“What do you mean, my family?”
“Your wife, grown up children, their families, how far do you want us to go?”
If what had gone before was horrific this was worse, the flat way this attractive, elegant and educated woman uttered the words completed his disintegration. Insults, threats, promises, he knew he was wasting his breath; there was something diabolical about her, something hidden beneath. Not just a professional doing a job, nor even a fanatic on a mission, but something else. The names, their details, all spilled out; she told him to slow down, she didn’t want to miss anything.
Sam looked at the woman he called Miss Helena. She had been a revelation, focused, clear, decisive, icy nerved, had even insisted on taking the lump hammer. There was something slightly terrifying about her, such intensity, even Georgy displayed nothing like it. He looked back at the man; the kneecap was black and purple, distending and swelling, must be at least a partial fracture. He was broken now, had never experienced anything like this up close, was clearly just used to telling other people to do his dirty work, hiding in the shadows, never having to see it with his own eyes, hear the sounds, carrying its echoes with him for months, years, afterwards. Well, the biter was bit, almost certainly fatally if her mood was anything to go by.
The prisoner stopped. She looked at the list, forty-two names, almost a dozen of some public recognition, but she had expected more. She picked up the hammer, gagged him, he tried to scream again as the blow fell, was cut off by the gag. Well, he wouldn’t be walking out of here Sam thought.
“The rest, now.”
She pressed the weight of the hammer against one of the damaged knees, he gasped as the gag was withdrawn.
Nine, twelve, seventeen names, squeezing out slowly like toothpaste from a tube, his most loyal supporters: it was the end of his power base; even he, in his shattered state, could recognise that. These fiends and others like them would see to it, of that he had no doubt. More chains were attached to him, securing both legs to the bed, and the gag bound into his mouth so he had to fight for every breath, exhausting him still further. He heard them leave the room, the distant murmur of voices, one set of footsteps descend the stairs, returning quite some time later, but exactly how much he had no idea.
The hood was removed along with the chains and ankle bindings, the room light had been turned off; the woman, still masked, was pointing a gun at him while the masked man pulled him down to the floor and into a sitting position. From there they dragged him out of the room, down the stairs, back through the ground floor and into the garage, in which a single low power bulb now shone. He was struggling for breath against the gag, but noticed that a corner of the garage had been covered in plastic sheeting supported by a rickety frame, forming a sort of fully lined cube. What now? A taped confession, the sheeting designed to hide his surroundings? He was dragged in and the sheeting dropped behind him, just cracks allowing the light to filter into the semi-dark space. He was forced to sit in the corner of the plastic covered walls and left alone. He heard another muttered conversation: what were they discussing out there? His heart rate was racing, restrained only by his lungs’ inability to supply enough oxygen because of the gag; he felt light headed, on the edge of blacking out, poised between terror and the passivity of despair.
Light surged in as the plastic sheeting was pulled back a little, just a couple of inches. Her voice again, damn her, it was as if she were filing his nerve endings.
“Kenneth McCloud, you ordered a murderous attack on five people, servants of this country. Two died and two were seriously injured as a result, one of them someone more precious to me than anything. He would have died if it were not for the bravery of a neighbour.”
Her voice was calm, low, petrifyingly so, but emotion was there, pressing like hot magma up against the stone cap of the volcano, her hand holding the handgun was trembling with the tension. So this’s how it ends, into the blackness of the void of nothing, no God to save him, just a humiliating termination, for he knew with iron certainty that was what she intended. He couldn’t speak, couldn’t plead, restrained by the gag, couldn’t move. She wasn’t gloating, he could sense that, was just watching him, steeling herself.
“You are a traitor, a murderer, a coward, you tried to kill someone so much greater than yourself; someone so selfless, who has given me, others, so much but asked nothing in return. Public trial and conviction wouldn’t be justice enough; your friends would mitigate it, even stymie it entirely, and so it’s down to me and this young man. But I want you to know one last thing before I send you to the Hell I fervently hope exists for you: that the person who betrayed you is my cousin, Sheena Ellison, and with your confession we will now take apart your little conspiracy traitor by traitor. Why did she do it you are probably thinking? Because she still believes in truth, virtue, freedom, all things you seek to destroy. Give my regards to Lucifer.”
The first round sprouted red in his chest, as did the second, but neither was vital: she was a novice. He slumped to the side; her tension released in part, the next two penetrated the side of his head, ending it instantly, the blood pooling on the plastic sheet floor, little drops running down the internal sides of the cube. She stepped back, turned and handed Sam the weapon, and leant against the car.
“Oh, Sam, I never imagined such a thing until she told me; how do you stand it?”
“It’s for them, Miss, those who need us to protect them from the darkness.”
“Is it that simple?”
He simply nodded; it was that way for him since he had carried Narin away from that place, over the moorland hills and saw the change in her eyes, who needed more?
“Leave the rest to me Miss. I’ll clean up, sort him out. Why not make a hot drink, sweet tea, get something to eat, light the fire, think about what we do next?”
She left him to it; she didn’t want to see it for herself. The plastic sheets, timbers and clothes would be burnt tomorrow; the ashes dumped elsewhere, he would take care of the body, he said and then deep clean everything. She would never feel the same about this place again, hardly came here anyway after her divorce, their little country retreat. She would put it on the market next week, priced for a quick sale, the car too. Sam would remove the false plates tonight and put back the real ones. He just knew what to do, how to do it, such a capable young man; she was starting to understand the events in the Chilterns, how he had walked out of the maelstrom without a scratch.
The beast, the third beast, was exultant, sated for the moment, retreating back to its lair to digest, to rest. The others raising their heads, looking at her accusingly: how would he react, would he be angry, distance himself from her? He can’t do it all alone, someone has to watch his back, hold him when his strength fails, who else is there? The third beast opened an eye, there is no need to justify, they tried to take him from me after so many years of fruitless search; no one does that and not pay the price.
Helena had come to see him at lunchtime, briefly, saying she was busy tonight, so much to catch up on, would probably not be in tomorrow either. Sure, he was still receiving a trickle of visitors, mainly colleagues, Elaine most days, but her absence left a huge void, far larger than he had expected. She had been distracted he could see, trying not to show it for his sake, not wanting to talk about whatever it was, had just held him even closer than normal, asked how he was getting on, explaining her cousin would be there on Monday evening; was he still expecting to be discharged then? A physiotherapist would be in every day, a nurse had been retained to help in the daytime, Sam would move out early on Tuesday morning, disappear until needed or a solution were found for him.
It was all in hand, nothing to worry him, leave it to her; she was smiling at him, but he could see it was forced, she was suppressing something. They would have to talk when they were alone at her place, settle things, not leave them to drift on, creating more complications.
But what do I mean by that?
I don’t know, but she worries me: her desire to be close, shelter me, expose herself to things so alien to her on my behalf. Even her farewell kiss had been different, timid almost, her smile strained; as she closed the door behind her he had realised that she had taken part of him with her.
Then she called, very late, past eleven. She sounded tired, even more strained, apologising, asking how he was, telling him she missed him, apologising again. He asked her what was wrong.
Nothing she replied, just tired, too much on, everything would be alright. Goodnight.
Yes, she was not her usual self, most unlike her. They needed to talk.
© 1642again 2018