Another little one shot in English. Written without a beta-reader again, so feel free to point out any mistakes... This one pretty much takes the same idea as the one I have already written in French, the first chapter from the old Alors, tu gardes le secret. This one here is shorter though, and I didn't use the other to compare. So they're actually very different.

I had loads of fun writing this; Ridley's dialogues are actually much easier to write in English, and it's ridiculously hilarious to make him swear (making him swear always sounds stupid when I write it in French, so I tend to avoid it). I also wanted to have Dante appear in text this time, even if he's tough to write. I realize most Death Machine fans are also Brad Dourif fans, and after all, Jack is my favourite character too... ;)

Anyway, I hope you like it!

- Oh fuck

That was the only thing Scott Ridley managed to say when he saw what had happened to Nicholson. The floor was covered in blood, and the air was heavy with a disgusting metallic scent. Enough to make you feel sick.

Scott walked toward the corpse, even if he didn't wanted to, and looked at Nicholson… Or at least what was left of him. The man was barely recognizable; he was lying face down in the pool of blood, his body covered with horrible cuts and bite marks that only could have been left by a big rabid animal, maybe some kind of wild, savage beast, like a bear or a shark or… or something.

The company was in deep trouble now. People would want to know how Nicholson was dead; what had happened and why. Lying was easy, sure, but Scott didn't think they would be able to hide everything this time; there had been so many problems lately! All thanks to Dante and his projects, of course. That creepy genius had made them all rich; he alone had created all the weapons that had made the entire success of the company, but now he was going to destroy everything. Even if Dante always had been insane, his behavior had become worse and worse these past months. He was uncontrollable, nervous, he kept messing things up. Some of his last ideas didn't even made sense, and Carpenter was so afraid he had almost refused to assist to the last test for the Hardman project unless someone assured him Dante wouldn't be present.

It was as if something was distracting him. Dealing with Dante had never been easy before, everyone at the CHAANK had always being scared of him, but the weapon designer still had seemed to be under control, even if it was just a little.

Judging by what had happened to poor Nicholson, it wasn't the case anymore.

Hearing the sound of slow, dragging footsteps approaching behind him, Scott hold his breath, suddenly feeling as if he had swallowed a bucket full of ice. He knew who made that sound when he walked, and that person was the last he wanted to see right now.

- Pretty gruesome, uh? Said Dante while taking a peek at the body from behind Scott's shoulder. Wonder how that happened.

- No idea, answered Scott (damn, he hated how his voice always became so weak when he was talking with Dante). I just found him there… It must've happened last night; he was the last one to stay in the building. But you were there too, Jack. You must've heard something…

Dante didn't say a thing, and he walked slowly near the corpse. He poked it with the tip of his foot, and a sinister smile appeared on his lips.

- Yeah, maybe I know, he whispered. Maybe it was… y'know, that thing that says when you do something bad; it comes back and bites you in the ass?

- Justice? Tried Scott.

- Nah, that's not it. Begins with a "k"…

- …What, "karma"? I'm not sure it exactly means…

But Dante nodded, satisfied, and didn't listened to the rest.

- Yeah, right. Karma. That's what killed him. That, and well… something else.

His grin widened and he bent, reaching out to take one of the sheets of paper on the ground. It was stained with Nicholson's blood, but some parts were still readable. Dante looked at it for a second.

- He wanted to tell everything to the press, you know, said Dante.

Shit, if he asks me to take that damn paper, if I have to touch that blood, I'm gonna be sick… Scott thought. And that's exactly what the weapon designer did: he made a few steps toward Scott and waved the paper a little, waiting for his boss to take it.

Thankfully, Scott didn't puke or pass out (even if part of him wanted to do both). He took the paper, because when a madman like Dante gave you an order, you obeyed; unless you wanted to die in a bloody mess, just like Nicholson. You obeyed even if it made you feel sick. Holding the paper with the tip of his fingers, trying to not touch the parts that were stained in dark, brownish red, Scott read a few lines.

It was one of Dante's personal files.

So, maybe Nicholson had planned to reveal the company's dark secrets to the journalists. But that didn't changed the fact that he was now dead in a pool of blood, surrounded by top secret documents, and that was fucking disgusting. Maybe Dante had thought killing Nicholson would help, but it had been a bad idea: alive or dead, Nicholson was trouble. Awful trouble, a messy death like that one… No way to hide it. Carpenter knew a few people who could have killed Nicholson, and their ways would've been clean and subtle. It would have looked like an accident.

How it was now, the only excuse the CHAANK had was that Nicholson had been attacked by a bear or, even worse, a shark. No one would be stupid enough to believe it.

Of course, knowing why Nicholson had been killed didn't answer the second most evident question: what had killed him? What kind of monster could reduce a man like Nicholson, someone tall and strong, into a bloody pile of flesh? Hell, the poor guy was barely recognizable…

- Jack, what did that to him? Scott asked in a small voice.

The weapon designer shrugged, seemed to think for a moment, than he passed his arm around Scott's shoulders. Leaning close, he whispered in his ear:

- It's a surprise, Scott. And you're gonna love it. It's… the best. A real masterpiece. The coolest thing I've ever done.

- ... And what are you going to do with it now?

- Well, it still needs a little work. Look at Nicholson; it's not perfect, it needs a few adjustments.

Scott failed to see what the problem with his poor colleague was. If Dante's latest invention was designed to kill (and it certainly was), it worked perfectly: Nicholson sure couldn't get any deader than he was now. But you never disagreed with Dante if you wanted to avoid trouble.

- Adjustments. Yeah, sure, muttered Scott.

If Dante stayed there much longer, he was going to scream. He hated to feel that arm around his shoulders; he hated that way Dante had of always standing a bit too close, it always creeped him out. Insanity was not contagious, but Scott always felt like it was when he spent more than a few minutes next to Dante. Genius or not, Dante made him feel sick.

- So I'll tell ya what, said Dante softly, moving even closer. I'll work on it again a little. It's in the vault 10. You stay all nice, you don't ask questions, and you tell everyone to shut up about Nicholson. Everything's gonna be alright. No one wants that karma-thing to happen again, right?

He smiled again, and there was something cat-like in his eyes, in the way they shined. It made him look like a predator, a frail animal that didn't appeared to be dangerous at first glance, but was still able to tear up your throat at any time if it ever wanted to, if you made the mistake of turning your back to it.

Scott nodded and almost sighed with relief when Dante finally made a few steps back.

- I'll show you when it's finished for real. I swear you're gonna love it.

Dante stayed silent for a moment, and Scott almost hoped he was going to return to his room now, but he suddenly seemed to remember something. He put his hands in the pockets of his long black leather coat, and when he talked again, he seemed less menacing. Just curious, like a child. Scott thought it was just as creepy as the usual "normal" Dante, if not even more.

- Hey, Scott… We're gonna need a new CEO now, right? How about a cute girl, for once? It could be cool…

Without waiting for an answer, Dante turned his back and went to the basement. Scott immediately felt better, but that didn't last for long: he still had to take care of Nicholson.