‘Jeopardise. To put someone or something into a situation in which there is a danger of loss, harm or failure.’ Rico rolled the coin across the knuckles of his prosthetic hand, listening to the quiet clink as he did so. The six people kneeling in front of him quivered in their hoods, one of them whispering a prayer under their breath. Rico stood tall, striding across the laminate floor in front of them. ‘Personally, I like the danger of harm definition. And that, my friends, is what Erica Weiss has done for you. She has put you in harms way, as long as you find the word harm synonymous with the name Rico.’ He grinned wolfishly, his pink tongue flicking out of his mouth as he licked his lips. It was an oddly childlike movement, a stark contrast to his imposing figure.
‘Madre de dios, Salvame…’ A whisper from the hood.
‘No, no, Mr Elgar. There will be no saving. The best you can hope for is a swift release into oblivion, once you tell me what I need to know. Until such a time as that, I will slowly remove your toes. Followed by your fingers. I will take your eyelids, your ears, whatever excuse you have for genitals cowering between your legs.’ He tossed the coin high, catching it with another clink, making the assembled kneelers quake. ‘Once I’ve done that, I will work on peeling your skin away from your body. Slowly.’
He knelt down beside the whisperer, moving his lips close to the man’s ear in a parody of intimacy. A sour nothing, one might say. ‘Mr Elgar, what I have neglected to mention to your little friends beside you, is that I will kill them first. Starting with Mr Corrin at the end, won’t his wife be upset to find his dismembered and flayed corpse?’ He stepped back up and raised his voice. ‘Mr Williams! How is Eleanor? Just starting school, isn’t that right?’
The hooded figure, second from the right, began to sob softly. ‘Please. Please.’
‘Mr Williams, I will let you live. I can’t afford to let your colleagues do the same, but you can walk out of here. I may have to take a toe, just to make sure that we understand each other, but I will let you go. You can see your daughter’s play this evening. Lady Hilda’s School, I believe? I’ll just check my ticket.’ He made a grand pantomime of drawing a ticket from his pocket, an actor performing to an audience of the blind. ‘Yes, half past seven. Won’t she look wonderful in her mouse costume?’
‘Not my daughter. Anything but that.’
‘Eric, be quiet. This man is doing this to scare us.’ Came a calm voice from the end of the row. ‘Sir, I don’t believe that we can help you.’
Rico’s head snapped around. This was unusual, anyone showing defiance at this stage in the game. Then again, he hadn’t taken out the knives yet. ‘Mr Carter. I don’t believe we’ve spoken yet. I will remind you that hooded people at the mercy of the madmen shouldn’t speak until spoken to.’
‘Please, you’re not insane.’ The hooded man scoffed. He actually scoffed, even from his position of weakness. Rico launched himself across the room, grabbing Carter’s throat with the metal of his prosthetic hand, lifting him bodily to his feet.
‘Try me.’ He snarled. Carter couldn’t respond with anything but a feeble gurgle, a valiant but misguided resistance against the assault on his windpipe. ‘Congratulations Mr Carter. You just volunteered to meet the knives first.’
Rico lifted Carter, bodily, across to the table. In a velvet wrap next to him lay his knives. He took his time with the straps, the leather cold against his remaining hand. He took a blowtorch from his bag and began heating one of the blades. His cold metal fingers closed around the hood and he yanked it from Carter’s head.
‘Mr Carter. Where is Erica Weiss?’ The blowtorch hissed and the blade began glowing red. Rico ran his finger down Carter’s leg, watching with a smile as he flinched as much as he could against the straps. He’d taken the time earlier to remove the hostages’ shoes, to make this part a lot easier. He cast his eye over the other hostages, he could see them shaking more. The religious man was muttering louder, it seemed that he might be losing his mind.
Rico moved the blowtorch across his victim’s leg, holding the white hot knife in his prosthesis. It had started as a hindrance, when Grint had taken his hand. Then he’d paid for the replacement and what a replacement it was. Cutting edge technology in a metal framework heat proof, flameproof, wires grafted onto his nerve endings, fully articulated fingers. He could crush a man’s skull with his bare hand now.
He moved the blade expertly between the bones in Carter’s little toe. That’s when the brave man began to scream.
‘You’ve made my knife go cold, Mr Carter. I’ll have to heat it up again. Unless you tell me where Miss Weiss has gone.’ Carter did nothing but scream. And scream. And scream.
The ruins of three men were lying on the floorboards, flayed and broken. The religious man, to Rico’s surprise, had held on the longest. Rico moved to the three men that were left, catlike tread across the boards.
‘Are any of you going to share now? Mr Elgar, perhaps?’ He opened the door and closed it again without passing through. He moved, whisper silent, through to where the men were still on their knees.
‘Erica. I can’t believe she left us here man!’
‘Shut up. He may have listening devices.’
‘I don’t care! She abandoned us and went swanning off to…’ His next words were cut off by a headbutt from Elgar.
‘Very good Mr Elgar! Time for some more cutting, I think.’ Rico smiled. ‘This is going to be fun!’
Two more men fell beneath his blades. He added their bodies to the pile.
‘Mr Elgar, you just cost Eleanor Williams her father. What a horrible man you must be!’ He finished with the toes, moving swiftly to the fingers. Elgar whimpered instead of screaming. The fingers came off in quick succession, one after the other, falling into a pile like sausages from a machine. ‘You should have talked, Mr Elgar. I just needed to know where Erica went. Now I find you silent! You used to talk all the time. Now I cut off all of your appendages and you still won’t tell me that Erica Weiss went to Monaco on the 1800 train yesterday?’
Elgar’s eyes went wide, an impressive feat without eyelids. ‘You… You knew?’
Rico smiled, entirely without humour. ‘Oh yes, Mr Elgar. I knew. I knew at 1802 yesterday, when a crooked official at the station called me. This, Richard, is all about taking out Weiss’ lieutenants. I just decided that I would have some fun while I did it.’ Rico leaned over Elgar, using a pair of pliers to pull out his tongue. ‘Oh, Elgar.’ He whispered. ‘You did have fun, didn’t you?’ And he rammed his palm into Elgar’s lower jaw.
‘Ready the helo. We move to Monaco at 1300.’ Rico turned to look at the devastation left behind him, and smiled as he rolled the white phosphorous grenade into the room behind him. The flames burnt hot against his back as he left the barely human wretches to scream with tongueless mouths.
The Idiot in Tin Foil