. Heart pounding, head ringin, muscles aching, and adrenaline still shuddering through my veins, I carried the boy out of the house. The house that was burning to the ground. Ash blew about, it's grace echoed only faintly by the heat raining on my back. Things hadn't gone the way I planned, but then, they never really do. That guy had more problems than a big-headed Democrat. And he got the drop on me. . The doorbell was one of those deals that play songs that used to be popular. This one did a bad rendition of "Spirit in the Sky." My left hand gripped the handle, and I was ready to go in, loud and full of the righteous justice inspired by the bell. Twisting the handle... . I shook my head and got off my ass. My hand and my head were both hurting. An ornate little pattern had just been electrically installed onto my left palm. No wonder nobody came to the door. I dusted myself and my gun, and pulled the shell from the chamber. It's replacement was a lock-buster. Wood disintegrates into hundreds of little toothpicks before the roar of my baby. Too bad they aren't minty. . Inside, it looks frighteningly like the Brady Bunch house. Kind of gives me the heebies, but no jeebies. Walking around the room, I tap the walls. Excellent. Not much more than sheetrock. Seems no one had come out to say hi. What great hosts. I quietly browse around the house, finding things disturbingly normal. Of course, part of that might be me not grabbing any doorknobs. . I know there's a basement- the foundation told me that. It takes a while, but a door is revealed to be hiding behind the fridge. With a pair of pushes, the fridge rolls away, and a door swings inward. Yawning before my eyes, a classic dark and creepy stair descends. The host must be a fan of flashlights. I close an eye and let it adjust to the darkness. . At the bottom, I shoot a glance around the corner: old-ass furnace on the right, checker tile floor, workbenches, and a chair occupied by a shadow. A child-size shadow. My heart thunders even faster, filling my ears with the sound of rushing blood. I barely hear the wood creak up the stairway. A figure blocks the light from above, but enough is left to torure my sight, and dreams to come. With that horrid feeling that my guts have just frozen, I try to aim my cannon. No good. I'm trapped looking at this sick bastard, who is bleeding more than any living person should. My eyes are forced to explore every trench, valley, and pit that's been carved into his (now?) pale flesh. Beauty is only skin deep, right? This old boy is rotten to the core. . I can do naught but stare as he raises a bowling ball above his head. It balances and teeters for an eternal second. At last, the smooth barrel of my scattergun begins to traverse the leagues of world between where it was, and where it was late being. The ball performs a Wright brothers act as the gun levels. But if I miss... I hate running. The calculations processed in my mind, the trajectories, velocities... Who am I kidding? I waved and pulled the trigger when it looked good. A leg puffed a thick red mist, my head screamed from the din in a tight space, and that damn bowling ball slammed into my hip. This blows. I still have to climb stairs, and there's a good chance it's going to be a cripple race. . Pawing my way up the stairs, I can hear growling and sliding. Eye-level with the first floor, a nice shiny, and still warm blood streak leads toward the front of the house. Loving every drop of adrenaline in my body, I take to my feet and begin following it.