CONSCIENCE KILLER

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8 | THE RISK

It’s the fourth of December. She hazily argued with her own conflicting thoughts. Oh, please! What makes you so sure? She physically groaned not from the volume of her pessimistic inner voice, rather from the immense stomachache twisting her insides.

Five days had passed since her last meal, and she was beginning to doubt her chances of survival, according to the cruel throbbing of hunger in her empty stomach. Sherrie was too afraid to ponder over the fact that it could be her last destination.

No. There was something inside of her, something that felt inevitable; Mitchell wouldn’t have taken such a risk, only to leave her die of starvation. And she had the notion, that her stay would be a torturously long one.

Though the lack of food and the unending strain of fear of the unknown had resulted in constant disorientation, she was still able to distinguish a motion of two separate silhouettes in the darkness. Her encrusted lashes proceeded to flutter open, before shutting again due to the unrelenting light which had shown from what she assumed was the threshold of the entrance portal. She watched as two blurs of shadows rushed towards the source of light, as if they were depraved moths, stumbling upon a flame by a God sent miracle.

Why are they so eager? She wondered, hopeless. It’s not like they were leaving this place. None of us will.



She suddenly felt foreign touch – a weak grasp was attempting to lift her unresponsive body off the unclean floor, gently propping her against a wall. Whatever was happening and whoever it was, Sherrie had nothing in her to fight back.

Hey. You with me?

Distantly; a feminine voice spoke. Despite how unwell she was, she noted the wavering in her tone and the trembling of her touch. “W-we’ve food. Just try to stay upright, okay? You’re gonna be okay.” The woman frantically spoke, stumbling over her words. It brought Sherrie back to her first ER shift, a few years back, where she was forced to take in a teenage girl who was bleeding profusely and in immediate need of stitches. She could vividly recall the panic she bravely stifled, as she stitched up the young girl. It was something she would recall every night, before she drifted to sleep, because it made her realize that she was capable of everything she thought she wasn’t.

The blur facing her gradually became a solid apparition of a young woman, mouthing almost coherent words as she gently smacked at Sherrie’s hollowing cheeks. “Just open your mouth, okay?” Sherrie unconsciously obliged feeling a warm, mellow texture against her tongue; it was Mac n’ Cheese. She tried to move the muscles of her jaw to chew, but ended up swallowing most of the meal.

“I know you need more than that,” she sighed. “But that’s all I managed to save out of my own bite.” The faceless woman brought a plastic water bottle to Sherrie’s crisp lips.

An hour had hardly passed, and Sherrie’s consciousness had been revived by the poor meal and a few sips of water. It was only then did she realize that she wasn’t in the same room she woke up to; it was a much bigger one, housing double the amount of furniture of the previous one, not to mention how much illumination it had compared to the other. The light was scarce yet enough for Sherrie to make out two faces, and she was anything but comforted when she recognized one of them.

Caroline?”

It was already laboring enough to breathe, much less handle such a surprise. What the hell was Caroline doing there? The blonde woman didn’t appear relieved at the sight of Sherrie either, as she hugged her exposed, shivering knees closer to her chest as if to shield herself from immense harm. “Caroline, are you okay?” Sherrie choked out inching closer, but halting her movement when Caroline flinched away farther into the corner.

“Don’t bother. Been trying to make her talk since she got here.” The other woman spoke, her tone much more relaxed, almost monotone. Sherrie took a mental note of that change. She opened her mouth to question further, but the woman had cut her speech. “She’s fine.” she said.

“How did I get here?” Sherrie inquired quietly, getting the notion that the woman wasn’t much of a friendly talker. “Dean brought you here. I heard them talking about needing the other room.” She explained briefly. Dean? She figured it was the green-eyed man who brought her the bad canned beans and left her neck black and blue. She felt her skin cry out at the memory.

It was quite the task to make out anything under the blanket of the dimness, but not impossible. She focused her sight upon the woman leaning against the window pane, seemingly staring out into the oblivion they were most likely to disappear into, soon enough. Her long, scrawny legs were adorned by black jeans which were at least two sizes larger, so were the tattered flannels that sat atop her thin shoulders. A grown out, blonde buzz-cut allowed her tattooed neck and pierced ears to lay bare to the eye.

Sherrie had already illustrated quite the bold impression in her head, regarding the other woman. Said impression was backed-up by the fact that she was also trapped with them; it appears that more people were involved in this turmoil than just one, wretched person.

But what did that woman have to do with Mitchell? What could Caroline have possibly gotten herself into to catch Mitchell’s attention? Fuck, Sherrie had no god damned idea why she was involved to begin with!

With no clue as to where she could have been, no clue of her purpose to Mitchell and certainly no clue of the identities-intentions-of the two women, not even Caroline; it shed light upon one thing. No one was worthy of her trust; she knew nothing of their involvement in Mitchell’s business, not even knowing what the concerns of his business were.

“Is there something on my face?” Sherrie wasn’t eyeing the blonde in a moment of haziness. She was scrutinizing her. “Rather what’s behind it.” Sherrie retorted with intention. The latter scoffed, her gaze fixated upon what laid beyond the window; the vast world they might never live to see.

“You’ll figure it out.”

“There’s not much to figure out. Your current situation says a lot.” The tattooed woman hardened her jaw; Sherrie had struck a sensitive nerve. She swallowed the urge to give her a piece of her mind, she knew better than that, settling for silence. After all, the strawberry-blonde woman’s judgment wasn’t entirely unfair.

“Keep your thoughts to yourself.”

“Would that change yours, Tess?”

Tess peeled her hazel irises away from the outside scenery, glowering at the female huddled in the corner before her; it was her. It was really her. Perhaps, she should have savored the portion of the meal she saved for that ungrateful bitch; left her body to gradually shut down on itself. You’re never gonna change, are you? Spat her conscience.

“But it was nice of you, to think of someone other than yourself.” Sherrie said. “That’s some progress right there.” She clapped her freezing hands in a mocking praise. Sherrie couldn’t explain the sudden, waging war which broke out inside of her; she could no longer tell apart the blazing, negative emotions seemingly burning at the edges of her sanity. It was only an amalgam of blind fury that knew no forgiveness, an anguish never to subside and a loneliness that would forever haunt her like the ghost of Arnold – it was an ever raging havoc of melancholy.

The bitterness of December wasn’t the cause of the tremble in her limbs, rather the overwhelming urge to unleash the destructive resentment she had for Tess.

Tess refused to look Sherrie in the eye; for fear of her eyes giving away the unforgivable, something which at that moment was still a mystery to Sherrie. She wondered if Mitchell was intending to tell her the truth, if he was ever telling anyone the truth. Tess sensed the other woman’s green gaze melting away her skin, in addition to her own shame and remorse.

Sherrie could feel her heart swelling inside her chest; she wanted Tess to know how much she blamed her for abandoning her in her darkest days. But she only managed to burn holes through her body with the intensity of her gaze.


The wooden portal of the room took the three women off guard when it opened, temporarily illuminating their faces before the door was shut yet again. A man, mostly obscured by the dimness claimed a seat in the midst of the room; however, Sherrie recognized that figure no matter the circumstances.

Mitchell rubbed his eyes and sighed, before settling his excruciating gaze upon Tess.

“How’s the leg?” he asked blandly. Not knowing if she was supposed to give an answer, Tess gulped hesitantly.

“Ever seen the damage a toothed, steel-jaw bear trap does to… an animal, Tess?” Mitchell suggested leisurely. Tess shook her head no. “Well, it’s illegal in a few states for a reason,” His voice trailed off, rising from his chair to stalk towards a stone-still Tess, before stopping mere inches away from her. He used his calloused palms to simulate the animal trap he mentioned. “You see, these are the toothed steel-jaws, two leaf springs and this round pan is the trigger,” Sherrie envisioned the animal trap vividly in her mind.

“The animal will step onto the trigger –since animals are such unsuspecting creatures- so the jaws snap shut on its weak, pathetic limb.” He smacked his palms shut with an audible smack! To further elaborate. “The harder it struggles, tighter goes the steel-jaws; deeper the teeth will sink.”

Animals,” Mitchell closed the space between them, his hand seizing the woman’s breakable jugular. “Yeah, animals.” He growled lowly. Sherrie couldn’t help her body from flinching at the sound of Tess being slammed against the window, just hard enough to pain her without entirely breaking the glass. Caroline began to whimper quietly in the corner, tears cascading down her ghastly cheeks.

“They eventually die from exhaustion, blood loss, frostbites, shock, gangrene, you fucking name it.” He perilously hissed as he made sure to bang her back against the timber wall, inclining Tess’ struggles to intensify. “Some of them hold out until the hunter finds them, which in your case, was pure luck. So tell me, Tess; how’s the leg?

Fine.” She managed with the scarce amount of oxygen she had. When Mitchell decided that it was enough, he sent the woman to the floor with the full force of his arm. The man gazed down at her crippled form with derision, feeling a sense of repulsion as he observed her desperately gasping for precious air, excess saliva leaking from her mouth.

Caroline remained cowered in the far corner, praying to dear God that she’d crumble into a pile of ashes before he shifts his blazing, relentless gaze her way. Sherrie attempted to create a sense of comfort by hugging her knees close to her body, the material of the sweatpants did barely any effort in warming her legs; Mitchell’s presence held a threatening, destructive aura, capable of shaking down the wills of those who defy him.

Her vacant emerald orbs glistened with tears, as they remained glued upon his soiled sneakers; she wouldn’t be able to handle her eyes meeting his own.

When the sound of the door smacking against its frame was heard, Sherrie released a breath she didn’t realize she was repressing. The atmosphere in the room began to feel lighter, even warmer; he was gone. Caroline’s delicate sobbing became the background noise for the room. Neither Sherrie nor Tess had the hearts to comfort the weeping woman, each of them too engrossed in their own bubble of despair to care enough.

Despair.

Sherrie had encountered quite a few people in her life, people that she deemed a characterization of despair. It was particularly a common sight in Buckley’s Memorial; she saw it in the sore eyes of widowed wives and childless women. She heard it in the cries of newborns, whose mothers had left them far too soon. She saw it in the ancient irises of the dying elderly, as they pushed their lungs one last time, for one last breath.

But at that moment, Sherrie wondered, that if she was to look in her own eyes with a different pair of eyes, would it be there?








- - - - -










The first light of that day managed to slip through the gaps in the dominating clouds, signifying the dawn of a new day; a new chance, Mitchell had yet again chose to waste.

Misused opportunities were one of the first thoughts to occupy his mind, the moment he awakens to a fresh day. Dawns had always left him wondering; how different things would have been if he had taken one of the countless opportunities presented to him, all these years? But how could he choose a right path, when wrongs were all what shaped him?

At that moment, Mitchell didn’t have the energy to ponder over such things. He instead, chose to focus on enjoying his smoke in the chilling breeze, sitting by the front porch of the cabin. 5:07a.m. read his wrist watch; Bill should have arrived an hour beforehand. Perhaps, he changed his mind, did the rational thing and just left. Mitchell had always been prepared; expecting a wound in the back from every human being he ever interacted with. However, he found it rather difficult to assume the worst out of Bill.

After all, he proved himself worthy of –at least- the majority of Mitchell’s dependence.


“Chesterfield? Just how stuck in your ways can you be, Mitch?”

Mitchell’s hand instinctively reached for his loaded Glock, before he released an aggravated sigh as he registered the familiarity of the voice. “Nice to see ya’, buddy.” Bill declared and chuckled to himself, his hands still held in the air in mock surrender. The plump man wheezed with laughter as Mitchell’s alarmed demeanor slumped with relaxation, a meek smile lifting his features; it indeed was nice to see Bill after all those years.

“It’s good to see you, too, Bill.” Mitchell admitted, genuinely embracing the much shorter man before pulling away to observe the change in his old friend’s appearance. “You look good.” He patted Bill’s back appreciatively, a heartfelt smile gracing his lips. “Got some extra meat on these bones, but hey, the ladies love it.” Bill laughed, before his laughter gradually died down, along with the return of Mitchell’s dreariness.

Bill wanted to return the kind word; however, he couldn’t dismiss the obvious darkness surrounding his only friend, and he looked anything but good. They both took a seat by the wooden porch, admiring the peaceful stillness of the forest isolating them from civilization.


“I got Summer.” Mitchell watched the burning cigarette between his fingers, purposelessly. “I got her.” He repeated, as if he, himself wasn’t quite convinced yet. There was no response Bill could come up with, able to mend whatever what was broken in Mitchell.

“You can still get it done without involving her.” Bill tried, receiving a negative nod from the other man. “I see where you’re coming from, Mitch. But things might go south, just like that.” He snapped his fingers for an impression. Mitchell met the neutral look in Bill’s eyes with a look of hesitation residing in his own. “Things will go south, either ways. What matters is getting it done.”

“What good would it do you when you’re dead in a ditch?” Bill’s reckoning instilled doubt in Mitchell’s heart. “There’s always a risk, Bill. I’ve thought this through.” Mitchell tapped his head for emphasis. “Yeah, I could tell. The whole Buckley’s gone nuts.” The latter scoffed, treating himself to a cigarette. “I don’t know, man. They might not be off your ass for a long time. I mean, what you did was pretty sophisticated, but O’Malley’s a persistent man.”

The mere mention of his name made his stomach churn with bitterness, and he resented Bill for speaking the truth. It would only be a matter of time before the Detective got to the bottom of Mitchell’s puzzle game. And with Sherrie being his main priority, the countdown had already begun.

“It depends on how much Tess is willing to cooperate.”

“She won’t cooperate with shit as long as she sees you as the enemy.”

“Are you crazy, Bill? She’s a fucking rat, and she’ll do anything to get back at us.”

Bill only mustered a defeated breath, holding his hands up in surrender. Mitchell wasn’t the kind to be swayed with ease; however, Bill was only stating his personal opinion. After all, he only joined the party to support his best friend and have a good share of the revenues.




“Whatever you might have in mind, just make it quick. You already have enough to atone for.”












- - - - -














“I told ya’, man. Fuckin’ told ya’, we should’ve fuckin’ finished him when we had the chance.” Vincent paced the room for the fifteenth time, in hopes to overwork his muscles, maybe then, he would be able to feel a sense of ease. But to no avail; he couldn’t find the bright side of anything, no matter how desperate he was.

They were done for.

James wasn’t doing so great himself; witnessing Vincent’s apathetic façade progressively deteriorating filled him with a sense of dread, he thought he buried a long time ago. He watched his partner’s restless pacing, inclining his lips to curl in a disdainful grimace; pussy, he scoffed inwardly, dismissing his partner’s distress. James hadn’t forgot about the crippling stress episode he experienced a few weeks earlier, as he was still unable to erase the determined and convicting glint in Elliot’s dark eyes.

But mark my words, Myers; I will find out.” His words were fresh on his mind, boisterously mocking him – reminding him of something sinisterly imminent. Despite of it all, the deputy chose to gather his pieces and fight until the very last drop of blood. It wasn’t like he had much of a choice, anyways.


Blood.

Blood was something which posed almost no consequence to James; he believed that water grew thicker than blood, more often than not. He eventually found himself wondering about what’s to be done, regarding his little sister’s life. And he absolutely felt no shame or remorse in ignoring the matter, had he not known the motive behind the abduction of Sherrie – that, however, was what inclined him to give it a thought, a very deep thought.

“We gotta let in the Feds, man. This is gonna get outta hand.” Vincent was losing his mind, the settling reality taking a much harsher toll on him. James was already having a hard time with taming his own distress, and with Vincent’s overly exaggerated reactions, he had enough. With an animalistic and perilous look in his blue eyes, it was James’ turn to grab Vincent by the collar and slam him into the nearest wall.

“What was that, Vinnie?!” James barked. “You want me to let the Feds clean up my shit?!” he snarled viciously, bearing his teeth like a rabid animal. Vincent mirrored the hostile behavior, bearing a snarl of his own. “My sincerest apologies, Deputy Myers, did I wound your pride and honor?!” he spat. “The fuck are you gonna tell them, Vincent?! You think you’re so fucking faultless?! You think they’re gonna fucking make things okay?!” James was losing his self-control, because he knew how reckless Vincent could be. He eventually released the inked man from his relentless grasp. Vincent sank into the battered couch, his scarred face buried in his clammy hands in despair.

“They’ve got Tess, man.” Vincent pitifully cried. The blood coursing through James’ veins ran cold. He whipped around to look at the now pathetically tearful man, hoping he would somehow be playing a sick joke on him. But he wasn’t; the hopelessness contorting Vincent’s features suggested something so factual, it made James sick in his stomach. Abruptly, the control James managed to build inside of him steadily crumbled to square one.

Go figure.

Why would they want Tess? What connotation did that cheap whore have to the Churches? A dreadful, little voice whispered in every corner of his mind something he refused to believe – something he couldn’t bear for it to sink in. He looked at Vincent with raw panic in his irises, and inched closer with hesitant strides.

“When was the last time you saw Tess?”

“I… I don’t know, it’s been—“

“WHEN!? WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU FUCKED THAT FUCKING WHORE?!”

Vincent furrowed his thin brows in a moment of reminiscing, before all the color from his already fair skin drained dramatically. His hazel eyes were as wide as saucers when they finally rose to hold the blazing gaze of James’, with reality finally sinking in.

“… November; Seventh of November.”

Fuck.







KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK!

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