Tad Collins cut his London broil, rare, into small pieces as he studiously ignored the reporters clustered around him. Any time one of them crossed an invisible line, the bodyguards surrounding Tad would make it clear that said reporter had better back off – or else. As Tad ate his steak, his cell phone rang suddenly. He pulled it out of his pocket, frowning as he noted the number.
“Stay here,” he ordered his bodyguards in a quiet, forceful voice. “Make sure no one follows me.” Without waiting for an answer, he stood up from the table and exited the restaurant. He had hired an excellent bodyguard corps, and not one reporter dared to follow him. The second Tad was out of view, his entire manner changed from a confident swagger to subtle supplication. His cell was still ringing, and finally answered, his voice barely above a whisper.
“Robbie, I told you that you can’t call me now. It’s too dangerous.” He couldn’t hide the longing in his voice, no matter how he strove to keep his tone even. He was about to add something when he felt a pain in his neck, and then – nothing.
“Wake up, Tad. You don’t want to be late to your own funeral.” A low, husky voice reached Tad’s ears through the fog that engulfed him. He shook his head, certain that he was dreaming. He felt three rapid stings on his cheek, and he reluctantly opened his eyes. “So nice of you to join us, Tad. I hope you’re comfortable.” A voluptuous Asian woman with jet-black waves down to her ass and Chinese letters in flames tattooed up and down her arms smiled slowly with brilliant scarlet lips at Tad as he tried to focus – it wasn’t a pleasant smile. Tad struggled to move, but he was tied to a chair, and his hands were handcuffed in front of him. He looked down and noticed that he was only wearing his boxers.
“Who are you? Have we met?” Tad coughed hoarsely, his voice strangely raw. He stared at hard at the woman – wondering who the hell she was and what the hell she wanted with him.
“No, we haven’t met,” the woman replied, a hint of an accent apparent in her voice. She was wearing a little maroon dress – despite the sub-freezing temperatures – that clung to every curve. Her obsidian eyes were staring impassively into Tad’s, and despite the fact that he couldn’t read anything in them, he shivered. The woman was smoking an unfiltered cigarette, held in her left hand, and she stared silently at Tad for a long minute before answering his first question. “I’m A. This is B, and this is C.” She gestured with a gloved hand to two figures behind her who were standing so still, Tad had mistaken them for statues. Both of them had ski masks on, and neither moved a muscle. C held some kind of rifle case in his hands – and Tad was sure it was a man, something about the way he stood with his shoulders straight back and his entire body coiled – whereas B had nothing in her hands. Her? Was Tad sure B was a woman? Yes, he was. He could see a hint of breast under her fitted black shirt, and she definitely had hips underneath her camo pants. Both B and C were wearing shit-kicker boots.
“What the hell do you want with me?” Tad stared defiantly at A, but he couldn’t quite keep the tremor out of his voice. “You know, this is kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment. My lawyer –” A’s hand moved so quickly, Tad didn’t see it coming until he felt the flesh on his right cheek burn. Shit! The bitch had ground out her cigarette on his cheekbone! “You fucking bitch. What the fuck –” Tad gagged as A slid her fingers into his throat and lifted up his thyroid. It was the weirdest feeling, and it hurt.
“Shut the fuck up, Tad. I didn’t say you could speak.” A removed her fingers and languorously relit her cigarette. She inhaled deeply on it, held it for several seconds, then blew the smoke into Tad’s eyes. He started coughing and tears welled up in his eyes and she did. “You’re allergic to smoke.” A stated it matter-of-factly, her tone even. “That’s good to know.”
“You want money? I have plenty of money. I –” Tad let out a yelp as A put out her cigarette on his forehead this time.
“You’re a slow learner, Tad. When I say shut the fuck up, I mean it. I’m in charge here, not you.” A hadn’t raised her voice once, which disturbed Tad more than he thought possible. “And, since that’s the case, I get to ask the questions. How many boys did you rape, Tad?” Even though Tad had expected this, he flinched. He opened his mouth to answer, then paused. Was it a trick question? Would she burn him again if he answered. A noticed his indecision and her lips curved into a genuine smile as she pulled out a razor blade from the hefty black purse she had incongruously slung over one shoulder. Tad’s eyes widened at the sight, and he started breathing a bit harder as A grabbed his bound hands and delicately sliced through the webbing between the thumb and first finger of his right hand.
“You fucking cunt!” Tad bellowed, his entire body going rigid.
“That’s for not answering my question, Tad,” A said quietly, reaching down and fishing Tad’s cock out of his boxers. He was limp, of course, but that didn’t seem to bother A. “This is for calling me a cunt.” A swiftly moved the razor blade down the shaft of Tad’s cock, causing him to howl out in agony. “And you still haven’t answered my question. How many boys have you raped?”
“You cut my cock, you crazy bitch! What the fuck is wrong with you? When my lawyer gets through with you – you’ll spend the rest of your life in jail! You hear me?” Tad looked down and saw the blood pooling on the chair, staining his white boxers a deep cherry red. A didn’t say anything as she reached into her purse and pulled out a small cattle prod. Tad couldn’t stop the whimpers that escaped his mouth at the sight of the prod. A fiddled with it before touching the tip to one of Tad’s exposed nipples. Pain exploded in the area; she held it firmly in place as he writhed. She withdrew it before she repeated her question.
“I said, Tad, how many little boys have you raped?” A thin line of anger crept into A’s voice, and there was a tightness to her lips that hadn’t been there before. “I found thirteen, but I bet the number is triple that, if not more.”
“Anything I say will not be admissible in court, bitch.” Tad’s teeth were chattering and his words were slurred, but he was still defiant. He glanced to B and C, his eyes pleading for help; all he received in return were two impassive stares. A’s eyes blazed in dark fury as she jammed the prod into Tad’s nut sack – hard. She removed it quickly, but it didn’t stop Tad’s body from going into convulsions. A leaned so close to Tad’s ear, he could feel her breath ruffle his hair.
“In case you haven’t noticed, this isn’t a fucking court of law, asshole.” A pulled back and looked straight into Tad’s eyes. He shrank back as best he could at the cold, endless emptiness he saw there. A stepped back, turned, and nodded at B. B moved forward gracefully, her steps slow and assured. She walked until she was three feet in front of Tad, then stopped. Tad trembled as he waited for – what – he didn’t know. While he waited, B took a pair of brass knuckles out of her pockets and slipped them on over her gloved hands. A nodded at C who set the case at his feet and opened it. He withdrew the pieces of a rifle and started assembling them with his gloved hands. Tad’s eyes bulged at the sight, but he didn’t say anything – he had learned that particular lesson very well.
“I’m giving you one last chance, Tad. Give me the names of all the boys you’ve raped, and we’re done here.” A couldn’t hide the slight trembling in her voice, and she lit up a cigarette, inhaled deeply, and blew it in Tad’s eyes once again. He coughed and choked, his eyes starting to swell shut.
“You can go fuck yourself, you cunt. I don’t have to tell you anything!” Tad cried out loud as B turned her waist and her arms in one smooth motion and hit him square in the ribs with her fists. Once, twice, three times, then she stopped. She held her hands loosely at her side, and there was an unmistakable menace about her that almost caused Tad to void his bowels. “You broke my fucking ribs, you bitch. I’ll sue you!” B swung from the waist again and hammered Tad in the crotch, nearly causing him to pass out. C stopped to watch B in action for a minute before returning to his rifle. It took him another fifteen seconds to assemble it. Once he was through, he settled it on his shoulder, pointed it at Tad, and looked through the scope. Far from being tense, C relaxed as he hoisted the rifle on his shoulder; he looked as if he were made to hold it.
“You still don’t get it, Tad.” A grabbed Tad by the hair and yanked his head back so the cords on his neck were straining. She held the lit cigarette to Tad’s jugular and grunted in satisfaction as Tad screamed in pain. “I don’t give a fuck what you think you will or won’t do to me. I just want those names.” A pulled an iPad out of her purse and turned it on. “Now.” She stared at Tad without blinking, her lips pressed tightly together. She was holding herself very still as well, and there was something about her stance that bothered Tad more than the abuse he was enduring.
“Go to hell, you stupid bitch.” A’s nostrils flared at Tad’s words and she motioned with her hand as B had been about to start punching Tad again. B stopped and waited. A grabbed Tad’s right hand and pushed in the knuckle of his middle finger. Tad couldn’t believe how much it hurt, and she kept pushing until there was a snap. She didn’t say a word as she grabbed his index finger and did the same thing. As she reached for his ring finger, Tad began to struggle – but he was no match for her. She snapped that finger as well. “What the fuck, you crazy cunt?” A stopped, stepped back, and took a few slow, smooth breaths. Her voice was flat and inflectionless when she finally did speak.
“You can call me crazy. You can call me ugly, fat, a bitch, or even a cunt. But you do not call me stupid. Understood?” A nodded at B who again did the waist turn thing and delivered five blows to Tad’s chest. He felt as if each one punctured a hole in him, and he was surprised that he was still breathing. “The names, Tad. Give me the fucking names.”
“OK,” Tad whispered, every ounce of fight beaten out of him. He took a deep breath and started reciting. A began typing rapidly, her eyes fixed on Tad’s broken figure. A nodded tersely at B, who returned to her place next to C. B slipped off the brass knuckles and shoved them into her pocket as C cocked the trigger and waited. Tad didn’t even notice this activity as he had his eyes fixed on the floor in front of him. He kept talking, naming boy after boy. A’s face whitened with each name, and she gripped her iPad tighter as she typed, but otherwise, she showed no reaction. It seemed to Tad like he’d been talking for hours because he would have to backtrack when he forgot a name, but really, it was only about fifteen minutes from start to finish. Once he was done, he shut his mouth and sat there in dumb agony, waiting to hear his verdict.
A said nothing as she turned off her iPad and stuffed it back in her purse. She withdrew a key from the same purse and unlocked Tad’s hands. He couldn’t move them, though, so they flopped helplessly to his side. A walked heavily until she was in line with B and C. She placed one gloved hand on C’s shoulder – the one sans rifle – and rested it there. Without hesitation, he exhaled and squeezed the trigger once. Pain exploded in Tad’s gut as the bullet ripped through his innards and shredded them to pieces. He could feel the burn everywhere the bullet touched before it whistled out his back.
“Why?” Tad managed to croak. “I gave you what you wanted.” That was all he could say before he slumped over in excruciating pain.
A nodded once at B and C. C quickly disassembled his rifle and stowed it in the case. The three silently left the building and climbed into an idling car; C was careful not to squeal the tires as he drove into the night.