THE BUTCHER SHOP - MATTHEW MCBRIDE
Previously a part of Dan O’Shea’s Flash Fiction Church Challenge
It was the dead middle of January and it was so cold down in the basement that even the dead mice were frozen solid. The thermometer was broken but Sonny could tell that it was way past freezing. There was thick ice on the inside of the stained glass windows and each breath filled the room with the heat from their bellies. Joey’s naked body was strapped to the metal chair and each foot was in a metal bucket filled with ice water, which had just about frozen solid around both feet.
“Lean him back,” Vince told Sonny. So he leaned him back.
By now, Joey was about as white as anybody they’d ever seen. He was shaking so bad you could hear his teeth chattering. Vince kicked the buckets out of the way when Sonny tilted him back and cold ice water spilled all over the floor of the old church. The Boss had picked the building up on an auction. Bought it for a song. Now they just used it for storage or a place to cut up bodies.
“Hey, nutbag,” Vince barked, slapping Joey in the face to wake him up. “Asshole,” Vince screamed, but all Joey could do was whimper. “Remember what we told ya last month, Joey? We told ya to keep your fucking mouth shut.” But Joey's expression was as blank as a fresh sheet of paper. He tried to say something but his mouth was frozen, paralyzed by both cold and fear. “You remember?” Vince asked him.
“I don’t think he remembers.”
“Well, he’ll remember this.” Joey started to thrash and yell. “Go ahead and scream all you want, ya cocksucker, ain’t nobody gonna hear ya. Ain’t that right, Sonny?”
Sonny shook his head.
When Vince set the bag down before Joey’s feet he really started to fidget.
“You look uncomfortable,” Vince said, as he pulled the hammer from the bag. And it wasn’t just any hammer; it was an eight pound stainless steel industrial-type hammer. The kind you’d use for driving stakes into the ground for a circus tent. It was pretty for a hammer.
“Where’d ya get that bastard?” Sonny asked Vince, who smiled like a father that just watched his son tie his shoe the right way for the first time.
“Lowes,” he answered, “on sale for $12.99.”
“Son of a bitch, that’s cheap,” Sonny said, raising his eyebrows in genuine appreciation for such a good deal. He knows where he’ll be getting his next hammer.
Joey was shaking uncontrollably now as Vince looked up at him and smiled. His feet, practically frozen cubes of ice, were clicking together as Sonny grabbed him under his arms to raise him up. He tugged pretty hard and some of Joey’s ass skin ripped off and became one with the cold metal chair. The sound it made when the skin tore was clean and quick, like paper tearing, and Joey started to scream.
“Sorry,” Sonny told him, as Vince crushed the end of Joey’s right foot with the hammer, right on his frozen toes.
The mighty blow of the twelve dollar hammer connected with such force that Sonny could feel shock waves from the concrete all the way up into his arms and Joey started to go crazy, but his erratic movements inadvertently caused more of his ass skin to detach itself. Joey was screeching and hitting some pretty high notes when Vince raised up the hammer and they could see part of Joey’s deformed little pinky toe stuck to the end of it. They both started laughing and Sonny told Vince to feed it to him.
“Make him eat it.” The look on Joey’s face was one of genuine discontent.
Vince pitched the toe into Joey’s mouth as he was yelling and it went right in. This brought more laughter. “Lucky shot,” Sonny told him and Vince knew it.
Joey spit the toe back out of his mouth with a force greater than a guy in his situation should have been capable of and it hit Ole Vince right in the chin. Another round of laughter and, for a minute, they actually forget about how fucking cold it was down there.
Sonny took a step back from the situation, pulling a bottle of DeKyper’s Blackberry brandy from the pocket of his thick winter coat and let the thick syrup run down his throat with subtle heat. He offered a shot to Vince, who accepted, but before Sonny passed it over he told him to wipe the blood from his chin.
Meanwhile, Joey was cussing and yelling and Sonny was starting to get real sick of his mouth. He wanted to enjoy the exact second the brandy buzz found him and it was hard to fully appreciate the moment with Joey going on like he was. Sonny grabbed the back of his chair and pulled it across the floor until it set perfectly over the drain and he pulled the hand gun from his other pocket. Joey's eyes were suddenly filled with fire as he started to do what everybody does in his situation. He started to beg. Then he tried to make a deal. Said he’d pay ’em double to let him go.
“Listen, fuck face, if you had any money we wouldn’t be here right now.” Vince thought that was funny. Sonny took a quick step back and fired a round into Joey’s forehead, but despite his slapdash precautions he still took considerable blood splatter. Vince continued to laugh and said he wanted a taco, which was fine by Sonny, it was getting late and he could eat. They’d just let Joey bleed out. They could always cut the body up after lunch.
BIO: Matthew McBride lives on a farm along the river and one day he will own his own machine gun. He’s been published at A Twist Of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, & The Flash Fiction Offensive. He currently has a novel under review at DHS Literary Agency and he never accepts rides from strangers.
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Irish Times Crime Fiction column, February 2018
13 hours ago