Gerald sat still, unyielding chains binding him fast to the all-metal armchair. He looked around and couldn’t help but admire his captor’s taste. The sparsely furnished room reminded him of a frightful hospital theatre, only the silhouette sitting across from him was no meticulous doctor, and he had an old, rusty saw instead of a scalpel. Gerald would have chosen a place like this too, to punish a wayward soul, to assert his supremacy over a common thief. He looked up at the lone spotlight that hung a few feet above his shiny, bald head and smiled, confident that the miserable piece of scum sitting across the room could see him, and it gave him immeasurable pleasure to annoy him.
As expected, his captor immediately sprang to his feet. However, instead of charging forward, he paused a while, and then began to take slow, lazy steps, in a bid to afford Gerald the opportunity to imagine all sorts of dreadful possibilities. Gerald would have laughed harder, had the chains been a little less restrictive. “Where is she?” Ali asked, trying to sound unfazed. Nothing would have given him more joy than to snap Gerald into two, like a dry twig. Gerald gazed into his eyes, smiling a foolish smile. He wanted to pat Ali on the cheek and tell him he didn’t have to try so hard to be intimidating. But the chains… Ali looked at the spectacle before him, and couldn’t help his astonishment. His mouth fell open, exposing very white teeth. Gerald swirled the spit he had been gathering, and shot it straight into Ali’s open, waiting mouth, neighing like a horse afterwards. Ali charged like a bull, and in one quick move, held the erring son-in-law of Senator Donga Philips by the neck, squeezing and digging his fingernails in, until the skin broke in a few places, letting out rivulets of bright red. Only when Gerald’s eyes began to roll into their sockets did he release his iron grip. “Where is she?” he asked again, basking in the new strength that surged through him. Gerald kept coughing; it was impossible to speak after having his throat wrung like a dripping dishcloth. Not that he planned to, anyway. When Susan, his wife, swindled her pot-bellied father of a few million dollars, he knew the angry senator would come after them hard. The couple had planned to disappear and begin a new life on some island, far away from his reach. Susan left yesterday. He had planned to leave today, only to be caught by this drooling toddler with immature balls. There was absolutely no way he was going to tell this lizard where Susan kept the money, or where she was now hiding with their ten-year-old daughter. “Don’t let me use this,” Ali threatened, pointing to the rusty saw that lay menacingly on the table. He had intended for his voice to sound gruffer, more intimidating, not this whimpering of a hungry puppy that escaped him. As if to compensate for his failure, he reached for the saw and held it to Gerald’s finger, all the while watching him, expecting him to flinch and immediately spill the info. Gerald sat there, calm and dignified as a pope. He would have asked Ali to kneel before him as he proclaimed papal blessings, but he didn’t want to push his luck too far. Ali became exasperated. He let out a few curses, and very roughly, began to saw away at Gerald’s left index finger. The first scream was long and shaky, piercing through the night, its eerie sound bringing all night life in the surrounding woods to a shuddering halt. The sound ricocheted across the almost empty room, filling both their ears, overshadowing them. They were in an old abandoned warehouse, forty minutes from the nearest human settlement. Ali had chosen a prime location for testing the carrying powers of Gerald’s lungs. “Where is she?” he asked again, when the tingling in his ears had stopped. The sight of Gerald’s blood was intoxicating. He was sure he had broken him. Gerald’s breathing came out like a hiss, slow and laborious. His entire arm burned with indescribable pain. He swallowed and opened his eyes, unleashing a stream of tears. He tried to look into his captor’s ugly face, though it was all a dizzy blur. “Go to hell,” was his courageous reply. Ali paused for a moment, and then smiled as he reached for another finger. Image source
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