Delightful screams peeled through the dim space; windows covered by filthy boards, fixed with rusted nails. A bare bulb dangled in the center of the room.
“Have you made up your mind yet?” Jobe asked. He was slim and tall, in his mid-thirties to look at him. His kept his hair neat and parted to the left. A clean, crisp, short sleeved shirt was buttoned to the top, fixed with a thin, black tie.
"Come on already," Jobe urged.
“Please,” a man begged him from the confines of a small chair, “I’m sorry. Whatever it was you think I did, I’m sorry, I swear. Let me go, I won’t tell anyone.”
Jobe smiled. A greasy, unpleasant smile. “Well,” he said, “If you don't know what you’ve done, then how will you fix it?”
“I have a wife,” the man pleaded, nearly in tears, “and children. Don’t do this, please, I can pay you whatever you want.”
“Shut up!” Jobe screamed in his face, “You goddam liar! You’re a single, lonely man. No wife, no children. Nothing!”
“Now,” Jobe continued, calming himself, “you’ve got a decision to make, don’t you?”
The man was bound to a wooden chair with ropes tied firmly around his chest, ankles and left wrist. His right hand was left curiously free. He wore what was once a crisp, salmon-coloured dress shirt which was now ripped below the collar. His face was beaten, the left eye so badly that it was nearly shut from the swelling. He had dark blonde hair which was matted with sweat and he was entirely spattered in brown, dried blood.
He was built like he may once have been an athlete, football maybe, in high school. His lips trembled, but he didn’t dare speak another word for fear of repercussion.
Jobe grabbed the man’s right hand and pinned it roughly onto a crude, wooden butcher’s block. He screamed loudly, to Jobe’s delight. Jobe slammed a knife down ferociously, stabbing into the wood between the man’s fore and middle fingers. Sweat drenched the terrified man’s face and neck, his chest heaved as he laboured for breath. Jobe, though slight, was deceptively strong and wouldn’t let it go when the man tried to jerk his hand free. Not immediately.
“You’re fucking crazy!” the man blurted, “Someone is going to notice that I’m missing and they’ll call the police. Let me go and no one will ever know.”
Jobe laughed in his face. “No one gives a shit about you, Chad,” he hissed, “You’re a corporate piece of shit, you have no friends, no family and everyone in your office hates you.”
The fire went out of Chad’s eyes. This guy knew who he was. Not everything, but he knew where Chad worked, where he lived, where he ate lunch, got his coffee, when he took his morning dump.
“Who are you?" Chad begged, "Why me?”
“Come on,” Jobe said, annoyed, “Chad, Chad, Chad. This is exactly why you’re here. You don’t care about anyone, you don’t even remember who I am. To you, people only exist to serve and further your career or else they’re just in your way, like flies. Am I a fly, Chad?”
Chad shook his head. "That's not me, I would never.."
Jobe cut him off. He took a deep breath, his nose almost grazing Chad’s cheek. "Can you smell that? The fear?" he asked, placing his hands on the arms of the chair. He lowered his face directly in line with Chad’s.
“You’re insane,” Chad stammered, half laughing, half crying, “I haven’t done anything. I’m a good, Christian.”
Jobe smashed Chad's face with a backhand. He smiled as blood ran from Chad’s nose.
Chad’s head dropped to his chest, he looked up into Jobe’s maniacal grin. “Who, the fuck, are you?”
“Never mind,” Jobe told him, “we’re way past the point of introduction, don’t you think?”
Jobe snatched Chad's right hand and laid it across the butcher’s block again. Chad struggled but Jobe had leverage and a leather strap which he used to secured Chad's hand to the block.
Chad pulled against the binding. “Let me go you crazy asshole.”
“Relax Chad,” Jobe told him, “Remember our deal? No one leaves until you decide which of these little piggies goes home.”
“Piggies are toes,” Chad blurted, immediately regretting it.
Jobe raised his eyebrows. “Seriously?” he asked, “You're strapped to a cutting board, you’ve been restrained, beaten and you're about to lose a finger. Yet, you still have to be right? Unbelievable.”
Chad looked up at him. "What did I do to you? Did I insult you somehow?”
Jobe twirled the knife and shook his head.
“Did I date your sister in high school?”
Jobe turned his head, ever so slightly. “No, your sexual exploits are not my concern.”
Chad thought about it, “Did you work for me? I mean, I’m sure that I would have remembered, but, maybe a long time ago?”
The knife went still in Jobe’s hand, but he said nothing.
“Is that it?” Chad asked.
Jobe didn’t respond.
“Did I embarrass you? Yell at you? Degrade you? Tell you that your work was shit?” Chad hissed, “What was it?”
Chad saw the colour as it rose up Jobe’s neck, a bead of sweat rolled down into his collar. Chad kept pushing, “Did I eat your lunch? I stole a lot of lunches. Did I fire you?”
Jobe wheeled. “Yeah, you did,” he said, stabbing the knife into the block beside Chad’s hand, making him flinch. “You fired me.”
“That’s it?” Chad asked, “I fired you, so you cut off my fingers?”
“Wow,” Chad laughed through the blood trickling down from his nose and across his lips, “It's the grammar police!”
Jobe struck him again, harder this time. “Alright. Fingers," Jobe said, "You were right. I’ll choose the first one, you pick the second. Keep it up and we can go for three.”
Chad spat in Jobe’s face. “I don’t even know you,” Chad shouted, “I don’t remember you and I remember every single person that I fire, believe me. You've got the wrong guy!”
Jobe wiped the bloodied saliva from his cheek with a dirty cloth. He grabbed Chad’s hand and reached for a pair of garden sheers.
Chad screamed, “Okay, okay, I’m sorry. I’ll quit my job, I’ll never fire anyone again, I swear to God. Please, please, don’t….”
Jobe grabbed Chad’s pinky finger, extended it and swiftly removed it with the shears. Blood sprayed across Jobe’s white shirt and spilled across the butcher’s block. Jobe smiled, satisfied. Chad bawled, barely able to draw breath. All he could manage was to repeat “Fuck!” over and over.
Jobe fumbled around his work bench and rummaged through his tools until he found what he was looking for. Something clicked. “Can’t let you just bleed like that, now can we?” Jobe asked, eerie calmness setting back in.
Another click. Jobe pulled something out from under the bench and approached Chad with it. In shock, unable to speak, Chad shook his head violently as Jobe produced a car cigarette lighter. It was glowing red and with the swiftness of a jaguar, Jobe snatched Chad’s hand and applied the red hot lighter where Chad's finger used to be, cauterizing the wound to an opera of shrieks. Jobe closed his eyes and smiled, this was his heroin. Chad passed out.
“Wake up sleepyhead,” Jobe said, dumping a bucket of water over Chad.
“What the f-” Chad shouted, spitting and shaking his head like a dog, He looked at Jobe, in his clean, short sleeved button down with his black tie. He looked less like a psychopath and more like someone who should be peddling religious literature door to door.
“Good morning. Have a nice nap? I’m not going to take no for an answer. Let’s get it over with and we’ll be even. Now choose,” Jobe ordered, setting an assortment of instruments carefully on the butcher's block.
It was cool in the room, but Chad was sweating profusely. He looked down at his hand. It was wrapped neatly with clean, white gauze, a stark contrast to his filthy clothes and his bloodied hand and face.
“All because I fired you?” Chad’s voice was quiet and thin.
Jobe looked up, sharpening a knife. “Come on, Chad. I wouldn't kidnap and torture you just for firing me. I never even worked for you. You're a giant douche bag, but that's not why you’re here.”
“Then why?” Chad pleaded, “At least tell me why.”
“Have you chosen a finger yet, Chad?” Jobe asked.
Chad looked down as his hand. “I don’t care.”
“Tsk, tsk,” Jobe waggled his own finger mockingly, “that’s not how we play this game. You choose one, or I'll choose two. Every time that you refuse to make a choice, I take an extra piggy. Finger, not toe.”
“Okay," Chad conceded, "take this one.” He laid his right hand on the butcher’s block, ring finger extended out. It was the finger beside the one already severed. That hand was already disfigured, so, what the hell?
Jobe let out a long, exaggerated exhalation. “You see? That wasn’t so hard, was it? All that I’ve been asking for was a little commitment.” He patted Chad on the shoulder.
Chad glared up at Jobe, his face drawn, pale and blank of expression. Chad was broken, his head dropped. Jobe put his finger under Chad's chin and lifted his head back up so that he could look into the man's eyes.
“Because you listened and finally made a fucking decision, I’ll give you what you’ve been asking for, an explanation. Does that name Rebecca ring a bell?” Jobe asked.
Chad shook his head.
“No, of course not, I’m sure that she was neither your first, nor your last,” Jobe said, “Rebecca worked for you six years ago. Five years ago, you made advances on Rebecca and promised her a promotion, a raise, her own office, a better life, in exchange for… well, let’s call them favours.” Jobe framed the last word in air quotes.
Chad was still staring up at Jobe, nothing about his expression indicated that he had the slightest recollection.
Jobe continued, “Rebecca, Collins. Red-haired beauty, long legs, loved her short skirts, wore her hair short too.”
Chad’s eyes widened slightly, but didn’t go unnoticed. Jobe smiled, Jobe was certain that Chad knew exactly who he was talking about. “Anyway,” Jobe resumed, “Rebecca never changed her name, always went by her maiden name. She was my wife, Chad.”
Chad’s lip trembled slightly, his eyes looked away. “I,” he croaked, “I didn’t know.”
“If you had, would you have cared, Chad? Your track record says no. Don’t look so surprised, I know all about you and your office exploits. All the HR records, the complaints gone ignored, all of it.” Jobe’s temper was rising.
“I never,” Chad started to say, but Jobe struck him again. "I'm sorry," Chad said.
Jobe looked up at the ceiling, pensively and sighed, “Ah, so am I Chad, so am I. You know, she was the only woman I ever loved and I thought, until then, that I was her only love, but hey, life has a way of kicking you right in the balls, doesn’t it?”
Chad said nothing, could say nothing, his mouth had all but dried up and his voice forsook him. Jobe continued, “So, naturally, when she finally came clean about what had happened between the two of you, I was furious. I lost my mind Chad, can you imagine that?”
Chad shook his head. “Shut up Chad,” Jobe told him, “that was rhetorical. Anyway, Rebecca finally left, I never had the nerve to leave her, but I certainly made her life unbearable. When she walked out that door, something inside of me broke."
He paused to take a breath. "Sure, I knew in my heart that things ere over the moment that I found out," he said, "but when she actually left, I swear to you, I could hear something snap as she stepped out across that threshold, like a dried twig. you know?" Jobe took a sharp breath.
“Do you want to know what happened next, Chad?” Jobe hissed, turning and pressing his face into Chad's.
Chad shook his head. “Sure you do,” Jobe growled, “you’re a part of the story, after all.”
Chad shook his head.
“Oh Chad, look, I get it, you don’t want to say anything to upset me, right? It’s a bit late for that, buddy,” Jobe said, his voice calm again, “I’m sure that you can imagine what happened to Rebecca, can’t you?”
Chad didn’t move. “Come on Chad,” Jobe prodded, “you think that I killed her, don't you?”
There was a long pause, sweat trickled down Chad’s forehead. Jobe stared at him quietly, waiting. Finally, Chad slowly nodded his bloodied head. “Atta boy,” Jobe said, clapping his hands twice.
“Well done Chadly,” he said, “I would have thought so too, but we'd both be wrong. Rebecca moved out of state. She’s living with her mother and seeing some asshole with a BMW. I told you, she was the love of my life. I could never hurt her the way that she hurt me, but I applaud your honesty. Now you now,"
Jobe walked back over to his work bench and picked up a small pair of scissors. He looked at Chad. Chad was slumped in the chair, his hair was matted with sweat and blood which was also spattered across his cheek and ran down his chin and onto his salmon shirt. He was a fine mess.
Chad opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Jobe put down the scissors and brought Chad a glass of water, allowed him to take a few sips before snatching it away. Chad looked up at him through tired eyes and said, “I remember.”
“Good,” Jobe said, “I’m happy to hear that.”
“She was easy,” Chad continued, smiling, “practically threw herself across my desk.”
Jobe picked up the garden shears, then slammed them back onto the bench. He reached for a serrated knife instead and held that in front of him. “You shut up, Chad,” Jobe screamed, waiving the knife.
Chad laughed. “She was beautiful, that red hair. The carpet matched the drapes, too.”
“Shut the fuck up Chad,” Jobe shrieked. He lunged toward Chad with his arm outstretched, the huge knife like a big, steel claw.
“Fuck you Jobe,” Chad said.
Jobe dove toward Chad.
Chad, who’d been allowed the freedom of his right hand, had managed to wriggle it free of the loosely secured leather strap and now, brought that hand up quickly as Jobe descended upon him. Jobe saw a glint of metal in Chad’s hand, but there was nothing he could do. He couldn’t change course in mid air. Enraged, Jobe had committed fully to driving the knife into Chad’s face, which he did, but I'll spare you the details. It was disgusting.
What Jobe had failed to notice was that, as he carried on about Rebecca, Chad took an awl from the butcher's block. It was sharp, about six inches long. At the moment Jobe fell into him, driving his knife down, Chad shot the awl up into Jobe’s gut as hard as he could. It went deep, right up to the handle, piercing Jobe's intestines and lung.
Police busted their way into a small white house after neighbours complained of an awful smell coming from next door. They finally discovered the hidden room in Jobe's basement and found Jobe draped across Chad, dried blood everywhere. Chad's hand was still grasping the handle of that awl, blood completely coating his arm, hand and his wedding ring.
"Do we have an ID on the bodies?"
"Yeah, the one in the chair is Chad Rodgers, married, two kids, real shame, he put up a hell of a fight though," an officer with a clipboard said, he pointed the pen at Jobe, "The other one is Jobe Lindley. No next of kin, never married. This is his place."