Time to Kill
And who’s the little girl?
Never mind the girl…
Not too much longer after Officer VanDunk pulls away from Chief Maxwell’s house – ‘bout forty minutes, give or take – Gene Thorton pulls up, passes the driveway, and backs himself in. He shuts his door loud enough to rouse Sarah from the doze she’d fallen into, and when he walks into the bedroom he finds her sitting up on the edge of the bed.
“Hi,” Sarah says. “I’m Sarah Hammond. Who are you?”
“Gene Thorton,” Gene says with his hands on his belt. “You doin’ all right in here?”
Sarah shrugs, looking up at him like a lost puppy on the hard streets of Bur City might look at the faceless passersby.
“Anything I can do for you?”
“Well,” Sarah says, looking down to the rough carpet. “You could tell me what’s going to happen to me tonight.”
Gene Thorton raises an eyebrow.
“You guys have been popping in and out all day, it’s always someone different, but everybody says the same thing when I ask what you’re planning to do with me.”
“And what do they say?” Gene says, leaning against the wall.
“That it’s not up to them to tell me, that I’ll have to ask the chief. He’s the guy who owns this house, right? The big guy?”
Gene chuckles. “Yeah, Chief’s the big guy. His name is Daniel.” He crosses one shin over the other, resting his foot on the toe of his shoe to give the lean a Western vibe. “Daniel Maxwell.”
“Will Daniel Maxwell tell me what’s going to happen to me tonight? If I ask him?” She sounds almost hopeful. Poor thing.
Gene shrugs. In Sarah’s mind he looks way, way too comfortable in this situation.
“I’m sort’a afraid to talk to him.” She thinks of the whole blindfold thing. “He doesn’t seem like a bad guy or anything, but… he’s so big.”
“He is a big dude,” Gene agrees amiably. “He’ll be back around, oh, probably six o’clock tonight. Why don’t you just ask him then? Chances are he’ll tell ya. That’s when it’s set to begin, after all.”
“What is it, though?” Sarah asks. “Can you just tell me, Mister Thorton?”
“Gene is fine, Sarah.”
“Please tell me what’s going to happen to me tonight.”
Gene keeps his trap sprung shut for a moment, hands hanging by the thumbs from his belt, the inside of his skull whirring. “You feel like gettin’ some fresh air? Let’s take us a little drive.”
It’s like a switch is flipped; not ten seconds ago Sarah was gloomy, afraid, quite panicked, generally depressed overall. Now she feels like she could float, her heart’s beating at a trillion miles a minute, her once tired eyes are now bright and alive like someone hooked ‘em up to a car battery.
“Yeah!” Sarah squeaks excitedly. Call it childhood innocence, call it naïveté, call it whatever you will; Gene Thorton’s simple question suggested to Sarah that this dirty cop might not be so dirty after all. “Where are we going? Are… we… we’re not coming back, are we?”
“Oh we’re comin’ back, all right,” Gene says, pushing off the wall with his shoulder. Sarah suddenly feels like a dead fish again. “Chief would have my ass if we didn’t. Might give it to Hubert, too.” Shudders. “Anywho, there’s a little church, just opened up down at the end of Madison Avenue. We’ll stop in there, see if someone’s around.”
“A church…?” Sarah does not want to get off the bed. She does not like churches. There was a church in the city projects where she used to live. A lot of windowless white vans parked at that church, especially after dark. A whole lot’a windowless whites. “Why are you bringing me to a church?”
Gene can’t help but snicker, he’s thinking the same thing. “Don’t worry, you’re not a little boy, you’ll be fine. You asked what was going to happen to you tonight, and I’m afraid I agree with the rest of my brothers: it ain’t up to me to tell you. But, I suppose I could give you a little hint. Let you figure it out yourself.”
“A hint?” Now Sarah really doesn’t want to get off the bed. Little boy or little girl she does not trust churches, especially in a town of dusty white folks like Wuester. The trees grow close together here. Sometimes too close for little birdies to fly through ‘em. “I don’t wan’a go for the drive anymore, Mister Thorton.”
“I told you, just call me Gene,” Gene asserts. “C’m’on, it’ll be good for you. You’ve been cooped up in here for days.”
“Exactly,” she says, twisting the plot. “You don’t really want me to figure out what’s going to happen, right? You guys pro’ly need me to cooperate for tonight, but if I figure out what’s going to happen then I might make it harder on you.”
Why does Mister Thorton look amused?
“Aren’t you afraid that I’ll try to escape if you let me out of the house?”
In answer, Gene takes his handgun out of its holster, ejects the clip, peers into it as though he was making sure it was loaded with ammunition, then slides it back into the grip and reholsters. Then, he looks Sarah dead in the eyes and says one, single word: “Nope.”
Suddenly Sarah can’t breathe. She has to pee, too, but the cat got evicted from her stomach by a falling boulder and it scurried into her mouth where it clamped its claws down into her tongue. (She can’t speak, either.)
“C’m’on, now,” Gene says with the energy of a waiter suggesting dessert. “We won’t be long, it’s just down the road. Let’s go.”
Is there really any choice? Sarah’s legs feel heavy and dead when she puts her full weight on them. Pins and needles all the way to the car. They sharpen when the doors lock.
Hello Commons, this has been the ninth subchapter of the third chapter of Under the Hood: The Imprisonment of Jonathan Knox, a novel about a man who likes to eavesdrop on his neighbors.
Under the Hood: The Imprisonment of Jonathan Knox is the second book in the W-2222 series, a series of books which take place in Universe W-2222.
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