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I’m in my English teacher’s walls.

The dumbass doesn’t even realize I’m hiding in the walls of his house. Why am I here, you ask? Well, it all started when he gave me that bad grade at the start of the year. In fact, all year he’s just been giving me one bad grade after another.

Why does he pick on me like he does? I work hard. I turn in my essays. Who cares if I have “controversial opinions” about the characters we read about? That doesn’t mean he has any right to flunk me. But here we are.

As soon as this idiot goes to sleep, I’m going to kill him in the most horrific way imaginable. He’s going to regret ever meeting me. But really, I’m doing him a mercy. His name is Mr. Bingo, for Pete's sake. What kind of name is that?

I haven’t heard him in a hot minute. I squeeze out of a wall and into his basement. What a creep! Look how many taxidermized animals he has. Beavers, badgers, deer- the works. They’re everywhere.

He even has four taxidermized people standing by one wall. Wait. What the?!

Nope. My eyes aren’t deceiving me. This guy actually has four taxidermized people in his basement. What the hell! I thought I had a few screws loose, but this jackass might be even crazier than I am. What else has he been doing down here?

“They were old friends of mine,” I hear Mr. Bingo say behind me.

I whirl around. I hadn’t even heard the dude slip into the room. I might be fighting above my weight class here. Or maybe I’m just off my game.

Mr. Bingo ignores me and takes a step towards the taxidermized people. He looks at one of them with something like pain in his eyes.

“Apprentices, kiddo,” he says. “I taught them everything I know about what I do. But they thought they were better than me. They tried to hurt me. So I had to hurt them.”

I blink at him.

“Don’t call me kiddo,” I say.

Mr. Bingo smiles at me. “What?” he asks.

“Don’t call me kiddo,” I say matter-of-factly. “I’m twenty.”

“Of course,” Mr. Bingo replies. “But compared to me, you are a kiddo. You don’t have a clue how the world works. Not the way I do, anyway.”

I blink at him. I’m at a loss for words.

“Have a seat,” Mr. Bingo says. He takes me over to two ornate armchairs. There’s a table in between them. It has a wine bottle and two glasses on it. I suppose he’d been expecting me tonight. I’m again reminded how out of my element I am here.

There’s also a cheeseboard. It has a knife sticking out of it. I let my gaze linger on the blade for a second before looking away.

Mr. Bingo pours us each a glass of wine, then sits down heavily. I’m wary of letting my guard down around him, and especially about drinking possibly poisoned wine. But I suppose if he wanted me dead, I’d already be dead.

I sit down. “Cheers!” Mr. Bingo says, toasting me. He takes a hearty drink of his wine. I take a little sip.

“Don’t like wine?” Mr. Bingo asks, taking note of my distaste.

“I’m not twenty-one yet,” I reply.

He chuckles. “You’ll break into a man’s house, but you won’t drink a little wine?”

“What does one of those things have to do with the other?” I say flatly.

“Fair enough,” Mr. Bingo replies with a roll of his eyes. He takes another drink. I notice he’s ignoring the cheese and crackers.

“Why did you taxidermy them?” I ask.

“Hmm?”

“Your former apprentices. Why did you stuff them?”

He shrugs. “Call me sentimental, but I couldn’t just get rid of them. I needed to honor them.”

I nod. “What if the cops find out?”

“The cops?” he laughs. “Forget them. They play checkers and I play chess. They’ll never get me. Besides, the only other person who knows about these four is you. And if you want to tell the cops about them, you’ll have to admit you broke into my house.”

A chill goes down my spine. The man has a point.

He gives me a cold stare over his glasses. “...Though I haven’t decided yet whether or not I’m going to let you out of here.”

I feel myself stiffening up. “What do you want?”

Mr. Bingo smirks at me. “I’ve read about you in the news.”

“What do you mean?” I ask, playing dumb. How could he possibly know?

“You know what I mean,” he replies.

Shit. He’s good.

I shake my head. “You’re lying. Nobody’s been able to catch me.”

“Nobody but me,” Mr. Bingo replies, sitting back in his chair. “I’m smarter than whoever they’ve got tracking you. I know what you did to the widow Johnson and that poor young couple up at lover’s lane. I guess you thought you could get away with it. But I saw how full of yourself you were the day after both killings. How you couldn’t stop talking about them. What’s more, you killed all three of your victims the exact same way. It’s not hard to deduce it was you.”

I’m surprised. I don’t bother hiding it. Mr. Bingo doesn’t notice. He seems more bored than anything at the moment. He keeps taking slow pulls of his wine as he slouches in his chair.

The cheese and crackers continue to collect dust. I guess he thought maybe I would want some. But I’m not trying any until he tries some. I know he has the advantage over me down here, but even so, I don’t feel like taking that risk.

“Besides,” Mr. Bingo adds, snapping me out of my reverie, “you’ve been writing essays all year about how Gatsby should have just killed Tom so that he could have Daisy. I know. I’m your English teacher, remember. It’s not hard to connect the dots.”

“Aren’t you going to ask me why I did it?” I ask. “Why I killed those people, I mean.”

“What’s the point?” he replies. “I’m willing to bet you did it to blow off steam. But I won’t pretend to know. All my apprentices had a different reason.”

“So you’ve found me out. What are you going to do?” I ask flatly. “Turn me in?”

“If I did, the police might be suspicious of me,” Mr. Bingo replies. “I would prefer to avoid them. I had to disappear once before. It was… a hassle. I’d rather not bother with that again.”

Mr. Bingo pauses to sip his wine for a while. I think to myself as he does. It’s way too quiet down here.

“So why haven’t you killed me yet, then?” I ask point blank.

Mr. Bingo puts his glass down and looks at me again. “What did you think I was trying to teach my apprentices?” he asks. He smiles like a cat about to swallow a canary. “English?”

I raise my eyebrows. “You want to teach me how to kill people?”

“If you’re willing. Otherwise, I can’t let you leave,” he replies.

I laugh. “Killing people is easy. You stick the knife in and the blood comes out.”

“Do you know how to make your getaway?” he asks impatiently. “Do you know how to hide the body? Do you know how to pick the perfect victim? Hmm? This is your problem, kid. You think you’re hot stuff, but really you’re just a dirt sandwich.” He sets his wine glass down with disgust.

I glare at him. “I don’t need your help.”

“Then this was a waste of time,” Mr. Bingo replies. He gets up and takes a step towards me.

I flinch away from him so hard, my chair squeaks on the ground. “Wait wait wait!” I say. “Don’t do anything stupid!”

The man smiles at me. “Now we’re getting somewhere.”

He takes a few steps towards his taxidermized apprentices. I notice he’s comfortable enough to turn his back on me. I glance at the knife that’s stuck in the cheeseboard. If I want to do something to him, it’s now or never. Now or never!

Oh, what the hell? I’ll wait and see what he does next. I have a feeling he’s waiting for me to do something stupid, anyway.

“Have you ever heard of the Judge?” he asks me.

“Who?” I ask, subtly inching closer to the knife.

“The Judge. The old comic book villain.”

“Oh. Him. Wasn’t he based on a real guy?” I ask.

“Yes!” Mr. Bingo replies, looking over his shoulder at me. I smile at him, trying to play innocent. Like I’m not dreaming of burying the knife in his back right this very minute.

Oh, God. I want to go home.

If he notices anything, he doesn’t say it. He turns back to his apprentices. “The Judge was a special kind of killer. He only targeted those he saw as evil- criminals and the like. What’s more, he had special abilities. He’d fallen into a vat of chemicals one day, and come back out with unimaginable powers. He could outrun speeding cars, tear lampposts out of the ground, and jump into third story windows.”

Mr. Bingo glances back at me again. “But we don’t need special powers to bring justice to this world, kid. You and me, all we need is courage. We can cull the unnecessary folks from this world to make room for those that will make it better. We can change things. We can reshape the Earth. Even if it’s only one victim at a time.”

This man really is crazier than me.

And yet he has an odd allure to him. If life was a woman, this man would grab her by the waist and pull her against him. He’s like that guy we learned about in his class, Gatsby. Though I doubt Gatsby ever stuffed dead corpses.

I look at the knife again. I guess I may as well try my luck.

I rip it out of the cheeseboard and dash towards him.

He doesn’t even bother turning around. Instead, he ducks to the ground. I trip over him like an idiot, dropping the knife and banging my head on the wall. I groan, rolling onto my back. Mr. Bingo has the knife in his hand. He brings it down at my throat-

But at the very last second, he stops. The blade only nicks the skin of my neck, making it bleed. I wince as I stare up at him. He smirks.

“Join me, kid. Together, we can make our dreams come true.”

What choice do I have? It’s like this guy is not of this world.

“I’m in,” I say resignedly.

But as he pulls me to my feet and claps me on the back, I wonder how I can take his power for myself.

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