The icy chill of the winter breeze was cutting through Peter Whitman ‘s skin like sharp knives. He didn’t mind the feeling though. It made him feel that he was alive, at least for the brief moments of life he still had to spend. He also had a nasty headache caused by a cocktail of sedatives and a taser applied to him right as he was reaching the front door of his home last night. Headaches will always make anyone’s mornings sour as a lemon.
There was another strange thing that was bugging him: it seemed that he was seeing everything upside-down; not to mention he had no idea why he was outside , exposed to the bitter morose weather. He looked down. As expected, he saw the dreary grey Chicago sky under his feet, one of the consequences of the heavy industrialization the city had suffered over the years. He also noticed the reason of his current inverted distress. A huge black mountain of muscles topped by a pearly white smile brighter than a mirror was effortlessly holding him upside down by the ankles, staring at him with an obvious curiosity on his eyes like a predator playing with his prey before eating it.
“Did you have a nice nap, Mister Whitman?” asked his captor, appropriately named Mr. Smiles. “As you can see, you are barely hanging to survive!”.
Mr. Smiles’ grin widened even more as he reminded himself of his captive’s peril.
Oh God, I’m going to die, thought Peter bitterly.
“So, do you know why you are here?”
“I-I’m … I..don’t know! Why are you doing this to me?” stuttered Peter.
Mr. Smiles’ face drew into a blank stare.
“Now, now, there is one thing I don’t like and that is a liar. Because, with liars, I have to hurt them to make them tell me what I want. And I’m a nice guy; I don’t like hurting people.”
Mr. Smiles pulled his trench coat to the side, revealing the illegally powered exoskeleton that enhanced his already respectable strength. After some button pushes on the control module located next to his hips, the low humming of the servo motors began to become audible, an indication that the exoskeleton was now into full power mode.
Mr. Smiles grabbed Peter’s left wrist with a firm grip; which began to get tighter and tighter. With a twist of the hand and the crackle of bone, Peter’s arm was now bent like a broken twig.
Peter screamed and flailed around, the pain permeated every one of his senses and didn’t allow him breathe. Of course he knew why the henchman was here. Peter had diverted funds from the local mafia laundry scheme and was foolish enough to stick around for too long.
“So, unless you are a masochist , which I suspect you aren’t, you will tell me to which bank account you have sent the money you’ve stole. Behave well and you may walk out of this alive. Or let’s say crawl out,” instructed Mr. Smiles, as he gave a guttural laugh, similar to that of an hyena.
Peter was terrified to the point he was wetting his pants and was getting redder with the blood rushing to his head. At that moment, he was ready to do anything to save himself, even if he needed to kill his own mother.
Suddenly, an unknown jazz tune echoed in the air . Mr. Smiles picked up a smartphone from inside his trench coat, glanced at the caller’s name and answered it.
“Yes boss? Hmm, yes, I was busy. You know how it is, just helping out some of our associates. Hmm, but I can’t just drop this….ok, if it’s that urgent, I’ll just make some excuse. I’ll be there in 24 hours.”
As he gets his smartphone back into the pocket, Mr. Smiles stared at Peter with a pitiful look.
“I’m sorry, but our meeting has to end for now. Too bad we didn’t had more time to enjoy. Don’t feel bad, ok?”
Mr. Smiles released the grip on Peter’s leg. Peter only had time to stare down and scream his lungs out when he realized that the hard concrete floor would have a nasty effect on his skull.
There was unbearable pain for a second. Then darkness. Then eternal silence.