Eli shivered himself awake and was of course startled to find himself naked on sand and in the outdoors, alone. He sat up and saw that his leg had also been removed. It didn’t hurt, the pain medicine hadn’t worn off yet. He stared at it. The rounded stump. High above where his knee had been. He touched it, revolted by the sensation of knotted skin and hardness of the scar tissue. Again he didn’t anger. He just sat there in the sand poking his stump and thinking blank, empty thoughts. The day wore on and after a time McIntosh felt the chill of evening on his skin. He hadn’t moved or looked behind so when he hugged himself for warmth he didn’t notice the folded blanket behind him. He just sat there, freezing in the early winter night, shredded and void within. It wasn’t until late that night when he lay down that he noticed the blanket and wrapped himself in it. He didn’t try to escape or hide, he just lay there knowing that Fay would return for him.
Another dawn came and folding into another night and still McIntosh sat fixed to the same spot he had woken in two days previous. And still Fay waited, watching from the undergrowth, a canteen and food keeping him comfortable. He knew that McIntosh would move at some point and he would be ready when he did. Night passed again and when day broke McIntosh was gone. Fay leapt to his feet and ran to where McIntosh had been sitting. A trail led away to the water and once is reached the lake itself the trail disappeared. McIntosh had swam for. Fay panicked, thinking that McIntosh would have drown and denied him his pleasure. He jogged along the shore in both directions searching for McIntosh’s body, but he couldn’t find it anywhere. The fear set in as it seemed evident that McIntosh was dead, but Fay couldn’t accept that. He had spent so much time preparing and plotting and he had so much more work to complete, he couldn’t give up on him.
And so, with a frozen heart Joseph Fay searched every inch of the shore. He checked the reeds and the rocks and the shallows, and as the evening approached and there was no hope left he stumbled across a trail leading from the water onto land and then into the undergrowth. He was shocked, but happy. McIntosh had shown more resilience than Fay thought he had had left in his broken body. He followed the trail and soon found McIntosh naked, face down in a cluster of ferns. Grabbing his ankle Fay dragged him to the sand and then slung him up over his shoulder and carried him back to the house. As they reached the house McIntosh kicked as he woke up, and as he groaned back to consciousness Joseph Fay dropped him onto the ground, pounding McIntosh’s head on the dirt. McIntosh was delirious and shouting and mumbling below his breathe.
Fay straddled McIntosh and took his throat in his left hand and raised his right hand in a fist. And then Joseph Fay unleashed himself. His first blow snapped McIntosh’s head to the side but he looked back at Fay without saying anything. The second and the third had the same affect, but the fourth punch burst McIntosh’s cheek open and his eye swelled up in seconds. The blood fed Joseph’s rage and he then used both fists one after. Again and again Joseph drove his knuckles into McIntosh’s face, splattering the sand with his blood. But as McIntosh’s face ballooned he became such a mess that Fay stopped and rolled off of him. He knelt by the water’s edge and washed his hands, then returned to McIntosh who was spluttering and rolling in the sand.
Fay lifted him by the arm and helped him to hop back to the house. Then he helped him into the kitchen and wash him down. Still naked, McIntosh stumbled and leaned against the sink. Fay knew that his guest needed sleep so he wasn’t looking Joseph coshed McIntosh’s and dragged him into the basement then shackled him in his box. When he sat again in his favourite lounger and poured himself a glass of Spotted Green Reserve whiskey he iced his knuckles and remember how Ola had berated him for fighting when they first met. That was his old life, he told himself, and now he wasn’t that man anymore. He wasn’t even human because Ola and Lina were gone. Now he was just an instrument. And he was not about to give up on his calling.
That night Joseph got drunk. He didn’t want to feel the pain in his hand or in his soul. He had manged to live though his loss only by focusing on McIntosh and with McIntosh under lock and key his faith waned. He had held McIntosh for over a year and he was sure that McIntosh would never leave the woods alive. He argued with himself that night, weeping and shouting at the photographs of his family when it still whole. He cursed god and earth and all the souls of ever man or woman who ever killed a child. He smashed the whiskey bottle and he drank himself into a mess of hatred and loathing and woke up on the kitchen floor.
To be continued…
© Stephen Fahey