Chapter 1

I was stunned! The bastard's were getting off on a technicality! And it was all my fault! God ... Damn ... It!!! The Grand Jury refused to indict because I had failed to turn in the seminal fluid evidence soon enough. The fact that I had a problem with the car made no difference to the legal eagles the defense had at their disposal. Just the fact that the evidence was not transported expeditiously had been enough for the bleeding hearts to get those three bastards out of the rape and capital murder charges. That I had locked the evidence in the trunk of the car while the car was being towed to a repair facility was the stupid excuse that got them off.

Three innocent girls, 13, 13, and 14 years old, had been brutally raped and murdered. The thugs had used condoms to foil the normal DNA evidence route, but they had all three dribbled semen on the floor of the warehouse where the crimes had taken place, and I had found it before it dried. I had picked it up in the standard sample packets that I had in my car, and I was transporting the evidence back to headquarters when the car trouble happened.

One of the bastards even stopped by on his way out the door to razz me about the failed indictment. "You shitty cop, you ought to of known that my pop was gonna get us off. You know that he runs this town! You should have minded your own business. But don't feel bad about it—we'll get you, too, for sticking your nose in where is wasn't wanted!"

Two days later, when I started my car to drive to work, the whole damned thing blew up in my face! Nobody could figure out why I wasn't killed by the explosion. As it was, I was severely burned and lost the little finger off my left hand. I spent seven months recovering from the burns, but my face was scarred beyond recognition. Not only that, I lost most of my nose and both my ears. Why I was not blinded was a marvel that the doctors could not fathom. Despite my injuries, I fully recovered functionally, though I was a horror to look at. I retired from the police force on full disability—hell, I couldn't appear in public the way I looked now. The worst part of the whole thing was a sympathy card I got from the three bastards who had escaped from the rape and murder charges. It was signed, "I told you so."

I may have been physically back in operation, except for my looks, but my emotional state was something else entirely. I had a consuming hatred for the three men and their father who had hurt those girls and had nearly killed me. Revenge was all I could think of during my whole recovery period. The doctors and technicians were amazed at the determination and drive I exhibited during therapy as I strove to get back into condition to hunt them down.

I was one of those rare cops who didn't need his salary. My parents on both sides had been wealthy, and my father had only added to the wealth as he played the real estate market. By the time the two of them died in a botched holdup in a trendy restaurant, he had enough money that he would have had trouble spending it all.

I had just finished at the university getting a degree in mechanical engineering with a minor in business when they were murdered. That killed all of my interest in a regular civilian job and I became a policeman. I was intent on doing my part to stifle crime in our city. I had risen to the rank of sergeant of detectives just before my "accident." I figured that I knew a lot about the criminal gangs in my city, and I had a lot of contacts with the underworld and the go-betweens. I was a good cop, and I knew it!

I already had my plan worked out. The first thing I wanted to do was to get all of my assets, except the mansion, converted into cash. I was going to need a hell of a lot of cash to do what I had in mind. The second thing I wanted to do was to get the necessary plastic surgery to fix my face so that a woman would be interested in looking at me again. Once that was done, I planned to start getting my revenge on the Carnoli family, but first things first.

A couple of days out of the hospital, I found a Hollywood type who could make a mask for me to wear so that I would not frighten the average citizen. It didn't look anything like I had looked before the attack, and it didn't look like real skin, but it would let me walk down the street without causing people to vomit at the sight of my head. That took a week to set up, but now I was ready to begin my campaign in earnest.

"Hello, Angie? This is John Carpenter ... Yes, I have pretty well recovered from the explosion. I need to see Dan as soon as he has an hour available to devote to me ... You can? ... OK, I'll be there at his office at 10:30 tomorrow morning. Thanks for working me in so quickly ... Thank you, and the same to you. I'll see you tomorrow. Goodbye."

The next morning, I showed up wearing my mask and having to explain to Angie, the receptionist, why I no longer looked like the old John Carpenter that she used to know. Naturally, she wanted to see under the mask, but was polite enough not to ask, which I appreciated. Precisely at 10:30, I was ushered into a conference room where Dan Alsop, my family's long time lawyer was waiting for me. He was an old friend, and I valued his support. That's why, when he asked, I showed him what was under the mask. Dan's a good man—he didn't vomit when I removed the mask.

"Dan, I desperately need your help. I want to keep living in Sola Vista, but I am afraid of another attempt on my life. Therefore, I want to get a new face through plastic surgery, and I want to change my name. What I would like to do is to sell the house and grounds to the new man and move in so that I can continue to live in my familiar home, but be much less likely to be bombed or shot. I can take care of the change in my face, but I need you to help me to do everything else."

"Of course, John, I'll do everything I can for you. Where do you want me to start?"

"You already have my power-of-attorney since the explosion, so I want you to convert all of my assets into cash. I know that I will take a beating on taxes, but I hope you know somebody who can handle that for me. I don't know how to do it, maybe putting as much as possible in off-shore banks will help. I'll leave that up to you."

"Yes, I have contacts who can help us there. What else do you need for me to do?"

"Other than giving me access to the money so that I can pay for the plastic surgery, I don't know of anything else right now. The surgery to fix my face may run over two million dollars, so I am going to need a lot of cash. I expect to keep the cost within reason by paying cash and not telling the IRS what I am doing. I wouldn't be surprised if the surgery and aftermath took a year or more, so I'll be out of contact most of the time. Here is a cellphone I will use to call you if I need anything when I don't want to be identified. Please keep it handy, though I don't expect to have to use it. Let's just call it a bit of insurance. You know that the Carnoli family is after me, so I don't want to give them any easy way to find me.

"Please don't try to contact me. If you do need to contact me, put this advertisement in the classified section of the Sola Vista Sun, and I will see it. I will call you then.

"I'll get back to you in one week to set up the details of the money transfer, and we can look after any other details at that time. Does all of this meet with your approval?"

"Yes, it looks safe enough to me. Just be careful. I have already missed your funeral once, I don't want to have to try again real soon. Good luck. I'll do what I can for you on the money and the identity jobs. Again, just be careful!"

"Thanks, Dan. I'll be seeing you pretty soon, I hope, and I hope that you won't recognize me then. Goodbye for now."

Now that I had done the easy part, I had to find a plastic surgeon I could trust not to sell me out, but was skilled enough to do the job I needed. I made some discrete inquiries through my underworld contacts and settled on a surgeon who was highly recommended. Among other things, he was occasionally used by the Witness Protection Program. If he was good enough for them, he was good enough for me!

It took four days to get to see him, but he looked me over and said that he could make me very happy with the results. The problem was it was going to take about a year to do everything. That was OK with me, so I signed on. He wanted $1.25 million to do the job, and he guaranteed the results. I knew that I would not get a better offer, so I told him to start as soon as possible.

The first thing we did was to go through hundreds of pictures so that I could pick out the face that I wanted. I wanted to be good looking, but I did not want to be so good looking that I would attract attention. I finally settled on a subdued Robert Redford look. I'm an even six feet tall, and I weighed 190 pounds with very little fat before the explosion, so I figured that I could get back to that by the time the year was out.

My housekeeper, Mrs. Jones, was a real dear, and I hated parting from her, but I didn't know what else to do, unless I let her in on my plans. Well, I chickened out, to some extent, and let the question slide until I had my new face.

I needed to start gathering my other essentials to carry out my plan. Mainly, I needed a gun. I wanted a pair of Glock 21s as my regular pistols and a Glock 36 as my hideout gun. These were all .45 caliber, and I wanted the stopping power the caliber was well known for. I was going up against thugs who knew how to shoot, not the members of the two-bit gangs who waved their guns around, but didn't know for sure which end the bullet came out of.

Again, I knew where to get the guns I wanted, though I would have to wait up to two weeks for delivery for the condition I wanted the guns to be in, including an untraceability. I decided to go with a dual shoulder spring-holster rig for the Glock 21s and a simple small-of-the-back holster for the Glock 36. I also got enough spare clips to have four for the Glock 21 and one for the Glock 36.

I had a couple of walls ripped out and a shooting range put in so that I could practice every day I was not committed to be someplace else. I had been a pretty good shot in my cop days, but now I wanted to be a spectacularly good shot. I knew how to shoot, I just needed the practice to bring me up to the level I wanted to attain.

I also got myself outfitted in a protective vest that was state of the art. It was good against almost all pistol rounds except the S&W 500, but I didn't expect to encounter one of those cannons. It was also good against the AK-47 and knives. Just as long as they would shoot at my torso, I was in pretty good shape.

For transportation, I went with a Mercury Sable sedan, but souped up in the engine compartment and completely lined with polycarbonate sheet either one or two inches thick. This would stop normal bullets, but I had to avoid RPGs and machine guns. It didn't get very good gas mileage, but I would live with that. It also drove like a truck, but it still looked like a regular civilian sedan a few years old, so it was not likely to draw attention.

For stealth wear, I adapted what I laughingly called a ninja suit. It was all black in a dull finish so that it was very difficult to see in poor light. Black boots and a hood went with it, so that was something not likely to be seen if I stayed out of bright lights.

OK, I was ready to go as soon as my face was finished. Until then, I marked time and worked on my physical condition and shooting skill. Mrs. Jones got very tired of the sound of gunfire, but she soldiered through.

At last, the bandages came off, and the surgeon had done a masterful job! There were some tiny scars in a few places, but they were so small that they could be found only with a careful examination. If I had any complaint, it was that I looked too much like Robert Redford. I donned my mask and marched out of the office a very happy man. I had even given the surgeon another $50,000 as a token of my appreciation for such a good job. I also warned him that he would be up Shit Creek if any word of my transformation ever leaked out.

I called Dan's office and said that I was ready for my new identity. When could I come in for the necessary papers? His answer was that he was so anxious to see my new face that he would cancel everything else to make room for me after 3:00 o'clock this afternoon.

I showed up at Dan's office about five minutes ahead of time. I had removed my mask in the public rest room on Dan's floor, so I was walking around in public for the first time in my new face. I didn't happen to meet anybody in the corridor, so Angie was the first one to see me in all my new glory. Dan had told me to use the name of King when I came in, so I said, "Good afternoon, my name is King and I have an appointment with Mr. Alsop at 3:00 o'clock."

"Oh, yes, Mr. King. Mr. Alsop is expecting you. Please follow me." What-ho, my face must have rung a bell. I swear that Angie has put a little more swing in her hips than she usually showed. Well, that was certainly a good sign!

Angie led me into a conference room, and Dan was already there. "Mr. Alsop, this is Mr. King, ready for his appointment."

Dan did a double take and nearly fell over from surprise. He shook my hand, but waited until Angie had left before he said anything. "My God! Are you sure that you are John Carpenter?"

I laughed and assured him that I was, indeed, originally John Carpenter. "Am I correct that my new last name is King? What is my first name?"

"King is correct. At first, I was tempted to go with Wilbur Montmorency, but was afraid that you would throw me out the window if I did that, so I chose 'Charles Joseph King' as your full name. I hope that is acceptable."

"Yeah, that's great. Just call me 'Chuck' from now on, though Wilbur does have a certain ring to it." We both laughed at that, and then we got down to the serious business of getting my assets straightened out. Dan had set up a holding company which bought all of my more profitable assets so that Chuck King could buy them when he was ready. Now that was a smart maneuver! I now had recovered most of my former profitable assets without leaving a significant paper trail. Of course, the trail that existed could be followed if anybody was that interested and knew where to look, but we figured that we would be safe enough.

Dan took the photos necessary for my driver's license and a couple of other IDs and did the laminating himself so that nobody else in the office knew about them. He already had a couple of credit cards and a checking account for Charles J. King, so everything was covered.

We then went through the rigamarole so that I could buy the house from me. Now I was in the awkward position of telling Mrs. Jones that she would have a new employer. I put on my special mask back in that public restroom, and went home to break the news to her.

That's when I got the shock of my new life! I tried to tell Mrs. Jones that I had sold the house, but she said, "Mr. Carpenter, or whatever your new name is, I had figured out long ago what you were up to. Just let me see your new face and tell me what to call you, and let's go have supper before it gets cold. My goodness, you must think that I am a real dunce!"

That's when I told her my new name and my plans on how to use it. John Carpenter was going on an extensive automotive tour of the country and then move to Brazil, so that's why he was able to sell the property to Chuck King.

Mrs. Jones nodded sagely and passed me the beef stew, one of my favorites.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Horror / Torture / Violent /