Cold air blew through the alley like a wind-tunnel, crashing into his open wound and setting his nerves ablaze.
“Shit…shit…shit!” he repeated quickly as he tried to wrap the soiled bandana across the gash embedded in his forearm. Tears welled up in his eyes as he fought to keep the pain down. His entire frame shook, and his left arm kept twitching out of the bandanna as if his body was telling him to give up and let it bleed. His right hand was drenched in blood as it fought numbness to keep pressure on, though he hardly felt it. Shaky breaths shuddered in and out of his mouth as he looked up towards the black sky in an attempt to block out the pain.
“That’s what you get when you try to steal food, Riles.”
The brunette’s head snapped back down to glare at a figure that had materialized at the end of the alleyway, “You have a lot of nerve talkin’ to me like that.”
He heard a light chuckle as the figure shrugged with his arms out in an exaggerated way, “Don’t like nicknames? Fine, Riley, I was just trying to be friendly.” The words shot out like poison-laced bullets as the figure walked down the alley, shoes clicking against the concrete and echoing on the walls.
“Friendly my ass,” Riley growled before wincing at another gust of wind. His head pulled back to the gash, which still poured out blood like a waterfall. In the corner of his eye he could see the figure standing proudly in front of him. A grunt escaped his lips as he turned back to the wall.
“I tried to warn you,” the man spoke in an exaggerated apology that made Riley want to puke, “People in the gutter just don’t like their only things getting stolen, especially from someone who just landed in it.”
“How about you fuck off?” Riley seethed, dark brown eyes aimed at the unwelcome visitor.
“You aren’t all that trusting, are you?” the man commented with a lighthearted smile as he kneeled down to Riley’s level.
The brunette avoided the man’s presence, eyes locked on the bandanna to keep him from falling for the trick. Pungent cheap cologne radiated from the man, though at least Riley’s distaste for it detracted from the pain. He felt ice blue eyes locked onto him like a cobra about to strike. Riley had never known just what had made him so interesting towards the man, though whatever kept the slave driver around was the first thing he would cut off if he got off the streets. Hell, if it was his arm he was in luck. The man could keep it for whatever sick fantasy he wished and leave the brunette a few more minutes of peace before death.
“What’s the matter?” the man asked tauntingly as he leaned in closer, “Still frightened by my little offer? It’s not all that bad. I’m sure you’ve fucked a couple guys along the way. I’ll sweeten the deal, too. Come with me and you won’t die here.”
“You threatening me?” Riley snapped as he turned his head to look the man straight in the eye. The man grinned mischievously, yellow teeth peeking out from the crack between cracked lips. He stared down the brunette even as his oily black hair swayed in front of his eyes. Riley kept his ground and sneered at the man.
“Threatening? Where did you get that idea, Riles?” the man smirked in delight as the nickname left his lips, “You just don’t seem so good right now. The hospitals quite a walk away, and I’m sure you don’t have the money to pay anyone- unless that box of yours has a nice stash, of course.”
“Sounds like a threat to me, Greg,” Riley retaliated as he swung out his good arm. The man swiftly took a step back, avoiding the blow by an inch.
“Now I like that,” the man taunted with a light laugh, “Gregory is a boring title anyway. I suppose this makes us friends now?”
“Like hell it does.”
“Deny it all you want. We aren’t going to be friends for long at the rate you’re going. How long has it been since you got a knife in your arm?”
Riley huffed before looking back down at the wound. The pain had become white noise to him, but looking at it made him realize just how much it had escalated. His bandanna was completely soaked over and dyed from dark green to bright red.
“Not your problem, is it?” Riley muttered stubbornly.
“But it is,” Gregory replied with a smile. “I wouldn’t want someone dying when I could help them out just a little bit. I just want something small in return. It’s…just a job. Might even get a cozy bed if you’re lucky.”
“Job my ass. Get the fuck away from me.”
“Sorry, but this is a public space. But…if you’re done talking, you can always leave.”
Riley glared at Gregory. He knew just what the man was trying to play. The brunette brushed some curly strands from his eyes and worked up the strength to finally stand. His limbs shook with the sudden usage, and his back grinded against the hard concrete wall when he found that he couldn’t actually balance on his feet. The searing pain on his arm pulsed erratically and demanded to be noticed, but his pride kept him from giving in. He stood shakily with his back to the wall as he gave Gregory a hard glare.
“Going already? We were having such a lovely chat,” the man taunted.
Riley didn’t bother to answer as he stumbled away, his weight still pressed against the wall.
“You’re creating quite a mess. Looks like it’s smearing.”
The young man kept fighting to keep one foot going after the other as he heard the clicking of shoes start from the back of the alley.
“You sure that you’re feeling okay? Not really walking all that great. Need me to call your parents? Or were you one of those run - ”
“Shut up!” Riley yelled, twisting around to face Gregory. His head spun along with the momentum, and he could barely feel where his limbs were going. He could feel his legs grow numb as he tried to find the sanctuary of the wall once more. Riley could feel himself begin to sag down, and as his vision blurred he felt concrete collide with his head. Within the blur he could see the outline of neatly polished shoes inches from his nose. Riley held his breath as his brown eyes crept up Gregory’s figure.
“Well there. You don’t look good at all. Let me just help you out there…”
The young man could do nothing as his vision began to blur into shades of black.
From the outside looking in, it should have been perfect.
Warmth flooded into Riley as he awakened, body entwined in a thick blanket with a texture he couldn’t describe even after months of lying on solid concrete. Even the week spent lying on a hospital bed for his arm was nothing compared to what he felt at that moment. It felt like he was floating somewhere far away, somewhere where eyes wouldn’t catch him and plastic smiles wouldn’t swallow him. He was far away, back in his room with parents waiting downstairs like nothing had ever happened. Nothing was wrong and everything had been some twisted nightmare conjured up after his parents saw him kiss a man. A small smile spread upon his lips. They cracked and began to bleed.
As his lip began to sting, he felt a strange pain grow inside his rear. All his fantasies were shot from the sky and crashed down to the concrete.
Brown eyes ripped open wide and barely winced when light from a window poured into them. They darted around as much as they could, the rest of his body frozen solid. Dull tanned walls with peeling paint and generic off-red curtains surrounded him. The bed sheets matched the walls and were stiff despite what his previous fantasy had gifted him. His heart pulsed in his ears as he recognized just where he had woken up: one of the cheap hotels near where the girls ran the corner.
The other side of the bed creaked, and the sheets tugged at Riley. Rough skin brushed across his bare back, and it took all of his willpower to hold down the bile that crawled up his throat. Fists formed and trembled under the sheets, though the rest of his body was trapped as if bound by a curse. It was then when memories slowly trickled into his brain.
Panic broke the spell and Riley ripped himself from the sheets. The second he tried to stand, his knees buckled from an unfamiliar pain that had tightened between his legs. The worn red carpet greeted him as he fell, and the sight of discarded underwear kept him from remaining there. Riley lifted himself up and looked around wildly, only to stop when he saw the lump on the bed: an aging man with a balding head, and black body hair that disappeared under the sheets. The only cover he had was a blanket over his sizable stomach.
The brunette lurched at the disgusting thoughts that ran through his head. The next moment he was limping towards the bathroom. Then he was draped over the toilet, spilling the contents of the last meal Gregory had given him. After that, he kept heaving up air like they were the intimate moments that had transpired. Moments he thought he would save for a special man in his life. Moments that wouldn’t go away no matter how much he heaved.
It had been a miracle that the man…the client had not stirred for the minutes that Riley laid against the toilet, even after tears fell from his eyes. After the inferno in his stomach was quelled, he hesitantly looked out towards the bed to see his client still sleeping. He wished that he was still plunged in a dream as well, but another part of him was relieved. If the man had woken before him…Riley shook at the very thought of what else he would want to do.
Riley looked down and traced the new marks on his naked body. Some from kisses, four from ropes, and then some from other means. He blocked out the thoughts before they could project and instead traced along the bandage wrapped around his arm. The brunette wondered what would happen if he ripped at the bandages, tore out the stitches, and let himself bleed all over the bathroom floor. His thin fingers pressed on the rough texture, but he inevitably let his hand fall limp.
Instead, he walked back out and tried to collect his clothing. Bending down had become a struggle, but he found that using his knees made things easier. The client thankfully remained asleep while Riley dressed himself, and the young man made sure to close the door gently on the way out.
Every step outside of the room felt like another death sentence, another mark of shame to embed on his skin. He passed a few other guests of the hotel whose sleep had been interrupted by the morning sun, and when he felt eyes grace his body, awkward limp, and bruises he wanted to disappear. They knew just what he had done behind the closed door. They knew, and Riley forced his eyes down and head low. His cheeks heated at every passerby, and every reminder of the previous night made him want to run back to the toilet.
“Well Riles, how was sleeping in a bed?”
The voice greeted him soon after he walked out on the street. Riley could barely work up the courage to look at Gregory. A playful grin was spread across his lips, and his sheer obliviousness to the turmoil buzzing in Riley’s brain felt completely dissonant.
“So silent! Did you get any sleep last night?” Gregory asked as he walked closer. The young man’s eyes fell back towards the ground and he felt his hands curl up to a fist. A calloused hand grabbed him by the chin and forced his face back up.
“What’s the matter, Riles? Are you angry at me? Looks like you’ve been crying,” Gregory’s words held a threat within the bright intonation. Riley froze for a second, but soon shook it off to push Gregory’s hand off of him.
“Disgusting…” Riley whispered under his breath, his voice trembling, “It was fucking disgusting.”
“What was? I can assure you that Max is clean. None of the girls have ever gotten an… infection during his appointments,” Gregory immediately responded, his smirk not flinching once.
“No…this whole thing. It’s so fucked –”
“Well now, Riles. You’re standing a little odd,” the man interrupted as his grin spread in malicious delight, “My, was that your first?”
Riley fell silent as heat burned his cheeks in a mixture of embarrassment and shame. Gregory observed the reaction with the grin locked in place. The heavy-set man then draped a hand over the young man’s shoulders and led him away from the hotel and through the streets. Riley didn’t have the strength left to fight him off.
“I know it can be shocking for someone like you, but people do it all the time. Young people hook up for it, some people pay for it, and for you, it’s a job. There’s certainly nothing wrong with it. It’s natural. I’m sure you gave Max quite a show.”
Riley could still feel fingers digging into his back. Pants filling his ears. Tears welled in his eyes as the smell of sex overwhelmed him. The weight against his back had kept him from moving. Ropes bound his wrists to the bedpost. Trapped.
“Plus, after graciously taking care of your little injury, it’s only polite to do me a few favors. It’s what friends do, right? They take care of each other.”
Riley had watched the door, imagining how he could escape. But he knew that Gregory would be waiting outside. He knew that if he ran, Gregory would throw him back in to make sure Max got his money’s worth.
“I’m sure you’ll get used to it. Everyone does.”
He remembered biting the pillow to conceal a cry when Max wanted a second round.
“Oh my…if only I had known that you were a little virgin,” Gregory’s arm fell to his side as he turned to stand in front of Riley, “You see…I may have scheduled another customer.”
Riley felt his insides turn to ice as he instinctively took a step back. A hand struck out and gripped his bandaged arm, preventing him from taking another step further. He looked up, his skin white as a sheet at the very thoughts that were running through his mind. Fear of last night’s job happening all over again. The man’s face projected every hint of normalcy, and it was what gave Riley the urge to run. His eyes darted around to see if someone else was there, any light of hope. They only met the dark walls of a familiar alleyway, with no other person in sight.
“I just know it’s a little sudden, but I wouldn’t want to disappoint a paying customer,” Gregory spoke quietly as his eyes bore into Riley’s skull.
“N-No…I don’t want…” Riley’s words dissolved into nothing as Gregory’s grip around his wound tightened. His thoughts went dark as pain exploded on the too-fresh wound as stitches begin to pull and contract against his skin.
“I know you have some reservations,” Gregory’s words reached him within the pain, “Maybe I can give you a deal. Pay back the medical bills and you won’t have to do this. Though…I’m sure you wouldn’t be able to pay that much at once.”
“S…Stop!” Riley choked out in desperation.
“Stop what?” Gregory asked playfully as a chuckle escaped his lips, “Does this still hurt?”
“I’ll go! I’ll go!” Riley cried out just as he felt his skin begin to rip.
“Really?” Gregory’s grip slacked on the wrapped wound, “That means a lot, Riles.”
Riley breathed roughly as his mind returned to him.
“Oh dear, look at what we have here!” Gregory spoke in exaggerated shock as his thumb grazed over a spot of blood that began spreading along Riley’s bandage, “Let’s get you fixed up before tonight.” The man took him by the hand and pulled him out of the alleyway and back into the sunny streets. Riley let himself be pulled along, his mind too weak to even think to fight back. All he had left was a tiredness that latched onto his brain and forced him to be played with like a rag doll.
“Now Riles, I do apologize for this. I try not to fight with my friends when I don’t have to,” Gregory said with a snake-like grin on his face.
Riley could do nothing but be led on.
When Riley was sixteen, he could barely imagine what life had in store. To him, it held infinite possibilities that were listed out on an endless chain that diverged at each link. To him, it meant going to college to get a degree in whatever the hell was out there and getting a job. To him, everything was a set plan that was foolproof. Everything would play out alright in the end.
How fucking naïve that was.
Riley twisted the cigarette around in his mouth. He often wondered why Gregory insisted on giving him the tobacco sticks. He had claimed that it would add some points to the look Riley seemed to be pulling off on the streets. Tough guy with a large scar on his arm paired up with the dark skin, dark eyes, and dark hair. Apparently just one little stick in his mouth was all it took to attract even more in the city.
It was probably another way to keep Riley in line with light addiction. Just enough of a need to keep him in Gregory’s grip, but not hard enough to deteriorate his body. Wouldn’t want the customers scared off by heroin addicts, after all. Riley questioned that kind of logic to begin with, since he was stuck regardless of what he wanted. He was nineteen, completely cut off from his parents, and it wasn’t like anyone else at home wanted him back. Once, he had hoped that at least someone would find him in the city. He often imagined the face of the boy next door, who would spot him through a car window and stop to take him away from the city streets. Those fantasies had long since been spent on the street and the people that came for him.
The street corner had become his home. It was in some run down part of the city, with gates barred on the doors, windows, and any other crevice a monster could sneak in through. The walls of each building were covered in graffiti that were too messed up for Riley to decipher, even when he had long moments to peer out at them and study the lettering. Every day he could see all sorts of people travel through his corner. Some picked him up, some tried to offer him drugs, and some merely looked at him as if his touch would give them an STD. Riley was beyond the threshold for caring. After a year, he had grown callous to whatever people thought of him. The boy who had run away to the city was long gone, and he could only laugh at how stupid he had been before. If he had stayed like that, he would have died. But now, he could at least survive.
“Well hello there, Riley. I’m surprised to see you still out here,” Riley turned to look at the tall man that materialized beside him.
“Weather’s making it bad,” Riley responded quietly, a shiver going down his spine as he said it. His clothing barely passed as appropriate for the cold chill of autumn, with a tight fit black shirt and ripped jeans that could barely hold enough heat for a child.
“I’m sure that things will pick up,” Gregory commented with the same sleazy smile he pulled out since he found Riley on the streets, “Cold weather means someone wants their bed warm.”
Riley restrained himself from retaliating, “How long do I have to stand here?”
“Until you get someone’s attention, of course!” Gregory announced happily, “I’m sure you won’t have a problem with that. Men get especially frisky this time of year. I’m sure that spending so much time with their wives makes them quite a bit…needy.”
“Right,” Riley commented casually as he tried not to think that much into his clients for the next season. He wondered briefly what would happen if nobody actually propositioned him. Would he actually have to stand there until someone got there, even if it meant days? Riley never had issues with getting picked up. Usually, he had appointments with his regulars fill in time usually spent on the corner. Whenever he walked outside, he usually was picked up after thirty minutes. Slow day were a foreign concept to him.
“I’m sure you won’t have any problems,” Gregory grinned suggestively, “I’ve been spotting some cars circling around here, and not the bad kind. Whoever it is, be a good boy and make sure he comes back, okay?”
“Fine,” Riley replied, not reacting as Gregory walked away to check on one of the girls working the corner not too far from him. The brunette let out a puff of smoke and stared at it as it floated away.
When he was sixteen, he would have turned away at the thought of ever having sex with a man. When he was sixteen, he had been brainwashed into the typical mindset of his parents that having sex with anyone but a woman was the worst sin that any man would commit. When he was sixteen, his parents weren’t trying to fix his sexuality as if it were a disease.
Now everything had unraveled at the seams, and he could only hope to grab one of the threads.
The brunette lowered his head as he heard the squeak of breaks in front of him. Before him sat a black sedan with tinted windows that made it so he couldn’t see anything inside. In a moment the back door opened, and a hand slowly slid out from the darkness and beckoned him inside. The fingers were slender, with spots and wrinkles cluing him in to just what kind of person awaited him. Riley trembled for a second, but soon another force took over to shove all hesitation back down to the pit of his stomach. He couldn’t afford hesitation now. That was what a stupid kid would do. He had learned.
A coy smile spread onto his lips as he fell into the performance. He slid inside the car and closed the door behind him, plunging himself into the darkness of the vehicle. He could vaguely see someone in front driving, but he soon directed his wandering eyes towards the shadowed figure sitting next to him in the back seat. Riley pulled himself over towards the man, his hands wandering to caress the inside of the man’s thin thigh. His face pulled close, and he could smell aging cologne and sweat radiating from the client.
“Hello…sir,” Riley whispered seductively into the man’s ear, forcing husky breaths out between words, “What would you like to do?”
“Now…I want to try something a little different.”
Riley barely paid any mind to the client as he lay there naked, sprawled out on the bed. His eyes were absentmindedly pointed towards the ceiling as Max, his most frequent client, began to straddle his hips. The words held little meaning to Riley after the countless times he and Max had shared a bed in the same little hotel room since their first night. Every appointment held some new experiment that Max had no balls to ever attempt with his wife. It was something he had grown accustomed to. Riley just hoped that this experiment would let him able to walk out of the hotel.
“You know…you’ve always been the quiet type. I like that a lot,” Max huffed in a raspy voice.
Riley tried to ignore the stiff twitch he felt against his hips.
“But…I can’t help but think of that first night…you weren’t so quiet when Gregory dragged you in the room.”
Riley let out a breath of air, keeping his thoughts steady. No use in thinking about that night. He had learned so much since then. He didn’t need to get emotional about it.
“I want to see that again.”
A flash of light reflected into his eyes. Just as Riley started to divert his attention from the ceiling, he felt something sharp slide into his cheek. As he processed the cold metal on his skin, he felt blood begin to roll down his skin. Riley looked to the side, eyes widening as he saw a knife pressed into his skin. His breaths quickened as he met Max’s beady black eyes.
“W…What are you doing?” Riley whispered in disbelief. For the first time since he got used to the price tag stamped on his dick, he felt pure fear. None of his clients had ever brought anything dangerous to the bedroom before. He had heard a few stories from some of the girls, but the prospect of this happening to him never had crossed his mind.
Max squealed in delight as Riley squrimed and his face twisted into a sadistic smirk, “That face is just perfect! This makes things fun, right?” The knife lifted up and lightly slid against Riley’s torso, only drawing a thin strip of blood in its wake. Riley tried to keep his breathing down and bit his tongue so he wouldn’t start screaming. This was a customer, right? Still a client, right? Gregory had beaten that into him. He had to do whatever it took to please a client. Some were into odd things, but he still had to comply.
But…he only did that to survive, right?
Riley stiffened as the knife made its way to his neck. Max lowered himself over the brunette, his weight pressing down hard enough for Riley to make it hard to breathe. Riley couldn’t even think. He was trapped.
He couldn’t let himself die like this. But…this was just a sex play, right?
“God, Riley. I just want to hear you scream.”
The knife broke the skin along with all his doubts.
Riley’s hand shot down and crushed Max’s balls. Max let out a pitiful yell as he curled back into himself. Riley forced himself out and ran towards the door, only caring for the chance of freedom. As he reached towards the chain-lock, his shoulder was seized and then he was whipped around. In front of him as Max, who panted angrily and held the knife up in the air like a guillotine.
“You little bitch…I’ll teach you to fuck with me,” Max panted, sweat pouring from his skin as he thrust the knife down.
Before the knife could pierce him, Riley latched onto Max’s wrist and wrestled it from his hand. Soon, Riley gripped the knife in his shaking hand. Max backed away at first, but then lunged at Riley, both hands reaching out for the young man’s neck with murderous intent flaming in his black eyes. Riley instinctively held out his hands, and Max’s torso met the knife.
At first, Riley didn’t know what had happened. He stared with wide eyes as hands that barely grazed the skin of his throat slowly fell to Max’s side. Max looked down to the knife lodged in his chest, and then back up at Riley. It was only when Max fell to the ground when Riley fully realized just what he had done.
“Oh god…” Riley whispered as he stared with his back pressed to the door, watching as Max’s twitching lessened. Watching as blood dripped down from the knife. Watching as Max looked up at him in fear as blood pooled around him. Watching as the last flicker of light left the obese man’s eyes.
Then he was running. Even in the dead of night, he could still feel people’s eyes on him as he passed by. They had to know what he had done. They knew just what he did. It was displayed right on the clothes he had picked up from the floor before running. They were covered in blood, but he couldn’t tell whose it was. He couldn’t bear to think about that.
As his lungs began to burn, he found himself ducking into an alleyway. His torso crashed against the wall, leaving a trail of blood as he fell to the ground. Air burned his torso as choked breaths escaped his throat. Tears fell from his eyes as he lay there, defeated.
“Oh my god…” Riley whispered again in fear, “What did I do…?”
“That’s right. What did you do, Riles?”
Everything inside of him turned to ice. His eyes were wide, fixated on the dark end of the alleyway as he heard clicking begin to approach from the other side. He shook violently as he felt something lurch up from the depths of his stomach. He didn’t bother to hold it in. Vomit spread out on the ground in front of him, holding nothing but the small lunch he had before. Just as Riley stopped, he saw a brown boot step right in front of his eyes.
“Hm? You’re actually calling me by a nickname? How sweet of you,” Gregory shoved his boot under Riley’s chin and jerked it upwards, forcing Riley to look up to his face. A taunting grin was on Gregory’s lips, though it seemed more controlled than before. Riley swallowed nervously, and when he took in a breath he realized that he had nothing to say. He trembled as Gregory just stared, not breaking eye contact once.
“What is the matter, Riles? You look like death,” Gregory’s smirk widened as Riley paled, “Oh? What’s wrong? Something I said?”
“G-Greg…you don’t understand…I-I…”
“There’s nothing to understand,” Gregory spoke as he pulled out a cigarette and lit it. He removed his boot and let Riley’s head fall back into the vomit. Riley shakily pulled himself up and looked towards the man. He was circling around Riley like a vulture as he blew out smoke.
“I see you run out with blood dripping from your shirt, and I go to check on poor Max to find a knife in his chest. What else would I need to know? My, you’ve been quite bad, haven’t you?”
“N-No, you don’t understand! He tried to –” Riley choked on a breath as Gregory’s foot collided with his stomach. He felt himself roll up to the rough wall of the alleyway. He gasped for air desperately as he curled up into himself. Before he could recover, Gregory pulled him upright against the wall by the shoulder. The same shoulder that Max had grabbed. In a delirious haze, Riley could see a change in Gregory’s face. His lips were fixed in a line, suppressing irritation. Any amusement in his face had departed, leaving in its wake irritation and malice.
“There’s nothing else to understand,” Gregory stated in a flat voice as he lowered himself down to Riley’s level, “Now…doesn’t this look familiar?” His words sounded like an apathetic observation as his iced over eyes traced the blood trail Riley had left on the wall. He removed the cigarette with his lips and pushed the burning end into Riley’s scar. Riley winced, but the pit in his stomach kept him from focusing on the pain. Gregory’s eyes bore into Riley’s skull as he rubbed the cigarette until the sparks finally died out.
“Back then, you were so promising. Little attractive gay boy on the streets. Plenty of people would pay to see that. But now…who in his right mind would keep a murderer around?” Gregory elaborated, an irritated look crossing his face.
“No…” Riley whispered, hoping that the wall would open up and swallow him whole, “I…I didn’t…” He could still see Max lying on the ground, surrounded by blood. But…he couldn’t have done that! He just wanted to live…and Max had run so quickly…
Tears poured from Riley’s eyes as a hand gripped his chin and forced him to keep looking at Gregory.
“Would anyone believe a little gay fuck like you?” Gregory whispered. Riley’s breath stifled, words hitting him deep inside. Back to when he was sitting at home. Back when his parents were calling the priest, not believing who their son had been kissing. Not believing any word that came out of his mouth.
“It has been a nice year or so. You’ve been a valuable asset.”
When Riley came back to reality, he realized that he now starred into the barrel of a gun.
“But you do understand…I can’t just leave a loose end lying around. Loose threads tend to be…caught.”
Riley shook as he saw Gregory’s finger press down on the trigger. He shut his eyes, and with a bang everything went dark.