January 1964

Rudy Shevchenko backed off into the doorway and tried to calm his breathing, hoping, with his fists clenched and his lips tight together, that they wouldn’t’ see him this time, wouldn’t find him. Then maybe he could sneak away without them noticing.

He cursed himself under his breath for being asleep when they came. How had he not heard the cars pull up? They were noisy enough.

He would hide in one of the bins maybe, until they moved on, found someone else to torment. Some other poor tramp for the little rich kids in their expensive cars to beat up.

He still bore the bruises and the cuts from the other time, the time when they got hold of him. A month at least had passed since then. He had hoped it would just be a one-off, but they came back, and they kept coming back. He had only been found the once, the last time they had got hold of old Edwards who slept in the alleyway at the back of the coal buildings. And what they had done to him was, well, terrible. As if the poor guy wasn’t sick enough, his body riddled with cancer. They had to go and stick things in him, burn him, and other things, worse things.

It made Rudy shudder to think how lucky he had been to be the first, maybe they only got a taste of it that night.

The following week they had come back, and they brought friends with them, more cars, and more people. They had dragged Edwards into the big hall in the old run-down warehouse and played their games.

Edwards had been one of Rudy’s friends for a long time. And it was horrible to see that body lying there after the visitors had gone. He was dead as a stone, and bloodless. Why bloodless? What the hell did they want draining him like that? His arm was full of hundreds upon hundreds of open pin pricks from the needles, but nothing came out, there was not a drop of blood left in him.

The next time it had been a young scaghead, one of the ones who hung around up by the train lines doing their thing. They were harmless enough and although Rudy was sure they were capable of hurting someone, they never bothered the old boys who lived in the alley. They never bothered him.

It had been exactly a week later when they came into the warehouse from the other side, startling Rudy as they dragged their doped-up scaghead with them. He was trying to scream, but they had him gagged.

That poor boy never knew what was going on. They gave him so much dope that he was in a world a long way from here, not even aware of the things they were doing to him. The chains were all over the warehouse, from the days when they used to hang painted metal up to dry. Rudy had even worked there for a time. There was still a faint smell of enamel and varnish in the air, and out the back, in one of the store rooms were dozens of empty paint barrels.

They had shoved the scaghead into one of those barrels and hung it by the chains. Then they took pot shots at it with crowbars and baseball bats as it swung backwards and forwards across the vast room. Rudy had watched in horror from his hiding place down in the docking bay, too frightened to move, and to scared to help.

They must have eventually got bored of it because a gunshot rang out, a single one. And then silence. Nothing Rudy had heard in his life had been more final.

His stomach churned as he remembered waiting for half an hour, and then finally daring to go back into the building. He saw what the others saw, as they came out of the shadows, all those scared, penniless denizens of the slum. The barrel was still swinging slowly, hanging on three chains that creaked with age. A single hole in the bottom of the barrel let out a slow trickle of blood, which dripped out onto the warehouse floor, leaving a random and waving trail as it drew its picture in blood, just like one of the wind-up toys he had seen that you put a pencil into and watch it draw swirly circular patterns. This pattern wasn’t drawn in pencil though.

Rudy felt a shove from behind him, and stumbled out into the alleyway.

“We got one!” he heard a voice call from behind him, then something heavy hit him on the back of the head, and the world vanished.

He came to, slowly, to see a sea of grinning, wicked faces looking up at him. There were at least a dozen of them now, still in their suits, fresh from their day’s work. And here he was, hung up in front of them by the same chains that had hung the scaghead, except he wasn’t in a barrel, he was tied up with a rope, and he could see what they were going to do to him, for each of them carried a golf club, expensive by the looks of it. And their golf bags were scattered on the floor a short distance away.

“Please.”

He only managed that one pleading word.

The first hits were painful, but he soon drifted off into unconsciousness, knowing in his mind that there in the warehouse, his body was being beaten to death. Yet sometime later – he wasn’t sure how much later – he became aware of another struggle happening, and then screams. His mind raced back into his body.

Underneath him was a scene of carnage. The twelve young suits were no more than a mess of body parts, intermingled and torn to pieces. It was hard to see which bit was which as the mess became one huge mass of torn flesh.

Rudy wondered if he had gone to hell, for amongst the devastation was a creature out of nightmares. Its body that of a huge slug, with tentacles writhing in a mass that was its face. He sensed that the creature was not responsible for the carnage, that something faster and more vicious had come and taken all of the heads of the city bullies as they had been revelling in their torture of him. That creature had left huge, flat, clawed paw prints in blood, paw prints that headed out of one of the warehouse bays. This creature below him was slowly meandering, almost like it was cleaning up after its predecessor, slowly sucking up the mess that littered the floor.

Rudy wondered for a moment if the creature would be able to reach him where he hung, but the pain in his legs was too much and his back was screaming. Soon his head became hazy again and he drifted off into the unconscious world once more.

Somewhere else, he was sure he sensed that his body was being taken down from its hooks by unfamiliar hands. He thought for a moment that his friends were taking him somewhere safe, somewhere away from the bloody killing ground and the sucking monster. But something about the hands that carried him was wrong. They were too strong. Then all he could think of was the blessed dreams that greeted him and the memories of his old life recalled – his brother, the actor, and his wonderful plays, his parents, and the wife and child taken from him so long ago, but most of all he was just relieved at the thought that the tormentors had gone.

When Rudy woke it was dark and the air smelt musty. Somewhere nearby something moved around. There it was. That noise again. A sucking noise, then a squelch.

Far away he thought he heard something howling.