A Pound of Flesh
While the coffee brewed and she waited for the bread to finish toasting, George neatly arranged her preparations: plate, butter with knife ready, mug for the coffee, glass of tap water, and a single, sunny-side up egg. The toast popped up with a “clank” and the coffee finished brewing as she finished buttering the slightly burned toast. Set neatly on a tray she took the humble breakfast downstairs to her guest, making polite conversation while he ate, clearing everything away after he finished and returning to the basement for their daily ritual; shackled to a wall he would insist she was mistaken, she would ask why he did it, and the denials and questions would persist until the two were exhausted. At the end of the week George devised a new strategy, she didn’t bring him breakfast she calmly walked down the stairs and stared at him for a few minutes, making eye contact so he could see there was absolutely nothing behind her eyes: no fear, no hate, nothing, as if she was looking at a tree. She kept him cuffed but released him from the wall and walked him up the stairs, still having never said a word and ignoring his pleas for an explanation, ignoring the shaking fear in his voice. She walked him to a bedroom and forced him to his knees, kneeling forward and gazing at the floor. She said that if he told her where her sister was buried she would let him free, but if not she told him that she would do to him what he did to her sister as he felt the sharp point of a knife on the back of his neck.