Samurai Shodown
Fan Fiction
--The website dedicated to all Samurai Spirits fans--~ver5.0~

Life Imitating Art, or Whatever Became of Geese Howard?
by Mark Patraw
Homepage: Mark's Art Page

Author's Note: This fan fiction was originally written as an entry for a contest at and said contest had a word limit of 5,000. My first draft of this piece came in at around 5,200 words, and so, it had to be revised to meet the contest requirements. This version has been expanded to its original length and then some, but the general structure and progression of the story remain unchanged.

      Billy Kane watched, unblinking, as the people milling about on the streets of South Town below him grew smaller and smaller. As the glass elevator slowly ascended, Billy was reminded of something Geese Howard, his much-admired employer and mentor, had once shared with him.
      "Ants, Billy, nothing but ants." Geese had remarked as he slowly shook his head in distaste on that morning not-so-long-ago, studying the inhabitants below his feet through the transparent floor as Billy now did, "Everyday is the same for them, scurrying to-and-fro madly, never any richer or poorer for their efforts. What a pitiful, useless existence." Geese has then turned and gripped Billy's shoulder, his piercing blue eyes fixing him in place with their intensity, "Never become an ant, Billy; never become one on them. The best an ant can ever hope for is a merciful end at the bottom of someone else's shoe."
      Those words had left a powerful impression upon Billy, and time had done nothing to diminish their potency. Is that what Geese really thought of everyone else . . . maybe even him? Even after his many years of loyal service, was he nothing but an expendable insect?
      Billy didn't know, but he dearly hoped not.
      He turned his gaze upward again, out across the stark, gray buildings that fell away from him as he continued to rise, and towards the industrial yard and the harbor. The setting sun had turned the water a dull orange, like rust, and a single cargo boat was slowly laboring its way into the nearly deserted docks. All these things faded into indefinite shapes at the periphery of his vision as his eyes focused on his reflection in the glass. A young man stared back at him emotionlessly, wild blond hair barely restrained by a crimson and white bandana. For all the world, he looked completely out of place compared to the immaculate whiteness of Geese Tower soaring behind him, dressed as he was in a scuffed leather jacket, a pair of greasy overalls, and steel-toed work boots that had seen much use.
      Billy blinked; it took him a moment, but then the realization hit upon him. The subtle but annoying "music" emanating from the elevator's speaker had suddenly come to a halt, as had the lift.
      "You have reached the 22nd floor of Geese Tower." A synthesized female voice began to drone. "Security clearance is required to proceed."
      Billy fished a wallet out of his back pocket. Finding the battered metallic card, he quickly swiped it through the glowing reader. There was a soft hum as the computer decided in its mechanical brain if Billy did indeed have the right credentials or not, and then, the silver elevator doors parted for him with a soft hiss.
      "Security clearance granted, Mr. Kane." The mechanical female voice continued, "Have a nice day."
      "I'll do my best, love." Billy returned, stepping through the threshold. "William Kane!" A voice suddenly called out, and he turned to meet it. "Where have you been hiding yourself? I haven't seen you in weeks!"
      Gina Williams, Geese's secretary, beamed at him warmly from behind her cluttered desk. With her tiny, wrinkled frame all but hidden inside the oversized pink sweater she always wore, Gina always looked like she'd be more at home next to a fireplace reading bedtime stories to someone's grandchildren than slaving away behind a computer. Yet, grandmotherly appearance aside, she'd been Mr. Howard's secretary for as long as anyone could remember, and a damn good one at that. Everyone, Billy included, was always surprised by their first encounter with Gina. For whatever reason, people expected to see some young, sexy thing, an intern perhaps, taking letters for Mr. Howard - there was often an air of surprise, if not outright distaste, when they found Gina instead of that half-imagined blond bombshell.
      "Been back home, so I have. Checking up a bit on Mr. Howard's London operations and all that. I just got off the plane an hour ago in fact." Billy half-heartedly returned Gina's smile, the guilt rising up his throat like acid.
      Gina's husband, Frank, had tried to organize a strike down at the canning plant a year-and-a-half ago - Geese had not been amused. When intimidation failed to sway his resolve, Frank had suffered a fatal "accident" at work one morning - crushed underneath a box of machine parts. That had been the end of the planned strike. Billy had no part in the whole affair, but the knowledge of what had transpired made him guilty all the same.
      "I see the boss has you working late again?" Billy offered, averting his eyes, studying the photo of Geese and the company Trustees hanging on the wall above the desk instead. He didn't dare meet Gina's gaze directly; fearing she would see the awful truth he hid reflected there.
      "Yesssss!" Gina sighed, "That man knows no mercy, Billy! He'll work himself and the rest of us to death someday; mark my words! I've had overtime three nights this week already - not that I don't mind the extra money mind you. Besides, there's not really much to go home to anymore since . . . well, since Frank passed away."
      There was an uncomfortable pause, Billy cleared his throat nervously and shuffled his feet. As much as he respected Mr. Howard, he also sometimes hated the man - never more so than when he thought of how Gina, oblivious to what had really happened to her husband, continued to slave away with unswerving loyalty towards the one who had ordered Frank killed.
      "Anyway, where is my head?" Gina continued to chirp, recognizing Billy's discomfort but not the reasons behind it. "You didn't come here just to visit an old bat like me, now did you? Hold on, Hon, I'll buzz you in." She stabbed the intercom button with one of her dagger-like, neon pink fingernails. "Mr. Howard?"
      There was a short silence before Geese's familiar voice answered in slow, deliberate tones through the speaker.
      "Yes, Gina; what is it?"
      "Billy is here to see you, Sir."
      "Good. Good. I've been expecting him. Send Billy right in. And Gina?"
      "Yes, Mr. Howard?"
      "It's late; why don't you call it a night?"
      "Thank you, Sir."
      Gina yawned, leaning back in her chair, stretching her arms. "Well, there you are, Billy-boy; don't keep the boss man waiting. I'm off to give these old bones a much needed rest."
      "G'night, love. Drive safe." Billy nodded, relieved that she was leaving.
      "I will. Good night, Billy."
      With Gina all but forgotten, Billy's mind turned to other things as he turned and proceeded down the familiar, dimly lit corridor to his right.
      What did Geese want, he wondered for the umpteenth time? Whatever it was, it had to be mighty important. He had been rudely awoken last night at his downtown flat in Colchester by the sound of someone beating violently on his door. Cursing, he had stumbled over, intending to give his visitor a bloody good fisting for waking him up at that ungodly hour, only to find no one there, just a plane ticket for the early morning flight back to the States lying on the floor - the message to return had been crystal clear, but the reason behind it had not. Not that he expected anything less from the boss; Geese was not one to voice his intentions prematurely.
      Billy paused before the two great mahogany doors sealing the master office. On either side of the portal, a suit of authentic samurai armor was displayed - the boss had an insatiable appetite for everything Japanese. Billy found the two sentries unnerving; invisible eyes seemed to peer out at him from the black openings in the lacquered facemasks. And who knew? Maybe that was the truth; Geese had hidden video cameras everywhere. 'Power and paranoia go hand in hand' Mr. Howard would often quote whenever the topic of security at Geese Tower arose.
      Billy knocked, the hollow sound echoing.
       "Enter." Even muffled behind the thick wood, Geese's voice carried authority.
      Inside the walls, motors came to life with a gentle hum and the massive doors slowly swung open. Geese's office was shadowy, the only light coming in from the huge picture window behind his desk. Mr. Howard's black leather chair was turned away from Billy, and although he couldn't see him, Billy instinctively knew Geese was there. The boss would often sit in that position, sometimes for hours, gazing out at the sprawling city below. But then, why shouldn't he? One way or another, South Town in its entirety truly belonged to Geese Howard; nothing in the city happened without his prior knowledge or permission. Everyone, from the bums huddled around a burning barrel behind McKinley's to the nameless faces tiredly returning home from their double-shifts at the steel factory, had a part in Geese's ever-changing schemes and plans.
      "You wanted to see me, boss?"
      "How was your trip, Billy?" Leather squeaked as Geese adjusted his position in the chair slightly.
      "Good. Bit 'o jet lag."
      "And my London operations? How are they proceeding?"
      "Fine and dandy. Had a little trouble with customs sniffing around earlier this month, nothing a wad 'o cash couldn't smooth over right proper."
      "Excellent." At last, the chair slowly revolved about to face him. Geese looked regal as he always did, his custom-tailored, black suit wrinkle-free, golden hair slicked back with oil and shining. But Geese did not look at Billy; instead, all his attention was devoted to the object in his hands. It was a sword, and a broken one at that. Over and over again, Geese ran the index finger of his left hand from the hilt to the jagged end of the wrecked blade and then back again.
      "Nice poker you've got there, boss."
      Geese raised his head ever so slightly, his eyes fixing on Billy at last. A smile curled at the edges of his lips; on any other face, the action would have conveyed humor, but it had the disconcerting effect of making Mr. Howard look positively sinister instead.
      "Indeed." Geese beckoned him closer, "Do you know what this is, Billy?"
      "A katana, right? One of the swords the Japanese used." He took the offered weapon from Geese's hand and examined it - the blade was old, that much was sure, but there didn't seem to be anything exceptional about it to Billy's eyes.
      Geese chuckled, opened a drawer in his desk and withdrew a cigar box. He offered him one, but Billy waved it away.
      You know bloody well I don't smoke! He silently seethed.
      "Yes, that's right, but not just any katana." Geese paused as he lit his cigar and took a tentative first puff, "It belonged to a famous Japanese swordsman whose name has been lost to the sands of time, but the name of this blade I do know - he named his sword 'Fugu'."
      Billy raised an eyebrow, "Fugu? What the hell does that mean?"
      "The word refers to the puffer or blow fish, whose flesh is a culinary delicacy in a number of dishes in Japan. I've eaten it on numerous occasions; it's quite delicious."
      Billy didn't understand the connection. "So why'd this bloke name his sword after a fish?"
      "Parts of the fish are highly toxic, and if not properly prepared, ingesting said delicacy would prove quite fatal." Geese reached across the desk and retrieved the broken blade back from Billy's hand, "Thus, only a skilled and licensed cook is permitted to prepare it, the analogy being that a skilled swordsman is not unlike the preparer of fugu - any imperfections in the wielding of the blade shall lead to death. Simply put, our nameless warrior did not make mistakes with his katana."
      'The mighty swordsman' must have made an error with his blade at some point, or it wouldn't be broken, Billy mused to himself. It was obvious that Geese found his little skewer and the fish story behind it to be of great interest, but it was an attitude he did not share.
      "Don't tell me that you had me fly all the bloody way here from Colchester just to see that thing?"
      "Of course not. Patience, Billy. Although, this," Geese brandished the broken sword for effect, "is part of the reason why I wanted you here."
      The boss said nothing more, his attention on the artifact again. Geese drew deeply on his cigar, the end glowing brightly in the growing darkness. The acrid smoke that was rapidly filling Mr. Howard's office began to burn Billy's nostrils, and he coughed. From past experience, Billy knew Geese would remain silent until he voiced the question that the boss wanted to hear.
      Billy sighed and gave in to Mr. Howard's unspoken wish.
       "Then why did you ask me to come here, boss?"
      Geese's face lit up from ear-to-ear as he crushed his cigar in the ashtray with much gusto. "Billy," he beamed, "follow me, and I'll show you."
      Mr. Howard pressed a button underneath his desk, and a concealed door slid open on the wall to Billy's left, startling him and revealing a black passage. The boss fairly leapt from his chair, so great was his enthusiasm. Geese beckoned for Billy to follow, katana still in hand, which he did. Billy fumbled blindly through the darkness of the secret corridor briefly behind Mr. Howard, and then, there was a hollow click as Geese flipped a switch on the other side of the passage.
       "Let there be light."
      And there was. Fluorescent bulbs above them exploded with life, banishing all shadows. Billy turned his head left and right in awe. He found himself in a museum, and a good sized one at that, Billy didn't doubt it took up most of the 22nd floor of the tower. How had Geese gotten all this stuff up here, and without anyone knowing at that?
       "Geez, boss, this is pretty impressive. I had no idea . . . how long did this take to build?" He breathed in wonder.
       "A lifetime, Billy." Geese whispered, his voice far off as if remembering some conquest of long ago. "A lifetime of searching, finding, and acquiring, often at great cost - my private collection, every last piece of it."
      Billy whistled in appreciation. It seemed Geese had every possible object you could imagine packed into this private display of material excess: paintings, statues, skeletons of beasts long dead, coins, stone monoliths, you name it. The displays marched on and on, like a brigade of soldiers standing to attention.
       "As great as all this is, Billy," Geese continued, "there is something even greater. Come."
      Mr. Howard led the way, meandering carefully through his treasures. Billy found himself wishing he had time to inspect all of Geese's trophies in detail, but Mr. Howard was impatient, and he knew better than to drag his feet when the boss was in a hurry. Across the great hall they at last came to a door; Geese conjured up a small key from one of his many pockets, unlocked it, and motioned him in.
      Billy couldn't help being disappointed. He had expected to see some great thing, something so magnificent it would make all the other wonders dwindle and pale in comparison, but instead, it was just more of the same: One painting, albeit a large one, and several smaller displays, mostly edged weapons. He wondered why Geese kept this stuff separate and locked up; was it more expensive than the others for some reason?
      Billy studied the work of art that took up the better part of the far wall. On the left of the canvas, several warriors, both male and female, rushed to do battle with a huge, skeletal creature on the right, between the two warring parties lay a couple of glowing orbs. Something about the masterpiece bothered him, but he couldn't put his finger on what.
      Meanwhile, Geese had walked over to the left wall, where he proceeded to hang his precious, broken 'Fugu' amongst the other arms. Had these other weapons belong to Mr. Howard's nameless swordsman as well? Billy doubted it, some of them looked rather exotic, if not downright impractical - a black and orange gauntlet with razor-sharp talons for fingers and a chain-and-sickle combination that was far too large and heavy for any ordinary man to wield drew his attention in particular.
      Billy approached the table in the center of the room and picked up the primitive-looking wooden mask lying there. It was red, with a large, flaring nose and fierce teeth. There was also a boomerang - the wood much mildewed with age, a slab of yellow stone with symbols carved into it, and a shard of some crystal-like substance. The gem looked green, but as Billy set the mask down and drew closer, he saw the color changed depending on what angle you viewed it from and where the light from the bulbs hanging overhead caught its facets. It almost seemed to beckon him, and he reached for it . . .
      "Don't touch that!" Geese bellowed, and Billy immediately withdrew his hand as though it had been thrust into an open flame.
      "S-sorry, boss!" Billy stammered, taken aback by Geese's uncharacteristic outburst. "I didn't mean . . . "
      Geese threw Billy aside roughly, snatching the crystal from the table.
      What the hell?
      "It's MINE!" Geese snarled, whirling to confront Billy, his face contorted into a mask of rage unlike Billy had ever seen before. "Do you hear me, Billy? IT'S MINE!"
      "S-sure, boss, whatever you say, all right?"
      Geese glowered at him, murder in his eyes, the precious stone clutched so tightly in his hand that Billy could see a roadmap of protruding veins. Billy had seen Mr. Howard angry before, but never like this, nor had he ever been the object of that anger. Ice water began to circulate through Billy's veins; something was not right here. Almost unconsciously, he found himself circling away from Geese, towards the weapon display, groping for something to defend himself with.
      Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, Geese's fury vanished. The crystal fell from his hands and Mr. Howard crumpled to the floor.
      "I'm sorry, Billy, . . . so sorry." Geese gasped. "Please, . . . forgive me."
      Fear was replaced with concern, and Billy fell to his knees besides him. What had made the boss go off like that?
      "Are you all right, Geese? Do you want me call a doctor or something?"
      "No, . . . no, I'm fine, Billy. Really, I am." Beads of sweat dotted Mr. Howard's forehead and his breathing was shallow. "I thought I had it under control, but I guess that thing has more sway over me than I ever imagined."
      Billy was beginning to understand. From where it had come to rest by one of the legs of the table, the crystal glinted at him, its kaleidoscope of colors inviting Billy to touch it, to grasp it, to claim it for his own - with some effort he turned his gaze away.
      "Whatever that thing is, it's dangerous, boss. You have to get rid of it."
      Geese shook his head from side-to-side as he slowly rose to his feet with Billy's aid. "I can't. I mustn't. That shard is the key to everything. I've worked too long and too hard for this moment. I will overcome this weakness; I know I can."
      "I still think you should lose it, boss."
      "Does the pupil now give the master lessons?" Geese sneered, shrugging Billy's arms off. "Lessons on matters in which the pupil knows nothing?"
      "C'mon, boss, you know I didn't mean . . ."
      But Geese either didn't hear him or he wasn't listening.
      "You've seen what it can do, Billy. You've felt it yourself, haven't you? Haven't you?"
      "Yeah, but . . ."
      "It's only a piece, Billy, a piece of an ancient artifact of power. Just a PIECE." Billy could see the greed in Geese's eyes as he spoke, the insatiable need for what he did not yet possess gnawing at his mind like a rat. "Imagine what the whole thing could do! And there are two gems, Billy, two of them. With one, I'd have unimaginable power, but with two . . . do you have any idea what a man like myself could accomplish with that kind of strength behind him, do you?"
      Several answers to that question came to Billy's mind, and he didn't like any of them. Besides, it was obvious that Geese had made up his mind and any further argument on his part was useless.
      "Say you continue with whatever it is you're doing with that thing, Geese; where are the other pieces of the crystal you have now? And where is the second gem?"
      Mr. Howard shook a fist angrily at the empty air. "They're gone, Billy. Both of them destroyed. That's the most vexing part of all." Geese gestured to the stone tablet on the table beside them. "It's all written there."
      "What does it say?" Billy studied the tablet with renewed interest, but all of the symbols were so much gobbledygook to him.
      Geese ran his fingertips lightly over the rock, tracing the indentations with his fingers as he began to speak. "It comes from the ruins of a temple some miles South of what is now the border between Panama and Columbia, a place that was once termed 'Green Hell' by its inhabitants, so treacherous was the surrounding jungle, although most of that has been clear cut now. My archaeologist tells me it's the handiwork of the long-dead T'hamchamuque natives of that region." Geese nodded his head towards the mask and boomerang. "As are those two items.
      The words etched upon the slab speak of two gifts from God himself, the Perenke and Tanjil stones - artifacts of immense power that could be used for either great good or evil. For years, the two gems brought peace and prosperity to the people of the T'hamchamuque, but then, the Perenke stone was spirited away by an evil man with designs to destroy the entire world. A lone T'hamchamuque warrior set out to retrieve the stone, and with the aid of many other fighters from the four corners of the globe, he managed to wrest the Perenke stone back from the evil God's servant after a terrible battle.
      The T'hamchamuque warrior returned home with the gem only to discover an awful truth - the Perenke stone had somehow been corrupted during its use by the agent of evil. Where the gemstone had been capable of either good or evil before, it was now an instrument of destruction only. And so, the T'hamchamuque renamed it the 'Gadama jewel' and its use was forbidden upon pain of death."
      "Why didn't the T'hamchamuque just get rid of it?" Billy wondered.
      "The T'hamchamuque realized that evil objects have a way of falling into evil hands. They didn't dare discard the Gadama jewel for fear that it would find its way into the twisted clutches of the dark God or his minions again. Fortunately, they did discover that the Tanjil stone had an inhibitory effect on the Gadama jewel - so long as the two were kept in close proximity, the Gadama jewel could not exert its evil ways upon the unwary.
      Another period of peace began, but it did not last long. Again, the forces of darkness sent another thief among the T'hamchamuque, and despite their best efforts, both stones were stolen this time. Once more, a T'hamchamuque warrior went forth to do battle with evil for possession of the stones, a woman this time, and she too was joined by the former allies of her predecessor in this endeavor. The battle was even fiercer than the first, and it was a very near thing, but good prevailed against evil once more.
      However, the T'hamchamuque had seen enough: After a great council it was decided that the Perenke and Tanjil stones had been a test from God, a test that the human race had failed miserably. Both stones were destroyed and never spoken of again. The T'hamchamuque were wiped out by a smallpox epidemic some number of years later, and not a single descendant of their tribe lives today."
      Did Geese really believe this fairy tale? From the grim set of his jaw and the faraway look in his eyes, it was apparent that he did. It was all a bit too much for Billy to swallow, although he didn't doubt for an instant that there was something eerie about that crystal shard.
      "If this story is true, I take it the piece you have came from the Gadama jewel then, boss?"
      Geese nodded. "Undoubtedly. And believe you me, Billy; the words recorded on that tablet are no myth. I'd stake my life on it."
      "Alright, say it is true, knowing all this, you still intend to use it?"
      "It's the only way, Billy. If there were any other avenue I could pursue, I would take it, but there isn't. Whatever the danger, that crystal is the only chance I have at acquiring the Gadama jewel and the Tanjil stone."
      "Not to be rude, boss, but how are you going to find something that no longer exists?"
      "How indeed?" Geese's secret smile said everything; he did have a way to obtain the objects he desired, although Billy would be damned if he could guess what it was.
      "Boss, I . . ."
      Geese held up a hand, silencing Billy's objections.
      "Enough! I appreciate your concern, but it's unnecessary. Now," Geese paused, smoothing out the lapels of his suit and tightening his tie, "I want you to do something for me. Go back to the office. I have an envelope for you in the right-hand drawer, second from the bottom. Get it and bring it back here."
      "Are you sure you want to stay here, boss? I mean, the thing is right there on the floor and . . ."
      "Now, Billy."
      "Yes, Sir . . ."
      Damn it all! Billy raged silently with anger as he stalked back across the museum, his footfalls echoing and Geese's trophies mocking him as he passed. Why couldn't the boss see what was happening to him? Mr. Howard was a hard and dangerous man, but Billy owed him his life several times over; he couldn't just stand by and let that thing consume Geese. But what could he do? He briefly considered getting rid of the crystal shard, dumping it somewhere, smashing it with a sledgehammer even, but Billy knew Geese would find out. Someway, somehow Mr. Howard would learn the truth, and when he did, Billy doubted the many years of friendship and trust between the two of them would stay Geese's fury.
      The office was almost completely dark now, but the odor of Mr. Howard's cigar still hung heavily in the air. Billy flipped on the desk lamp and opened the drawer the boss had mentioned. The light fizzled and blinked on and off twice.
      He smacked it irritably with his hand.
      "Work, you shoddy piece of rubbish!"
      Apparently, the lamp took great offense at being labeled trash, because it sprung to life again.
      "That's better."
      Billy turned his attention back to the drawer. Lying atop a couple of leather-bound ledgers was a business envelope with his name written upon it in Geese's orderly script. It was thick, but he could tell there wasn't any money in it from the feel and heft of it. What was it then?
      Billy filed that question away for later consideration; he was anxious to get back to the boss.
      He returned, only to find the small side-room empty.
      "Goddammit!" Billy cursed; somehow he knew this is what he'd find. Mr. Howard was nowhere to be seen, and the crystal was gone too.
      "GEESE! Where are you?" He yelled, running back out into the main hall, his eyes searching between the exhibits for any sign of movement. Where had he gone? Unless there was another exit, which there didn't appear to be, Geese would have been forced to pass him on his way out.
      The lights above flickered and went out, and then came to life again, just as the lamp had done. Now Billy knew something was wrong. Geese Tower had its own power supply, generators in the sub-basement, independent of the rest of South Town. Mr. Howard had many enemies, had someone infiltrated and sabotaged the building?
      There was the sound of something breaking; it came from the side-room.
      The lights flickered again, but Billy paid them little heed as he slowly crept towards the open doorway.
      "Geese, is that you?"
      No answer.
      Steeling himself, Billy leapt through the opening, his hands poised to grapple with an unknown assailant, but the room was empty, just as he left it.
      What was this?
      The boomerang was damaged - cracked, charred, and splintered right down the center, but how?
      And then he saw it.
      The painting.
      Mr. Howard was in the painting.
      As difficult as it was for his eyes to believe, there stood Geese in the center of the canvas, standing between the two warring parties, and above and behind the two orbs that Billy now recognized as the Tanjil stone and the Gadama jewel.
      How was that possible?
      That shard, that damn crystal. It had to be; that was the only answer.
      As he gaped, Billy became aware that there was something else amiss in the image as well, but what was it? His eyes searched, and then, he spied it, the empty spot on the left where one of the warriors had been. Now he remembered, a woman had been in that spot, dressed in animal skins wielding . . . wielding a boomerang.
      His gaze returned to the broken weapon on the table.
      With mounting horror, Billy pieced together what had occurred. The painting depicted the last battle for the two stones. Wherever and whenever he was, Geese had just killed the T'hamchamuque warrior in his efforts to obtain the gems.
      That wasn't possible; was it?
      "Geese . . . "
      The lights flickered again, and once more, the sound of something breaking shattered the silence. When illumination returned, Billy saw a long spear from the left display lying on the floor, snapped in two. Another figure in the painting from the cluster of warriors on the left had disappeared.
      Billy was torn. What should he do? Destroy the painting? No, he might kill Geese if he did that . . . but could he just stand here and let this madness continue?
      As his mind struggled with this uncanny dilemma, Billy slowly became aware of the object he still clutched tightly in his hand. The envelope. Bit by bit, he tore off the end and pulled forth the packet of papers inside. The title page read:
      Damn you, Geese!
      Billy flipped through the rest of the documents in a daze. Here were comprehensive stock listings, property holdings, bonds, even the deed for Geese Tower itself . . .
      He let the terrifying reality soak over him. Geese Howard wasn't coming back. Not tomorrow, not in a week, not ever.
      The light flashed again and something else clattered, broken, but Billy no longer cared. He slowly slid down the wall behind him and stared dumbly at the painting, at Geese. He marveled and shuddered at the same time at the skill in which the artist had rendered the cruel grin on his master's face.
      "My God, Geese, what have you done? What have you done?"

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