‘The Captive’

Richard walked into the church at the back of the gang, as they all strolled, deliberately and menacingly, through the solemn aisles and past all the terrified bystanders. It was a nominally black church, but there were whites too among the attendees. Some older black women were staring intently at them, waving fans in their faces desperately, as if that could serve as a shield. Axle, one of the rowdier of their group, gave a snigger and abruptly stuck his bald, tattooed head out towards the old women, causing one to collapse in a faint. They all laughed as the others seemed to shrink with fear.

They reached the front of the church where the black pastor stared them down with a stubborn look on his fat, mustached face. Martin, the leader of their group shoved him to the side and jumped up easily onto the dais. He held up his hand in salute.

“Heil Hitler!”

They all roared the salute back in response.

James came forward with a confederate flag and swastika flag and started waving them around.

“We are The Sons of America.” Martin began in a ringing voice, staring intensely around the room. “You know who we are. We are here to purify this country. And that means hunting down each and every one of you in your homes and churches. This is only the beginning. We will not stop until we have driven you all out of here.”

Richard glanced around him. The people’s eyes were filled with fear or hatred. The pudgy pastor looked around at his congregation and developed some courage.

“You will never drive us out you Nazis, you racists. We are Americans like anybody else.”

“Wrong.” Axle said in a loud voice. “You people will never belong here.” His eyes fell on a blonde woman standing beside a black man with a little girl between them.

“Race traitor!”

Martin’s gaze fell on the interracial family.

“Disgusting.”

His cold, blue eyes swept through our gang. Richard felt an electricity of anticipation jolt through him.

“Take her away. We’ll teach her how to act correctly.”

Martin was pointing at him.

His breath caught in his throat and he felt a sudden tension and anxiety.

What have I gotten myself into? I was just coming along for some excitement. Once I do something violent there’s no going back.

“Go get her!” Martin repeated.

He walked involuntarily over to the family. His arms and legs felt like lead and he prayed that something would happen, anything, before he committed an act he would regret forever. But nothing happened.

The black man put on a brave face as he got closer and pulled the woman and daughter closer to him.

“Don’t you dare touch her!” he said. “You stay away from my wife.”

A peculiar feeling came over him then. A sort of humiliation and indignation at being spoken to that way in front of the gang and the whole church. It was as if the black man had stripped him naked for all to see and was proving successfully how pathetic he was.

His emotions hardened. Fear of committing violence disappeared. The only thing that remained was a man to man competition on who was the winner and who was the loser. Primitive sort of emotions fueled by testosterone took over his brain, driving away any forward looking, long term thinking of his logical brain. Two apes stood facing each other, one black, one white, each a champion for his team. His nemesis leered at him as if expecting and knowing that he was a coward and would fall any moment. Through the blur of his emotionally hijacked brain, he remembered a faint thought telling him not to do anything he would regret, but it was so small and faint, it didn’t stand a chance against the thing that now dominated his brain, seeking pleasure, vindication, victory and the vanquishing of a threat. He saw the pretty blonde wife, the white woman who was supposed to be with a white man, especially since he didn’t have a girl, why should this black man get her?

As if controlled by another force, he walked over, grabbed the blonde and dragged her away. The black man howled in indignation and almost tripped over himself trying to get his wife back and to punch Richard but Axle stepped in and pistol whipped him in the head, sending him crumpling to the ground.

The abruptness of the violence, the loud crunch when the pistol hit skull, the whimper when the man was knocked unconscious and hit the ground, momentarily brought Richard out of his trance. He looked uneasily at the body on the floor. Blood was quickly puddling around his head. Red faced, eyes bulging out with rage, Axle waved his gun around.

“Anyone else wanna try something funny?”

A woman burst into sobs somewhere. Someone else said, “Somebody should call an ambulance. He’ll bleed to death.”

“Nobody is calling anyone.” Martin said, re-centering the attention of the room on himself at the dais, with the flags lifted stiffly by his side. “This man will serve as an example to all of you. He defiled one of our women and must be punished. And you,” he turned to the blonde woman with a look of revulsion. “You race traitor. You voluntarily gave yourself to the enemy. And you created a mongrel.” He pointed to the little girl who was sobbing and being held by a black woman behind her. “Well we gotta purify you now. Let this serve as an example to all of you. This disgusting, unnatural, illegal behavior must stop now.”

“It will never stop.” The pastor said, his mouth trembling, trying to summon his courage back. “It has been made legal in this country you racist.”

“I hold that court illegitimate.” Martin said serenely. “That Jew court was never really representative of the people.” He turned to Richard. “Take her and show her what a real man is.”

Richard was shaking as he pulled her from the room. She struggled at first but saw how useless it was against his tight grip. When he got her into a side room and closed the door, he instinctively released her gently. She looked surprised at the sudden softness and gaped at him. Then reading his face, she burst into tears and started begging him.

“Please don’t touch me. Please.”

He wavered. She was beautiful, really beautiful: blonde, blue eyes, perfect features, amazing body. A fountain of feeling and emotion seemed to start flowing within him.

“I’m sorry for how they- we treated you.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“You heard him.” He waved his hand jerkily towards the room. “He really hates black people. I’m not like that.”

“So why are you with them?”

He was silent for a moment. His face started reddening as he realized how difficult it was to explain.

“I-I knew a guy who kinda invited me to come along. I was kinda lost in my life. No girlfriend, no job, lotsa problems at home.” He shrugged his shoulders.

She looked at him sympathetically and nodded. “I understand. I’m sorry to hear that. But this is not the answer. If you get involved in this you’ll ruin your life.”

He shrugged again. “Easy for you to say. You’re clearly happy. I’m not. I have no success, no respect, no love, only fights at home and constant yelling and humiliation.”

“And you think doing this will solve that?”

“Well they treat me like a brother. I actually feel like I belong for the first time. They told me there’s gonna be money, girls, everything a guy could want.”

“But it won’t last. And the price is doing horrible things. The law will catch up to you and more importantly your conscience will.”

Her face was flushed and the fear that was there was gone and replaced by anger, pity, indignation and some disgust.

He hesitated and thought about what she said.

Whatever he might have done became irrelevant a moment later, when Axle came into the room and stared at him expectantly.

“Well? Has she been purified yet?”

And then he knew that he no longer had a choice in the matter.

Richard woke up the next morning, never having felt so horrible in his life. When his brain went over the previous day’s events, it was as if he was watching a horror movie. The attack on the church, the thing he did after in that room, the drug and alcohol infused orgy that happened after…he had never taken so much drugs, he thought he had overdosed, that it was the end, but he had suffered some sort of paranoid attack and then passed out. Now awake, he felt this horrible, hopeless feeling of dread which he never felt before. Tears seemed to involuntarily stream down his face. His heart beat madly and he was drenched with sweat.

He looked around the room at the passed out men and women and shivering suddenly left the room in a daze, like someone emerging shell-shocked from a battlefield.

Somehow the glare of the morning sun hurt his eyes and he lowered his gaze to the ground, as he stumbled along the empty street. Dark thoughts of guilt and hopelessness swirled through his mind. He tried to recall the feelings of joy he felt yesterday but it was all gone, leaving not a trace behind, only this hellish state of mind.

He got back home, went straight to his bed, curled up in the fetal position and sobbed himself to sleep. Nightmares flit through his mind, of terrifying ghostly apparitions. He woke up drenched in sweat and trembling, tears pouring down his face. He got up and walked to the kitchen where his mother and father were doing their usual arguing about money, which seemed to him now to be so innocent and blissful that he wished he could be drawn into it. He tried to focus on what they were saying, but it was all overwhelmed by the enormity of his state of mind.

“Hey you, what are you doing with yourself today?” His father said, noticing him.

“I don’t know yet.” he mumbled.

“Stop going off topic!” his mother said angrily. “I want the money you promised me.”

Money? Don’t you know your son’s mind is going crazy?

“I’m going for a walk.” he said, slipping out of the room. Nobody responded. They were back to arguing.

He couldn’t stay still. It seemed the less he did, the worse the mental anguish was. He walked outside again, crying silently as he wandered aimlessly through the streets. He realized that he looked strange. He wasn’t walking straight. He face was screwed in a tortured grimace. Tears were flowing down his face.

Go, step in front of a car, a voice said to him. End the pain now. This torment will only get worse. You will never be happy again. Why prolong the agony?

Terrified, his feet started to move almost of their own accord, onto the street. He somehow forced them to stop and noticing an old woman holding a shoppping bag crossing the street, he approached her unsteadily and held out his hand unsure what to say.

She hadn’t noticed him and almost jumped when she saw him walk right up to her like a zombie.

“Leave me alone!”

He stopped horrified and tried to apologize, to explain he was only trying to help, but he must have come across as looking even more unnerving, because she backed off fearfully, and a woman ran over, saying, “Excuse me, is there a problem?”

He almost stumbled over his own feet as he quickly backed off and ran away in a panic.

Running down the street as of being pursued, he went into subway station and as he stood over the tracks, he briefly considered jumping. Everyone waiting for the train was indifferent to him and his suffering. A man chattered on the phone. A woman ate a banana. A kid with schoolbag listened to music on his headphones. A girl chatted with her friend. People involved in their own normal lives, while he treaded the waters of his life in despair.

Just jump already. You’re not needed or wanted in this world. You would do the world a favor by jumping. Nobody would miss you, not your family, not anyone.

He started to feel dizzy. He teetered over the edge.

“Hey,” a voice interrupted his thoughts making him jump and whirl around.

A man stood there, well dressed in a suit and tie and holding a leather briefcase. He had short, close cropped grey hair, a young, tanned face, designer glasses and a trimmed, short beard. The man looked at him intrigued.

“Excuse me sir, but are you doing anything in particular right now?”

“Huh?”

The man’s bright blue eyes didn’t flinch. “Right now. Are you busy?”

He slowly shook his head.

“Good. I really need someone right now to help me with something. I’ll pay you five hundred. I’m that desperate.”

“Um ok.”

Dazed, he backed away from the ledge and followed the man out of the station and into the street.

“So I had a guy who was supposed to do some tasks for me. Stupid, easy stuff, but had to get done. Idiot just bailed last minute though, so I’m in dire straits. The work needs to be done today and nobody was available. So it was a real miracle I found you.”

The man had an odd stiff walk, and even though his mouth was constantly breaking into an easy, charming smile, his eyes remained cool and distant. There was a tension in his muscles as if he was a mechanical thing that was wound up tight and only play acting his easy going manner.

At that point though, Richard had no choice. He had no mind of his own anymore and was feebly but desperately clinging onto any reason to survive.

“Hey man, how rude am I, I never even introduced myself. I’m Greg. Greg Samsonov.”

“Richard Lear.”

“Ah, like King Lear with his three daughters. Sure, I read Shakespeare too.” Greg slammed a hand on his shoulder, harder than a friendly one should have been. “So has anyone tried to manipulate you? Had to make any choices between what seems good and what really is good?”

“Huh?”

“Shakespeare’s King Lear, my friend. Kids these days don’t learn much anymore, huh? Anyway don’t beat yourself up over it. I don’t need you for your knowledge of literature.”

They got into a Porsche that was parked outside the station and Greg drove off, whistling a tune.

They drove for about twenty minutes until they reached a high scale neighborhood. They passed gated properties, one after the other, as Greg whistled away and Richard’s mind unwittingly began wandering during the long drive. He winced and it seemed as if his brain was being stabbed with poison in some way. His head was filled with toxicity and tears once again started flowing.

“Here we are.” Greg glanced at him with little smile. “My home.”

It was a big gated property, with tall bushes and trees hiding it from the outside. Greg lowered his window, and after a thumb scan, the gate slowly creaked open.

“In we go.” Greg resumed his whistling.

The grounds were vast, with sloping green hills, a large fountain pool and gardens surrounding the house. The house itself was massive, with a large wooden door, large ornate windows and a wide covered balcony above the door.

“I got a bunch of stuff in the cellar which needs to be moved. We’ll start there.”

He followed him into the house, which was the fanciest Richard had ever seen. They went downstairs and he showed him the cellar, a large room filled with wooden barrels.

“I make my own wine. Great stuff.”

Greg pointed to boxes in the basement. “All this needs to be moved to the cellar. You do that and it shouldn’t take you more than an hour.”

He started working and Greg went upstairs. The boxes were heavy and he soon found that his muscles were screaming in pain.

What’s in here, rocks?

Once in a while there’d be a relatively light box, which gave his muscles a reprieve, but most of them were so heavy that soon his arms didn’t even feel like they connected anymore.

By the time he finished, he saw that it hadn’t taken an hour but three. He also realized that he hadn’t thought of his mental agony all that time and his mind was actually experiencing a kind of euphoric sensation which he hadn’t felt in what seemed like forever. But he couldn’t feel his arms. They were like two lead bricks that were attached to his torso.

He waited for Greg to appear, but he didn’t come and no sound was heard from above. Finally he got up and walked up the basement stairs and froze when he discovered the door was locked.

Seized with panic, he twisted the handle this way and that, but it was locked from the other side and wouldn’t give an inch in either direction. Breathing rapidly, he started banging on the door.

“Greg! Help! I’m locked down here!”

But it was no use. Nobody came and he started feeling claustrophobic and faint. Going back down the stairs, he collapsed against the wall on the floor and looked at the cellar full of boxes which he just moved. He squeezed his eyes shut as terror and helplessness washed over him one after the other like two firemen trying to put out a fire.

I’ve been kidnapped. I’m being punished for what I did. No, he just forgot and locked the door by mistake. He’ll be back.

He must have fallen asleep because he suddenly woke and he say that an hour had passed. He felt thirsty. Looking around the room, there was nothing to drink. His eyes fell on the barrels in the cellar. Without thinking, he headed to the room, opened one of the barrels and stuck his face in taking a deep gulp.

The cool, sweet liquid was refreshing and delicious. He had a few more gulps then felt himseld go weak. He collapsed on the floor and his mind seemed to cloud. Then much to his horror, dark shadows seemed to move around the room. Unsettling voices seemed to fill the room with spooky laughs and shrieks. Ghosts flew through the air and reached out for him. Rat-like things scurried all over the floor and started nibbling at his arms and legs which he couldn’t move but which were filled with pain.

This horror lasted for what seemed like hours, before it all disappeared and he was once again alone in the cellar, on the floor. With horror and revulsion he backed away from the barrels and ran up the stairs again, banging and screaming and crying.

He didn’t know how long he lay on the floor of the basement, drifting in and out of sleep, in turns thirsty and hungry and needing the bathroom, tears dried across his face.

Finally he heard footsteps upstairs, which were music to his ears. He waited, heart pounding, as the footsteps approached the basement door and stopped.

He tried to call out, but his mouth was dry and weak.

He heard a lock being turned and the door slowly opened.

Greg stood on top of the stairs, a serene, curious smile on his face.

“Hey Richard.”

“What-” he tried to speak but couldn’t.

“Don’t strain yourself Richard. You’re going to need your strength. There is much work that needs to be done still. For starters, you need to move all those boxes back to where they were. I prefer them there, now that I see it.”

“What…”

“But you have all the time you need, so no rush. You can start today or tomorrow. You look pretty lousy, so I would suggest you take the rest of the day to rest up.” He was about to close the door, when he stopped and gave a strange smile to Richard.

“I imagine you must have figured out by now that you are my prisoner. My apologies Richard, but you are never leaving this place alive. You can try of course, but if I catch you, you will be severely punished. And please, do us both a favor and don’t bother asking why. There is no logical reason. I am a sick, twisted sadist and I like seeing people suffer. No real reason why I picked you, besides wrong place wrong time. I hope that put to rest any questions.” He gave an disturbingly amiable smile and closed the door, locking it behind him.

Richard didn’t know when his dark, agonizing thoughts ended and when his troubled sleep and nightmares began. He didn’t know when was night and when was day in the windowless basement prison. Some time later, after he woke up from another nightmare after endless attempts at sleeping, the door opened and Greg came down.

“Up, up now. You slept long enough, time to work. To to move all those boxes back to where you found them. A cheeseburger and can of coke fell to the floor beside him.

“Enjoy your breakfast. I’ll be back later.”

“I need the bathroom.” he said, his voice rasping.

“Do it in your pants for all I care.” Greg answered, ascending the stairs.

After Greg left he gobbled down the cheeseburger tasting but trying to ignore the dirt from the floor which had gotten stuck to it, swallowing back revulsion. He opened and drank the warm coke, leaving his breath stinking, his teeth full of sugar and not being able to brush his teeth.

His bladder was full and abruptly gave away all over himself and then the other pressure which had accumulated gave way too and he felt it and smelled it all over.

He got up feeling nausea and without warning, threw up all over the floor.

He lay there in his own filth for what seemed like hours, his mind drifting in and out of consciousness.

I’m being punished for what I did. Why can’t I just die? Death is better than this. Anything is better than this.

Sometime later Greg came back.

He walked down the stairs saying, “It stinks to high heaven in here man.”

He approached and looked down at Richard’s sprawled body.

“You didn’t do what I told you to do.”

Without waiting for an answer, he walked over and started kicking him hard all over.

“You disobedient dog! I’ll show you. You are my slave. You have no free will anymore. When I say lift those boxes, you lift up your beaten excuse for a body and do it.”

The pain from the beating became so unbearable that Richard forced his stinking, dirty, weak, pained body up and hobbling into the cellar, began to lift up the boxes and bring them back into the basement.

“That’s a lot better.” Greg said. “Now you finish up your job you’ve been told to do and I may let you clean yourself up later.”

Without a choice, unthinkingly, he began to reverse everything he did the day before, carrying the heavy boxes from the cellar and piling them up in the same way in the basement. His body screamed in pain and was constantly at the edge of collapse. The stench of waste and vomit, although he somewhat got used to it over time, was nonetheless always unpleasant and disgusting. When he finished, he collapsed on the floor and waited with a disturbing anticipation, almost excitement for Greg to return and for the promised cleaning.

Greg returned as promised a few hours later and nodded approvingly at the result of his work.

“Very good Richard. You did well. Tomorrow I want you to bring the boxes back to the cellar. But now…I promised you something.”

He nodded eagerly but tried not to look too excited.

“It’s ok.” Greg smiled in an almost fatherly way. “I’ll bring down a bath for you. Just be patient.”

He went upstairs and was heard lugging something heavy down. He appeared on the stairs again with a big plastic storage bin and brought it to the basement, setting it down in front of Richard. Inside it were a sponge and bar of soap.

He flashed him a smile as he watched him work and gave him a wink.

“Nothing fancy, but it’ll do the trick.”

He disappeared again and came back down with a hose. He plugged it in and let water flow into the bin.

“It’s hooked up to the heater so your bathwater will be warm.” he said almost compassionately. “I’ll give you some privacy and afterwards you can get started on the next task. Then I’ll bring you your dinner. You got seven minutes. Don’t worry about the water getting too full. I’ve put it on a timer. Enjoy.”

He smiled and walked up the steps.

Richard almost didn’t dare to believe he was having an actual bath. He took off his clothes slowly, relishing every moment. He pulled off his shirt, pants, underwear, all dirty and stinking. Dropping all his clothes to the floor, he stood there naked and greedily got into the warm water. Lowering himself into the water, he let himself slide to the bottom of the bin, big enough that only his head and the tops of his knees poked out. As the water enveloped and soaked him, it soon became dark and putrid with the waste that had hardened on his skin. He quickly took the soap bar, scrubbed it into the sponge, spread a generous amount into the water and started scrubbing himself from head to toe. He almost forgot the time limit that loomed over his bath in the utter and total enjoyment that he had. But the enjoyment was not total. It was scarred with the despair and gloom from the guilt which lay buried, but which quickly rose to the surface when his more immediate needs were met.

He lay there looking at the soapy water, as the memories started coming back of that day and of what an awful human being he was. Tears started rolling down his cheeks again and he heard himself sobbing hopelessly, as dark emotions welled within and overpowered him. Wave after wave of dark guilt struck and washed over his beaten mind. The thrashing did not abate, until he heard the loud, shrill scream which almost made him jump.

“Out, out, out! Do you think this is a spa?”

Greg grabbed him by the arms and yanked him out of the bin, tossing him to the floor like a rag doll and sending water sloshing all over the place.

“Put on your clothes and get back to work!”

He looked at his dirty clothes and back at Greg.

“Please…my clothes are…are…”

“Are filthy? So stay naked for all I care. But get back to work now! I want to see at least a whole pile of boxes back where you found it when I come back or there’s no dinner for you.” He glanced down at the clothes and a little smile played on his lips. “If you pleasantly surprise me, however…perhaps I will give you a present.”

New clothes, oh please, please.

He didn’t dare ask what the present was, as Greg walked up the stairs, leaving him once again with the boxes.

He drove himself to work industriously, lifting the boxes from basement to cellar, as he forced himself to focus on the present he hoped to receive, imagining himself wearing a clean set of clothes. He worked naked, unable to bring himself to put on the soiled clothes.

When Greg returned, not one but almost three piles were moved. He watched Richard hard at work, a broad smile covering his face.

“I brought you something Richard.”

He held in his hand something wrapped in paper.

“Open it.”

Eyes gleaming with excitement, Richard grabbed it and pulled off the paper. Inside was a folded garment that looked like a robe and made out of a thin, cottony material.

“Easy on, easy off,” Greg said. “I don’t think you need anything fancier since you’re not going out anyway.

Richard looked at him gratefully.

“Thank you…so much.”

Time passed. It could have been weeks, months or years and Richard wouldn’t have known the difference. He continued his task of moving boxes, gave up all thought of ever leaving and devoted himself to pleasing Greg and showing him how hard working he was. Over time, Greg granted him additional rewards, such as going outside for exercise and fresh air for a few minutes a day. He would wander around and often end up in front of the fountain pool. It was a large, square, deep pool, with water gushing into it from a fountain sitting on one of its sides. The whole thing sat right beside the trees and bushes which bordered the grounds and he would stand around there often, just watching the water run, feeling himself enter into a kind of trance, listening and watching the relaxing movements of the water.

That day he stood there as he usually did, staring out at the water, an almost serene look in his haunted eyes. He heard a rustle behind him. Greg stepped out from the bushes, an amiable smile on his face.

“I notice you like hanging out here. Relaxing, huh?”

Richard nodded, looking back at the water, rippling where the fountain stream was hitting. A stray leaf fell in and floated around the pool. Greg reached over and delicately grabbed the stem, pulling it out.

“There’s a story in the news, which you may find interesting. A gang of white supremacists was massacred by some blacks in retaliation for an attack on a black church a while back. Apparently all those involved were killed except one whose gone missing.”

His eyes sparkled with amusement.

“I guess one could say I saved your life.”

Richard trembled and took a deep breath.

“How do you…?”

“How do I know you’re the missing guy? Your picture is plastered on every newspaper and television screen. It’s funny because public opinion supports the black guys. They say you guys had it coming. Personally, I agree. You had it coming because you’re stupid. I do the same things: murder, rape, torture — the whole shebang. The only difference is I’m smart enough not to get caught. So what did you do in that church?”

“I-I committed ra-r…” he couldn’t even bring himself to say it. The memory was too painful.

“You raped a girl? You?” He looked at him intrigued, then his lips curled into a smile. “Ah, I understand everything now. Why you were so…dazed, the day I saw you. I bet you were crying as you were doing it. I bet you begged her forgiveness. I know your type, you miserable, sensitive fool. I’ll bet your heart wasn’t in it, but you did it anyway out of peer pressure and maybe because you actually found her kind of attractive. Too weak to do the job right and too weak to refuse to do it. An all around weak, sniveling coward.”

Tears poured down Richard’s face. The description was pathetically accurate. All the feelings and emotions came rushing back.

“I’ll bet you crave her forgiveness. Unfortunately though, your crime is unforgivable. You could build a shelter for women and cure cancer, it doesn’t matter. You’re branded for life with the mark of Cain.”

Then Greg put a hand softly on his shoulder as if in a conciliatory manner. “But you have nothing to worry about because you’re stuck here with me,” he leaned over looked directly into Richard’s eyes with his bright, blue eyes, a warm smile on his face. “and I don’t judge.”

As Richard lugged the boxes from the basement to the cellar once again, he thought he heard a girl’s voice from upstairs and he thought, I’m finally going mad.

He continued working, the fabric of his clothes swishing, as he walked back and forth.

The door atop the stairs opened.

Greg was coming down the stairs with a girl in his grip, pushing her unsteadily in front of him with grunts of effort.

“I brought you a girlfriend, Richard. This is Tiffany. Tiffany, do you know that Richard is a rapist?”

The girl stared at him with dread and horror in her eyes. The only sounds to come out of her mouth were muffled from the duct tape covering her lips.

Richard was barely able to glance into her eyes, before looking down in shame.

“Go, make friends.”

Greg shoved her towards him, knocking him backwards into the boxes.

“Hahaha, you clumsy boy Richard. Richard, she’s mine, but once I’m done I’ll give you the leftovers. Keep her company until I’m ready, will ya?”

He winked and walked upstairs whistling.

Richard lay there trembling and couldn’t bring himself to get up, let alone look at her.

“Mmm!” she gave a muffled scream.

He forced himself up and with an overwhelming sense of self hatred, he ripped off the tape from her mouth.

Her eyes followed him with hatred and fear intermingled.

“Are you a rapist?”

He gave an almost imperceptible nod.

“Oh my…” her voice trailed off.

He forced himself to look at her.

“I can’t erase what I did. But I can try to help you…”

“I don’t want your help, rapist!”

He cringed but tried to continue. “I think I can help. There’s a pool in front. He stands in front of it sometimes. If I can push him under…”

“Even if you do that it doesn’t change what you did…who was she? How old was she?”

He shook his head. “Please don’t…”

“You deserve worse than death.”

This is what Greg is depending on. That I won’t help her because of how she sees me. But I think of me the same way. And if this helps me repent in even a small way…

Richard stood by the fountain pool. When he heard the familiar approach of Greg, his hands started shaking.

Greg gave a slight chuckle as he sidled over to him.

“So. I wonder if your victim screamed as much as mine. Boy did this one.”

Richard tried to steady his breathing but his heart pounded furiously and he knew his face was afire.

“You and I can trust each other because you know you have no future. At least I give you purpose. As another sadist once said, hard work will set you free.”

A leaf fluttered off branch and descending gently through the air, landed with a soft sound on the surface of the pool, right in the center.

“Ugh,” Greg said, leaning himself over the edge of the pool. “The perfectionist in me is screaming.”

Richard watched him struggling to reach the leaf and he knew it was now or never.

Forcing himself to focus, his heart banging, his hands trembling, he went against every instinct that screamed at him to stop, and he placed his hands over the bent man’s head and with all the force he could muster, pushed it underwater.

With sudden urgency, Greg struggled to lift his head out, his arms splashing water everywhere. Richard watched terrified, as he kept all the pressure he could on it. It seemed like forever, but finally the arms started thrashing more weakly, until they just stopped and flopped still in the water.

Richard stood shocked, too afraid to take his hands away.

After a few minutes, he backed off and ran towards the house.

The officers helped the trembling, terrified girl into a police car. Then they took the dazed looking man whose face had been plastered on every screen around some trees on the dead property and rained down blows upon him.

“You Nazi rapist scum.” One of them said, spitting on him. “The long arm of the law finally caught up with you.”

“Rapist scum like you will be dead within the year, guaranteed.” Another cop said. “We could kill you right now, point blank and nobody would say a thing. But it doesn’t matter because you’ll be dead within the year.”

One cop pulled his gun on Richard. “Should I?”

The other cop looked this way and that before giving a little nudge with his head. “Guy’s a stain on humanity. Go ahead and purify us.”