fury. This was the man who had driven his father out of business--the man he had gone into boxing to take down. Every time he hit the bag, he pictured this face in front of his fist. "To get here," he said, quietly, through clenched teeth. He slowly stood. "I wanted to get HERE. To take you down. To get even with you for what you did to my father."
The four thugs in the room reached hands inside their jackets and moved closer, but Big D waved them off with a smile. "I'm not afraid of a punk kid," he said. "You really want a piece of me?" He shrugged off his jacket, and popped ten knuckles, making a sound like machine gun fire on a Normandy beach.
This was the fight he had been waiting for all his life, and he didn't intend to waste the opportunity. He launched himself across the desk, and started a brawl. The two men wrestled all around the office, kicking papers, kicking the cash into the air. Rick fought like a man possessed--but he was losing.
He grabbed an arm, and jammed it painfully behind the man's back. He was trying to break it, dislocate it, anything that would slow the bigger man down. And, beneath his fingers, it felt like the arm turned rubbery, boneless, and Big D easily squirmed free. A tree trunk of an arm caught him across the chest, and Rick was sent sprawling over the desk and tumbling against the far wall.
Rick got up slowly, nursing an injured shoulder. What was it going to take to stop him, dropping a piano on his head...?
"Is that all you've got, kid?" the big man taunted. He crossed his arms and laughed.
At that moment, the door to the office burst open, and two other men stepped inside. Rick recognized them as two nondescript men in suits who had been ringside at the fights earlier. The thugs reached for their guns again, but they weren't fast enough; the shorter man whipped out some bizarre kind of ray gun, and the four goons...just...disappeared. Big D's eyes got wide.
"Okay, it's time to come home," said the shorter one. The taller one simply nodded.
"Do I gotta...?" Big D looked at Rick, and then back to the weapon. He breathed a long, slow sigh. Then he reached up, over his head, back to his neck, and pulled. The face of Big D split in half, like a man removing a jacket, and the skin fell to the floor. Where Big D had been standing...there was now...
...a duck. A five foot tall duck, wearing a sailor hat, grumbling something unintelligible under his breath.
The shorter man went through the same motions, and revealed a four foot tall mouse, with huge, round, black ears on top of his head. The taller one, too, dropped his costume, and looked like nothing more than a seven foot tall dog. He said "a-hielk."
Without a further glance at Rick, they all headed out the doorway and disappeared down the hall, leaving Rick with cuts, contusions, a dislocated shoulder...and a room full of ownerless cash.
"Cool story, Pop," Jimmy said. "You never told us that one."
"You never asked," Rick said, lighting a fresh cigar. And you wouldn't have believed it anyway.
Everyone started saying their goodbyes and trickling out. When he was alone, he stepped into the library, and found the book on the shelf. Conrad, Heart of Darkness. He tilted it out, and the bookcase slid open. He moved inside, allowing the secret door to close behind him.
There, on the wall, behind a sheet of glass, were three human skins, hung up for display. The empty eye sockets of Big D glared lifelessly down at him. And he thought of those words again--"the horror...the horror."