When he tried to sniff the snot back into his nose, something sharp broke free deep in his right side under his chest. Bound and tied to the chair kept him from doubling over. His mangled mouth kept him from screaming.
Why is he just staring at me? Why is he just standing there looking at me?
“I am so very glad we are here,” the big man said.
I don’t know you, Paulie thought. Don’t know you and I didn’t know your fucking daughter. I didn’t know any of those girls. Please, just go away and let me die.
“You know why I feel great?”
Paulie refused to look up. A memory flash gave him a crystal clear snapshot of a woman with a baseball bat. His brain choked it up. His senses reminded his broken body that everything was unbroken when she came into the room.
Another mental snapshot showed her eyes behind her ski mask as she brought up the bat. Paulie’s stomach sucked in and he puked blood in his lap as he memory-felt her hitting him with the bat as she screeched her daughter’s name.
Paulie coughed out blood and bile as the mothers and fathers came back. Each of them told him their daughter’s name. Each one had a weapon or a fist and no mercy for the man who murdered their daughter.
They beat him and asked him why. Every one of them wanted to know why. Why, why, why. Why did he do it? Why did he pick their little girl? Why did he kill so many?
Nate laughed. “All comin’ back to you now, isn’t it? Shit, this is wonderful.”
Stop… just stop laughing, Paulie thought.
A flood of blurry images came back. The big man laughed as Paulie bucked and groaned as phantoms assaulted him. Paulie bit his swollen lip and he felt blood on his chin.
“We’re your victims, Paulie, not the girls,” Nate said. “With any luck, the girls are in a better place. What I paid for was a small thing. Getting some closure, even that tiny, little bit, that came from hurting you.”
The big man rubbed his head and his face jerked into a cry. He wiped the tears with his sleeve and gave Paulie an angry look.
“Police said my little girl was one of the first, if not the first,” Nate said. “First kill of a career serial murderer. No one’s ever found her. I never got my closure.”
The big man stepped forward and looked down on Paulie. His body was silhouetted against the dim yellow bulb and he couldn’t make out any of his features.
“If I had my closure, neither one of us would be here right now. But I can live with it knowing you’re here.”
The door clicked from the other side of the room. The big man’s body blocked the light. There was a brief flash before it snapped shut and bolted.
The big man didn’t move. The big man had stopped his talking and laughing. Paulie heard him sniff and knew that he was still crying.
Then the big man stepped to the side and pulled out the ski mask and took a long look at Paulie before pulling it over his face. Those eyes stared at him.
Footsteps moved through the dark towards him. Voices whispered to each other. The big man only stared at his face.
“There’s one more group that wants to talk to you,” the big man said. “They found their daughter a month ago. I spoke with them. They were there when the cops brought you in for questioning and watched you walk away free.”
A very tall, thin man emerged into the dim yellow light. Paulie jerked his arms against the ropes when he saw the gas can in his right hand. He knew who the man was, even with his ski mask covering his face. In his left hand was an aluminum bat.
The big man stood and watched as the woman, walked out of the dark. She was carrying a hammer and Paulie could hear her crying under her mask.
Paulie watched the tall man put the gas can down and set a lighter on the floor next to it. He looked up at the big man and he nodded approval. The woman continued to cry but she gripped her hammer.
The man and woman, these two Paulie knew, walked toward him as the big man walked through and past them. Paulie screamed and begged and pleaded as the woman brought up the hammer and the big man disappeared into the dark.
Nate took the key out of his pocket and bolted the door. The corridor was dark, almost wet cinder block walls. He put the key in the metal box next to the door.
They told him the building was built to be soundproof and fireproof. He stood next to the door and heard nothing and regretted even less.
Best money I ever spent, he thought. Worth every fucking penny.