He wished that he could say Victoria looked stunning in her wedding dress. There was no contesting that the gown itself was marvelous; it was studded with crystals and trimmed with lace, cut in the latest style and belted with diamonds. It would have turned another girl into a goddess for a day, a vision of beauty. But even a gown couldn’t hide Victoria’s flaws; the best it could manage was to make her slightly pretty.
Again, Richard reminded himself how rich she was.
Her money was the only reason that this ceremony was even possible. Richard had spared no expense—he wasn’t going to be paying for it, after all. Laborers had toiled night and day to make the garlands of hothouse flowers, the mahogany benches, the detailed rings that would soon grace their fingers. All he had to do was keep up the pretense long enough for the contracts to be signed.
Both of their families and friends had assembled in the large room, their silks and scarves rustling faintly as they waited for the documents to be presented. He and Victoria were at the front of the gathering, facing one another as the priest droned on in the background. Richard held her hand lightly in his, trying not to notice how clammy it was and trying to keep a smile plastered on his face. He mostly succeeded.
The priest reached over and rested his smooth hand on theirs. His white sleeve fell slightly over their hands, hiding their entwined fingers from view, “Will you protect and cherish this woman all the days of your life? Will you defend her from the threat that…”
By God, this was taking forever. Richard made an effort to keep himself from slouching as the rest of the ceremony proceeded. Victoria looked ecstatic, her face stretched in what appeared to be a manic grin as they signed the papers. He tried not to think about the wedding night.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.”
Richard stared at his new wife, his eyes sliding away from her muddy eyes to her painted lips. There was a large mole on the corner of her mouth, hastily covered with makeup. He might as well get this over with.
He grabbed her around the waist and dipped her backward as he kissed her. He could hear the cheers of family and friends, admirers and business colleagues. He allowed their applause to distract him from the wet, fishy feel of her lips as he gently raised his wife again, pulling away with a smile.
Victoria had one virtue; she got drunk easily. Then again, it wasn’t hard at a party like theirs. The spirits flowed as easily as water, drowning their guests to the point where many of them sat in giddy stupors on the sofas scattered around the dining hall. Victoria leaned heavily against Richard’s arm as they toured the room, stumbling slightly in her heeled shoes.
“I’m really glad that we got married,” she hiccupped as she nearly tripped on a crack in the stone floor. Richard grabbed her waist firmly, pulling her up again.
“I’m happy to hear it, dearest Victoria.” He suppressed a grimace and instead nodded politely to one of their guests as they passed. He didn’t think the man noticed them; he seemed to be busy inhaling what was left of the wedding cake.
“Mother said I’d never get married. She thought I’d be a spinster,” Victoria giggled girlishly, fanning her flushed face with one hand. “We proved her wrong. I’m not going to be a spinster.”
“Of course not, sweetheart.” Richard led her delicately over to a duvet, sitting her down firmly. Victoria smiled up at him, her eyes glazed, “And…we’re going to be together forever!”
Richard smiled and nodded in return before patting her hand, “You rest here a bit, sweetest. I have some business to attend to.”
Victoria grinned widely and leaned over, resting her head on the armrest, “Riiiight here.”
“Exactly.” Richard suppressed a shudder and turned, winding his way through the stumbling, peacock-colored drunkards that now filled the room. A few people wished him congratulations as he passed. Others merely gave him dirty looks; not surprising, considering that he bagged the heiress. He could only hope that the money was worth it. He glanced over her shoulder at Victoria again. Even from his vantage point, he could tell that she had passed out and was drooling. Wonderful. At least it gave him time to do what needed to be done.
Richard quietly slipped out of the room and into the corridor. He could hear the muffled sound of laughter and a few shuffled steps down the hall, but otherwise it was silent. He heaved a sigh, breathing in the cooler air. It was time to get to work. Otherwise, he’d be stuck with “dearest” Victoria.
He moved quickly through the compound, striding past locked doors and boarded windows. He hurried down a flight of stairs, and then another into the basement. It was damp here, cold even. Water dripped from the ceiling; something scuttled away from his shoe and into a nearby crack. He walked past one wooden door before stopping at the second, grabbing its handle before entering.
The first thing he noticed was the smell. It was the dull, metallic scent of blood mixed with the ripe odor of piss. The second thing he noticed was the figure strapped to the chair. Its hair was half torn out, its eyes closed; its fingers looked to have been broken numerous times, twisted at odd angles, purplish and bloated. Next to it stood a man dressed all in black, his face hooded and left in shadow.
Richard nodded briefly to the man before approaching the figure in the chair, staring down at what was left of him, “Has he talked, Samuel?”
The man dressed in black shook his head, “Not a word, sir. But that’s not for a lack of trying on my part, as you can see.”
Richard curled his lips back into a scowl, drumming his fingers against his thigh, “Wake him.”
Samuel drew his hand back and slapped the prisoner hard across the face. The sickening sound of flesh hitting flesh filled the room as the prisoner’s face slowly began to turn red. Samuel drew his hand back again for another hit when the man suddenly jerked his head upward, his eyes staring wildly. He let out a faint groan and slumped forward.
Richard nodded to Samuel and he grabbed what was left of the prisoner’s hair, wrenching his head back so that Richard had a clear view of his face. Like his fingers, it was mottled with bruises; his nose looked faintly crooked, and a trail of dried blood ran from one nostril to the corner of his mouth.
“Good morning, Mr. Fisher. I hope you’re doing well today.”
The prisoner grunted, his eyes shifting away to look at the floor. Richard glanced to Samuel briefly before continuing, “You know what I’m here for. All you have to do is tell us where she’s headed next; it’s not that hard.”
Mr. Fisher mumbled something and Richard leaned forward, cupping one hand to his ear, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear. What is it?”
The prisoner cleared his throat dryly, a rattling sound that made Richard think of his wife’s own breathing, “…Why do you want to know?”
Richard leaned back with a smile, clapping his hands together, “Well that is the million credit question, isn’t it? Suffice to say that she took something very important from me, and I want it back.” He paused for a moment, letting the statement sink in, “Now, you can tell me where she’s going, or Samuel here can start playing one of his favorite games.”
On cue, Samuel reached over toward the nearby table, covered with metallic instruments. His hand hovered for a moment before it picked up a simple knife. He wrenched the prisoner’s head sideways and pressed the point of the blade against his ear. Mr. Fisher swallowed hard, his bloodshot eyes widening.
“You see, he likes to call it ‘Unnecessary Parts.’”
Samuel began carving into the man’s ear. Blood spurted as the prisoner screamed, thrashing against his bonds. Richard continued to speak, raising his voice slightly to be heard above the noise, “There are many parts on a person that are just extraneous, you see. Take the ear, for instance. A person doesn’t really need it to live.”
Samuel continued cutting the man’s ear off as Mr. Fisher cried. His nose began to stream snot, mixing with the blood that spattered the stone floor.
“In fact, a person doesn’t need fingers or toes either. But Samuel’s favorite part to remove is something that can only be found on a man. Of course, we’re not quite there yet.”
Samuel threw the bloody piece of flesh on the floor in front of Mr. Fisher; it landed with a wet plop, jiggling slightly before lying still. Mr. Fisher whimpered as Samuel grabbed a handkerchief and carefully wiped the blood off of his hands. Dark red seeped down the side of the prisoner’s head and coated his shoulder.
Richard smiled widely at him, holding his hands out expansively, “Now like I said, I can continue to let Samuel play his game—all night if need be. But I’m not sure you’ll enjoy it very much. So tell me, Mr. Fisher…” He paused as the prisoner sniffed pathetically, squirming in the chair as tears streamed down his face, “Where is the girl?”