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The Witnesses: The South Slice Slum-Line

by EnviousWorm

EnviousWorm V's story continues from "Up City Prose"; having stunned the "Last Sons" gang and dipped his toes into the criminal underworld, V splits time between his mentor - The Chapter - and his roommates, before deciding to check in on Pi City's South Slice District, run by Godfather Gerold "Bald Gerold Garibaldi" -- one of the most dangerous men in the city not named Cornelius "The Bull" Long.
V’s Apartment. U Pi English/Lit Campus,
Up City District, Pi City, Wyoming


Not quite sure where he got the ice-pack from, Vassilis woke up on his apartment’s short, brown couch with one draped over his face, warm and sloshing like an old water bed.

“Oh, Christ.” He muttered.

The ice-pack slid off of his face and onto his lap as he sat up, though he replaced it with his dirty-bandaged hand to block out the morning sunlight. Some holy curse must have woken him up before his early alarm. The hungover immortal grumbled as he checked his barely-living phone.


“Oh, christ.” He repeated, laying back down in a temporary daze as he did the math:

Got home at 4:30, didn’t sleep ‘til 5:30 – three whole hours. Vassilis should count his blessings that he hadn't woken up dead.

Still kicking, his ancient phone buzzed furious at his side, nearly slipping down a crack in the couch. Vassilis didn’t have to see who was calling to know; he was late. Late, and likely caught red-handed. He’d gotten a bit bold the night before – and that had been before the party.

“Ya?” Vassilis answered the phone, playing oblivious.

“Am I wrong in believing we were to meet in my office, or was I to assume you wanted to meet up at your little bar for a few flips?” The Chapter asked, seething on the other side of the line.

“I thought you said 9:30–”

“Cut the shit, I had court jesters who took life more serious than you.”

“Well I bet–”

“I know what you’re going to say, and shut up. Get over here. Now,” The Chapter demanded before pausing shortly. “But taking a shower first.”

“Alright.” He said to the static that had replaced his mentor.

The Chapter’s Office. U Pi History/Social Sciences Campus,
Up City District Pi City, Wyoming
9:00 am

Taking only half an hour in a hasty, rushed apology via his rapid appearance, Vassilis had arrived at his mentor’s office with his clothes extra out of order for the day. A striped, collared shirt mis-buttoned and partially tucked; his brown sports coat a little mud-stained on the arm and back, unbeknownst to the ragged college kid.

When The Chapter looked up to see his apprentice standing before him, the forty-year old man (by appearance) steepled his fingers and let out a long sigh.

“I-I..sorry.” Vassilis sighed in return, dropping into the chair across from Chapter’s desk.

“You come to this school to be a hot mess?” Chapter asked.


“You come to this city to play the Bat-man?”


“So did you come here to piss me off?”


The Chapter slammed his open palms down on his desk, rising and leaning over to mean-mug Vassilis as he did so.

“Some dumbass played vigilante hero last night a couple blocks from that High Peaks bar we were at.” The centuries-old academic’s hands slipped into his pockets, and he began to pace around Vassilis. “One, dumbass vigilante. With your sloppy, alcohol-and-tobacco-stained fingerprints all over the job. And who else but The Verse and his people to play clean up? Who profits off of it?”

Vassilis shook his head, choosing to remain silent as he stared at the pacing Chapter’s shoes.

“It seems like you did that to piss me off.”

“I don’t care if Verse profits from that, Chap, that gang was an immediate threat to the local area,” He replied, trying to defend himself. “That guy might be an asshole, but he didn’t force me to do anything. He told me what was up. I checked it out. He wasn’t lying. I–”

“Felt compelled to help.” Chapter sighed again, pausing his circular pace to shake his head.

“I still can’t accept that you and The Book find that wrong.” Vassilis whined.

“We don’t find it wrong,” Chapter sat down, turning his chair to face the window out, which had a view of skyscrapers looming overhead, like most of the city sometimes. “But we’ve been there before. Before Verse, I got involved with mortal affairs. And The Book before me.”

“You have all the time in the world, and you choose to give up?” His whining had turned more confrontational then, a frown growing across his face as he stared at the back of Chapter’s head.

Almost sensing that, The Chapter whipped his chair around, catching his apprentice’s disapproving eye.

“What happens when your body outlives your convictions, huh?” Chapter asked, leaning forward again. “When everything and everyone you fight for dies without you? Will you still feel like fighting a moral war when three of your families have been swallowed up by history’s maw? Or three dozen? In the grand scheme of things, even The Verse has existed and battled for only100 years! The Book lived nearly 700 before he wrote the Doctrine of the Undying! And The Verse is so far lost in the revolution that whatever ideology that revolution is doesn’t matter. He’s a man so desperate for a win he’s lost track of the game he’s playing. That you’d take his words at face value, that’s the most disappointing of all.”

“He might be desperate for a win,” Vassilis admitted. “But he’s fighting. And maybe it’s my youth, my inexperience, but sir I fucking feel like fighting.”

Sighing a third time - the longest of several long ones - Chapter reached out with his reassuring hand like always.

“I know,” He said, quieter now. “I can’t stop you from fighting. I can only help you pick your battles, and realize that it is not your duty to fight. But…you will have battles to fight, that we’re certain of. So you must know how to defend yourself, and fight consciously of the environment surrounding you. Come with me.”

“Professor?” Vassilis asked.

The Chapter was already speeding out of his office, tramping down the stairs to the first floor and out the door. Shrugging, Vassilis grabbed his stuff and followed the of academic.

The Americus Sanctorum. Camden & 23rd St. Subway Station
Up City District, Pi City, Wyoming

Vassilis grew more confused as his History Professor (and immortal wizard mentor) led him several blocks away from the campus – first to the corner of Camden Avenue and 23rd Street, then down into the subway. Crossing several platforms for the Northbound line into The Ripple, he and The Chapter waited for a pair of trains to pass.

Then, when the platform had cleared out of potential onlookers, Chapter jumped down onto the tracks and beckoned for Vassilis to follow. He wanted to complain, but realized he’d just come from looking like quite the asshole, so he jumped down and followed instead.

Walking a little further, they came across a locked Maintenance Door which Chapter happened to have the key for; they opened it up and stepped inside a dark, cramped room with a few mops and buckets, brooms and a metal shelf stacked with cleaning chemicals.

“You’re going to kill me in here.” Vassilis said, casually.

Chapter let out a small, unimpressed grunt as he ripped up one of the floor tiles. Directly below them was a trap door, though it looked like it could only be opened from the other side.

“That’s a bit awkward, yeah?” The joking, young immortal grinned in the dark.

The older Witness rapped his knuckles once against the metal door, before shoo’ing Vassilis back into the corner with a dismissive hand wave.

Creaking, a wheel spun on the other side as if it very rarely did. With a horrific crashing and clanging sound, the trap door opened outward, leaving Vassilis little space to stand. He began to shimmy out of his uncomfortable position without another wisecrack.

“Hello.” Philip said casually, looking both men in the eye even through the darkened room. His eyes had adjusted to such dark after several years in his hiding place.

“Hey there, Mr. Philip,” Chapter said, like he was a husband who’d just returned home from war, but in a very bad situation. “Can we…come down?”

Vassilis had heard the man’s name several times; the only of the immortal Witnesses not to take on some funky, stupid name upon induction. And the guy had magic guts or whatever. He had a weird relationship with The Book, and the two seemed to live entirely in solitude – leaving only Chapter to clean up their mess with Verse, and now Vassilis; the youngest immortal was always torn between desperately wanting to meet others like him, and resenting the pair for their solitary confinement from everything.

Philip the Immortal Seer was a sickly thin man, with ashy-white skin and a wheezing style of breath that made it seem as though he could keel over at any second. Vassilis wondered how the struggling Philip could even turn the wheel and push open the heavy trap door.

Looking unimpressed with his present company, Philip didn’t respond to Chapter or Vassilis; he simply started walking down an echo-y set of spiraling stairs. Beckoned by the older immortal to go down first, Vassilis followed Philip down while Chapter stayed to close shut the trap door behind them.

The structure Philip lead the pair to was a trio of circular rooms – two smaller bedrooms, one for Philips and one for The Book, and a much larger, central room that acted as a massive library of old text; not only that, though – what looked to be a training area, complete with weapon racks, dummies, weights and just about the exact amount of space Vassilis would need to use them all.

Cold and bare, the gray concrete walls felt like the lifeless bodies that inhabited them; Vassilis could feel a resentment welling up in his throat almost. Why had it taken these fuckers so long to bring him into their fold? Hadn’t that been the reason he’d taken such a dumb fucking name like The Prose?

Arthur Schonberg’s String Quartet No. 3 danced around the heavy, Sanctorum air, piped in from a record player in one of the offshoot rooms.

“Welcome to Americus Sanctorum,” Philip said with a deep bow, even though he struggled up from the gesture. “Might I offer you some tea?”

Both Chapter and Prose shook their heads.

“Excellent. Good day.”

Spoken like he’d intended to storm off, Philip shuffled away as fast as his sickly and atrophied legs could carry him.

“What the fuck is this?” Vassilis asked.

“This is the Americus Sanctorum-” Chapter tried to proclaim with a grand gesture.

“I thought I was coming here to speak with The Book.” The impatient immortal said.

“Hah. No,” Amused by the notion, Chapter moved toward the training area, grabbing for a rapier at one of the weapon racks. “No, this is where you’re going to train.”

“I know how to fight.”

“Like a bum.” Chapter insisted.

The college student sighed, trying to rub away the hangover that seemed to persist. Usually they’d gone away already, but Vassilis knew he had a lot on his mind – and so soon before the semester even began.

“I thought you were teaching me magicks.”

“I am,” Chapter nodded, moving through several sets of fencing basics like a second nature whim. “But, you need a space to train physically that’s not Gold’s Gym or somewhere silly. Or do you just run out into the night cold, hoping the more bad guys you beat up, the better you’ll get?”

Thoroughly shut up, Vassilis let out an annoyed groan and found a table to set his things down on.

“We’re into magicks and shit, don’t we believe in a day of rest?” Vassilis asked.

“You’ll rest when you’re dead, kiddo.” Chapter smiled.

V’s Apartment. U Pi English/Lit Campus,
Up City District, Pi City, Wyoming


“No way you were off in the library fucking studying,” Harper espoused their disbelieve in that mousy squeak they called a voice. “It’s Saturday, my dude, and you were gone for like eight hours.”

“Well when you flunk outta college once and come back the year you should be graduating, you kinda have to get your stupid shit together.” Vassilis explained calmly, smoking from Harper’s glass bong.

For the first time since his roommates had moved in, Vassilis had stopped to chill in their apartment’s simple common area; cheap, matching brown couch and reclining chair, a coffee table, Harper’s TV and PS4, window looking out onto the busy street and campus across from them.

Vassilis, on the couch, lounged with Harper’s bong in one hand and a textbook titled, “Hatshepsut and Ancient Egyptian Gender Barriers” in the other – reading material for one of his classes not taught by Professor Pittier in the coming semester. Harper sat cross-legged on the carpeted floor, controller in hand as they played through one of the remade Crash Bandicoot games. Josh had his laptop in its appropriate position as he hunched over in the recliner chair, typing away at some inane argument on some internet instant-messenger called discord.

“Didn’t somebody at the party yell at you last night ‘cuz you tried to take one of their empty kegs to drink the swill from?” Harper asked, for the sake of clarification.

“I don’t believe in waste.” Vassilis replied, handing the bong over to Harper and returning his attention to his book.

“Can you believe this?” Josh asked, scoffing. “People are crazy. They just never know what they’re talking about.”

“Buddy what are you talking about?” Vassilis asked, his focus still maintained on his book.

“There’s these shit-heads on G’s discord server claiming that she cheated in her last speedrun!” Josh explained, as if he were surprised his roommate was unaware of the fact. “Just total dorks who are trying to take an accomplishment away from an amazing woman. I mean she’s been working on this for months now and these dicks are just gonna say G “pulled a Dream” and manipulated her save files. It’s detestable. I detest them! We’ve been arguing on discord for four days now.”

“G?” Vassilis asked, gears turning in his head.

“Only the best streamer in the world!” Josh replied. “I told you about her, when I first got in!”

“G.” Vassilis repeated, wracking his brain.

“She mostly plays League, but she’s so good at lots of things!” Josh prattled. “I really like her speedruns most of all though. Her Resident Evil 3 run is really getting incredible, and I could watch her play Ocarina of Time all day. She just started those for fun and she’s super good at them. Whatever she puts her mind to, she can do!”

“I think I ended up at a girl named G’s apartment last night.” Vassilis said, his face still buried deep in his book.

“You what!?” Josh cried out. “W-we-b-but I– that can’t be- that’s just…it’s gotta be a different G. I know there was a thing about her going to U Pi b-but–”

“She said something about “streamers” but I thought she was talking about streamers for her party,” The indifferent immortal shrugged. “Nice girl though. Seemed a bit out of it. Ever tried to tell yourself you wanna do something when you don’t? Yeah, like that.”

“I can’t believe you met G, man, that’s so insane!” Josh sprung up from his seat holding his laptop in one hand, shuffling away toward his room. “Man, they’ll definitely make me a mod on the server for this! Then I’ll ban that stupid GPleaseBoofMe7 and there’s nothing he can do about it he-he-he-he-he–”

As Josh retreated back to his room, the apartment’s front door opened and shut, with a pair of hushed voices betrayed by their own, stomping shoes; Pat had returned, and with company. Vassilis could hear the two, giggling like they were in on some grand secret.

“Hey everyone,” Pat said after a few seconds, presumably of him and his date taking off their shoes and putting their coats up on the coat-rack Josh had brought. “I brought home a friend. Her name is–”

“Sarah.” Vassilis finished, looking away from his book and over his shoulder at the entering duo.

Sarah, the High Peaks bartender; slender and tall, body like a ballet dancer with a smile that carried its own orbit. Vassilis would recognize that waist anywhere.

“Oh,” She said, taken aback just a little bit. “Hey, Vassilis.”

“You two know each other?” Pat asked, surprised at the coincidence.

“That bar I told you about is where she works,” He pointed out, trying to casually return to his book. “I go in every so often to look a fool, pay her to withstand the company.”

“Well hopefully you’re a good tipper,” Pat grinned. “Sarah told me about some of the schmucks always trying to schmooze her at work. Usually stingy bastards, too.”

“Vassilis is one of the good ones.” Sarah said, a little quietly.

“I am neither good, or bad,” He replied, hiding once more behind his textbook. “I am simply here.”

Somewhere in the South Slice.
South Slice District, Pi City, Wyoming


The intention had never been to go out a second night in a row, but Vassilis chose to ditch his apartment about the instant Pat and Sarah got back in; he set foot in “Argo”, turned the key and set sail to the sounds of a “Signals Midwest” album.

Driving east through the Hermes District and down to the South Slice, Vassilis tried to get a feel for the layout – the minute ways its map gridding differed from the northern Up City. Four years prior, the recent immortal hadn't explored the Slice in any significant fashion – but it was impossible to ignore its deep mafia roots, and the stranglehold Godfather Gerold “Bald Gerold” Garibaldi had over the area.

It was hard to see at points, too; the South Slice had a lot of businesses - local, state and country-wide - in its midsection, with apartments and parking garages and banks to accommodate the workers. Some high-end restaurants and shops trickled over from the richer Inner Circle – French food, German cars, Swiss jewelry. One day in the rich end of the Slice would cost Vassilis half-a-year’s rent just to keep up.

Travel further through the Slice, though, and the story would change; the closer to the poor Ripple District the Slice got, the closer the factories and warehouses were, the smaller the houses, the narrower the streets. A smoke filled the air in a way it hadn’t just three blocks north. People in Pi City called it the "South Slice Slum-line", because just a few blocks of the actual Slice stood in between the ritzy Inner Circle champagne party side of the district, and the garbage can fires and bread lines of the Ripple side.

In a way, though, it remained a charming scene; stands sold arrays of fruits, vegetables, hot dogs, pirated movies, hats, fake furs and purses. People hocked goods to passing cars in the street, haggled prices to their neighbors and anyone who might listen. It became near impossible to tell if someone was housed but wandering about trying to make a buck, or homeless and in desperate need of the cash.

Unlike the parking garages of the South Slice’s better half, the Ripple-Slice had dirt and gravel parking lots that could hardly fit a car extra, where there was any vacancy at all. Vassilis found the best spot he could - paying $20 for 4 hours - and wandered around for a bit.

The Prose traveled to grocery stores, bars, restaurants, a cobbler, a watchmaker, a funeral home, any business he could to try and get a feel for the Garibaldi’s racketeering business; as he’d suspected, the tight-lipped silence of everyone only tipped him off further that they were scared into silence, paying for “protection” just like the Italians had been doing since the Depression.

Feeling slightly emboldened, he set about knocking on apartment doors and house doors alike, asking anyone who would bother to answer about the Garibaldi’s; sometimes he pretended to be a cop (nobody ever asked to see a badge, just slammed the door in his face), sometimes he played the p.i (similar result), sometimes Vassilis said nothing at all but that he was looking to get in touch with “that Bald dude”. He figured if that joke went over their heads, there’d at least be some other bald schmuck in the gang who would fall for the bait.

Somewhere west of Paddock Lane and Levianeer Road, Vassilis continued his short canvassing campaign. Heading down Levianeer Road, his eye turned toward a slim, brick apartment building, which had but maybe two apartments for each of its four floors. He was able to just walk into the main floor of the place, which as he suspected was just a narrow, carpeted hall with two doors on either side, and a staircase leading to the next floor, which wrapped around and went up to the third.

Except Vassilis could hear a panicked, worried voice and ragged breathing from the apartment on his left. Feeling a sudden sense of urgency, he turned to face the door, took a good look at the thin wood and weak hinges and kicked the damn thing open.

The girl screamed, and Vassilis could see Caroline’s face for a second, just before reality took over and he saw a stranger again. She was clinging to the crumpled body of a sweat-stained, unconscious man – and then, for a second, Vassilis saw his own face on the man’s. He paused.

“W-w-who are you?” She asked, crying, confused. “Get away!”

“Stop,” The Prose warned. “I’m here to help. Please.”

Though the girl refused to move she didn’t seem to object to Vassilis getting closer, which he did to get a better look at the condition the man was in. It didn’t take long, though, for him to put two-and-two together.

“How long has he been like this?” Vassilis asked.

“I-I…c-couple of minutes.” She whispered, slumping off of the man’s body with a grieved sob.


She nodded.

Reaching into a coat pocket, Vassilis pulled out a bottle of Narcan nasal spray, his thumb pressed against the red plunger and index and middle fingers steadying the nozzle. With his free hand, he tilted the man’s head back then moved his hand to steady the man’s neck. Vassily put the nozzle carefully into the man’s left nostril, up til his knuckles touched nose; then, he pressed in with his thumb on the plunger, administering the naloxone. Once it was done, he turned the man to the side, finding a nearby tablecloth to act as a pillow.

Though the unconscious man had gone from not breathing at all to breathing with some difficulty, he’d not woken up. Vassilis stayed by the man’s side a moment, on his knees.

“Miss?” He asked.


“He might need another dose in a few minutes, if the police aren’t here,” Vassilis said, taking out more narcan. “Could you give it to him, if he needs it?”

“Are you…leaving?” She sounded confused. It wasn’t often random men broke down your door to save your boyfriend’s life.

“I…can’t be seen here,” He said, shrugging. “Sorry. And do you have a back door?”

“Why?” The girl asked, pointing behind her, past what seemed to be a kitchen.

"Well, I think some people tailed me.”

“Tailed you?”



“You know the Garibaldi family?”

“Of course,” She nodded. “If you don’t work for them here, you pay them. Simple as that.”

“What do you do?” Vassilis asked.

He hadn’t noticed the cell phone in her hands before, when she was sobbing over the soon-to-be-corpse of her boyfriend.

“I’m…a waitress.” The girl lied.

“Have you heard anything from the cops?” He motioned toward her phone.

“...No.” She was honest about that, if for the wrong reasons.

By the time the woman had pulled a switchblade from her purse, Vassilis was out the door and bounding up the stairs – choosing to leap three, four at a time as opposed to just running. Just as he was turning the corner at the top of the first flight, the apartment’s front and back doors burst open, soon filled by the sound of a raging crowd of Italians. Maybe a half dozen or so, rushing up behind him.

It didn’t take long for Prose to run to the top of the apartment building. He’d just have to…leap across several roof-tops, get down, then flee several blocks to his car – all without being seen by some Garibaldi rat to turn him over.

Maybe he wasn’t quite as ready to draw attention as he’d expected; maybe he’d been brash in assuming Bald Gerold would be too busy to deal with the likes of him.

“There he is!” One of the Garibaldi’s yelled. Vassilis had taken his damn time trying to plot his route out. He wasn’t as familiar with South Slice geography, so he’d hesitated just a bit longer. “He’s gonna jump!”

Jump he fucking did, a long leap across maybe eight feet of gap between the brick apartment building and the next, which was maybe a story lower. Only three of the lumbering Garibaldis bothered to follow after he jumped, the rest presumably figuring to follow from the street below. Which would end up being a problem, if he couldn’t make distance between them via the high ground.

Feeling he had no other choice, Vassilis stuck to that high ground, giving time if he had to scale up a story or two just in order to stay off the ground where he was sure Garibaldi’s goons had coagulated; he fled via South Slice rooftops for almost a mile by the time those rooftops gave way to an open, incomplete construction lot. The sign near the entrance read: Tony Garibaldi Construction Company – Garibaldi Towers coming soon!

Vassilis used his chance to climb to the bottom, passing through skeletal structures of metal pipes, wires and wood, all connected via elaborate scaffolding. But at the bottom, a trio of long, black sedans with their windows tinted dark as night blocked off the exit he’d headed for. All the goons from before and more stepped out, their bodies illuminated only by their cars’ headlights, with a bit of meager backlighting from the construction lot.

He did his best to take a full view of the developing situation: eight, large, Italian oafs and one much smaller, Italian oaf, making nine dudes in total, some armed with bats, crowbars, chains, that sort of thing – a simple intimidation tactic at the end of the day. He’d seen just how easy it was to prick the Garibaldis’ finger; any idiot could wander around and push a couple buttons and earn a smackdown. No wonder they’d managed to stay powerful through the 21st century’s first decades, when so many old mafia families had fallen since the 70’s and 80’s: Garibaldi kept a tight leash on his territory, but didn’t rack up the bodies until necessary.

One of the smaller shadows stepped forward, tapping the bat he held against his left hand like he was itching to get up to bat.

“We heard youse been askin’ questions?” The shadow called out.

"Yeah,” Vassilis responded. “What’s the meaning of life?”

“Ever think about askin’ that to yourself while gettin’ buried alive?” The shadow shot back.

“No.” The Prose said, shrugging.

“You see, we gots a ways around here of askin’ questions, not bein’ beholden to answerin’ them.”

“Well I think that’s a little bit hypocritical.” Vassilis said.

“‘Scuse me?” The shadow asked. Vassilis could hear the man’s leather gloves squeeze as he gripped his aluminum bat tighter than ever.

“Well if you’re not beholden to answering any questions, why should others be beholden to answering yours?” Vassilis asked.

“Okay, kid,” Almost seeing the stubborn logic in that, the shadow gangster relented, holding up his free, left hand as if an offering of peace. “If you’re gonna be askin’ ‘em anyway, I might as well be answerin’. You get one question. But you gotta give one answer.”

“Sure,” Vassilis shrugged. “I get to go first.”

“Yeah, yeah, hurry up.”

“Do they call him Bald Gerold because he’s actually bald,” Vassilis asked, deadpan. “Or because it’s funny to say, since his last name is Garibaldi?”

“Are you fuckin’ stupid?” The shadow asked back, dumbfounded.

“Was that your question? I sort’ve expected your answer first, then you do your question–”

“See this is what I get for giving some stupid motherfucker the benefit of the doubt,” The negotiating gangster grumbled. “Beat the shit outta him, boyos."
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