Ian Bucknell sat as he had for months in his own personal Hell of his own mind as his ever-present demonic symbiot raged.
“You fool!” Jalzabel growled. “If not for our forces at Squall’s bank tipping us off, and the good work Janus here did, we would all be in custody.”
Janus shrugged. “I wouldn’t, but that was sloppy. If you’d set up a recurring payment for all of these, no one would have noticed.”
Markum scowled at him. “Electric bills vary.”
“You could’ve accessed the bank from behind a proxy.”
“Ricky, you were a washed up, starving artist when I found you.”
“I paid the bills working in tech support.”
“My apologies for being technically adept.”
Janus sniffed. “Jalzabel and I have decided it would be good if more than one person knew how to operation the trans-dimensional portal.”
Markum smirked. “I could show you. Provided I were a naïve college Satanist.”
“I was just wanting to—”
“Give me a break. I don’t take of-fense that you want to kill me. Survival of the fittest is the rule. But insulting my intelligence does offend me. Ricky boy, I get it. I’m a complication.”
Janus gaped. “I’d never—”
Markum slapped Janus across the chops. “I told you not to insult my intel-ligence! The Feds will be all over me. It’s only a matter of time until they find out about my majority holdings in RJ Max-well and they may notice RJ Maxwell’s stake in your comic books. I doubt it. Most don’t think of comic books as crim-inal enterprises, but you may get hit. It’d be so much easier if you could kill me, set it up so I’m Mr. Big, and then the investi-gation will end. Your problem is I’m the only one alive who knows how to operate the portal. That’s why I sacrificed Dr. Squall as a burnt offering.”
Jalzabel said, “If my plan works, this will be the last day we need to use the portal.”
Markum laughed. “I send Western Union payments to four attorneys. If they stop getting my payments, they’ll send enough information to Sword Comics and Fox News to bury Golden Boy here.”
“Western Union?” Janus snickered. “Yeah, that way it can’t be traced back to your checking account. If only you’d been that cautious paying everybody.”
Ian felt the sickening feeling in his stomach that was Jalzabel’s notion of pleas-ure. Markum’s hubris was like candy.
Markum reached in a cabinet and re-moved a vial. “There’s no reason for us to fight, Ricky boy. We’re buddies, ain’t we? Come here.”
Janus edged closer. “What?”
“Do you remember what I told you to stay away from?”
“Yeah, orange juice.”
“It was a longer list than that.”
“I think you included anything citrus.”
“Did I ever tell you why?”
Janus shook his head.
“Citric acid is your kryptonite, my friend. A glass of OJ will make you sick to your stomach. Good news is, it’d take ten gallons of OJ to kill you. However—” Markum popped the core off the vial and threw the contents at Janus’s cheek.
Janus covered his eyes. The vial hit his cheek and orange liquid splashed across his face. Janus collapsed, screaming.
Markum continued. “Even a small amount of pure citric acid on you, and you have minutes to live.”
“You’re jeopardizing everything!” Jal-zabel screamed.
Markum smiled. “No, fearless leader, the dying process can be reversed if the citric acid is removed soon enough.”
Janus cried, “Get this horrid stuff off me. I can’t even move.”
Markum folded his arms. “Beg me.”
Janus screamed. “Please!”
Janus coughed. “Please, Master!”
Markum bent over and wiped off the liquid with a handkerchief. “Come, Ricky boy. Let me treat that. We wouldn’t want to mar your pretty face.”
Markum helped Janus up and then put his hands on Janus’ shoulders. “Remember, I made you. I can break you.”
Ian’s stomached rolled at Jalzabel’s massive pleasure.
Continued Next Monday.
Be sure to check out Tales of the Dim Knight now available from Splashdown books.