This story is by Rachel and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
Rain. It pulls down the clouds, causing them to loom overhead. Dampening spirits, making people edgy, uncooperative and sullen. Some become suspicious of even the most trustworthy in their midst.
Drops streaked across the single window which was barely sufficient in its duty of lighting the dank interior of the shed.
“Who were you working with?” the voice was harsh. Grating. Cold. Just like the rain.
“Who?” screamed the voice.
The man could feel the rain. His arms, legs. It was moving up his body, numbing everything. Slowly. Too slowly. At this rate, it wouldn’t kill him for hours. Don’t be morbid, the coherent rational part of his brain chided, you’re not going to die.
There was barely audible muttering somewhere to his left. He heard his name, but couldn’t focus. The rain was so cold…
Whack. The sergeant’s hand made contact with his cheek. And in that moment, the rain let him go, his once numb hands and face now flooding with pain. The stench of the shed hit him next, the reek of urine, sweat and the thick aftershave worn by his interrogator, making him nauseous.
“We know you were working with someone, who was it?” The sergeant’s voice wasn’t full of anger this time, just hate. Two very different things, anger and hate, yet some people seemed to be confused about them, mixing them up and using them interchangeably. Words, people just don’t understand words…. Or emotions.
The man fought the urge to lift his head, get a peek at the man who was tormenting him. Don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t look up!
He looked up.
Whack! The blow blindsided him, coming so quick, he had no chance to see more than shiny brass buttons on a damp, rumpled uniform.
“You dog! If you move again, you’ll get worse than that!” He could feel the man’s breath, hot, angry, dangerous, on his neck. Goose flesh raised up on his arms and legs. I wonder why we get gooseflesh? What’s it do?
A pain so deep he could feel it to the roots of his teeth, stabbed his right leg, just at the soft flesh of his inner thigh.
No, no, no, no, no!
But there was nothing he could do, lying prostrate on the table as he was, strapped at each wrist and ankle, head faced down, making his neck stiff and sore.
“I know you can’t see it, but I know you can feel it,” the sergeant’s tone was full of constrained, bottled up laughter. “Now, for every minute you delay, the closer this cigar gets to neutering you. You didn’t want kids did you? A handsome young man like yourself…Be a shame not to.”
“Please” croaked the man. Is that really my voice? The voice that has performed for the kings of the world? The rich and famous? If only they could see me now.
“You’re going to start begging now? After only two days? Have I broken you?” The glee had returned to his interrogator’s tone. Footsteps thumped closer, the man held his breath as the burning ceased and his head was yanked up off the table, by the roots of his hair. His head and neck ached at the odd angle at which it was being forced, and he beheld with bleary eyes, the face of his tormentor. He must be younger than I am! How can someone so young be so brutal and skilled?
“Well?” the sergeant spat in his face, “What are you waiting for? Beg! You think that after killing our president that we would let you walk free?” His eyes were dark brown, he had brown hair, and some freckles across his nose, they looked as though someone careless had spilled them.
“For what should I beg? Mercy?” The man asked, fighting weariness and pain. He closed his eyes, even as the other man let go of his hair, and his head smacked back onto the table. You’ll never get her, I will protect her. With my life, if necessary.
Silence echoed around the small room, filling the place that the rain had once occupied. I got him to think. For once in his life, if he could have grinned, he would have, but he was so tired.
“Justus? That’s your name? Ironic, really.”
“Why?” Justus was feeling emboldened. The sergeant hadn’t hit him after the last question. Maybe there was hope after all.
“What makes you think you can speak?” The sergeant yelled at him, while delivering yet another blow. “You CIA agents are all the same. Think you’re smarter than the rest of us.” Whack. This time the blow landed on Justus’ temple, momentarily deafening him. The sergeant then started beating him without hesitation, without remorse. He struck Justus with the butt end of a stolen colt pistol. Stroke upon stroke landed on Justus’ prone body, back, legs, head. It was all fair game.
Why? Why? Why not just end it?
Quiet, swinging inward on hinges freshly oiled, the door opened, revealing a small woman. She walked into the room from the green field beyond. She smelled like fresh grass and rain, her skirt brown where she had stepped in mud.
Her hazel eyes found Justus’ face. He knew those eyes, that face, the curly molasses hair. A memory flashed before his eyes; tears running down that face, begging him to do it. “It must be done, but I am not strong enough,” she had said. He had done what nobody else could. He had set the course of a nation. He had freed a nation. He had freed her.
He had pulled the trigger. And with that bullet, he had ended not only the life of the president, but also his own.
The president’s wife met his gaze, turned to his jailor, and spoke with a calm that could have frozen the rain, “Why isn’t he dead yet?”