45 Minutes Later
Curt swung the torch around again, the high-powered beam burning into her eyes. For her part, Stef fought blinking this time, and he was glad – it meant that at least he didn’t have to slap her again, and her face already looked like it had been hit by a truck. The slaps, her cuts, the amateur dental surgery – if they made it out, it could all be repaired, but if they didn’t…
The face. The face was the easiest thing to hurt for show though – wounds tended to bleed profusely, and with a little bit of showmanship, could be made out to be even worse than they were.
Her exposed torso also looked good enough – cuts, burns, bruises, a Pollock painting of pain.
At least she’d stopped crying.
He pressed down on her two broken fingers, and stared at her. ‘Is that your final answer?’
‘Yes!’ she screamed, her voice straining with pain. ‘For the last time, yes!’
He swung around to look at Ivan – they were watching him in shifts, or observing the show in shifts, or both, he wasn’t sure, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to draw attention by asking. Do the act. Torture the girl. Act like…himself, two years ago.
He wanted to throw up.
Some snow blew in through the broken, open roof, and he unconsciously pulled his jacket tighter, before looking at her half-naked body, and feeling yet another layer of guilt added to his already-massive guilt onion. She was freezing, and he was wrapped up in enough layers to allow him to ignore the cold.
He turned and grinned at Ivan. ‘I think I believe her, guess she does know her own name’ he said. He turned back to Stef. ‘Ok, question three, you filthy little whore, what’s your serial number?’
She turned away from him, so he punched her in the ribs.
‘I asked you,’ he said, picking up a scalpel, ‘what your serial number is.’
‘I don’t know!’
His heart skipped a beat.
He pressed the scalpel into her forearm. ‘I don’t think I heard you.’
‘I don’t know my recruit serial number!’
He cut into her arm again, silently cursing himself. Of course she didn’t know her serial number, she’d been at the Agency two days as a recruit. Not enough time to memorise it – if she’d ever known it in the first place. That, and if she said her agent serial number, at the very least, she was dead. Whether or not they killed him depended on a few things. Even if they believed his cry of innocence, there was still the opportunity to be executed for stupidity. For being tricked by the proxies. For buying their lies, and falling prey to their spells.
She stared at him, but only for a moment. She knew he was acting. He hoped she knew they were in this together.
She seemed to understand. She wasn’t fighting, not even as much as she should be. She was, for the most part, just taking it. He couldn’t even talk to her. Any code words might be noticed, any familiar sentences might be recognised, any simple phrase, any small comfort, even one distorted through references, might lead to both of their deaths.
It had been risk enough to ask her the truth of her biggest secret.
‘Tell me!’ he shouted, cutting into her arm again.
‘I really don’t know!’
Time to cut her slack. Time to give her an out. ‘Come on,’ he said, grinning his oh-so-false grin down at her. ‘It’s just seven numbers, recruit, can’t a worthless bitch like you even remember seven numbers?’
Seven numbers. Any seven numbers would do. He silently willed her on, hoping to make it at least through this question without having to move to something drastic.
‘Five!’ she started.
He cut another groove into her arm – they were shallow, just enough to make a point, and when finished, another way to humiliate her.
‘Five!’ she shouted again.
He slapped her, trying to take some of the power out of his blow. ‘You stuttering there, recruit?’
‘Five,’ she said again, blood leaking from the corner of her mouth.
He cut her again. ‘You’re stuck on repeat!’
‘Oh good, there we go, want to get around to answering my question sometime this decade?’
He moved the scalpel again, and again, finishing off his task on her forearm. ‘Got two more numbers for me? You really don’t want to make me start this all over again, do you?’
‘Nine, zero!’
He smiled again, this time a genuine smile. Whether by sheer luck, or by making some obscure geek reference that he didn’t get, he had made her job extremely easy. More moments filled with words, rather than blows. He laughed, dropped the scalpel in the tray, then leaped onto her, the chair she was restrained in nearly crashing to the ground, but thankfully, it stayed vertical.
He crushed himself against her, trying to transfer a little warmth into her shivering form. ‘I can see why they gave you that number,’ he said, grabbing a handful of hair and turning her face to look at him. ‘Five-five-five-OH-sixty-nine-OH!’ he said, thumping his body against hers. ‘Did he really have his cock shoved down your throat so much that he needed to label you a whore in your serial number?’
She tried to look away, but he held her head steady. One hand slid up her chest, feeling the same spot as before, to feel if what he thought was true, to once again ask her for her biggest secret, and to trust him with it.
There was no breastbone, but a soft patch of skin, and beneath, he could feel cold radiating up to his fingers. Not the snow, not the ambient freezing environment, a different kind of cold, a deeper kind of cold. Like the kind there would be if a newbie had a piece of mirror in her chest.
He slipped back into his patronising voice. ‘Do you actually love him?’ he asked, shaking her head so that it didn’t look as though he was going easy on her. ‘Or is it just sex?’ He pressed down on her chest again. ‘I mean, I’m going to kill you, would you at least like me to mail your heart back to him?’
She nodded as best as she could, then looked away from him. ‘I don’t want to die,’ she whispered, blood-covered lips parting painfully. She was talking, but she was talking to him, to the real him, not to the version of himself that had been making her scream, not to the Curt that was slowly bringing her closer to death.
‘Oh, but that’s too bad,’ he said. ‘Because so far as I’m concerned, you are worse than they are.’
‘You should get off me,’ she whispered.
‘It’s cute that you think you can give me orders,’ he said, yanking his hand, and pulling out a clump of her hair.
She closed her eyes, and suddenly he felt warm. He pulled himself off her, and saw the wetness on her pants – she’d wet herself. He fought his pity, fought the need to console her, or to just take his chances, cut into her chest, and try and get them out of the mess they were in.
Instead, he played his role, and kicked her in the head.
‘You fucking little piece of trash!’ he shouted. ‘You pissed on me! You pissed on me!’ He moved forward, and undid the collar around her neck, pulling her head forward to look at her forearm. ‘Read that!’
‘C-c-c-,’ she stuttered, quaking in fear.
He slammed her forehead against her forearm. ‘Read it!’
‘…cunt,’ she whispered.
‘I can’t hear you!’
‘That’s what you are, a dirty, filthy, little cunt. And…I know that pissing on a proxy probably makes him want you, but the human race does things differently!’
He worked on the restraints around her wrists.
‘What do you think you’re doing?’ Ivan asked.
‘You’ll see, besides, you’re armed,’ he said, ‘if she runs, shoot her in the back.’
‘Fuck protocol,’ he said, swelling with false bravado. ‘I’m the best, and I know what I’m doing.’ He freed both of her hands, then moved down to her legs, freeing them and her feet. Stef, for her part, thankfully, didn’t move an inch, nor try to escape, or even breathe deeply. She was trusting him, and he hoped he deserved the trust.
Trust he might have, but he wasn’t going to get forgiveness, not that he deserved it.
He pulled her from the chair, and let her drop to the ground. She didn’t even make an attempt to support her own weight, just let out a short cry of pain as she hit the ground, then went silent and still.
He wanted to hit her so hard that she lost consciousness, but doing that would only extend the process – as the superiors would rarely want to continue interrogating an unnatural whilst they were unconscious. No point in inflicting pain if they couldn’t feel it. That, and if they decided to pump adrenaline into her heart, and pulled out a syringe covered in mirror, there’d be no end to the possibilities of the ways that it could go wrong.
He grabbed a shoulder and flipped her onto her back. The ground was freezing, and her entire skin rippled with goosebumps. She just stared at him with the same tortured, scared eyes that had been staring into him for nearly an hour. A very long hour.
One hour, out of the two before her blood entirely turned to ash. It would already be showing signs, if they cared to look closely at it, which they hadn’t, which they weren’t. He was treating her like nothing more than a girl recruited for nothing more than the sexual gratification of an angel. And she was taking it like a recruit, a scared recruit with no resistance to pain. Unless there was an extremely paranoid member of the bunch, they had absolutely no reason to believe she was anything other than human.
‘I’m going to tell you something,’ he said, wrapping a hand around her throat. ‘You are far worse than they are. Proxies can’t help what they are, those born unnatural can’t help what they are, they are just victims of their abhorrent births. They need to be put down like the animals they are, but still, they don’t have a choice.’ He lowered himself onto her, straddling her tiny frame again. ‘You, on the other hand, you chose to be what you are. You chose to turn your back on your own people, to side with those that have no right to live.’
‘Fuck you,’ she whispered.
‘Really, thanks, but no thanks, especially not since you covered us both in piss!’ He took his hand off her throat. ‘You need to be punished for that.’
He slapped her again, and she shook. ‘Stop. Talking.’
He pulled a small knife from a sheath on his belt. ‘You are going to lie there, and take this, and be glad it’s the only thing I do to you.’ He lowered the knife to her cheek, and began to slide it up towards her eye. ‘You’re in control, Stef,’ he said. ‘I’m going to cut your eye out, which would be so much easier for me to do if you were in bondage, but since you aren’t, you need to listen.’
‘No. Please-’
He ignored her. ‘If you lie still, and take your punishment, you’ll be all right. If you struggle, if you scream, if you thrash about while I’m doing this, well, there’s really nothing to stop me from stabbing you in the brain, and you don’t want that, do you?’
She closed her eyes.
He laughed. ‘You think that will stop me? Open you fucking eyes.’
She did, and they were full of tears. He silently begged forgiveness, and slid the knife into the white of her eye.
He expected her to scream. He wanted her to scream. He wanted her to sit up, filled with some sort of mirror-fueled superhero rage, and destroy the entire facility. She simply bit her lip till it bled, and stayed still. He levered the eye from the socket, as gently as he could, and let it rest on the top of her cheek, the optic nerve still attached.
‘As I thought,’ he heard himself say, detached and still playing the part, ‘eyes are the window to the soul, and you’re empty behind there. No soul. No right to live.’
He cut the nerve, and she screamed.
He gently lifted the eye, stood, turned and tossed it to Ivan. ‘Here, trophy for you!’
He crouched, and pulled away her belt, then pulled her stained, ripped, and wet pants over burnt feet and broken toes and away from her. He knelt beside her head and lightly slapped her bleeding head.
‘I have to go change my clothes, thanks to your waterworks,’ he said. ‘But in the meantime, I want you to feel as disgusted as I do.’ He slipped the the pants over her head, and tied the legs around her neck, sealing her in with the smell of her own urine.
He stood, and kicked her for good measure. ‘I’m going to leave you on the ground,’ he said. ‘Just so you can contemplate the fact that very soon, you will be beneath it. If you move one inch, one fucking inch, I will kill you when I get back. Do you understand?’
There was a vague nod.
‘Tell me you understand!’
‘I understand.’
‘Call me sir!’
‘…I understand, sir.’
He kicked her again, then turned to Ivan. ‘Where do I change my clothes?’
Ivan jerked a thumb over his shoulder. ‘This way.’
He stared at the bloodstained sheet as they walked past – they were running out of time, soon enough it would be obvious that it wasn’t human blood there, even if they weren’t paying close attention.
He rubbed at his wrist, and fought an urge to look back at the girl, to see if she was writhing in pain. Not that it mattered, whether or not she moved, he was going to kill her when he got back.