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She was alive.

And so was my resolve to kill this motherfucker.

“If you somehow come out of this alive, I assure you, you won’t be that way for long. I may be alone now, but there are people out there. They know where I am,” I warned.

“Yes, but who do they think you are meeting?” Tanner laughed. “They think you’re meeting the senator, right? So, when I crawl out of here they’ll easily believe what I tell them to believe, because it’s what YOU had believed. You barged in here. Had a fight with the senator. Guns were fired. People died. That’s all she wrote.”

He leaned down and pushed the hair out of her face, kissing her on the lips. She stirred and my heart leapt. It was killing me that I couldn’t help her. I wanted to carry her out of there and put a bullet in this kid’s brain. “What’s going…?” She stared to ask. Her eyes opened and landed on Tanner. She jumped like she’d been doused with ice water, but bound to her own chair, both legs and wrists, she couldn’t get more than an inch or two as she tried desperately to scoot across the floor and away from Tanner. He picked up her overturned chair and set her a few feet in front of me so she was facing me. She was close enough to where if I reached out to her, I could put a hand on her leg. If I had use of my arms.

“Ssshhhhh darling,” Tanner said, running the barrel of his gun down her cheek. “I’m here. Your husband is here. Everything is going to be okay, now.”

“Tanner. No. I have to go. I have to go get…” She stumbled over her words, clearly confused from whatever damage Tanner had inflicted. Tanner grabbed her chin and forced her head up.

“This who you’re looking for, dear?” he asked, rubbing his nose against her cheek.

Doe’s eyes seemed to finally focus, and when they did and they landed on me, her eyes widened in surprise and she gasped. She struggled against her restraints but it was useless. Surprisingly, Tanner released her bindings.

“Kneel,” he hissed.

“Please. Don’t do this. Let’s talk okay? You and me. Let him go. He has nothing to do with this anyway and we’ll go for a walk like we used to do and talk.”

“The time for talking is over. I am so fucking tired of all the fucking talking!” he screamed in her face. “KNEEL!” he ordered again. This time she complied, looking straight out to me.

I’m sorry, she mouthed to me.

I wish I could tell her this wasn’t her fault. This was my fault. It all was. But I was so fucking tired of blaming myself for everything that happened. So instead I focused on not losing hope. I focused on what it would feel like to squeeze the last breath from Tanner’s lungs.

“Don’t fucking touch her,” I roared.

“Do you think she really wants a white trash piece of shit like you? She’s confused. She doesn’t know what she wants. The only reason she was even with you was because she has a brain injury.” Tanner’s eyes glazed over. “She’s my WIFE. We’re finally going to be the family we were always supposed to be…” Tanner trailed off.

I wanted to keep him talking. If I kept him talking then maybe I could stop him from hurting her long enough until Bear and Jake showed up. “You really think she’s gonna want you now after you’ve shown her that you’re a complete psychopath.”

“Marriage is all about forgiveness,” Tanner said. Then he scoffed. “And refresh my memory, Mr. King, but didn’t you go to prison because you killed your own mother?”

I shrugged. “Cunt deserved it.”

Tanner tapped on Pup’s head, “Well, this cunt deserves this.” He reached down to the hem of her T-shirt and pulled it up over her head until it was wrapped around her arms like another binding. She wasn’t wearing a bra. Her bare breasts were exposed to the night air and to Tanner who blew out a whistle. “Almost forgot what great tits you have, wife. It’s been so long.”

I pulled at the cuffs, they dug into the skin on my wrists until I felt the trickle of warm blood drip from my wounds, down my fingers, and onto the floor.

Tanner rounded Doe and knelt behind her, fumbling with something on the floor I couldn’t see. “Now this…” he said, tapping on her tattoo. There was a hissing sound. Like gas being released from a balloon. He lifted what he’d been messing with. A mini blowtorch. “This has got to go.” He pressed the flame to her skin. I pulled harder at the cuffs.

The smell of burning flesh filled the air.

And so did her strangled screams.

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