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The Murder Stage - FREE Fiction

Updated: Mar 13, 2023






Alex Cole - part private investigator, part mercenary - no job too violent, no fee too big, no moral unbendable. Paranormal and interdimensional work accepted. Deities slain. Reasonable rates.


The Murder Stage

Kristopher Rufty


The text message told Garret the club was on Eleventh Street, but all he saw were rundown buildings and shops that went out of business at the dawn of time. Nobody was wandering about, no line of customers to be let in anywhere.


He stared at the weathered building, frowning. Plywood covered the large windows in the front. There was no sign or any lights to indicate this was an operational establishment.


What the hell?


This had been a waste of time. He should have known better than to try a dating app.

Footsteps clapped on the sidewalk. He turned and nearly gasped when he saw the woman walking toward him. The dress fluttered around her thighs and left a lot of leg bare. Even in the meager light from the streetlamps, they seemed to gleam.


She saw him standing there and paused. “Are you Garret Stone?”


“Yeah. Are you…?”


“Jill Saunders.”


The woman stepped closer, coming out of the shadows and into the carroty light. The rest of her was just as amazing as her legs. Her hair had been perfectly styled and hung to her shoulders in sleek layers. She filled the small dress as if the fabric was a thin shell over her skin. He could see the tops of her breasts and the tight valley between them. He quickly looked away.


Somehow, she looked even better than the pictures online. And younger. This woman had to be in her early twenties. “Nice to finally meet you,” he said.


“Likewise. It’s always good to learn the person you’ve been talking to is real.”


He laughed. “True. But I think this club you wanted to meet at isn’t here anymore.”


“It’s a lounge. Not a club.”


“Right.”


“But no, this is it. I told you it’s private.”


“Looks closed down.”


“That’s the point. Privacy.”


“We’ll have it here, for sure.” He was nervous. He kept his hands closed because they wouldn’t stop shaking. This was the first date he’d been on in two years.


“I’m glad you could come out tonight,” she said. “I know it’s late and you have to work tomorrow.”


“It’s fine. I work from home on Fridays, so I can nap between work orders.”


“Ah. The life of Network Security.”


“That’s right. It is as exciting as it seems.”


She laughed. It was husky, with a hint of a squeak to it. He liked it.


The door behind him opened with a rusted groan that sounded like a scream. The sudden noise caused Jill to step back in alarm.


Garret turned around and saw a large man filling the space between the doorframe. His head looked like a small box placed on wide shoulders. There was no indication a neck was there to support it. “Names,” he said.


“We have a reservation,” Jill said.


His mouth opened into something that was probably meant to be a hospitable smile. It looked more like he might have accidentally shit his pants and was trying to play it off. “Come on in.”


“Well,” said Garret. “I guess it’s a legit place after all.”


“Told you.”


Garret took a step toward the man and felt Jill’s arm sliding around his. She squeezed it tight. Her body rubbed against him as they walked to the door.


The big man stepped back to give them room to enter. Once they were inside, he closed the door. There was a clacking sound of locks being engaged.


“Um…” Garret pointed at the door. “Why’d you do that?”


“Privacy,” said Jill.


“Ah. So why do you lock the door?”


“Because I’m the doorman,” he said, chuckling. “Follow me.”


He led them through a dark hall. Garret didn’t like the answer. He felt a slithering sensation on his back. It was his anxiety kicking in. He wanted to ask questions but didn’t want to appear suspicious. Jill was gorgeous, and he’d enjoyed their talks online.

He wanted this to go well.


Light music drifted toward them. With it came the sound of glass clinking and soft chatter. He thought he smelled steak.


Okay. Maybe this will be fine.


Jill’s hold tightened even more as they reached the end of the hall. On the other side, light filtered in from the main floor. There were blues and pinks and greens that reminded Garret of bars he’d been to in New Orleans.


Way quieter here, though.


“Go on in,” said the doorman. “Sit wherever you like.”


“Thanks,” said Jill.


The doorman left them standing there and headed back up the hall.


Garret peered into the main room. He saw a few tables spread through the area. Round and covered with a white cloth, some were occupied, while others remained empty. There was a small stage at the front, which was nothing more than a platform that you stepped up to, with a black curtain behind it. A wooden chair sat in the middle.


Garret figured that was for live music, maybe an acoustic guitar player or somebody with a harp.


On the opposite side of the room was the bar. A few stools were placed in front of it. All of them were empty.


“Want to go to the bar?” he asked.


“Sounds great.”


Together, they entered the lounge and headed straight for the bar. A man who looked around sixty sat at a table by himself. He drank from a glass of water as he watched them walk by. He had plates on his table that contained the scraps of a meal.


A trio of women occupied another table. They all had similar features, so Garret assumed they were sisters. The one he assumed was the oldest was in the middle, looking as if she wasn’t as relaxed as the other two who were chugging wine.


They reached the bar, and each took a stool. The bartender was a short guy with a dark beard and bald head. He smiled at them.


Garret ordered a Coors Light and Jill got a margarita.


“Well,” said Jill. “What do you think?” She leaned to the side, brought her leg up, and crossed it over her knee. The position caused her skirt to fall back, revealing almost all of her leg.


“It’s definitely…private.”


Her husky laugh made him smile. “I like it. Just so…personal. And the stage is right there, a part of it all.”


“So what goes on up there?”


Before Jill could answer, the bartender put down napkins, then set their drinks on top. “Enjoy.”


Garret felt so tense that he had to restrain from guzzling the beer. It was cold and tasty. Its familiar flavor calmed his nerves a bit.


“Another?” asked Jill.


He noticed her glass was empty. Laughing, he decided not to hold back and chugged his bottle until there was nothing left. He put it on the counter. “Sounds good.”


The bartender brought another round and Garret held out some cash. The short man shook his head. “It’s covered already.”


“It is?” Garret asked.


The bartender nodded.


“Then have a fabulous tip.”


Smiling, the man shook his head. “It’s covered. Enjoy.” He stepped away and busied himself with stacking glasses.


“That’s odd,” said Garret. “Did you do that?”


Jill shrugged. “I’ll never tell.”


Garret wanted her to elaborate, but he decided to drop it. If she had to pay for the reservation up front, he would like to at least pay her back half. But she might be one of those people who took offense if he tried. Then again, she might take offense if he didn’t try.


Just see how the evening goes, judge it from there.


He chugged his beer, stopping at the halfway point. “This beer is excellent, though.”


“I’m glad you like it.”


Garret spun around on the stool, putting his back against the bar. He scanned the small number of patrons. The lounge wasn’t large, but the lack of people made it look big and spacey. He started to turn back around when he noticed a woman at a table up front watching him.


She looked familiar. Like he’d known her long ago and age hadn’t been kind to her. There was no doubt she was looking at him because as their eyes locked, she didn’t look away. She didn’t seem happy to see him, either. Her eyes were dark and grim, her mouth a tight line. The wrinkles on her face made it tilt downward as if she’d been hit hard on top of her head and it had caused her face to drop a level.


“What’s wrong?” asked Jill.


He shrugged. “That lady...”


“Lady?” Jill turned on the stool and looked. “Oh. The one staring daggers through you?”


“Yeah.”


“You know her?”


“I think so. But I’m not sure from…” Then it clicked. The realization of who she was rushed at him so fast, he flinched. “Oh, shit.”


Ms. Byers.


He nodded. “What’s she doing here?”


He hadn’t seen her in almost twenty years. He was just fifteen the last time, and it had been at her oldest daughter’s funeral.


“I need to leave." His clothes felt too tight, too hot. They seemed to be constricting against him, as if trying to slowly suffocate him.


“Why?” asked Jill. She drank the rest of her drink. She looked amused. It was probably the alcohol starting to make her comfortable.


Garret didn’t know what was going on here, but suddenly everything about this place seemed wrong. He’d only been at the club for a few minutes, and he felt as if he’d been confined to a prison in just a matter of seconds.


“I’m leaving,” he said, standing up.


“Leaving?” Jill pointed a gun at him. “You’ve gotta stay.”


He stared at the small handgun. Her slender finger against the trigger, ready to squeeze if needed. Where it had come from, he had no idea. But it was there now, aimed directly at his midsection. He looked around. Nobody seemed to even notice. Well, except for one person: Ms. Byers.


She was watching with a smirk.


“What the hell is going on?” he asked.


“You really don’t recognize me, do you? I thought for sure when you saw me in person, you’d realize I wasn’t really someone named Jill Saunders. Not that you’ve stopped staring at my tits and legs long enough to see my face. But it has been a long time since we last saw each other. Plus, I was just a kid then.”


Garret stared at her. She sat up straight, flipped her hair behind her shoulders to show all her face. She smiled.


Oh, shit.


Garret’s insides turned hot and mushy as recognition took hold. “Maggie Byers.”


Jill—Maggie—smiled. She held up a finger, tapping the air. “Ding-ding! That is correct. But back then, you called me Mags. Little Mags Bags. I hated it, but because I was madly in love with you, I allowed it.”


“You can’t shoot me in a public place," Garret said. “You can’t stop me from leaving.”


She thumbed back the hammer. “Wanna bet?”


Garret turned and saw the bartender was watching while overly drying a mug. “You’re just going to allow this?”


“I’m just the bartender.”


Garret looked at Maggie again.


"See?" She tilted her head. “Put your cell phone on the bar.”


Garret had been so consumed by his fear, he’d forgotten he even had a phone. Removing it from his pocket, he did what Maggie ordered. Soon as he placed it on the bar, the bartender smashed it with the bottom of a mug.


“Now sit,” said Maggie. “It’s about to start.”


Garret plopped onto the stool, feeling dizzy. It was like a bad dream. Garret wanted to run like hell in any direction. But his legs felt as if they were filled with air. What the hell was about to happen?


A spotlight illuminated, shining directly onto the microphone stand. The curtain opened and a man stepped out. He was dressed in a black, buttoned shirt, with a red tie and dark pants. His hair was a stark contrast to the bleak colors with its bright, sunny shade. He was smiling, a perfect smile that caused dimples in his cheeks.


“Good evening. Welcome to my establishment. I am the owner, Shad Warwick. It does my heart good to see you out there, smiling. Isn’t that what you’ve missed for so long? Having something to smile about? Somebody took that from you at some point, and you haven’t been able to smile since.”


Garret shook. “I’m sorry, Maggie. I—”


“Shut up.” She placed the barrel of the gun against her lips instead of her finger.


A woman in scrubs rolled a cart onto the stage and parked it to the right of Shad at the microphone. On top was a wide variety of medical instruments and tools. Next, she brought out a wooden chair.


Garret’s throat tightened.


I’ve gotta get out of here!


“I’ve been in your shoes,” said Shad. “Victimized. Unjustly and harmfully. I was at the end of my rope, ready to tighten the noose and finish it all. Have any of you been there before?”


The older sister in the middle of the other two nodded, which caused the younger pair to look at her with shock. Their mouths were moving in each of her ears, but she paid them no attention.


Shad closed his eyes, jutting his chin in an understanding pout. “I bet you have. I bet you’re still there now. But after tonight? No longer. You will be set free. Just like I was. This building was left to me by my grandfather. At one time, it had been a cigar lounge where guys in fedoras smoked and drank and flirted with cocktail waitresses. It outlived the fifties, but the sixties killed it. My father had already passed on, so when Gramps died, it was willed to me. I did nothing with it for years. But when I was wronged, like so many of you, I came here to kill myself.”


Maggie let out a concerned gasp from beside Garret. He glanced over and saw a tear had broken free of her eye and strolled down her cheek.


This is fucking insane!


Shad snatched the mic from the clip and held it up to his mouth, pacing as his voice took on a more spirited tenor. “But instead of dying, I began to think. What if I brought the man who wronged me here and killed him instead? Right here on the Murder Stage.”


What the hell?


A man in the far corner of the room applauded, causing Shad to hold up his hand to halt it. The clapping slowly faded.


“Shit!” said the old man who’d been eating when Garret had first arrived. He stood up so fast, his chair tipped backwards. He raised a trembling hand, pointing at the clapper. “You! I know you.”


The Clapper stood and glared back at the old man. Both men looked to be around the same age, though the clapper was shorter and fatter. “You’re damn right you do.”


“Gentlemen,” said Shad. “Please, sit down.”


The taller old man pointed at Shad. “Fuck you, mister! I’m leaving!”


He turned and ran to the hallway, causing the sisters to gasp in unison. He vanished through the doorway.


Beside him, Maggie laughed. “This is great. He thinks he can get away.”


Nobody chased after the old man. Nobody even seemed bothered by it, except for the one table of sisters.


The doorman stepped out from the hallway, the old man slung over his shoulder like a sack of feed.


Shad held out his hand. “As always, they try to run, but they’re brought right back. Why don’t you bring him up to the chair, huh?”


The old guy pounded on the doorman’s solid back. Each hit sounded like he was punching thick beef. The doorman didn’t even flinch at the assault. Reaching the stage, the doorman stepped up and swung the man over. His ass pounded the seat of the chair hard enough to scoot it back. Before the old man could do anything, the doorman pinned him down while the woman in scrubs used handcuffs to lock has arms behind his back. Then she did the same with his ankles, using one pair of cuffs behind the legs.


He wasn’t going anywhere. If he tried, he’d only fall and hurt himself.


Shad cleared his throat. “Give Reba a round of applause for her quick cuffing.”


Maggie and the bartender clapped with Shad.


“Well, fuck it," Shad said. "I’ll just skip the rest of my story. If you’d like to learn more, you can pick up my book in hardback on your way out. Fifteen dollars, and I’ll even sign it for you.” He turned, gazing over the old man’s thrashing body as he struggled with the cuffs. “Mr. Anderson? Come on up.”


Mr. Anderson, the shorter old man, walked to the stage. His gaze remained locked on the other old man.


"You know this man here as Dean Merger, correct?”


Mr. Anderson nodded.


Dean looked at Mr. Anderson. Tears flowed down his face. “Come on, Ed. Don’t do this to me! We’re friends, right? Right?”


Shad laughed. “Friends? You claim to be a friend to Mr. Anderson?”


“I’ve loved him like a brother all my life,” said Dean.


Mr. Anderson stood in front of Dean now. His arm flew out, hand striking the side of Dean’s face so hard it knocked his head to the side. “Brother my ass! You—”


Shad put his hand on Mr. Anderson’s shoulder, silencing him. “Don’t say it. He must confess. This is his moment to do that.”


Dean threw back his head and bawled. Shad gave him a couple minutes to stop on his own before nodding. Mr. Anderson stepped forward and punched Dean in the stomach. His cries turned to wheezing coughs.


Then he vomited all over himself. The thick puddle spread down his shirt, chunky and dark.


Shad, frowning, turned to the crowd. “My apologies for that.”


Dean wheezed some more before finally getting his breath back. Moaning, his head sagged.


Shad said, “Now you need to confess your transgression for Mr. Anderson and the rest of us.”


Dean moaned again, then said, “I…” He lifted his head. His face was red, eyes watery.

His cheeks bulged with each heavy breath. “I stole Rhonda from him.”


“Rhonda?” said Shad. “And who’s Rhonda?”


“His…” Dean coughed. “She was his wife.”


“Of twenty-five goddamn years, you bastard.” Mr. Anderson grabbed a meat cleaver from the rolling cart that had been placed on stage. The lady in scrubs gasped and stepped out of his way as he darted back to Dean.


Dean saw him coming and tried to move away, but the cuffs held him there.


Shad put his hand on Mr. Anderson’s shoulder. “Hold on, sir. We have a process.”


“I just want to kill the bastard.”


“That’s fine, but we still have to sentence him. If we don’t, then it’s just cold-blooded murder. And on the Murder Stage, it can’t be cold-blooded.”


Garret gulped. The Murder Stage?


“You’re right,” said Mr. Anderson. “I’m sorry.”


“Okay,” said Shad, smiling. “Mr. Anderson, you have heard Dean’s confession.”


‘Please forgive me,” said Dean. “I never meant to hurt you. But I do love Rhonda. Always have. I just wanted her for myself. I’m a selfish shit, and I shouldn’t have done it.”


“Shut your mouth,” said Mr. Anderson. “You’re a bastard. And if Rhonda hadn’t died of cancer last year, she’d be in a chair right beside you.”


Dean closed his eyes and sobbed.


Shad cleared his throat to bring the attention back to him. “Mr. Anderson, how do you find Dean in judgement?”


“Guilty as hell.”


“And what is your sentence?”


“Death.”


Dean howled with tears.


“Then so be it.” Shad gestured for Mr. Anderson to proceed and stepped out of the way.


Mr. Anderson didn’t hesitate. He stepped up to Dean, who continued to beg and sob, and swung the meat cleaver down. The first hit sliced into his shoulder, hacking away a wide chunk. A thick sheet of blood sprayed out, coating Mr. Anderson in crimson.


Shad held up his hand. “You did bring a change of clothes? Correct?”


Panting, Mr. Anderson nodded.


“Good. And you’re free to use our showers when you’re done.” He nodded. “I’m sorry, continue.”


Mr. Anderson stepped back and swung the cleaver at the screaming man again. This time, the blade punched into his chest. Dean’s screams turned to gargles that sounded like water through a clogged drain.


It took the old man a few tries to dislodge the cleaver. Holding the dripping weapon, Mr. Anderson stared at Dean. For a moment, it looked as if he was going to stop. Then, as if a switch flipped in his mind, he went wild with the cleaver. The blade slashed and chopped, throwing chunks of flesh and meat all around the stage. The first few hits caused Dean to grunt and moan, but it wasn’t long before the only sounds were the juicy chomps of the blade.


Slash after violent slash, Mr. Anderson chopped Dean until he was a clumpy trunk of flayed meat, flesh, and bone. His arms were on the stage floor, missing portions the blade had chopped away. Blood dripped from the ceiling and slid off the stage as if it came from a spigot.


Finally, Mr. Anderson was done. He dropped the cleaver. It hit the floor with a dull thump.


Garret’s chest ached. He realized he’d been holding his breath and slowly let it out. Though it felt as if the assault had gone on for hours, a quick look at the clock told him only five minutes had passed.


Jesus H.


He looked over at Maggie and saw her watching with the fascination of a student in love with her professor. Behind her, he spotted his empty beer bottle on the bar. His heart lurched in his chest. This was the closest thing he would have to a weapon, and it would need to be used before anybody else noticed it there.


Before he could talk himself out of it, he snatched the bottle from the bar and swung it right at Maggie’s face. She saw it coming, but there was nothing she could do to stop it.


Garret prepared himself for the shatter. It didn’t come. Instead, his arm jerked to a halt, stopping his momentum. The sudden shift caused him to slide off the stool. His knees hit the floor, but his arm remained stretched above him, held in place.


The bartender gripped his wrist, gazing down at him from behind the bar. “That wasn’t nice, sir.”


“What’s going on?” asked Shad from the stage.


“This one tried to hit Maggie with a bottle.”


“Not good, friend. Especially when it’s Maggie. Are you okay, dear?”


“I’m fine, honey.”


“Honey?” said Garret. “What the hell is this?”


Maggie laughed. “I’m dating Shad, you fucking moron.”


Garret didn’t know what world he’d found himself existing in, but it wasn’t his. Was this hell?


Close enough.


“Well,” said Shad. “I guess we can shuffle the order a bit since Mr. Stone is eager to get started.”


Garret looked up just as the doorman stepped over to him. He grabbed a handful of Garret’s hair with a beefy hand and pulled him upright. When he was on his feet, the doorman yanked Garret’s arms behind his back and held them as if inviting somebody to slug his stomach. He forced him to walk forward. Garret only tried to resist a few times, but quickly learned it was pointless.


Walking past the table of sisters, Garret glanced over, hoping to find allies in this nightmare. Maybe they would come to his aid, and the four of them could put a stop to this.


Instead, he saw the oldest sister held a gun in each hand, the barrels against her sisters’ heads. Whatever was going to happen to him would also happen to those two young women. They watched him walk by with wet eyes that had smeared their make-up. It looked as if they were hoping he could help them somehow.


Sorry, girls. I’m fucked.


They reached the stage. Already, the lady in scrubs had removed Dean from the chair. His pummeled remains had been placed in a sloppy pile on a tarp. Now, she was wiping down the chair with a wet rag, cleaning the chunks of flesh and bone into a dustpan.


“Don’t do this,” he said. “Please, Mags. I’m so sorry. Don’t—”


“Shut up, Garret. God, to think there was a time when I had the biggest crush on you.”


Garret’s eyes filled with tears. He blinked them away. He thought about trying to beg some more, apologize with stronger conviction, but he knew it was pointless.


The doorman slammed him in the chair, and just like Dean, held him in place while Scrubs cuffed him. When she finished, the doorman released his hold and left the stage with the scrub lady.


Garret pulled and struggled, but the cuffs held him in place.


Now he began to sob. It was cut short by a slap across his cheek. His face lit up in a stinging flash. Blinking, he looked up to find Ms. Byers standing over him. Her eyes were tight slits, chin jutting as if she’d been growling.


“Shut your damn mouth,” she said.


“I’m sorry, Ms. Byers. I—” Another slap caused him to cry out. He looked at Shad. “Are you going to make her stop?”


Shad cleared his throat. “Oh, you’re talking to me. Um…no. She might be my mother-in-law one day, so best to stay on her good side. I’m sure you understand.”


“Oh, Shad,” said Maggie. “You mean it?”


“Well…”


“You’re so sweet.”


Ms. Byers slapped Garret five more times. By the time she finished, her hair hung in her eyes and she was huffing. Garret’s face had gone tight and numb.


Shad stepped forward. “Okay, Mr. Stone. You saw how this works. Confess. Do it for Ms. Byers and dear, sweet Maggie. Confess the hell you’ve put them through.”


Garret knew he had to do it. But he hadn’t spoken about it since he was a teenager. He’d explained it to the cops, explained it on the stand in court, then over and over to the therapists afterward. When he was finally done, he’d swore to himself he would never speak of it again.


And now he was forced to recite the horrible memory one more time.


“Okay, Ms. Byers,” said Shad. “Select a tool and—”


“No!” said Garret. “I’ll confess.”


Shad nodded. “Good. Begin.”


Garret took a deep breath and let it out. His hurt cheek felt stiff and tingly. “I used to date Maggie’s sister, Madeline—Maddy. I was fifteen.” Another quick sobbing spell made it hard to talk.


“And what did you do?”


“I…” He sniffled. “I wasn’t a good boyfriend. Immature. Just jealous all the time. But it was because Maddy was so beautiful, and I didn’t want to lose her.”


“But you did,” said Maggie. “She dumped your ass.”


Garret could still see her sitting beside him on his bed, explaining in a gentle way why they couldn’t be together. She’d done it so well, coming across as nice and compassionate, though she no longer wanted a relationship with him.


Garret nodded at Maggie. “She didn’t want me anymore.”


“And what did you do?” repeated Shad.


“I had my dad’s handgun under my pillow.”


“Why?”


“Because I knew this was coming. I knew it. I didn’t know it was loaded. I didn’t even know how to shoot a gun. So when I grabbed it and put it under my chin, I thought it was empty. I told her if she broke up with me, I would kill myself.”


He saw the heartbreak in Maddy’s eyes. She stood in front of him now, staring at him from beside Maggie. She was still fifteen, still beautiful, and still in her Nirvana tee. A tear leaked from her eye, making a shiny trail down her pale cheek.


Garret felt better seeing her. He knew she wasn’t really there. But it still filled him with a peace he never thought he would feel again. “I put my finger on the trigger and acted like I was about to pull it.”


“But she wouldn’t let you,” said Shad.


“No. She grabbed my hand and pulled it away. I went to jerk my hand back and accidentally squeezed the trigger. There was a really loud bang and the next thing I knew, Maddy was on the floor. She wasn’t moving.”


He stared at Maddy. Now a black hole the size of a small button had opened in her throat. Black blood trickled out, running down the collar of her Nirvana shirt.

“I shot her in the throat.” Garret sobbed.


“And Maddy died,” said Ms. Byers. “On your floor. She died while you watched. The doctors said that she might have lived if you’d called for help sooner.”


“I was scared.” But he didn’t talk to Ms. Byers. He spoke to the vision of Maddy before him. Blood continued to flow from her wound, soaking her shirt. She still watched him, with the same hurt in her eyes as she had in his bedroom.


“Scared,” said Maggie. “You killed my fucking sister! And you didn’t even get in trouble for it!”


“It was an accident.”


“Fuck you and your accidents!”


Shad held up his hand, stopping her. Maggie nodded, understanding.


Garret took a quivery breath. His chest hurt, yet somehow felt lighter than it had in years. “I’m sorry. So damn sorry.” He let his head sag.


Shad cleared his throat, a sound Garret was tired of hearing. “Dear? Ms. Byers? How do you find Garret in judgement?”


They spoke in unison: “Guilty.”


“And what is your sentencing? It doesn’t have to be death. The punishment can be anything. You can maim him, cut off a hand, or gouge out an eye. You can even do nothing and let him free.”


Maggie sniffled. She turned to her mother. “You know how I feel about him. But I will leave it up to you. Whatever you decide, I will support.”


The hate seemed to flow out of Ms. Byers and make her look weaker. “I can’t do it.”


“I know.”


“But I still say he needs to die.”


Garret’s insides turned cold. “No!”


Maggie nodded. “I agree. I’ll do all the work. You just watch. Okay, Mama?”


“You’re such a good girl. Your sister would be so proud.”


“Thank you, Mama.”


Garret begged again, but it wasn’t directed at Maggie. Her sister was still there, still watching him with those pained eyes. He begged her, pleaded. Apologized. And the more he did it, the less sad and scared she looked. Her expression twisted into something that might have been a snarl.


She held up her hand, extending her thumb. Then she drew it back across her neck, just missing the hole.


The message was clear. She wanted him to die, too.


Garret pulled against the cuffs. There was no give. He wasn’t going anywhere. He cried and prayed. Begged for their forgiveness. But all his attempts fell on deaf ears.


Shad stepped back, so Maggie could come forward.


In her hand was an electric knife, the blade jumping and trembling while the tiny motor hummed. “I’m going to start with this.”


“Good choice, honey,” said Ms. Byers.


Maddy nodded her approval as well.


Garret looked Maggie in the eye. “Please...”


“I’m going to start with his tongue, so I don’t have to hear that damn begging anymore.”

Shad laughed. “You’re so creative, dear!”


Garret screamed, which only made Maggie’s job easier. She rammed the vibrating blade into his mouth and began to cut. She lost control of it a few times, slashing his cheeks open and knocking out some teeth.


By the time she was finished, not only was his tongue gone, but so was most of the lower half of his face.


But it had worked.


When she grabbed the garden shears and started undoing his pants, he couldn’t beg at all.

The End



Kristopher Rufty lives in North Carolina with his three children and pets. He’s written numerous books, including ALL WILL DIE, THE DEVOURED AND THE DEAD, DESOLATION, PILLOWFACE, and more. For more about Kristopher Rufty, please visit his website: www.kristopherrufty.com and Amazon Author page.


The Murder Stage by Kristopher Rufty has been brought to you in part by Ash Ericmore's novel Cold Case Corpse - Click Image for more details






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