“Death Threats and Tartar Sauce”
Motel Estándar Just Outside of Lawrence, Kansas
Richie rammed the door open and took in the fresh breeze as he held the door ajar for everyone to make his or her way onto the roof of the motel. This was the third time in a week they were partaking in the finer avenues of take-out seafood from a fast food joint. Alex took a whiff from the bag before tossing it onto the ground in disgust.
“Look, I know you guys like this crap—I’m begging you for this to be the last time,” he pleaded with the pair of boys who were already tearing through their fish planks.
Albert looked up from shoveling nondescript fried bits into his face, “you don’t like the fish?” he asked innocently enough through a mouth full of food.
Alex took a seat on the blanket Janey was busy straightening out across the patched and tarred surface of the roof. To break up the monotony of bouncing between hotels in Kansas, they agreed to have a rooftop picnic—where the boys once again chose the dinner of the evening would be from Pirate Mike’s Fish Hole (“If it isn’t Pirate Mike’s, it’s not real fish!”) He was not a fan of that particular food oeuvre but knew that the boys had been through more than he could imagine in the previous few days and let them eat what they wanted.
“Which part of the fish do you suppose this was?” Albert inquired as held the fried diamond aloft.
“I imagine it’s every part of many fish,” Alex said under his breath.
Janey smacked him on the arm and widened her eyes in disapproval. “Did somebody take all the tartar sauce?” She called out to everyone on the blanket, looking around for the missing sauce.
Richie ran back across the roof to a lone paper sack resting the door. It appeared someone had dropped it on the way up, so he grabbed it and ran excitedly back to Janey. “I think there’s more in here.”
Without thinking, she lunged her hand into the bag and made a disgusted sound at the realization that one of the sauces had spilled in the bag. She pulled her hand back, preparing to make a witty statement, when she froze her gaze at the blood all over her fingers. Janey tossed the bag to the ground and grimaced, “Oh my god.”
Albert grabbed the bag with his inquisitive demeanor and peeked inside. As if describing his meal, he muttered “there’s two fingers in here.”
“Which two,” Alex asked without considering how morbid they were being.
“Index and middle.”
Alex held his arm and motioned at his fingers, “which hand?”
Albert’s top lip sneered for a moment. “Different hands. There’s a note in here too.”
Richie piped up. “So is there tartar sauce or not?”
“There is not.” Albert spoke back dismissively to the younger boy struggling with his failure to secure sauce. He pulled the note from the bag and stared at it for a lingering moment. “That’s unpleasant.”
Janey snatched it away. “What does it say?”
“The savage will die in pieces,” he spoke softly, knowing that was going to strike a chord.
Janey stared back in utter disbelief; she grasped for Alex’s hand to calm her down. “I’m gonna throw up,” she ran to the edge of the building and leaned over the edge.
Alex stood quickly and ran across the rooftop to her. He put his hands on her shoulders and rubbed her back, “nothing is going to happen to you.”
She spun back with swollen eyes. “It already did—or perhaps you forgot when your main squeeze, Chloe, burst into my house and tried to kill me!”
Janey sniffled, “What?”
“Did she actually try and kill you, though? She broke in and could have fired right away.”
She puked over the side of the building, perhaps in rebuttal but all in fear, and wiped her mouth before turning back. “Alex, are you defending the woman that put a gun in my face?”
“Chloe put one in my face too. We’re both still standing here.”
“You watched her put a bullet through Genghis Khan’s face!” She brushed his arm off her back.
“Who admitted he was there to kill her!”
She glared into his eyes. “Why are we even having this argument? I didn’t say the first god damn thing about her being the one killing the returners!”
“Because she didn’t,” he trailed off.
Janey rolled her eyes. “Can we get back to the two fingers we found in a bag of tartar sauce with a vaguely racist note threatening to dismember me?”
“Yeah, sorry about that.”
She punched him in the arm, returning to their usual playful demeanor. “Just stop being a dick, Lex. Not everything is an argument you need to win, okay? I’m on your team—and I’m not Chloe.” She took a moment to gauge his reaction and then took a step closer, placing her hand on his chin. “Damn, that chick did a number on you didn’t she?”
Alex looked up sheepishly. “I identified the body at the morgue before she put a gun to your head. I have literally no idea what she is attempting to accomplish. I can’t think about her because that’s the only thing I can think about once I do.”
She faked a laugh. “Remember when I shot her in the leg? I miss the good old days.”
He smiled back and gave her a quick hug, whispering into her ear. “Almost there, Janey. Whoever wants us dead, we’ll fair better in a group.”
Albert walked over to them with the bag of fingers. “Should I throw this away or put them on ice or what? Won’t somebody be needing these?”
Alex nodded to the boy, “we’ll grab a bucket of ice on the way in. Let’s hope they were severed recently—add that to the list of phrases I never thought I’d say.”
They had been severed recently.
Across the street, in an abandoned department store, a man and a woman were tied down and being held against their will.
Paul Revere looked downed at where the index finger on his left hand used to be. The pain had been increasing over the hour as he struggled with his ropes.
The man that abducted both of them spread his knives and prods across what used to be a perfume counter. He had not spoken and his identity was unknown to his hostages.
Paul turned to the woman on his left, nodding comfort, as he was unable to speak with the tape over his mouth. The woman’s middle finger was severed from her right hand and she had been unable to stop crying since they woke up in the department store.
The man grabbed for a small ice pick and walked over to the woman, she recoiled in his presence, screaming under the tape as loud as she could. “If you tell me what I want to know, you get the bullet,” he spoke in an icy growl, motioning to the pistol on the counter. “If you withhold information, you get this.” He slowly drove the ice pick into her shoulder and left it put as he turned his attention toward Paul.
She tried to scream, but was unable.
“Do we understand the rules?” He grabbed for one of the larger knives. “I do detest having to repeat myself, even when used for dramatic effect. Understand? I hate having to repeat myself.”
The last thing Marie Antoinette saw before passing out was Paul Revere taking a four-inch blade through his abdomen.