Sitting in Elsa’s office I found myself conflicted. On the one hand I didn’t feel much like killing George. He’d been nothing but nice to me so far. So it seemed rude to off the gentleman. Still, he was a total stranger. It’s not like I had any real emotional investment in the man. Turn a bug into a pet then see how hard it is to stomp the little fucker. Yet, this might be my only opportunity to escape the murder-rape awaiting me down river.
If I was going to do this, I needed at least a little reason.
I asked, “Is there any particular reason you want George dead?”
Else leaned in close, “He’s a rat.”
That certainly counted as reason enough, although it seemed like justification for anyone else already being held captive. If Elsa could help anyone escape and the price was George’s head then why not recruit one of the other captives?
I probed, “Why are you asking me?”
She wrapped her arms around herself. Sighing, Elsa drifted to a window, staring out as she said, “The others already know, and do not care. They believe it was only a moment of weakness; that George only once gave up information in hopes of bettering his situation. They understand, and forgive.”
“But you don’t.”
Elsa gritted her teeth. When she turned her eyes had gone cold, “What he did – Joyce may have escaped. He prevented that. And she was whipped. Beaten. Gang…”
I felt like it only got worse from there, and told her not to continue. All the details weren’t necessary to get the picture. Fuck-all, I understood Elsa’s position. This wasn’t the place for forgiveness. Forgiveness is a human characteristic. George hurt Elsa’s heart, nuff said.
“I’ll do it,” I said, yet still not one hundred percent sure I could. There’s that hypothetical paradox again: a sense of capability is not definitive; a daydream is not murder. However, if this turned out to be some kind of twisted game, I knew I’d be back for the good doctor.
Elsa kissed me on the cheek. She slipped me a scalpel I secreted in my shoe.
She said, “You are a good man.”
I nodded, another member of the black soul choir, beautiful voices and gargoyle visages. I asked about the escape plan.
Elsa smiled, “There is a plant that grows in the jungle. It secretes a toxic liquid.”
Great, I thought, one more thing to worry about. I imagined running for my life only to brush against some poisonous flower and fall own dead.
She went on, “I have some in powdered form. It will help subdue the guards when you’re on the boat with Joyce.”
“Since when is Joyce is going too?”
Elsa winked, “Leave that to me. Joyce will have the powder.”
I nodded. It sounded better than my earlier escape attempt. That left just one thing. I pressed my foot into the scalpel.
Elsa stepped over to the door. She flung it open. The guard outside flinched. Elsa commanded him to take me back to the captives' barracks then bring her bitch. He did as told, the whole while jabbering insults at me in what I assumed to be Ukrainian.
When I got back the first person to greet me was George.
He shook my hand, “Nice try, friend.”
Motherfucker. He was making this killing him thing hard for me. What an asshole.
I said, “Didn’t end well.”
“But it was worth a shot,” George said.
“It always is gentlemen,” Nigel said. I looked up him. He sat in the rafters. I waved. He smiled weakly.
The guard gestured for Joyce to follow him. She did. The others all clustered around a window to watch her march to the doctor’s shack. I didn’t.
George said, “That German cunt asks for her almost every day. I feel bad for Joyce.”
“I’m sure,” I said.
Shuffling to the other side of the shanty barracks I found an empty bunk. Laying down I stared at the wooden slats supporting the mattress above. Crude scratches – perhaps made by fingernails, maybe even slivers of metal – left behind the last words of former occupants. Though many left their names, others deposited symbols in the wood -- a Celtic infinity knot branched the space between a cross and a pot leaf housing the initials D.J. – the various icons turning the bunk slates into a kind of mandala tombstone. My eyes went around and around wondering if any of the scribes still lived, or if this was the last trace of them. I wondered if George had made his mark.
A few hours passed. We could hear a motorboat pop-puttering its way along the river.
George came over, “Bad news.”
“They’re back from Caliban’s,” I said, still in the bunk.
George said, “Yeah. Worse than that, they all came back.”
Sitting up but not looking at him, I said, “Let me guess, if no one but the boat came back he’d’ve refused the offer.”
George nodded, “You’ve hit the nail on the head.”
I stood, pressing the scalpel into my foot, feeling the edge of the blade bite but not quite cut. I said, “Nothing left to do except get ready to go.”
A commotion came from outside. Everyone went to the windows. Out by the doctor’s office Elsa was dragging a half naked Joyce by the hair. The doctor stormed to Mix Hendrick’s double wide. Pounding on the door, Elsa shouted for an audience. The door opened, and she dragged Joyce, kicking and screaming, inside. The muffled shouts of the doctor drifted to us, indiscernible yet obviously not good. It didn’t take long before the double wide opened again. Joyce, a look on her face as if she’d been gutted, shambled outside, Elsa followed with a triumphant expression on her face.
The two women walked to the captives’ barracks. At the door Joyce spun around. She fell to her knees, and started begging:
“Kill me now! Don’t send me to him! Caliban is the Devil!”
Elsa stroked the side of her face then swiftly brought a vicious backhand down on Joyce. Falling to the ground Joyce curled up in a shuddering fetal ball.
Elsa snarled, “This is your own fault.”
The doctor kicked Joyce in the stomach then turned on her heel, and stormed back to her office, slamming the door behind her. I started worrying I may have made a mistake, especially as I watched Joyce crawling back to the barracks.
George went to help her inside. He whispered kindness, but Joyce shoved him away. Straightening up she walked on her own, held up by a self respect some spend their wholes lives trying to find. When she got near me I asked if she was alright.
Joyce leaned over to whisper, “I have the powder.”
A charade. Some con to get Mix Hendrick’s to put Joyce on the boat with me. I saw it all in a blink: a feigned falling out between the master and her sex slave leads to the good doctor shipping her former plaything to Caliban. All that remained was me paying my toll.
George asked me, “What did she say?”
I said, “Pay it in full.”
He furrowed his brow, “That doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
I said, “Doesn’t have to.”
Soon after the dwarf overlord Lenny arrived. He came to inform us that come morning Joyce and I would be shipped down river to Caliban. So it was time to say goodbyes. I think he expected one of us to beg for mercy -- please kind sir put a bullet between my eyes. Instead, he got nothing; and it felt good to disappoint him.
I don’t care to think about what came next, so I’m just going to be quick about it.
The sun went down. A few hours passed. When it felt like everyone was asleep I slipped out from under the tombstone slats. I slipped off my shoes. Pulling the scalpel from my shoe I crept on naked feet to where George slept, trying the whole while not to think about the two of us playing cards to pass the hours between sunset and sleep, how he sounded like a good man doing his best to make the worst possible situation endurable. There were no moments of holy shit is someone waking up, about to witness me mid-murder? Everyone slept like dead children. I got to George, put the blade to his neck, and cut, leaning with my full weight to put the knife as deep into him as possible. Blood welled up, spurted as the heart pumped it into flying ribbons. I clamped a hand over his mouth to stifle the frightened gurgle. He barely reacted. By the time he understood what was happening it was too late.
I went back to my bunk. As I stashed the scalpel back in my shoe I heard a snort. Glancing up I saw a pair of animal eyes shining in the rafters. But they turned away, leaving me in the dark with what I’d done.
Part 7: A Woman’s Pocket – On the River – Cry Freedom – WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?!