Location: Abandoned Factory
Object: Stick of Butter
Synopsis: A journalist makes the ultimate sacrifice to get her story as a case of late 21st Century identify theft evolves into a dangerous game of cat and mouse.
“Where am I?” Cascade whispered while twisting in his chair to test equally restrained legs and wrists.
The few minutes since Cascade had rebooted seemed like seconds–and the fact that his hands were bound did nothing to slow the relativity of time. While the digital bits of his mind had come to life well before the more groggy organic parts, those few digital add-ons observed equally vague details and answered no questions, save one. Three hours had passed since someone shot him outside of Simon’s apartment. Just a strong tazer shot, but enough to blow his lid, both grey matter and silicon.
Three hours and he could be anywhere.
Distant pricks of light rained down from unseen sources above, illuminating more shadows and myths of the eye than concrete details. Rows of metallic arms swung listlessly in front of him, as if manifesting midair out of the shrouded firmament above. The chair holding Cascade rested only a few feet away from the nearest arm; he could see how the implement descended into a steely claw swaying over silent conveyor belts. The robotic limbs gave the impression that he waited within the skeletal ribs of some alien beast. Or, if the dull thumping he could just make out were indeed currents crashing against some distant hull, that he had become Jonas to some near death whale of machinery and darkness.
“Where am I?” he muttered louder, to no one in particular but expecting an answer. He’d likely already be dead if they didn’t want answers. Hopefully.
Frankly, he’d already decided to spill his guts, if it would do any good. Then again, only God threw you into the belly of a whale and expected you to come out again. Whoever had gone through all this–well, Cascade at least wanted answers before they finished the job.
The footsteps came low at first. He tried to pin the echo distance. Two-hundred meters: the compartment must be monstrous, let alone the entire plant. Two sets of footsteps. Men, or damn hefty gals, one larger than the other.
“Tyrone, you’re awake.” The voice came from the smaller man. Cascade sensed a familiarity in the Little Man’s use of the name Tyrone. Nothing good could come of anyone who actually knew Tyrone.
“Where are we?” Cascade corrected.
“See? I told ya Tyrone’s a direct kid, Max. A good kid once upon a time. You were a good kid, weren’t you Tyrone?”
“Still am.” Cascade grimaced. “Least, I’d still like to be.”
The Little Man nodded to Max, who pulled out a knife along with what looked like nothing so much as a thick bar of butter. The big man sliced off a bit from the top, then swallowed it down. The knife looked far too cruel to Cascade to exist for just cutting butter.
“Now that’s a problem. Because we know you should be finishing twenty more years over in SuperMax, not hooking up with some fruit district attorney here in Atlanta.”
“His name’s Simon,” Cascade spat. “And how we spend our time together is our own concern, not yours.”
Max cut a deep piece of butter off, swallowing the slice without a word. Cascade wondered if the fellow was born mute or made that way.
The Little Man smiled. “I don’t give a damn about who you’re blowing, Tyrone. I’m just interested in what you said to get out. Max is interested, as well. See, when he finishes that bar, if I don’t like your answers, he’s gonna skin ya as a message to anyone else who might rat on me. Surely you remember how good Max is with a knife?”
“No, I really don’t.” Cascade slumped in the chair. No way out of this except maybe the truth. “You see, the name’s Cascade. Tyrone’s just cover.”
“Nah,” the Little Man said as Max took another slice. “We ran DNA–you’re Tyrone, alright.”
The Little Man pulled out a small gun, pointed it at Cascade’s neck. “Let me remind you how your old boss does business, Tyrone.” The wires shot forth faster than Cascade’s add-ons could track; electricity raced through him again, followed by a mental void.
“Dammit!” Claire slammed her fists down as the visual link faded to snowy static. “That’s what I get for going cheap. Two months of being a gay ex-con down the drain along with twenty-thousand dollars.”
No more Cascade, no more chance to see what Simon knew about the investigation into Governor Wilkinson. God only knows what that psycho had done to Tyrone. It could take months to rent out another puppet the DA might fancy, and her publisher wasn’t likely to wait.
“Shit, Tyrone, what a waste.” Then again, Claire consoled herself, the cons whole life had already been a waste long before her. Maybe there was a story here after all.
Tyrone woke to pain. His head burned so hot that his eyes refused to focus. Sweat soaked his skin cold enough that he vomited from the nausea induced by the contrast. The acidic spittle mingled with a thickness that could only be blood. Tyrone wondered why he wasn’t choking, only to realize that part of his body’s lurching came from the spasm of involuntary coughs; his mind simply couldn’t catch up in time to the torrent of agony his body endured.
“Oh, Tyrone, I hope you enjoyed your time out.”
Tyrone knew that voice. From somewhere. But where was he? Why hadn’t the prison guards stopped this?
“You’re just a blank note for our message,” the voice continued.
Tyrone’s eyes focused enough to see a big fellow approach; he could almost remember that the voice didn’t belong to someone so large. The hulk gulped the last bit of some yellow slime from his knife. A greasy smile spread across the man’s face as he redirected the blade against Tyrone’s abdomen. Tyrone wasn’t sure he could actually feel the carving of the knife into his chest, but he screamed all the same.