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I will not scream, Micky Duka told himself.
I will not beg, nor will I cry. I will reason with Castle, I will talk to him mano a mano, I will tell him what I know, which is not much, and I will subtly work in references to our previous association, the hash in Amsterdam, the young ladies in St. Pete (though he frowned at that, not being able to remember just that second if Otto–no Castle–had stuck around to enjoy those young ladies or not), the Fourth of July picnic on that yacht Loopy rented–and he will acknowledge my honest efforts to help him, and he will cut me down, and we will say good-bye.
Except the second Castle spoke, the second Micky heard that I-don’t-give-a-fuck tone in the man’s voice, he got a bad feeling in his stomach. An I-think-I’m-gonna-be-sick, oh-God-I-don’t-want-to-die kind of feeling.
“Stay away from me, Otto–Castle–whoever you are! I’ve got friends, you know!”
“Oh, I know.” Castle’s chair rolled even closer, then stopped. Metal hinges creaked, and Micky saw Castle was reaching inside something–a cabinet of some kind. For a brief second, light from within illuminated his face. Duka caught a glimpse of a long, nasty scar along one side of the man’s face before the cabinet shut and the darkness swallowed Castle again.
“That’s why you’re here. Let’s talk about your friends, Micky.”
“Make your own friends, buddy! You’re nuts, okay? Kidnapping me like this–I mean, that’s against the law, you know. Aren’t you the law?”
Castle ignored his question.
“Sorry you feel that way about me, Mick,” Castle said in that same creepy monotone. “But let’s talk about it, why don’t we?”
Castle’s chair rolled into the circle of light surrounding Micky then, and Duka saw the scar again.
It was really more of a burn, running all down one side of his face. The skin looked red, raw, and painful–he couldn’t imagine how it had looked, or felt, back when he’d first gotten it.
Then there was the hair–Frank Castle black, not the Otto Krieg brown. It was thinner, too, just like the man himself. Castle had lost a lot of weight–too much, Micky thought. He didn’t look healthy. Just skin and bones. And the look in his eyes . . .
“Come on, man. Just leave me alone, okay?”
His voice, Duka was ashamed to realize, was shaking.
Castle rose slowly from his chair, ignoring Micky again, and moved closer. He was holding something in his hands; Duka tried to twist his body so he could see what it was, but failed.
“Question.” Castle leaned into his face. “Who gave
“I don’t know, I swear.”
Castle grabbed him by the hair and yanked.
“You don’t help me,” Castle said. “And I’ll kill you now.”
The man yanked even harder–tears came to Micky’s eyes as Castle pulled his head up higher, till the two of them were literally face-to-face.
“Who gave me up?”
“I swear,” Micky said. “On the Bible, on my father’s grave, I don’t know. The Saints tell me nothing.”
“Nothing.” Castle shook his head. “They pay your rent, your legal bills . . . you should know something.”
He let Micky go then. Duka swung like a pendulum for a second, then came to rest.
Then he saw what Castle had been holding in his hand.
An acetylene torch.
“Frank,” he said. “Otto. Remember when we were out on the boat? Didn’t we have a good time then? Buddy? So why the torch? What’s the torch for, hey?”
“What’s the torch for?” Castle turned a valve–with a little pop, the flame lit. “I said I was going to kill you–
remember? Though that doesn’t mean you’re going to die right away.”
Duka let out a little squeak. “You’re not serious.”
Castle held the torch out in front of him and adjusted the flame.
“Two thousand degrees. Hot enough to turn steel into butter. It won’t hurt at first, Mick. It’s too hot.”
Micky’s eyes darted this way and that. He had to get the fuck out of here, get away from this lunatic before–
“See, the flame sears the nerve endings shut. It kills them. You go into shock, and all you feel is . . . cold. Not what you would expect, right? Isn’t science fun, Micky?” He shook his head and shrugged, as if he had a hard time believing it himself, the hot/cold thing. “Isn’t science fun?”
“Yeah. Okay. Science is fun. You know what else is fun, Otto? Good friends, you know, good times–remember when I gave you the last hit off Reggie’s spliff, in Amsterdam? And I bought you–”
“You’ll smell burning meat, Micky and then . . . then, it’ll hurt.”
“I swear,” Duka said. “I’m telling the truth. I don’t know anything. Please, for God’s sake–”
“Ah.” Castle held up a hand and shook his head.
He didn’t want to hear about God. Candelaria had talked about God, too, when Castle was leaving for the
mainland. What was it he’d said then?
Right. Vaya con Dios. Go with God.
Castle told Duka now what he’d told Candelaria then.
“Sorry, Mick,” he said. “God is gonna sit this one out.”
He brought the thing in his hand forward then, and touched it–ever so lightly–to Duka’s back.
Micky screamed like a woman giving birth.
From the Paperback edition.