Night. After another long day of work. The man parked his dirty white '88 Toyota Celica on the driveway stained deeply over the course of many years by a number of automotive fluids. He didn't bother pulling the car into the garage, which was packed with an assortment of worn-out furniture, tools he never used, and other abandoned junk. His car had not seen the inside of the garage since he first moved into the cramped house twenty years ago—a lifetime ago—when he was still engaged, when he still had hope of leading a normal, healthy life. Things had gone to hell since then. Layoffs at the company, a cancelled wedding, bankruptcy, credit cards maximized. He'd become a broken man, a creature of habit, had settled for a dead-end job he hated, and no longer found any joy in life.
The man got out of the car, slammed the door, and walked up to the house through the patch of lawn. The grass was overrun with weeds and had grown so tall that the blades bent over with their own weight. Landscaping was a thing of the past, like shutters and a new paint job—one more forsaken dream. The knob twisted at his touch while the man fumbled with his key, and the door swung open on a creaky hinge. It did not surprise him. He often forgot to lock it. Stepping into the hallway, he flicked the nearby light switch. Nothing happened. Peculiar. He could have sworn that was one bill he had paid this month. No matter. There was a flashlight in the living room closet.
Holding a hand out to feel along the wall, the man stumbled his way down the short hallway, kicking aside trash and shoes and other unidentifiable things on the floor. The wall gave way. He was in the living room. He tossed his keys down on the easy chair, where they landed with a muffled clinking against articles of dirty laundry and old newspapers. He turned to his left and took a step toward the closet door, and froze. Maybe it was the sound of steady breathing that tipped him off. Maybe the hint of warmth before him. Maybe the foreign smell of some clean aftershave. Someone else was in the room. "Hell—o," he asked aimlessly, the hair standing up on the back of his neck.
"Good evening Jack," said a calm voice from the darkness. "I assume you were looking for this."
The beam of the flashlight suddenly shone across the room and painfully struck at the back of his retina. "Who the hell are you," he asked, squinting into the light and frozen to the spot with fear. The voice chuckled, and the light began to move in a slow circle around him. Jack had the distinct impression he was being hunted. "What do you want?" he asked.
"Compensation," the voice growled as it circled.
"Did Tony send you?" Beads of perspiration were running down his face, and he held a hand up to shield his eyes. "I swear I'll pay back the loan. It's just been harder to get the money together than I'd thought."
The circling stopped. "I'm not here to collect your debts," the voice spat, and the flashlight was raised, and the luminosity played up against the facial features of the bearer of the voice. The silhouetted hair was unmistakable.
"You're that kid," Jack realized aloud, feeling his heart rush with panic. The beam of the flashlight was in his eyes again, and an arm was raised to just within view, the hand clutching the silver chain affixed to a familiar golden pyramid.
"This was stolen," cooed the voice. "You really ought to be mindful of where your keys are at all times. Entering your office, finding both the bloody knife and this," he demonstrated, swinging the golden pyramid gently in the light, "and then exiting without my presence detected was child's play as soon as I had your keys. You didn't even miss them." The golden pyramid swung slowly like a pendulum ticking away the seconds. "The business of revenge," the voice said, "is a very delicate process. It requires unparalleled amounts of patience, temperance, and nerve. One has to collect evidence and facts before making assumptions. One has to wait quietly, in the shadows, for the opportune moment to take action. I have been watching you for some time now. I have been privy to every move you make, every bar you visit, every filthy magazine you purchase at the corner gas station on alternate Tuesdays." A pause. The voice chuckled. "It's an unsettling thing to be stalked. Do you feel violated yet?"
Jack was trembling. "You're not the kid, are you?" he asked.
The arm and the golden pyramid were lowered from view, and there was a metal jingling sound as the chain was slipped around his neck. "Quite the deduction," the voice mocked. "Perhaps you're more intelligent than I'd anticipated."
"Wh—who are you," Jack stammered.
"Someone who is very, very angry," the voice said.
Jack was growing anxious at these mysterious comments. "What the fuck do you want from me," he yelled at the man, feeling cornered.
There was a long pause, as if the bearer of the voice were drawing him out, enjoying the torture of silence. "I want you to suffer," the voice replied at last, seething with hatred, "like you made my boy suffer. I want you to be disgraced. I want you to hate yourself."
Jack swallowed. "Are you going to kill me?"
He was shaking all over. "No," he answered.
"Why ever not?" the voice asked in a singsong jeer. "Why should I give you a second chance? An animal like you doesn't deserve to live."
"Maybe not," Jack agreed. "I'll turn myself in, okay? The court can decide my punishment."
"…No. You'll get six months, at the most. I don't want that for you. I don't want you to do a little hard time, get bitched up in jail, and become a 'changed man.' I don't want you to come back to this neighborhood—these streets—a registered sex offender. Just another dent in your record, a social red flag," the voice said. "That would be too good for you."
"It would ruin my life," Jack argued, desperate for a way out. "My career would be over."
"Career," the voice laughed darkly. "What career?"
He set his jaw. "It's not for you to decide whether I live or die," he yelled. "It's not your right!"
"My right?" The voice was advancing, forcing Jack to step back. "No. Not my right. But his. My boy. Your victim. It's his right, his recompense, his justice! And any other defenseless child you have harmed in your cruel and twisted lifetime."
"Hey, you don't know what it's like," Jack accused, jabbing the air in front of him with a finger, "to go to this demeaning job day in, day out—to clean up after these shit-faced brats who think they own the place—to be subjected to manual labor, plunging toilets, mopping vomit, picking up trash. I watch these spoiled teenagers with their cellular phones and mp3 players and personal computers and expensive clothing go about their lives, practice their sports games, and sing in their precious choirs. It sickens me!"
"They're children, you monster," the voice growled. "They're just children. They get educations. They grow up. They become sensible adults. They are the future. They should be protected, not despised."
Jack laughed, backing up until he felt the wall behind him. "They're pathetic little snobs. That's all." Enough was enough. If this altruistic mercenary was going to kill him, he at least wanted to rattle his cage first. "You know why it was your boy?" he asked after a moment. "He was an easy target. He left school late. Alone. That's all. And the dumb little fuck cut behind an abandoned building. He was asking for it. I walked around the other side, met up with him in no time. He wasn't even watching where he was going or who was around him. He was distracted. And in combination with the rain and the isolation, it was easy." Jack paused to see how this was being received. There was no response. The flashlight was held by a steady hand. "You want to know what really got me hard for your boy," he continued, understanding perfectly well the dangerous ground he was on. "It was the hair. My god, the hair. I'd seen him before at the school and would recognize him anywhere. How could I not? It was so damn hilarious. That's what drew me to him. I didn't actually want to fuck him, you know. I just had to. Because I was so damned fed up with cleaning these bastards' messes. And because of the hair." He chewed his lip. "Looking back now, though…it was worth it. He's pretty when he cries."
The flashlight hit the floor with a clang, loosing the batteries from their port and causing the light to die out suddenly. Jack didn't have time to react before the other man was on him, pinning him to the wall with surprising force in a hand locked tightly around his neck. He couldn't breathe. "You unspeakable son of a bitch," the voice whispered hoarsely into his ear. "One shred of sanity prevents me from tearing out your carotid artery this very instant. I would love to make you feel the same pain my boy suffered." The nails in Jack's skin bit down emphatically. His world was spinning from lack of oxygen. "But I'm stronger than that," the voice explained. "It was your feeling of inferiority, your weakness, that led you to harm my boy, and it is my strength that holds me back now." The voice chuckled, a sinister irony. "After all," it cooed, "I do not want the police to suspect foul play. I have been planning this moment for a very long time," he hissed. "No one. Touches. My hikari, and lives to brag about it."
Suddenly the Millennium Puzzle around his neck began to glow with an unearthly light and Yami held up his free hand, and from his palm came a wave of dark energy, and blackness took Jack.
After several days of absence from work, the police arrived to find an empty shell of a man, which was no less than he deserved.