“I’m no longer interested in blood,” I said. I knew it was heresy, but Mr. Hamm merely smiled like a lamprey about to strike. “Of course,” he said, “I understand entirely. You wish to be free of your responsibilities to our great city. I can eliminate the problems you face, but there is a price to be paid for my services.” His sultry words echoed like a sound track from a horror movie. Yes, I thought, there is always a price to be paid.
Hamm spoke again, “Please, drink up. I ordered the beverage especially for you.” I tasted the green slime that was attempting to crawl out of the glass. Vile stuff. Hamm smiled, “I can tell by your expression that my drink is effective – absinthe with a dash of embalming fluid. Enjoy.” Hamm already had a contract ready to sign for the services he provided. I wondered how he knew about my needs even before we met. He told me he would eliminate the Red City from my life and send me back to the world where I was born. It could be a new beginning. All he wanted in return was the status I had gained while working for the Red City. Status came with increased benefits and privileges that Hamm was eager to accrue. I agreed and signed the contract.
I was sent back to the world where I was born. I was still homeless and alone, but this time I knew I had options. I no longer had to masquerade as Anton Bane, killer for the Red City. My memories of that place were fading like an ancient Polaroid print. I assumed the name of Charles Drier — it came to me in a dream and somehow I knew it was my real name. I discovered a part of myself that had been blocked out, the dreamer before he grew up. I had always wanted to be an artist, but that ambition was drummed out of me. Now, I had a second chance. I started to draw and discovered that people were willing to pay for my sketches. I saved enough money to buy paints. changes came quickly and my life improved — I was finally able to rent an apartment. I began to meet friends with similar interests. Finally I was free of the anger that had shut me down — then, I saw a man who looked like me. Memories flooded back and I knew the man was Mr. Hamm. I signed the contract, gladly granting him my status and the life I led in the Red City. Not only did he take my status, but he also took my face and the role I played as Anton Bane — the killer who supplied the Red City with the blood of victims. When he laughed he looked more like the hatchet face I met at the Charnel House Cafe’. I was his next victim. I would be skinned alive and drained of blood. My killer whispered words of encouragement as he laughed. I was chosen, he said, to be fodder for the Red City.