by John Nation
One of the richest men in the world declares war on Sheriff Johnson and the Pack.
|Wallace ‘Igor’ Lichen was in the kitchen, taking inventory of his equipment. Spread out on the table in front of him were the instruments and chemicals he used in his profession. He saw the bottle of acid was empty. No problem. He had a second container he pulled from his storage case to replace it. Before he could complete his inspection, he almost fell out of his chair when a voice called from the front room, “I love what you have done to the place.”
In less than a second, he grabbed his pistol from the stovetop and raced to the front of the house. When he entered the living room, there was a tug at his hand. He looked down and saw he no longer held the weapon. Standing next to him was a young woman holding the gun. Before he could react, there was the shattering of glass as his weapon sailed out the window and out of sight.
“There’s really no need for the gun,” Tonya said.
Igor tried to smash his fist into her face. She caught it and tossed him against the wall hard enough to knock some of the displays loose. He fell to the floor and gasped for a few seconds before he regained his breath. He grabbed the edge of his workstation and pulled himself up to attack again.
“Please,” Tonya said. “Let’s not fight. I want to discuss your work. I can tell you’re dedicated to your profession. That is so good in these days of ‘the quicker the better’ mentality.”
Tonya turned away from him to examine the items placed on one of the other walls. When she turned away, Igor grabbed a large screwdriver off the wall and held it behind him. He planned to stab her while she was distracted. Before he could take more than two steps, Tonya turned back to him.
“These items on the wall, they are for display only, correct? If you really wanted a person to last more than a few minutes before he died, you would have to use instruments that did less physical harm but could still inflict the maximum of pain. The things on the wall would not work for that.”
Igor paused for a second, pleased there was a person who understood, if even only in the smallest degree, what his labors entailed.
“Yes,” he agreed. “The tools on the wall are for show only.” He took a tight grip on the screwdriver.
“Let me guess. They help establish a mental state in the ones you work on. The proper psychological state can make the physical pain even more agonizing.”
Igor smiled as he looked at the young woman facing him. It was a pity she had to die. He had never met a person that was not either an employer or a patient that had such a basic grasp of his artistry. “You are quite astute,” he said.
“How long did it take you to get where you are today? Were you always such an artist or did you have to take classes? I must know, did you have a mentor, someone to guide and direct you, or are you self-taught?”
“I learned all I know through trial and error. I must admit, some of my earlier projects did not meet my expectations. With a little practice however, I soon learned to draw the process out. My first patient, I’m sad to say, was only with me a little over an hour before he died. I am proud to say I have reached a point where the patient does not leave until I release him, or her.” He moved a half step closer to Tonya when she looked once more at the items on the wall.
“Good for you,” Tonya said. “I’m delighted to see you are not a sexist.”
“Not at all. Black, white, yellow, or any other color does not matter. I care not if my patient is gay or straight, young or old, rich or poor, male or female. All are equal when they are on my table.”
“You have standards and will not deviate from them. I find that refreshing.” Tonya stretched her hand out and caressed the table Igor strapped his victims to. “I see your worktable has the same basic shape as the human body. There are sections for the torso, head, arms and legs.” She took hold of one of the arm sections of the table and pushed it closer to the torso section and then pulled it out so the arms were over the head. She saw the legs of the workbench were adjustable also.
“I find it useful to position the body for different procedures. There are times it is helpful to reach the armpit, the inner thigh or genitals. The movable appendages of the table make that easier.” Igor moved a few inches closer. In one more yard he would be close enough to thrust the screwdriver into her.
Tonya smiled at him and said, “I am going to assume you keep records of all your work. An artist such as you would want to have a written journal of what you have accomplished not only as a testimony to what you have achieved, but also as a way of improving. If you make a mistake and a person dies before you want them to, writing it down would help you avoid the same blunder. In that same line of reasoning, it you find a method that is particularly good, you would jot it down for future use.”
Igor paused for a second. He was ready to kill the young woman, but he could tell she was genuinely interested. She had a deep curiosity of how he worked and wanted to learn. He decided to let her look through his journals. There had never been a person that showed the sincere interest in his work from the purely academic point of view that she did. He would kill her later. He slipped the screwdriver into his hip pocket and said to her, “I have my records with me if you care to glance through them.”
“I would be honored. I hope there are things you can teach me.”
“If you would go to the kitchen, please. My journals are in there.”
Tonya walked right by him and moved for the kitchen. Her back was to him and she was only a foot away, but Igor resisted the temptation to plunge the screwdriver into her. If she turned her back on him once, she would do it again. He would kill her after she looked at his writings and they discussed them.
“Please be seated,” Igor said.
While Tonya pulled a chair out and sat down, Igor retrieved two of his journals and handed them to her. “I have selected a couple of samples for you to look through. The first is one of my early works and the second is a little later, after I honed my technique. I think you will see I am a fast learner.”
Tonya saw the number ‘5’ on the cover of the first notebook. She opened it and started to read. Igor was silent, standing behind her with the screwdriver in his hand. He could kill her when he wanted. That time was not now. He watched her turn the pages, taking in every word.
She put the journal down and said, “That one ended up messy.”
“Yes, it did. I was careless and nicked the jugular. I had to toss my hospital gown away because it was soaked in blood. I would point out that was near the beginning of my career, before I had a good grasp of how to perform my work. I never made that mistake again.”
“We all learn from our mistakes.”
The number ‘11’ was on the cover of the next journal. After the second page, she stopped to say, “You implemented a scale, one through ten, on how painful each act was. Did you find that helpful with other patients?”
“It was extremely beneficial. From that point on, each work built on the previous ones. This is where I truly became an artist, not just another butcher.”
Tonya returned to the journal. She shut it after finishing the last page. “Wow,” she said. “Forty-nine hours, twenty-five minutes. That dude knew what hell was before he went to Hell.”
“Yes,” Igor said proudly. “That was the first time I had a patient make it more than two days before he died. I humbly say to you that now I could take a person to as long as a week if I so desired. I have fine-tuned my skills.”
“The numbers on the cover?”
“Those were patients number five and eleven.”
“How many journals do you have altogether?”
“I finished number two hundred nineteen only a short time ago.”
“You have them all with you?”
“Of course. I would never be away from them. It is almost as if they are a part of me.”
“I totally understand,” Tonya said as she reached her hand up and stroked her hairpins. “May I see them please?”
“Be my guest,” Igor answered as he waved his hand to the large carrying case he stored them in.
Tonya walked past him to his collection of notebooks. Her back was to him as she picked one out at random. While she glanced at the book instead of him, Igor pulled the screwdriver out of his pocket and thrust it at her back.
Tonya never took her eyes from the notebook. She held it in one hand and with the other reached behind her and grabbed Igor’s wrist. She pulled the tool from his hand and flung it away. It hit a wall and shot all the way through it and flew out of sight.
As if nothing happened, Tonya said, “Okay, let’s give it a whirl.”
It took Igor a few seconds to come out of his shock. He focused his attention away from the new hole in the wall back to Tonya. “Give what a whirl?” he asked.
“I want to learn firsthand about your methods.” She started to undress as she returned to the front room where Igor kept his table.
“What? I’m not sure I understand.”
“Get into your work clothes. While you do that, I’ll get on the table and wait for you to come in and work on me.”
Igor could hardly believe it as Tonya continued to undress and got on his table. He rushed to his bedroom and quickly donned his uniform. When he came out three minutes later, not only was Tonya nude, she had already fastened the straps around her ankles. Her right hand was also strapped down. Igor saw she had even used the finger straps to hold each finger immobile.
“Be a dear and finish this one for me,” she said as she placed her arm down on the table.
Quickly, Igor strapped her hand down. He moved to the head of the table and placed the last strap across her forehead. When Tonya was secured to the table, he relaxed for the first time since she entered the house.
“Do I get my own notebook?” Tonya asked.
“You most certainly do,” Igor replied. He took a new notebook and wrote ‘220*’ on the cover.
“What is the asterisk for?”
“You, my dear, are the first person that has ever volunteered to be a patient. I find that fascinating.”
“Does that mean you are going to give me special attention?”
“I guarantee it. I promise you only my best efforts.” He asked her, “My dear, may I have your name please?”
“Certainly. I am Tonya Rowe.”
He entered her name and put the notebook down to check the straps Tonya fastened. He saw it was not necessary to tighten them any further. He looked at Tonya as she lay stretched out on his workbench. After a minute he said, “I am tempted to release you. You are so perfect it seems a sin to destroy such a masterpiece.” He ran his hands over her, enjoying the smoothness of her flesh. He moved to her breasts and squeezed them.
“You are not going to wimp out on me are you?” Tonya asked.
“No,” Igor sighed as he released her. “My work will always come first.”
“Good. I want to learn.”
“You will learn a great deal in the next hours.
“What is the goal?”
“The goal is as it always is. My patient is to die a long, horrible death.”
“Well, yes, there’s that. What I am talking about specifically is how will you know I am not lying to you about the answers I give to your questions and when you have broken me and know beyond all doubt I am telling you the truth?”
“Before I finish, they all tell me the truth.”
“I would like to try something, if it is alright with you, so we will both know I have been broken.”
“What would that be?”
“Pick a word.”
“Why should I do that?”
“Humor me. I cooperated with you by allowing myself to be strapped to your worktable. In return, please pick a word, any word.”
Igor was silent for a few seconds as he considered what he was asked. Out of curiosity, he said, “Okay, I pick the word ‘purple’.”
“Purple it is. After we start, when you get me to say the word purple, it will mean you have won. As long as I do not say it, I win.”
“I will hear it within the next couple of minutes.”
Igor walked to the kitchen and was back ten seconds later, carrying his equipment. He pulled the coffee table closer and set the case on it. He reached into his case and pulled out a box of toothpicks.
“This is really only a small sampling of what lays ahead for you,” he said. “I will hear the agreed upon word in only a few more seconds.”
He placed the first toothpick against her left big toe. He grinned at her and then slowly shoved it under the nail. He took his eyes from her face as she continued to smile at him and looked back at the toe. He must have placed the toothpick in the wrong spot because the room was not filled with a scream. His eyes opened wide as he saw his torture device was exactly where it was supposed to be. There was a small amount of blood at the site, but not the larger amounts he expected. The flow quickly stopped. He looked back at her face.
Tonya was still smiling as she said, “At best, I would give that a one, and even that would be pushing it. Calling it a point four would be closer to the mark.”
“This is amazing,” Igor said. “In all my years, I have never had a person not shout at the top of their lungs when I did this to them.”
“Well, if you want to hear our secret word you will have to do a lot better than this.”
“Oh, I shall. You are a remarkable person, but having a tolerance to pain will not protect you for long. I am able to do things that make the toothpicks seem like a kiss from your mother.”
“Smooch,” Tonya said and blew him a kiss.
Igor spent ten more minutes placing toothpicks under each toenail and then fingernail. After each toothpick was placed, he asked her what the secret word was. Each time, Tonya said she was not going to tell him.
When he finished the last nail, Tonya looked at him and said, “I’m really disappointed in you.” She yawned. “If this is the most you have, I might as well take a nap.”
“Remarkable,” Igor said. “There are a couple of other things I generally do at this early stage of work, but I think that in a special case such as you, they would not produce any better results. With that in mind, I believe we can both agree I should skip ahead to stage two.”
“Skip, skip, skip to my Lou,” Tonya sang.
He picked up the recently replaced bottle of acid. “I think we shall both be pleased with these results. This will mar you for life. Of course, that will not be a lot longer.” Before opening the bottle, he put a surgical mask over his mouth and nose and added safety goggles and rubber gloves. “Deadly stuff we have here. It would not do for me to get any on me or breathe in the fumes.”
Once he was donned in his protective clothing, he opened the bottle. There was a small round ball of absorbent material attached to the end of a glass tube. “This will smart a little,” he said as he ran the applicator across the inner part of her right thigh. At once Tonya’s flesh began to blister and fumes poured from her skin.
Igor grinned as he looked her in the eyes. “My dear, what is our secret word?”
“Nope, not going to tell you,” Tonya said.
Igor was astonished. After several seconds he asked, “Have you suffered a back injury that keeps the nerves from sending signals to your brain?”
“No, not a single little nerve cell is asleep. Each of them is sending a message saying there is damage to the body taking place where you applied your potion. If fact, it is far more painful than the toothpicks. I would give it a one point three.”
“Amazing,” Igor resealed the acid container and pulled the protective clothing off before he picked up the notebook. For several minutes, he wrote down his observations and opinions. He placed the notebook aside and asked, “Do you think it is possible for you to suffer unbearable pain?”
“Oh, indeed it is. I suffer horrible pain three nights every lunar month. On your scale of one to ten, I would give that pain a six.”
“Only a six? Is there any possibility of a ten?”
“Yes. I have experienced that agony only once. You have no idea how grateful I am I will never experience anything like that ever again. If I thought I would have to face it once more, I would go insane.”
Igor retrieved the notebook. “If you would, tell me of these events. I would love to add them to my list of abilities.”
“I’ll tell you, but you will not add them to your talent. This is an agony only a little over four thousand people from the beginning of time have suffered. Today, there are only ten people living that could tell you about the pain to end all pain. We ten are the only ones that could give this pain to another, and none of us have any plans to do that.”
“None of you have the courage to bring this horrible fate to anyone else? You had me thinking there was nothing you were afraid of.”
“Horrible fate? Yes, it is the most horrible of fates, but this agony has an upside. After you pass thru it, you become immortal. You do not grow ill or age. You have strength and speed beyond imagination.”
“I see.” Igor spent a couple of more minutes jotting down his observations and thoughts. He kept his pin ready to write down the next bit of information. “Please, if you would, tell me all.”
“Promise to take good notes?”
“I swear I will not miss the smallest detail.”
Tonya winked at him and then stared at the ceiling as she told her story.