It’s always one more time. Really it’s five or six more times so why do they think I’m buying it? No way he’s getting what he wants out of me anyhow.
“Where’s the cash?”
“I don’t know, dipshit. How many times I gotta tell you?”
Another hard left across the cheek. The swelling was so bad the skin split from the blood pooling up underneath. Couldn’t take the strain.
Okay, calling him a dipshit was not exactly offering an olive branch but this guy has been on my ass for an hour and I’m done.
Strapped to a chair with sloppy duct tape work, I can feel at least three teeth missing and that hammer over on the table is starting to worry me. There’s only so long this guy can use his fists without breaking something so I’d say we’re about at the tools stage of the game.
It’s a game I know well but always from the other side. This guy must be new in town because I’m sure I know everyone in the business. Heard someone say Rizzo when he walked in. Now those other three are taking the back seat, catching a smoke, watching the show.
Rizzo was a pro, I’ll give him that. I’ve never been in danger of going out cold. Can’t find your swag if your man isn’t talking. Trouble with this shakedown – I didn’t do it.
Try telling him that.
“Okay, I’ve been a nice guy up to now.”
“I hate to disagree but...”
Rizzo smiled. He knows we’re in a battle of wills. My test is to keep from giving a false confession despite the agony and his job is to make me break whether I did it or not. Give the man upstairs a body and the rest goes away. Along with the cash. Half a mil. Not a bad haul for whoever took it.
When he turned around he had the hammer. I wasn’t surprised.
He twirled it in his hands, looked it up and down. All I could do was wonder where the first shot was coming. I know from experience there are lots of choices.
Kneecaps, fingers, jaw, feet (take the shoes off first), ribs, shins, temples (big risk of putting the lights out), and balls. Please not the balls.
“I’m gonna ask you again.”
“I thought you said one more time on the last one.” Rizzo ignored me.
“Where’s the money you took?”
“I don’t have it. I didn’t take it. You can ask me all night long. You can buy me drinks and whisper sweet nothings and I still didn’t take it.”
Kneecap. Not much worse in this game. So painful I didn’t even scream, just got dizzy and saw a flash vision of Deborah, my eighth grade girlfriend, whatever that meant. Misfired synapses I guess.
I took a full minute before I opened my eyes. Lifting the lids let loose the tears waiting to rush for the floor. Rizzo was smiling.
He lifted the hammer high over his head like Thor and ran at me. Looked like he was coming for my skull. I glued my eyes shut and braced for impact but heard his feet stop shuffling forward and a low guttural laugh.
I opened back up and the whole peanut gallery was laughing along. Rizzo put the hammer back on the table, picked up something I couldn’t see.
I thought about giving him an address or directions to a tree stump in the woods – anything to get me out of there – but he would have killed me anyway. At the very least once they found no money where I sent them I’d be dead within twenty-four hours. Half a million was no joke.
Rizzo stepped in close. Garden shears. Fingers. It was the next logical step. He was working from the playbook I knew so well.
If he was going to follow protocol he would start with the pinky. I could live without a pinky, maybe two.
“I’ll ask you one more time...”
He stuck with protocol. Little finger, left hand. Goodbye.
That time I screamed. Tipped over the chair and howled. Two of the men on their coffee break came over and wrapped a dirty dishtowel around my bloody hand. Made a mental note to go for a tetanus shot if I got out of there.
Yeah, Rizzo was a pro. He’d seen the drill before. He knew when enough was enough.
“He doesn’t know,” he said.
There were protests from the others. Rizzo stood firm. “He didn’t take the money. Bring me the next one.”
Next one? My God, how many pinky fingers would he have by the end of this?
My sendoff was less than hospitable. They nicked my arm when they cut the duct tape off. I saw one of them step on my severed finger as he dragged me across the room. They threw me down the stairs and of all the torture I’d endured, that was when I came closest to passing out.
It hurt like hell but I forced myself to pinch down on my new stump so the bleeding would stop.
Their parting words were an urging to get out of town, advice I was keen to follow.
I’d leave minus one finger, a decent amount of blood and a few teeth but I knew I’d be okay.
I had half a million waiting for me.
Eric Beetner is the co-author of One Too Many Blows To The Head. His short fiction has appeared in Thuglit, A Twist of Noir, Thrillers Killers n Chillers, Crooked, Flash Fiction Offensive, Pulp Pusher. Powder Burn Flash and Darkest Before the Dawn. More info and links to stories can be found at ericbeetner.blogspot.com