She had to figure out what to do next. Granted, small victories at this point kept her head as clear is was possible under the circumstances, but the longer she spent in that place, the weaker she became, the less focused she became. The passage of time had blurred enough that her mind could not recall the exact number of days she’d been hanging there….
Focus. One task at a time. Mark it off on your list.
The first step was pretty simple. Turn both hands so the palms touched. The left shackle was tighter than the right, but after a bit of straining it was done. Second step was a little harder. She reached up and felt the hook and the chain that hoisted her wrists up. Between being on her knees and being on her feet for wash-down time, they counted on the hoist keeping the tension on the chain so the ‘guests’ couldn’t slip off, since the hook wasn’t moused or a fixed shackle. One link at a time, each time they went up or down, she pulled a little more slack out of the chain.
The swelling on her left eye had eased a bit, and over time she had a much clearer understanding of the layout of the room. The steps in were to her left, along with a butcher’s table. The sump was in the floor, towards the center of the floor. It looked like an old well; flush with the floor and apparently deep. She guessed this part from the entrance and subsequent exit and demise of the prisoner she dubbed The Babbler. He came in late one evening, reeking of cheap whiskey and even cheaper cologne. He talked all night, assaulting her ears with a nonstop stream of nonsensical chatter. She did manage to catch a look at him, older, with a slight paunch and a very large goose egg to the head. Sadly, he made his exit before he sobered up enough to make sense. Some time that morning, after the early morning light peeked in through the crack in the window; one of the shopmen came and drug him to the table.
She didn’t dare look up, but the smell of whiskey danced with the smell of steel and fresh blood, as the man sang his little ditty about cutlets and chops, cutlets and chops….what was left went into the sump with a brush and a drop.
The Rat came through after this, rocking her head back by grabbing her hair, looking into her eyes down his long nose and tsk tsking her before dropping her head forward. Screaming Girl had been taken during the night…one day, perhaps two ago? The Reverend had stopped talking altogether, and if she craned her head just so she noticed he’d stopped breathing.
Later that evening, some other men brought in two boxes and placed them on the floor. She strained her left eye to see the label. They said “A. Packer Mercantile, Biologic Specimens, 1 (ea)”. The men went back up the stairs, and she heard just a snippet of conversation between them.
The Bastard came down this time. He kicked her in the ribs, and laughed as she turned on her hook, knees dragging on the ground. He unhooked the Reverend, dragging him over to the first crate. He removed the shackles from his wrists, unhooked the bar from his ankles and dumped him into the box. He turned back down the row, and somehow at that moment she decided that this was it. She knew she would only get weaker, that eventually the knife would fall and what was left of her would join the rest of them in the sump or some other dank hole in this town. He walked by her again, and she let slip a soft low painful moan. The Bastard stopped and laughed. She cried out again softly as his rough hands touched her bruises and welts. He turned away from her and walked to the wall, to the lever that controlled the reel above her head. Two more links. The pawl snapped out and the chain lifted her to her feet. He returned the lever to the locked position and walked back to her, smiling that snaggle-toothed smile she had learned to hate over the last few days.
He lifted the bar of the leg shackles to his chest, and pressed her to the wall. He looked at her, the stench of his breath warm on her face. His hands fell to his belt, and at that moment she looked up and smiled, and it was precisely then The Bastard noticed what color her eyes were…ice blue. She released her grip on the overhead chain and dropped her shackled wrists behind his neck, while kicking up and forward with her legs. The iron bar of the shackles slid up to his adam’s apple, while the full weight of her body hung against the back of his neck. They fell to the floor and she watched him die there in the dirt, unable to cry out, face warped in a rictus of agony.
She laid there for a while, once he had stopped kicking. Not done she thought, not yet. She managed to unlock the shackles, and peeled his out of his waistcoat. She had considered the shirt as well, but it was far too bad, even there in the dark. She stumbled over to the second crate, and looked at the table. The battered serving bowl sat there, and somehow she knew that she had one more thing to do before dropping her captor into the sump.
“Cutlets and chops today, cutlets and chops…”
The light flooded the interior of the crate, and she squinted up at the face she saw peering into the box. He gasped, and stood transfixed staring at the familiar yet battered face he saw in the crate, Doc Miggins was not known for his bedside manner, as if he ever needed to worry about how his patients felt.
She took a deep breath and smelled soot and canal water. Home…………….
“Hello Doc,” Jed said hoarsely, “fancy meeting you here.”