Born in the dust-ridden badlands of the American Midwest, Caleb Quinn was son to struggling Irish immigrants. On the edge of the frontier, sickness, famine, and death were common sights, and pioneers contended for whatever scraps they could claim while tycoons feasted. Caleb's father, once an engineer, had few options to ply his trade as businesses posted a common sign: No Irish Need Apply. His antiquated tools laid untouched for years until Caleb uncovered them. Noticing his son’s interest in the trade, he gifted him his old wrench.
The devices Caleb made under his father’s guidance had quaint applications, but when his father was away, they took a grim turn. He hid plans for a mask that would gouge barbed needles into a human’s eyes and rip them from their sockets, complete with sketches of it fitted on boys who bullied him.
With age, Caleb's engineering abilities became marketable and employers put their discrimination aside. Henry Bayshore, the owner of United West Rail, hired him.
Caleb first invented a gun that shot railroad spikes into the ground. Next, he made a steam-powered tunneling drill. But as Bayshore feigned indifference, the devices began turning up at other companies, the patents stolen from Caleb and sold.
A familiar sensation coursed through Caleb's blood, feeding the sharp pain in his heart. Rage overwhelming him, he burst into Bayshore’s office and smashed his face into a bloody stew. As he was pulled away, he pushed his specialized gun to his boss’ gut and squeezed the trigger. A railroad spike plowed through skin and viscera, nailing Bayshore to his desk.
The only thing that saved Caleb from hanging was Bayshore's unlikely survival. For fifteen years, Caleb was confined to Hellshire Penitentiary, the nation’s first private prison. In a fortress of illiterate convicts, he found an unlikely friend in the educated prison warden. He designed torture devices for him and in return received extra meals. After a time, the warden offered to commute his sentence. He spoke of something greater than monetary wealth—political capital—and that his connections could have Bayshore framed and rotting behind bars for life. He had only one request: Make him rich. Fill the prison. Use ingenuity to bring outlaws in alive.
Caleb returned to his workshop, and with a few modifications emerged with something new—the speargun. The first trial occurred when a thief robbed a Chinese laundry. Seizing on the opportunity, Caleb unleashed his prototype. Metal joints screeched as the spike shot forward, gouging into the target's abdomen. But as the spear tugged it caught the thief's intestines and, with an ungodly sound, yanked them onto the dusty road. After several iterations the disembowelments dwindled, but Caleb had already earned his new nickname: The Deathslinger.
Looking to protect his asset, the prison warden pulled strings and released Irish inmates to form Caleb's posse. The Hellshire Gang was born. For six years they roamed the country collecting wanted outlaws for the prison, fulfilling their end of the bargain. After a bloody battle at Glenvale, Caleb caught notice of a newspaper headline: Henry Bayshore Purchases Hellshire Penitentiary. In the picture, a disfigured Bayshore proudly shook the warden’s hand. Caleb's heart pounded with rage, blood swelling as if it would burst from his veins. He’d been sold out, a pawn in a rich man's game.
The Hellshire Gang pledged their loyalty to Caleb and called for the warden’s head. In a thundering gallop, they smashed through the prison entrance, shrieking like bloodthirsty marauders. A guard raised his pistol but hesitated. A spear punctured his chest. Caleb grabbed the man's head and slammed it against a prison cell until it spilled through the bars.
Reaching the warden's office, Caleb kicked the door and was met with a fortunate sight—it wasn’t only the prison warden who cowered in a corner, but Henry Bayshore. Overpowered with rage, Caleb rushed Bayshore, beating, bludgeoning, tearing at his flesh. The man's blood dripped from his face, crimson pooling at his feet. The Hellshire Gang swarmed the warden, snapping bones with each kick.
With the two men broken and begging for death, the posse dragged them to the commons where they were left to the growing crowd of prisoners.
Soaked in blood and sweat, Caleb hobbled to his old cell, hardly paying notice to Bayshore’s screams. He sat on the bed’s edge as drops of blood ran from his fingertips. A thick, unnatural fog streamed through the barred window. He pulled out his old wrench, cracked and rusted, and ran a thumb along the metal, regarding it with faded eyes. He couldn’t remember when it came into his possession. He didn’t care to remember. At his feet he saw a dusty path, and, at its end, silhouettes of all who had done him wrong: the boys who bullied him, the executives who took advantage of him, and, again... Henry Bayshore. Emerging from a fog were the tools to dispose of them—unforgiving steel hooks, brilliant and beautiful in their simplicity. Pain tore through his leg as he stood but he endured, pushing onward, walking the dusty path, leaving a trail of blood flowing behind him.
See you in the fog.
Growing up in a Lebanese household in Brooklyn, Zarina struggled with two unique cultural identities. She felt this cultural difference painted a target on her back. To avoid ridicule and bullies, she observed what popular kids liked and learned to project the image they preferred. At school, she would go by the name "Karina," dye her hair lighter, and trash her “foreign” lunches.
At home, the news channel was always on. Urgent reports of injustice captivated Zarina, inspiring her to produce her own stories. When she was a teenager, she embraced her real name and roots and borrowed her father’s digital camera to interview members of her community in Bay Ridge. By posting her content online, she slowly built a loyal following. Each week, she picked a new issue and challenged people to speak their mind on camera.
When she heard a rumor that a fast-food restaurant owner was exploiting workers, she decided to go undercover and produce a hard-hitting film. She modified her look, faked an accent, and secured a waitress position at the restaurant. After three weeks of unpaid work, she was fired for demanding her paycheck. To retaliate, she posted clips of the restaurant owner’s abusive behavior and within hours the news had picked up her story, but somehow spun it to create sympathy for the restaurant owner.
Embittered by the experience, Zarina committed to become an independent producer and filmmaker. Her first feature film was for a competition at school inspired by an English class poem about Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian migrants controversially executed for murder. Her film won first prize and launched her as an uncompromising documentary filmmaker.
Months later, her world turned upside down. A public video surveillance camera filmed her father carrying two coffees at a street corner a few blocks from home. A tall, hooded man stood behind him. The man shouted something at her father who took a step back, startled. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the man pushed him in the street as a car sped by.
His death sent a shockwave of anger and pain that left Zarina in pieces.
The perpetrator—Clark Stevenson—was soon arrested and incarcerated for manslaughter.
Zarina became obsessed with Clark--his gang “IR-28”, his short prison sentence, his apparent lack of remorse. A year went by and she had uncovered enough about Clark to shed more light on his crime. With the last of her inheritance she bought a new camera and a plane ticket to Nebraska and bribed the warden at Hellshire Penitentiary to let her interview Clark.
She filmed their first meeting and asked him about her father and his gang and his violent tendencies. Clark refused to talk; but, in the weeks that followed, she used her research to push his buttons and finally got a confession of a pre-meditated crime.
Zarina’s film became a tribute to her father and the trail of blood left by gang violence. When the news finally picked up the story, it was because the film had gained international acclaim.
Some inmates contacted her when they heard about her documentary. Most of them shared eccentric anecdotes in hopes of being filmed, but one story stood out from the rest: an entire wing in Hellshire Penitentiary was sealed off because of the “Mad Mick Massacre.” The official story was an Irish outlaw had heartlessly slaughtered the warden and his guards.
From working on her Sacco and Vanzetti film, Zarina knew that the ‘official’ story wasn’t always the ‘true’ story. She investigated Hellshire’s records and found an Irish born inmate sentenced to fifteen years for assault in 1860. According to the penitentiary’s blueprint, the sealed off wing was part of Hellshire’s original infrastructure. If she reached that sealed off section, she could shed some light on the Mad Mick story. All she needed was a way in.
Next morning, she was joining the Hellshire Penitentiary walking tour. She blended in the crowd of jet-lagged tourists and veered off when they headed toward the kitchen. She’d memorized the blueprint and knew exactly where to go and how to avoid surveillance cameras. An unexpected security detail nearly cut her investigation short, but she was able to hide under an old, dusty prison bed. When the guards disappeared, she continued her search and finally found Mick’s cell.
Entering the dark, dilapidated cell, Zarina ran her hand across the old brick wall. Her fingers felt a marking and traced the letters: DEATH TO BAYSHORE. A loose brick fell, revealing a gap.
She inserted her hand. Fingers landed on a piece of cold, cracked metal. She fished it out… an old, rusty wrench. A damp chill ran down her spine and she looked down; a man lay at her feet, bleeding, his limbs contorted and his eyes, dark and terrified—her father’s eyes. A pool of crimson blood on black pavement. Paralyzed, black fog filled the cell and she shut her eyes to push these nightmarish visions out of her mind.