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Second Chance Slaughter


Chapter 11: The Cycle




To savor the ordinary life he’d never known as an assassin, Avery had to become the Cleaner. But this new role came with complications. For one, he had to keep producing content as the "Artist." Using the Cleaner’s corpse in his latest video had temporarily solved one problem, but running the entire district presented a new set of challenges.


How would he find the next targets? Avery knew he couldn’t maintain this charade indefinitely. Eventually, he’d have to confront the organization’s other members.


He is aware of his circumstances and he is determined to stay prepared. Avery always found time to exercise.


At work, he volunteered for the heavy lifting, hiding weighted bangles under his pants and shirt. Every second counted; wasting a minute could mean losing his life.


Sweat poured down his face like he’d just stepped out of the shower as he sprinted through the rugged terrain of the forest.


This daily ritual was crucial for building his stamina and strength. His body had faltered in the last fight with the Cleaner, and he was determined to change that.


Reaching the highest vantage point in the area, Avery allowed his muscles to relax. He closed his eyes, tuning into his surroundings. Blocking out unnecessary noise, he honed in on the sounds made by humans.


By focusing on their voices, he could gauge their age, gender, and even their mood.


He opened his eyes and executed a swift, fluid motion—a palm strike that cut through the air like water, creating a resounding boom.


He smiled to himself. It wasn’t quite up to his former standards, but it was good enough for now. If he faced the Cleaner again in this condition, he felt confident he could take him down.


"Time to get back to Third Street," he murmured.



The aftermath of Avery's battle with the Cleaner had faded into a distant memory.


Within the past couple of days, he had spent part of his earnings from the Night Gallery to apply a quick fix on the dilapidated hideout. Though it still looked shabby, it was a significant improvement.


The place was now maintained by six peculiar individuals, each loyal to him like devoted dogs. They had good reason to be—they also received a cut of his earnings.


“Boss, good to see you again,” greeted a lanky, tall man with fierce eyes and a scar on his left cheek.


This was Bianchi Caputo, better known as Slick. Despite his lackluster combat skills, he excelled at smooth-talking and sucking up.


“Slick, did you check on that task I gave you?” Avery inquired.


Slick was a master of deception, able to talk his way out of nearly any situation—a rare and invaluable skill. While combat skills can be learned, this art is inherent and takes a lot of practice to hone.


“Twitch is on it,” Slick replied.


Avery nodded and made his way to where Twitch was working.


The youngest member of the crew, Twitch was a hacking prodigy. Despite their ability to unlock the Cleaner's phone using a severed finger, the app used by the Cleaners was encrypted and presented a daunting challenge.


Initially, Avery had been stumped by how strict the organization was about using their designated app. But Twitch had confidently brushed it off, saying it would be a piece of cake.


“All done? I thought you said it’d be easy as pie,” Avery teased. He watched as Twitch continued to work his magic.


“Almost there. This one was tricky. Usually, I can hack any app in a blink, but this took me two days. I had to be extra careful not to get detected, boss. Anyway, why are we still messing with these guys? Can’t we just bail?”


Avery leaned against the wall, arms crossed.


“It’s not about you. It’s my fight. I need to stay involved with them to reach my goal.”


Slick, always ready with a slick comment, chimed in, “Oh, aiming for a higher rank in the organization? Don’t forget about us when you’re ruling this district, boss.”


Avery shook his head. “Nope. My dream is to become a farmer.”


Just then, a robotic voice chimed from the Cleaner's phone, “Welcome Cleaner 8827.”


“Behold!” Twitch exclaimed, grinning widely. “I told you I could crack it. You should trust me more, boss.”


“Good job, Twitch. Seriously, you should go back to school,” Avery praised. Then, shifting his focus, he asked, “How’s Billy doing?”


Slick’s expression turned serious. “He’s still out cold after that beating. The doctor says he’s not in a coma, but Wheels and Sal are keeping an eye on him. Oh, and a deputy sheriff came by, asking questions about Billy. Just like you instructed, they didn’t spill anything. Claimed they found him in the alley on Third Street. The deputy's been popping in now and then, waiting for Billy to wake up. Do you want me to give them any new orders?”


Avery considered for a moment. “No need. The deputy sheriff might actually help with the plan. We just need to buy some time.”



After hours of poring over the Cleaner's phone, Avery unearthed several unsettling details.


These people didn’t use real names—this one was just Cleaner 8827. Avery couldn’t help but wonder if the number signified how many Cleaners he might have to confront. But he pushed the thought aside for now.


The app displayed a grim inventory: the cycle, main tasks, subtasks, and the Artists assigned to this Cleaner.


Avery scrolled through the profiles and noticed with a heavy heart that many tasks were marked as completed. The target profiles now glowed ominously in red, including one of a minor, barely thirteen.


The sight made his stomach churn. It was horrifying to think that such an organization existed, one that nurtured these monsters instead of bringing them to justice.


Theodore, the man he had encountered earlier, was notably absent from this jurisdiction. Avery figured he must be under another Cleaner’s watch. But he couldn’t afford to dwell on that now; more pressing issues demanded his attention.


The Cycle.


In the upper left corner of the app, a countdown clock ticked away, showing just under two weeks remaining. According to the app’s guide, the Cycle was designed to stave off the Artists’ murderous impulses—their “episodes”—by giving them sanctioned targets.


This structure kept them from killing indiscriminately.


Avery’s gaze hardened as he absorbed the implications. Within this narrow window, he had to find new targets for these psychopaths. The app detailed each Artist’s preferences in chilling specificity: their favored victim profiles, their modus operandi, their conditions. If Avery didn’t provide them with suitable targets within the month, the Artists would face the organization’s brutal consequences. It may sound favorable to him, but it will raise alarm bells.


Avery leaned back in his chair, staring at the ceiling.


Killing all the Artists under his control would definitely raise suspicions. He couldn’t afford to draw that kind of attention. But serving as their middleman and supplying them with targets wasn’t an option either.


How could he find a way to placate these killers without compromising his cover?


He pondered this conundrum.


The thought of torturing the Artist who had targeted the minor was particularly tempting. As Enigma, his alter ego, he could make an example of one of these monsters, using their own tactics against them in his next video. That would count as one less victim in his jurisdiction.


His fingers twitched with anticipation at the idea of repaying that crazy murderer who took that life of the minor.


But after one death, what then? If he started taking out the Artists too quickly, the organization would catch on.


He was already on dangerous ground. The Cleaners he’d encountered so far seemed to be around the 7th grade in terms of combat skill. But what if he came up against a 6th grade Cleaner? Or worse, the one leading this province, who might be a 5th grade?


The risk was too great.


Avery sighed, rubbing his temples. He needed a more subtle approach.


The sheriff, Davis, might be the key. She could help him thin the ranks of these killers without drawing too much attention. If he could use her to gradually take down the Artists, he could weaken the organization from the inside out, like slowly dismantling a sandcastle grain by grain.


He smiled at the thought.


Slowly, methodically, he could bring this twisted organization to its knees.


And once it crumbled, he could finally have the life he had always wanted—peace and normalcy.

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