The original version of this story is XX rated for extreme violence and explicit sex scenes. I have toned it down to fit within the M rating - please let me know if it is still too too much...

content - angst, decapitation, horror, profanity, rape, torture...

OOO

Mr Minh shuffled anxiously from foot to foot, his hands twisting as if in supplication. Watching the police he felt his panic increasing, all he wanted to do was return to his deli, his work, his routine. This was costing him time which was money and he knew it was just the beginning. The police would close the deli, scare away his customers, perhaps even bring in the INS.

It would have been more prudent to just leave the box, or push it down into the reeking mess of the garbage bags and forget he had ever seen it, but it was too late for that now. Like Pandora's Box, once opened it can never be closed, the evil already escaped.

The pizza parlour next door kept leaving opened bags of rancid cheese at the dumpsters in the rear alley and rats had been seen, along with other vermin. Repeated requests to the pizza parlour had fallen on deaf ears and the Sanitation Dept and Health Inspectors had requested proof before action could be taken.

When Mr Minh took out the garbage bags after lunch and saw the cardboard box perched on the edge of the dumpster with the sides oozing a clear liquid, the entire box abuzz with flies in the hot summer sun, he rejoiced that at last, here was clear proof. Racing inside for his digital camera, he returned and began photographing the box from different angles before lifting it down and continuing with the photographic record.

As he cut through the thick brown tape the flies intensified their attack, swarming up in an angry cloud. Mr Minh batted them away, holding his breath against the stench, as he took more photos. Pulling the plastic sheet aside it took a moment for the full horror to hit, then he stumbled backwards and threw up violently, the retching continuing long after his stomach was empty.

The face looking up at him was a Halloween mask of terror. The eyes and mouth sewn shut in large black stitches, the skin pulled tight, the lips puckered. Crusted blood had pooled from the eyes and lips and was now crawling with flies.

The police had taken their time in coming and Mr Minh remained beside the box, attempting to keep the flies at bay, feeling it somehow necessary to ensure this unfortunate person be accorded some measure of respect.

When the squad car finally arrived, the two officers weren't too interested. This was a poor neighbourhood and the gang battles often produced stray body parts. A cursory look at the box though and their attitude changed dramatically. Crime scene tape was used to cordon off a large area while they awaited their superiors. Mr Minh looked through the photos on his camera to see if he could spot what had alerted them. He knew it wasn't so much the contents of the box, but the box itself that excited their interest.

The box was cardboard and obviously not new, the brown Post Office tape wide and wrapped neatly, none of those annoying twists had formed. Black marker had been used on the tape and Mr Minh realised he had sliced through the lettering to open the box. He hoped he hadn't destroyed any evidence. On one of the early photos he found the writing stood out clearly, written in capital letters, but he still didn't understand.

"Jack Bauer CTU."

What could it possibly mean?