Two-Fisted Tales

Tales of Mystery and Adventure

"Sister Skull" brings on...

A Reaper's Nightmare

By Mateo Ali

THEN CAME THE FALL OF STUNNED SILENCE, with the suddenness of a thunder clap in a hollow chamber. Vito Carnetta wavered drunkenly. An angry red dot decorated the center of his forehead.

In his lonely world of violence he never thought death would look quite like this. Facing him in that room on the second floor of an abandoned warehouse, where the hostage was being held, was the reaper's nightmare. A phantom. A ghost. A myth and a legend: Sister Skull was in the house!

A hooded, somber evil-fanged death's mask loomed just beyond the rim of light. He had seen her enter from the shadows, whipped his Smith and Wesson from its custom-made hand-sewn holster, and trusted his vaunted killer's instinct to do the rest.  Vito (The Butcher) Carnetta, a man who had proudly ushered countless men (and women) to premature graves, approached his doom. Sister Skull, he had growled and fired. Their shots were so close together, they were nearly one. He never heard the boom that took his life.

There was a double clash of lightning. His shot went wild as death, swift and abrupt, entered his brain.  A thin mist of smoke passed between them.

A single line of scarlet streamed from an open wound, streaking around the horn of his crooked nose, continuing across the sierra of his fleshy lips. Vito Carnetta tasted death before approaching the light. His eyes fled behind their lids, his gun, pitching from lifeless hands, clattered on the floor. One knee buckled. The man they called 'The Butcher' was dead before his thickly muscled body struck the wooden flooring, a mist of dust rising from the impact. His arms shot out, limbs spasmed once, then still.

Sister Skull moved further into the light.  Smoking in one dark gloved hand was a shiny blue-tinged silver-plated automatic with an ebony grip. The young woman at once sprang from the chair and rushed forward, arms extended before her slender body. Sister Skull took her eyes away from the dead mobster to see a tear stained face. The girl went to her knees. The skinny arms encircled one black clad thigh holding tightly, assured by the taut muscle beneath the fabric. The thick sobs wracked Wanda Gershon's body and she was shaking with fear. At twenty years of age, she now had the hope of a long life on which to remember this evening.

A gloved hand touched her hair and a voice whispered softly.

"I came here to see that justice is done. I want Galliano to fry."  Sister Skull's words struck her ear like the distant sound of a church bell. There was a hard edge to the thick spooky voice.  It was the voice of justice, the voice of vengeance. She was familiar with Sister Skull, the enigmatic masked angel of the night.

"They brought me here to kill me," she sobbed. The words spilled from her mouth amid the tears.

With the eyes of a hawk, Sister Skull monitored the room. The long wooden table had a huge bolt of butcher's paper laying at one end, three threatening looking cutting instruments beside it. A long thick taper and a long necked bottle of wine were also on the table. Macabre reminders of Carnetta's infamous specialty.

Sister Skull's head jerked around. She instantly grabbed the woman by the hair and pulled her head back, gazing onto a frightened and tear-stained face. "Quickly! They are coming!"

She roughly pulled the woman to her feet and took flight across the room. The thugs hit the door as a man. The sudden silence in the room caused them to stop. Their eyes, surveying the room wildly, culminated upon the sight on the floor. Vito Carnetta had a bold reputation which had stretched from here to Boston, and had found its way to the old country through word of mouth. To see him like this was a stunning surprise. Their lips parted as their jaws gave slack. Almost as one, their eyes elevated to see the cringing young woman in the corner, partly hidden by shadow. A man moved forward, raising a gun.

"Okay, girlie!" Big Ned Aster growled. "What's going on here? You iced Vito?"

Wanda's head snapped behind her. There was nothing there. Sister Skull was gone! She was all alone.  Her mind swirled with fear and confusion. Sister Skull had ushered her back here just a thought before, and now Wanda stood alone feeling naked and unprotected before an angered crew of professional killers.

"Come on, we haven't got all day," someone else barked.

"What happened to Vito? What did you do to him?" Aster again. "You've bought yourself a peck of trouble, girlie."

Wanda was too terrified to move her legs or feet. Her body trembled uncontrollably, yet all voluntary movement was impossibly paralyzed. "I didn't do it," she said, weakly knowing they wouldn't believe her.

The men, broad-shouldered, muscular and a few unwashed, moved into the room, fanning out as they did so.

Big Ned halted inches from a long wooden table where a dripping candle sat at one end. "Oh, yeah?" he grunted. "Then who did? There's nobody else in here."

It was the first time Wanda thought about it. She suddenly realized that a true explanation would sound like the ravings of a crazed and frightened child. They would never buy it.

Then suddenly, somewhere behind her, she clearly heard someone say: "When I give the word fall to the floor and lay flat. I'm going to turn this room into a fiery hell."

Wanda felt the ice touch her heart. The voice had emanated from somewhere in the shadows. Her eyes searched and saw nothing, yet she had heard the voice distinctly.

Her head snapped into the direction of heavy thumping footsteps and saw Big Ned storming across the room. Wanda cringed. Big Ned's huge hand encircled her upper arm squeezing tightly. He was a robust man with a large beefy face. His brows were as thick a mass as the hair on his head, and reflected the same rusty brown. Ned Astor had run muscle for the City's underworld for years, since he was a kid looking to make some easy quarters and a name for himself.

In a single motion he jerked Wanda from her place in the darkest corner of the room. With a sudden strike something crashed against his head. A soundless red flash passed before his eyes and he nearly lost his footing. The men jumped when they heard Big Ned roar. He released the woman, his hand going to his head and coming away bright scarlet.

As he stared at his hand an evil, nasty cackling drifted through the chamber in a slow wave. Big Ned Astor was never one to spook very easily, felt that same icy chill that Wanda experienced. His eyes went around the room and saw nothing. Suddenly, a large portion of shadow stalked left.


Wanda ran a few paces then went to the floor. Eyes that followed her in puzzlement shot back at the first glint in the shadows. Sister Skull stood just beyond the table and near one of the tall twin windows, nothing but moonlight to her back, and the clear night's sky. Quickly, all guns were trained in her direction.  Her cackle was low, disdainful.

The room erupted into a sudden war zone. Wanda felt the urge to scream inflate her body, but couldn't bring herself to do so. A hood clutched his chest and pitched forward, landing just feet away from her, dead eyes gazed through her into a private, personal destiny.

Wood chips and spent shell casings whizzed about the room like angry insects. But Wanda could hear the low derisive laughter of the skull-masked woman warrior through the bark of angry weapons. Shuffling feet moved around Wanda and she knew that Sister Skull had changed her position and the battle shifted.

A gunman leveled his weapon and shot only to hit a bottle sitting on a shelf beyond the frame of light. He heard his fellow gunman grunt and fall into him. He quickly grabbed his wounded comrade and utilized his body as a shield.

"No honor among fellow killers!" Sister Skull uttered. A shot smashed through the forehead of the wounded shield and into the gunman's shoulder. He grunted his pain.

"Get her!" Big Ned roared. "Before she makes the door!"

Wanda heard the door open and slam like a shot against the wall. Big Ned and the lone gunman streaked across the floor without giving Wanda another thought. Sister Skull had escaped the room!

The men at the table interrupted their card game, all heads snapping to the stairway to see a dark figure with the face of death racing down several steps before halting. Two evil weapons jutting from her fists.

"Hey, what's goin' on up there?" a guy with a hat and stogie barked. He saw the silhouette a quarter down the stairway. "What the--?"

"Sister Skull!" one of them shouted, and the cards instantly flew from their hands like frightened birds. The table upset and crashed clumsily onto its rickety side. Guns were snatched from holsters, some of which hung from the backs of their chairs. Sister Skull watched the five gunmen pull into a semi circle just beyond the foot of the steps. Big Ned and his henchman appeared in the door frame above.

The twin automatics gleamed as Sister Skull took out the henchman with one shot through his evil heart. Her arms fanned like wings and Sister Skull took to the air with the grace of a swan. It wasn't a moment too soon. The men at the bottom opened fire, punching divots in the wall where she had stood just an eye-blink before. The black silhouette of Sister Skull pitched into a fluid somersault, entered a corner of shadows in mid-flight and was gone.

The firing ceased and the guy with the hat and cigar stood, his gun before him, ready.

"Have a care!" Big Ned said from his perch atop the steps. "She's somewhere down there. I don't know how she does it, but I know she's down there somewhere."

"Yeah, but where did she go?" one thug said.

"She's like a friggin' ghost!" said another with awe.

The men moved into the part of the room where they had last seen the City's infamous Arcane Angel.

"Now, now," Hat and cigar said. "Let's take if easy. Careful, guys. Careful. Careful." He waved one hand low directing his men. Suddenly, Big Ned's size fourteens frantically hammered the steps in his descent causing some of them to jump breaking their concentration. Hat and cigar spat a low curse keeping it out of the range of the big one. "Jeez, you and them tootsie's of yours..."

He pointed his rod into the dim section.

Big Ned was coming off the steps when he felt something whisk pass. He did a quick take, seeing nothing, he focused on the side of the room where the shadows stood sentry. None of them saw the form of refracted light nimbly prance up the staircase.

At the top of the stairs the door quietly closed. Wanda turned and looked up to see Sister Skull materialize walking across the room.

"They're preoccupied downstairs. Now is the time for escape."

"Escape!" the young woman said. "But how? Those guys have the place surrounded."

Sister Skull saw that her bottom lip was trembling. She lay a tight gloved hand on her narrow shoulder. "Piece of cake."

Wanda thought that her life was over, but the woman had been right so far. She had actually witnessed her gun down a roomful of hoods with the coolness of a professional assassin. She watched the black clad crime fighter approach the windows. Sister Skull made one wrench and the window lifted. Immediately, Wanda's head turned toward the door wondering if any of the hoods downstairs had heard it.

"Hurry!" she whispered, aloud.

Wanda watched as Sister Skull opened her short robe that tightly wrapped her body. Wanda could see that a thin golden colored rope hung from the woman's narrow waist. Sister Skull tied one end hastily around a rusted old radiator throwing the remainder out the window.

"What's this?" Wanda questioned.

"We're going down to the alley, then make a break for it."

"Do you know where we are?"

"The docks on Northern Bay."

For a long moment, Wanda stared at the tall woman with death's face.   She had been blindfolded and dumped into the trunk of a car. She had no idea where the gangster's had taken her, but she saw fit to believe that she would never return to her home alive.

"Come, let's go." Sister Skull motioned with her hand and Wanda did a double take before sprinting to the window. "Do you think you can make it down?"

"I'll try," she replied. Wanda straddled the sill. The woman in black handed her two rags soiled with old oil. Wanda took them, wrapped them around the rope, and quickly descended into the ink of the alley. The door exploded again, Sister Skull spun to see Hat and cigar dwarfed by Big Ned. Their guns preceded them into the room. They saw Sister Skull disappear over the sill before they could pull triggers.

"Get around to the alley, hurry!" Ned barked.

Hat and cigar mulled the order, spun on his heel, and obediently disappeared.

The alley's darkness surrounded the pair like a shroud. Sister Skull had Wanda by the hand leading her. It had not been very hard for Sister Skull to locate the kidnapped woman, and had left a trail of blood and bodies doing so. The verdict in a sensational trial hung in the balance.

Top mobster Drew Galliano, the pretty-boy enforcer of the City's largest crime family was finally being brought to justice on charges of murder, extortion, kidnapping, conspiracy and racketeering. Galliano had ordered the assassination of star witness, Anna Woo, but Sister Skull dashed their plans sending a half dozen of his soldiers to their graves in a spectacular hail of bullets in a showdown in an underground parking lot. An irate Galliano, learning of this, switched his plans into phase two: the kidnapping of the district attorney's wayward daughter, Wanda.

At the lip of the alley, Sister Skull turned to Wanda. "Hurry," she pointed. "Cross the street. Go down one block and turn left. Around that corner there is a square. I will arrange for someone to pick you up. They should be there in a moment's notice."

Before Wanda could turn to thank her, Sister Skull had reentered the darkness and Wanda knew that she was alone. She looked both ways before quickly crossing the street. Her breaths seemed sparse and her feet weren't moving fast enough to suit her taste. Those awful men would be on the street looking for her in seconds. Wanda wasn't familiar with this end of the City and wondered if she were indeed still there. It was ill lit and desolate. No cars, no people, no signs of life but for the light scuffling sound of a frightened young girl's hurried footsteps. It seemed to take hours for her to reach the corner where she was instructed to turn.

With a thick hot lump in her chest, Wanda braced herself against a building. Across from where she stood was an arrow shaped park she was sure was the square Sister Skull had told her about. There were wooden benches and three or four well kept gardens. There was something about it that made her think that it also served as a bus stop. She looked up and saw the four, six and eight story square buildings that had no lit windows making them look like solid blocks.

The sound of rubber tires striking a small puddle left over from the rain made Wanda's head snap around. All air seemed to desert her body and she gripped the structure behind her tighter, her bright red nails disappearing into the grout. Flashing into view was a low blood red two-seater that seemed very out of place against the gloom of the present surroundings, as if it had taken a wrong turn somewhere. Wanda expected any one of the men to stop the car and have a gun trained on her, taking her back to that awful room with the table and candles where they would chop her dead body.

The car halted without a sound.

"Wanda Gershon?" The driver wore wide dark glasses that masked her face.

Wanda's frightened eyes stretched. What she looked upon was a woman in a dress as red as the imported car she handled. She couldn't get any closer to the wall.

Suddenly, she remembered the words of Sister Skull and nodded woodenly.

"Quick, get in! Someone phoned me and said that you'd be here."
Without hesitation, Wanda bolted across the sidewalk and entered the two-seater. The woman handled the gears expertly, and the car sped from the sidewalk at record pace.

"We've got to get you out of here. The whole town's looking for you."

"She told me you'd be here," Wanda said, weakly. "And you were."

The woman glanced at her.

"Sister Skull!" Wanda began blurting. "She rescued me from those killers and told me she would send someone to meet me....there." She jerked her thumb in the direction they had come from.

The driver gave out a short laugh. "Oh, now I understand. Yes, she called me and told me where I would find you."

Wanda suddenly became apprehensive. "Who are you?"

The woman took off her dark glasses and lay them upon the dashboard, brushed back her long, slick flowing mane of hair. Wanda was surprised to see a smiling Asian woman of incredible beauty. She had a small beak of a nose and large wide apart eyes that slanted seductively.

"I'm Heaven Chang, I'm a crime journalist..."

"On television." It suddenly hit Wanda. She snapped her fingers.

Heaven nodded. "Yes, I do a white paper broadcast, from time to time."

"Called Crime Time. I think I've seen you once or twice." Wanda saw that she wore a form fitting red dress and dark stockings. Her shoes were matching leather pumps that looked quite expensive. The dress halted just above her breasts displaying just enough cleavage, leaving her arms and her upper chest bare. Wanda could see that there was no mistake that this woman took care of her body. The arms showed a solid athletic muscle to them.

"I think your parents will be pretty glad to hear from you." Heaven lifted a black object that looked like a cosmetic case. Wanda took the phone from her and flipped it open. "Call them and tell them you're all right."

Wanda smiled. Her fingers diligently tapped the buttons and within seconds she was talking to her mother. Maddie Gershon was high. It was her curse in life and tonight, more than ever, she wished to imbibe a little more than was normal.

"Yes, I'm fine. Mom, I'll be home soon. Heaven Chang is driving me."
It was obvious by the response, Maddie Gershon was having a difficult time calling to mind just who, or what, a Heaven Chang was. Clumsily, the torch was passed to her father.

"Yes, Dad, I'm all right. No broken bones, no bruises. Sister Skull rescued me. Dad, you've been wrong about her all along..."

"I'll see that there's an APB put out on that woman!" Gershon roared. Wanda knew her father's position on the Sister Skull question. Like the governor, the mayor, and the commissioner, Gershon damned Sister Skull as some 'psychotic vigilante' whose bloody wrath through the criminal underworld was not to be tolerated.

"But listen, she rescued me. They were going to kill me, cut me up, and throw pieces and parts of me to the rats and fishes. If she hadn't come along that would have happened. Doesn't that count for anything? Or are you still campaigning?"

This seemed to make the line go dead. The D.A. removed his glasses and rubbed his face. It had been a nervous, exhausting trial and the weight of it was taking its toll. Sister Skull was another issue, a campaign issue.

"Uh, where are you now?"

"I'm riding with Heaven Chang. Sister Skull sent her to pick me up."

"Heaven Chang?"

"Yes. Sister Skull sent her."

Heaven stuck out her hand and Wanda gave her the phone.

"Hello, Mr. Gershon. I'll keep her at my apartment until the morning. After some food and rest, I'm dropping her off at the nearest police station, we'll contact you from there to come and pick her up. She'll need some heavy security."

"Okay, okay," he said, tiredly.  Heaven pushed the button that broke contact and the phone went dead.

"Miss Chang? Do you know who Sister Skull is?"

"No, I don't. And, I'm glad to say, neither does anybody else."

There was a stretch of road that checkered from light to shadow. Wanda couldn't see the thin smile on Heaven Chang's lovely face. She couldn't wait until Wanda Gershon entered that courtroom under heavily armed guards to testify. Heaven had been working on the case for weeks. It was Sister Skull who had brought Galliano's reign of terror against the City's residence to a violent halt. Now it was time for him to feel the heated weight of justice.

There was no mistaking the knock. It was a hammering, heavy-fisted bang to the door, clumsy in its attempt at being subtle. Heaven looked up from her desk.

"Come in!" was barely out of her mouth when a bull elephant in a tight ill-fitting suit rushed into her office.

Seamus McIneirghe stormed into the office, his heavy flat feet banging heavily against the floor. "Heaven, they're reopening the Galliano case. The DA is going ahead with the prosecution. The eyewitness has come forward." The man was near tears of joy, she could see the wetness forming at his cheeks. "Miss Gershon is set to testify. She said Sister Skull had something to do with the rescue."

"I know, Seamus. I'll be going on air tonight with the exclusive. After all..."

"I know! I know!" he said waving his hand. "You picked the woman up after she escaped." His bright, beaming Irish face went suddenly sober. "And I think its pretty damned too coincidental that you should be driving such an expensive piece of machinery in such a dangerous neighborhood at that hour, don't you know?"

Heaven's eyes gazed intently into his bright brown orbs. "Which says?"
Seamus needn't have spoken. It had been mutual knowledge that he suspected Heaven of being the notorious night widow, Sister Skull. Heaven chalked it up to cop's instinct more than any type of traceable fact.  Seamus was a veteran of the City police for over two decades and he didn't get his decorations from sitting behind a desk and playing the blue avenger.

"Oh, nothing. Just a hunch!" He simply shrugged, leaving the tell-tale hint of an Irish grin.

"A cop's hunch." Heaven rested her pointed chin in her hand, watching Seamus' eyes and trying to read them.

"Yeah," McIneirghe's eye twinkled. "A cop's hunch."

The End.


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A Reaper's Nightmare is copyright Mateo Ali. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)