Short Story: Taken to the Edge

This is a lot darker than my usual output, so be warned if you’re feeling delicate. A few naughty-bad words too. I can’t imagine people would particularly enjoy this, but I hope that you may appreciate it…

 

Billy began to wake up. He exhaled a deep, peaceful breath from his nose and slowly opened his eyes. In barely two seconds he leapt from comatose to confusion to concern. He was sitting upright, head held securely and wrists strapped down to some kind of wooden armchair. His ankles were fixed to the chair legs. Apart from his boxer shorts he was unclothed and he became aware of the fact that his cold skin was covered in goose pimples. He appeared to be in a bare room; a single low-powered bulb just above and in front of him lit the scene. He couldn’t see any doors or windows.

“Ah, he’s awake,” a woman’s voice said away to his left, just on the edge of his peripheral vision. “Hello Billy.”

He tried to speak but his tongue felt thick and heavy, lips dry and unprepared, throat clogged. He coughed and swallowed, licked his lips and tried again. All he could manage was a bewildered “What the hell…?”

The woman slowly walked into view and stood in front of him, arms crossed and a neutral look on her face. He had subconsciously hoped that whoever had trussed him up like this would be laughing at his situation, but this didn’t seem like that kind of joke. Besides, this wasn’t one of his mates, he’d never seen her before… or had he? He peered at her, taking in her brown hair, tied up in a scruffy bun on top of her head, her tatty grey combat trousers and black jumper. She didn’t appear to be wearing make-up either. There was something familiar about her but he just couldn’t place where he’d seen her before.

She picked up on his quiet bafflement and smiled thinly. “You’re trying to figure out who I am, aren’t you?”

He coughed again. “Well, ah…,” he said, trying to think of something, anything to say that would contribute something to the conversation other than an admittance that she was right. He couldn’t. “Uh, yeah.”

“Maybe I should have tarted myself up, worn that little black dress that caught your eye last night.”

Last night? What did he do last night? He couldn’t think, everything seemed so woolly and confused. “I don’t, uh, I can’t… um… I dunno,” was all he could manage.

“Perhaps we over-did it with the Rohypnol,” said the woman flatly.

Rohypnol? That was a slap to the consciousness; cogs began to rotate in his befuddled mind.

“Oh, look,” said the woman, “now he’s taking an interest. Just to let you know, Billy, we’ve given you a bit of an antidote. Adrenaline and a hefty shot of Ephedrine, which should keep you awake and a little more focused.”

He stared at her. “Who are you?”

She returned the stare, tilting her head to one side. Instead of answering, she turned away from him slightly and took a deep breath. He could see the tendons in her jaw tightening.

“We’ve been planning this for over six months you know,” she said, looking at him over her shoulder, “ever since the court case.”

Oh shit. Billy visibly sagged. His heart was hammering away in his chest and his breathing became fast and shallow. He tried to shake his head but whatever contraption was holding it prevented any noticeable movement.

The woman stepped closer, observing his reaction. “We’ve been watching you all this time. We know where you live, where you shop, where you drink. We know all your friends and habits. And when we were ready we just scooped you up like an insect. Oscar’s Bar, last night. I bet you thought your luck was in, another beautiful young thing showing some interest in you.”

Flashes of memory charged around his head like a pinball. Yes, a girl, in the bar, having a drink. He’d started to feel a little off-colour. She’d ordered a taxi and he vaguely remembered lying down in the back and then nothing. He glared back up at her.

“All come flooding back to you now? Good. Just for the record…” she paused, a slight smile playing across her face, “not that there is one… my name isn’t Tiffany. It’s Kate.” Her face hardened again. “I was Laura Thompson’s best friend.”

“I was found Not Guilty!” he snapped. “It wasn’t me. I went through a year of hell and they found me Not fucking Guilty!”

She stepped away from him, arms still crossed. “Come on, Billy. We all know that you did it. The Crown Prosecution Service doesn’t tend to go to all the expense and hassle of a full murder case if they don’t have some pretty compelling evidence. And all of the cops I spoke to say you did it. The fact you and that silver-tongued lawyer of yours somehow convinced the jury that there was a tiny bit of barely-reasonable doubt does not make you innocent. You basically got off on a technicality.”

“I didn’t do it!”

Kate shrugged and slowly walked over to the wall to his right. As she turned back towards him he saw she held a large, plain wooden baton, around a metre in length, probably as thick as his wrist. She held it up and examined it in the light.

“The thing about baseball bats,” she said, apparently to the room in general but he knew this was for his benefit, “is that, in a country that doesn’t play very much baseball, it’s a suspicious purchase. Traceable. And my old rounders bat was a bit short. And cricket just isn’t my thing. All you really need is something you can get a good swing with. I found this in the shed.” She began to wind a rag around the base, glancing up to make sure he was still paying attention. “To stop splinters,” she explained.

“Look,” he said, trying hard to sound calm and rational, “this isn’t going to work, whatever you’re trying. You can’t make me confess to something I didn’t do.”

Kate paused and stared at the ceiling. “Oh, I don’t know. I very much think I can make you confess to anything I want.”

“Oh yeah, and then what? I sign a confession and we all toddle off to the nearest nick? Well fine, let’s do it. Get me out of this fucking chair and let’s get this over with.”

She stared at him in a way that caused his heart to skip a beat. She took another step closer and leant down to look him directly in the eye. “Do you know why torture is banned?” she asked. He glared back at her. She inched closer and whispered, “because it doesn’t prove anything.” She straightened up and held his gaze for a few more moments. “We did think about wringing a confession out of you, but quickly realised that it was pointless. It would have no value. Like you. Which made us understand that what we really wanted… was revenge.”

Billy snorted a semi-brave dismissal. “Revenge? So you’re going to give me a pasting? Batter a defenceless, innocent bloke with a stick because you didn’t like justice through the courts? That’s sad. And pointless. Because I know who you are. It might make you feel better, but it’s wrong and you’ll pay for it later.”

Kate said nothing, looking at him without expression. She leant her stick against the wall opposite Billy and walked to his left, just out of sight. There was some metallic clanking and rustling of plastic. He now noticed that the floor was actually covered in black plastic sheeting with transparent sheeting up the walls. Kate returned to her position in front of him, dropping an assortment of metal implements in a pile at her feet. She set a bucket down to one side of her and began to pull on what appeared to be some crudely cut clear plastic clothing.

“Revenge may be a dish best served cold,” she said, “but it also needs to be planned. Precautions taken.” She raised her eyes from her plastic trousers to look at him. “Like the precautions you took to ensure there was no DNA evidence.”

He felt sick. “There was no DNA evidence, because it wasn’t me. Honestly. Look whatever you want, I’ll do, okay? I understand you’re upset. But…”

“Upset?” she hissed. “Do I look upset? I’ve been doing the talking because I’m the cold-hearted bitch that can actually face speaking to you. You want to see upset?” She glanced behind him and indicated with her head for someone to step forward.

Another woman appeared to his right. Where Kate was impassive, the new figure was almost aflame with hatred, her eyes red with tears and teeth clenched. She was also in shabby clothing covered by clear plastic. Bright yellow ear defenders sat incongruously on her head.

“This is Shelley,” said Kate, “Laura’s little sister. And you’d better pay attention to what I’m about to tell you because it’s going to be the last thing you hear. We don’t want a confession. We don’t want to just beat you up. We’re going to hurt you. And we’re going to do it slowly, like you did with Laura. Wound for wound. Can you remember how many wounds she suffered?” She left a short pause before answering her own question. “It was over sixty. Sixty. With more than one weapon.” She looked down at her feet and so did Billy. There were hammers, screwdrivers and saws. His mouth had gone very dry.

“These used to belong to my grandad. Untraceable. We’ve got his power tools too.” She stepped over to his left, pressing a switch. A powerful whirring sound filled the room and he could feel a cold draught on his left ankle. “It’s something called an angle grinder. We’re going to use it to slowly remove your foot. And we’ll carry out the rest of the work while you slowly bleed to death. And then we’ll chop you up and incinerate you.” She picked up some ear defenders of her own and, just before placing them on her head, inserted some stereo ear buds. “Laura was a fantastic singer,” she explained. “We’re going to listen to her while we do this. It seems fitting.”

He was breathing rapidly, hoping that it was all just a ruse when Kate nodded to Shelley. As his eyes flicked to his right he saw a hammer come down on his right hand. Pain shot up his arm and tears blurred his vision. Then he felt the teeth of the angle grinder bite into the thin flesh of his ankle and he began to scream.


 

Written in response to a prompt of “over sixty”. I hope you can see the three layers of horror: the brutal killing of Laura; the vindictive retribution; and the possibility that Billy really is innocent…
Image: “Interrogation” by Paul Kehrer

 

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19 thoughts on “Short Story: Taken to the Edge

    1. Thanks mate! Yes, I wanted the reader to feel the barely-restrained anger and passion of the women but also the helpless fear of Billy. And I wanted to leave it open as to who (if anyone) your sympathies lie with. Moral dilemmas, eh? 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Yikes. That is intense – definitely horror. Well done, Nick. Excellent suspense and dialog, and I like it that you went all the way. 🙂 It is a bit of a dilemma for readers since we don’t know whether the guy is guilty or not!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Diana!
      I did read it out at the writers’ group last night but luckily the woman before me also wrote a piece about a revenge killing (not quite so graphic) so she was able to break in the audience to a bit of macabre death. Another writer also covered potential domestic violence (but with a twist). We all seemed to be channeling something dark this month (apart from the two stories about knitting).
      And yeah, keep the reader guessing. Did he do it? Even if he did, does he deserve a painful, grim death?
      I could have made it a bit longer but it was already bounding quickly beyond my initial target of about 1000-1500 words!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Natalie! To be honest, not until a few months ago and even now I’ve not really gone any further into researching what’s out there and who would be interested in my stuff. I really must get off my arse and do it! 😉

      Like

      1. Do it! 🙂 I know the names of a few places that accept submissions, though I’m not sure if they’re considered “good” publications: Shotgun Honey takes super short pieces, for starters 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Torture squicks me like no other. You did a good job of making me feel immediately uncomfortable. I found myself impressed by two things. 1) That whoever did kill Laura managed to do it very, erm, “artistically,” and 2) Kate’s dedication. If my best friend was murdered, I’d be devastated for years… but I’m not sure I’d have the mental energy to plan and carry out a revenge kill. (Sorry, Amelia).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Hmm, hadn’t thought about the creativity involved in Laura’s demise, must be my own subconscious having a bit of a play. Yikes.
      Yep, Kate does think that if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing really thoroughly.

      Like

    1. Thanks Cathleen, I think that was the response I was looking for! 😉
      The submissions issue is definitely a ‘project’ and I need to get on with it now that I’m back from a terrific holiday in the Austrian Tyrol. Or I might write about that instead.
      Bah! Focus!

      Like

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