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I hate getting gas on the way to work, and I try not to if I can help it. It’s so early in the morning and always still dark out. My husband would take my SUV out to fill it up in the evenings (happy for a reason to pop in at the convenience store and buy himself some smokes), but I have to let him know when that gauge is nearing empty. I had just started out my drive this morning for my long commute when the dreaded fuel light blinks on. I swing into my usual station to fill ‘er up.
Tired, I wish I could have stayed in bed this morning and I lean against the driver’s side door. Setting the gas nozzle to automatic pump, I drearily watch the numbers scroll up as my tank fills up. Usually I look around while it pumps, checking for people who might steal my purse from inside the SUV.
Usually. But not today.
I never even saw it coming. I think it was a taser. It felt like a boulder dropped on me.
When I wake up, I’m tied to a chair; legs to legs, arms to arms. A gag is covering my mouth and I begin breathing fast as I look around in a panic. At least my nose isn’t covered. But I guess I wouldn’t have woken at all if that was the case. It looks as if I’m in a storage warehouse or some windowless room. Something’s causing a small light behind me but I can’t turn my head around that much to see what it is. It casts a low glow on the room in front of me and as my eyes adjust to the darker environment, I want to scream.
There’s a length of thick chain hanging from the ceiling, an open set of thick leather wrist straps dangling from the last link. Below that is a drain and I swear it’s dried blood staining the floor around it. Straining my eyes against the darkness I see the shine of stainless steel on a bench or table beyond the chain, the shine of very sharp blades; a lot of them.
I’m in a fucking torture chamber.
Many minutes later, I hear footsteps coming closer. They’re muffled by a door that is opened only seconds later. Overhead lights blink on in a blinding flash. The sudden light hurts my eyes so I have to squint and look down. I’m shaking so much my earrings are making tiny tinkling sounds in my ears. Besides that, all I hear are footsteps as they continue into the room and stop in front of me. I’m looking down as a pair of cowboy boots and jeans come into view. They turn to face me. Slowly I look up, afraid to close my eyes, even though I don’t really want to see it coming if I’m to die right now. My eyes are quickly adjusting to the bright light better than I want.
Brown cowboy boots, jeans with a leather belt, then a dark T-shirt with something on the front (I’m much too afraid to read or care what it says), then up to his face. I knew it would be a man by stride and weight of his footfalls. I expected to see a monster, but he was just an ordinary looking man, maybe even on the handsome side. His blond hair was short and curly and his blue eyes bore into mine. There isn’t a hint of emotion on his face and I start crying. He takes a step back and tilts his head to both sides, as if inspecting me.
“So you’re into horror? Zombies?” he queries as he pulls over another chair to sit down in front of me.
At first, I’m frozen, but then I slowly nod. What does it matter what he thinks of me?
“I saw all those zombie decals on your back window. That’s why I chose you.”
“I found some business cards in the CD holder on your visor,” he looks at me strangely. “The name on it is the same as on your driver’s license. I followed the link and found a website to horror books. You wrote those? That’s really you?”
Yeah, and I’m probably going to die more horribly than I’d ever killed anyone in my books and stories.
I nod my head vigorously, tears flying from my cheeks. He just stares at me, and then his face breaks out into a huge grin.
“I love horror!”
He pulls his chair closer to me and I push back in my chair, as if I could get away from him.
“I never met a real author before!” he beams. “I just downloaded one of your stories and I’m going to read it right now. Do you have to go to the bathroom?”
What the fuck? Was he afraid I’d soil myself while he cut me up? He’s got a damn drain!
He sits expectantly, waiting for my answer so I shake my head. He jumps up and pulls his chair back away from me.
“You sit tight. I’m going to go read it. I’ll bring you something to drink when I’m done.”
He runs out of the room and shuts the door behind him.
Not only am I scared, now I’m very confused. Did my zombie stickers make him want to kill a horror writer or was he going serious fanboy on me? Now that the light is on, I look around more, hoping something in the room can help me escape; that is if I could get off this chair. Without my hands free to wipe my nose, a runner of snot runs down from my right nostril. I can feel it pooling on the top edge of the gag. I want to wipe it so badly. Hell, I just want to have the freedom to do it.
Now that it’s brighter, I can better see what’s on the workbench by the chain. I’m seeing it from an angle since I’m seated, but a hacksaw looks like a hacksaw, no matter what view it’s from. I was right about the blades. One looks like a huge bowie knife and there are a couple others half that size. There’s a jigsaw plugged into the wall and I shudder when I notice it has dried blood on the blade. Hung in brackets on the front are axes of various sizes.
If I don’t get out of here soon, I’m a dead woman.
I wonder why he was reading one of my stories first before coming back to … Oh shit. I’d really hate to die like one of my characters. Is that what he’s doing? Research?
Almost an hour goes by before I hear the sounds of him coming back. His footsteps are rapid, as if he is running.
Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!
“Fuck! That was amazing!” He slams the door and runs up to me, pulling his chair under his ass in two quick movements.
He’s smiling, so I take that as a good sign. I hope.
“I read ‘Retribution’,” he went on. “Holy shit. It was so good I downloaded ‘Pie Bingo: Last Man Standing’ right after I finished it. Then I read that one too. Damn! You’ve got a sick ass mind! How did you come up with those ideas?”
I just stare at him, tilting my head, hinting at my snot-encrusted gag.
“Oh yeah, sorry.”
He stands up and walks behind me. I hold my breath, waiting for the sharp pain of a blade across my throat. Instead, he unties the ropes around my arms then unties the gag and removes it. Using the back of my shaking hand, I wipe my nose and lips. Moving my jaw up and down a few times, I lick my dry lips to moisten them. He quickly sits back down in front of me smiling.
I might have a chance here.
“Thank you,” I say to him, forcing a grateful smile on my face.
Suck it up honey and suck up to him.
“Well, usually I come up with ideas when I’m driving to or from work. It takes me about an hour each way and I listen to music but sometimes my mind wanders. ‘Retribution’ was started after seeing a dumpster next to a building. Simple as that. ‘Pie Bingo’ came about after playing bingo at a local pie shop.”
He bows his head and is quiet; too quiet. I hope I didn’t just mess up my chances. Suddenly he looks up and his smile is gone.
“I gotta tell you,” he begins, “I was planning to hang you up on that chain.” He angles his head and glances up.
My mouth goes dry again and I think my heart skipped a beat.
“But I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to let you live,” he went on. “I want you to write a story. My story; you’re going to be my personal scribe. I’ll get you a laptop but I have to still keep you on the chair.” He looks apologetic as he says this. “Oh, I forgot your drink. Bottle of water okay? Are you hungry?”
“Just thirsty,” I reply hesitantly, afraid it’s a trick. “And I have to use the bathroom now.”
There was no way I’m eating anything of his. Who knew what he did with the flesh of his previous victims.
After a closely guarded bathroom trip, he lets me walk around for about five minutes. I take this time to check out my surroundings. The bathroom is through the wall behind my chair, and the door out of the room is to my left. There are no other doors or windows. My arms and legs are numb from the tight ropes. I limp around until feeling comes back in my legs, and I shake my arms about. Finally, he sits me back down and this time only ties my legs, looser than before but still impossible to escape. He brings me a cold bottle of water (sealed for my protection – I checked). I drink deeply and immediately get brain freeze. I put my hands up to my temples as he walks out and comes back minutes later with a laptop and a small desk. He sets them up right next to me then walks out the door.
“I’ll be back shortly. If you want to start on my story while I’m gone, that would speed things up. My name is Troy.”
After fifteen minutes I realize he must have left, and not just the room. I use my arms to hold my balance and tried to lift my chair from the floor. It moves a couple of inches then stops. Without my arms tied, I’m now able to twist around and see that he has one of the back legs attached to the floor with cables. Stumped, I sit there for a few minutes until I look over at the laptop.
I’m able to turn the chair to face the desk, the legs scraping the floor in a horrible grinding sound. I open the laptop and turn it on. Immediately I click on the IE icon on the desktop.
Service Unavailable, please check your internet connection and try again.
I click on the Connections icon at the bottom but all the available wifi connections that come up have locks by them.
I guess writing my way out of this is my only option. Who knew I’d have to depend on my writing to save my life. I check to make sure he has Word on the laptop and he does. I start a new document and wait for him to come back and tell me his life story. I began typing out notes: description of the room and what has happened to me up to this point. After that, I’m going to write it out exactly as it is, starting as an interview with him, then whatever he tells me. I’d never done non-fiction before. Every bit of horror I’d written were just ideas I had while driving (what I call car-dreams) and nightmares, either mine or someone else’s. How much more horrific will it be hearing first-hand what he’s done to other people; what he had been planning to do to me? Will it shock me, knowing it’s real? It doesn’t matter. If it gets my ass out of here unscathed, I’ll write anything he wants me to.
Over an hour goes by and I begin to wonder where he’s at. My emotions are torn. I don’t want him to come back and change his mind. But on the other hand, if he doesn’t come back, I’ll die here; a long drawn out death of starvation (well, the dehydration will get me first). I regret chugging the bottle of water and want to save the inch or so that’s left. Like that would do much good.
Another half an hour is gone and I’m squirming uncomfortably on the chair. After finishing the last of the water, now I really have to use the bathroom again. I’m holding it, trying to squeeze my thighs together when I hear a door slam somewhere beyond my door. The footsteps come closer and he opens the door and walks in.
“I’m back!” he calls out. “Oh, I see you’ve already started. That’s great. Look what I have for you!”
Troy steps back through the door and bends over. He comes in backward, pulling something that drags along the floor behind him.
Not something, but someone.
I piss myself right there. I barely feel the warmth as it pools under my ass and runs down my legs into my socks. He’s brought in another victim to replace me. The man is unconscious on his back, his arms limp above his head, knuckles scraping along as Troy drags him by his feet. He drops him on top of the drain then walks to the wall beyond the workbench. Until now, I hadn’t noticed that the chain runs through a large loop bolted into the ceiling. I follow the length of it to the wall where Troy stands. One of the links is set on a steel hook bolted into the wall; the remainder of the chain hangs down the wall to lie on the floor. Troy unhooks the link and lowers the chain until the straps are a few inches from his new victim, before inserting a new link onto the hook. He walks back over to the man and put the straps on his wrists, buckling them tight. Back at the wall, he grasps the chain, taking the link from the hook, and begins pulling the chain down. The links make loud metallic clinking sounds as each passes through the ceiling loop. As the victim began rising from the floor I can see Troy’s muscles bulging through his shirt. He is strong and powerful; he has to be to pull a man on a chain up in the air. Hand over hand he slowly pulls down the chain until the man’s toes barely graze the floor. Troy carefully places a link over the hook and steps away to admire his handiwork. The unconscious man sways just a bit as the tips of his shoes gently brush the floor.
Troy turns to me smiling brightly; then his face turns sour.
“What’s that smell?”
I start crying again; sure he’s going to kill me for pissing myself and staining his crazed image of me.
“Oh I’m so sorry,” he apologizes, coming over to me. “I was gone too long and you drank that whole bottle of water.”
He kneels down and begins to untie my legs, oblivious to the urine drying on them. “I have a pair of sweat pants you can wear. I bet you don’t have to go any more though.” He chuckles and I nod, sniffling, “Go ahead and get cleaned up,” he points to the bathroom door.
While I get up, feeling my pants sticking uncomfortably to my legs, he walks to a box that sits against a wall and digs inside for moment. He holds up a pair of grey sweat pants and eyeballs back and forth from them to me.
“I think these will work but I don’t have any panties. Sorry. You’ll have to go commando.”
He tosses them to me and I back into the backroom, afraid to turn my back on him. He only smiles at me so I take a risk and shut the bathroom door. I wait for a moment to see if he’ll come to the door, demanding I open it, but I’m met with silence. By looking around I know he isn’t worried about me escaping. There are no windows and the only door enters into the torture chamber.
The first thing I do is strip out of my urine soaked panties and pants. I grimace when I realize my shoes and socks are ruined as well. My feet get cold easily so I’ll have to ask him for socks. Using the water from the faucet, I wipe down everything below my waist then dry myself with a towel hanging by the sink. As I slide the pants up my legs, two things occur to me. One, I notice there isn’t a single thing inside this small room I can use to help me escape. And two, I shiver as I snug the waist up, wondering who died so I could wear these pants.
I step back into the room, my bare feet slapping on the concrete floor. Dammit, they were already getting cold. I summon up the courage to ask him for socks. He nods in understanding and goes back into the box, pushing things aside to find some. As he does so, I glance to the door, my door to freedom, and wonder if I could outrun him. No way. I look back at him as he stands up with a pair of white crew socks in his hand.
“These will keep your feet warm and cozy.”
Cozy? A serial killer using the word cozy? That’s creepy.
I realize the only way I’m going to live is to play along. Not only do I have to write as if my life depends on it (because it does), but I’ll have to act as if I’m getting into it. Besides, he’ll have to let me go so I can publish it. That seems important to him, that I tell his story for everyone to read. I’ll have to work my expressions and reactions carefully. If I go ‘all in’ too quickly and easily, I think he’ll see right through it. I’ll have to ease into it.
But how to do it and keep the hanging man alive as well? That’s the real question. If I’m going to play along with Troy, I’ll somehow have to let the man know, without him giving it away.
I sit back down in the chair and pull the white warmth over my feet. I notice he’s wiped the floor under the chair and the smell of cleanser is strong.
I bet he has plenty of cleanser around here.
I’m about to turn the chair toward the desk when he puts his hand on the armrest and stops me. He pulls a fresh new piece of rope from his back pocket. Damn, I had hoped he’d actually forgotten. After tying both my legs to the chair, he turns it for me, the legs again scraping the floor, and adjusts me to a good position right in front of the laptop.
I nod and position my fingers over the keyboard. Then it hits me. Troy hasn’t gagged the man yet. If I get a chance to let him know what I’m doing, I have to keep him from blowing it or we’ll both be dead.
“I had a gag when I woke up,” I say to Troy. “Does he need one too?”
“You don’t want to hear him scream?” he asks me, a serious look on this face.
Oh shit, I said the wrong thing.
“Just kidding,” he grins. “I’m going to put it on before he wakes up. I usually enjoy the screams, but when they go on for a long time, they hurt your ears. Especially women with higher pitched screams. Gotta protect your ears. You only get one pair in life.”
What the fuck do I say to that?
I watch as he reaches to his worktable, plucking up a piece of cloth. He folds it precisely and ties it over the man’s mouth. The man’s head is still hanging down. I realize I don’t know his name and I’m typing ‘the man’ repeatedly.
“What’s his name?” I ask Troy.
“That’s a damn good question,” he replies, reaching into the man’s back pocket and pulling out a wallet. “I usually don’t care, but for the sake of history we have to make this right.”
He flips it open, reading the driver’s license.
“His name is Lester Goodson.”
I add that information to my notes at the top of the page.
“Oh look, he’s got a wife and two kids. How adorable.”
He says this so carefree, as if he doesn’t care that he’s ripping a husband and father away from his family. He holds out a picture for me to see. Lester’s wife is at least eight inches shorter than he is; her skin is smooth and dark, hair long and curly. She is gorgeous. His sons are about five and seven and cute as buttons. They are a beautiful family. My heart grows heavy and I hope like hell I’ll be able to save us.
“Now I want to start this out via interview style,” I tell him. “I’ve noted everything that’s happened up to this point. I want to get some background on you. That will be the first chapter. This might end up being a really long short story or a novella.”
“Or maybe a long novel?” he asks hopefully.
“Maybe,” I concede. “Let’s start with what made you decide to uh make your first kill. Now tell me in detail how you did it.”
I really didn’t want all the gory details. Although any time that he isn’t chopping away at Lester, is more time that he’s been missing, and maybe the police are already looking for him. Or me. Yeah, I’m sure I’m already missed by my husband and work as well, I hope. I’m positive there are security cameras at the gas station. They might be out looking for me already. The longer I could stall the better.
“When I was in the third grade …”
I managed to drag Troy’s background out for almost two hours. I type as slow as I can and make him repeat quite a bit so I can get it all. He isn’t angry in the slightest; happy to spend the time on it, only worried that it won’t be perfect. A few minutes before we are done, Lester wakes up. His head is whipping from side to side and now that he is fully awake, he’s in panic mode. His eyes open even wider when he sees the worktable full of blades next to him. His face registers confusion when he sees Troy and I at the laptop. I want to make a gesture to him, let him know I’m on his side but Troy is facing me so I don’t dare. At the first groan beneath the gag, Troy only glances up at him, dismissing him for the moment while I continue to compose his life story.
“Well, we’re finally up to now,” Troy says joyfully, clapping his hands and standing up.
He turns to look at Lester, that strange joy still on his face. I thought Lester might piss himself like I did and his dark face pales. He looks over at me and I stare down at the laptop, fiddling with a word on the screen.
I don’t know if I can really do this. What if Troy kills Lester right in front of me? Would that make me an accessory? It’s not like I can stop him.
“Well, I’m going to go change in to something a little more protective, if you know what I mean,” he says to me, patting me on the head.
I’m just his little pet scribe now. He walks out the door, whistling. I can hear his footsteps get fainter as he walks further away.
I turn to Lester, keeping an ear out for Troy.
“Lester, I’m a prisoner as well.” I point to my bound legs. “That crazy asshole’s got it in his head that I’m supposed to write his life story. I’m trying to figure a way to get us both out of here. Do you understand?”
“I’m going to play along as if I’m getting into it,” I continue. “I don’t want to him to hurt you but I don’t know how to stop him. I tried to drag out writing the story, but he told me all he was going to for now. Now he wants me to write about what he does to you, here and now.”
Lester begins shaking and I look over at the door, listening.
“I’m hoping that you and I have been reported missing and maybe the police are already looking for us. I’ve been stalling but I think I’m running out of time. I don’t know what else to do to stall. So if I act funny, remember it’s just an act. I’ve got to make him believe me. Oh shit, he’s coming. You got it?”
Lester nods again and fear spreads across his face, as Troy’s faint footsteps grow closer.
I realize I haven’t saved the document once since starting, so I quickly name it Troy_Story.doc. I can’t imagine what he will do to me if I lose it all to a computer crash or something. He’ll probably take Lester down and hang me up in his place.
The door opens and Troy steps in. I half expect a white hazmat suit or something more, well more ‘plastic’. Instead, he has on a red sweat suit with elastic covers over his shoes. As he gets closer, I can see faint stains on his clothes.
Red. Blood. This is his killing outfit, probably his favorite. I gulp. I guess I had better write that down.
Lester shakes even more violently, causing his body to swing erratically. Troy calmly puts a hand on his chest to still him. Reaching to the worktable, his other hand hovers a few inches above the top, trying to decide which tool to start with. He picks up a small metal stick that I couldn’t recognize earlier from down in my chair.
I recognize it now. It’s a scalpel.
Moans are audible from beneath Lester’s gag and tears are pouring down his cheeks. I‘m near to crying myself but I hold it in. Troy delicately pulls Lester’s shirt out, plucking the cloth away from his skin. He starts the cut at the shirt’s bottom hem, and then deftly slides the scalpel up the cloth. It makes a whispering sound as it cleanly slices all the way up to Lester’s collar. He pushes the cloth halves to the sides, tucking them in Lester’s waistband, exposing his chest. His nipples become erect as the cool air touches them.
Troy looks over to me and nods as I began typing what I’m seeing. Turning back to Lester, he begins humming as he carefully places the scalpel against Lester’s right breast and shallowly slices down about a foot. Lester screams behind the gag and I quickly wipe a tear that leaks from my right eye before Troy can see.
This shit is real, really real! I want to fucking wake up now!
Blood wells up in the vertical line, pooling into one huge drop before sliding down Lester’s chest.
Troy turns to me, “Isn’t it fascinating how the blood forms like that? Why doesn’t it drip from several places? It’s almost as if the bottom drop is waiting for the others to catch up.”
I tremble as I type that sentence verbatim. He smiles, realizing what I did; happy his original quotes are in the story as well.
“Are you still cold?” he asks me.
He sees me trembling. Shit.
“Yes, actually I am,” I answer and shiver a little more for effect. “Do you have a sweat shirt for me?”
Happily, he puts down the scalpel and goes back to his box, digging for a shirt.
Lester’s tear filled eyes meet mine, and I want to cry.
Troy returns with a bright blue sweatshirt with a dark red stain on the collar. He holds it out, urging me to raise my hands in the air. I close my eyes and do so. He pulls the shirt over my arms and head, carefully pulling my hair out of the collar, then pulls the bottom snug at my waist. I open my eyes and I’m glad I can’t see the stain, sure that it’s blood, from my angle.
With a cheery whistle, Troy picks up the scalpel again and quickly slashes a diagonal cut from above Lester’s right breast down to his lower left abdomen. Lester’s face looks as if has someone punched him in the stomach. This time the blood drips in multiple places, racing down his belly. The many blood rivers that trace downward paths have me memorized. The blood is bright red against Lester’s dark skin. I swallow my saliva, trying to keep down the vomit that threatens to enter my throat.
He was going to do this to me!
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Troy whispers, also entranced by the blood.
Over the next twenty minutes or so, Troy cuts Lester over a dozen times. I realize he is only making shallow cuts and I’m afraid of what the upgrade will be. I type as slow as I can, forcing Troy to wait between each cut, praying that any moment we’ll hear the bullhorn of police announcing their presence.
My prayers are not answered.
Troy sits down in his chair, admiring his work, while I finish typing. I tell him I need to edit what I’ve written as I go. That’s bullshit of course. You don’t worry about editing until you’re done, but he doesn’t know that. It was yet another seemingly useless stall tactic. I just hit ‘Save’ when the screen blinks out and the laptop turns off.
“What happened?” Troy screams.
I pick up the laptop, inspecting it all around even though I don’t have a clue how to fix a laptop. Troy however is freaking out. He jumps up and hurls curses at the ceiling. He picks up a hammer from the table and both Lester and I wince, expecting him to hit one of us. Instead, Troy hammers dents in the walls of the room.
Realizing how long I’d been typing, I suddenly figure out what might have happened.
Loudly I say, “I think the battery just died. Do you have power and extension cords?”
He freezes mid hit and turns to me. Thankfully his anger wasn’t directed at me and slowly relief replaces the rage his face was wearing.
“The battery! I didn’t think of that. It probably wasn’t fully charged,” he smiles, “Remember I didn’t plan on letting you live originally.”
He runs out, presumably to get a power cord, and I look to Lester. The casual way he says that turns my stomach and I almost throw up. Lester’s eyes are sympathetic as he looks at me, although I wouldn’t blame him if he hates me. He’s only up there because Troy decided not to put me there. I don’t know how I’d feel in his position.
Troy runs back in, the power cord and a six-foot long surge strip in his hands. He plugs the surge protector into the wall behind me and inserts the power cord into that. It just barely reaches the laptop. He turns it on, holding his breath like a child. The machine boots up without a problem and he turns to me.
“How much do you think you lost?”
Despite the situation I’m in, I proudly tell him, “I save constantly. I had just saved it before it died.” I scroll the end of the document and show him. “Didn’t lose a thing.”
Troy slaps his thighs, “Well, time to get back to it.”
Lester squeezes his eyes shut, tears dropping from them. I can’t even imagine what he is feeling right now. Troy stands before his workbench and picks up a knife, smaller than the Bowie, but bigger than the scalpel. Muffled screams come from Lester and an idea comes to me.
“What souvenir will you save from him?” I ask him, making my voice as curious as I can. “You do take them, right?”
He halts with his hand on its way to Lester’s arm. “You want to see them?” He becomes excited almost immediately. “I can bring them to you. That would be incredible to have them included in my story!”
He drops the knife back on the table and runs out of the room. Lester’s thankful look just makes me feel worse. I had found another way to stall but would it do us any good?
Troy comes back, so excited he forgets to shut the door behind him. He holds a large sealed Tupperware, and sets it on the desk next to the laptop. While he’s intent on opening it up, I glance past him through the open door.
Dammit, the only thing I can see is a plain white wall.
I glance down at the Tupperware before he notices and stifle my disgust when he opens it. The container is full of small body parts with jewelry attached. There are three fingers, male and female, with rings still snug on them. I see an ear with two stud earrings firmly attached (a diamond and a gold star). Despite my revulsion I look closer at one unidentifiable object with a small steel barbell, finally realizing it’s a pierced tongue. The largest ‘prize’ of all is at the bottom, a dainty woman’s hand with a bracelet encircling the wrist, which ends about two inches from the edge of the palm.
“He has a wedding ring on his finger,” Troy says after looking Lester up and down. “I think that would be perfect. Don’t you think?”
Troy looks to me eagerly, itching for my approval. I notice his eyes go to my earlobes where thin steel gauge hoops hold various silver charms. He looks almost wistful as he looks back into my eyes. Swallowing my loathing, I put on a hesitant smile and nod, intending to look like someone who is curious but can’t believe they really are. He cocks an eyebrow and something gleams in his eyes, as if realizing I’m gaining some interest.
It’s working. I turn back to the laptop.
“Can I put these in the story?” I ask shyly. “I mean, they’ll make it so much better. Did you know their names?”
A huge smile envelopes his face, “I was hoping you’d put them in the story but I don’t care about names. Actions are more important than names. Don’t you think?”
I nod in agreement, as I begin typing out descriptions of the hideous trophies. When I’m done, I look questioningly to him, waiting for those background stories. More stall tactics.
“I pretty much described them to you earlier,” he says, with only mild impatience. “We’ll go back and put them together when we go over the book later.”
He turns back to the workbench and I know I’m out of ideas. He picks up the knife he previously dropped and without a word, slashes Lester’s right arm from bicep to wrist. Lester turns his face up and screams through the gag. This is going to end badly for Lester if I don’t think of something quick.
I gasp softly, as if in pleasure, and then cover my mouth as though embarrassed. Troy turns towards me, pure happiness lights up his face.
“You do like it!” he exclaims. “I knew you would if I gave you a chance. It’s not always easy to admit, but there’s a dark side to everyone and I knew I’d find yours. I saw how you looked at my box.”
He makes a mirrored cut down Lester’s left arm. Both cuts were deeper than the scalpel cuts and blood pours down both arms to drip on the floor. I make myself stare while he does it, opening my mouth just so slightly, breathing hard.
I really want to vomit.
I can see Troy watching me from the corner of his eye and I want it to be good. I’d never done well as a thespian but today I could win an Academy Award.
Suddenly Troy kneels at my feet and cuts the ropes holding my legs.
I look up, asking permission to stand and he nods. I slowly stand, dancing back and forth to get the blood moving in my legs again.
“You’re ready.” He says to me softly.
He leans in and kisses me on the lips, gentle and soft, and I kiss him back. I want to spit or wipe my lips on my sleeve but I suppress it, instead smiling shyly at him. He takes my hand and positions me in front of Lester. Taking the hand he’s holding, he places the knife on my palm, closing my fingers gently around it. I look down reverently at it.
Every expression, sound, and word, make him believe I want this.
I turn to face Lester, looking him in the eyes. Since Troy is to my right, I tilt my head just a fraction, briefly rising then dropping my left eyebrow, Vulcan style. I hope Lester gets the hint. I raise my knife hand to his chest and he turns his face away from me, tears pouring down his cheeks, moaning. I think he’s steeling himself for what he knows I must do. I place the blade on his skin, pushing just a bit then back off, shaking my head, showing nervousness I don’t have to fake. I look back to Troy and he smiles and nods encouraging at me. He knows my first will be hard to do. I also know that my first cut, shallow and short, won’t alert his suspicions; my hesitation is perfectly justified. However, after that, I don’t know what to do. Grimacing slightly, I puncture Lester’s skin and draw the knife down between Troy’s previous cuts. Lester screams again. It’s only a few inches long and jagged. Not very ‘pretty’ by a precise killer’s standards and I turn to Troy for his approval. He smiles even wider. I have done well for my first time. He steps up next to me and takes the knife from my hand.
He continues my cut further and deeper and Lester’s head wobbles and his eye are fluttering. I’m afraid he’s passed out.
“This knife is too small,” Troy decrees, walking around to my left, and tossing it on the workbench.
He picks up the large Bowie knife and hands it to me. I adjust the handle so it feels good and strong in my hand. Lester opens his eyes and they widen again as I lift the knife.
Troy looks as if he’s in the throes of passion but his face quickly changes as I swing the knife around and bury it in his throat. Lester makes a sound behind the gag that sounds like a cheer. Troy’s hands go to his throat. He tries to grab the handle but as soon as he touches it, he falls to his knees to the floor. I step back, out of his arms’ reach. He wavers for a moment then falls to the side.
I don’t waste any time. I move the laptop to my chair and push the desk under Lester. He gets his feet planted on it and stands up, loosening the chain. I run to the wall and unhook it from the link. Lester somehow musters some strength and pulls down on the chain, the excess links drooping next to him. He sits down on the desk and holds out his wrists so I can undo the straps. Then he pulls down the gag. Carefully he slides off the desk and stands unsteadily, holding my arm for balance. He looks down at me and I’m crying because of what I did to him. He smiles and pulls me into an embrace.
“We need to get out of here,” he says.
It’s the first time I hear his voice.
We take two steps toward the door and hear a noise behind us. As we turn, we see Troy already up on one knee, trying to stand, using the desk to help him up. The knife in his throat has plugged the hole so he isn’t bleeding as fast as I’d hoped. I suddenly wish I’d slashed it instead. With a powerful swing of his fist, he knocks Lester to the ground.
He only has eyes for me. I’m the one who tricked him, betrayed him. He wants me.
Before I can back away, he puts his hands around my neck and squeezes. I close my eyes in pain and my tongue protrudes from my mouth. Now I understand why this happens in the movies; it’s an involuntary reflex. He crushes painfully and I think everything I did was for nothing.
“Hey you!” Lester yells. “How important is this to you?”
Troy turns, lightening up the hold on my neck a bit, and I open my eyes at the same time Troy sees Lester.
He is holding the laptop above his head.
“No!” Troy screams inaudibly.
I guess I really did a number on his throat. Oh well, tit for tat.
Lester laughs manically and slams the laptop edgewise on the concrete. It bursts into a shower of plastic and electronics.
I feel the hands leave my throat completely and I cough harshly as I sink to the ground, trying to suck in as much air as I can. Troy is on his hands and knees, frantically trying to pick up the pieces of the destroyed laptop. Waving my hand, I point wildly to Lester then to the workbench. I still can’t vocalize. He runs to it and picks the largest axe from its bracket and stands over Troy. He looks at me and I nod vigorously. Taking aim, he brings it down on the back of Troy’s head. It lands with a meaty thud and Troy drops to floor amid the rubble. Lester walks back over to me and kneels down. We hold each other again for a moment.
“I’m sorry,” I croak. “I hurt you. I tried not to.”
Lester smiles, “We’re both alive, and trust me, your little cut was nothing compared to what he did to me.”
I smile back, “And what he did to you was nothing compared to what we did to him.”
We get to our feet and hold each other up as we walk out the door. Troy will never torture or kill another human being again.