“Ugh”, I said after coughing out a lungful of musty air. “I’m seeing you with a baseball bat…and I seem to be tied up in this chair. I’m not gonna like where this is headed, am I?”
“No”, said Muller. “You ain’t.”
“Mmmph.” My head was still thick from whatever the hell they’d used to dope me up. “Don’t suppose I can buy my way out of this?”
He took a few casual steps, his ample weight creaking the boards behind me, when suddenly my head rocked sideways. Pain exploded through it, followed by a ringing in my ears and the angry rush of blood and pus into where he’d smacked me.
“Guess not,” I managed to croak through a mouth that didn’t want to respond.
“See, here’s the problem,” said Muller as he ambled back to my front side, pointing the end of the bat at me for emphasis. He threw some gravel into his voice, I guess to make up for the fact he didn’t have a very deep one. Or maybe the extra heft he carried had smoothed it too much. “You may think I’d go for a wad of cash, but that offer ain’t steady employment. I’ve always got my eye on the long term, know what I’m sayin’?”
I eyed the bat as the throbbing in my head returned to some sort of stasis. He hadn’t really wound up, or I’d be out cold, or at least barely able to function. As it was, the vision through my left eye seemed brighter than from my right, and I was certain a golf ball-sized knot had formed under my scalp above my left ear.
“I suppose I can’t argue with that. How ‘bout you, uh, get it over with quick, then?”
Muller shook his head, the side of his mouth tugging up in a smirk. “Naw. See, I kinda like inflictin’ pain more than the actual killin’ part.”
“Then let me make one last offer. You let me go, and I won’t kill you.”
He didn’t laugh, to his credit. Though that smirk matured a bit. “I let you go, and Andruzzi will kill me. Think I’ll take my chances on messin’ with the dude that’s duct-taped to a chair.”
I tried a sage little nod, but it sent the world reeling around me.
His piggy eyes shifted down to my knees, and I knew where he’d go next.