"This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end

[…] The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die
This is the end.
"

The Doors, This Is The End

T'is indeed the end, my lovely readers, of "Skin Deep". I hope you've enjoyed it.

I'm going to enjoy my holiday and won't be publishing anything new for a while. My next story won't be a SAW one, I'm moving to fresh pastures.

As for this chapter, well… things get rough. You might want to have "Hello Zepp" playing in the background… Adds intensity…

Warning: character death. Yu-huh… Oh, come on! This is a frikkin' SAW story, they can't all make it!

Chapter Seventeen – The End Of The Game

Marcos and Engstrom were now facing the man who had set their game.

Sitting in a leather clad office chair, Mark Hoffman was staring at them, his eyes cold like a glacier, but with a hint of a smirk on his lips. Behind him was a long console table on which sat a series of monitors. Marcos recognized some of the scenes on them: the test rooms, complete with dead bodies, and some parts of corridors. He could see Sheila's body on one of them…

"Hello, Julian."

Marcos was breathing heavily. He was finally face to face with the bastard he had come all this way and more to arrest. Mark Hoffman, the Jigsaw Killer. It was almost too good to be true!

He entered to room, followed by Engstrom, both guns still pointed at Hoffman, who just looked at them without moving. Marcos told his partner:

"Search him."

"Excuse me?"

"Search him! See if he's armed!"

"What if he is? I'm not risking a hostage situation!"

"If that happens, I'll shoot him!"

"Before or after he shoots me?"

Marcos just grunted in response and gestured for Engstrom to comply. Engstrom reluctantly approached her former superior. His expression remained the same. Keeping her gun in her right hand, she quickly patted him down with her left: first the insides of his jacket, then his waist, then the legs. Hoffman did not move an inch the whole time. Once she was done, she went back to Marcos' side.

"He's clear.", she said.

"That wasn't much of a search!" Marcos exclaimed.

"Then you do it!"

"You barely touched him!"

"What do you want me to do exactly? Give him a lap dance?"

"You could at least 'cuff him!"

"With what? Did you wake up with your law enforcement kit, 'cos I sure didn't!"

Marcos decided to drop it for now. Though the idea of Engstrom doing a lap dance was certainly an interesting one… that he would have to keep in mind for later.

He turned to Hoffman: "I got you… I really got you!"

"Yes, Julian, you got me. Are you pleased with yourself?"

"Too right I am!" He heard Engstrom groan at his reaction, but ignored it. "How does it feel, huh, Hoffman? I beat you little game! You got caught by the very person you tried to kill!"

"The point was not to kill you, Julian. I thought you would have learned that."

"Oh, yeah, I forgot! I'm supposed to learn a lesson, right? Here's your lesson: never judge a book by its cover! It's not because I didn't make my way up the ranks the usual way that I don't deserve to be here!"

"I never said you didn't. I just wanted to find out if deserved to remain there."

"It's not for you to decide, though, is it? You're not God!"

"I never pretended to be, and I find you quite presumptuous to believe only God can decide your fate. Only you make your own path. Or is it just so you can blame someone else when you don't get your way?"

"That's not true!"

"Really? So far, you've been blaming me, your superiors, even poor Sophia here for what has happened today, but not once have I heard you even say sorry for those deaths, or even your lies."

"I have nothing to be sorry for!"

"We all have something to be sorry for."

"I don't!"

"Yes, you do. You just don't want to admit it. Which is a shame, really. If you had, Sheila, Maureen and Lloyd would still be alive. Come to think of it, I did not even see you express any sorrow for their passing…"

"We all have to die someday. It's tragic that it had to be today for them, but hey, nothing I could do."

"I agree on one point: we indeed all will die someday. But there was something you could have done. If you had just accepted…"

"Oh, don't tell me: this is when your big 'cherish your life' or 'life is precious' speech comes in, right? Don't bother, buddy, I've had enough of your life lessons for one day!"

"I don't believe you have. If that was the case, we would not be having this conversation."

"Okay, then let's stop the talking! You're going to stand up, show me the way out of this place, and come with me to the station!"

"'Me'? I see two of you…"

"Marcos glanced sideways at Engstrom, who was giving him a death glare."

"Doesn't matter. My game, not hers…"

"Thanks a lot…", said Engstrom.

"Oh shut up! We talked about this!"

"You talked, I tried to breathe!"

"Whatever! Do as I say, Hoffman!"

"Or what?" said Hoffman. "You'll shoot me?"

"S'not like anyone will miss you!"

"That's not very nice, nor very mature."

"I don't give a shit! Wait till I walk in there with you as my prisoner! MY prisoner!"

"But Julian: nobody knows you're in town, you didn't tell anyone. So they know even less you're in this building. That's the problem when you cheat your way into a criminal case."

"Well, the effect will only be greater, won't it? 'Whoa, Marcos, we didn't even know you were gone, and now you're bringing us Jigsaw'? Ha! That should go down in history!"

"So that's all you care about? To get famous? Even though three people died today because of you?"

"No! Not my fault! You put them there!"

"I brought them here because of you. You're the cause of the game, I'm just the organizer."

"It's not like the world is short of a hacker anyway!"

"Those were people, Julian, not words or objects."

"Whatever. You're not pinning this on me. My conscience is clear."

"So now you are just going to forget about them? And just bask in the glory of catching the Jigsaw Killer?"

"Yeah, maybe I will! What's wrong with that?"

"That is so not the right answer…"

Marcos blinked a couple of times before realizing those words had been spoken by Engstrom…

His eyes widened as he turned to look at her.

She had dropped her gun and was looking at him intensely.

Everything then seemed to happen in slow motion. A syringe had appeared in Engstrom's hands, and a second later it was in Marcos' neck. Taken by surprise, he could only gasp as he felt the cold liquid seeping into his jugular…

He felt his legs go numb and fell to the floor.

Engstrom handed the syringe to Hoffman, who started to wipe her prints off it with a cloth. She then started to roll up her sleeves…

revealing five perfectly parallel scars on her left forearm…

She started to slip on some rubber gloves. Marcos stared in disbelief. He suddenly knew what, or rather who, had caused those scars. It dawned on him he had never seen her arms bare. And who he had been working with all this time…

"You fucking bitch!", he roared. He aimed at her and pulled the trigger.

The gun went click.

"Looking for these?", Engstrom said, waving his charger in front of him. She looked at Hoffman. "Fucking wannabes… they never check if their gun's loaded." Looking back at Marcos: "Next time you try to maim a girl, don't rub yourself against her afterwards, even if it's to strangle her… oh silly me, there ain't gonna be a next time, is there?"

His jaw dropped… it was a nightmare… it had to be a nightmare…

"How… how could you…"

"I don't think you're the one to point fingers, Marcos. Your fucking lies put you here, not me…"

"But I… I passed…"

"You passed nothing! They're all dead! And all because of you. You wanted to be a hero so bad you were ready to put people in danger, and that's exactly what happened. And still you didn't learn the lesson. You failed your test, Marcos. Deal with it."

"You were supposed to help me…"

"I am the Tool. The Tool to help you on your tests, and I did that. I tried to keep you focused and make you see why you were here. But you ignored me. You refuse to learn your lesson. I could not pass the tests for you. So I became the Tool to your destruction. It's the rules, Julian: you change or you die. You'd have known that if you'd bothered to read the fucking files…"

Marcos had lost all feelings in his legs, and could feel the numbness spreading to his abdomen…

"It wasn't supposed… to end like this…"

"No, Julian, it wasn't… A real hero would have saved the day."

His lungs were beginning to struggle. "What… did you just…"

"Inject you with? Just a sedative… lined with cyanide. The sedative make the poison slower but less painful… You have maybe one minute left to live. "

Marcos stared at her. He couldn't die! He was the good guy! But he felt the paralysis spread to his arms and back, and his breathing was becoming ragged. All he could do was just lie there.

Hoffman and Engstrom gathered the pictures into a file. They made their move to leave, but at the last second, Engstrom motioned Hoffman to wait. She moved towards Marcos. She kneeled beside him and said: "You know, usually I'm not one for gratuitous torture, but…"

While he was still wondering what she was getting at, she got her gun out and shot him a bullet in each kneecap point blank. Marcos screamed in pain as the bones exploded.

"… you really asked for it.", she finished.

He started sobbing. "Fucking whore! They're gonna find me, and then…"

"Did you forget already, Julian? Nobody's coming."

Marcos stared in horror and agony. Hoffman and Engstrom made their way to the door. He opened and went through it. Engstrom stood there for a second, looking intensely at Marcos.

"Game over."

She switched off the lights, left the room and closed the door. Marcos heard a loud noise indicating the door had just been locked. He was now staring at the darkness of his tomb.

With his last breath, he found the strength to scream.

THE END

Epilogue – From the diaries of Detective S.J. Engstrom

Ever since fourth grade, I've hated my name. Sophia-Jane Engstrom. Sounds like a Viking living in a trailer. Like Norwegian white trash. Angelina understood this, and that's why she started calling me Jane, which quickly became Janey. It wasn't great, but it was a step up. Ever since, to avoid strange looks and mockeries, I separated my names. At work, I was always Sophia or even S.J., but with my friends I was always Jane.

When Angie died, I felt like I had lost not only my best friend, but also part of my identity. As Mark became more and more distant, that feeling grew stronger. Then I was raped, and the guy got away with it. It felt like my life and free will had been ripped away from my body. I became a walking corpse. I quit my job at the BAU because I couldn't be bothered anymore to catch bad guys who would walk away free 90% of the time on an insanity plea. I had no will power left for anything, not even to kill myself. I did not want to end my life, just not wanted to live it…

Mark got me a job in his unit. I would help solve cases on a smaller scale than what I was used to. That suited me fine. Then the Jigsaw case arrived. From the start I could see that he was just doing what we all wanted: giving criminals a taste of their own medicine. As a result, I was deliberately slacking the investigation. Especially when that bastard Seth Baxter was killed. Of course, that' wasn't Jigsaw work, but I did not know that at the time. From then on, I just did not make any more efforts. I got warned by my superiors, but it was no use. So I asked for a transfer and ended up in Vice, locking up pimps instead of murderers. All I had to do was show up, take statements and then go home. Life was a slow-moving broken record, and that was okay…

Then I got tested. And life was worth living again. This time I couldn't get enough of it. Amanda had called it rebirth. I didn't feel it that way. I just felt clearer, taller, smarter, wiser… Me, just new and improved. This time I felt useful. This time I had my place in the order of the universe.

I have no regrets. I know I face danger and risks every day. That what we do isn't exactly right. But I do believe that sometimes you have to work in darkness to change things for the better.

I have no illusions either. One day it will have to stop. At some point we will all be discovered or killed. But John had thought about that too. He may be dead, but he's not done. There are so many more games to be played until the Endgame Solution…

I am at peace. I could die tomorrow. Not that I want to, I really don't, but now I can go meet my maker with a light heart.

My life has been worth living.

THE END…?

And so, my pretties, "Skin Deep" is over. With a twist at the end, in true SAW tradition. I hope I haven't shocked you too much. Just enough. Thank you all for reading…

but… it needn't end here…

On my profile, you shall find a poll: "Should 'Skin Deep' have a sequel?" I have some ideas for a sequel called "The Endgame Solution", but if you guys think a sequel is not necessary, I'll use them on other stories.

My next story will not be a Saw one, it will be a Spuffy called "Something Wicked Cool This Way Comes". But the one after that… Who knows?

Send in the love, and take care…