Urban or Otherwise


The first thing you smell is piss. Next, and by extension, you realize it’s yours.

The room, you think, is a basement. It seems like a basement. Overhead fluorescents. Concrete floor that gives way to dirt and rebar in places. To your left are worktables and benches lined up at angles and upon which sit blowtorches, chainsaws, axes, hammers and every other tool you believe is known to man. 

It’s here you begin to imagine the worst. 

It’s here you begin to think that van was parked too close to your car for a reason.

Your mind gallops. Your eyes dart. And the zip ties that bind you to the chair you’ve woken up in prove stronger than you feel they should be.

You ready, the man says.

You’re not. How could you be? But the man … jeans, white T, his red ball cap pulled low and tight … continues. He paces, is full of energy, and as you listen it dawns on you: this is a show. You are watching a show.

You understand me, Slick?

You don’t. You have no fucking clue. But that’s not really true, is it? And your denial, it’s as acidic as whatever has been stuffed into your mouth.

Timelines come next, and then the mentioning of names you do not know. Jeramiah. Ray. Batista.  You shake your head. You make more noise into the gag. Make it make sense, you think, but just as you do the man stops, turns, and says a name that pushes your balls back into the place they’d originally come from.


No, you think. It’s been too long. Decades. But your bladder knows better, and even though you try, you cannot stop it from speaking once more. 

You’d heard the stories. You’d seen the tape. And it wasn’t even close to what it came to be. It wasn’t twenty men who raped April Rider to death. It was six. You weren’t part of it, not even close, but tied to this chair as you are you know it doesn’t matter. You’ve found yourself within the lion’s den regardless.  A place you thought you’d never, ever see.

Kincaid’s subscriber list has been paying dividends for years. That’s what you being here means. Some of you took that message we sent out to heart, went to ground, but others, yeah, not so much.

You think you’re listening, but you’re not. You’re thinking of the stories. Of what you’ve heard and what has been whispered about in backrooms for years. And you want to feel ashamed, but you can’t. Your fear will not permit it. You want to keep your body parts is all. In short, you want to survive.

But then it happens. He comes up from behind and passes you. The breeze left in his wake giving off the opposite of what you think it should. He’s larger than you. Thicker than you. In black from boots to V-neck. He nods at the other man. They both nod to the workbench and then look back to you. Face shields are applied, gloves are adorned, then plastic see-through aprons that, far as you can tell, aren’t so see-through at all.

Following this comes noise. A mixture of you and things that aren’t you. It’s short lived, however, and in less than a minute your BMI is reduced by a third. 

You watch as your leg opens horizontally from above the knee, spits blood, and then falls to the left of you. Just as quick, the other follows, and you look on in horror as an unreal type of symmetry takes hold. They go upstairs next, each man on either side of you. Your head a cyclone of strain and pain and disbelief as you feel each arm detach at almost the exact same time. 

Last, the saw blade comes up under your nose. It holds there, on pause, and only as your head is pulled up from your chest by your hair do you see everything you are meant to.

The blowtorch at the ready, a new hell begins.  You need to see, you’re told.  More to the point: it was time to understand.

And through the smell of engine oil and your own burning flesh, you do: you watch on as your body is stacked like wood.

~ fin ~


Beau Johnson is the author of the Bishop Rider Books.  A Better Kind Of Hate, The Big Machine Eats, All Of Them To Burn, Brand New Dark, and coming this October from Down and Out Books, Old Man Rider, Beau’s last published book.  He lives in Canada with his wife and three boys and wants you to know it’s been an honor as much as it’s been a blast.  Long live crime fiction.  Long live the dark stuff.