Chapter 14

James came back again, looking agitated and haggard. He was sniffing as if he had a cold, and his eyes were very red and watery. He looked at her restlessly, as if he didn’t know what to do or say.

“Is someone in there?” she asked, brokenly.

He looked over at the box. His hands were on his hips. He clenched his teeth, then pinched his fingers into his eyes. He went to the box and opened it. He hauled a naked girl out, and tossed her onto the concrete floor. She was bound and gagged, and her body was marked and dirty. She cringed away from him a little, but he just stood there and didn’t touch her, as though he didn’t really care anymore—as though she wasn’t worth the effort. She appeared so weak, she didn’t even have the strength to cry. She just had a pitiful expression that said, look what’s become of me. She was weak and pathetic, somehow contemptible.

Nicole stared speechlessly in shock. It was deeply disturbing to see something that was probably once beautiful and full of life, completely destroyed. The same thing was happening to her.

James knelt down by the girl, and put his hand on her shoulder. Her body began to spasm. She made some kind of sound behind the gag, just once, and her breathing became harder. “I don’t know what to do with her,” he said, as if genuinely at a loss.

“Let her go.” Nicole found herself begging again. She flinched when he touched her. He put his arm around her waist, and touched her belly which was taut and stretched flat. She just hung there, swaying slightly. Her head fell back then came forward again. He rested his head against her breast, staying there.

“What’s going to happen with us?” he said. “How am I going to trust you? It’s like no matter what I do, it wouldn’t make any difference, would it. Know what I mean?” He looked up at her. He was silent for a few seconds, his face working painfully in his agitation. “Are you going to try and take my baby away?”

She clenched her eyes, and made the tears roll down her cheeks. She couldn’t speak.

She didn’t feel as if she was pregnant, but who knew, maybe he was right—maybe the tests came out false. Either way, she had to get away. She didn’t know how. She was going to become like that girl. He would use her, discard her, and get another victim and do the same thing over again.

He stood up on a chair beside her. He unfastened her wrists, catching her body and lowering her down. He took her upstairs taking her through the lounge. When she saw that the man was still lying curled up on the floor, the plastic bag over his head, his body motionless, she caught her breath, and James grabbed her into a bear hug and half carried her and half dragged her through to the kitchen, while she sobbed in helpless hysterics.

He opened the fridge door and showed her the human forearm in there. It didn’t seem real, but she didn’t want to look at it. He held her tightly until she was still. Her gaze was fastened on the thing in the fridge. It was real. All the blood drained from her face, and she nearly collapsed, but his arms wouldn’t let her.

He closed the fridge door, and turned her into him, hugging her tightly.

“I didn’t mean to kill her,” he said tensely. “She pushed me—she pushed me too far. It was an accident. I don’t want that to happen to you, baby. I don’t want to lose you. I’ve tried my best for you.” He started to cry, and gag as if he would puke. “I need someone to help me!” he cried, clutching her. “I ate some of that girl! I need someone to help me. I don’t know what to do. You have to pray for me!”

She was numb and disconnected, listening to his distraught and incoherent outpourings. The only sign of life in her face was the quivering of her lips and chin.

He suddenly seemed to snap out of it. He pulled her against him, pointing her face to him. “That dumb fuck out there had to die,” he said. “Nicole, look at me. Nicole! He had to die. He’d bring the police around here. They would take me away. You understand? He had to go.”

He stroked her hair and put his arms around her head. “It’s okay, baby. It’s okay.”

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