He played it clever. That's why he was still in the game. Why they never caught him. He did his work far from home. Never where he lived. Not ever. The safest place to be from him was living next door.
Until last night. Until his neighbors had been found hung by their own intestines, their organs left preserved in jars lined up on the kitchen counter. His signature, right down to the order of the organs' placement. The news was already reporting the murder as "clearly the work of the so-called Surgeon."
But he hadn't killed his neighbors. He never killed where he lived. Not ever.
His hand shook as he opened his front door. He had already shut the door behind him when he realized someone else was in his house. And he knew, just with one look, that the young man in his living room was another killer.
Before he could even think, the younger man had sliced his belly open. He stumbled backward into his favorite armchair. This couldn't be happening. All the times I'd done this to people, how could I be... an idea struck him.
"Vih-vih-vigilante?" he managed to croak out. He wasn't long for this world, but he knew he still had some time left. From what he knew of his victims, that time would be spent in agony. Someone's form of justice, he supposed.
"You clearly don't follow the news." The young man's voice was cold, detached. Is this what he sounded like to his victims?
"I don't... un...derstand." He was bleeding out, and desperately trying to keep his intestines in. He knew he wouldn't, though. But at least now he knew why everyone always tried.
"Others of our profession have met similar ends," the young man said, coming to stand over him. "Killed by their own methods. Your butcher friend, up in Ohio, for example."
He knew who he was facing then. The one who had them all nervous. There'd been plenty of hunters, of course. Every killer ran across them eventually. Tortured souls left behind by a victim who dedicate their lives to hunting down killers. One of his hunters had actually worn a costume. He would have laughed at the memory as he often did, if his lungs were working properly.
No, this one made them all nervous because he didn't act like a hunter. He acted like one of them, a killer that killed his own. He'd heard the police had captured him. Apparently, he’d heard wrong.
"Apprentice," he said.
"That's the name they gave me," came the answer.
"So, I'm your latest 'mentor'?" That's what the few notes to the police had called his victims.
"Yes." The Apprentice taped his mentor's hands together, and gagged him. "I've mastered your methods, killed as your proxy, and will now do you the honor of taking your life in your name." He pulled his bound prisoner's intestines out and began looping them around his neck.
"But I did want to add, on a personal level, just how much I've enjoyed your work."