We left Quentin tied to chair, beaten and naked and attempting to tell a joke. Lenny's associate has taken Barbara, Quentin's wife out of the room, and just as Quentin is about to begin his joke, noises begin from beyond the door.
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It came softly at first.
Delicately, like an eager child tugging on the sleeve of a sleeping parent, the sound gradually insinuated itself into Quentin's ears, rousing him incrementally to full recognition.
Faint. Distant. Initially it could barely stand against Quentin's own rattling breath and the sounds of Lenny's constant fidgeting. Whether it's building volume was in his imagination, Quentin couldn't accurately say, but he recognised the sound and it's familiarity melted his senses into a quivering, redundant mass.
"Go on then buddy! Lenny urged, either unaware of the thumping or choosing to ignore it.
"W-Well, there's this fam-family of....of crabs" Quentin began, "and they decide to go to the .....the beach-"
Infront of him, Lenny cleared his throat, simultaneously raising a hand, "Sorry to interrupt buddy." he said, in a tone so apologetic Quentin could almost have believed it was sincere, "But when you say 'crabs', do you mean like the pincer-I'm-gonna-snip-tour-fingers-off kind? Or the sort you might get if you visit Dirty-Rita-Rotten-Crotch..." the chair creaked a complaint as he vigorously grabbed his crotch, "...for only a fiver a jump?"
Quentin blinked, the desire to wipe blood from his stinging eyes now maddeningly urgent, "Erm....the first.....the first one."
"Ok Quentin" Lenny said, nodding his understanding, "Think I've got that one squared away. Carry on buddy."
"So....so anyway....they decide to go to the beach for the day and....and have a p-picknick."
Quentin gazed pleadingly toward the open door and the six inches of blackness it entertained. He prayed for the silence to return, wondering how he could ever have wished for the steadily building soundtrack he was now forced to endure in place of the blessed quiet of before. Lenny, for his part, still seemed unaware of it.
Both, simultaneously, bolstered and hobbled by the very real threat that, at any time, Lenny might just snap again and inflict another vicious beating upon him, Quentin forced himself to continue. Mental hands clung desperately to the writhing, twisting memory he was so anxious to offload. Constantly his mind was forced to readjust it's grip as the joke tenatiously strained to escape his thoughts.
Further hindering his efforts, images of Barbara, being subjected to Lord only knew what, flashed in his mind. The hope-crushing monster that had once been his own imagination, simply chuckled and conjured up yet more macabre scenes.
Infront of Quentin, Lenny nodded vigorously, eyes wide, rapt. Could he see the horror playing out in Quentin's head? Or was he, in-fact, just eager to hear more about the 'I'm-gonna-snip-your-fingers-off' crabs?
"Well" Quentin struggled on, "the kids are, erm, so....excited about being at the beach, they beg mum-mum and....d-dad to let them go for a, erm......paddle-"
Lenny's eyes narrowed, "Wait a minute buddy" he interupted again, his earlier apologetic tone now glaringly absent, "I'm just not getting it. I mean, I know in brain terms you're Linford fucking Christie and I'm One Legged Barry the 100 meter sprint retard, but even I can see what's wrong with THIS picture!" he lifted his hands imloringly, eyebrows raised, "I mean.....are you taking the PISS?"
I'd fucking love to you ignorant prick. But, unfortunately, I'm tied to a chair and there's a knife at your feet. Not to mention your friend's got my wife and is......is-
In his mind the words sounded so coherent, so confident. They were not hobbled by the burning rope around his neck, nor sensored by fear. Outside in the real world, however, beyond the confines of his own skull, they translated as, "No."
Lenny cocked his head and considered his hostage. His glare seemed to penetrate Quentin's eyes and plunder the very thoughts behind them. Then, just for a second, his attention faltered, his gaze swaying as though he were about to turn his head to the door.
"Good!" Lenny barked, his eyes snapping back to Quentin, "Then I'll assume you're not as clever as you look buddy." He sniffed loudly and half-glanced toward his jacket folded neatly over the arm of the sofa. "There's two things I'm not getting Quentin me old chap. Number one, do the crabs not already live on the fucking beach?" he shrugged, raising his hands from his sides, "And B, why would a crab be so fucking excited about going for a paddle?" he clucked his tongue and rolled his eyes, "I mean, didn't the ocean spawn the fucking things?"
Quentin's gaze shot to the door, the torturous sounds from beyond it distracting him from the pain in his neck. Why the hell hadn't he fixed that damned head-board? Why hadn't he even moved the bed away from the wall? At least then he wouldn't be forced to endure this. At least he wouldn't have to listen to his wife being......
Images of Lenny's associate thrusting and biting and growling filled Quentin's head, Barbara sobbing helplessly beneath the bastard.
She's my wife, Quentin screamed in his mind, She's MINE. MINE. MINE
"What's that buddy?" Lenny asked, raising his voice in competition against the noise.
"Please-please make........make him stop."
Lenny drew back in his chair, scrutinizing Quentin with a look of disbelief, almost effrontery. After a short, contemplative pause he said, "The joke's supposed to be a distraction Quentin. Remember what I said about making the effort?" His eyes flickered toward the door, his head turning fractionally, "And I'm not about to spoil anyone's day just because they might offend your fragile sensibilities. He leaned forward, hands braced against his knees, "NOW TELL ME THE FUCKING JOKE!"
For a fraction of a second, Quentin stared into the eyes of the second-class moron who had, somehow, gotten the better of him. his glare fostered a million emotions. Rage, disgust, the arrogant belief that this should not, COULD not, be happening to the great Quentin Belsay, all burned in a final, soundless declaration of defiance. The last vestiges of mutiny not beaten or humiliated out of him.
But, as always, futile rebellion gave way to reality. the evidence of his torture throbbed in his shoulder, his wrists, his bruised, swollen face, his torn, bloated lips, his red-curtained vision. And then he realised his mistake, it's devasting consequences shimmering back at Quentin from the eyes of the lunatic infront of him.
Imediately, Quentin's regard plumeted to his fat, naked thighs. But too late. In one, lightning-fast motion, Lenny swept up the knife at his feet and, in an instant, was at Quentin's throat with it.
"DON'T YOU LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT YOU JUMPED UP LITTLE SHIT" Lenny screamed, spittle flying from his lips, "I'LL HACK YOU UP INTO FISH BAIT YOU FAT WANKER. I'LL FEED YOU PIECE BY PIECE TO YOUR PRECIOUS FUCKING BITCH......" He paused and, in yet another example of how his disposition lounged way too far south of balanced, his expression snapped to one of serenity.
He leaned over, his mouth almost touching Quentin's ear. Quentin froze as he felt the cold, smooth back of the blade against his neck, slowly insinuating itself behind the rope. "While I'm fucking the bitch of course." Lenny whispered.
Then, without warning or preamble, one half of the duo responsible for the worst day of Quentin Belsay's life drew back his hand and, with a sigh imbued with something akin to boredom, thrust the knife forwards.