Lark had to force himself not to run or the door, but as soon as he reached the hallway, he shot to the garage. It was not until he tore open the back of the Jeep and pulled out a black doctor’s bag that he paused. A battle began in his mind.
I can fix this, I’ve done it before.
You don’t have the tools for this.
How long can he last untreated? What did you feed him today? When?
How is his blood pressure?
You can’t do this here. Just let him die.
When will he start vomiting?
You need to treat him, now.
“Stop!” Lark cried, breathing hard. He looked around, as if there could be someone to hear. Taking a deep breath, he whispered, “Just… stop.”
He opened the bag. Even though he couldn’t see the contents, he could have located each one blind-folded. (You need to handle this just like you handled Persia.) He took another deep breath, forcing the urgency and concern away. He could fix it, yes, but he didn’t have to. That wasn’t what Sabbatical was for.
Snapping the bag shut, he carried it back into the house. Depositing it next to Steve-V’s door, he ducked back into Bryce’s room. The boy was still curled up on the bed, but no longer crying. He was pale and shivering. He wasn’t vomiting yet, which was a good sign.
The boy started when Lark ran a hand through his hair. He regretted cutting it like he had, but he forced that down as well.
“I’m going to take care of him now,” Lark whispered. “If you’re very quiet, you’ll hear it. Listen closely.”
Bryce nodded weakly.
As Lark left the room, he grabbed the ropes that had been used to bind Bryce’s arms and legs. He forgot, however, the rope that had been used to gag him, which had been tossed negligently to the other side of the bed.
Steve-V had been sitting on the edge of the bed, and stood when Lark opened his door.
“Did you enjoy yourself?” he asked.
“Not yet,” Lark replied. There was a desk pushed against the wall next to the door. Lark pulled it from the wall and checked its stability. It would do.
Steve-V looked as if he were trying not to appear smug as he tilted his head with polite curiosity. Lark wiped the smug look off his face when he crossed the room and punched him, knocking him to the floor. Before he could recover, Lark looped the rope around Steve-V’s neck and dragged him over to the desk. When he paused, Steve-V managed to pull the rope off, but Lark grabbed his hair and slammed his head into the floor until he stopped struggling.
“I didn’t hurt him,” Steve-V whimpered, clutching his head. “I just – I just had a bit of fun with him!”
“What makes you think,” Lark demanded, “that you could take liberties with him?” Lark forced him to his feet. “You are mine. Get it out of your head that you are ever going to be anything else. He is mine, and he has certainly endeared himself to me far more than you.”
Shoving Steve-V backward onto the desk, Lark forced him to lie prone. When he struggled, Lark slammed his head back again.
“Just lie still,” he said. “You might enjoy this.”
Although on the verge of tears, Steve-V took several deep breaths and fell still. Imitating the rope-binding Steve-V had used on Bryce, he coiled the rope several times around the man’s wrists and ankles, lashing him tightly to the desk. He cut several lengths with his hunting knife, and decided to forego Steve-V’s artistic knots with his more practical – more secure – military knots. He also bound Steve-V’s hips tightly to the desk.
“I don’t want you to be able to move that,” he explained, grabbing Steve-V’s penis roughly. “You might throw me off my game.”
“What are you going to do?” Steve-V asked with an edge of panic in his voice.
“I am going to give you a gift,” Lark said. Steve-V raised his head to stare at him, trying to determine if he was joking. “You are out of control, Steven Vanegas. I am going to give you the gift of control.”
Steve-V furrowed his brows quizzically. Lark reached into the hall and picked up his black doctor’s bag. He plopped it on the desk between Steve-V’s legs.
“Now,” he said, rummaging through the bag, making the tools clink loudly, “there are two… well, three hang-ups for this procedure: this is certainly not the most ideal set-up. In fact, this is just about the least ideal set-up, but I’m going to have to make do.” He spread out a cloth out between Steve-V’s feet, and placed upon it a scalpel, some surgical scissors, and a few clamps. Steve-V’s breathing became quick and panicky. “Second,” Lark continued, “I’ve never actually performed this procedure; I’ve only cleaned up if one went wrong… or if it was done by accident… or involuntarily…” He trailed off as he pulled out a pair of nitrile gloves, a suture kit, and a small basin.
“And third?” Steve-V asked in a small voice.
“Third…” Lark thought for a moment, looking over this improvised work station. “Oh, yes! Third: I’m going to have to save the anesthetic for Bryce, to repair the damage you did.”
“You shouldn’t have taken liberties,” Lark said. “Fortunately, when I’m done, you shouldn’t feel the need to do so.” Smirking, he pulled on the gloves.
“No,” Steve-V breathed, realizing what was about to happen. “No! Please – don’t!” He began to struggle, attempting to kick. Lark’s tools almost rattled off the desk.
“Oh, now, that won’t do,” he said. Taking the hunting knife, he cut another length of rope and bound his knees tightly to the table, forcing them apart.
“Anything!” Steve-V begged. “I’ll do anything – I’ll give you anything you want.”
Lark shook his head, trying to focus on finding the appropriate incision point.
“Bryce!” Steve-V suddenly screamed, turning to face the wall. “Please don’t let him do this! Tell him it wasn’t anything – Tell him you’re OK! I didn’t mean to hurt you, please…” Realizing the hopelessness of his situation, he began to sob. “Please, make him stop…” He began to slam his head into the desktop in a last-ditch effort to escape his fate.
Sighing, Lark leaned back up. “You might want to stop moving,” he suggested.
Bryce could hear the screaming in the other room. Since Lark had left, he had started to feel increasingly nauseous, but he did not move, overwhelmed by pain, shame, bitterness, and fear. When Steve-V stopped yelling, Bryce closed his eyes. They shot back open when the house echoed with flesh-rending, wordless screams.
As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, Bryce could make out two things: the white tile beyond the bathroom door, and something white on the floor by the bed. It was a small bundle of rope.
Although it hurt to move, Bryce inched off the bed. Grabbing the rope from the floor, he hobbled into the bathroom.
Steve-V had drifted in and out of consciousness as Lark sliced through his skin and detached his testicles. He was surprised at how straight-forward the procedure was, and felt pretty smug at how natural it looked after the excess skin was cut away and the incision closed. Lark slapped a 4 x 4 Band-Aid over it, and declared the surgery successful.
“Wakey, wakey,” Lark said, smacking Steve-V’s face with a bloody glove.
Groaning, Steve-V’s eyes cracked open. He was sweating and pale. Lark was surprised he hadn’t gone into shock.
“Would you like to eat these?” Lark asked, holding up one of the testicles. “I can fry ‘em up real good. Seems right up your alley.”
Steve-V turned his face away. His body began to shake with sobs.
“They’re a bit small anyway,” Lark observed, turning it in the light, then dropping it back into the basin. “It’s a shame. I make a mean Rocky Mountain oyster.”
Lark rolled his bloody tools into the cloth and placed it into the basin, then placed his bag back outside the door. Before he left, he took the hunting knife and cut through the ropes biding Steve-V to the desk.
“I would give you some Aspirin,” he said, as Steve-V slowly unwrapped himself, “but that would be bad for your blood pressure. Shock and all, you know.”
Wincing, Steve-V rolled onto his side. As soon as Lark left the room, he curled into the fetal position, hands between his legs, and began to cry.
To unwind, Lark took his time cleaning his tools. Bryce had several hours – at least – before he became critical, and that was if he really had a perforated colon. Although Lark was confident in his assessment, he had no way of being able to confirm the diagnosis outside of a hospital. Only time would tell.
As Lark waited for the water on the stove to come to a boil, he heard a thunk! from one of the bedrooms. He paused to listen, recalling the sound from a distant memory that eluded him.
Lark turned off the stove and picked up the hunting knife. He peered into Steve-V’s room, finding the man where he had left him on the desk top. Closing the door, he went across to Bryce’s room. The boy was no longer on the bed. There was a thudding coming from the bathroom.
The image of a young woman in a pink robe flitted through his mind. He had thrown her over a bannister, using her robe belt as a makeshift noose. The belt made that noise as the weight of her body pulled it taut. Lark realized what he would find as he came to the bathroom door.
Bryce was not as fortunate as the young woman, who had already been dead for several hours. He had tied some rope to the shower head, leaving only a short distance for the fall. Too short to break his neck, but not long enough to him to get his feet under him. His face was turning purple, and he clawed helplessly at the rope. He’d decided he didn’t want to die like this.
Lark stared at him from the bathroom door. The boy needed to die. Even this would be more merciful than the fate Steve-V had created for him. But when the boy reached out to him, he recalled their laughter on the porch of the apartment. Sighing, Lark entered the bathroom. Standing on the edge of the tub, he sliced through the rope and caught Bryce as he fell.
The boy coughed and sputtered, gasping for air. Lark cut the rope from his neck. Lying back in the tub, he wrapped an arm around Bryce’s shoulder and held him against his chest.
“It just –” he coughed, “It just hurts so much.”
“I know,” Lark said.
“Please,” Bryce begged. “Please, can’t you just let me go? I just wanna go home.”
“Yeah?” There was no disbelief in his voice, only hope.
“Yeah,” Lark replied.
Taking the boy’s chin in his hand, he dragged the knife across his throat, making sure to cut long and deep. Bryce only struggled for a few seconds, the blood pouring out, spilling down onto Lark’s body. The warmth of it felt good, but Lark laid there until it was cold and sticky.
Sniffling, he shoved the body off of him and turned the shower on.