Chris exited his house and shielded his eyes from the first rays of the sunrise. Stretching, he took in what little warmth they gave off in the cold morning air then fixed the sleeves of his jacket, walking to his car. He sat in his driveway for a few minutes, waiting for the heat to kick on so he could warm his hands before starting the drive into the city. His fingernails caught his eye while he held them in front of the heaters. Dirty. He sucked his teeth and pulled out of his driveway, mentally organizing his day and shifting invisible times to add a shower.
It was a quiet Saturday morning, not a lot of people on the road, which was fine by him. He fiddled with the radio for a few moments before settling on an oldies station. He smiled as the gentle pangs of acoustic guitars played on, remembering older times as he weaved through the grid of the city.
After a small number of songs had run their course he pulled into the parking lot of a small coffee shop and watched as the sign in the window flashed OPEN. He braved the cold from his car to the door, shivering as he entered, but sighing with joy as the door closed behind him. The shop was warm, and the air was thick with all kinds of awakening aromas. The owner came from the back and smiled.
They shared some brief small talk as the owner scurried back and forth, gathering coffee supplies. Chris had been going there for years, and he and the owner chatted about the happenings in the news, complained of the weather, and laughed at the same tired jokes they made over and over. Chris payed and thanked the man generously as he was handed a large steaming cup of coffee, and wished him a good day as he walked out the door back to his car.
Chris sipped at his coffee as he drove back out of the city, savoring the liquid heat as he listened to long forgotten songs and made his way home. His drink was almost gone by the time he pulled into the driveway, the sun shining brighter now than it had when he had left, but still not doing much to warm the air.
He threw the cup away after entering his house, removing his jacket and tossing it on a chair before making his way into the basement. Stretching and stifling a yawn, he descended the stairs, gracious that the cellar stayed warm while he was gone. He stood at the bottom of the stairs and scratched his chin as he surveyed his Saturday project.
A man hung from the ceiling, his hands bound in chains, thick tape wrapped around his mouth. He was unconscious, mostly unclothed, and still bleeding from some of the bigger wounds on his torso. Flood lights shone bright from the corners of the room, banishing most shadows and giving the pool of blood underneath the man a reflective look. Chris walked over the plastic tarp on the floor to his work bench, running his hands over small knives, razors, and other sharp instruments, occasionally turning to look at the man, then shaking his head and moving down the bench further, towards blunter instruments.
Snapping his fingers he set his jaw and picked up a hefty one handed hammer. The coffee run had been sorely needed. He’d gotten almost no useful information the night before, and stayed up late cleaning his tools and listening to the man blubber. Chris stopped in front of the man and shook his head. Sometimes it was a slow start. You had to put in the extra work if you wanted to get anywhere, and this was no different. Chris had been doing this long enough to know exactly how to deal with a man of this type. You had to be brutal. Almost unrelenting. Bring them to the brink of death here and there, always before offering them a chance to confess, to give up whatever it was you were after. Money, secrets, or in the case the next person.
Each person always had a new piece of the puzzle, some new bit of information that inevitably led Chris straight to the next person, and so on. He was getting close to the full picture, and this man was holding strong to his claims of innocence. Chris snorted and pulled back the hammer, swinging it hard into the man’s exposed knee. He woke with a muffled scream, thrashing and trying in vain to pull himself away, his eyes wild. Chris flexed his fingers and spun the hammer. He felt much more awake.
This one would break like all the others, give him what he wanted, and lead Chris to the next person. The man devolved from screams to whimpers, a pathetic sound from behind the tape across his mouth. Chris looked him dead in the eye, showing no emotion, and feeling none. They looked at each other for a moment before Chris swung the hammer again, connecting with the man’s other knee. Another scream, but this one was more pleading. Finally, progress. Chris walked to his workbench and wondered if he should have bought a second cup of coffee for when he had gotten back home. Tomorrow, he thought. Two cups. He picked up a blowtorch and smiled. Maybe even a doughnut.