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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 12: Brown 4
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Previous chapter: Chapter 11: Kondor 45
Derek sat in the dark with his back against the wall and his knees pulled up to his chest. The handle of the butcher knife dug painfully into the palm of his left hand. There was no way he would get any more sleep tonight; he had nightmares when he thought he was asleep, and nightmares when he thought he was awake, but at least when he thought he was awake he was able to make his own choices. Also, although he wouldn't say that anything that had happened made sense, when he thought he was awake at least events were coherent and seemed connected.
The door swung open with the slightest creak, and a shadowed form crept to the bed. Moonlight gleamed on what looked to be the barrel of a gun. Derek shifted as quietly as possible, hiding the blade of the knife behind his raised legs. The figure spoke in a man's voice.
"It's a pity. I told the staff that I would not be back until morning and they were not to leave the house, knowing that they would all take the opportunity to visit the carnival. Had you not arrived, Carlo would have been gone with the others, and there would have been no need for him, or for you, to die."
It was a trick, Derek told himself. The killer wanted him to make a sound, so he could find him. Probably it wouldn't take long anyway–he was hidden in plain sight, unseen by virtue of the shadows in the room, indistinguishable from the piled clothes and other possessions.
"It's probably better that you're not in bed," the man continued. "The police will be told that you were taken for a burglar and shot. No one knows you're here, and no one will question your death."
It was the talking killer thing, always a mistake, Derek thought. Of course, this killer couldn't find him, and was talking to get him to make a noise–and there was no hero about to burst through the door, no police hiding behind the curtain to hear the confession. There was only him, and he was going to be killed.
"Fortunato had to die; his insults to my family were unconscionable. He will die slowly, hidden from the world below in my cellars. But a wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. With your death, there will be nothing for the police to suspect."
If it was only him, he'd better do something, he thought. But this position was good for hiding, not for springing on the enemy, and to move was to reveal himself. Could he wait until it was too late, until the revelers had returned and the man couldn't risk shooting? No, it was too much to hope that he could remain unseen so long. He would have to take the chance. He tried to shift.
His leg had fallen asleep. The tingle ran through it as he moved. It was a mistake, and a big one–Montresor abruptly turned his direction. Derek froze, trying once again to escape unnoticed. Each of them peered through the darkness at the other, but was he just looking the right direction, or had he seen something?
A glint caught his eye. The barrel of the gun was turning toward him. It could be a trick; it could be chance. If Derek had been seen, he couldn't wait to find out. The circulation was flowing through his leg, and if he didn't rely too heavily on it, he could stand. He had to do much more than stand, and he had to do it quickly, but standing was the first step.
He threw his weight forward onto the balls of his feet, and pushed himself upward and toward his attacker, brandishing the knife in front of him. The gun fired once, twice, thrice, and he felt the metal burn into his flesh. He had momentum now, and the distance was short. The blade plunged into the middle of his target in a deep stab, and blood poured on his arm. Then he collapsed, dead again.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #78: Novel Fears. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: