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No one Escapes...Redemption?

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It had happened. After what felt like an eternity, it had finally happened. The Entity had been starved into extinction—or at least dormancy. Evan didn’t know who pulled it off, or how. He wagered that that slippery son of a bitch Vigo may have had something to do with it. Not that it mattered. Not that anything mattered anymore…the Fog was dissipating. The Entity’s realms were collapsing, its monsters and survivors being cast into a maelstrom of dimensions as the Entity tried in vain to save itself by trying to flee its own realm. Evan sat down and smiled. No more trials. No more hunting. No more punishments for displeasing a cruel god. As the Fog finally vanished, Evan Macmillan embraced the approaching oblivion. He felt like he was tumbling down an abyss. He did not scream, for this was what he had been craving for so long: an escape. At long last, this nightmare was finally over for the Trapper.

He was understandably startled, and more than a little bit frustrated, when he suddenly felt his body slam against hard ground. He grunted in pain and stood up. It took him less than two seconds to come to two very startling observations: he was alive…and this wasn’t the Fog. He looked around in open mouthed shock as a whirlwind of activity surrounded him. Strange, horned, sometimes animal-like creatures moved about a street around him. A few gave him glances, but most were just apathetic of his presence. He checked himself…he still had his cleaver, his mask, and his bag of beartraps. He reached up to touch his shoulders and grunted in pain. The hooks and spikes were still lodged in him from the first—and only—time he dared to disobey the Entity. He knew for a fact this wasn’t one of Its realms when he looked up at the “sky”. A massive pentagram stretched across the backdrop of a scarlet sky. The Entity didn’t do scarlet. The skies it made were either black as pitch, or a suffocating overcast. He suddenly felt himself be shoved. He whirled around and saw a burly, crimson skinned creature growl at him.
“You lost, buddy? Looks like you’re freshly fallen. Tough luck. I like your mask. I think I’ll take it.” The creature reached for the Trapper’s mask…and immediately let out a cry of pain as the offending hand was severed from his arm. Evan didn’t give him the chance to flee, however. Force of habit demanded he finish the job. He punched the grotesque thing in its jaw, sending it sprawling on the pavement. What happened next was something he had spent decades doing on the Entity’s hapless victims: a Memento Mori. Five strokes of his cleaver to the creature’s back silenced it, and he was almost disappointed to not hear the Entity cooing praise into his mind for such a brutal kill. He immediately stood upright, squaring his shoulders and looking around. The pedestrians had stopped to watch the butchery, and a few had even taken out small, thin rectangular devices and watching him through them. None made a move to challenge him, and soon they went back to their own affairs, leaving him standing over the corpse of his victim. Evan knelt and pilfered the corpse for whatever might be of use to him. He found multiple wallets, and promptly emptied them of cash, dumping it into his stitched bag with his traps. He started walking, his long legs and powerful stride making him quick and deadly in trials, but needlessly hasty in his current situation. He forced himself to slow down, reminding himself that he was not in a Trial, and he had no destination in mind anyway. Evan scanned the buildings…and quickly felt his gut sink. He had assumed he was in a new dimension, but he had hoped it wouldn’t be worse than the Fog. But upon a massive billboard read the sign “WELCOME TO HELL!”. He kept walking.

“For Hell, this place is quite tame…at least compared to the Fog.” He mused, but he didn’t dwell on it too much. Best not to look a gift horse in the mouth. As he continued down the streets, he noted that the technology of this dimension seemed to be beyond that of his own time. He knew that time passed outside the Entity’s realm…this was evident by the clothes of the survivors, and of what he heard from other, newer killers. He figured that Hell then must also be changing with the times to reflect the mortal world. He felt envious of these sinners for that…the Fog was stagnant. The only changes were when the Entity added new killers, victims, or locations, and even these got old quickly. But here…he could do whatever he wanted. He could go places he had never been, experience new sensations that weren’t agony or bloodlust or rage. It thrilled and terrified him. He grinned behind his mask, knowing that even Hell couldn’t be worse than the Fog. Still, there were a few problems that he had to address. He was lost, jobless—though not broke, as his recent murder had given him some cash—and homeless. It seemed that whatever god of this realm was far kinder than the Entity, for no sooner had he thought of his lack of lodging than he noticed an advert pasted onto the side of a building. “Realize Redemption! Come to the Happy Hotel and find rehabilitation! Room and board provided free of charge to those in the program.” Evan cocked an eyebrow at the rather colorful design. Rainbows and puppies…really? Still, it had an address listed, and Evan was grateful that the street signs were in English and not some strange infernal language. Cleaver in hand, stitched bag on his back, and the advert clutched in his other hand, the Trapper stalked off towards the Happy Hotel.

 

The Hotel had been running for about a week, and so far there hadn’t been a single new tenant. Charlie Magne, heiress of Hell and proprietor of the Hazbin—formerly “Happy”—Hotel, sat in the lobby, hoping in vain that some lost soul would step through the doors and give her project a chance. Husk sat at the reception desk, bottle of cheap booze in hand as he did his best to tune out Angel’s flirting. Vaggie sat on the couch next to her, reading. Alastor was in the kitchen, and Nifty was cleaning the halls of the hotel for the third time that day. Charlie felt like shit. Yes, she maintained the façade of unsinkable pep and cheerfulness in front of the others—especially in front of Vaggie—but she was starting to lose hope. So far the hotel’s reputation was absolutely abysmal. Katie Killjoy mocked her daily on her news program, and she had yet to hear from either of her parents. She could tell that Alastor was getting bored, which made her unsettled. She suspected that if things didn’t get interesting around here soon, he'd resort to making his own entertainment…the kind that made him one of the most feared beings in Hell. As she pondered ways to stall for time, the front door slammed open. The silhouette of a huge man, holding some sort of crude bladed weapon loomed in the doorway. Vaggie was on her feet in an instant, holding her spear. Angel produced a tommy gun from out of nowhere, and Husk smashed the bottle he was drinking from on the bar, making a make-shift shiv. Charlie, of course, got to her feet with a great big smile—the first genuine one she had in a few days—and beamed at the menacing figure in the doorway.

“Welcome to the Happy Hotel! Please come in!” She said, while Vaggie kept her guard up. The hulking beast of a man stomped into the lobby, walking past Charlie and Vaggie wordlessly. She blinked, a bit put out, but still glad to have someone interested in checking in. Husk, on the other hand, looked between the masked behemoth in front of him, and the broken bottle he had intended to defend himself against said behemoth with. Charlie looked up at the man. “Name?”

The Trapper looked down at her. His mask, soaked in dried blood of the Entity’s sacrifices, grinned down at her while keeping his face shrouded in darkness. “Evan Macmillan.” He said in a gruff, deep voice. Evan was more than a little surprised at how fearless this girl was. The other demons had acted as one might expect when a huge man with a weapon and a mask approached, but this girl…she’s downright HAPPY to have him here! The thought made him uncomfortable…no one was glad to meet him. Not even back before the Entity took him…well there had been a few friends…no. They were not friends. They betrayed his trust in the end. They were truly maggots, as his father had told him. He looked at Husk. “You going to give me a key to a room or not?” He growled. Husk gulped and looked at Charlie. She nodded profusely.

“Husk, give him the key to suite 661.” Husk fumbled with the keys and handed it over to the Trapper, who took it in his monstrously large hand. His extremely scarred hand. In fact every bit of him that Charlie could see was covered in scars. And then there were the metal shards and hooks in his back and shoulders. She watched him go to the elevator, and slowly her smile began to wane. “He’s been hurt.”

Vaggie scoffed. “I’m sure whoever did it to him got far worse done to them! Honestly Charlie, I know that the goal is to redeem sinners, and that we really can’t afford to be picky…but did you SEE that man?! He looks like he could break Alastor over his knee!”

“I’ve never seen a more buff man. Wonder which way he swings? I intend to find out~!” Angel Dust snickered. Husker scoffed.

“Yeah, and if he doesn’t swing your way, he’ll end up ripping your arms off for trying to get in his pants…or overalls, rather.” Angel merely hummed.

“Kinky.” He giggled. Vaggie glared at him.

“You are NOT flirting with the first patient we’ve had in a week! Why don’t you stick to annoying Husker?” Charlie tuned out the rest of their banter. She was walking towards the elevator.
“Who are you, mister Macmillan? Who hurt you…and who have you hurt, and why?”

Chapter Text

Evan was in awe of his suite. Countless years of slaving for the Entity had made him forget many of the simple amenities of life…like the wonderful, glorious, oh-so-soft bed that stood in his suite. The Entity’s knowledge of human life outside of the Fog was shockingly limited. The best it could do were small, filthy, and often bloodstained mattresses that were devoid of any sheets or pillows. Of course, sleep wasn’t necessary in the Fog. The Entity removed sensations of hunger and fatigue. Not that anyone would want to eat anything on hand…everything was as disgusting or disturbing as the inhabitants. The Hag—Lisa—would feast on the guts of her victims, and then there were the bowls of “survivor pudding”…he didn’t dwell on how those were made. He put down his cleaver and walked over to the window. He looked out over Pentagram city…it was an absolute mess of a place, and it was the opposite of the Fog in every way. The Fog had been cold, silent, and still. This place was hot, loud, and a complete clusterfuck of activity. He turned and sat down on the bed and opened his stitched bag. He was idle, and he’d pass time by cleaning and repairing his traps. He wasn’t sure why he was bothering with them…no more trials, no more need for traps.

“I guess old habits die hard.” He mused as he carefully calibrated the springs of a trap. A knock at the door startled him, and the trap snapped shut on air. He growled in annoyance and stormed over to the door, opening it. “What?!” He roared. Charlie was standing outside his door, and she flinched at his tone. She cleared her throat, and smiled up at him nervously.

“Mister Macmillan…may I call you Evan?” She asked sheepishly. God, she felt tiny compared to him. He was taller and far broader than Alastor. He nodded, and she continued. “Well Evan, I have a few questions about you, so that we can start working towards your redemption. As Princess of Hell, and proprietor of this hotel and this whole operation, I feel like I ought to work with my first few patients personally!” She said with conviction. She felt determined again. She had hope for her project once more. Evan, on the other hand, looked down at her, his mask betraying no emotion.

“You’re in charge here?” He said with disbelief. He was referring to both the Hotel and to Hell in general…he didn’t take her for the type to handle managing either task. She winced a bit, but quickly her hurt turned to confusion.

“You didn’t know? How long have you been down here?” She figured he must be newly fallen if he missed out on Katie Killjoy’s broadcast. That, or he had been living under a rock. Evan looked at the clock, then shrugged, since he didn’t know the time when he had fallen.

“A few hours, I suppose. Forgive me if I was ignorant of your title, Princess.” He said, and she could practically hear him sneering. Evan was all too familiar with spoiled girls. His Father had told him not to waste his time chasing skirts, and he had been correct. The girls who had approached Evan were all just trying to get a piece of the Macmillan estate. Charlie huffed in annoyance.

“Charlie will do, thank you. And there’s no need for that kind of attitude. I’m sorry if I’m interrupting something or distracting you, but you are here free of charge as long as you participate in my rehabilitation program.” She said firmly. Her father’s words of “not taking shit from other demons” echoed in her mind. Evan stood silently, before letting out a low growl and stepping aside, letting her enter his room. Immediately she spotted the stitched bag and the traps on his bed. She already had so many questions for him, so she made a note to ask about those later. She sat down in a chair, and took out a clipboard and pen. Evan sat down on his bed—the only furniture he bet that could support his weight—and began tinkering with his traps.

“Well? Don’t just sit there, ask your damn questions.” He said gruffly. Charlie grinned.

“Let’s start with the basics: why are you in Hell?” Evan barked out a laugh. He looked at her and chuckled.

“I trapped dying men as they tried to escape my father’s mines, and later I was trapping them so I could sacrifice them to the Entity. I beat a man half to death for a comment about my mother. I roughed up anyone in the mines who was slacking off. There’s probably more, but I can’t remember everything. It’s all so long ago.” He looked at Charlie, who was writing all this down. She asked her next question, though it wasn’t one she had pre-written.

“What’s ‘The Entity’?” Evan’s blood ran cold. How do you describe a nightmarish deity of pain, hate, bloodlust, and horror? He sighed. It wasn’t like he had anything better to do, and he figured he’d have to have this conversation at some point.

“The Entity is, or was, a sort of god. It was powerful, it could completely create or destroy realms, and it demanded sacrifices. It was very picky about how to get said sacrifices: the victims were to be placed on meat hooks, and if none of their fellows saved them, they’d be impaled by the Entity’s limbs and dragged up to be fed on. It fed off their hope, or their souls, or something. The sacrifices never stayed dead either. It was an endless loop of either escaping the trial, or being sacrificed.” He looked at Charlie, gauging her reaction. She looked horrified.

“That sounds awful! So…you were the one doing the sacrificing then?” She asked as she wrote everything down. Evan nodded.

“One of many. There were other killers as well. Each of us had different methods and tools available. Some of us were forced to do it, others took joy in it.” He remembered the Wraith being punished for refusing to hook a survivor…the Entity had taken his tongue for that. He remembered seeing the look of absolute DELIGHT on the fiendish Doctor’s face after his first trial, and how he gleefully described torturing the sacrifices with his electroshock powers. Charlie looked at him carefully.

“And did you? Did you enjoy it?” Evan was silent. This was something he had long wondered about, though had tried hard not to dwell on it, lest the Entity interpret it as rebellious thinking. He felt immense satisfaction when a survivor stepped in his traps, yes. He felt pride when the Entity rewarded him for his work…but that didn’t mean he enjoyed it, right? And yet, the memories of his time before the Fog came to his mind, of the feeling of power he got from trapping and beating the ‘maggots’ who tried to escape the mines.

“Does it matter if I did or did not? I went through with it anyway.” He responded after a long silence. Charlie wrote it down, though wasn’t content with the answer. She felt like he was dodging the question, but there were other things she wanted to ask.

“Did you ever try to stop? To just refuse and walk away?” Evan looked at her with cold fury.

“Take a look at me. See these scars and these hooks? This is what happens when the Entity is displeased. You may think the Sacrifices had it bad, but if the killer failed to dance to the Entity’s tune, then they’d get something far worse than anything this ‘Hell’ can offer. You think we didn’t try to fight back at first? Or to try to escape? It was either us or them, and they had the less severe punishment. At least they had each other.” Charlie flinched at his tone, but her curiosity was stronger than her fear.

“So, you DIDN’T do it because you wanted to. You did it out of fear! You were forced to do it!” This was not the right thing to say. Evan bellowed and got to his feet, and was looming over Charlie in an instant, fists clenched.

“ARE YOU CALLING ME A COWARD?!” He roared. Charlie let out a terrified squeak sat frozen in fear as the massive killer towered in front of her. Evan was enraged. Fear was weakness, and weakness was for maggots. Evan had stopped being afraid ever since his father found the sketch he drew so long ago…the one of his father drowning his mother in the river. That was the day he stopped hating his father and started admiring him, despite the vicious beatings he got from him. He snarled behind his mask. This little brat of a girl was calling him a maggot. Evan had never harmed a woman outside of a trial, but then again, no woman had ever insulted him in such a manner. It would be so easy, one punch would cave her skull in…a flick of his wrist could snap her delicate little neck. His brutal strength had broken the limbs and heads of miners and even a few cops, so it would absolutely destroy this little bitch who had the gall to call him a coward. But then again, he wasn’t in a trial...and she clearly regretted her choice of words...and if he killed her he'd have no where to go. He exhaled slowly, his muscles relaxed, and his fists unclenched. Charlie peered at him from behind her clipboard, which she had held up in a futile attempt to shield herself from a blow that didn’t come.

“I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to imply anything. I…I can leave now if you wish.” She said, feeling pathetic and a bit guilty for wanting to bail on the interview she had been longing to have. Evan shook his head.

“No. I’m sorry. It has been a long time since I’ve had a conversation that wasn’t ’work oriented’.” He said with a sigh. He tried to remember what his mother had taught him about being polite and socializing with the opposite sex. ‘Lower your voice, don’t shout or growl, and don’t posture aggressively.’ Well, he had really done the exact opposite, hadn’t he? He walked back over and sat down on his bed. “Ask me about something else.” Charlie blinked, and nodded.

“A-alright, you mentioned your father—” He stared at her sharply and she could see him tense up ever so slightly. “Never m-mind!” She squeaked. Evan held his masked head in his hands. What could he do to save this conversation from being the worst first impression he ever made on someone? Again, he recalled a bit of advice from his mother: ‘Ask about her! Let her do the talking…just make sure you aren’t just smiling and nodding and are actually listening!’

“Tell me about yourself.” He said awkwardly, as if the words had never been uttered by him before. Slowly, she smiled, and she cleared her throat and stood. Was she going to SING?! What in the name of the Entity had he just requested?!

“I have a dream, I’m here to tell~” She sang, and Evan’s fears were confirmed.

Chapter Text

While Charlie had been giving Evan an impromptu song, Angel Dust, Vaggie, and Husk were conversing in the lobby about the newest resident at the hotel.

“It should be fucking obvious that he’s a serial killer. That blade of his was absolutely painted in dried blood, and that mask is going to be haunting my nightmares.” Husk said with a shiver before chugging a beer.

“I wonder what he looks like behind the mask…actually I’d rather not know. In my experience people who wear masks like that are covering up something ugly.” Angel said with a chuckle.

“Who cares what he looks like! Husk is right, the guy is a killer! First Alastor, now this guy. At this rate we’ll be the ‘Homicide Hotel’.” Vaggie groaned. Angel looked at her in confusion.

“Isn’t that sort of the point though? I thought you gals wanted to get sinners. Well, you’re getting them!” Vaggie shook her head.

“Sinners can be more than just murderers! I was hoping we’d start off easy, with something like alcoholics or addicts!” Husk glared at her.

“Ain’t nothing easy about having a drinking problem…but I see your point. Something like a thief or a vandal or even an arsonist might’ve been a safer place to start.” He said with a shrug. “So what do you suggest we do about him?”

“Do about who?” A radio staticky voice said from the elevator, startling everyone. Husker glared at Alastor as he walked into the room, an invisible audience cheering over an unseen radio.

“Newest resident of the hotel is the perfect picture of a slasher. Goes by Evan Macmillan or something. Looks like a fucking giant.” Vaggie informed him. Alastor’s grin widened, and he clapped his hands together.

“Is that so? Goodness! And here I was worried I’d be bored! I’m assuming Charlie is speaking with him?” Angel snickered.

“Heh, if I were in her shoes, I’d be doing more than just ‘speaking’ with him. The man looks like he can bench-press a car, he must fuck like a tiger!” Alastor just shook his head.

“I doubt Charlie would go for a brute, if he truly is one. Although we never can be sure about anything, now can we?! Ahaha~! Now then, I came down here to use that infernal device that everyone insists on using instead of radio.” He said, pointing a clawed finger at the TV, which flicked on to reveal the visage of a reporter everyone in the room knew and despised: Katie Killjoy.

“Good afternoon! I’m Katie Killjoy.”

“And I’m Tom Trench!” Her gasmask wearing co-host chimed.

“Tom, any news on the Hazbin Hotel? I know its depressing to look at such a pathetic project crash and burn, but I feel like its our duty to follow the bumbling failures of princess Charlotte Magne!” She said, her smile oozing malice.

“As a matter of fact, there is a new development! Pedestrians this morning recorded a video of a masked slasher completely brutalizing a mugger. Roll the clip!” A shaky phone video of Evan slashing up the demon who had accosted him played. Vaggie, Angel, and Husk watched in horror as they realized that they were in the very same building as the beast of a man. Alastor’s eyebrows were raised in intrigue. “Reports of him heading towards the hotel after grabbing a flier off a wall soon followed!” Tom said as soon as the clip ended.

“Ooh, let’s hope nothing violent happens to our Princess! Now wouldn’t that be just tragic?~” She said, not even disguising the excitement in her voice. Vaggie turned off the TV.

“Well. Great. That clip is going to be all over the internet, so I’m not looking forward to Charlie seeing it.” She sighed. Alastor on the other hand looked delighted.

“I simply MUST meet this man! Such rage! Such practiced strokes of the blade!” He said with a laugh as he turned, heading towards the elevator. Vaggie shook her head, before looking back at Angel and Husker.

“To answer your earlier question Husk, I think all we can do is just stay close to Charlie and keep an eye on our two resident psychopaths.”

Elsewhere in Pentagram city, a man stared at a television with unblinking eyes. He couldn’t blink even if he wanted to, not with the apparatus on his head holding his eyelids open. To keep him vigilant, of course. No detail escaped him this way. The man had his mouth forced open in an unnatural grin…again due to the apparatus he willingly wore. In his hands was a spiked baton that crackled and sparked with electricity—HIS electricity. Wires and cables were jutting out of his arms and shoulders, sparking with lightning. The man was Herman Carter…though in the Fog, he was known simply as “The Doctor”. He turned to a passing demon.
“Excuse me sir, but may you please point me in the direction of the…’Hazbin’ Hotel?” The demon was startled by the Doctor’s monstrous features, before snorting derisively.

“Why the fuck should I tell you shit, freak? Go fuck yourself—” That was as far as the doctor let him go. Carter didn’t handle being insulted very well. He clenched his left hand, before extending his palm outward, releasing a wave of electricity that The demon clutched his head and shrieked as Carter’s spark burned through his neurons. The Doctor cackled and giggled maniacally, and let the demon catch his breath.

“Let’s try that again, shall we? Where is the Hotel?” Carter said calmly. Oh, how this brought back memories! He hadn’t truly interrogated someone since his time working for the CIA during project MK-AWAKENING! After that, it was all monotonous work for the Entity…shock the survivors, chase them down, beat them down, put them on the hook, repeat. But now? Now there were no more rules! Neither ethics nor eldritch gods could restrict him now! He began giggling again, flexing his left hand—the hand that projected his sparks—while he brandished his spiked stick in his right hand. “Be quick about answering me, or I’ll have to administer another shock!” In truth, Carter was going to shock the fool anyway regardless if he answered or not…but he wasn’t about to tell him that! No…he loved seeing the look of horror dawn on his victims faces when they realize that even compliance won’t save them. The pathetic wretch of a demon quickly spilled the beans, and Carter thanked him by making his death relatively quick…but certainly not painless. It felt like ages since Herman had heard fresh screams. The screams of the same survivors that the Entity brought back to life again and again lost their flavor after the first few hundred times he slaughtered one. As Herman left the twitching, smoking corpse of the demon behind him as he walked towards the hotel, he pondered what new research he could pursue on these strange demons. Their brains were remarkably human in their physiology—as he had discovered when he had opened the head of the demon he had slaughtered. This allowed him to extract all that he needed to know about Hell. He knew of Princess Charlotte Magne’s laughably misguided quest to redeem her people to prevent them from being slaughtered annually by their angelic counterparts. He giggled. He could do plenty to help “treat” these odious demons. If she were to let him work without restriction, he could mold even the worst sinner into a docile slave. And of course, should she refuse to let him work his magic…well…he’d look forward to discovering what her screams of horror sound like

Chapter Text

Evan was a bit shellshocked after Charlie’s song. He was polite enough to clap softly…in truth he was a tad flattered that she had done all that just for his behalf. He had more than a few questions though. She explained that Hell was overpopulated, and that the “solution” that had been in place for centuries was the annual slaughter of demons conducted by angels. “The Extermination.” She hated seeing her people butchered, and so her hotel was her solution: if sinners could be redeemed, then they’d go to heaven and free up space in Hell. Evan nodded as she finished her explanation.

“Sounds reasonable. Though why isn’t this place packed with sinners trying to get the Hell out of…Hell?” He asked. If he had been given an opportunity like that in the Fog, he’d have gone for it, no matter the cost. Charlie’s smile fell a bit.

“Well…the thing about that is that no one seems to be willing to change…either they don’t believe they have the capacity for it, or they doubt that I’m capable of helping them.” She said, the spark in her eyes seeming to fade a bit. Evan recognized that look. She was trying hard to not let her own despair show.

“Aren’t you literal royalty? Can’t you have your parents make a decree or something and force people to apply?” He saw her façade of happiness break even more, and he understood in an instant. “They don’t approve of it, do they?” She shook her head, finally letting her smile fall.

“They think I’m a failure…well, at least my father does. He’s said as much to my face. We had a falling out, and I’ve not spoken to him since.” He nodded slowly, thinking carefully of what to say.

“Well…could be worse. At least he hasn’t beaten you, killed your uncle, your mother, and bribed your friends to betray you like mine did.” He said with a hollow laugh. She stared at him in shock. He shook his head. “Long story. Maybe I’ll tell you about it some other time. But he didn’t approve of my dreams either. He didn’t want me to help my friends organize a union to make things better in the mines. He wanted me to be like him, just as your dad wants you to be like him. I ended up giving up, and I became something even worse than my father. My advice to you is to be your own damn person…lest you become some murderous pawn of an ancient god for the better part of a century.” Her eyes were wide in surprise.

“Why are you suddenly being so open, Evan?” She asked. “Not that I mind, I’m just curious why you’re even giving me a chance.” He chuckled a bit at that.

“Not sure. Might be because you’re the first person in more than a hundred years who has treated me with the slightest shred of genuine kindness. Might be because I’m tired of seeing the hope ripped out of people. Whatever the reason may be, just know that I’ve heard and seen crazier plans work.” Charlie gave him a small smile.

“Thank you, Evan. It…it means a lot to me to hear that one of my patients actually believes in me.” Her smile widened, and that spark of happiness and determination returned to her eyes. “So! Let’s discuss how to redeem you! What do you do in your free time?” Evan blinked behind his mask. That question shouldn’t be so difficult to answer…and yet he genuinely struggled to do so.

“I repair the traps and made offerings to the Entity.” He said with a shrug. There really wasn’t much more he had to worry about while he was in the Fog. Charlie hummed.

“What about before you were taken by the Entity? You had to have had something to do in your spare time. Reading, painting, dancing, those sorts of things.” Evan pondered for a few moments, before he remembered something. The one activity he did that had remained a secret from his father—for a while—that he had gotten quite good at.

“I sketch things. People, places, anything that tickles my fancy really.” He finally said, which made Charlie beam.

“Great! We can use that! Art is the perfect medium to express things that are difficult to put into words, and it sounds like you’ve got a lot on your mind that you can start with!” She was relieved. She had worried that he’d be difficult and say he had no hobbies at all, like Angel had. Well…no hobbies that could be categorized as ‘not-sinful’. Both of them turned their heads in surprise when they heard a knock at the door. Three fast knocks followed by two slower ones. Her smile fell from her face faster than Evan could blink. Whoever was on the other side of that door had elicited that reaction in her, and that made Evan angry. He stood up and grabbed his cleaver from the bed. Charlie shook her head. “No need for that! I…I can handle this. He’s probably just wanting to talk business with me.” She stood and walked to the door, taking a deep breath before she opened it. Alastor stood in the doorway, his eternal grin gleaming with the promise of mischief and malice. It took exactly two seconds for Evan to make up his mind that he didn’t like this guy. And that was BEFORE he even said anything.

“Ah, there you are Charlie! I’ve heard that we have a new resident in the hotel, so I thought I’d drop by for a visit!” He said, looking past her at the room’s occupant. He had to admit, Vaggie’s description of him had been apt. The man practically radiated an aura of violence and wrath, whereas Alastor himself projected cunning malevolence. Alastor was tall, but Evan was taller. He stomped over to the doorway to stand behind Charlie—who felt miniscule between them—and looked at the smiling demon. He said nothing, but simply stood, silently daring Alastor to make the first move. Alastor chuckled and extended a clawed hand. “Alastor. Folks down here mostly know me as ‘The Radio Demon’ though.” Evan would’ve slammed the door if Charlie hadn’t been there. But, she was, and she was looking up at him with an expression that practically screamed ‘try to be nice.’ He sighed and held out his own hand to shake Alastor’s. A single shake was all he’d give.

“Evan Macmillan. ‘Trapper’ will also do.” He said gruffly. He just wanted the smiling fucker to finish his little ‘hello’ and piss off. Alastor had his eyes narrowed though his grin was still wide as ever. He knew that if he couldn’t intimidate Evan right now, he’d have to either make a show of force later…or simply remove him altogether. Both options had their pro’s and con’s, though he’d have plenty of time to plan.

“Well Trapper, I see you and my business associate are getting along swimmingly. Charlie, I just wanted to let you know that everything paperwork related is taken care of for the week.” He said, turning his gaze to her. She smiled at him.

“Thank you, Al. And thank you Evan for talking to me. If there’s anything you need, my room is down the hall, number 666.” He nodded curtly at her as she stepped out into the hallway, before closing his door. Evan sighed, before going over and laying down on his bed. He hadn’t realized it until now, but he was exhausted. After decades of toil, slaughter, and enduring the horrors of the Fog…Evan finally closed his eyes to sleep.

Chapter Text

Charlie was shaking with excitement like a child on their birthday. She couldn’t wait to tell Vaggie everything she had talked about with Evan. They’d plan his rehabilitation, set goals for him…goals that might be worked towards, unlike those they had set for Angel. Well, Angel had improved slightly…he hadn’t made a single dick joke all day! She stepped out of the elevator with Alastor, who made a beeline for the kitchen to start preparing dinner. He hadn’t said a word since the talk with Evan. She didn’t know what to make of that. Ordinarily he was a bit of a chatterbox, but now he seemed pensive and distracted. She shook her head, deciding not to worry about it. She walked towards the reception desk/bar, and sat down next to Vaggie, who immediately picked up on her good attitude.

“Did things go well with Evan? I haven’t seen you this happy in days.” Charlie nodded.

“Oh Vaggie, he’s the perfect patient! He’s cooperative, open, and willing to let us help him!” She gushed. “He even liked the song!” Vaggie groaned.

“You sang that for him? Well…what’s his story then?” At this, Angel scooted over next to Charlie, and Husk—who was cleaning mugs and glasses—tried his best to look like he wasn’t as curious as the rest of them. Charlie took a deep breath.

“Well I don’t have all the details, and I’m not sure if he’s ready for me to tell EVERYONE his story. I don’t know if he wants us all to know, or if he was just opening up to me because I was nice to him.” Angel groaned.

“Oh come ON! Don’t blueball us, spill the beans!” Vaggie nodded.

“If he’s dangerous, I think we all ought to know.” Charlie sighed.

“Alright, fine. He’s been trapped in a nightmarish dimension controlled by an eldritch god that feeds off the hope of victims who are perpetually resurrected just so they can be sacrificed over and over.” She looked at the others. They all seemed stunned. Angel broke the silence first.

“Oh. Well that sounds like it would suck, yeah.” Charlie nodded.

“He’s…understandably short fused. I’ll tell you more about it later tonight, Vaggie.” Angel huffed.

“How come she gets to know and Husk and I don’t?” Husk rolled his eyes.

“Because its none of our business, and we ain’t the ones who are going to be rehabilitating the guy.” Charlie smiled at him.

“Thank you, Husker. Now, lets go have some din—” The door of the hotel slammed open, and in walked something out of a nightmare. Herman Carter’s unblinking eyes darted between each of the demons in the room. He could dissect their minds just by looking at them.

“This place is…underwhelming.” He wheezed out, giggling at random intervals. Vaggie picked up her spear.

“I’m sorry, but who the FUCK are you?!” She said, trying not to let her fear show. She had seen a lot of weirdos…but this guy was more than just weird, he was horrifying. His eyes locked on her and she tried not to cringe away.

“Ah, where are my manners? I am Doctor Herman Carter, former head of Neuroscience at Lery’s Memorial Institute. I heard that this place was something of a psychiatric ward for those who wish to break bad habits, yes?” Charlie stepped forward.

“Well, in a way, yes…are you interested in rehabilitating yourself, Doctor Carter?” He looked at her. He giggled, then started laughing, until it became a full-blown deranged cackle. Charlie looked around uncomfortably, waiting for him to finish. When he had finally regained his composure, he cleared his throat and spoke in a level tone.

“No. I am not here to be ‘Redeemed’. I am here to help you reform these WORTHLESS WRETCHES that crowd this abysmal realm.” During that brief outburst, his eyes, hands, and mouth sparked with electricity. Husk could feel his fur standing on end even from behind the bar as the whole room began to smell like ozone. Being in the same room as the doctor was overwhelming. It was like standing inside a thundercloud. A psychotic thundercloud, it seemed. Charlie managed not to flinch from his shouting, and merely forced a smile and nodded.

“That sounds…great? I need to see something that proves your qualifications though.” She hoped he wouldn’t be able to provide anything, and that she’d be able to dismiss him—politely as possible—and forget this whole encounter. To her surprise and dread, he merely chuckled.

“Of course! I have always more than enough documentation on me.” He reached into his coat and produced several worn folders. “Let me see here…at least one of these should have the signature from the director on it, ah, here we are!” He opened a folder labelled ‘PROJECT AWAKENING’ and took out a sheet of paper and passed it to her. He pointed at the top of the page. “’Head of Neuroscience at Lery’s Memorial Institute: Doctor H. Carter.’ That’s me~!” He said with a giggle. He quickly snatched the paper back out of her hands. “Top secret documents, by the way. Well, at least they were at some point. They may be public knowledge by now, though I’d doubt that!” Charlie blinked. All she had been able to see was the Doctor’s name and the Director’s signature.

“Well…I suppose it can’t hurt to try having you work with us. So how do you treat patients? What kind of patients did you get at your previous workplace? What sort of work did you do?” She asked, starting to be just a little bit hopeful that perhaps this strange doctor wasn’t as bad as he looked. Evan had been intimidating—and still was in all honesty—but he had also shown a tender side of himself when he told her to not give up hope. Maybe this Doctor Carter had a hidden good side too? If the doctor’s grin could get any wider, it would’ve. The one thing that was almost as delightful as performing his work was discussing it.

“Those of us at LMI were pushing the boundaries of neuroscience and psychology well beyond anything that had ever been done before! We improved upon existing ECT—Electroconvulsive Therapy—procedures, and I myself developed several new ones. My treatments can be divided into a few categories: Calm, Restraint, Discipline, Order, and Obedience. Depending on the illness of the patient, I’d select one or more treatments for them.” He said, sitting down at the bar—much to Husk’s dismay—making the air in the room even more charged. Charlie sat down beside him. She felt that spark of hope starting to grow, and even Vaggie found herself slightly reassured that the doctor seemed to know what the hell he was talking about. Carter continued. “If a particularly violent patient came into my care, I’d likely conduct a series of Calm and Restraint treatments over the course of several sessions, while using psychotherapy to isolate the causes of the psychosis. If a patient was extremely unruly or disruptive, I’d use Discipline and Order.” Charlie nodded, following along.

“So, what would you do if the treatments weren’t working?” Carter chuckled. She was more inquisitive than he had expected her to be, which was both endearing and annoying.

“It would take hours to explain my methods, but it would be far easier to simply demonstrate with one or more of your patients. I am aware that you are currently a little short on subjects to work with, but I’d be more than willing to find a patient myself and bring them here to work on.” Angel snickered.

“So what kind of shocks would you give to someone like me, for example~? Maybe I’d be up for it~” He said with a wink. The Doctor would’ve beaten him to a pulp if this were the Fog or Lery’s. He just wheezed slightly before responding.

“Probably Restraint or Order. Though perhaps it wouldn’t be necessary. Your extreme libido is likely the result of a rebellious lifestyle brought on by hard times and a toxic home. Your problem isn’t that you want sex or a high, you just need attention and validation that you’re alright at doing something, even if its degrading yourself or creating chaos. That, or possibly you’ve deluded yourself into thinking that your current lifestyle is the only way you’ll ever be ‘happy’, even though you clearly aren’t, but it’s the best you’ve managed to do yet.” Angel’s smirk disappears and his half-lidded leer was replaced by wide eyed shock. Vaggie and Charlie looked between the two, stunned. The Doctor looked away from the dumbstruck spider demon and fixed his glowing gaze on Charlie. “Now then, your answer? May I work here?” She looked between him and Angel. Angel was never at a loss for words. He always had a witty comeback for everything…and yet this strange doctor had completely disarmed his sharp wit in the course of a single conversation! She looked at Vaggie. A single glance between the two demonesses communicated everything. They didn’t feel comfortable around the doctor…but they couldn’t deny he had impressed them somewhat. Charlie sighed.

“I’ll need to get some paperwork from my associate, Alastor, and you’ll have to interview with him before we officially have you sign on as an employee…” Carter clasped his hands together.

“Wonderful! I look forward to working with each one of you!” He said with a giggle. Vaggie frowned as the group stood up and headed to the dining room for dinner. She wasn’t that hungry…not with the growing dread pooling in her stomach.

Chapter Text

Evan was back in the Fog. The trial had just started. Four maggots to hunt, five generators to keep silent, and plenty of hooks to hang the meat on for the Entity. It seemed like the Entity had brought him to his own estate for this trial…the area just outside the collapsed mineshaft. “The Suffocation Pit”, he called it. The sky was heavily overcast. Not quite night, but not daylight either. The area was foggier than usual—one of those little bastards must have brought an offering to have the Entity thicken the fog even more for the trial—making it hard to find the little maggots. He chuckled darkly. The fog may help conceal them, but it would also conceal his traps. He set one up just outside a window he knew the maggots would use at some point to try to vault through to escape him…only to step into the hungry jaws of his lovely trap. Once that was done, he made his way to the furthest generator he saw in the distance—the start of the trial was always the hardest time: if you didn’t find the maggots fast enough they’d have burned through one or two generators—and to his delight he found one lone maggot working on the generator. She tried to run, but he was faster. He always caught up to them eventually. This one was feisty…she had stunned him by dropping a pallet on him, and by the time he did catch her two generators had been done. He growled in annoyance…he’d have to be more aggressive if he didn’t want to displease the Entity. Usually two sacrifices were enough to satiate it. Three would significantly please it, and all four? If all four were sacrificed, the Entity would reward the killer with stronger powers, better offerings…and perhaps Memento Mori’s.

A Memento Mori was a human head, half flayed to reveal a skull. If burned in a bonfire as an offering before a trial, the Entity would permit the killer to slaughter a maggot without having to worry about being punished for denying it the sacrifice. They were given sparingly, and only to killers who performed exceptionally well consistently. Evan had just so happened to have made an offering of a Memento Mori. However, there were rules: sometimes a survivor could only be killed after they had been placed on a hook at least once, sometimes only the last survivor in a trial could be killed with a Mori. This was to ensure that the Entity at least got to sample them…or so he presumed. He honestly had no idea what reason or logic the Entity used to define the laws of its trials.

He put the girl on the hook and turned to go hunt for the other three. He found two of them working on a generator just outside the mineshaft. As he put one on the ground from two swipes of his cleaver, the other bolted into the building. He gave chase, and sure enough, the fool jumped through the window right into the bear trap. Evan chuckled and soon both maggots were on the hook. He tilted his head in the direction of the hook where the first maggot he had hung was struggling against the limbs of the Entity. Odd…normally survivors tended to rescue each other before they reached the “struggling phase”, where the Entity would try to impale the hooked survivor. He shrugged and began searching for the last maggot of the trial. As he was walking by a group of red lockers—the entity placed them along walls all over the areas of its trials to give survivors a hiding spot—he noticed that one of them had crows perched on top. If a maggot stayed in a locker for too long, the Entity would send crows to perch on the locker and caw to alert the killer. He grinned behind his already smiling mask as he opened the locker. His eyes widened in horror. Inside the locker…was Charlie. She looked at him with tears streaming down her cheeks, her mouth—normally turned upwards in a friendly smile—was now trembling in terror. He was unable to control his own movements…his body was on autopilot. He reached for her neck, grabbing her and hauling her onto his shoulders. He heard shrill screams, then the distinct sound of the Entity’s limbs puncturing the rib cages of its victims as it dragged them up into the sky to feast on them. He could hear its voice in his mind.

“YOU DID WELL. THE LAST ONE IS YOURS.” Evan wanted to scream, to say no, to do something…but he did not. He obeyed. He always obeyed after all. He dropped Charlie off his shoulder onto the ground, and kept her from crawling away by keeping her under one of his boots. He then did what he’d do for any other maggot. The first swipe of his cleaver made her cry out in agony. The second made her start begging. The third made her go silent as shock took hold of her. By the fifth strike, she was dead.

Evan woke up in a cold sweat. It took him a moment to remember where he was. He was in Hell (which was an ironic step up from the Fog), the Entity was no more, and Charlie was still alive. He put his hands to his face, feeling the scars and cuts from the Entity’s punishment from so long ago. That’s all that was left of the Entity…just scars.

“Just a nightmare. Probably a lot more where those came from. God damn it.” He sighed, then laughed. “Can’t even take a nap without thinking of work.” He sat up and looked over at the clock on the bedside table…6 pm. He had gone to bed at 4. He groaned in frustration, knowing that he was more than likely being expected to head down to dinner and socialize with the group of strange, slightly annoying, and rather loud demons. He put on his mask and grabbed his cleaver and bag of traps before stepping out into the hallway and heading down to the hotel dining room. He tried not to dwell on the nightmare…why had it been Charlie in that locker? Why did he feel awful when he saw her broken body on the cold ground? He never felt remorse for a kill—especially not one that had taken place in his imagination or in a dream—so why was the mere thought of him harming Charlie making him feel like puking?

Meanwhile in the dining room, dinner was being served. Charlie sat at the head of the table, with Vaggie on her left and Alastor on her right. Angel sat next to Vaggie. Husk was seated by Alastor, and was directly across from Angel, who made suggestive comments despite Husk’s repeated demands for him to “shut the fuck up and let me eat in peace”. The Doctor sat at the other end of the table, observing the interactions between the strange group of demons. He took out a notebook and flipped to a blank page…oh the joy of having new data to analyze! Alastor gazed at the man.

“Now there’s a smile that almost rivals mine! But do tell me, Doctor Carter, what is the purpose of your headgear?” The Doctor chuckled.

“I’m surprised no one else has asked that already. It prevents me from biting my own tongue off when I use my abilities.” Alastor laughed.

“That would be quite the unfortunate and ironic death, wouldn’t it? Haha!” Vaggie raised an eyebrow.

“How are you even speaking then? I don’t even see your mouth moving.” Herman cackled…and as he did, she heard him speaking.

“I’m not using my mouth at all! The words you hear are all in your head! You all have been in my presence and have been exposed to very minute levels of my static field. The Entity blessed me with this power, and the more a subject is exposed to it, the more access I have to their mind!” Charlie felt her blood run cold. Vaggie stood up angrily.

“You’ve been reading our minds?!” She growled, brandishing her spear. The Doctor giggled.

“No. That requires a much more intense exposure, the likes of which would be quite agonizing for you to experience. If I were ‘reading’ your mind, you’d know it, and it would be one of the most unpleasant experiences of your life!” Charlie cleared her throat.

“Did you say, ‘The Entity’ gave you this power?” She asked nervously. He nodded.

“Indeed. Ah, it seems we are joined by a colleague of mine!” He chuckled as Evan entered the room. Evan looked at the doctor in shock (pun intended).

“What the fuck are you doing here Carter?! How did you even find this place?” Evan’s hand went to the cleaver strapped to his belt. The Doctor was dangerously unpredictable, and his sadistic behavior had not been limited to the survivors in the trial, but to his fellow killers as well. The Doctor cackled.

“I found it easily enough, thanks to the local news broadcasting your first act of carnage against the demons of this realm! I also got help from a local. Charlie has agreed to let me work here, and as soon as I have Alastor’s approval, I’m to be official staff!” Evan looked at Charlie, his mask concealing the look of horror behind it. She quickly spoke up.

“You still need to be interviewed, and I’ve decided that there are to be a few rules and stipulations you’ll need to follow before you can get to work.” She said hastily, much to the relief of all but Herman and Alastor. Alastor looked bemused…he had already made up his mind about the doctor and knew that having him on the staff would be delightfully entertaining! Carter on the other hand, was not laughing. The static field he was projecting suddenly focused on Charlie, making her yelp and twitch a bit. It wasn’t painful yet, but she had the impression that that could change in a heartbeat. She heard the Doctor in her mind.

“Oh, so that’s how it is, hmmm? I don’t like working with constraints on my research. I highly suggest you reconsider trying to hold me back.” Charlie was frightened, obviously, but stood her ground.

“Either you follow my rules, or you take your leave, doctor.” She locked eyes with him. He glared at her for a few tense moments, before he relaxed in his chair, and the static field receded to normal.

“Very well, Princess Charlotte. I’ll play your games…for now.” No one spoke for the rest of the meal.

Chapter Text

Immediately following the incredibly uncomfortable—but admittedly delicious—dinner, Charlie and Alastor had taken Carter to the lobby to interview him. Despite Alastor being one of the most powerful, sadistic, and unpredictable overlords in Hell, she’d much rather stick close to him than be in a room alone with Doctor Carter. Vaggie stood up as they were leaving the dining room and grabbed Charlie’s arm. Alastor and Carter kept walking to Alastor’s office.

“Charlie, there’s no way I’m letting you go into a room with both of those maniacs alone. I’m coming with you, whether they like it or not.” She said as she held her spear. Charlie smiled with relief.

“To be honest, I was about to ask you to join me anyway. I know I have to show a little trust for those we have here at the hotel…but…” She shuddered at the thought of being alone with Carter. “Trust has to be earned first.” Alastor had earned her trust when he had brought Husk and Nifty into the hotel as staff. Carter on the other hand had done nothing to reassure her that he wasn’t about to brutally main or murder someone. Vaggie sighed.

“I doubt he’ll ever have my trust.” Charlie nodded, and despite her high hopes about changing even the worst people, she couldn’t help but share Vaggie’s doubt. The two demonesses walked down the hall towards Alastor’s office, where they could hear Alastor’s static filled laugh and the Doctor’s maniacal giggling. The girls felt more and more anxious with each step they took towards the crimson colored door. Charlie looked at Vaggie with a strained grin.

“At least they seem to be getting along well.” She said, trying desperately to focus on the positives. Vaggie deadpanned. Charlie sighed. “Alright. Are you ready?” She asked as she put her hand on the doorknob. Vaggie nodded, gripping her spear tightly as if they were entering a beast’s lair. Inside they saw Herman and Alastor playing chess while having a conversation about their past exploits. Doctor Carter seemed to be recounting his own history.

“And that was when I struck him with the wooden board to the back of his head! He went down like a bag of wet shit! The student’s got genuinely afraid after that, and I figured I could pin everything on him after I was done with my experiments, and no one would be the wiser!” Carter said with a cackle. Alastor chuckled with him.

“Diabolical! Inspirational! Ah, there you are Charlie. I see you brought Vaggie.” He said, trying to hide his amusement at their obvious apprehension. Vaggie narrowed her eyes at him, muttering curses in Spanish as Charlie walked in with her.

“Vaggie and I were just discussing the terms of Doctor Carter’s…’employment’.” Doctor Carter’s eyes sparked with annoyance.

“Name them. If they are within reason, there should be no issue.” He said, and the girls could hear his breathing becoming harsher as he was already irritated with them. Vaggie cleared her throat and spoke.

“Condition one: no harming the other staff.” Carter let out a soft growl mixed with a giggle.

“Even if they provoke me?” He said, his hands twitching as if itching to close them around someone’s neck. Charlie nodded.

“Especially if they provoke you. Angel is a bit of an instigator, and Husk can be a bit…rude sometimes. Just try not to let them get under your skin and be the adult in the room.” Carter’s fists clenched, but he nodded for her and Vaggie to continue.

“Condition two: all treatments you intend to use have to be reviewed by Charlie or myself.” Carter scoffed.

“And just what makes you two qualified to review MY work? Are you two trained psychiatrists? Are you neurologists? Do either of you have any education in medicine or therapy? No. I know neither of you do, otherwise you’d already have patients, and you wouldn’t have desperate need of one such as myself!” He snarled. Vaggie glared and Charlie winced. She stammered for a response, but Carter continued his tirade. “Even if you did have training, it wouldn’t matter. I’ve reviewed footage of your fiasco of an interview with those news anchors: you live in a world of absolute delusion. Your expectations are so beyond unrealistic they are borderline psychotic. You think that these wretches you call ‘patients’ will be willing to change, but you’re wrong. If they are down here, then they have become so defined by their vices and failings that they will have to be forcefully corrected. They will have to suffer. They will cry, they will beg, they will scream and curse…and judging from what I’ve seen, you lack the nerve to have them see their therapy through to the end. You have far too much empathy for one who oversees a rehabilitation institution. Even now, the many-limbed nymphomaniac snorts nose-candy, and your receptionist is a raging alcoholic. How can you hope to change someone like Evan or myself, when you can’t even bring yourself to be stern with those two? You’re so sweet to everyone that it genuinely sickens me when I think of how much power and privilege is wasted on you. Had you even a hint of a spine for enforcing your own will over others, you’d have plenty of patients by now, and you wouldn’t be such an embarrassment to your parents, who are so ashamed of you that they’re willing to watch from afar as you humiliate yourself for all of Hell to see!” Charlie was at a complete loss for words. Vaggie was on the verge of attacking the doctor. Alastor was watching with wide eyes like a child at a movie, thrilled by what he was witnessing and eager to see how it would play out. Charlie stammered, but then choked up. She was trying so hard not to cry. She had to get out of this room. The Doctor and Alastor’s grins were too wide and the room was too small and she couldn’t breathe and she NEEDED TO GET OUT! She turned for the door and sprinted out. Vaggie was stunned.

“Charlie!? Wait!” She ran after her but paused at the doorway to look back and give the doctor a murderous gaze. “Pendejo!” She sprinted after Charlie. The doctor giggled and sat back down at the table, and moved a knight, taking Alastor’s bishop that had been pressuring Carter’s queen, while simultaneously putting Alastor’s king in check, with no escape routes left.

“Checkmate.” Carter declared coolly. Alastor stared at him with admiration.

“You’re hired.”

Chapter Text

Charlie was in her room. She had locked the door, closed the curtains on the windows, and went to her bed. She had been insulted, criticized, mocked, and belittled before. She was no stranger to adversity or the cruelty of others. She had taken it from her father, from Katie Killjoy and Tom Trench, and from the general populace of Hell. But that hadn’t hurt as much as what she had just heard from Carter. His words had cut her to her very soul, because he wasn’t just mocking her dreams, but everything about her. The comment about her parents and their shame had hurt the most. Other demons had been reluctant to mention her parents, lest they invoke the wrath of King Lucifer and Queen Lilith, but Herman had no fear at all. He had been brutally precise in diagnosing her…she really was just chasing rainbows, trying to find happiness for all, without regards to how she’d realistically bring about such a goal. Her initial plans had mostly revolved around positive reinforcement and encouraging sinners to become better…but that had done nothing so far. She had barely made progress with Angel—and that was after he almost ruined the Hotel’s reputation—and she had made absolutely no progress with Husk. She curled up under her blankets and comforters, quietly sobbing. She let out a startled yelp when she heard Vaggie knocking at the door.

“Charlie? Are you alright?! Why did you lock the door!?” She said, her voice filled with concern and fury at what the Doctor had said. Charlie wiped her eyes and tried to clear her throat. She put on a fake smile—as if that would make her sound more convincing—and spoke.

“I’m fine, Vaggie. I just…got a bit overwhelmed. I locked the door because I was going to take a shower. It’s getting late, so we ought to be going to bed soon. It’s been a long day!” She did sound somewhat convincing. She felt like trash for lying to Vaggie…she was not fine. Not in the slightest. But she couldn’t tell Vaggie that, or Vaggie would want to throw out everyone in the hotel who had contributed to the mess Charlie had gotten in. Vaggie sighed, not buying it for a moment.

“Charlie, we both know that’s not true. Let me in. We don’t have to talk about it yet. First thing tomorrow I’m going to send that ‘doctor’ packing.” She heard Charlie walk up to the door and unlock it. Her eyes were puffy and red from crying. Vaggie felt her heart ache, then burn with fury. How DARE that sick doctor bring Charlie to tears?! She wanted to go back down to Alastor’s office and put her spear in his stupid unblinking eyes.

“Vaggie…what if he’s right about me?” Charlie muttered softly. “What if—” Vaggie put her hands on Charlie’s shoulders.

“He’s wrong. He’s just another cruel fucker with no respect or vision. Don’t think about him. Think about those who DO believe in you. I believe in you, and you said Evan thinks this project will work too, right?” Charlie nodded, and Vaggie smiled. “Then fuck whatever the doctor thinks! If you have even a few people who care and support you, then that’s all that matters.” She said, putting her hand on Charlie’s cheek. “I know it’s been a total fiasco of a first week of being open, but things always look worse before they get better. And things will get better.” Vaggie said with conviction. Charlie blinked, then broke down sobbing, embracing Vaggie and letting out all the stress and despair she had been keeping welled up. Vaggie just pat her back and let her cry. Both were surprised when they spotted the Trapper standing outside his own room a few doors down. His body language was tense, and they could hear his breathing. He was looking at Charlie—or rather her puffy red eyes. He stomped over, and Vaggie instinctively summoned her spear. He knelt so that he was eye level with them.

“Who hurt Charlie?” He asked in a low, soft tone. It was unusually calm…which is what made Charlie and Vaggie know just how angry Evan was. Charlie wiped her eyes and gave Evan a weak smile.
“It’s alright, Evan. I’m alright now, there’s no need to get angry.” She said, hoping to calm him down before he went on a rampage. Vaggie had whispered during dinner about Evan killing a mugger, and Charlie didn’t want to see or hear of any such bloodshed happening within her hotel. Evan growled.

“Answer the question. What happened that made Charlie cry?” He demanded an answer, and he wasn’t going to drop the subject. Vaggie sighed.

“That doctor said some awful things to her face, and—” That was all Evan needed to hear. He was already storming down the hallway to the elevator. Vaggie’s eye widened. “Where are you going?!” She raced after him, Charlie following behind her. Evan said nothing, and when all three were in the elevator he pushed the button for the main floor so hard it cracked. Charlie looked at Vaggie with worry, wondering if they would even be able to stop Evan from doing something violent. As soon as the doors opened, Evan broke into a sprint. In the Fog, the Entity had forbidden the killers from moving at their top speeds—this was to give the Survivors a fighting chance of escaping the trial—but he had no such restriction here. Vaggie and Charlie barely managed to keep him in their line of sight and caught up to him when he was at the door of Alastor’s office. He had tracked Carter down by following the static field’s intensity. He didn’t knock at the door. He kicked it once, cracking the oak wood, and the second kick turned it to splinters. Alastor and Carter stared with wide eyes as he charged into the room and punched Herman in his grinning face.

The doctor was sent sprawling from the force of the punch, and Alastor wisely backed away from both killers to give them space for the brawl. He took out his microphone stand and began doing what he did best: broadcasting.

“Come see the fight of the century, folks! The Trapper has just socked the Doctor in his jaw! Oh wait, he’s not stopping there either, he’s beating him while he’s down! Oh, I think he just broke some teeth! The Doctor’s not just going to take it though! He’s shocking the Trapper…oh those are some electrical burns! I know burning flesh when I smell it folks!” Evan’s roars of pain and rage were audible throughout the whole hotel, and soon Angel Dust, Husk, and Nifty (who had been busy cleaning, as usual) came running to see the brawl. “The Doctor’s gained the upper hand…or has he!? The Trapper just dealt a nasty blow to the Doctor’s gut, knocking the wind out of him! The Trapper isn’t giving him time to recover either, he’s…NO! NOT MY CHESSBOARD YOU BRUTE!” The sound of a wooden chessboard being smashed over the Doctor’s head was loud enough to be registered by the microphone. All over Hell, people were muting their TV’s and turning up the volume in their car radios. Many still remembered Alastor’s age of terror and had held on to their radio sets just in case he ever returned. Alastor sighed. “Well, I suppose I can buy a new one. Ah, Charlie and Vaggie are trying to break up the fight…which may be a good thing for the Doctor, who looks like he’s at death’s door. What a fight, what a scrap, WHAT A SHOW!” Alastor laughed merrily. Now THIS is exactly what he had wanted to see when he had come to the hotel: psychopaths bludgeoning the daylights out of each other!

“Evan, stop it!” Charlie cried out, standing between him and the Doctor, who was on the floor bleeding from his mouth, nose, and eyes. “This is the exact opposite of what you’re trying to work towards!” Evan was breathing hard, his arms had smoldering handprints from where the doctor had grabbed him and shocked him. He looked down at Charlie, then at the Doctor. He stepped around her and picked up the beaten doctor by the collar of his lab coat.

“Listen here you giggling piece of shit…you hurt Charlie—physically or emotionally—ever again, and I’ll show you why the Entity had favored me for so long despite gathering other servants.” He dropped the doctor on the floor and kicked him in the gut one last time for good measure. Vaggie watched Evan storm out, her view of him changing from one of caution and apprehension to one of respect and gratitude. Charlie rushed to the doctor, kneeling beside him.

“Are you alright?!” She said, her voice filled with worry. She didn’t like the man…but she didn’t ask for him to be beaten bloody. The doctor looked at her with a mixture of hatred and confusion. He had been beaten because of her, and yet she wanted to tend to his wounds?

“After all I said to you…you have concern…for me?” He was baffled. No one could be that altruistic. Even the survivors in the Fog had a limit—they’d jump in front of their wounded fellows to take a hit, or risk their lives trying to rescue them from a hook—but eventually there would be a point where they’d rather escape themselves than die trying to rescue another. None of them EVER showed any pity or sympathy for their killers though. They’d drop wooden pallets on them, stab them with shards of glass to escape their grasp, and blind them with flashlights (Entity enhanced flashlights, of course). Of course, he wouldn’t have expected them to show pity…they were doing their best to kill them, after all. He stared at Charlie and awaited her answer.

“I didn’t want Evan to do that to you. I didn’t ask him to do anything at all! I’m so sorry!” She looked at the doctor, hoping beyond hope that he’d forgive her. He just stared at her. He stood up, wheezing in pain.

“You completely confound me. Your motives are laughably naïve, your methods are childish…yet your intentions are pure.” He shook his head. “Baffling. You genuinely care for everyone who enters this establishment.” He slowly walked from the room, heading to a room that Alastor had told him he’d have for his own. “Completely baffling.”

Elsewhere in Pentagram City, two demons sat outside a bar, listening to a portable radio. They had heard Alastor’s broadcast of ‘The fight of the century’ and were having a laugh.

“They should just turn the hotel into a fight club, and charge for watching a fight!” A reptilian demon said. His drinking buddy, an owl-like demon hooted with laughter.

“I’d pay to have seen that. Too bad the princess had to end it before either of them bit the dust.” As the two demons chatted avidly, neither noticed a slight shimmer in the air. If one had been watching closely, one would’ve seen the vaguely humanoid outline of an extremely tall man moving with incredible speed towards a nearby alley. The figure navigated the winding maze of Pentagram city’s alleyways—a network of crime and vices that were too sickening to be witnessed in the open. The worst of the worst happened in here, yet the figure moved invisibly past muggers, murderers, and other fiends. It finally came to a stop and knocked on a sheet metal hovel that had been built in an alcove of the alley. From within came the sound of uneven footsteps, and haggard breathing. The door opened, and a twisted figure of scars, sores, and bruises stood. In one hand it held a cattle-sledge, a brutal tool for putting down livestock back before more human methods were invented. In the other hand, it held a heavily modified chainsaw. This another killer from the Fog: The Hillbilly.

The Hillbilly stared at the invisible figure, waiting. The invisible man began to shimmer as it rang a large cowbell with a strange weapon made from a human skull and spinal cord. After the bell had tolled, a tall, gaunt figure covered in rags, blood, soot, and paint stood. This was the Wraith, yet another servant of the Entity. The Hillbilly spoke in a raspy, coarse voice.

“Didja find some food?” The Wraith shook his head, but quickly held up his hands, and began making signs with them. It wasn’t any recognized form of sign-language, but one invented within the Fog by the Wraith and the other killers so he could communicate.

‘No, but I found someone. Evan. I know where to find him.’ A brief explanation later, and the Hillbilly was sprinting through the alleys, chainsaw roaring—making anyone and everyone who heard it scramble out of the way. The Wraith followed a short way behind him, swiftly and silently. When they reached the streets, the Hillbilly had to pause. He couldn’t read…but fortunately the Wraith could. A simple nudge in the right direction was all it took for the Hillbilly to start sprinting again. Their destination: the Hazbin Hotel.

Chapter Text

Evan sat with Charlie and Vaggie in the lobby of the hotel. Charlie wasn’t happy with how he had beaten down Herman, though she secretly felt a bit…strange. She wasn’t pleased, but she wasn’t upset either. Knowing that Evan would go to such lengths to defend her (even though she could certainly take care of herself in a fight, Katie Killjoy had learned that lesson on live television the hard way) she couldn’t help but feel a bit flustered. The only other person who had ever physically defended her was Vaggie, and she and Vaggie were in a very, very close friendship. She shook her head, trying to focus on what Evan and Vaggie were saying. Evan was currently defending his actions in attacking Herman.

“I know what Carter is capable of. If you let him treat you like nothing, then you’ll end up worse than dead by the time he’s done with you. I’m putting my foot down; I’m not letting him repeat his little ‘experiments’.” He said firmly. He didn’t regret beating down the doctor. In fact, his only regret was that he hadn’t done it the moment he saw Carter here. Charlie sighed.

“Evan, you can’t just go around beating the shit out of anyone who makes you angry. That’s not how ‘redemption’ works.” She said wearily. This had been a long day, and she was looking forward to going to bed. “We’ll talk about this more in the morning, and…hmm? Do you hear that?” She asked Vaggie. It sounded like a distant engine of some sort that was rapidly getting closer. Evan’s eyes widened behind his mask.

“That sounds just like Max’s saw!” He exclaimed as he looked towards the door. Husk groaned.

“Oh good. Another one. I picked a good day for the hard liquor.” He said as he chugged a bottle of cheap gin. Charlie turned to look at Evan.

“What can we expect?” The roar of the chainsaw was close now. He’d be at the door in a heartbeat. Evan hesitated before responding.

“Just…just don’t stare at him for too long. He doesn’t like it when people he doesn’t know as friends stare at him.” Charlie shook her head.

“But why—” The rest of her question was cut off by the sound of the saw biting into the hard-mahogany door, before ‘Max’ stepped through the remains of the doorway. Both girls—and even Husk—grimaced when they beheld the Hillbilly. His clothes were tattered and stained with grime and old blood. His skin was covered in scar tissue and open sores. He was unwashed and unclean. His saw was just as ugly and unusual as the owner: it was covered in engravings of strange, spidery legs, human skulls, and tally marks. It had a large primer bulb for a quick rev speed, and the chain was begrimed with a strange substance that most killers referred to as ‘The Entity’s saliva’. It made wounds inflicted on survivors far harder to heal and slowed their progress in repairing the generators. Max’s gaze immediately went to Evan, and he let out a strange sort of roar, before he began running towards Evan in an uneven loping stride. Evan held his arms wide, and embraced Max.

“Where have you been you little rascal?!” He said while ruffling Max’s greasy hair playfully. Max let out a raucous laugh.

“We’ve been lookin’ for you! This place is way too big n too loud! Thought we’d never find you!” Max said. “But now we have!” Evan blinked.

“’We’? Who else is…”? He trailed off, before he shook his head and chuckled. “How long have you been standing there, Phillip?” Charlie and Vaggie looked in the direction Evan was talking, and saw no one there. Suddenly, they saw an orange shimmer in the air and heard a bell toll. From seemingly nowhere an incredibly tall—taller than Evan and Carter—man stood. He said nothing but was smiling ear to ear. Evan walked over and gave the man a bear hug, which Phillip returned. Charlie had been apprehensive at first: it was clear that these two were more of Evan’s coworkers from the Fog. She had been afraid that this was going to be a repeat of his reaction to seeing Herman. To her delight, it was the exact opposite. She could tell just by these few brief moments that these three killers were more than just colleagues: they were friends. Once Evan was done hugging his two buddies, he turned to face Charlie and Vaggie. “Charlie, Vaggie, allow me to introduce two of the greatest friends a man can ask for. This here is Max,” he gestured to the filthy Hillbilly, who looked like he had only just now taken notice of the two demonesses. “And this is Phillip.” He gestured to the towering gaunt figure, who bowed silently. Charlie was smiling widely, while Vaggie had an uneasy grin. Vaggie wasn’t going to simply lower her guard for these newcomers…but if Evan vouched for them, then she’d be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

“Welcome to the Hazbin Hotel, Max and Phillip! It is quite late…so I hope you won’t mind if we do your interviews first thing tomorrow after breakfast?” Charlie said with a slight yawn. She was exhausted and it showed. Phillip nodded politely, while Max looked uncomfortable.

“W-what’s ‘inter-view’? Is it gonna hurt?” He said with a note of fear in his country accent. Evan laughed. It was a loud, hearty, and genuine laugh that made Charlie realize that Evan was extremely happy now.

“No, Max. An interview is when you sit down and answer some questions about yourself. No pain involved!” He said. Max sighed in relief.

“That don’t sound too bad!” He declared before he realized that Vaggie and Charlie were staring at him. He tensed up and moved behind Evan to hide. Evan sighed.

“Max, there’s no need to hide. These girls are going to help us. Trust me, they aren’t going to hurt you.” Max peeked out from behind Evan, looking up at him with uncertainty.

“Promise?” He whimpered meekly. Evan nodded.

“I promise, Max.” He said reassuringly. Max looked over at the two demonesses, before looking back at Evan.

“They’re gonna scream at me and run away though. They’re pretty…pretty girls always scream n run from me.” Evan shook his head.

“These two won’t. Now then, let’s get you two some rooms.” He said, nodding at Husk. Husk groaned.

“I don’t have enough booze to deal with this many psychos.” He said, looking at his empty gin bottle. Max loped over.

“You want a drink? I got some moonshine.” He said, taking out a jug of the Thompson moonshine. Evan and Phillip’s eyes went wide, as did Husk’s. Husk took the jug and stared at Max like he was the second coming of Christ. He took a swig, and to Evan’s amazement, didn’t immediately start coughing and choking.

“Holy shit that’s some strong stuff! Alright, you’re not too bad!” He said, handing Phillip and Max keys to two rooms. While Charlie and Vaggie weren’t pleased that Husk now had another source of alcohol, it was good to at least see him get along with one of the guests. He wrinkled his nose. “Could use a bath though…” Max tilted his head.

“What’s a bath?” Charlie felt her heart stop for a moment. Just what kind of life had this poor boy been living? Evan sighed.

“Its when you wash yourself with soap and water.” Max still looked confused. Evan looked at Phillip, but Phillip just shrugged and signed ‘He probably never had one before he was taken by the Entity.’ Charlie however came to the rescue. She went to the phone at Husk’s desk and picked it up.

“Nifty, can you come down here please? We have new guests, and one of them is not too familiar with personal hygiene. His name is Max. Yes, thank you.” Mere seconds later, the small, one-eyed demon maid of the hotel was in the lobby, holding a sponge and a long brush in the other. She looked at Max and gasped in terror. Evan groaned, dreading Max’s response. Normally anyone who reacted with fear was immediately targeted for the saw. But before Max could even think to rev his monstrous weapon, Nifty was in front of him.

“Oh goodness! You poor dear! You’re filthy! And your clothes are completely tattered! This won’t do, follow me at once!” Max blinked, and looked at Evan. He wasn’t sure what this was all about, and he was a bit frightened. Evan nodded at him reassuringly.

“It’s alright, just follow her and do what she says.” Phillip nodded as well, giving Max a thumbs up. Max reluctantly followed Nifty to what was to be his room. Phillip signed something to Evan, who chuckled. “Yeah, I’m sure we aren’t exactly the pictures of cleanliness either. I could go for a bath right now too. Goodnight, Charlie, Vaggie.” He said as he passed them on his way to the elevator. Phillip gave curt nods to both demonesses, before ringing his bell and cloaking, heading to his room. Charlie turned to Vaggie, a smile on her face.

“I think our luck has finally made a turn for the better!” Before Vaggie could respond, both heard a scream of terror. Neither of them recognized it…until they saw Max sprinting down the hall—NAKED AS THE DAY HE WAS BORN—with soapy water all over him.

“EVAN! PHILLIP! HELP, SHE’S TRYING TO DROWN ME!” He shrieked. Nifty was running after him.

“YOU ARE GETTING BACK IN THE TUB AND LETTING ME WASH YOUR HAIR, YOUNG MAN!” Both turned a corner and were out of sight of the two stunned—and slightly flustered—demonesses. Vaggie turned to Charlie.

“You were saying? Also…at least THAT part of him looked normal. Great. Now I have that imagine burned in my mind.” She said with a sigh, heading to the room she shared with Charlie.

Chapter Text

After Max had been persuaded to go finish his bath—a difficult task that had required both Evan and Phillip to reassure him that Niffty was not trying to drown him—Evan realized that he himself needed a good bath. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been able to bathe…the Entity handled things when it came to clothes. Sometimes he’d enter a trial already soaked in gore. Other times he’d find himself wearing old mining gear from his father’s mines. Whatever the reasons behind the Entity changing his cosmetics, he’d never really had need to clean up. He stepped into the bathroom after he had removed his mask, boots, and overalls. Once he was in the tub of hot water, he felt like he was in Heaven. It took all his willpower to not fall asleep in the tub, and he left the tub only after the water had gone cold. He emerged looking and feeling like a new man. The scars and metal spikes and hooks remained, but the removal of the grime and gore let him see his skin for the first time in decades. It was then that he realized he had made an error—he had no clothes to change into. If he slipped on his filthy overalls again, his bath would’ve been for nothing. He shrugged, and went to his bed, letting sleep claim him.

His dreams were not peaceful. They were a kaleidoscope of violence, horror…and Charlie. He watched her struggle on the sacrificial hook, or being cut in half by Max’s saw, or being mutilated by Phillip’s sickle. Worst of all where the visions of Herman getting her: he’d simply rub his hands together, before putting them on either side of her head as he cooked her brain with his electricity. He then turns her over, look down at her smoldering eye sockets, and laugh. It made Evan’s skin crawl.

The next morning Evan awoke with a head full of bad dreams still fresh in his memory. It didn’t help that he was still faced with a dilemma: wear the grimy clothes or wear a towel. The bathrobe in the closet was not large enough, so the towel was the only thing that would work temporarily. He put on his mask, and before he could make up his mind about what he’d do about clothes, he heard a knock at the door. Charlie’s chipper voice greeted his ears.

“Good morning Evan! Are you awake? It’s time for breakfast!” She heard large footsteps approach the door, and when it opened, she beheld something she had not been prepared for. Evan Macmillan wearing naught but a towel around his waist. Her eyes widened as she gazed upon his completely ripped body. Years of working in the mines and enforcing his father’s orders had made Evan an absolute brute of a man. His muscles had only been strengthened by decades of servitude to the Entity—hauling wounded survivors on his back while carrying them to a sacrificial hook was a monumental task that not all Killers could do without the Entity lending them supernatural strength. Evan was one of the few who needed no extra help in this regard. He looked down at her, his mask keeping his visage hidden.

“I’m awake, and I’ll be down shortly. I appear to need some clean clothes though…are you alright?” He asked when she had been staring open mouthed at him for a few seconds. She blinked and closed her mouth, a blush tinging her cheeks.

“Y-yeah, just…I’ll look at you—I mean at clothes—for you. Alright see you in a few minutes ok bye!” She said hastily before turning and walking down the hall towards the elevator. Evan just shook his head and chuckled. While seeing her flustered had been amusing, he knew it would be unprofessional of her to be blushing like a schoolgirl in front of her staff and other patients. Reluctantly, Evan slipped on his gore encrusted overalls, and headed to the elevator. When the elevator doors opened, he was greeted by the smiling face of one of his least favorite coworkers. Evan resisted the urge to snarl as he stood next to Carter. Herman was humming absentmindedly while scribbling something down on a clipboard.

“I hear that Phillip and Max checked in last night. At this rate, we’ll have a Fog reunion! I do hope Jeffrey can make it, or perhaps Lisa. I can already imagine Lisa trying to take a bite out of one of the demons, or Jeffrey trying to collect their fingers for his collection.” Evan rolled his eyes behind his mask.

“Shut up, Carter. It’s too early for your brand of insane shit. Unless you want another punch like the one I gave you yesterday, I suggest you just keep scribbling your nonsense and leave me be.” Herman of course only giggled maniacally.

“Woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Or perhaps you didn’t sleep well at all. Bad dreams?” Carter asked mockingly. Evan growled.

“Shut up Carter, or I’ll knock out the rest of your teeth.” When the elevator door opened, Evan stomped out. His morning had been ruined as far as he was concerned. However, when he saw Max and Phillip sitting at the breakfast table, he forgot all about his rage.

“Max…is that a suit?” Evan asked in bewilderment. It was a red work suit with a clean white button shirt under it. Seeing Max in anything other than filthy rags was like seeing a unicorn. Max nodded uncomfortably, and it was then that Evan noticed just how clean his skin and hair were. Niffty sat across the table from Max, looking very proud of herself while talking to Vaggie and Angel Dust. She caught Evan looking at Max’s new clothes, and she grinned.

“I made it myself just last night! I wasn’t going to let the poor boy put those rags back on him! Not after I spent hours cleaning him up…nuh uh!” Evan looked at her incredulously behind his mask.

“You made him an entire suit in one night?” He had seen and heard of many strange things during his time in the Fog…but this still bewildered him. She nodded enthusiastically.

“Oh yes, and Charlie has already told me she wants one for you!” Evan blinked in surprise while Angel Dust snickered.

“She wants to see you all dressed up nice. Wonder why that may be~” He said impishly while wiggling his eyebrows at Evan. Evan snorted derisively.

“A suit is a bit much. I’d prefer something I could work in if need be. Some shirts and some pants will do, thank you.” Niffty shook her head. Charlie walked in with Vaggie. Alastor and Carter walked in while laughing diabolically about their past exploits. Max was having difficulty eating with silverware and was opting to use his bare hands instead. Niffty looked appalled, while Vaggie looked disgusted.

“Were you raised in a barn?” She asked as he tried to shove a whole waffle into his mouth. Max responded with a mouthful of food.

“No…I was kept in a dark room and fed through a hole in the wall. Why?” He asked before swallowing the waffle.

“Because its…wait…what? You were fed through a hole in the wall?” She asked, horrified. Niffty, Angel, and Charlie were staring at Max with shock. Husk would’ve been too…if he had been present. Right now, he was dealing with the worst hangover of his life brought on by the Thompson moonshine. Maxwell shrugged.

“Yup. Ma n’ Pa would just shove the food in through the bricks.” He said, his fists clenched. “Called me names n’ made me beg for food. Sometimes it’d be days between food.” He chortled with laughter. “Made em pay for it all in the end though. Yes-sirree! Made em pay REAL good!” He said, patting his chainsaw. He noticed the looks he was getting from the demons at the table. “Why are y’all lookin’ at me like that? And anyway, I wish I had been raised in the barn. Least then I’d have the animals to keep me company. When I got out of my bricked room and saw that they were treating the cattle better than they were treating me, I got mad. I got real mad. Killed every living thing on that ranch, all by myself! People n’ animals, all of them!” He said proudly. “That’s why the Entity wanted me in the Fog. He told me I was real good at what I did.”

Vaggie was stunned. She felt awful for bringing up such a dark topic from Max’s past. She had no way of knowing, but she should’ve assumed. “Max…I’m so sorry.” Max blinked and looked at her in confusion.

“Why? You didn’t do nothin’. Just asked a question. Evan told me y’all would be inter…inta…what was the word again?” He asked Phillip, who silently signed something. “’Interview!’ Thanks Phillip.” He looked back at Vaggie. “Anywho, didn’t reckon we’d be doing the interviewification over breakfast.” He shoved another half of a waffle into his hungry mouth. Vaggie blinked, before looking at Charlie for help. Charlie was just as mortified as Vaggie was. Vaggie cleared her throat.

“Err…sure we are. So, you really enjoy killing people with that saw, huh?” She asked with a strained smile. Max nodded enthusiastically.

“Sure do! Course I don’t just use my saw. Also got my sledge for bashing skulls in. But the saw is my favorite. Hearing them scream as I turn their insides into chunky mustard, it’s very cat…Catha…cashew…oh goddamn it, what was that fancy word again Phillip?” More silent signing from Phillip. “’Cathartic’.” Vaggie was at a loss for words. Charlie had nothing to offer either…how do you redeem someone who doesn’t even see killing as wrong? How do you tell someone who has been victimized so horrifically that what they’ve been doing for closure is a heinous sin? Vaggie looked at Max and sighed.

“Max…I can’t help but ask you…you do know that killing is bad, right? Murder is a sin.” Max blinked. She could practically hear the gears turning in his brain as he mulled that over. He shook his head.

“That don’t make a lick of sense. The Entity told me I was a good boy for killing all the survivors it would drop into trials with me. Said I was one of the best at killing! How could it be a bad thing if I got so much reward for it? That sounds like some bullshit to me. Are you trying to confuse me?” He shook his head. “That ain’t nice, miss Vaggie. Pretty girls shouldn’t lie, even to uglies like me. I may be an ugly, but I ain’t a dummy. I’m gonna go tune up my saw now.” He said, taking a waffle and stuffing it into his pocket as he grabbed his saw and shambled out of the room. A few seconds later he came back in. “Forgot this.” He said, grabbing the whole pitcher of maple syrup and walking away with it. Vaggie blinked. She was completely bamboozled by Max. Everything about him was ironic. He had the vocabulary and grammar of a child, but he wasn't an idiot. He was hideous to behold but didn’t seem too unpleasant to be around. He was incredibly innocent and ignorant, and yet he had committed many atrocities. Angel Dust broke the silence.

“Did…did he just take the entire thing of maple syrup?” He said, not sure if he should be amused or pissed off, since he had been about to get some for his own waffle. Vaggie just shook her head, completely dumbfounded.

“¿Lo que acaba de pasar?” The Wraith looked at Evan and started silently laughing. Evan chuckled along with him. Charlie looked between the two.

“What’s so funny?” Evan chuckled

“I can see Vaggie trying to make sense of Max. Don’t bother. He is an enigma. His wisdom eludes us all.” He joked. Charlie found herself smirking, and even Vaggie had to giggle, but before long both girls were again trying to figure out how to get through to Max…preferably without having to shatter his complete perception of right and wrong…if possible.

Chapter Text

After the unforgettably strange breakfast, Philip had gone into the library of the Hotel. It wasn’t far from the lobby, and it was a nice and quiet place to sit and relax. It also had plenty of printers and papers that Charlie and Vaggie used to make the fliers and adverts for the hotel that they posted all over Pentagram city. Philip had taken a handful of these papers and a pen, and was in the process of hunting down a clipboard when Angel Dust walked in. Angel Dust often came to the library to read from the vast collections of erotica available—it was a library in Hell after all—and he had been startled to see the scarecrow-like figure of the Wraith standing by the printers.

“Jeez! Give me a heart attack why don’t ya?!” He cried out. Philip turned and shrugged at him sheepishly. Angel Dust quickly regained his composure, putting on his best sleazy grin and laying down on the couch. “So, mister tall, dark, and silent…what’s your story~?” Philip deadpanned at him. Angel quickly realized the irony of his own question. “Ah, right…you probably have to write it all down. Spare me the gory details though. I know that you ‘Fog dwellers’ or whatever probably get off on killing, but I don’t need to read torture porn.” Philip let out a strange sort of snarl. It sounded hollow and wooden, like a broken instrument. It was otherworldly and unnatural, and it made Angel’s fur raise in fear. Philip furiously wrote on a sheet of paper.

‘I get no pleasure from killing! I didn’t ask for this! Leave me be, spider!’ Angel held up his many hands in surrender.

“Alright! Yeesh. If you hate killing so much how did you end up with Doctor Giggles, Trap-daddy, and Max ‘the destroyer of waffles’?” He asked, snickering as he came up with the nicknames. Philip looked angry for a moment, before it turned into visible sorrow. He let out a raspy sigh, before he began writing. As he wrote, Angel took the time to look him over in detail. He had strange face paints in what appeared to be a ritualistic pattern from some culture Angel was unfamiliar with. There were more markings on the strange cowbell the Wraith held…and when Angel looked at the Wraith’s sickle, he realized the handle and head were made from the skull and spine of a human. The blade of the sickle emerged from the open mouth of the skull. Angel shivered at the grisly weapon and was almost relieved when Philip finally passed him a sheet of paper. Philip’s handwriting was small and neat. Angel took the paper and sat down, starting to read.

“I came to America from Africa with nothing but my wits and my willingness to work. I had big dreams: the American dream. Alas, the work available to someone like me at the time was rather limited, so I had to start off at a junkyard. Autohaven Wreckers…the place where it all went horribly wrong. The owner of the yard was a man named Azarov. At the time I did not know, but he was working for organized crime families. I had thought it was suspicious when he bribed police officers to look the other way, but at the time I had assumed it was just simply how things worked in America. I worked hard; cars would come into the yard, then I’d put them in a crusher and a cube would come out. It was simple, but honest…or so I had thought.” Philip was writing. Angel spoke as he waited for Phillip to finish the next page.

“So, you were working for a made man. It happens. I was in a mob at one point…well, born into it really, so I didn’t have much choice in determining my path in life.” Angel said with a shrug. Philip looked at him in surprise, before passing him the next sheet.

“One day I found blood leaking from a trunk of a car I was about to crush. I opened it, and found a man tied and gagged. I let him free at once and was going to call the police for him. He didn’t make it far before Azarov found him and snapped his neck. He dragged him back over and threw him in the trunk. He told me that ‘he should’ve made sure that one was knocked out’. I realized then what I was doing…what I had been doing every time I crushed a car. I had been executing people…and I had no idea.” Angel Dust grimaced.

“Crushing people in a machine? That’s…that’s fucked up. Back in my day we’d either shoot them and leave them in a shallow grave or put their feet in a bucket of cement and send them swimming. So, what happened next?” Philip sighed, and passed him another paper. The handwriting was messier…as if Phillip had been enraged—or despondent—while writing.

“I was furious. He had made me murder dozens of people without my knowledge. I thought I had been doing honest work, but he had made me a pawn of criminals. I took a crowbar and began bludgeoning him with it. Once he was unconscious, I threw his body into the car crusher in a fit of rage. His head was sticking out, so when the machine crushed everything else, I tore his head and spine from the rest of it. That was when the Entity took me.” Philip hung his head in shame. Angel shook his head in confusion.

“I don’t get it…why did it take you? You only killed that wise-guy because he had made you his goon.” The Wraith sighed sadly.

“I pondered that question for ages. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if I knew or didn’t know about the people I crushed in the cars. I killed them. That makes me a killer. When I slaughtered Azarov, I became a true murderer. That was good enough for the Entity. I tried to refuse to participate in the trials…but the Entity didn’t like being talked back to. It took my tongue for that. I would’ve continued to resist, but I didn’t want to end up like Evan. So, I obeyed. I hunted and tracked and murdered for the Entity. I despised myself…and yet…I deserved it.” Angel’s eyes widened when he read that last line.

“What the fuck? What do you mean ‘you deserved it’?! No one deserves being forced to do that kind of work on account of killing one fucker who actually deserved it!” The Wraith shook his head.

“No, don’t you understand? I had to be punished for killing all those poor people that had been crushed in those cars. I was guilty! We were all guilty! Me, Maxwell, Evan, Carter, and the others! We all had to be punished! The Fog was our atonement for our transgressions in our past lives! We deserved it! I deserved it!” Angel shook his head.

“That’s crazy talk. There’s a difference between killing people knowingly and killing people by accident. Yeah, it sucks that you were the one that crushed the people in those cars…but were you the one who put them in those trunks in the first place? You tried saving one! Look…you got a raw deal dealt to you. But that doesn’t mean you deserved it.” Philip blinked at Angel and let out a raspy sigh, shaking his head sadly. He rang his bell with the grim sickle he wielded—which Angel now knew was made of the remains of the cruel man Azarov—and vanished. Angel heard soft, quick footsteps move past him and out of the library. “Oh, real mature! Fine! Was done talking to ya anyway!” When Angel couldn’t hear the footsteps of the Wraith anymore, he sighed sadly. “Poor bastard.” Angel began reflecting on his own past life of crime. When he had been a mobster, he had killed people, sure. Usually they were other mobsters, and on rare occasions, cops. He never thought of himself as a “bad guy” despite being a crook…but this Azarov guy that Philip wrote of? Angel had known plenty of guys like that, but unlike Philip, he did nothing to try and stop them from screwing over ordinary people. He looked down at the stack of papers in his hands that contained Philip’s history. He wasn’t sure what he could do to help Philip. Wait a minute, why the hell did he even want to help Philip? He didn’t give a shit…right? He shook his head.

“All this sentimental talk about ‘helping others’ that Charlie keeps spewing is getting to me. I’ll let her handle this. It ain’t my problem!” He said, clutching the papers and walking out to find the Princess. Philip meanwhile had simply started wandering about the hotel, until his journey brought him to the lobby, where he found Max with his eyes glued to the TV. He rang his bell, uncloaking to become visible. Max grinned at him.

“Hey Philip! Come watch TV with me! There’s a show all about how to make weapons from garbage and scraps! Also watched a race where the cars all smashed into each other and ‘sploded!” Philip shrugged, and sat down next to Max on the couch. Max would hoot and holler with laughter whenever something particularly violent was on, though Philip had to change the channel several times when more…adult content had come on. He sighed. It appears Hell’s TV was just sex and violence. He changed the channel one more time, and to his relief, was greeted with what appeared to be a news network.

“You’re watching Channel 666 News! Sex! Murder! The weather!” The feed cut to two news anchors. One was a man in a suit, wearing a gasmask that appeared to be his face. The other was a rail-thin woman with a nightmarish smile that was clearly fake. The two introduced themselves as “Tom Trench” and “Katie Killjoy” respectively.

“Katie, it appears that the Hazbin Hotel is getting quite a bit of traffic.” Katie’s eye twitched in annoyance.

“Is that so, Tom? And just what sort of ‘clientele’ has our princess been attracting?” She said, her nails scraping against the counter. She was enraged that Charlie was getting patients. The idea that people were buying her crazy idea of redemption and rehabilitation was sickening…especially after she had mocked Charlie publicly. If the hotel actually worked, then it would be the end of Katie’s career. Tom continued—ignoring his co-anchor’s ire—and Philip’s eyes widened as footage of Max sprinting through the streets of the city played. Max grinned.

“Hey! I’m on TV!” Philip watched in discomfort as the anchors continued talking.

“This abomination was seen making a bee-line for the hotel yesterday. He even cut down the front door!” Tom said. Katie laughed, her confidence returning.

“Oh, well if Charlotte wasn’t killed by the first brute, then she’s definitely going to be turned to gore by that mistake of nature. I wouldn’t be surprised if the stupid little bitch is already dead!” Tom chuckled with her.

“Oh, he’s not the only one that’s checked in. Reports of a ‘mad-scientist’ have been circulating, and a charred corpse was found the other day not far from the hotel. It seems that the princess is opening her doors to the violent and unpredictable. Well, it’s no surprise that she continues to make absolutely idiotic decisions, considering her moronic track record.” Philip looked at Max and saw that he was shaking. Philip turned off the TV and began signing to him, asking him if he was alright. Max spoke softly.

“She made fun of me. Both of em did. On TV. She called me ‘mistake of nature’.” His fists clenched and he grabbed his hammer and chainsaw. He sprinted for the doorway before Philip could stop him but came to a halt as Herman stood in his way.

“Going somewhere, Maxwell?” The Doctor asked as he tilted his head. Max would’ve ordinarily shied away from the Doctor, but not this time. No…he was far too angry to be afraid of Carter.

“I’m gonna go chop up that skinny bitch who called me a freak of nature!” He declared with fury. Herman cackled.

“Is that so? Well, you don’t know how to find her, do you?” Max shuffled his feet as that realization hit him.

“No…but I’ll figure it out.” Herman laughed again.

“No need for that. I’ll come with you!” Max blinked in surprise, as did Philip.

“What? You will? Why?” He asked suspiciously. He had been the subject of Carter’s “experiments” a few times and had learned to fear and distrust the man. Carter merely giggled.

“Well, a new friend of mine has told me some interesting ideas about the importance of making work ‘entertaining’. In fact, I think I shall ask him to accompany us on our little escapade." Philip had heard enough. He got up and stalked over to the Doctor and began signing angrily at him.

“You are not going with Max! Max isn’t going anywhere either! No one is doing anything violent!” He growled angrily at Carter, who looked amused.

“Is that so? Well, are you going to try to stop me?” He asked with a giggle, his hands sparking with electricity. Philip knew he couldn’t take on Herman…but perhaps Evan could. He quickly rang his bell, cloaking to gain speed, and sped away into the Hotel, looking for the Trapper. The Doctor took the time to go find Alastor, who had agreed enthusiastically to join the pair of killers on their outing.

“Sounds delightful! I never was fond of television anyway, and it has been far too long since I have gotten my claws bloody. I’ll bring us right to the broadcasting station! This is going to be very entertaining!” He chuckled darkly. Carter giggled maniacally, and Max revved his chainsaw like a beast baring its fangs

Chapter Text

Alastor had provided transportation for the two killers. A demonic equivalent of a Rolls-Royce was parked out in front of the Hotel. Alastor sat in the driver’s seat, while Carter took shotgun. Max hopped in the back, looking nervous as he had never been in a car before. Alastor floored the gas, and the vehicle took off down the road. Meanwhile, a very distressed Philip was searching desperately for Evan. He found Evan in what appeared to be a salon of some sort. Niffty was measuring Evan in preparation for making him some clothes that weren’t covered in gore.

“Are you sure the hooks can’t be removed? It is going to be much more challenging trying to make clothes for someone who has spikes in their back.” She asked. Evan snorted.

“Hah. Why do you think I wear overalls?” He chuckled as he recalled the last time he had tried to put something on over his shoulders. Some realms of the Fog were quite cold, and he had come to hate doing Trials in places like Mount Ormond and the Red Forest. Of course, once he got his blood flowing chasing survivors, he’d warm up rather quickly. He was snapped out of his thoughts by the door slamming open and Philip entering in a visibly agitated state. Philip began signing rapidly, but Evan couldn’t follow.

“Slow down Philip! What’s wrong?” Philip sighed and repeated his signing.

“Max, Carter, and the one called ‘Alastor’ have gone out to kill!” Evan’s eyes widened.

“WHAT?!” Niffty let out a startled yelp. Evan stood up. “Where are they going? Who are they after?” Philip hastily answered him. Evan looked at Niffty. “Find Charlie. We need to get to the broadcasting station before Max and Carter butcher everyone inside it.” Niffty’s large eye widened in shock, and she dashed off to find the princess. A few minutes later, Charlie, Vaggie, Angel, Husk, Niffty, and the two killers were in Charlie’s limo, speeding down the highways.

Max, Carter, and Alastor were having the time of their lives. There had been guards at the doors of the news tower. They were dispatched by Alastor with a wave of his hand. An eldritch portal had opened and tentacled horrors had swallowed the guards, letting the trio of murderers enter unopposed. Inside were some startled looking demons going about their business. Reporters, cameramen, and guards stopped what they were doing to stare at the three intruders. Alastor’s eyes were red radio dials, his fanged grin wide with malice. Carter’s hands were charged with the spark of madness, and his spiked stick was crackling with electricity. Max revved his saw and charged. An unfortunate demon that had been in his path was quickly turned to a cloud of red gore. Carter unleashed a charged static blast, his electric insanity dancing through the floor and up the nervous systems of the demons, making them scream simultaneously as their minds were invaded by Herman’s will, like a hammer smashing a pane of glass. He cackled with malevolent delight as he unhinged their minds, making them easy prey for Max’s saw and Alastor’s claws. Alastor was practically dancing through the bloodbath, his movements graceful and deadly, with each swipe of his hands opening the jugular veins of a hapless demon, or simply reaching into their abdominal cavity and pulling out their viscera. The air was filled with screaming, crying, pleading, deranged laughter, and the glorious roar of the chainsaw. The trio butchered their way up the tower. Alastor was impressed by the abilities of Max and Carter to sniff out any demon that tried hiding from them. Years of tracking prey in the Fog had made them acutely aware of the sounds of muffled breathing, quiet hyperventilating, and stifled sobs. It also helped that Carter would repeatedly unleash a static blast, making anyone trying to hide give themselves away by screaming in horror. Max would silence their screams quickly with his saw…he wasn’t in the mood to waste time with these distractions. He wanted two newscasters…and boy was he going to make them suffer. His biggest regret had always been that he had killed his parents too quickly. He wasn’t going to make that error with these two.

“—with the disappearance of Sir Pentious, the territory war between him and Cherri Bomb for the West side of Pentagram city has pretty much ended. Other ongoing turf wars include—” Tom’s report was interrupted by the sound of the studio door being cut into by Max’s chainsaw. Katie’s fake grin became a bit more genuine…and far more malicious.

“It seems like we’re under attack, Tom!” She declared, her body shifting and twisting to become more insectoid in appearance. Another pair of eyes opened, and two sets of bladed limbs emerged from her waist. Tom chuckled nervously.

“I think you’re right! I…uh…I’ll let you handle this one.” He said, slinking away off screen. The camera panned over to the door, just in time for Max to emerge, followed by Carter and Alastor. Max scanned the room, his eyes glaring as his gaze passed over the studio crew. When his eyes found Katie, he let out a roar.

“YOU! You’re that bitch who called me a mistake of nature!” He pointed his saw at her. Katie smirked.

“Aw, did I hurt your feewings~?” She mocked. Max snarled.

“You remind me of my Ma…I HATED MA!” He revved the saw and sprinted at her. She grinned and slashed at him with her bladed limbs. They cut deep into his scarred body, but to her surprise and horror, he did not stop. He didn’t even slow down. He was enduring…he stops at nothing. His chainsaw bit into her, severing two of her bladed appendages on the left side of her body. She let out a screech of rage and agony and began slashing and clawing at him with the desperation of a cornered beast. In the back of her mind, she knew she was screwed. She was gushing blood from her amputated limbs, and she doubted there was anything she could say or do to get him to spare her. Tom had either fled the studio or was cowering in fear somewhere, so she couldn’t expect help from him. Max bashed her head with his sledge, stunning her and knocking one of her eyes out of the socket. She fell to the floor, feebly scrambling backwards to try to get away from the enraged, crooked figure. He raised his chainsaw, the chains slick with the Entity’s saliva and the gore of many fresh kills.

Charlie and company had arrived at the news tower, and immediately could tell that the three murderers had already arrived. Charlie and Vaggie stepped out of the limo, but Philip and Evan moved to stand in their way.

“Are you sure you want to see this?” Evan asked gravely. “There are some things that should not be seen. Things that cannot be unseen.” Vaggie rolled her eye.

“We’re no strangers to violence. There’s an annual genocide carried out by angels. We’ve seen some shit.” Philip shook his head. He signed something and Evan translated.

“You haven’t seen everything. You won’t ever be able to look at Max, Herman, or Alastor in the same way again.” Philip warned. Charlie and Vaggie exchanged glances before nodding at Philip. Evan sighed.

“Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Come on then.” The group moved into the news tower. Charlie had witnessed violence before. This was different. The annual ‘cleansing’ carried out by the angels were done with cold, calculating precision and clinical efficiency. This was the opposite. This was a scene of rage, passion, and perverse cruelty. The stench was unbearable. The walls and floors were slick with gore, and everywhere they stepped over mangled or charred corpses. It was easy to tell who had been responsible for the death of a victim. Carter’s victims were shriveled, burned cadavers with faces locked in silent screams. Alastor’s prey were disemboweled and gutted. And then there were those who had died by Max’s saw…well, parts of them at least. Angel Dust hurled into a trashcan, and Husk took a swig from a hip flask to numb his horror. Niffty was distraught about the monumental mess but was seemingly indifferent to the act of the slaughter itself. Evan just kept moving.

“Don’t look. Breathe through your mouth so you don’t smell it. Just keep walking.” They were getting close now. They could hear Alastor, Max, and Herman laughing. Charlie felt her skin crawl at the sound. Vaggie wanted to puke. They opened the door to the recording studio and saw the trio of butchers standing over a cowering Tom Trench. Carter was holding up Katie Killjoy’s decapitated head and was using his spark to try to get her face to move. Alastor was admiring the carnage around the room, while Max was preparing to cut down Tom. Charlie gasped, and the three turned to look at the group. Max’s expression of feral rage changed to an amiable smile.

“Howdy! Y’all are just in time for me to slaughter one last little piggy!” He revved his chainsaw. Tom screamed. Vaggie shouted over the noise.

“STOP!” Max lowered his saw, looking at Vaggie with confusion.

“What? You wanna beat him up a bit first?” Vaggie took a few seconds to entertain that possibility, before shaking her head.

“No! Just…all three of you, we’re going back to the hotel right now.” Max shook his head.

“We ain’t finished yet though. This one insulted me, just like the other bitch did. I ain’t gonna let that slide. No sirree!” Charlie stepped forward.

“Max, please don’t do this! You don’t need to do this! Just…just ask for an apology!” She pleaded. Tom nodded in agreement.

“Yes, I’m so very, VERY sorry for the things that I said! I was mostly just agreeing with Katie. It was my job to agree with everything she said! I didn’t mean any of it!” He babbled, praying that the maniac with the chainsaw would forgive him. Max mulled that over for a few seconds before shaking his head and revving the saw once more. Evan stepped forward.

“Max, if you kill that little maggot, I’ll be very displeased with you.” He said in a tone that he hoped was stern without being hostile. Max hesitated again, before he growled.

“You ain’t the boss of me!” He was about to butcher Tom, before Philip let out a strange shout to get his attention and started signing. Max gasped and lowered his saw.

“You…you’re just bullshittin’ me. Right?” Philip shook his head and Max pouted. “Fine. Didn’t feel like killing him anyhow!” He loped over to the group, sulking. Carter and Alastor however were still keen on killing the final newscaster…at least until Evan and Philip stood between them and their prey. Herman let out a mocking laugh.

“You’re going to defend this ‘maggot’?” Carter asked. Evan growled.

“You want to try me, and find out? I wouldn’t mind another chance at breaking your face.” Carter snarled, his hands and gore covered spiked stick sparking with power. Alastor put a clawed hand on his shoulder.

“Is it worth the effort, my friend? We’ve had our fun. Let the little weasel of a newsman go spend his eternity in fear. Besides, you told me yesterday that you can only use your power so many times before you are fatigued. Perhaps it would be wise to return to the hotel and recover.” Alastor suggested. Herman sighed through his headgear.

“I suppose I am feeling rather drained. I’ve gained enough data from this adventure already; I doubt one more sniveling demon would make much of a difference.” His hands and weapon stopped sparking. “Let us head back home then. It has been a very productive day!” Charlie was relieved that the trio had agreed to return with them without putting up a fight…but she was curious about something. As the others were getting in the limo, she turned to Evan.

“What did Philip say to Max? What did he tell him that made him agree to spare Tom?” She asked nervously. She wondered if Philip had threatened him. Evan snorted a bit, laughing.

“Oh, he told him that if he killed the maggot, then he’d be eating cold gruel for breakfast for every meal. With no syrup.” He got in the limo. Charlie followed, unsure whether she wanted to laugh or cry at the absurdity of that statement. As they rode back to the Hotel, Charlie couldn’t get the image of Max revving that saw out of her mind. Or of the screaming faces of the electrocuted dead. Or the disemboweled victims of Alastor’s claws. She knew one thing for certain: she wasn’t getting any pleasant dreams when she went to bed tonight.

Chapter Text

The outskirts of Pentagram city were a maze of slums and hazards. The roads that connected the Pentagram to the other circles of Hell—each with their own overpopulated city—were hazardous even at the best of times. The slums that followed along the roads were suicidal to navigate on foot. The chances of being mugged, murdered, or violated were high even for locals. However, that didn’t stop two strange figures that clearly were not locals. Both were women, and both looked extremely dangerous. Beyond that, their similarities ended. One was a tall, strong looking woman wearing a tattered sarafan and a strange rabbit mask that covered the upper part of her face. She was carrying a large traditional broad-axe, ideal for splitting logs…or skulls. Around her waist was an infantry belt that clearly had been pillaged from some past victim, and in the loops of the belt were hatchets. Perfectly weighted, sharpened, and if thrown expertly: quite deadly. The woman’s name was Anna…though in the Fog she was simply known as “The Huntress” by her prey. She turned to her companion and spoke in a strong yet concerned tone.

“Где мы? Почему мы здесь, в этом странном месте?” Her companion sighed and responded with a tired, raspy voice.

“Anna, you know I can’t speak Russian. I’m assuming you’re asking where we are, and to be honest I have an idea, but I’m hoping I’m wrong.” This woman was smaller than her mighty Russian friend. She wore an old nurse’s uniform from the early 20th century. However, on her face was a linen pillowcase that appeared to be suffocating her. The most unnerving thing about her though was the fact that she was levitating a short distance above the ground. In her hand she clutched a bone-saw. Her name was Sally Smithson, known to her victims as “The Nurse”. As the two women “walked” along the war-torn streets of Pentagram city, a few of the resident muggers decided that they looked like easy targets. Four demons, each wielding either a knife or a bludgeoning weapon, surrounded the two killers. Anna tensed up, but Sally put a hand on her arm to halt her from doing anything violent…yet. The largest demon of the four stepped forth.

“You girls look lost. This is a dangerous part of the Pentagram to be in. Why don’t we ‘escort’ you somewhere safer?” The other three demons snickered as their leader smiled lecherously at the two women. Sally shook her head.

“Trust me, we’ll manage just fine without your ‘help’. I suggest you all run along…before someone gets hurt.” She rasped, her voice carrying a warning tone that made Anna reach for a hatchet on her belt. The demons weren’t intimidated. The big one sneered.

“Are you threatening us? You’re in Hell, and you better start learning how things work down here—” The rest of his statement was cut off by two cold, dead, surprisingly strong hands wrapping around his throat. He didn’t even see the floating woman move. One moment she was a few yards from him, and the next she was strangling him. His partners in crime shouted in alarm and anger, and the closest one to the Nurse and her victim charged. He made it all of three feet before a hatchet was lodged in his head, splitting his skull like a melon. The two remaining demons, realizing the terrible mistake they had made by accosting these women, turned to flee. The Huntress hummed, winding up her arm with a hatchet in her hands. She threw the hatchet expertly, sending it hurtling towards her victim. The wet crunch of bones splitting and brains spilling made her grin. However, her satisfaction turned to ire when she saw the last mugger turn a corner into an alley. She let out a growl of frustration, not unlike a child throwing a fit when they are told they can’t have a candy. She heard Sally inhale deeply, and a whooshing sound that indicated she was using her supernatural “blink” ability to chase down the final demon. The mugger gasped in shock and terror when the Nurse appeared in front of him in the alley, despite him having turned a corner. Sally let out a pained gasp as the fatigue that always followed a blink came and went. The mugger turned around, only to see the strange woman in the bunny mask blocking the way he had come. Sally cleared her throat.

“Ordinarily my friend and I would just kill you and be done with it…but alas, through unfortunate circumstances, I find myself in a position where I need your help. And before you say anything, know that your life—however wretched it may be—is in our hands.” The demon gulped and looked between the Nurse and the Huntress.

“Alright fine! What do you freaks want?” He asked, trying (and failing) to mask the terror in his voice. Sally didn’t get pleasure from the fear of others, so she got right to the point.

“Information. Where are we?” The mugger blinked.

“Well, you’re in the south side of the Pentagram. Oh! I think I get what you’re asking. You’re in Hell. Should’ve been obvious.” He said with a slight chuckle. Sally did not laugh with him.

“I thought as much…and though I am quite upset with that news I can’t say I’m surprised. Is the entire city as wretched and dangerous as this?” She asked as she ran a finger idly along the serrated teeth of her bone-saw, assessing the sharpness. The mugger scratched the back of his head.

“Well, yes, but also no. I mean…each area has its own ups and downs. No part of the city is truly ‘safe’. What exactly are you looking for?” That made Sally hesitate as she mulled the question over. After a brief pause, she found the answer.

“I suppose a place to rest would be nice. Somewhere that we wouldn’t be at risk of being accosted or harassed.” The demon shrugged.

“Good luck with that. Like I said before, everywhere here is dangerous…although…nah, that place is a nuthouse.” He said dismissively. Sally tilted her head.

“What place? I am more than familiar with madhouses.” She said curiously. The demon raised an eyebrow as if to say ‘yeah, I bet you are.’

“Well, there is a hotel…the Hazbin Hotel. It’s on the West side of the Pentagram, and its run by Hell’s biggest embarrassment: Princess Charlotte Magne. She wants to redeem demons so that they can go to Heaven…what a fucking joke!” Seeing neither the Nurse nor the Huntress laugh with him made him chuckle awkwardly. “Right…well, no one thought she’d get anyone to participate in her crazy program, but over the last few days she’s collected a merry band of psychos and slashers. Two maniacs tore up the news station about an hour ago. Some freak with a chainsaw, and the other had weird electrical powers. The fact that the Radio Demon was with them was terrifying in of itself.” He shuddered. Sally hovered closer in interest.

“A chainsaw and a man with control over electricity? Are you certain?” He was a bit nervous at the intrigued tone she had. He nodded and took out his phone.

“Yeah, it was broadcasted live. Got the video right here.” Both killers leaned over the demon, making him sweat in fear. When Carter and Max were on screen, Anna gasped and pointed at them. Sally nodded.

“Max and Doctor Carter. Seems that we aren’t alone, Anna.” She said to her friend. She looked down at the mugger. “Thank you. Now run away and consider yourself extremely lucky to have survived this encounter.” She said ominously. The mugger gulped, and sprinted past her. Anna raised a hatched, but Sally shook her head. “No. He is not prey. Now follow closely, Anna…we have a lot of walking to do.” The Huntress reluctantly put her hatchet back in her belt with the others she had reclaimed from the skulls of the other muggers. They began moving towards the west side…Anna humming a lullaby, Sally rasping softly through her cloth bag.

As news of the bloodbath at the news station spread, fear and curiosity spiked throughout the nine circles of Hell. The slaughter of Katie Killjoy had reminded everyone of the unnerving fact that no one—not even the rich and powerful—were safe. Alastor’s appearance had only frightened people more, and even the overlords—old and new—were anxious that he had reappeared after decades of dormancy. In the hotel, the atmosphere was thick enough to cut with a knife. Nifty had taken Max to wash him (again), and had scolded him for getting blood all over the suit she had made for him. He was quite apologetic about it, and promised he’d wear something else next time he planned on butchering someone. Philip had gone to the library, trying to lose himself in a book so he could forget about the carnage he had witnessed. Husk had, of course, gone right to the bar and started taking shots in hope that he’d wake up with one hell of a hangover and no memory of this day. Angel Dust had gone with him, and for once wasn’t in the mood for flirting or making lewd jokes. For once, Husk almost wished that Angel was flirting…at least then something would be as it usually was. Both were surprised when Vaggie walked over and sat down at the bar.

“Tequila. Now.” She ordered. Husk nodded and poured her one of the random brands he had available. Angel Dust looked at her with a half-smirk. She narrowed her eye at him. “No me jodas, pendejo.” He held up his hands in mock surrender and snickered.

“I wasn’t going to say anything to rile you up, was just surprised that you’re breaking the ‘no alcohol except on special occasions’ policy you and Charlie set up.” She groaned.

“Why do you think? We just saw something fit for a slasher movie. Charlie is freaking out, and I came down to get a drink because I’m freaking out too! Is that good enough of a reason for me to have one drink!? I think I’m entitled to one shitty glass of tequila after the shit that went down at the news station! Do you know what this is going to do to the hotel? No one is going to want to come here, even if they want to be redeemed! Why? Because we have a chainsaw wielding maniac, a psychotic radio demon, and a doctor who is so beyond evil that I don’t have the words to describe him in English or Spanish!” She yelled. Angel Dust shrugged.

“You said no one would want to come here after my…’incident’ a week ago, but now look! Sure, they’re crazy and scary as can be, but beggars can’t be choosers.” She sighed angrily, downing her shot of Tequila.

“Oh don’t you try comparing that to what happened today. Yeah, that was a disaster, but this…this is beyond recovery. Who the fuck is going to want to stay at a hotel with slashers and psychos?!” The three turned their heads when they heard the chiming of a small bell. Philip installed it with the new front door of the hotel, so that whenever anyone came through the front door it would ring. Vaggie’s eye widened as she saw the Nurse and the Huntress in the doorway. The two killers stared at the three demons, and the three demons stared back at the two killers. Angel Dust chuckled and shook his head, then looked at Vaggie.

“You were saying?”

Chapter Text

Charlie was still shellshocked from what she had witnessed at the news tower. She had let Vaggie go get a drink but had turned down the offer to join her. She felt that no amount of booze could wash the horror from her mind. She also dreaded the possibility of having a drunken breakdown in front of the staff and the patients. She was sitting on her bed, trying to make sense of it all.

“What am I going to do? I can’t control Max. Even Evan couldn’t control Max! Alastor and Herman are only encouraging him to do horrible things, and…” she shivered at the thought of confronting either of them directly, though she knew she would need to at some point. A knock at her door snapped her out of her thoughts. It was too light to be any of the killers, and Vaggie had a distinctive knock that this wasn’t matching. That left Angel Dust or one of the staff.

“You in there?” She recognized Angel Dust’s voice immediately. She got up and went to open the door. Angel Dust raised an eyebrow at her. He could tell that she wasn’t her usual cheerful self. Of course, he’d be even more concerned if she was acting like her usual self after she witnessed the carnage at the news studio. He cleared his throat. “Two more patients have arrived. From the looks of them, I’d say that they’re from wherever Evan and the others came from.” Charlie tried not to let her heart sink at the news that even more Fog dwellers had arrived. She took a deep breath, steeling herself for what would possibly be a dangerous meeting.

“Alright, I’ll go down and meet them. You go find Philip or Evan.” She said after she summoned her courage and some wishful thinking that they’d be less deranged than the Doctor and more civilized than Max.

Vaggie and Husk were still engaged in their staring contest with the two newcomers. It had been about 5 minutes since Angel had gone to get Charlie. Anna had her eyes locked on Vaggie once she spotted the spear in her hands. Anna was surprised to see such a small girl holding a weapon, but then she remembered that her own mother had taught her to hunt as soon as she could walk and talk. When the elevator doors opened, Charlie walked into the middle of the staring contest. She immediately noted the tense atmosphere and the weapons the new arrivals had. She put on her friendliest smile and walked towards the two killers. Anna tensed up a bit, but Sally put a hand on her arm to keep her calm. Charlie took note of this and halted her approach.

“Hello. Welcome to the Hazbin Hotel! I am Princess Charlotte Magne, but please call me Charlie. Are…are you two friends of Evan’s?” She asked hesitantly. It was clear that not all of the killers were buddy-buddy with each other, as was evident in how the other killers behaved around Doctor Carter. At the mention of Evan’s name, Anna visibly relaxed, and Sally nodded.

“I am nurse Sally Smithson, and this is my friend Anna. Is mister MacMillan here too? I knew that Max and that odious Doctor were here, but I had no idea that the Trapper was here!” Charlie smiled, already pleased with the strange nurse.

“Yes, he and mister Ojomo are guests here, along with Max and Doctor Carter. Are you two interested in checking in? I’ll explain what this place is when Evan arrives.” Sally sighed and looked at Anna, then back at Charlie.

“I don’t suppose you speak Russian. Anna only knows a few words in English.” Charlie beamed and cleared her throat, before speaking with perfect intonation.

“Я говорю на всех языках! Добрый вечер, Анна!” Anna’s eyes widened, and she rushed at Charlie before picking her up and giving her a bear hug. Charlie gasped as she felt the immense power of the woman’s arms. Anna put her down, smiling brightly at her as the elevator doors opened once more. Evan, Philip, Max, and Angel Dust entered. Philip beamed at Sally, walked over and began signing eagerly at her. Max sprinted at Anna.

“BUNNY!” He cried in delight. She laughed and opened her arms to catch him. Charlie felt her heart warm at the sight of the reunion. It was like watching two siblings reunite. Sally was laughing amiably at something Philip signed, and Charlie was stunned as she noticed Philip laughing with her…was that a slight blush on his painted cheeks? Husk was looking at Charlie with surprise.

“Since when do you speak Russian?” He asked with a somewhat impressed tone.

“Oh, I speak all languages. Something I inherited from my dad, I think. Any mortal language—even the extinct languages and obscure dialects—are known to me.” She said sheepishly. Sally hovered over to Charlie.

“Philip told me that you want to help rehabilitate people…to make them healthy and happy. Is this true?” Her tone was cold and clinical. Charlie gulped and nodded.

“Y-yeah.” She braced herself for ridicule, disbelief, and mockery. None came. Instead, she found herself in a gentle embrace, with the Nurse weeping on her shoulder.

“You’re too good for this place. You don’t deserve to be subjected to our terrors and pains. Trust me, it twists and eats away at you. I won’t let it make you mad. I’ll help you.” She said with conviction. Charlie just blinked in surprise.

“You’ve done this sort of work before?” She asked cautiously. She hoped that this woman wasn’t another Doctor Carter. Sally nodded sadly.

“Twenty years I worked at Crotus Prenn Asylum. Twenty years of dawn to dusk work, listening to the screams of the mad and the wails of the sad. I saw every color of madness in the vast spectrum that is insanity. I put up with ridicule and abuse from the patients and from the staff…until…” She shook her head. “I won’t let it happen here. Not to you. Not—” she trailed off when she noticed Max revving his chainsaw. He wasn’t going to attack anything; he was just doing it because he was celebrating. She put her hands on her hips. “Max Thompson Junior! You stop that right now!” She scolded. The authority in her voice made the room go silent. The demons all watched with dread as Max looked at her slowly, and…obeyed? He hung his head and put down the saw. He shuffled his feet like a child that was just caught stealing from a cookie jar.

“Sorry Miss Smithson.” Charlie’s jaw dropped. Sally floated over to Max.

“Max, do you remember the rule about indoor places and outdoor places?” She asked, sounding EXACTLY like a mother that was about to lecture a small child. He nodded, his eyes never meeting her covered face.

“No chainsaws indoors. I remember.” He mumbled, fidgeting. Philip signed at her, and she gasped and looked down at Max.

“Is that true? Have you been naughty and disobedient to Evan and Philip?” More signing from Philip, and Sally gasped again. “You’ve been disobeying the staff and Miss Charlie too?” Max hung his head lower, looking like he wanted to shrink into nothing and vanish. Max nodded slightly. She shook her head. “Then what do you say to Evan, Philip, and Charlie?” She asked. Max sighed and trudged over to Charlie.

“M’sorry.” He mumbled. Sally nodded.

“Now, apologize to Philip and Evan.” She said, her tone softening slightly. Max nodded and went to apologize. Niffty walked up to Sally, her eye wide with amazement.

“How did you do that? I had to spend hours just trying to bathe him!” She said incredulously. Sally looked at Niffty, stunned.

“You…you managed to BATHE him!?” Both women stared at each other, before laughing merrily. Charlie found herself laughing with them. Vaggie was smiling as well. Both girls remembered that even though there would be hard times and challenges…but they weren’t going to be facing them alone. Everyone stopped smiling when the air suddenly felt charged. The Doctor stepped into the lobby. He giggled—Charlie was starting to hate that sound—as he looked at Anna and Sally.

“I knew it! Only you could radiate so much despair, Sally. And I could sense Anna’s childlike confusion from my office.” Sally clutched her bone-saw.

“And only you could suck the joy out of a room so quickly, Herman. Whatever you have been planning for these people, I refuse to let it come to pass.” She hissed. Herman cackled…but said nothing more as he walked through the lobby, heading to the dining room. He didn’t look at Sally…it was as though he was afraid of her. That made Charlie nervous, for she had pegged Carter as the most dangerous one of the group of killers due to his Spark and his cruelty. What was it then that made him give the Nurse a wide berth? He was avoiding provoking Anna as well, though Charlie could easily see why. She noticed the belt Anna had. A sharp, bloody hatchet was in each loop, and Anna carried an axe that looked like it weighed as much as Charlie herself did!

“Ah, I see we have even more new faces~!” Alastor’s sing-song voice, filtered with radio static, came from the doorway. Anna, upon seeing his deer-like features, tensed up. Before anyone could say or do anything, she had a hatchet in her hand and was winding up to throw it. Alastor’s eyes widened and he slammed the door just as the hatchet lodged in it. Sally gasped.

“Anna! Leave the poor soul alone!” Anna couldn’t understand her…and even if she did, she’d have ignored her. She was humming a lullaby, grabbing another hatchet and heading to the door. As Sally chased Anna—who was chasing Alastor—Husk roared with laughter.

“Did you see his eyes widen? That stupid smile didn’t change, but his eyes had ‘Oh shit’ written all over them!” He wheezed with laughter, pounding his fist on the bar. Vaggie snickered, and Evan let himself chuckle before noticing Charlie’s look of disapproval. He disguised his laughter as a cough, but Charlie had a wan smile that told him that she could tell he was trying to hide his amusement. She shook her head, her smile growing despite her distress that one of her patients was trying to murder her business partner

Chapter Text

It had taken an hour for Anna to finally give up her relentless hunt for Alastor. Charlie had politely asked Anna to refrain from attacking Alastor, and that he wasn’t an actual deer. Anna was a bit confused, but reluctantly agreed to stop hunting Al…for tonight. He didn’t seem too relieved about that and remained wary of her as the group gathered for dinner. Sally and Anna sat across from Philip and Max. Alastor and Herman sat at the far end of the table, away from most of the group. The last thing either of them wanted was to be within arm’s reach of the two new arrivals. Niffty and Sally were quickly becoming friends. Both were discussing how to make Max ‘act like a proper, well raised boy should.’

“I’m so thankful that you made that wonderful suit for him! How did you manage it on such short notice?” Sally asked Niffty, who was delighted to discuss her methods. The two chatted while Charlie struck up a conversation with Anna in Russian.

“So where did you learn to throw hatchets like that?” She asked. Hatchet throwing wasn’t exactly a common skill—even among Hell’s ridiculous population of killers and fiends—it was a rare talent. Anna grinned.

“My mama taught me! When I was tiny, she’d tell me ‘some day you will be big and strong like me. Maybe even stronger than your father’. Father was stronger than a bear, she said! She gave me tiny little wooden hatchets to practice with, so that when I was big enough for the real ones, I could throw them without having to think. She said that she had first met papa while she was hunting deer with hatchet. Papa was a trapper, and he was out checking his traps, when suddenly a hatchet came flying past his head and into a fox he had just removed from trap. The fox fur was ruined, but he was just glad to be alive. When mama came looking for hatchet, she was furious because the deer had gotten away when she missed her shot. When she found papa, he held up the fox with the hatchet in it and said ‘getting foxes is easier this way. Maybe I should try trapping deer for you, and you throw hatchets at foxes for me?’” Anna said with a smile. Charlie grinned and giggled. Anna continued. “She told him ‘Silly man, how will you bring entire deer back to your home when you live so far from the heart of the woods?’ She said he responded with ‘I won’t be living far from the heart of the woods…and I’ll have my beautiful and strong wife to help me.’ She said that they married within the month after that meeting.” Charlie felt her heart warm.

“Aww…that’s so sweet! Did he teach you to trap too?” She asked. Anna’s smile slowly fell. She shook her head and answered softly.

“No…he never had chance to. He died from fever while mama had me in her belly. She said I have his eyes.” She sighed. Charlie frowned, feeling quite bad for having brought up such a sad topic. She tried to change the subject.

“So, what’s with the mask?” She asked casually, hoping it wouldn’t be a sensitive topic. To her relief, the Huntress smiled again.

“Mother carved it for me. It was my favorite! She made it for me after I killed my first rabbit! It is…it is all I have left of her now.” Anna went quiet. “We talk more tomorrow. Now, we eat!” She said, trying to hide her sadness…sadness that Charlie had a feeling she’d need to get to the root of. But not now. It wasn’t the time or the place. She nodded at Anna and turned her attention to Sally.

“Miss Smithson, do you mind if I ask you a few questions after dinner?” She said cautiously. She suspected that Sally wouldn’t want to speak of her past in the middle of dinner—especially not in the presence of Doctor Carter and Alastor. Sally laughed lightly.

“I wouldn’t mind it at all! And please, call me Sally. ‘Miss Smithson’ makes me feel my age.” She said. Dinner passed without incident—aside from Sally and Niffty fussing over Max and his refusal to eat with silverware. When dinner was over Charlie brought Sally to her office (which was her room but calling it an “office” added a bit more professionalism to it). Sally and Charlie sat down at her desk. “So, what is it you wish to know, Charlie?”

“Well, you mentioned you worked at a…’Crotus Prenn Asylum’?” Charlie asked. Sally sighed and nodded.

“Yes. Twenty years I worked as a Nurse for the clinically and criminally insane.” She said somberly.

“Why did you choose to work there?” Charlie said with confusion. “You act as though it were an awful place, so if it was truly terrible, why work there for so long?”

“I didn’t ‘choose’…it was either work there or starve. I had never wanted to go into nursing. I had dreams of living with my darling Andrew and starting a family. He was a lumberjack. One evening, his foreman came home instead of him, and told me there had been a horrible accident at the lumberyard. I—” she choked up and cleared her throat. Charlie’s heart ached for the widowed woman in front of her. “—I had to work at Crotus if I wanted to stay off the streets. New York is a terrible place to be jobless. So, I worked as a Nurse. I saw things that no one ought to see. I saw fully grown men break down screaming like toddlers as they were tormented by invisible horrors. I saw children too frightened to speak or even show their faces. And I saw monsters.” Her voice became stern. “Monsters in the cells, and outside them too. The staff were known for wanton cruelty, and I was helpless to stop them from abusing those poor souls who were already in so much distress. And then there were patients that deserved to be punished.” She scowled behind her cloth pillowcase. “There was one patient that was simply referred to as ‘The Bad Man’ by patients and staff. He was vile, cruel, and twisted. His taunting and rantings would haunt my nightmares. Each year, things just got worse and worse for me…until finally…” She trailed off. Charlie gulped, having a thought of where this story was heading.

“Finally what?” She asked quietly.

“I killed them. All of them. Patients and staff. Smothered and strangled them. It wasn’t an act of hatred…it was mercy. Those poor children were suffering and dying…I did the humane thing and made their misery end. And as for the Bad Man and the staff, I may have been…less gentle…during my treatment of them.” She went quiet. Charlie said nothing. Both sat in silence for a few minutes. Sally looked at Charlie. “I refuse to let what happened to me happen to you. You’re too young and full of joy to have to take on the nightmares of others. I will do all that I can to make sure that what happened at Crotus Prenn does not happen here. You have my word.” She said solemnly. Charlie smiled.

“And you have my word that any abuse of patients or staff will not be tolerated. I’m glad to have you here, Sally.” Charlie promised. Sally felt her heart fill with happiness for the first time in a century. As she left, she passed Evan in the hallway.

“Hello Evan! I’ve just spoken with our delightful hostess!” She said—and although none could see it—she was smiling.

“She’s really something special, isn’t she?” Sally tilted her head. Something about Evan’s tone intrigued her. She thought she heard something…but she had to make sure. Casually, she probed for more information.

“Well, I don’t know. What is your impression of her?” She said nonchalantly. Evan blinked behind his mask.

“Well…she’s smart, driven, enthusiastic, caring…pretty…has a beautiful singing voice…” His eyes widened as he realized what he had been saying. “She’s alright, I suppose. Why? What’s it to you?” He said agitatedly. Sally giggled.

“Oh, nothing~!” She said smugly, floating off to tell Philip that Evan Macmillan—The Trapper—the Entity’s longest lasting killer…was smitten with Charlotte Magne

Chapter Text

Hot. It was too hot here, in this new place. It was also loud. Hot and Loud. It hated New Place. It wanted to go back to Old Place, Oldest place, or even Bright Place. Those places were at least familiar to This One. It loved Oldest Place…First Master made sure there was plenty of food. First Master would open the gateways to Bright Place and send this one’s kind through to harvest prey. But the Prey had been ready. They used strange metal tools that shot metal fire, and electric shock prods to corner This One in a cage. This One tried to tunnel out, to escape into First Master’s domain. But First Master had abandoned this One to the Prey’s plans. Fortunately, This One was able to break free of the chains and metal cuffs and slaughtered the Prey in their underground laboratories. But This One was cut off from Oldest Place. First Master’s gateway to Bright Place had been sealed. This One was trapped in Bright Place.

But then Second Master came. Second Master was like First Master, but was older, and far more powerful. It could access any Place without having to create gates. It took This One and made This One deadlier. Much deadlier. This One could pounce great distances and shred the prey before putting them on Second Master’s hooks. Second Master was very pleased with This One…but then something happened. Second Master’s voice became weaker and feebler. This One knew something was terribly wrong and hunted the prey with greater ferocity. But it wasn’t enough. Second Master told This One it was going to go to the Void to recover strength and had to send This One away from Old Place.

It reached out, trying to find Second Master’s voice. It heard…nothing. First Master’s voice had long gone silent ever since Second Master saved This One, so it couldn’t reach out to First Master even if it wanted to. It felt…uncomfortable. Not just from heat, brightness, and loudness, but something else. This One was alone. Without a Master. No commands to obey, no voice to give praise. This One was afraid…It had never not had a master’s voice. It knew not what was to become of itself without orders. It let out a screech of anguish, mourning First Master’s abandonment of it, and Second Master’s loss. In its sorrow, it searched for any clue that may lead it back to Old Place or Bright Place. It heard only loudness. Loudness and anger and pain and things This One didn’t understand. It was about to lose all hope (which was something that it indeed was capable of feeling), when It suddenly felt something that was familiar. Very familiar. The Not-Prey!

In Old Place, Second Master had Prey and Not-Prey. Prey were the same as they were in Bright Place…soft, fragile, and delicious. The Not-Prey were servants of Second Master. Some looked, sounded, and moved like Prey, but they were stronger than Prey. The Not-Prey would hunt and sacrifice Prey to the Second Master, just like This One would. The Not-Prey were afraid of This One at first, but they became more comfortable as time passed. The Smelly One was This One’s favorite of the Not-Prey. The Smelly One had been the first of the Not-Prey to treat This One with softness. The Smelly One also gave This One plenty of delicious treats whenever he returned from one of Second Master’s hunts! If Not-Prey were gathered all together in this New Place, then perhaps they could find a way back to Second Master? This One would find the Not-Prey. This One would follow the weak voices of the Not-Prey across New Place until they were all together. It just had to navigate this awful, loud, hot, New Place. But New Place wasn’t all bad…like Bright Place, it had prey everywhere. This One would feed as it travelled, getting closer and closer to the Not-Prey. With its purpose restored, and an objective in mind, the Demogorgon began its trek across Pentagram city…but not without stopping often to shred demons to ribbons with its massive rending claws, and ripping off heads with its large, five flapped mouth. The residents of Hell were not unaccustomed to the visitations of eldritch horrors…Lucifer himself had made pacts with ancient and dark beings that lurked between dimensions and would let these beings feed every so often in his own realm. The carnage that ensued was never greater than those brought by the annual Extermination, so it was little more than a drop in the ocean of Hell’s violence

 

Following her interview with Sally, Charlie wanted to learn more about the other new face in the Hotel, Anna. She wanted to finish the conversation that they had at dinner. Charlie found Anna down in the lobby, throwing hatchets from across the room at a wall. She winced, thinking of the fit Niffty was going to have when she saw the damage. She cleared her throat to catch the Huntress’ attention.

“Anna, may I talk with you some more? I have a few questions.” She asked politely, watching Anna walk over and pulling the hatchets out of the wall. Anna shrugged.

“Ask. But make sure you stay out of path of hatchets.” She warned. Charlie sat down at the bar, well out of Anna’s line of fire.

“What happened to your mother?” She said. Anna dropped the hatchet she had been preparing to throw, startled. Charlie blinked in surprise as Anna sniffled.

“One winter, food was scarce. Mother and I went hunting for anything we could eat. We found Elk. I was too small and scared to run when it came charging at me. Mama threw herself in front of me and was gored. She buried her axe in the Elk skull. She sung me lullaby as I held her, too small to carry her back to house. I lived alone for long time after that.” Anna was trying her best not to cry. She was big…big girls don’t cry. Charlie waited patiently, letting Anna recompose herself. After a few minutes, Anna was ready to continue. “I survived winter and started hunting alone. I started small…minks, bunnies, foxes. As I got bigger, my prey got bigger. Wolves, deer, and bears. Travelers come through forest…I hunted them too. But I keep little girls alive. I bring them back to my home and tie them to wall, to keep them from going out into forest and dying. They never lived long though…and they were never happy. I went out into villages, kidnapped children and killed anyone who tried to stop me. I just didn’t want to be alone.” She sobbed, sitting down in an armchair. Charlie was by her side in a heartbeat.

“Was that when the Entity took you?” Charlie asked softly. While she had been disturbed that Anna had been kidnapping little girls and keeping them captive, she understood that Anna had no one in her life after her mother had been killed. Anna shook her head.

“No. There was Great War, and soldiers had come to forest. I killed them too. No more travelers came into forest. Just war and death. The Entity took me after I had killed at least a dozen soldiers.” That made Charlie’s eyes widen. Hell had been PACKED ever since the first World War, with soldiers from both sides of the fight. Ironically, they had seemed happier to be in Hell than back in the mortal realm dying in the trenches. They were incredibly tough men…so the fact that Anna had hunted them was a testament to her prowess. Anna sat sniffling and sobbing. Charlie took a deep breath and hugged her. Anna cried a bit harder, but slowly calmed down after a few minutes. Anna looked at Charlie with a soft smile. “Thank you for letting me stay. These other killers…some of them are like family to me. Took years for it to be that way, but they are very close once you get to know them. Do not worry…I will protect you from them if they get angry or crazy.” Charlie smiled, hugging Anna a little tighter.

“You’re welcome. And if you ever need anything, or just want to talk to me, I’ll be willing.” Anna nodded, standing up and preparing to throw her hatchets once more. Charlie was on her way out when she suddenly heard Anna gasp. “What’s wrong?” She asked, turning around. She saw something shifting in the wall…it was a strange, fleshy, alien looking aperture. Anna rushed towards Charlie.

“We need to go, now! We must find Max or crazed Doctor, quickly!” Charlie could hear the fear and urgency in her tone, and that unsettled her.

“What? What is it--?” She trailed off as she saw something starting to climb out of the wall. A pale, clawed hand—far too big to be human—emerged. She turned and ran, following Anna. She let out a scream of horror as she heard the monster roaring and chasing after her. The roar did not go unheard…it was loud enough for the entire hotel to hear. Evan was in his room, sketching portraits of each of his fellow killers. He had just finished sketching Max and Philip, and he was now halfway through sketching Sally...and then he heard the screech from the lobby. He put down his pencil.

“Please let that have been my imagination acting up.” He muttered. He stood up, rapidly heading to his door and stepping out. In the hallway he found Sally and Philip—and even Herman—all of whom were acting nervous. Evan groaned. “Does everyone remember the procedure?” Nods of affirmation came from each of the killers. Evan sighed. “Well, we’re changing a few things. We have new priorities now: keep Charlie alive.” Philip quirked an eyebrow.

“Just Charlie?” He signed, a slight grin on his face. Sally let out a quiet giggle. Evan growled, impatient and slightly embarrassed…though for what reason, he did not know.

“And the others too! Let’s just get going! Carter, you sweep each floor with your static field, gather the staff and keep them close. Sally, you and Philip try and find Max…for some reason he’s the only one that the thing seems to like. I’ll look for the weird portals the thing makes. If I trap enough of them, eventually it’ll step in one.” The killers split up, Carter taking the stairs. Philip cloaked, and set off to search for Max. Sally inhaled, and blinked through the ceiling to the floor above. Evan took the elevator. If experience was any indicator of the creature’s behavior, then it would likely have at least one portal on the ground floor of the hotel. The doors opened, and he heard the beast screeching…and Charlie screaming. He felt a terror unlike any he had felt before gripping his heart as he sprinted towards the sound. It sounded just like it did in his nightmares.

Chapter Text

Charlie was screwed. The monster had chased her and Anna all over the first floor. Anna did not dare try to throw hatchets at it, it was far too fast. Charlie and Anna had split up when they came to a hallway. Anna had gone left while Charlie had gone right. Fortunately, the beast could only choose one target. Unfortunately, it had made the obvious decision to go after the target that looked less threatening, which was Charlie. The clinking of chains, the strange chittering sound the creature made, and the stomping footsteps got closer. She had reached the end of the corridor. No way out, except through the creature. She saw it open its horrifying, petaled mouth, revealing dozens—if not hundreds—of needle like teeth. She shut her eyes and waited for it to all be over…

“SNUFFLES!” Charlie opened her eyes in surprise. The monster had closed its mouth and was looking behind it. She leaned sideways so she could see what was at the end of the hall. It was Max…and he looked happy as can be. He sprinted forward, the monster running to meet him. Charlie winced, preparing herself for a bloodbath as the creature lunged at Max, knock him down and pinning him.

“Max! No!” She screamed. She closed her eyes and looked away, not wanting to witness the carnage. She could hear Max laughing…wait what? She opened her eyes and stood up, cautiously approaching the Hillbilly and the monster. It was licking him. It had a long, noodle-like tongue, and it was using it to lick Max’s face like a puppy. Max was laughing like a fool.

“Stop it Snuffles! That tickles!” He said between laughter. The beast— ‘Snuffles’—backed off. It swiveled its head to look at Charlie and opened its mouth to screech at her. Max put a hand on its monstrous arm. “It’s alright Snuffles, she’s one of us!” Snuffles looked between Charlie and Max, before leaning in close to Charlie. She couldn’t see any eyes on its face, so she had no idea if it was capable of sight. Max smiled and nodded. “Go ahead n pet him! He don’t bite!” Charlie looked at the eldritch, alien creature, and then at Max with a look of doubt.

“Are you sure?” She asked nervously. Max nodded and began scratching Snuffles’ head. To her disbelief, the beast began tapping its hind leg rapidly against the floor…much like a dog would when one finds the right spot. Slowly, Charlie reached out to pet the beast. It moved its head toward her hand, and began snuffling it, before licking her palm.

“It…it really is just like a dog, isn’t it?” She laughed, petting the creature. She couldn’t believe she had been afraid of this thing! It was lovable! Sure…the teeth, claws, and the whole emerging from the wall incident had been frightening, but now she could see that it was just a big alien dog.

Evan rounded the corner, and sighed with relief upon seeing Max, Charlie, and Snuffles. He wasn’t “relieved” to see the Demogorgon, but he was relieved to know where it was, and that it wasn’t currently maiming anyone. He took a deep breath, trying to make it seem like he hadn’t been worrying as much as he had been.

“I see you’ve met Max’s pet. Snuffles doesn’t behave well with others, except for Max…and now you, it seems.” He said with a chuckle. Of course Charlie would be able to befriend the horrifying monster…She had befriended everyone else from the Fog so far (though he wasn’t sure if that was true for Carter). Evan grimaced as he remembered the first time he had encountered Snuffles. The would’ve likely perished if the Entity had not intervened at the last second. While the Entity permitted the Killers to harm and torment each other, it did not condone killing amongst the killers. Evan had once thought this was because it “cared” about its pets, but he knew better now. It was simply another way for it to assert its dominance over the killers. By keeping them from doing what they did best—killing—it was demonstrating how the killers were little more than its tin soldiers.

The other killers and demons were gathered in the lobby. Evan stepped in.

“Alright, we caught Snuffles. He’s seemingly calm around Charlie, the same way he is around Max.” There were sighs of relief from Evan and Sally. Carter hummed with interest, while Philip simply smiled. The staff however were seeing Snuffles for the first time. Vaggie had her spear in her hands.

“What is that THING?!” She yelled. Angel looked scared for a moment, then laughed.

“Its head kinda looks like a ballsack.” He chuckled. Snuffles, noticing the demons and thinking they were prey, stood up on its hind legs, making it as tall as Evan. It opened its mouth to roar at them. Angel stopped laughing as he looked at the horrific maw of the extra-dimensional predator. “Alright, Jeez I’m sorry!” Max stepped forward.

“This is Snuffles. He don’t bite…unless you piss him off, or smell like food, or startle him, or—” Evan sighed and cleared his throat, interrupting Max’s list of the myriad of ways the ‘friendly’ pet could get violent.

“Yes, he does bite. Just keep your distance and don’t make sudden moves around him.” He warned. Anna shuddered and looked at Charlie as Snuffles got back down on all fours.

“It smells fear.” She said quietly. Charlie just laughed and shook her head, patting Snuffles’ head. Everything was going fine…until it noticed Husk. The moment Snuffles saw the cat-like demon, he tensed up. Husk noticed and felt dread flood his whole being.

“Max…why is it looking at me the way I look at a bottle of Jack Daniels?” He asked nervously. Vaggie, Angel, and Niffty all took a few steps away from Husk.

“Oh, that’s cause he loves to eat cat guts, the Entity would give them to him after he did good in a trial……oh. You might wanna start running. Actually, don’t do that, he’ll catch you anyway.” Alastor, who had been silent until now, chuckled darkly.

“Not so funny being hunted, now is it Husk?” He taunted, which made Snuffles look in his direction. Alastor felt like he had made a terrible mistake, and that feeling was confirmed when Snuffles leapt across the lobby towards him. The only thing Demogorgons loved to feast on more than Humans and house cats were deer. Alastor sprinted behind a couch, which Snuffles shred through with a screech. Alastor dove behind the bar, making Husk cry out in horror as Snuffles threw himself after Alastor, causing dozens of bottles to break.

“NO! MY WHISKEY! MAX, GET YOUR CRAZY PET UNDER CONTROL!” He hollered. Max was too busy cheering Snuffles on.

“GIT EM! GIT EM SNUFFLES!” He shouted. Alastor looked at the Doctor in desperation as he narrowly avoided Snuffles’ rending claws.

“HERMAN, DO SOMETHING!” He shrieked, his smile looking very strained. Carter shrugged and giggled.

“Like what, exactly? I’m not going to shock the beast, if that’s what you’re suggesting. It responds very, VERY aggressively. Just keep dodging, you’re doing fine. It’ll tire and give up…eventually.” He said nonchalantly. Alastor would’ve glared if he wasn’t keeping his eyes on the Demogorgon trying to disembowel him. Alastor was looping the counter of the bar, trying his best to not be in the direct path of the creature’s lunge. Evan was struggling to not burst out laughing from how familiar this all looked…it was like watching a Trial back in the Fog. While a Trial was happening, the Entity would allow the killers who weren’t participating to observe the trial from the boundaries of the trial area. They’d be invisible and inaudible to those within the trial (likely to prevent any outside assistance or distractions). Evan assumed that the Entity allowed spectating as a way for the Killers to learn from each other’s mistakes/successes. At times it was truly entertaining: watching Max run down and cut down particularly annoying survivors was extremely cathartic. Other times it was almost disheartening: watching Anna trying to hunt with hatchets in a cornfield or seeing Philip be burned out of invisibility by the harsh beams of a flashlight was tragic.

“Vault the bar!” Evan suggested with a laugh. Alastor did just that, avoiding the lunging Demogorgon at the very last second. Charlie sighed and walked over to the bar, standing in Snuffles’ path when it had Alastor in its lunge range.

“Stop! Snuffles…sit!” She ordered. She spoke firmly, but not angrily. Snuffles opened its maw and screeched at her, but she simply stood her ground. “Sit!” She repeated. The Demogorgon slowly closed its maw and got down on all fours before it sat down in a doglike manner. Alastor sighed in relief, dusting himself off.

“Thank you, Charlie. At least SOMEONE was willing to interfere.” He glared pointedly at Herman, who merely rolled his eyes. Charlie nodded at Alastor, but quickly turned her attention back to the Demogorgon.

“How did you get the collar and shackles on it?” She asked as she noted the broken restraints on the monster’s wrists, ankles, and neck.

“We didn’t. It came to us like that, chains and all. It doesn’t want anyone fiddling with the locks or the chains…even Max can’t do it without it getting upset and tunneling away.” Evan explained. Vaggie, who had been watching the beast warily and silently, finally spoke up.

“It was held in captivity then…likely not treated humanely either.” She muttered quietly. Max looked at her in surprise, then gazed at his ‘pet’.

“Might be why me and him get along so well.” He said sadly. His tone of voice immediately got the attention of the Demogorgon, who walked over and leaned against his legs like a loyal hound. It could sense Max’s distress. Snuffles did not know why his friend was sad, but he didn’t want to let him continue to be sad. Alastor and Husk took the opportunity to discretely exit the room while the monster was distracted, and Charlie realized that there were some important questions that needed answers.

“So, aside from cats, deer, and people…what does Snuffles eat?” The killers in the room shifted uncomfortably. Evan took a deep breath.

“Well…that’s an excellent question, because we have no idea.” He said sheepishly.

“Is it housebroken?” Niffty asked Max.

“Oh yeah, he loves breaking things in houses!” He said cheerfully. Niffty’s eye twitched.

“It’s covered in dried blood and gore…I’m guessing you’ve never tried washing it off?” She asked despite already knowing the answer. Max shook his head, and she sighed, turning to face the group. “Who is going to help me wash it?”

 

The Not-Prey and the…new-prey? New-Not-Prey? Strangers. Yes, that would work. The Not-Prey and the Strangers were talking. Snuffles only understood a few words: “food…Snuffles…eating”. The Max was pleased that Snuffles had found him, and Snuffles was even more pleased to have found his Max! The Max and the Charlie were talking with the others…most likely about what to do with Snuffles. Snuffles had been hungry when it first saw the Charlie, and because she looked and screamed like Prey, Snuffles had tried to consume her. Snuffles was glad that the Max had stopped it from eating the Charlie, for she was very kind, just like the Max. It was confused and upset that the Charlie and the Max had prevented it from hunting the Strangers that looked like Cat and Deer. Snuffles was hungry from chasing them, and if it couldn’t eat them it would have to find something else to consume. It sniffed the air…and immediately detected the scent of something edible a few rooms away. It began burrowing an interdimensional tunnel, making the Strangers and the Not-Prey cry out in alarm.

“What’s it doing?!” Niffty shrieked, watching with horror as the Demogorgon clawed into the floor that she worked so hard keeping clean. An organic hole appeared, and Snuffles climbed down into it. The lights flickered, and everyone heard a strange rumbling “whoosh” of some sort, like wind traveling through tunnels.

“Oh, that’s just Snuffles’ way of getting around quick! He goes in one place and pops out somewhere else almost instantly! He usually does this when he’s lookin’ for a snack!” Max explained. Charlie gulped, and strained her ears. She couldn’t hear anyone screaming, so it wasn’t hunting anyone. Then where was it going…? She gasped.

“The kitchen!” She sprinted down the hall, the others following behind her. She opened the doors to the kitchen, and found the pantry pillaged, and the door to the walk-in freezer was wide open. She shivered as she went to peer inside. She saw Snuffles eating a…an entire tub of ice cream?! She giggled, shaking her head and leaving the fearsome beast to consume the sugary treat in peace.

“It’s official: things couldn’t be stranger.” She laughed.

Chapter Text

After Snuffles had consumed every molecule of ice-cream in the hotel, he curled up to sleep in the freezer. Charlie was concerned that he had passed out and was going to freeze to death, until Max told her to calm down.

“He likes it cold. Whenever it would snow in the Fog, me n him would go out n play in it for hours! I had to stop whenever I started getting sleepy, but he’d never have to stop.” Max explained. Sally sighed and put her hands on her hips.

“I remember telling you to borrow one of Jeffrey’s coats or Anna’s pelts. And you never listened!” She scolded. Max just laughed.

“Yeah, cause Jeffrey’s coats smell funny and are too big for me anyway. And I can’t talk funny like Anna does, so I didn’t know how to ask.” He said. Vaggie shook her head.

“I’m sure it was pretty cold out in the Fog, but the freezer is far colder. Look at the thermometer by the door. How cold is it?” She asked, too far to read it herself. Max looked at the thermometer, then at Vaggie. He looked like a kicked puppy…he sniffled and sprinted away. Snuffles chased after him. Vaggie blinked in surprise. “Something I said?”

“He’s…sensitive about the fact that he can’t read.” Evan said with a sigh. “Sally, Philip, and I tried to teach him, but between the trials and the lack of material to read, there wasn’t much of a point. He glared at Herman. “And it didn’t help that someone would frequently make fun of him because of it.” He seethed. Charlie cast a disapproving gaze at Carter, who simply rolled his eyes. She then looked at Vaggie, who sighed.

“I’ll go apologize to him.” She said, following the sound of Max’s choked sobbing. She found him in the library, of all places. He was laying down on a couch, while Snuffles was curled up on the floor in front of him protectively. When Vaggie entered, Snuffles stood upright and screeched at her. She fought the urge to raise her spear.

“Max? I’m sorry…I didn’t know you couldn’t read.” She began, but that just made him cry harder. She winced, and Snuffles looked more agitated than ever.

‘The Not-Charlie was making The Max upset! Snuffles would destroy the Not-Charlie!’ Snuffles thought, preparing to lunge at Vaggie. Max sat up.

“Snuffles…sit. She don’t mean no harm.” He said with a sniffle. Reluctantly, Snuffles closed his nightmarish maw, and allowed Vaggie to approach the couch. “Everyone thinks I’m a dummy.” He said quietly. Vaggie shook her head.

“Max, you know that isn’t true. Evan, Philip, and Sally don’t think that. Charlie and Niffty don’t think that. I certainly don’t think that you’re dumb. Being ignorant and being stupid are two different things.” She explained, nervously putting a hand on his shoulder. He recoiled at her touch, scooting to the far side of the couch as if he had been burned. “Sorry! I…I saw Evan touch your shoulder a few times, so I thought…sorry.” She sighed. How much more could she fuck this up?

“It’s ok…just weren’t expecting it is all. Pretty girls don’t ever wanna get near me.” He said, a light blush tinting his scarred cheeks. Vaggie smiled slightly. For all his physical flaws, and his wretched past, Max had a heart of pure gold. Anyone else put in his shoes would’ve ended up as twisted as Max looked…but somehow Max had emerged from the Fog as sweet as sugar. Max continued.

“I keep hearing you talkin’ in that funny luggage of yours. Saying things behind my back.” He said ruefully. Vaggie blinked.

“Do you mean Spanish?” She asked. He nodded.

“Is that what the luggage is called? Evan said there were lots of foreign luggages, but I ain’t know any of em.” He said with a sniffle. Vaggie shook her head and smiled sweetly at him.

“Oh Max, I wasn’t making fun of you when you heard me speaking Spanish! I grew up knowing Spanish before I knew English—the language we’re speaking right now—so sometimes I just say things in Spanish without even realizing it. Charlie understands it, so I’ve never thought of it as talking behind anyone’s back.” Max nodded, slowly understanding. Vaggie hesitated before she asked her next question. “Do…do you want to learn Spanish, Max?” His eyes lit up with wonder.

“Hell yeah I would! I always wanted to learn one of them foreign luggages!” He said. Snuffles sat up, unsure why Max was excited but knowing that it was now also excited. It looked at Vaggie, identifying her as the cause of the Max’s change from sad to glad. “Does this mean I get to learn how to read?” He asked nervously. He wasn’t sure if he was pushing his luck. Vaggie nodded at him.

“Of course it does, but keep it mind that this isn’t going to be a quick and easy process…but once we get going, you’ll start getting better and better at it.” She reassured him. She stood up and walked around. “Something with English and Spanish…aha!” She grinned as she spotted one of her favorite books: “El Labarinto del Fauno”, or “Pan’s Labyrinth”. It had Spanish on the left, and English on the right. “We’ll start off with the alphabet first, then work on simple words and phrases…”

 

While Vaggie, Max, and Snuffles spent time in the library, Philip and Sally were sitting in a lounge area on the second floor of the hotel. It had once been a ballroom of sorts, though now it was collecting dust. Sally had come here to indulge in a secret past-time of hers: singing. She remembered a time long passed, when she had been happy, Andrew had been alive, and she had a voice like an angel. She had been told by many that her voice was worthy of an opera house, but she had been far too humble and modest to entertain the notions of pursuing a career in theater. Now, she wondered what life could’ve been like if she had been bold enough to pursue such a path. Andrew wouldn’t have had to work in the lumberyard, and therefore he wouldn’t have died in that accident. She could’ve lived a long, happy life with him and had a family. She pushed those thoughts away…there were always “what-if” scenarios…and thinking about what could’ve been was an easy way to fall into malaise.

For many years, she had kept her singing voice a well-guarded secret in the Fog. The Entity loathed seeing killers experiencing emotions that weren’t sadness, bloodlust, rage, or fear. Philip had discovered her singing one late night as he was stalking across the grounds of Crotus Prenn Asylum’s Disturbed Ward. The sound had enchanted him, and he had visited often, invisible and nearly inaudible as the Nurse sang her mournful songs. Of course, it was only a matter of time before Sally noticed a patch of grass moving when there was no wind to move it, and the slight shimmer of his invisibility gave him away. She had been angry at first, but when he made it clear—through charades and miming—that he only wanted to listen, her attitude changed. In fact, the tone of her songs changed from mournful to slightly hopeful.

Now, Philip didn’t even need to be secretive during his visits to see Sally. As Sally finished her song, Philip clapped and smiled. If he could cheer, he would’ve, but having no tongue prevented him from giving her the praise that she deserved. Both killers were startled when they heard a voice from the doorway.

“Encore!” Angel Dust yelled, his three pairs of arms clapping. Beside him stood Niffty, who was wiping a tear from her eye.

“That was…the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard!” She sobbed. Sally and Philip both looked unsure as to what to do. Sally was a bit bashful to be getting praise from more than just Philip for once. Niffty blew her nose and composed herself. “Sally, you should’ve told us you could sing! Charlie will be over the moon when she hears about this!” Sally looked uncomfortable.

“Are you sure? I…I’ve never sung in front of a large audience, and I feel if she gets involved, then the entire hotel will be here to listen.” She said nervously. Philip gently took her hand to get her attention, then signed.

“I think it is a good idea. You deserve an audience…one that can voice their praise.” He smiled. Sally laughed gently and shook her head.

“Thank you, Philip, but your praise is worth more than all the cheering in the world.” She said, making Philip blush. Angel Dust cocked an eyebrow, a grin forming on his face.

“Are you two…together?” He asked with amusement. Sally and Philip both looked shocked by the question. Philip smiled awkwardly and shook his head. Sally stammered.

“W-well, no, but…Oh goodness! I remembered I have to go speak to Charlie!” She said hastily, before blinking away. Philip rang the bell, cloaking and quickly exiting the room. Angel Dust and Niffty looked at each other. Angel spoke first.

“Those two like each other.” He said. It wasn’t a question; it was an observation. Niffty nodded.

“And we’re going to get them together.” She said with determination.

Chapter Text

As Philip fled the ballroom, he stumbled across Evan on his way to his room. Evan seemed to be in an…oddly cheerful mood. Philip raised an eyebrow and decloaked, ringing the bell and startling Evan.

“Fuck! How long were you following me Philip?” Evan asked, a bit peeved and embarrassed he had been startled.

“Less than 10 seconds. Why?” He signed. Evan shrugged.

“Sorry, just…lost in thought, I suppose.” He chuckled sheepishly.

“What were you thinking about?” Philip pressed, remembering what Sally had told him. Allegedly, Evan had a crush on Charlie. Philip had laughed and thought such a notion was impossible: Evan MacMillan had no interests in romance! But then again, Evan was never startled by Philip coming out of invisibility. Well, there had been a time when Philip could’ve pranked Evan quite often by becoming visible when Evan least expected it, although Evan had quickly learned to spot the very subtle signs of Philip’s presence when invisible. A sudden draft, a creaking floorboard, or a plant moving without wind were all indicators that Philip was near.

“Err…nothing important. Just thinking about what my next sketch should be.” Evan lied. Philip narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

“I thought you already decided you were going to sketch everyone from the Fog?” Philip signed. Evan shifted nervously.

“Ah, right. I forgot that. Thanks for reminding me!” He said hastily. Philip just crossed his arms, looking at Evan with disappointment. They had both known each other for decades—it was nearly impossible for one to deceive the other—so the fact that Evan was attempting to lie to Philip was slightly upsetting and more than a little concerning. Evan sighed, realizing that Philip wasn’t buying it.

“Alright, I didn’t forget. Sorry for trying to bullshit you.” He said apologetically. Philip relaxed slightly, uncrossing his arms and signing.

“First of all, why did you try to bullshit me in the first place? Second, what are you really thinking about then, if not your sketching?” He inquired. “In fact, you’ve been acting oddly the last few days.”

“We’ve only been here a few days, and can you blame me? This is a strange, brave new world for us. No more Trials, no more sacrifice quotas, no more punishment…and no more of that god-awful ‘survivor pudding’.” He said with a shudder. Philip grimaced.

“Why did you have to remind me of that? I’m pretty sure that Lisa and Snuffles were the only ones who ate that stuff. I’d just dump mine out in the fire as an offering…and you’re dodging the question! Don’t try changing the subject, Evan!” Philip signed angrily. Evan growled.

“I don’t see why it is any of your damn business, Philip! I’m permitted to have my own thoughts! I’m allowed a bit of privacy—”

“It’s Charlie, isn’t it?” Philip signed, interrupting Evan’s rant. Evan looked like had just stepped in one of his own bear traps.

“Where did you get an idea like that?” He replied evenly, trying to keep himself from giving anything away. Even before Evan wore his mask, he had an excellent poker face. Philip shook his head.

“Sally told me you were gushing about Charlie. I thought she was pulling my leg, but seeing you like this? Something is definitely up.” Philip knew many of the killers of the Fog better than they knew themselves—one of the perks of being invisible meant you could watch people when they thought no one else was around—and he knew that Evan was not acting normally. Evan seethed through his mask.

“Sally doesn’t know everything. And maybe I was talking about Charlie. She’s a lovely girl, and she’s doing all of us a great service by giving us a second chance.” Evan replied tensely. Philip nodded before he responded.

“I never said she wasn’t. I was only pointing out that you aren’t yourself…especially not while you’re in the same room as her. You’re relaxed, your guard is completely lowered, and you have your eyes on her at all times—except for when we were dealing with the ‘incident’ at the news tower.”

“And what of it?! What is the fucking problem with that, Philip?!” Evan snarled, completely losing his cool. Philip just shook his head.

“You’re in love with her.” It wasn’t a question; it was an observation. Both killers stood in silence for a few tense seconds…then Evan burst out laughing.

“Are you serious? Hah! Come on, Philip, you know me! When have I ever expressed an interest in romance? Granted, there weren’t many options in the Fog…but that didn’t stop you and Sally, now did it?” Evan said with a chuckle. Philip shook his head.

“What Sally and I had was…complicated. And just because you say you aren’t interested in romance doesn’t change what you may be feeling.” Philip warned. Evan snorted derisively.

“What? Just because I think she’s one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met doesn’t mean I’m in love with her.” Evan said. Philip shook his head.

“Funny, I thought the same thing after I had known Sally for a few days. Remember what you said when you found out?” Philip asked. Evan sighed and nodded.

“I said ‘Don’t let your heart mess with your head.’ But that was back when we were in the Fog! If the Entity found out about your rendezvous’ with Sally, it would’ve punished both of you. The Entity is gone…we’re free, Philip. We can live lives now.”

“We may be free, but we don’t deserve to be happy. Well…not all of us.” Philip sighed. Evan rolled his eyes behind his mask.

“Not this shit again…how much will it take for you to forgive yourself for those accidental murders? You know what? No. I’m not going through this song and dance with you again. I’ve told you a hundred times to get over it and forgive yourself.” Evan said as he started to walk away. Philip couldn’t communicate if Evan wasn’t looking at him…and right now Evan wanted this conversation to be over. He entered his room and sat down at his desk, resuming his sketches. He was going to start a new one, having finished Anna’s and Sally’s sketches. He put his pencil to the blank piece of paper and started drawing. Mere moments later, he stood and went to set up a bear trap just outside his door, a “welcome mat”, so that Philip would fuck off and anyone else would too for that matter. In the few seconds it took to set the trap, he felt a sense of nostalgia wash over him. Trapping was what he did. It was his job, his purpose, his identity. He stood back and admired his work. The sharp teeth of the trap gleamed in the light of the hallway—ordinarily he’d coat the traps with tar or a heavy layer of ashes to darken them—but he wanted this one to be visible. Maybe now he’d get some goddamn peace and quiet!

“Hah. ‘In love with Charlie’…fucking ridiculous. I don’t know where he got that crazy idea.” He muttered, his hand moving the pencil absentmindedly across the page. “Yeah, I’m happier since meeting her…and she’s probably the best person I’ve ever met.” He said to himself. He shook his head. “That doesn’t mean I love her. At the most, we’re friends.” He shook his head and put the pencil down. When he did, he saw what he had been sketching. On the paper, smiling brightly at him, was Charlie.

“God damn it.” He went to crumple up the sketch and toss it, but he hesitated. A sketch was just a sketch. It didn’t mean anything other than he had been distracted. He took the sketch and moved it to the side, trying to clear his mind of Charlie…and failing miserably. He growled and stood up, heading to his door. He’d go get a drink from the bar…that ought to clear his head, and he knew Husk would serve him if Vaggie and Charlie weren’t nearby. He took one step out of his door…and was quickly (and painfully) reminded that he had placed a trap. He grunted in surprise and anger—it barely hurt him anymore—it was more embarrassing than it was painful. He heard a gasp of surprise, and when he turned to look for the source, he saw Charlie staring at him with wide, worried eyes.

“Evan, are you alright!?” She ran over, and upon seeing blood trickling onto the floor from the jaws of the trap, she started panicking. “Oh this isn’t good. Oh fuck, oh fuck oh no oh—” Evan rolled his eyes and pried the jaws of the trap open to remove his leg. Charlie blinked. “I thought bear traps were tough as nails to open?” She asked.

“They are. Most people would have a broken leg from my traps. I don’t get broken legs anymore…one of the few things I’m grateful to the Entity for.” He explained calmly. She winced, looking at the bloodied jaws of the trap.

“You’re bleeding.” She said, her voice laden with concern. Concern for him. It warmed his heart to know she cared so much about his wellbeing. He chuckled and shook his head.

“I’ll live.” He said dismissively. “It really isn’t a problem.”

“At least let me bandage it. Plus, it will give you a chance to explain why you had a bear trap set outside your door.” She said. Evan groaned.

“God damn it…” He sighed, and Charlie quirked an eyebrow at him.

“Something you don’t want to discuss? Or do you just not want to talk to me…?” She asked, a slight note of hurt in her voice. Evan looked at her so quickly she almost jumped.

“I’m always happy to talk to you.” He said eagerly, making Charlie blush a bit. Evan cleared his throat. “Philip and I had an argument, and I got fed up and wanted to be left alone for a few minutes. I put that beartrap outside so I wouldn’t be disturbed, but by the time I was ready to head out I had forgotten I had set it.”

“What were you arguing about?” She asked, concerned. “It must have been something serious.” Evan took a deep breath. If he didn’t tell her himself, then she’d go ask Philip, and that would involve getting one of the other killers to interpret, which would only make things worse. It was best if she heard it from him…but god damn he feared how she’d react.

“He thinks that I’m in—” A loud buzzing noise from Charlie’s coat pocket interrupted him. She sighed and took out her cell phone. She looked at the screen and sighed.

“Vaggie says Sally tried taking Husk’s booze from him, and now they’re fighting.” The phone buzzed again. “She says ‘bring Evan!’ so it must be getting pretty hectic down there. Let’s go before someone dies.” She said, only half joking. Evan nodded, and walked alongside her to the elevator. He had never been so grateful to break up a fight in his entire life…otherwise he’d have had to tell Charlie that he loved her. The realization that he was in love was slowly sinking in, but it went to the back of his mind when the elevator doors opened to a lobby in complete chaos.

Chapter Text

It had all happened so quickly. Anna had been sitting at the counter of the bar, sharpening her hatchets while petting the adorable cat-creature that drank and yelled. The cat wasn’t happy about it, but she could hear him purring as she scratched behind his ears. Anna always loved dogs and cats, and they were among the few animals she refused to hunt. Dogs were just happy wolves, and cats were just tiny tigers! As she was playing with the cat, she saw Sally float up to the bar and heard her ask the cat something, to which he responded angrily. Whatever he said, Sally did not appreciate it. She stopped petting the cat and backed away from the bar as she saw them get angrier and louder.

“It ain’t your fucking concern how much I drink! I’m not a patient, I’m staff!” Husk snapped at Sally.

“Then you need to set an example of what patients should aspire to be! In other words, not a drunken mess!” Sally replied harshly. “Just because you are staff does not mean that you can indulge in liquor, especially not while you are working!” Husk rolled his eyes and drank directly from a bottle of whisky. Sally, irked at being ignored and fed up with Husk’s brusque attitude, snatched the bottle from his hands. Husk responded in what he felt was the most appropriate way: leaping over the bar and tackling Sally out of the air as he tried to retrieve his beloved booze.

Anna was distressed to see the cute kitty and her friend fighting, so she stepped in to try to break up the fight. Unfortunately, Anna was not the gentlest person, and her idea of “restraining” was to shove both parties harshly until they weren’t in proximity of each other. Husk did not appreciate the gesture, and scratched Anna’s arm.

“Bad kitty!” She yelled, picking up Husk and throwing him across the room…directly into Max, who had just entered with Vaggie and Snuffles. They had planned to take a short break from the Spanish lesson and relax. Instead they had walked into a brawl…which Max and Snuffles quickly joined.

“Let’s hootenanny!” He yelled, delighted to roughhouse mindlessly. Snuffles leapt at Sally but refrained from biting her. He understood playfighting—though that didn’t mean he was good at the “play” aspect. Snuffles was easily more than double of what Sally weighed, so the momentum knocked her to the ground. Meanwhile, Max had charged at Anna and tackled her. Husk was yelling at the top of his lungs for Anna to let him go so he could get his booze back. Vaggie couldn’t be heard over the cacophony of screaming, yelling, roaring, and laughing…so she took out her phone and texted Charlie, alerting her of the situation. Her panic grew exponentially when she saw Doctor Carter and Alastor walk in, likely curious about the commotion. Alastor had been content to watch from the sidelines as the chaos grew, but when Snuffles caught his scent and abandoned his fight with Sally to screech at him, Alastor knew he was about to be a participant in the fight.

By the time Charlie and Evan entered the lobby, it was an all-out brawl. Charlie looked at Evan helplessly.

“How are we going to stop this? I—” She ducked under a hatchet that Anna had thrown at Snuffles. “—I’ve never seen a fight this bad that didn’t end in death!” She winced as Alastor slammed Max’s head against the bar counter. Evan chuckled and cracked his knuckles.

“You may want to cover your ears.” He warned, which she did promptly. He took a deep breath and bellowed.

“ALRIGHT YOU BURNING BAGS OF DOGSHIT! STOP FUCKING AROUND OR I START BREAKING YOUR BONES!” He roared. Immediately, all combat ceased. Evan’s voice was as loud as a foghorn and carried the promise of immediate and brutal punishment if his words weren’t heeded. Slowly, the demons and killers got to their feet while giving each other wary glares.

“All of you, start cleaning this mess up. Niffty doesn’t deserve having to clean up after you idiots.” Evan thundered harshly. “And if any of you point fingers and say ‘they started it!’, then I’m going to break your fucking jaws.” There were a few quiet groans and angry mutters, but soon the gathered group was picking up broken furniture and sweeping shattered glass into dustpans. Evan nodded, satisfied, and looked at Charlie. “You’ve got to be firm with them. I was able to stop entire riots with just a few threats…threats that I proved I could act on.”

“You weren’t really going to break their bones and jaws…that was just an intimidation tactic, right?” She asked with a nervous smile. Evan was silent for a few seconds.

“I’m a man of my word, and if my word is that I’ll beat the piss out of someone, then I won’t go back on it.” He said stoically. If a man went back on his word, then he wasn’t a man at all. His father had taught him that lesson painfully. Charlie sighed and shook her head.

“We need to have a talk about how you handle people. Not every situation has to be resolved so…heavy handedly.” She said with a note of disappointment. She had hoped that Evan would start trying to be a little less violent by now. She thought that having a relatively nonviolent environment would have encouraged him to adopt a more passive demeanor, but…

“CARTER! Move your ass! Max don’t pick that glass up with your bare hands, that’s what the dustpan is for. Angel Dust, you have 6 arms, so don’t pick up only one bit of trash at a time!” He was in his element, a foreman in his natural habitat, bringing order and instruction to chaos and confusion. As much as Charlie preferred things to be gentle and polite, she had to admit that the fight would still be raging on if Evan hadn’t intervened. Evan looked at Charlie. “I know you want me to be gentler…and I want to be. However, you have to admit that there are times when asking politely isn’t going to solve the issue.”

“I understand that, but I feel like both of us need to put in more effort. These last few days have been the busiest, craziest, and most exciting of my life, so I guess I haven’t had time to really sit down with you and work together.” She said.

“I’d love to spend time with you, Charlie.” Evan admitted. For some reason, hearing Evan say that made Charlie’s heart skip a beat. At that moment both felt as if they were alone in the room…until they realized that they weren’t. The killers and demons had stopped their cleaning and were watching Evan and Charlie with the silent intensity that one would watch a movie or a play.

“What are you maggots looking at? Get back to work!” He growled. Charlie put a hand on Evan’s arm, silently pleading him to try to rephrase that in a more polite manner. It was a simple gesture, but it made Evan’s heart warm like a furnace. “Get back to work…please.” He amended. The patients and staff obeyed…but Evan could hear whispers and soft chuckles.

“Now that things are somewhat under control, I want to finish the conversation we were having.” She said, making Evan panic slightly.

“Perhaps we can discuss it somewhere more private?” He asked nervously. Fortunately, Charlie nodded and walked over to the elevator, where Evan joined her quickly. As the two ascended, the lobby erupted into conversation.

“Vaggie…am I high, or do Charlie and Evan look like they have something between them?” Angel Dust asked Vaggie as they swept away some broken glass. Vaggie looked troubled. She and Charlie were best friends, so she could read Charlie like an open book. She saw her face light up when Evan said he would love to spend time with her…and she had seen a subtle blush on her cheeks when Evan asked to go somewhere private for whatever conversation they had been having.

“You’re high as a kite, Angel.” She said. He chuckled and started prattling on about something, but she tuned him out. She was worried about Charlie…if Evan broke her heart, would she be able to handle it?

Doctor Carter giggled maliciously…even with Evan’s mask concealing his face, he was able to see exactly what Evan felt for Charlie. Once the mess had been cleared away in the lobby, he quickly went to his office. Romantic feelings were as dangerous as they were easy to exploit…and no one was a better manipulator than Doctor Herman Carter. He took out an ancient tape player and put in an interview tape dating back to his time at LMI during MK-Awakening. White noise mixed with screams played, and it was the perfect music to devise an experiment for Charlie and Evan. Despite being a master of the art of psychological and physical torture, he had to admit that few things could destroy a person better than a ruined relationship. Herman was going to destroy them…utterly and entirely.

Chapter Text

Evan sat awkwardly in his room. Charlie sat across from him, feeling just as awkward.

“So, are you going to talk about it?” Charlie asked, breaking the silence.

“About what?” Evan said, having been lost in thought. Charlie giggled—music to Evan’s ears—and shook her head.

“About what were discussing earlier! I guess if you’ve got something else on your mind, I’m all ears!” She didn’t know why she was so curious about Evan. He had already told her about himself, and despite her having other patients to deal with who were far more disruptive and troubled, Evan was on her mind more often than the others. She felt a bit guilty…she didn’t want to neglect her other guests, but something about Evan just kept drawing her in. Speaking of drawing…

“Why don’t you show me some of your sketches?” She suggested. “I’ve been dying to see what you’ve been working on!”

“Well, they’re nothing special, but have a look.” He said as he passed her a bundle of papers. Charlie’s eyes widened as she flipped through them. On each page was a masterfully captured depiction of each of the Fog dwellers. Charlie froze when she came to the most recent sketch: it was like looking in a mirror (albeit one that was black and white).

“Evan, these are incredible! It’s like a photograph! Did you have the others come in and model for you, or did you draw these from memory?” She asked in amazement.

“Drew these all from memory. Living in the Fog with the same people for decades and decades makes it easy to memorize their features.” He said proudly. Charlie nodded, but then her smile started to wane.

“Evan, why do your friends look so…hostile…in the sketches?” She asked. The pictures were exquisitely drawn…but the images themselves were violent. In Philip’s sketch, he was brandishing his sickle menacingly. Anna had a hatchet raised, prepared to throw at some unseen target. Snuffles had his maw open and claws stretched out in preparation to shred some hapless victim. Even Max looked like the embodiment of hideous hatred, his chainsaw raised, and his face twisted in an angry snarl. Herman’s sketch…she didn’t think the Doctor could look scarier on paper than reality, but somehow, he did. Sally’s sketch depicted her holding her bone saw high, as if she were about to bring it down on an unlucky survivor.

“I remember them looking this way while watching them in their Trials. I imagine I looked quite terrifying as well.” He said with a shrug. “The Entity didn’t select us because we were pleasant, Charlie. We’re killers…don’t forget that.” He sighed, shaking his head. Charlie reached out and put her hand on his. Evan tensed up as if she had just touched him with a cattle prod, but he did not pull away. Instead, he looked at her in confusion and surprise.

“I haven’t forgotten, Evan. I’m here to help you. You’ve done bad things, but I don’t think you’re a bad person.” She said with a smile. “You just need to look at things with a new perspective. Maybe…take off the mask?” She suggested. Evan recoiled.

“No. I…I really shouldn’t.” He said tensely.

“Why? Afraid I won’t like you anymore?” She asked. Evan raised an eyebrow behind his mask.

“You like me…?” He said, daring to hope.

“As a friend and patient!” She said hastily. For some reason that statement felt just a little bit like a lie. Evan deflated ever so slightly, but she did not notice. “What are you worried about? I mean…and I really appreciate if you kept this between us, but you can’t look worse than Max, right?”

“Oh, Max knows he’s ugly as sin. His beauty is on the inside. Me? I’m just ugly in and out.” He stated. Charlie shook her head.

“I find that hard to believe, but I’ll respect your privacy and—HAH!” In a move that startled Evan, Charlie lunged for his mask and pulled it up off his face. She had been expected something bad…burns, a missing eye, a portion of flesh gone, or something else gruesome. Instead, she only saw scars…scars on a handsome face. He had scars and cuts marring his skin—from what she could not tell—but she suspected it had been part of the punishment the Entity had inflicted. His nose had the telltale signs of being broken many, many times in the past. Evan’s features were exactly what she expected: rugged, but handsome in the way a working man’s face is. That face was mere inches from hers. Neither of them moved for what felt like an eternity.

Evan was frozen in shock. She had unmasked him. No one had seen his face in a century. Even Philip and Max hadn’t seen him without one of his masks on! He didn’t know if he was furious or just stunned by what Charlie had done. Charlie finally broke the silence.

“Well, I wasn’t expecting you to be bald.” She admitted with a slight giggle. Evan blinked, unsure how to respond.

“The Entity took my hair as part of my punishment. It never really bothered me aside from making things a bit chillier and making my masks chafe slightly.” He said with a level tone. Charlie scanned his features…Evan’s eyes were brown and intense, and feeling his gaze on her made her heartbeat rise.

“How old are you? I mean, how old were you when the Entity took you to the Fog?” She specified, knowing that he had been trapped in a realm of static time for uncountable years.

“Well, I was 14 when I started working in the mines. I started setting up traps about a year later around the mines, and I was an enforcer by the time I was 19 or 20. That was around when my Father started losing his mind. I was taking care of my father for about 7 or 8 years before I…” He trailed off. He hadn’t told Charlie about that fateful night.

“Before you did what?” She asked with bated breath. She was afraid to know, but she must know. She had to know what he had done.

“He was completely insane. He couldn’t eat or take care of himself…he was just rage. I had to lock him in the cellar of one of the warehouses and go feed and clean him in secret. Without him to manage the financials, people started coming to try to get pieces of the estate—our estate! —and take advantage of my father’s madness. I wouldn’t let them reap what he and I had worked so hard to build. I took action.” As he told the story, Charlie watched his expression. His face was full of anguish and anger.

“What did you do, Evan?” Charlie whispered, dreading the answer despite the intense need to know.

“I set explosive charges at the entrance of the mine. I lured the miners and the others who were trying to ruin my father into the mines…and trapped them. As deadly as my bear traps are, they pale in comparison to what a few explosives did. Over a hundred men suffocated in that pit. I was going back to tell my father that all our troubles were over, when the Entity took me to the Fog.” He held his face in his hands, and Charlie was stunned when she heard him choke back a sob. In a heartbeat, she was hugging him, trying to soothe him. She couldn’t believe that this massive brute of a man was crying in her arms.

“Shhh, it’s alright. That was a long time ago.” She said, stunned. She knew that the other killers had done awful things. She had read Philip’s story that Angel Dust had brought her, and her heart hurt for him. She had wept for Sally after she learned of her tale of loss and madness, and she pitied poor Max, who had only known hatred and cruelty for his mortal life. She deduced that Snuffles had been tortured and experimented on based on the collar and chains that it still wore. Herman…she knew there must be a reason why Herman was so demented, but she had not discovered it yet. Evan’s story—while the most horrific due to the number of lives claimed—invoked the most pity and sympathy. He had worked so hard to protect his father, even though his father was one of the worst people she had ever heard of. Evan had given so much and done so many awful things on behalf of an absolute monster of a man…because that man was the only family he had left.

“I don’t deserve you.” She heard him say ruefully after he had stopped sobbing. Charlie tilted her head in confusion.

“What do you mean? I’ve promised to get you through this, Evan. And I intend to make good on that promise.” She reassured him. He shook his head.

“Philip was right about everything…men like me don’t deserve the kindness and affection of people like you. We’re scum. Monsters. I’m not worthy to even stand in your presence, much less embrace you.” He said, and the despair in his normally powerful and confident tone made Charlie feel like she had been stabbed in the soul. She hugged him tighter, ignoring the cuts and scrapes she got from the bits of metal lodged in him. She’d endure all the pain in the world just to alleviate his, even if only slightly.

“Evan, listen to me. Everyone deserves a chance to be happy and loved. Philip was cheated out of his chance. Max never got a chance at all. Sally lost her love and happiness when her husband died. Anna lost hers when her mother was brutally killed in front of her. And you, you’ve sacrificed so much for those you’ve loved that you’ve never been able to have anyone love you back. But I do, Evan.” She said, her own voice breaking with emotion, tears filling her eyes. She felt him pull away slightly.

“Don’t you dare start crying…not for me.” He said firmly, tilting her face up to make eye contact with him. They held each other’s gaze, both losing themselves in the other’s eyes. A knock at the door shattered their moment, and both scrambled out of the embrace. Evan quickly put his mask back on, and Charlie wiped the tears from her eyes. Evan stood up and walked to the door to open it. Angel Dust stood outside with a look of anxiety on his normally smug countenance. “What do you want?” Evan asked gruffly.

“Well, I’m not sure if we should be concerned about this, but I thought I should let both of you know that the psychotic psychotherapist left the hotel about ten minutes ago.” Angel said nervously. Evan’s eyes widened behind his mask, and Charlie ran to the doorway to join the conversation.

“What? Did he say where he was going, or when he’d get back?” She asked worriedly. Angel Dust shrugged.

"Nope! He just up and left." He said. Evan growled, and went to get his cleaver and trap bag.

"That fucker is always up to no good. I'm not going to be caught unprepared when he decides to execute whatever twisted game he's planning."

 

The Doctor prowled the streets of the Pentagram, his spiked stick in his hands and his unblinking gaze scanning for any traces of the one he was seeking. He needed an assistant if his plan for Charlie was to go off without a hitch, and he had several options for who his potential accomplice could be. Lisa might be willing to help, though she was unpredictable at times due to her insatiable hunger. Jeffrey would be suitable, but he wasn’t “motivated” unless he was promised a new finger for his collection. Caleb would be more than willing to assist Herman, but he was a mercenary, and Carter had nothing to pay his fee. That left him with two other viable options: Michael and Amanda. Michael was the deadlier of the two, but by far the hardest to control. And Amanda despised Carter to the point where she’d likely attempt to murder him rather than Charlie. In truth, Herman had already made up his mind about which of his fellow coworkers he’d recruit, it was now just a matter of tracking them down…

Chapter Text

A large, overweight figure loomed over the corpse of a demon. The skull of his victim was crushed like a rotten pumpkin, flakes of gore and skull clinging to the man’s shoe. The man wasn’t interested in his shoes or the demon’s scattered grey matter…he was looking at the clawed hands of the slain demon. Such interesting fingers, each with their own pro’s and con’s. He could tell a lot about someone based on the details of their fingers. For example, he knew this demon had been left-handed from the calluses. The calluses were indicative of someone who worked machinery, but the callus on the pointer finger told him everything: this demon favored guns and fired them often. A soldier of fortune, perhaps? A corrupt cop? Or just some psychopath with an itchy trigger finger? Letting out a wheezing laugh, the man stooped down to slice off the trigger finger with a folding knife. He held the finger in his fat hands, admiring the way the blood still dripped from the wound, before bringing it to his mouth and tasting it. Sulphur and gun oil…the taste of a killer. The fat man took out a large key ring, and impaled the finger into the loop, where it joined the others.

“Surprising, I assumed you were going to put that one in that cigar box you covet so dearly.” Carter’s voice came from within the fat man’s head, startling him.

“Fucking Hell, Herman!” The man shouted in alarm, letting out rasping coughs as he turned around. The Doctor stood at the end of the alley, casually observing the man.

“Forgive me, Jeffrey. I didn’t want to bother you until after you had collected your trophy.” Herman said with amusement. Jeffrey chuckled and pat the grisly key ring.

“First demonic finger I’ve collected in the few days I’ve been down here. Had to take my time and study them a bit first before I went in for a kill. It turns out that they’re just as easy to kill as any human.” He said with a cruel grin, twirling his blade in his fingers expertly. “So, what the fuck do you want?”

“Your assistance is required with a certain…project of mine. Have you learned much about who oversees this inferno?” Carter asked. Jeffrey shrugged, his fat belly jiggling.

“Lucifer and his wife. Heard something about a princess, but I’m not too sure. I was pretty drunk at the time.” The clown said apathetically while he wiped blood off his blade.

“You heard correctly: her name is Charlotte Magne…though she goes by ‘Charlie’. Disgustingly naïve and sympathetic to any trash that walks up to her doorstep. She sickens me with her genuine kindness. I am determined to reveal her true nature. I know that there’s some darkness lurking under that bright smile…there must be.” Herman said furiously, pacing back and forth.

“And what exactly am I to do?” The clown was still not intrigued. “If she’s bothering you so much, why don’t you just go fry her?”

“Oh, I would if she weren’t being guarded by several of our fellows. Evan has taken quite a liking to her.” Carter said with a snicker.

“And you want me to go piss off Evan by killing his girl? Fuck. That. I’m not crazy enough to go toe-to-toe with the likes of the Trapper.” He said quickly. Carter laughed maniacally.

“Oh, I don’t want you to kill her. No…I want you to make her suffer first. I’m thinking of recruiting Caleb and possibly Amanda…they’re also rather creative in torturing. Not quite experts like myself, but still inspirational in their approaches. You’re not too shabby either. Besides, I can make it worth your while. An associate of mine has the useful ability to produce prodigious amounts of cheap booze to slake your alcoholic thirst.” Herman offered. Jeffrey raised an eyebrow.

“Cheap booze, you say? Well…that’s all fine and dandy, but it isn’t—” The doctor held up a hand.

“You may also take a finger from her. Imagine: the finger of a princess…when do you think you’ll get an opportunity like that again?” He said. Jeffrey’s eyes widened.

“The finger of a princess…a demonic one at that. Yeah…that would be the crown jewel of my collection!” He exclaimed, twirling his blade and grinning wide, his painted face twisting into something nightmarish. “I’m in!”

“Wonderful! My associate is in the process of collecting another member of our merry band. I’m taking you back to the hotel while we wait for Alastor to join us with the final member of our operation. You’re a performer, so you’ll fit in well at this circus of a hotel. Just try not to fuck things up by collecting your prize early. You are to follow my instructions…or you’ll find yourself on my operating table. I’ve always wondered how well your grotesque, obese body can conduct my spark.”

Back at the hotel, Evan was sitting in an armchair in the lobby while Charlie was in a panic.

“What if he’s out slaughtering people just to get it out of his system!? Oh, I should’ve been paying more attention to him! Letting him in here was a mistake, I knew it from the start, but I was desperate for help!” She ranted, pacing back and forth in distress while Vaggie tried talking some sense to her.

“While I agree that letting him join the program was a terrible mistake, I don’t think we had any other options at the time. If he’s out there on a rampage, we would’ve heard about it on the news.” She reasoned. Charlie shook her head.

“What news?! Carter, Alastor, and Max exterminated the news broadcasting system! We’re back to newspapers and online videos!” She said, nearly hysteric. Sally floated over to her and grabbed Charlie’s shoulders.

“Miss Magne, I need you to calm down!” She said with a clinical authority that made Charlie freeze. “Herman has no choice but to return here. I’ve checked his room, and all his notes are still in his desk. He’d never abandon them, so when he comes back for them, we will have a chance to get some answers.” Sally said authoritatively. Charlie slowly calmed down, walking over and sitting on the armrest of Evan’s chair.

“Yeah…it’s just…I’ve seen what he can do.” She shuddered. Sally sighed and floated over and pat her back reassuringly.

“If he’s wreaking havoc out there, then we’ll make sure he doesn’t leave when he returns.” She said ominously. Charlie looked at her with apprehension.

“What is that supposed to mean—?” She yelped when the door slammed open. She felt the static field in the air that preceded the mad doctor’s presence. She let out a sigh that was part relief and part anxious. “Doctor Carter, where have you been? Why did you leave so suddenly without telling anyone?”

“I would’ve left a note, but I had to act quickly, or my efforts would be in vain!” Carter giggled, standing aside as a tall, wide figure filled the doorway. The air suddenly stank of chemicals…bleach, ether, and a hint of chloroform. A rasping, gasping cough was heard, followed by a deep chuckle. The Doctor beckoned for the figure to enter. “Meet Jeffrey Hawk, the Clown of the Fog!”

Ordinarily Charlie would be delighted to meet a clown. She loved performers, and in her opinion, clowns had a noble calling of bringing smiles and laughter to a world that was often cruel and humorless. The moment she saw Jeffrey, she realized that this clown did anything but bring smiles. The first thing she noticed about him was how obese he was. His clothes were stretched comically as they barely held in his fat belly. The second thing she noticed was the keyring on his belt. The keys looked odd…until she realized they weren’t keys at all. Those were FINGERS! Charlie glanced at Evan and saw that he was standing up and had his cleaver in hand and was clearly ready for a fight. Glancing at Sally, Anna, and Phillip, she saw similar tension. The fact that Jeffrey’s gaze was locked on Charlie wasn’t helping matters…in fact she swore he was looking at her hands. This was one patient she would not be shaking hands with.

 

Across Hell, Alastor walked into a saloon. Not a saloon themed restaurant, but a genuine saloon built by outlaws from the days of the American wild west. Several bigshot outlaws frequented here, which was why Alastor had come by. Upon entering, he drew a few glances, but most of the outlaws weren’t worried. Alastor was infamous for his power, but there were many powerful demonic outlaws in this saloon. If Alastor was here for a fight, then he’d be outnumbered and outgunned. Alastor sat down at the bar. The barkeep was a meek little demon whose eyes never stopped darting from patron to patron. The barkeep looked at Alastor apprehensively.

“W-w-what do y’want, Radio d-demon?” The demon stammered. Years of barkeeping for violent, trigger happy outlaws had made him a nervous wreck. Alastor grinned, delighting in the constant terror the demon in front of him was experiencing, even if Alastor wasn’t the sole cause of it.

“I’m looking for someone by the name of Caleb Quinn…” The music stopped. Heads turned to Alastor, and hushed whispers were barely audible. The barhop blinked, then laughed.

“The D-D-Deathslinger? Many of us been wondering what happened to him. He hasn’t shown up here a single t-time in centuries and seeing as how there’s no way he c-c-can still be alive, I guess that means the bastard made it into Heaven! Or, more likely, he got killed during an extermination before he could go after anyone who wronged him. Lucky b-break for us, I say.” The barkeep said, and there were murmurs of agreement from patrons. Alastor tilted his head.

“Why is that? Is there someone he’d want dead…again?” Alastor asked. The barhop nodded, slowly pointing at a figure slumped over at the end of the bar.

“That there is Henry B-B-Bayshore…former owner of United West Rail. L-Legend has it that he wronged Caleb Quinn so terribly that it turned him into the Deathslinger. Caleb b-busted up Bayshore’s face and s-shot him with a railroad spike gun, but Bayshore s-survived, and sent Caleb to Hellshire prison. The rest is h-history.” The barhop said. Alastor raised an eyebrow, intrigued by the story but too proud to admit he wasn’t well versed in the history of the Old West.

“Thank you for the information. Mister Bayshore will be coming with me now.” Alastor said with a wicked grin, walking over and pulling the drunken Bayshore off of the barstool. The demon drunkenly resisted, but even if he had been sober he wouldn’t be able to fight off Alastor. The other patrons in the room didn’t make any move to stop Alastor…Bayshore had been a crook, but he was no Outlaw, and therefore wasn’t worth protecting. Alastor’s grin widened as he dragged the drunken Bayshore outside, and teleported to the only other saloon that remained in Hell. Finding payment was the hard part…finding the Deathslinger himself would be easy: all he had to do was follow the screams and the gunshots, and while many in Hell owned firearms, few had firearms as unique as the Deathslinger.

 

Meanwhile, back at the hotel, the clown had decided that he wanted a drink. He walked right by Charlie, much to her and the other killers’ relief, and went right to the bar (much to Husk’s dismay). He grunted as he sat down on a stool, the wooden furniture creaking in protest as it held up the obese carnie.

“You have gin in this joint?” Jeffrey asked the feline barkeep. Husk smirked and produced a bottle of ‘the good stuff’.

“I suggest you take it slow…the proprietors have strict limits on how often you can indulge…not that I listen.” Husk said with a chuckle. Jeffrey grinned as Husk poured two shots: one for the clown and one for himself.

“Fuck prohibition.” Jeffrey said, holding up his shot in salute. Husk laughed, clinking his shot with the clown’s.

“I’ll drink to that!” He said before downing his shot. Jeffrey did as well.

“Ah…that’s the good stuff. Entity only gave me bottles of the cheap shit. Gave me the worst hangovers.”

As the two alcoholics indulged in their addiction, Charlie turned to Doctor Carter.

“I appreciate you bringing me another patient, but…why? I thought you hated me, and didn’t believe in this project?” She said. Carter giggled.

“I figured Jeffrey would be an easy specimen for you to work on. The man is a collection of nearly every sin known to mankind: lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, greed…It should be easy for you to tackle at least one of those areas.” He said nonchalantly as he walked away. Charlie couldn’t help but notice that he hadn’t denied her claims of hating her and her project.

Chapter Text

Caleb Quinn winced in pain as he walked across the streets of the Pentagram. He always thought that being dead would either end his pain, or put him in so much pain that he wouldn’t need to think about how painful his injured leg was. He was wrong on both accounts. Being dead just dulled the pain, but it was still there. The ache in his shattered jaw, the throb in his wounded leg. Every step, every word, was pain. But he was no stranger to pain…he had lived with all manner of pain for most of his life, be it physical or mental. It made him sharper, meaner, and determined…but that was when he had something to do. Right now he had nothing better to do than scrounge up cash and spend it on cheap booze. Everything in this damned city was just too much for him…the horseless coaches, the talking boxes and magic windows. He thanked his lucky stars when he had found a saloon…at least that much was familiar. He was suddenly aware of someone sitting in the barstool next to his—an invitation for trouble. He turned to face the stranger. “State your business or fuck off and leave me to my drink.” He said gruffly. He had a strong Western accent, but there were notes of his Irish heritage within. Alastor smirked.

“Ah, the charm of the Old West. You are Caleb Quinn? I have a job for you.” He said, knowing better than to waste too much time, lest he enrage the legendary bounty hunter.

“10,000 for a dead man. 20,000 alive. 40,000 for unharmed. Who’s the bounty?” Caleb asked. Alastor snapped his fingers and a wanted poster floated down in front of the Deathslinger.

“Charlie Magne, wanted alive…for now.” Alastor chuckled darkly. Caleb raised an eyebrow.

“Ain’t Magne the royal family? And I ain’t hunting no little lady, especially one whose daddy is Satan himself.” He said, shaking his head and drinking.

“What if I offer you something better than money? Tell me, does the name ‘Bayshore’ mean anything to you?” He grinned as he watched Caleb’s entire posture tense up, and a look of deranged fury appear on his face.

“Where is he?” The Deathslinger’s hands were shaking with anger. The mere thought of Bayshore was enough to make him want to rampage. Alastor snapped his fingers once more. Bayshore appeared, bound and gagged, on the floor. Caleb loomed over him, sneering. “I’m going to make this even worse for you than the last time I killed you. I promise.” He grinned, grabbing his signature weapon, ‘The Redeemer’, and taking aim. Alastor cleared his throat to get Caleb’s attention.

“I trust this is sufficient payment for the job?” He asked. Caleb nodded, grinning with a lopsided jaw.

“I’ll bring you Charlie Magne alive…whether or not I hurt her depends entirely on her.” Caleb snickered, impaling the hapless Bayshore with the bayonet of his speargun. “But I might be a while before I show up…It’ll take DAYS for me to end Bayshore.” He smiled evilly at the man writhing in agony on the speargun. Alastor laughed heartily but shook his head.

“I’m afraid that won’t do. You see, my associate and I need this to go according to plan, and our plan is for all this to happen within the next few days—a week at most—during which you’ll be staying at the Hotel.” He explained. Caleb grumbled and spat into a spittoon.

“You expect me to play nice until you give the word then? Fine…don’t expect me to be too friendly though, I ain’t an actor.” He said gruffly. Alastor grinned darkly.
“Oh don’t worry, leave the acting to me. Just do what you’re told and keep your mouth shut, and things should go perfectly.”

 

Back at the hotel, Charlie and the others watched with apprehension as the Clown socialized with Husk. She could hear their boisterous laughter from across the lobby as she turned to face Evan.

“So, what’s the deal with the fingers?” She asked anxiously. Evan made a sound of disgust.

“His ‘collection’. He claims one from every victim—I’ve seen him taste them from time to time. He’s a heavy boozer and watches pornography on something called a ‘VHS tape’.” He explained. Angel Dust rolled his eyes.

“Jeez, he needs to get with the times. Porn’s all gone digital. Get him a computer and he’ll be too busy fapping to try to kill anyone.” He laughed and looked over at the bar. “Looks like he’s too busy drinking himself into a stupor to do that anyway.”

“I see…” Charlie said as she wrote everything down on a clipboard. “Alcoholic, porn addict, and a murderous psychopath…well, there’s plenty to work with!” She said with a smile. She turned towards the bar…towards the menacing clown that reeked of chemicals and had rotting fingers in a loop on his belt. Her courage immediately faltered. She gulped and nervously approached the bar, Evan and Anna quickly following in case Jeffrey became violent. She sat down next to the Clown, though made sure she wasn’t sitting on his left side where his gruesome keyring was. “Hello mister Hawk…or do you prefer if I call you Jeffrey?” She asked. The Clown turned to look at her, putting down his bottle.

“Call me whatever you like, doll face.” He said with a sleazy grin. Evan’s blood boiled, and Anna grimaced in disgust—she recognized the tone Jeffrey used—and reached for a hatchet. To her credit, Charlie didn’t let her smile falter too much.

“Alright then, Jeffrey, how about we start with the basics: why do you think you are in Hell? I’ve heard from your coworkers that you have a few bad habits, but I want to know what caused these habits to develop.” She said as she tried not to grimace from the stench of chemicals and booze that the Clown reeked of. The Clown sneered at her and chuckled.

“A few bad habits, eh? You going to put me on a diet or something? And as for what made me who I am, well, that isn’t any of your business now is it? I’ve killed a few dozen people, some animals too. Killed a few demons ever since I fell down here a few days ago.” He brought the bottle back to his lips, but Husk snatched it. “Hey! What gives?!”

“Sorry chump, I don’t make the rules. If you want the drinks, you need to at least pretend to be interested in redemption.” Husk said with a shrug. Jeffrey opened his mouth to protest, but Charlie cut him off.

“A diet actually is a great place to start! A healthy diet is essential for a healthy lifestyle, and if you feel better physically then it will have a positive effect on your mindset!” Charlie said with excitement. Jeffrey’s eyes widened in fear.

“Wait, what?! What sort of diet are we talking about?” He asked, and every killer in the room heard something they only rarely heard in the Clown’s voice: fear.

“Well, clearly you need to lose some weight, so anything high in fat is out of the question. No fried foods, no junk food, and no snacking.” She watched as the fat clown suddenly jumped from his seat and started sprinted with alarming speed towards the hotel door.

“Fuck this, it isn’t worth it!” He gasped and wheezed as he ran. Sally quickly blinked over to block the doorway, and Philip went to help her defend the escape route. Jeffrey barged right through them like a bowling ball. Charlie gasped and ran over to help the two up. Evan and Husk ran to the doorway to see how far Jeffrey had gotten. Not very far at all, it seemed. He was only a few yards away from the doors of the hotel and was doubled over and gasping for breath. Charlie looked outside after she made sure Philip and Sally were alright.

“Are you okay, Jeffrey?” She asked. She heard Anna laughing next to her.

“When bear grows fat, he can’t catch food. Clown man is more like fat weasel than bear though.” She chuckled as she watched Jeffrey crawl—or attempt to crawl—away from the hotel.

“I’m not giving up junk food! You can’t make me! I know my rights!” He wheezed as Evan hoisted him onto his feet.

“Jeffry, we both know you can’t run for more than 5 seconds before you’re out of breath. Without the Entity keeping you going, I’m surprised you ever managed to catch anyone.” Evan laughed as he shoved the clown towards the hotel. Jeffrey glared daggers at him before he sneered and held up a strange bottle.

“That’s what the Afterpiece tonic is for! Slowing the runners down just a little bit so I can take my sweet time chasing them.” He chuckled cruelly, then gave a curious glance at Charlie. “I haven’t tried it out on demons yet. I wonder how well it suffocates them.” He mused aloud, making Charlie take a few steps back into the hotel. Anna noticed Jeffrey was preparing to throw one of his bottles, so she held up a hatchet menacingly, silently warning him not to do anything stupid. Frowning, Jeffrey lowered the bottle. “I’ll have plenty of time to figure it out later…but I’m not going on a fucking diet!” He raged. “Even if I took all her fingers, it wouldn’t be worth dieting.” Jeffrey muttered angrily, which made Evan grab him by his coat collar.

“Listen here you fat pile of garbage, If you get within five feet of her, I’ll rip your disgusting fingers off of your pudgy hands and shove them down your throat. Then you’ll be eating mashed peas and spinach for eternity. Understand?” Evan growled. Jeffrey nodded, then cackled before it broke down into a fit of coughing.

“Learn to take a joke, Trapper! I’m a clown, you can’t take things I say so seriously!” He grinned, his eyes glinting with malice. Evan snarled and shoved him away.

“You stay away from her, if you know what’s good for you!” He threatened loud enough for the others to hear. Charlie gasped and put her hands on her hips.

“Evan! Do not terrorize new patients! I appreciate your concern for my safety, but I am still able to defend myself!” She scolded. Evan shook his head as he walked over to her.

“Don’t let him lay a finger on you, or you might lose yours.” He warned. Charlie sighed and nodded.

“I know, Evan. If there’s anything I’ve learned over these last few days its to be cautious, but also to give people the benefit of the doubt. I can’t help my patients if I don’t visit them.” She responded.
“Then you have to realize that you are in over your head with some of these people. You can’t go into a wolf’s den and not expect to be maimed. You need protection.” He said firmly. As much as she respected Evan’s knowledge of the Fog dwellers, she felt a bit insulted that he was being so overprotective of her. “I can take care of myself! I may be a princess, but I’m no damsel in distress!”

“Oh, really? Could’ve fooled me! If I’m not mistaken, it was I who stopped that barfight earlier. It was Max who saved you from Snuffles, and Philip was the one who stopped Max from finishing off that little weasel of a reporter the other day.” Evan retorted angrily. Couldn’t she see that she was in over her head?! Charlie sighed angrily and held her head in her hands.

“Let’s talk about this later, Evan. Now is not the time for this.” She couldn’t believe it. Did he really think so little of her? Did he assume she was just a helpless little girl who needed a big strong man to defend her? Evan said nothing, but simply stormed inside the hotel. She saw Sally and Philip exchange a glance, but she ignored them as she entered the hotel with a frustrated huff. From his office, Herman Carter grinned. He could feel the rage, confusion, and exasperation that was radiating from Charlie and Evan.

“This is going to be too easy.” He cackled.

Chapter Text

Doctor Carter waited impatiently for Jeffrey to sit down across from him. Ordinarily Herman would have nothing to do with the Clown, but even he had to admit that Jeffrey was quite effective when it came to the Entity’s work.

“How are you enjoying your stay here, Jeffrey?” The Doctor asked with his usual unnerving intensity. Jeffrey snorted derisively.

“Aside from the bar, I hate everything about this place! At least I had some freedoms in the Fog, but that little bitch Charlie wants to take away everything I hold dear!” Jeffrey shuddered at the thought of being forced to follow a diet. “Just how long do I have to play nice?”

“Until I say otherwise, and not one moment sooner.” Herman said with a dangerous edge to his mentally projected voice, adding brief yet gruesome images of his plan for Jeffrey should the Clown disobey his orders. The Clown grimaced.

“Alright I get it! But I expect you to help me maintain a certain buzz…there’s no way I’m going through with all this sober. You promised me cheap gin, yet the bartender says that I only get one drink on the house! You better be able to provide me with some bottled happiness, or your secret plans may not be secret for much longer.” Jeffrey smirked. Carter stared at him in silence—stunned by the notion that Jeffrey was threatening him—before the air burned with Carter’s rage fueled spark.

“Are you threatening me, Jeffrey?” The Doctor’s ‘voice’ was a distortion of static and white noise. Jeffrey chuckled and gave him a shit eating grin.

“Just making sure you remember to give me what you promised. Shouldn’t be an issue though if your associate really can produce cheap booze as easily as you said he can. I’ll be a good soldier for you if you can get me at least one bottle of gin a day. The Doctor glared at the Clown, but refrained from doing anything violent. Carter could easily fry every nociceptor in Jeffrey’s pea-sized brain and make his mere existence agonizing, but he kept his temper in check…for now.

“I’ll get you your alcohol if it means you’ll behave. Get out of my office.” His fingers sparked with electricity, emphasizing that Jeffrey needed to leave now or face painful consequences. As the obese clown was leaving, Carter stood up. “Oh, and Jeffrey? If you ever threaten me again, you’ll be a lab rat before you can even scream for help.” Herman watched with satisfaction as Jeffrey’s painted face looked just a few shades paler.

 

After witnessing the heated conversation between Charlie and Evan, Philip had followed Sally to old ballroom of the hotel. To his dismay, Angel Dust and Niffty joined them just as Philip was closing the door.

“Pardon the intrusion, but if you two are talking about what happened with Charlie and Evan, then we need to be part of the discussion.” Niffty declared politely yet resolutely. Philip looked to Sally, silently asking her if he should open the door.

“Let them in, Philip. They’ve known Charlie longer than we have, so they have every right to be in the know.” She nodded at him to open the door. He sighed as he let the maid and the drug fiend into the room.
“Thank you Sally, but the one who knows Charlie the best is Vaggie. If anyone can figure out what is happening with Charlie, its Vaggie.” Niffty said. “But since we’re already here we may as well talk about Evan.”

“I’ve known Evan for a very long time, but Philip and Max have known him longer. However, I can say with absolute certainty that Evan is absolutely smitten with Charlie.” She giggled. “It sounds mad even saying it, but it is true. He’s more protective of her than he is of any of us, including Max!”

“But that ain’t a bad thing if he’s happier because of her—excluding the argument he just had with her—right?” Angel Dust was asking Sally, but it was Philip who responded via pen and paper.

“He may be happier now, but that doesn’t mean he’ll remain that way. What we saw in the lobby may be a preview of things to come. Evan is a man of brute force, and Charlie is a woman of kind intentions and optimism. It isn’t an ideal match, and there are bound to be more incidents if they decide to continue their ‘relationship’.” He had a grim look. He feared that inevitably, both Charlie and Evan would end up hurting each other. Evan had suffered enough…he didn’t need to grapple with the burdens a heartbreak could bring.

“Perhaps they’ll resolve their disagreements without our help. If not, then we recruit Vaggie to have her get through to Charlie. If Evan is still in a bad mood a few days from now, then we’ll speak to him. If we barge into his business now it will just make him angrier.” Sally advised the group. To her relief, she saw nods of agreement from Philip and the demons. It seemed that everyone wanted Charlie and Evan back in good moods.

 

Charlie was in her office signing paperwork. She hated paperwork with every fiber of her being, but it was so mind-numbingly boring that it hopefully would take her mind off Evan. It wasn’t working very well considering that many of the papers were about requisitioning specific items for her patients. Her eyes widened in surprise as she looked at a form that Max had clumsily scrawled “Maypl Seerup” under the “dietary requests” section. There was a doodle of Max, Vaggie, and Snuffles in the margins of the page, and a small side note that read “ays creem 4 Snufelz pleez”. She couldn’t help but smile at the childish innocence of it.

“He knows his alphabet now. I’ll have to congratulate him later, I’m sure he’s going to be bragging about it to Philip and Ev—” Her smile fell, and her good mood vanished as quickly as it came. She shook her head and tried to put her mind back to her work. Philip had requested a small notebook and a pen for quick communication with anyone who was not yet familiar with the special sign language the Fog dwellers had invented. She approved the request and made a mental note to ask Philip to teach her the sign language, as her supernatural linguistic abilities did not apply to systems of communication that weren’t verbal or written. She looked forward to learning it; after all, she was learning from her patients, just as they were learning from her. Sally had requested first aid supplies for a hotel infirmary as well as access to some more modern publications and guidelines on mental health and psychiatric care. Charlie approved these requests happily but had to veto Anna’s plea to hunt Alastor. “At least she asked for permission this time. Wait a minute, where is Alastor?” Her eyes widened with concern as she realized she hadn’t seen the smiling demon all day. Her panic escalated as she sprinted from her room to the elevator, imagining the carnage Alastor could be creating because of her own negligence.

 

Alastor checked his pocket watch with mild irritation as he stood outside an alley, wishing that he had been wreaking havoc. Instead, he had been standing here for more than three hours now, listening to Bayshore scream and plead futilely with the Deathslinger. The Deathslinger had answered Bayshore with laughter and more torture. Alastor could appreciate torture—even if he was only spectating and not inflicting the pain—but he was getting bored, and he had places to be.

“Are you almost finished?” He called into the alley. The screaming quieted to sobs as Caleb paused his torture of Bayshore.

“Hold your horses, I’ll be done with this sonofabitch soon.” Caleb replied with a note of sadistic glee. Alastor sighed and peered into the alley, just in time to watch as the Deathslinger impaled Bayshore’s spine and hoisted him up with the harpoon gun. When Bayshore opened his mouth to scream, his shriek was muted by a gunshot, and a harpoon exiting through his mouth. Bayshore lowered the body and kicked the corpse off the bayonet, reeling in the harpoon. Caleb spat at the corpse before turning to face Alastor. “He deserved worse, but I reckon its time to do the job you hired me for.” Alastor almost sighed with relief that the wait was over.

“Marvelous! Now then, to the hotel!” He tapped his microphone stand/cane on the ground, and a swirling maelstrom swallowed both the demon and the Deathslinger. They were deposited immediately at the entrance of the Hazbin hotel, just in time for Charlie to burst through the doors and crash into Caleb Quinn. Charlie backed up and brushed herself off.

“Sorry I—” The rest of her apology died as she looked upon who she had ran into. His leg had a strange brace on it, implying the man had an injured leg. His clothes were reminiscent of those worn by bounty hunters and lawmen of the American west back during her childhood. His face was shallow and pale, his eyes milky white like evil moons. He was slack-jawed due to some sort of injury: she could see a large scar along his cheek from some sort of surgery, though it was well hidden by grey facial hair that made him look even more ghoulish. His hat was flat and broad…ideal for keeping the sun out of his eyes at any time of day to not throw off his aim. He reeked of whiskey, gunpowder, and blood. Charlie looked at his hands and saw they were holding a rifle that ended in a bayonet…and had a vicious looking harpoon chambered in the barrel. It wasn’t half as vicious as the snarl on the outlaw’s face.

“Out of my way, missy!” He growled in a voice as thick as mud and as prickly as a cactus. Caleb knew he was talking to Charlie Magne of course. He recognized her from the wanted poster Alastor had conjured for him. He’d play dumb for now though…in his experience, bounties lowered their guard if you pretended that you’d never heard of them. Alastor had described Charlie as a foolish little girl with an empty head that was stuffed full of dreams and wishful thinking. He had described a nervous girl who would back down when face to face with an extremely dangerous individual. Caleb expected her to either pass out from fright, or scamper away crying. He was more than a little surprised when Charlie’s expression changed from one of fear to one of angry determination.

“No. I have plenty of rude, drunken, murderous assholes living in my hotel right now. I can do without another one.” As soon as the words left her mouth, she regretted them deeply. Alastor—who she now noticed standing a short distance away—had a look of shock in his eyes. He had not expected her to suddenly grow a backbone. Charlie was just as surprised…but she knew what the source of her sudden bravery was: Evan. He had told her that she was letting others walk all over her…well, now was the time she’d change that! She glanced back at the man looming over her and nearly flinched. He had forced his jaw into its proper position, and was glaring at her hatefully with those dead, milky eyes. She blinked, and suddenly she was staring at a harpoon aimed right between her eyes. The stranger was staring down the iron sights of his rifle at her, his finger on the trigger.

“What did you say, missy? My hearing ain’t what it used to be, on account of hearing gunshots and men screaming like pigs when I shoot them and reel them in…do you mind repeating that?” He spoke in a low growl with that ghoulish voice of his, and Charlie knew if she didn’t answer him quickly or correctly, she’d find out where those who die in Hell go.

Chapter Text

So, this was Charlotte Magne, Heiress of Hell? Alastor had told Caleb that Charlie would be a polite, meek, frightened little damsel. That seemed like it had been false advertising on account of how Charlie just disrespected Caleb to his face. He’d killed men for far less…and here was this little girl mouthing off to him like he was horseshit on her boots. Caleb wasn’t going to stand for that.

“You better make yourself known, miss Magne…my finger’s getting itchy.” Caleb warned. The only thing keeping him from putting a harpoon through her head was the promise of payment Alastor had given him.

“You…you’re real? All those stories were true?” Charlie began nervously. She knew EXACTLY who this stranger was. She had been a little girl during the time of the Old West, and she remembered the stories many of the more notorious sinners would tell. They told of a twisted, enraged man with a rifle that shot a spike rather than a bullet. They spoke of a man who hunted outlaws to drag them to a prison worse than Hell itself. They called this man The Deathslinger. Lucifer was fascinated by the tales, but lost interest in them quickly. Charlie had forgotten the stories when enough time had passed. Such a wrathful, vengeful soul was bound to descend into Hell, yet no such person had ever come. Until now. She watched as the ghoulish bounty hunter’s snarl turned into a sneer.

“What gave it away? My jaw? My limp? Ah…must’ve been the Redeemer.” Caleb chuckled as he pat the grisly rifle. “Nice to know that I’m remembered, even if only in legend.” His glare returned. “I’ve yet to hear an apology, missy.”

“R-right…look, I’m sorry I snapped at you. It’s been a rough week, and I apologize for taking it out on you. It isn’t fair of me to do, so please let me make it up to you.” She knew there was a time and a place to be firm and stand ground, but this was not it. She had been in the wrong for being so rude to a potential guest—especially when only days ago she had been desperate for even a single guest—and she knew she had to fix her attitude before it got her killed. The Deathslinger was still glaring at her unblinkingly, but she saw the tension in his mutilated jaw relax slightly. She nervously extended her hand and put on the best smile she could muster given the circumstances. “Hi! I’m Charlie, welcome to the Hazbin Hotel, mister…?” She watched as the legend shrouded cowboy lowered his rifle from her face.

“Caleb Quinn. You’re lucky that I don’t harm gals, Miss Magne…but if you give me lip like that again missy, I’ll drive this here spear through your bleeding heart.” Caleb didn’t punctuate his threats with chuckles or laughs like Herman did. He was deadly serious, and Charlie could tell that he—like Evan—was a man of his word. Caleb didn’t wait for her to respond, merely pushing her aside as he limped into the hotel lobby. Charlie felt the anger rush back to her veins, her fangs growing longer and sharp as her horns grew and her eyes burned scarlet.

“Calm down Charlie…he’s a bounty hunter from the old American frontier. He isn’t going to have the best manners.” Her features returned to normal as she stood and dusted herself off. No one had noticed the brief transformation. Nobody except for Alastor, who had been observing everything play out in front of him. Charlie didn’t notice the sinister gleam in Alastor’s eyes as he skulked past her towards Doctor Carter’s office. Charlie wouldn’t have cared even if she had noticed. She just needed to calm down…what better way to do so than to go hang out with Vaggie? She made her way to the elevator, heading up to the sixth floor. To her surprise, she saw Angel Dust, Niffty, Philip, and Sally gathered outside Vaggie’s room, speaking to Vaggie.

“What’s going on?” Charlie asked in a voice that was somehow cheerful yet also slightly worried. Something was going on…which really wasn’t surprising when she considered the usual shenanigans that happened here.

“Just a bunch of friends, having a chat.” Angel Dust responded casually…which only made Charlie suspicious. Niffty was looking shifty and had a strained smile. Vaggie stepped out of her room—also looking as though she had just been caught doing something she didn’t like—and waved at Charlie half-heartedly. Charlie couldn’t read Philip or Sally as well as the demons, but from the way the demons were behaving it was clear that they were trying to hide something from Charlie…and Charlie wasn’t going to have any of it. She felt her horns growing again—and from the frightened looks Angel and Niffty were giving her—she deduced that her eyes had turned crimson.

“Cut the bullshit, Angel. I’m not in the mood to put up with more surprises today.” She said with a level of scorn that surprised herself even more than it surprised the others. Fortunately for Angel Dust, Vaggie spoke up.

“We were talking about how great it would be if we had an event of some sort…a group activity, something to give everyone a chance to interact constructively with each other.” Vaggie suggested. Charlie blinked, her irritation vanishing.

“That’s a great idea, Vaggie! What have you all come up with?” Charlie asked eagerly. “And more importantly, why did you feel the need to hide it from me, Angel?”

“Err, you see—”

“We wanted to tell you once we had a clear plan! We were going to surprise you!” Niffty chimed, saving Angel Dust. Charlie smiled at the cyclops demon maid.

“Really? Well, as sweet as that is, if we’re going to have an event…what could we do? What are your thoughts so far?” She addressed the group. No one spoke for a few moments as the gathered group desperately thought of an idea that wasn’t half-baked. This time it was Angel Dust who came to the group’s rescue.

“Sally has a wonderful singing voice…maybe we could do a talent show sort of thing?” Angel offered. Charlie’s eyes lit up.

“That’s a wonderful idea! It could give everyone a chance to show off what they’re good at…besides killing, drinking, sex, and drugs.” She said, watching Angel deflate as she listed off the last three.

“Sounds like a plan then…Charlie, can I talk to you for a bit?” Vaggie asked in a tone that clearly said ‘We are about to have a conversation that is likely going to turn into a fight.’ Charlie’s smile became a bit forced as she nodded and stepped into Vaggie’s room. Vaggie shared a look with each member of the group as she closed the door. She turned to see Charlie wearing a tired and irritated expression on her face instead of her usual smile. “Are you going to tell me about it, or do you need me to ask?” Vaggie began.

“Tell you about what? There’s nothing wrong!” Charlie said hastily, to which Vaggie raised an eyebrow. “Fine, I’ll tell you. You remember what Evan said to me this morning?” She saw Vaggie’s gaze harden.

“Yeah, I remember. Typical big, burly, brute thinking he needs to protect poor, defenseless little girls like us.” Vaggie sneered at the thought of it.

“It wasn’t like that, Vaggie. Well…not entirely. At least I don’t think he meant it against all women: remember that he’s been working with women like Anna and Sally for at least a century. I’m sure he’s quite aware that women are equally—if not more—capable of some things as men are.” Charlie sighed and sat on the bed. “He was telling me, specifically, that I’m too weak to stand up to my patients. It reminded me of what Doctor Carter said the other day…”

“Charlie, we’ve been through all that—” Vaggie began.

“Let me finish! Look, I’ve been under more stress and with each new guest that stress increases exponentially. Alastor brought in a legendary outlaw bounty hunter who already doesn’t like me and pointed a harpoon gun at my face about ten minutes ago!” Charlie laughed humorlessly as Vaggie gasped.

“What?! Are you ok?!”

“I mean, let’s review: In one week I’ve been yelled at by a massive hunky trapper, psychoanalyzed by a deranged doctor, nearly mauled by an interdimensional space puppy, been witness to the aftermath of an absolute bloodbath, had to deal with that clown’s creepy bullshit, AND nearly been shot by the Deathslinger! So no, Vaggie, I am NOT okay!” Charlie sobbed angrily. “I just want this hotel to go one FUCKING DAY without a disaster!”

“Charlie…you need to take a break. Just take the rest of the day off. Better yet, take all of tomorrow off too. I’ll handle things for you.” Vaggie offered. Charlie blinked the tears from her eyes and managed to stifle her sobbing down to minor hiccups.

“Really? Vaggie, I can’t take an entire day off. We both know that’ll end in catastrophe. Someone will get murdered, or Angel will overdose, or Husk will start another barfight, or—” Vaggie held up her hand, cutting off Charlie’s list of disasters.

“Charlie, you. Need. A. Break. I’ll get Sally and Niffty to keep Max and Snuffles under control, and if Herman tries any shit, then I’ll give Evan the green light to beat his ass—I’m kidding of course—but the mere threat of Evan should be enough to keep him in line. Let me handle this ‘Deathslinger’ pendejo.” She could already see Charlie opening her mouth to object. “Ah-ah! Let me finish! If you manage to have a good, relaxing vacation, then I’ll…” She gulped. “I’ll let you choose what I do for the talent show we’re planning.” She watched as a look of shock passed over Charlie, before it became a sly look.
“I can pick anything?” She asked mischievously. Vaggie knew she’d regret this, but…

“Yes. Anything…WAIT, NO!” Vaggie’s eye widened as she realized EXACTLY what Charlie was going to have her do.

“Too late~!” Charlie sang. “Oh, I just need to pick out something we can both sing together! I was going to do one of my songs for the show, but now that I’ll have someone to do duets with, so many more options are available!”

“Dios Mio…fine! Just don’t make it too sappy. Please.” Vaggie begged. She was going to lose sleep worrying about what Charlie would make her sing. Knowing Charlie, it would likely be something cheerful and clichéd. “What about Anna? I can’t speak Russian, so if she starts hunting Husk or Alastor I—”

“Don’t worry. She knows you’re my friend, and she knows enough English to understand ‘no’ and ‘please’.” Charlie said nonchalantly. As much as she hated to admit it, the idea of lazing about for the rest of the day as well as the entirety of tomorrow sounded VERY appealing. She wanted to get started right away. Vaggie nodded and headed out into the hall, making way to the elevator.

“Time to meet this ‘Deathslinger’ and make him regret ever even thinking of aiming his weapon at Charlie.” Vaggie muttered angrily as she pushed the button for the lobby. As angry as she was, she was also relieved that Charlie hadn’t seen through the obvious lie of the talent show. Oh, there was going to be a talent show, but what she and the others had actually been discussing was Charlie’s behavior. She had been dismissive of their arguments, until she watched Charlie snap at Angel Dust. Charlie’s breakdown in Vaggie’s room shortly later had confirmed that something was wrong…and Vaggie was going to help make things right for Charlie by any means necessary. Charlie was going to have a relaxing day and a half off, even if it killed Vaggie to make sure it happened!

 

Caleb was settling in well at the bar. The drinks were good—and the first one was on the house—but the company was strange. Jeffrey had a head start on the drinking, so he was engaging the bartender in half drunk conversation. Picking up the bottle of Gold Creek Whiskey (Caleb couldn’t believe his luck when Husk told him that they had bottles of the now antiquated brand in stock), Caleb stood and limped around the lobby. Caleb had known for quite some time that the world had come a long way since his time. He had long conversations with his fellow Fog dwellers about technology of their times. Some concepts weren’t too difficult to grasp, such as horseless buggies, electric lights in every household, and even telephones. Seeing these things in person was different though, and when he saw his first car when he arrived in Hell, he spent a good 15 minutes staring at the contraption, wondering how the hell it worked. He was standing in front of the elevator, having those same questions and hypotheses run through his head.

“Gotta be a big spool for all that chain. But that doesn’t explain how its so damn quiet when its moving.” Caleb muttered. “No way in hell it can be rope...rope rots eventually.” If he had been paying attention, he’d have noticed the lights above the elevator doorway indicating the descent of the elevator from the upper floors to the lobby floor. When the doors opened, he took a startled step backwards. An enraged Vaggie emerged, spear in her hands. Before Caleb could blink, he doubled over in pain as Vaggie’s foot connected to Caleb’s crotch.

“You must be the Deathslinger. Listen up pendejo, if you threaten Charlie again, I’ll put this spear through your skull, and I won’t need some shitty rifle to help me do it!” She spat. She walked around the groaning cowboy and stormed over to the bar. Jeffrey had witnessed what she had just done to Caleb and made the wise decision to scoot a few seats away from the angry Latina demoness. Husk had an awed expression that morphed into one of caution as he saw Caleb stand upright. Vaggie followed Husk’s gaze to Caleb, giving the cowboy a glare. To her surprise, Caleb responded with a slack jawed smirk and a snicker.

“Now that is one Hell of a kick, missy! Mind giving me your name?” He asked, limping over to the bar a bit slower than usual. Vaggie eyed him suspiciously.

“Vaggie. You threaten to shoot my best friend, but when I kick you in the balls you’re all smiles? What the fuck is wrong with you?” She said incredulously. Caleb belted out a laugh.

“Many things! As for Miss Magne, I didn’t approve of her tone. She was rude. I can take a beating as readily as I can give one, but I don’t tolerate being spoken to like an animal. At least with you, I know where you stand. I don’t have to worry about being shot in the back. However, I ain’t the forgiven sort, so if you want everything to be right between us, you gotta do something for me.” Caleb said ominously. Vaggie tensed up and gave Caleb a look more venomous than a rattlesnake.

“What would that be?” She said through grit teeth. Caleb chuckled darkly.

“All you have to do is tell me…how it works.” He pointed at the elevator.

Chapter Text

Charlie really did not know what to think about the whole situation. On one hand, the hotel could be in complete chaos right now and she would be the last to know. On the other hand, she did not have to lift a finger to do anything about it. She was clocked out, on vacation, completely free of responsibility for the next 36 hours, and she would make sure she savored every minute of it. She could not help but worry though, Vaggie could be rather…harsh. She was easy to piss off, and extremely hard to calm down. She had been enraged with Angel Dust for days after his involvement with Cherri Bomb’s turf war.

“She’ll be fine. She has Philip and Sally to help her.” She thought, leaning back on the pool float she was currently drifting on. The Hotel pool was in a bad state when she and Vaggie first arrived, and it was one of the first things they had Niffty help them clean before they refilled it. It was a lot of work, but Charlie certainly felt like it paid off now that she was lounging in a bikini and sipping lemonade on a pool float. She let out a content sigh, allowing herself to relax. She was just about to close her eyes and take a nap when she suddenly heard raised voices and the sounds of a struggle in the hall outside the pool. She groaned with annoyance but listened carefully. In order to ensure she was not disturbed today, she had asked Anna if she’d mind patrolling the corridors outside the pool and redirect anyone and everyone (except for Vaggie, who she had told to come to her in the event of an emergency). She immediately identified the southern drawl that was indicative of the hillbilly.

“C’mon! I wanna use the big ol’ bathtub in there!” Max whined.

“Нет, no bother Charlie.” Anna said gruffly. Charlie smiled a bit at that. She had been teaching Anna a little bit of English, and it seemed like it was paying off.

“But Anna, I need to use the big tub! Snuffles destroyed the one in my room after Miss Niffty and I tried to wash him. He didn’t take kindly to it.” Max said with a chuckle. That made Charlie sit up. While Snuffles had been gentle to Charlie, she was not sure if that behavior extended to the rest of the staff. If the Demogorgon became enraged with Niffty, and neither Max nor Charlie were around to calm it down, the results could be grisly. If Max had come directly to Charlie, then that meant Vaggie was busy handling some other issue. Charlie sighed and slipped into the water, swimming over to the edge of the pool to dry off and open the door.

“It’s alright Anna. Max, what’s this about Snuffles?” Charlie smiled. Max looked down at his feet guiltily.

“M’sorry for ruining your day off, but you know how Snuffles gets.” Max said sheepishly. Charlie laughed and shook her head.

“You haven’t ruined anything Max. Where does Snuffles usually go when he is upset?” Charlie asked sweetly. Max just shuffled his feet.

“Dunno. He always comes back though! But sometimes he gets a bit destructive. He’d go visit the other killer realms within the Fog and tear em up.”

“And you think he might ‘tear up’ the hotel?” Charlie frowned.

“Normally I wouldn’t pay it no mind, but Niffty gets angry when he makes a mess of things, and I don’t want her to get angry with me too.” Charlie nodded at that, knowing that Niffty was quite terrifying if one was unfortunate enough to make her angry. Angel Dust had been on the receiving end of her wrath after she had cleaned up after one too many of his 'pranks'. He made great effort to avoid making messes with his pranks ever since. Not wanting to see Max face the wrath of the hotel custodian, Charlie made up her mind.

"Alright, Anna and I will help you find him." Charlie said before quickly explaining the situation to Anna. Max was elated as the group started walking.

"Great! Between the four of us, we'll find him in no time!" Max declared. Charlie tilted her head in confusion.

"There are only three of us here, Max." She said gently. She didn't want to upset him in case he couldn't count.

"I know that, but we're gonna be four real soon! We're gonna go get Evan's help!" He explained, making Charlie's eyes widen with panic. They were already halfway down the hall, it was too far for them to turn back now.

 

“So, that’s how it works.” Vaggie said with a sigh, closing her browser on her phone—which Caleb was now looking at with intense interest.

“I see…and how—” He began, but Vaggie wasn’t going to let him get any further than that.

“Oh no, I am not spending another 10 minutes talking about technology. Telling you how a cellphone works would take at least an hour, and because I’m covering for Charlie today, I really can’t spare the time!” She said in exasperation. The Deathslinger chuckled.

“Fair enough. I’ll be seeing you around then Miss Vaggie.” He tipped his hat and headed toward the bar. Vaggie exhaled, relieved that Caleb—for whatever reason—was deciding to not be a complete pendejo for the moment. That just left her with Alastor, the Doctor, and the Clown to worry about.

“How does Charlie do this seven days a week?!” Vaggie knew Charlie wasn’t a pushover like most people thought, but Madre Dios had she underestimated how tough this all was!
“I’m going to need a vacation myself by the time this day is done.” She grumbled

 

The Trapper may not be the most frightening of the killers on a good day, but on a bad day he was the unquestionable king of the Fog Dwellers. There were days were the survivors in the trials had been extra slippery or extra sneaky, making trials longer, tougher, and often ending in more than two of them escaping. He would leave those trials feeling agitated—and feeling the sting of the Entity’s claws and fangs on his skin—and the other killers quickly learned to not trifle with him when he was in such a state. Evan was in such a state right now, but not because of any humiliating defeat he had suffered, but because of Charlie.

Their argument had made him rancorous, and he had left several traps outside his room as a warning to the other killers to fuck off. He tried to distract himself with sketches, but they were also tainted by his wrath. His drawings were now gruesome memories. The faces of victims—those he had felled personally as well as those he had seen struck down by his fellow killers—and bloody homages to the Entity. He remembered every detail of that terrifying god. The claws, the teeth, the eyes…all shifting and morphing into forms more nightmarish than the last. To gaze upon it for too long would be to invite madness, and the Entity—for all its apathy—was aware of this much at least. It only showed parts of itself to its servants and its prey. Even sketching the great Beast of the Fog was enough to unnerve Evan as his pencil moved across the paper. He put the sketch in a pile—he had done so many sketches he had to organize by piles. He had a pile for the killers, a pile for the Entity, a pile for memories—most of which were unpleasant—and finally, a pile for the demons of the Hotel. Unsurprisingly, most of them were sketches of Charlie. He was debating tearing them up when he heard a knock at his door.
“Whoever it is, fuck off!” Evan growled. He was in no mood to entertain guests.

“Evan, its me.” He heard Max say meekly. Evan groaned and stood, walking over, and opening his door. The one person he couldn’t force himself to be angry with was Max.

“What’s wrong—” The rest of Evan’s question died in his throat when he saw Charlie and Anna alongside Max. It wasn’t the fact that Charlie was there, but rather what she was wearing. Evan had never seen a bikini before—in his time most swimsuits were extremely modest—and seeing her like this was little different from seeing her in underwear. Evan was grateful he was wearing his mask, for he was sure he was blushing like a schoolboy. Charlie was flustered as well. Had she known Max was going to recruit more help for the task of hunting Snuffles, she’d have at least brought a towel. Anna had a slight smirk below her mask as she observed the sudden change in atmosphere. Max—bless him—noticed nothing amiss.

“We was gonna hunt Snuffles! He’s all riled up, ‘n we need you to help track him down so he can calm down.” Max explained with the enthusiasm of a child about to embark on a camping trip.

“Is that so? Alright, fine. Give me a second to gather enough traps.” Evan said, stooping down to collect the traps he had set in the doorway before retreating into his room to get his stitched bag. His mind was a whirlwind of confusion and conflicting emotion. Most of the confusion was focused on the fact that Charlie was practically naked (by his standards at least), and the conflict was a result of how he was reacting to her being here. Surely, she would not be at his doorway if it were not for Max needing all the help he could get. He was still bitter about their little spat they had earlier but seeing her still brightened his day. Meanwhile, Charlie was feeling quite underdressed.

“I feel naked.” She said in Russian to Anna, who laughed heartily.

“Because Trapper is here now, yes?” Charlie could see the smirk under the bunny mask grow. Charlie narrowed her eyes, but her deepening blush betrayed her.

“Because another man is here now, not specifically Evan!” She countered. Anna chortled and shook her head.

“You weren’t acting this way when it was just Max. Ever since Trapper open his door, you act like small rabbit: wide-eyed, shy, and scared. I know how Trapper acts around you: he’d never hurt a hair on your head. So, you have nothing to fear for your own safety…you’re worried he’ll take more interest in your body.” Anna chortled. Charlie covered her face with her hands, wishing she could just sink into the floor and be swallowed up by her own embarrassment.

“Please stop, Anna.” Charlie groaned. When Evan opened the door, Charlie was almost relieved to see him. “Are you ready?” She asked in English.

“As much as anyone can be ready to hunt Snuffles.” Evan said grimly. “The traps are honestly just wishful thinking. It would hurt him, but it would not be enough to immobilize him long enough to do anything. It’s more of a way of keeping track of where he hasn’t gone yet. Max, where did you last see Snuffles?”

“My bathroom. Miss Niffty and I were gonna wash him, but he wasn’t having it. I told her not to touch the chains and collars on him, but she wanted to try to unlock ‘em.” Max explained.

“And where is Niffty now?” Evan asked tensely, slightly concerned that Max had opted to leave the diminutive demon alone with the dangerous Demogorgon loose in the hotel.

“She’s still in my bathroom, trying to mite…meta…mitten…mitigate! She’s trying to mitigate the damage!” Max said while Charlie explained the situation to Anna in Russian.

“Wait, we are hunting the Snuffle Monster? I…I shall stay with tiny Niffty…to protect her.” Anna said to Charlie after they had arrived at the scene of the tantrum Snuffles had thrown. The bathroom walls had deep gouging claw marks in the tiles, and the bathtub itself was smashed to pieces of porcelain. Niffty had already shut off the water and was currently struggling to move the larger fragments of the thick tub.

“Alright Anna, you stay and help her.” Charlie smiled, knowing the fearsome Russian huntress was still deathly afraid of the otherworldly creature that Max had befriended. Anna sighed with relief and immediately set about helping Niffty clear the tub fragments out.

“So, what’s with the outfit?” Evan asked Charlie once the three were out in the hallway again.

“It is called a bikini. It’s a swimsuit. I was swimming in the hotel’s pool when Max came to ask for help.” She responded flatly. She was still slightly irked with Evan, but she was not the type to hold a grudge. Right now she felt more embarrassed than anything, being this exposed to him.

“Ah, that explains it. You look good.” He said with a slight chuckle, noting her flushed expression. “I think this makes us even. You saw me without my mask, after all.” Charlie deadpanned, but then giggled too, remembering how completely bewildered and vulnerable he had looked when she had pulled Evan’s mask off. Max stopped dead in his tracks and whirled around.

“WHAT?! You let her see your face?!” Max shouted in disbelief and horror. “You never let me or Philip see your face! What makes her so special?!”

“Wha—” Evan was stunned by how outraged Max was getting. He had seen Max angry and upset plenty of times. Fortunately, Charlie stepped between them.

“It was my fault! I took his mask off without his permission!” Charlie exclaimed, hoping that would be the end of it. Max looked at her with horror, then revulsion, then fury.

“You…how could you do something like that? That ain’t right! YOU CAN’T DO THAT!” He roared, revving his chainsaw. Evan quickly pulled Charlie back and moved in front of her.

“Max, calm the fuck down! Oh for the love of…here!” Evan took off his mask, making Max stare in awe. Evan put his mask back on just in case Anna or anyone else stepped out into the hall to investigate the commotion. “Happy now?”

“I guess. But it still ain’t right that she just took off your mask and didn’t get any punishment for it!” Max seethed. “What if she does that to Sally or Anna? What if she tries to wash Philip’s face paint off?”

“We can talk about that later! Right now, we are going to find Snuffles, got it?” Evan growled. Max pouted and nodded, stomping off down the hallway. Evan sighed and looked at Charlie apologetically. “He’ll calm down…eventually.”

“So much for my day off.” Charlie laughed half-heartedly.

Chapter Text

Herman sat in Alastor’s office. Unlike his previous visits to the good doctor, this meeting was strictly business: they were now going to discuss the next phase of their dark work.

“And you’re certain of this?” Alastor asked the electrified surgeon.

“Quite so. From what you have told me, Charlie has gone from a hopeful little girl to an anxiety wracked woman in mere days. And this is without the application of physical trauma to her person! Her relationship with Evan is an interesting development…it is making her even more vulnerable than we could have hoped for!” Herman declared with deranged glee. Alastor raised an eyebrow.

“And you’re not worried that they may bolster one another, and make our jobs more difficult?” Alastor chuckled. “As cliché as it sounds, ‘love conquers all’ is one of those disgusting phrases that has some truth to it.”

“Oh please. Even if they do somehow manage to pull through this phase of my experiment, they will not be able to endure the horrors we have planned for them. Almost all the pieces are in place: we have multiple red herrings in the form of the Clown and the Deathslinger. Each one of them have been given orders, and in time each one will try to take miss Magne’s life. Even if they fail, Charlie’s faith in her childish beliefs of redemption and virtue will erode and decay as her own patients turn on her like the monstrosities they are. Once she sees how misguided and idiotic she has been, she’ll do nothing to prevent us from molding this establishment to our own designs! Think of it Alastor: infinite entertainment for you, and endless experimentation to be gained by me! The knowledge I could glean from such endless resources that Hell offers…there will be no mind safe from my influence!” The Doctor’s eyes sparked, and his fingers crackled with his maddening currents. Alastor’s grin grew ever wider as he pictured what Herman described: he would indeed have endless entertainment to gain from watching, broadcasting, and participating in Herman’s disturbed research. Alastor’s grin shrunk though as he realized something.

“You said ‘almost all the pieces are in place’. What else is left to do? Both of our pawns have been given their orders. Surely you don’t intend for us to wait until the right moment. We must orchestrate that moment, so we will be ready for when it comes.” Alastor said with a dark chuckle. Herman echoed it with his own deranged giggle.

“Great minds think alike, Alastor. You are correct: we are not going to sit idle and hope for circumstances to become favorable by themselves. Nor can we play our game with only two pawns at our disposal. We have some more recruiting to do, but do not worry…you will definitely like Lisa. You both share similar culinary tastes: Cajun and cannibal. I’ve been tracking her—which has proven surprisingly difficult given the number of cannibals in Hell. Nevertheless, I believe I have found her. I was planning on recruiting her personally, but I hypothesize that if someone with a similar appetite approached her then her response may be more favorable.”

“A woman after my own heart! She sounds like quite the gal! But can we win this game of ours with three pawns, or will we need even more?”

“We will require one last pawn…though of all our peons he will be the most fearsome. I won’t spoil the surprise though.”

Alastor’s demonic grin widened, and the two fiends shared a demented laugh that echoed through the halls of the hotel.

 

Jeffrey was an ordinary man with ordinary tastes—at least he thought so. All he wanted from life was to have a bottle of booze, a comfy couch, and at least a dozen people chained to his wall that he could torture and whittle away at to his heart’s content. The basic amenities, really. And yet here he was, talking to some Hispanic demoness who clearly did not care for him. The minute he walked into the interview room, he saw her eyes narrow and her nose crinkle in disgust. He chuckled in his usual mocking manner.

“I can tell you don’t want to do this. Neither do I. How about we just say we had a nice heart-to-heart talk about childhoods and abuse and the usual shit, and I go back to the bar and you can go back to…whatever it is you do.” The Clown said with an apathetic air as he sat in the chair—the frame creaking in protest as it supported his obese form. Vaggie almost laughed.

“As much as I would like to do just that, I’ve made a promise to cover for Charlie today. Unfortunately for both of us, I’m not as patient or as polite as she is. So, let’s just cut to the chase: why do you do what you do?” She asked as she took out a pen and clipboard. The Clown sneered at her.

“You really think I’m just going to spill the beans, hm? Maybe I don’t want to talk about it. Maybe I’ve got better things to do than to talk to some little Mexican girly whose covering for the airhead blonde running this joint.” The Clown said with a dismissive sneer. The sneer quickly vanished when the interviewing demoness suddenly had a spear tip gently prodding the space between Jeffrey’s beady eyes.

“Pendejo, listen to me, and listen very carefully: I’m not Charlie. I’m not going to sit here and let you spew this bullshit at me and not react. I’m not a victim either: I fight back when attacked, and I win.” She said as she applied some more pressure to the spear tip. Trails of sweat on the clown’s face streaked his makeup.

“Alright! Calm down! Fucking hell…” He grumbled as Vaggie removed the spear. Vaggie allowed herself to smirk slightly. “Alright, I’ll give you the abridged version…but I’m going to need a drink while I tell it.” He said as he took a hip flask out. Vaggie frowned but allowed him to have his drink. He sat back in his chair—which she was surprised hadn’t collapsed yet—and began talking between sips of gin.
“When I was a boy, my father—” He began, but then immediately stopped and glared when he saw Vaggie roll her eyes. “You want to fucking hear it or not?” He snarled.

“Yeah, just can’t believe how many people here have ‘daddy issues’.” She said with a sigh. The Clown narrowed his eyes.

“As I was saying, my father hated me. He blamed me for my mother dying in childbirth—as if I had ever asked to be born—so needless to say I had a bad start. He was a drinker too, so whenever he passed out I’d go out collecting feathers.”

“Feathers?” Vaggie asked, putting down her pencil.

“Yeah, from birds, y’know? Anyway, one day I decided I wanted the real deal: a full bird, not just the feathers. I bribed a dentist into letting me ‘borrow’ some chemicals, and I whipped up an analgesic that would eventually become my Afterpiece Tonic. It worked…and I ended up killing the bird.” He sighed fondly as he recalled the memory. “The first bit of life I ever snuffed out deliberately.”

“Disgusting…but not unsurprising. Most serial killers start with animals and work their way up to humans, which I’m guessing is what you did.” Vaggie said. Frankly, she was surprised this conversation was happening at all. She had been fully prepared for them to exchange insults and then have him waddle back to the bar to drink himself into a stupor.

“Correct. I worked my way up from birds to neighborhood pets, and finally neighbors. I always took trophies…feathers, fangs…and fingers.” He chuckled. “Eventually my old man found the box I hid them in, so I had to hit the road. I joined the circus! I was strong as a bull back then—I had been quite the athlete, if you can believe it. I worked the ropes for the big tents, but eventually I became an entertainer. The circus was the perfect place for me: going town to town with a painted face, I had access to plenty of victims. Of course eventually one little red-headed BITCH slipped out of my carriage. I managed to get away, and repeat my routine with other carnivals and circuses around the country.” He took a swig of gin, scowling at the memories. “I had a good thing going…but the Entity gave me something better.” A foul grin formed on his pudgy face. “The thing about the Fog is that no one can ever truly escape. They always get forced back into a trial with one of us—we killers—so even if we fuck up we can just try again another time.” He sneered at Vaggie’s look of disgust. “Are we done here?”

As much as Vaggie wanted to end the interview, she knew that doing so would be exactly what the Clown wanted.

“Not yet. You said you were an athlete? I find that hard to believe.” She stared at his obese form with doubt. He scoffed.

“I may have picked up a few bad habits. Porn, junk food, booze…I guess I was trying to find something to overpower my other urges.” He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. The Afterpiece Tonic is potent enough to make it nearly impossible for someone to escape me.” He was about to take another drink when he noticed Vaggie texting on her phone. “What are you doing?”

“Texting Angel Dust. As crazy as it sounds, I think I know just how to help you.” She said ominously. The Clown grimaced and stood up from his creaking seat.

“Don’t know what that means, but I ain’t waiting around to find out.” He lumbered over to open the door. On the other side stood Angel Dust, wearing workout clothes and sweatbands.

“Alright tubby! You and I are going to be spending a lot of time together, and not in any way you’ll enjoy!” Angel declared with a sinister grin. The Clown took a few steps back before brandishing his knife.

“The hell we are! What the fuck did she tell you?!” He glared over his shoulder at Vaggie, who looked like the cat that ate the canary. Angel snatched the blade from Jeffrey’s fat fingers, which made the Clown snap his attention back to the spidery demon.

“She said you needed to lose some pounds, and I’m going to make sure that happens!” Angel Dust said gleefully. Jeffrey’s beady eyes widened in horror. He shoved past Angel Dust and began sprinting down the hall…though he didn’t make it more than 100 feet before he had to lean against a wall and gasp for breath. He looked behind him and saw Angel Dust casually jogging to catch up. “That’s a good start, big guy! Glad you’re enthusiastic about this! Wait until you hear the diet plan I’ve picked out for you!”

Vaggie grinned as she heard the exasperated clown curse her name as he tried to escape.

 

Niffty whistled as she vacuumed the third-floor hallway. No one had moved in on this floor yet, but she wouldn’t be surprised if more guests came in soon. She had had her doubts about this whole “redemption” thing, but she was seeing the effect that Charlie and the other staff had on some of the newer guests, and couldn’t deny that there was hope for them. She herself had grown quite fond of many of the guests. Max was an absolute sweetheart, and her heart ached when she had learned of the horrors he had been put through. His “pet” on the other hand made her a nervous wreck. It wasn’t the fact that it could easily tear her to pieces or consume her in an instant…it was that it was completely messy. It left disgusting, fleshy portals in the floors, walls, and even ceilings! It had no table manners, and its claws did horrible things to any furniture or appliances it handled. And trying to clean it? Even with Max's help, bathing the Demogorgon was a task that might cost her a limb.

“I really need to talk to Charlie about getting a ‘no pets’ policy in place for future guests.” She muttered. Her eye widened when she felt a draft coming from under a door to a room. “Oh goodness gracious! Is a window open?!” She opened the door and looked around inside. It was the very picture of tidiness: the bed was made, the furniture was clean. There was a singular windowpane open, which she shut promptly. As she did, she felt uneasy. Something was off about this room.

“It’s clean. Too clean.” She whispered to herself. She hadn’t cleaned inside any of the rooms on this floor…and yet this one was free of any dust. It looked unoccupied…but the lack of dust indicated it had been cleaned. And the window had been opened. Unnerved, she turned to leave…but saw a tall figure in the doorway, clutching an oversized kitchen knife. His face was concealed by a deathly white mask, and his eyes where two black holes, devoid of any life within.

Chapter Text

Niffty watched the tall man nervously. They had been standing and staring at each other for what felt like an eternity. The only indication that he was not a statue was the slight rise and fall of his shoulders, and the slow, nearly inaudible sounds of his breathing. She knew better than to scream or run…both would simply be an invitation for the tall man to put an end to her. She had a feeling that he wasn’t sure what to do either, which was why she was still alive. She steeled herself and broke the silence.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know this room was occupied. I did not even know we had a new guest today. What is your name?” She asked nervously. She waited. And waited. The stranger gave no answer. “I-I see…well, I’m Niffty! I keep things tidy…but I see that you’ve been doing a dandy job with that! If the window wasn’t open, I wouldn’t have thought anyone was in here at all!” She watched the masked man look over at the window, then back to her with that unsettlingly dead gaze. She cleared her throat. “W-well, I really need to get back to work. This is a big hotel, and I’m responsible for keeping it clean.” She was really starting to get frightened now. All he did was just stare at her, but she had a feeling he was simply sizing her up. She cleared her throat. “Are you going to let me leave now, please?”

The figure suddenly raised the knife and stalked forward with an alarming speed. She had been bracing herself to flee, so as soon as she saw him take the first step she was already running. There were no doors to the neighboring rooms, so there was only one way in, and one way out. Fortunately, Niffty was as quick as she was tiny, and as she darted by the tall man’s legs she just barely felt the blade coming down behind her. Had she been even a little slower, she would have been brained by the blade. She started screaming.

“Charlie, Sally, Max…someone help!” She shrieked. She didn’t dare look behind her as she sprinted for the elevator at the end of the hall. She didn’t hear any footsteps behind her, but then again, she hadn’t heard him when he suddenly appeared in the doorway. She franticly pressed the button to summon the elevator. The reflective metal doors showed her assailant mere meters away from her now. He was unnaturally quiet, but she could hear his breathing quicken as he closed in for the kill. He came to a sudden halt about 5 feet away from her and tilted his head upward. Niffty trembled, but she heard it: a low, hollow sound like wind through a train tunnel. The Demogorgon was travelling. She was relieved when the beast suddenly emerged from a fleshy portal in the ceiling and dropped down between her and the tall man.

“Snuffles! Oh thank Lucifer, I’m saved!” Niffty cried out in relief. The tall man was frozen, seemingly recalculating his approach. Niffty smirked as Snuffles turned his head to look at the knife wielding psycho.

“Get him, Snuffles!” She shouted. She watched confidently as Snuffles…whimpered and tunneled away into a floor portal, abandoning her. She blinked. “What?” She fell backwards as the elevator doors opened, and scrambled to her feet to mash the ‘door close’ button. The doors shut, and she mashed the button for the sixth floor. She needed to find Charlie before that man got to her.

 

“I know I left them here!” Max said as he surveyed the empty bathroom in his suite. “Niffty and I was gonna wash Snuffles. I reckon he must’ve took off, and she went after him.” He reasoned. Charlie stood next to him, along with Anna and Evan.

“Do you think he could’ve eaten her?” She asked worriedly. Max guffawed.

“Hell naw. Snuffles is a messy eater. Even with someone as small as Miss Niffty, there’d be blood n gore all over this bathroom!” He responded confidently. Charlie sighed in relief despite the grisly mental image Max had painted.

“Well, if he didn’t eat her, then I think your theory about Snuffles fleeing and Niffty chasing him is most likely what happened.” She took the opportunity to wrap a towel around herself, just so she wouldn’t be walking around in her swimsuit.

“She’s probably fine. Worst case scenario is that he chased her to another floor and then lost interest.” Evan said. The elevator opened at the end of the hall and Niffty came sprinting out towards the group. “Ah, here she comes now!” He said cheerfully. His good mood vanished when he noticed the panic and terror in the small maid’s eye. He’d known her long enough to understand that very little shook her. Something foul was happening.

“CHARLIE! THERE’S SOMEONE TRYING TO KILL ME!” The small maid cried, her large eye welling with tears of horror. “I was cleaning on the third floor and noticed a window open and I thought ‘no one is in here so I better close it’ but there WAS someone in there and they’re trying to kill me now and—”

“Whoa, whoa! Slow down, Miss Niffty!” Max said with genuine concern flooding his voice. Despite him not really feeling comfortable being doted on by the maid, he was starting to like being clean and wearing clean clothes—something no one had ever provided him. Evan was staring down the hall. The elevator had gone down to the third floor and stopped. He gripped his cleaver in preparation for an encounter.

“Who was trying to kill you?” Charlie asked. Niffty wiped her eye. Anna noticed the elevator now too. It was coming back up to the sixth floor. She grabbed a hatchet from her belt and stood next to Evan.

“I have no idea! He wasn’t any of the guests I know! He’s tall as Philip, wears a white mask, and carries the largest kitchen knife I’ve ever seen!” She blew her nose on a handkerchief. Max’s one good eye widened, and Evan knew who was coming even before the elevator doors opened and the knife-wielding figure emerged.

“Michael.” Evan growled. Anna wound up her arm in preparation to throw, and Max stood next to his two fellow Fog-Dwellers with his chainsaw roaring for blood.

Despite being sectioned into “circles”, the various districts of Hell were not layered like pancakes, as Dante’s Inferno and others have depicted. They were, however, divided by various natural and artificial barriers that required infrastructure or direct teleportation to move between. Most of these were geological; rivers of acid, volcanic mountain ranges, and lakes infested with unfathomable horrors were just a few of the various obstacles that made the cities of Hell feel even more cramped and uncomfortable. One of the relatively navigable barriers was the vast swampland that connected the circles of Gluttony and Wrath. It was a lair of monsters possessed by hatred and hunger; Wendigos, cannibalistic warriors, and deranged gourmets all fell here when they arrived in Hell. Naturally, Alastor knew the area like the back of his clawed hand. His early years in Hell were humble in comparison to the reign of horror and blood he later unleashed—and would one day unleash again. He chuckled fondly as he remembered some of the various clearings and groves where he had made his first kills in the new life that damnation had given him. Alastor didn’t mind the muck and mire of the bog…in fact, it was nostalgic! He had lived in New Orleans when he was a mortal, and whatever remnants of his meals that were unfit for consumption he’d happily feed to the gators in the bayou a short distance from the city. He was snapped out of his walk down memory lane when he spied a pile of bones.

“What have we here?” He mused, walking over to the pile. Immediately he recognized he had been mistaken. It was no pile; it was a voodoo totem. A hex totem constructed from human femurs, bound with ropes of dried intestines and ligaments, and topped with skulls whose sockets glowed with orange light. This was no ordinary object of layman Voodoo like a Gris-Gris bag. This was power…and a statement. Someone had staked a claim to these marshes…and they had the power to enforce their claim. When he had studied Voodoo with the Voodoo Queens of New Orleans and their Witch Doctors, he had learned many things about these deceptively primitive looking structures. Such totems carried incredible power for those who constructed them, and often needed a bit of added security to guard them. He scanned his surroundings, grinning when he spotted a triangular sigil etched into the muck.

“Might as well have her come to me.” He chuckled. He prodded the muddy sigil with his microphone stand/cane. An emaciated figure came screeching from the murk. Disheveled, clawed, caked with dried mud and blood, the Hag had come to punish the one who dared approach her totem.

 

Charlie watched in shock as Anna’s hatchet hurled towards the porcelain white mask of the one Evan called “Michael”. Her shock turned to disbelief as the imposing figure simply raised an arm to block the hatchet. He didn’t even flinch as the blade buried itself in his forearm with a sickening crunch. Charlie knew this was a fight they could not win…which left only one option: diplomacy. She steeled herself and took a few steps forward with her friendliest smile.

“H-hello! Welcome to the Hazbin Hotel! I’m Charlie.” She said warmly. She felt her blood run cold as the black pits that acted as Michael’s eyes turned on her. Evan and Max roared and charged forward. “STOP!” She cried, getting them to halt in their tracks. Max looked over his shoulder at Charlie with fear in his eye.

“Charlie, I know you’re really nice n’ all, but…” Max shuddered. “Michael ain’t like the rest of us. He ain’t even like Snuffles! He’s just mean!”

“Max isn’t exaggerating. We all tried to talk to Michael Myers…he responded with either silence or violence. We would not even know his name if it weren’t for the fact that one of his victims had also been taken into the Fog. Carter ended up learning what she knew of him when he electrocuted her in a Trial. We all just keep our distance from him, and he did the same after he realized he couldn’t kill any of us.” Evan growled, not taking his eyes off Michael for even a second. “But the rules have changed, shitboot! The Entity is dead, and we can hurt each other! There’s three of us and only one of you! Do the math, Michael! I’m pretty sure Anna’s hatchet just broke your arm, so you are already losing this fight!”

“Evan…please let me try. I have to try.” Charlie implored. She saw his scarred shoulders rise and fall as he let out a defeated sigh.

“For the love of god, please keep your distance from him.” Evan muttered.