Precinct 27 had been a normal police precinct, at one point. The neighborhood had been rundown, ripe for gentrification maybe, but no more troubled than any other area of the city. But then, they’d seen an uptick in public indecency, nudity, sex in the alleys, all of it originating at the far end of its jurisdiction. Rumor told of a bar or a club or a complex called Pigtown that had opened up, some sleazy gay place, but the officers had never been able to find it and shut it down. Then, it had spread. A few more arrests for public indecency turned into gay bars and bathhouses and more opening up, and it wasn’t long before the corruption, or whatever it was, had spread to some of the officers. Looking back, it was difficult to say whether the choices Rumwell had made then had been the right ones or not, but there was no good reason to second guess himself now. What he had done, he had done in the interest of maintaining order, both within the precinct, and outside of it, as best they all could. It had meant making some deals with a few devils. It had included making a few necessary sacrifices. There had been an equilibrium for a while–Pigtown hadn’t grown much larger than the blocks beyond the precinct, and the commander had done what was necessary to keep the city and other eyes from prying too closely. Over the last few months, though, Rumwell had found it difficult to feel like that balance was going to last forever.
He was in his office, where two of his officers had finished their business with his boots and his cock. He sent them off to other duties, and made his way down to the lowest level of the precinct–or at least, what had been the lowest level at one time, known as the drunk tank. The basement was lined with a few cells, empty at this time of day. It was generally intended for catch and release these days. But what hadn’t always been there were the stairs at the end of the hall, that led down into the jail proper.
Six months into whatever this was, the precinct had run out of room. There were just too many deviants, and if you jailed them together, they would get up to even worse antics in the cells than out on the streets, and more than a few times, he’d caught his officers fraternizing with the perverts. He’d even lost a few to the alleys, in the early days, before he’d learned how to assert proper control and discipline over his ranks. They’d needed space, and one night, more space had appeared. Another bank of cells below the basement, appearing like magic. But soon those had been filled as well, and more appeared, and more. At this point, it was difficult to know how deep the entire complex went below the precinct. He imagined that the only person who might know would be The Warden.
When the jail had first begun growing, a small contingent of officers proved to be more resistant to the corruption spreading from the perverts locked up there than others–or at least, they were less prone to letting them escape, or running off with them. At some point, the group had named one of them their de facto leader, and begun calling him The Warden. Rumwell had known his real name at one point, but now, it was gone, as was most of the man’s prior identity, he supposed. After all, it wasn’t that the men had been more resilient to the corruption spreading through this part of the city, it was merely warping them in a different fashion, and by the time Rumwell realized what had happened down there, it was too late to do anything about it.
The result, now, was a division. The precinct above, run by Rumwell, and the prison below, run by The Warden. They had been cooperative at first, but slowly, the warden had grown more antagonistic. He demanded more guards to cover the cells, and when Rumwell refused, he simply took them for himself. Prisoners that Rumwell had intended to release back onto the street come morning were deemed too deviant to be allowed out, and commandeered on a regular basis. Rumwell couldn’t help but feel like he was no longer entirely in charge, and when he’d confronted the Warden about his actions a couple of months ago, neither of them had escaped the encounter unscathed. They hadn’t spoken sense.
He descended into the jail, trying to ignore the screams, the sounds of whips and flails and paddles and whatever instruments the guards desired to maintain the prisoner’s compliance. It seemed rather clear to him that their motives were more selfish. Some prisoners saw him, begged him for mercy. The deeper he went, the less he heard that cry–instead, conditioned by constant beatings, twisted by the guards, by the warden, the deviants ached, craved the pain and the discipline, howling with ecstasy from where they were chained on the walls or confined in the cages.
The occasional guard would notice him, but while some would smile, none tried to stop him. They all knew that they wouldn’t be able to resist him–the only one who could was the Warden. He recognized the faces of a few, but many were unrecognizable, either their faces were hooded, or they had been twisted into such a brutish appearance as to no longer even seem human. This was deeper than he’d ever been before, the depravity around him much more intense.
“Ah, so he has returned,” a voice said out of the darkness, and The Warden stepped forth, a flogger over one shoulder, half smoked cigar clamped in his bearded jaw, “To what do I owe the pleasure, Commander Rumwell? Come to give me another lecture?”
Rumwell sized up the warden, who seemed to have grown a little wider, and a bit taller since their last encounter. Not quite as large as Rumwell was, but close. He was wearing a full leather uniform, and underneath the smell of leather and smoke, there was the distinct pang of blood in the air as well. “My feelings on the matter haven’t changed, and I assume yours haven’t either. I don’t see a reason to open up old wounds just yet. I’m here on business. I need to confirm that Shadow is still being held here–I want to see him.”
The Warden took a draw off his cigar, and pushed a plume off to the side. “Unfortunately, he escaped.”
“A few weeks ago. Found himself a shadow, slid right into it.”
“You told me you had him contained.”
“And I thought I did.”
“Why am I just now hearing about this? Weeks? You know full well how many fucking shades that monster can make! It was a nightmare cleaning up the streets last time, and who knows if we even caught all of them.”
The Warden gave a little shrug, “I’m sure you’ll be able to catch him again.”
Rumwell stalked a little closer, “You let him escape on purpose, didn’t you?”
“And you still aren’t meeting the quotas we agreed on.”
“So you let one of the most unpredictable aberrations loose onto the street because you’re not getting enough bodies to torture?”
“This is not torture, Commander. All of these bodies, if we let them loose, what do you think would happen? The city would be overrun. You can’t keep the streets in order without me, without everything that I do down here. I know what they need. I know how to control them. You can pretend that you sit in that tall office of yours, that you know this city, but it’s down here in the fucking dark that I keep it safe. All I ask is that you give me what my guards need to stay occupied.” He took a draw off the cigar, and blew another plume. “Besides, shades are really…exquisite things. The punishment they can take–the punishment they need. Nothing like it in the world that I’ve found. If Shadow happens to make a few more that end up down here, I can’t say I would be disappointed. Flesh withers so easily, but shadow–so much more resilient.” He held out the flogger, handle towards the commander, and he saw that each leather strap was tipped with a metal spike, a few with flecks of what he imagined must be blood. “My offer still stands, Commander, if you want to try your hand at it. See what it feels like. I know you have the rage in you, I can still feel the bruise on my jaw a little. Why don’t you just let it out on something that really deserves it? They aren’t even human after all.”
Rumwell turned and left before The Warden could finish speaking, the laughter of the man echoing through the halls, mirrored in the ecstatic screams and shouts all around him. He struggled to find his way back up to the precinct, the stairwells and hallways seemed to twist around him, confound him, threaten to seal him in, but finally, he burst his way back up into the drunk tank, and didn’t stop until he was out of the building, standing on the sidewalk, panting in the night air. It was monstrous. It was necessary. He wondered, again, how it would feel, what the screams would sound like if he had brought them forth himself, if he would lose himself. He knew he would. He was strong, but not strong enough, and the Warden knew that.
He straightened up, and marched back inside, where the night shift was just coming in. They were more hardened, more resilient than the day officers. They faced the brunt of what Pigtown had to offer, and pushed back as best they could–and fed the beast below them. “The Warden has informed me that Shadow has escaped from the jail. He’s been on the loose for a few weeks now. This is now our priority. I want him found, and I want him back down there, where he belongs.”