The click in Joe’s throat echoed about the filthy, half-lit room. His spit had dried up. Light gnawed at the taped up windows. Flies buzzed furiously in the dark kitchenette. Bed springs bit into his flesh. The gun’s black eye shook. Behind it, Sam’s huge, scarred fist gripped the weapon.
“Can we at least, can we at least … talk about this?” said Joe. He licked his cracked lips. Spit was gone; it fled with hope.
“Done talkin’, Joe. Too much talkin’. I’m a new man. Man of action!” Sam grinned. Joe couldn’t see his eyes in the dark.
“Up is fine, Joe. Fine. Blood’s thicker’n water, they say. It’ll take a while to drain from yer goddamned fingers!”
Joe eyed the door then. Couldn’t help it. The three locks remained bolted. He was trapped. Trapped with madman, the gun and the flies.
“Wh-what do ya want, Sam?”
“Want? You don’t wanna ask me that. Don’t wanna hear the answer. Involves brains ‘cross the wall.”
“I’m sorry, you know that. Didn’t mean to—”
“To what? Pluck another man’s turkey? Poke another man’s fire? His goddamned brother’s fire, Joe?”
“Please… I can’t… Can’t feel my fingers…”
“I been thinkin’, Joe. Know what I realised, Joe?”
“Sam, for God’s sake!”
“What? I don’t know… Please, Sam, untie me and we’ll work this out…”
“Yup, name tags. You know, they put them on kids’ clothes now? Coats, shirts, goddamned shoes. Everything.”
“What has that got to do—”
“I realised, Joe, when we were kids, all of my clothes had your name on them. Ma and Pa didn’t write your name – didn’t have to in those days – but patched up hand-me-downs were still yours. Never felt like they were mine. Curse of the little brother.”
“I’ll buy you all the new clothes you want! Just let me go, Sam, for chrissakes!”
Joe tried again in vain to shake the cable ties loose. Spears of pain lanced through his numb shoulders. Some of the flies from the kitchenette had migrated. One landed on his neck, sampling the blood.
“We grew up, Joe. Grew out of those clothes. Bought our own. And then … just when I thought I was rid of your goddamned name tags, you…” Sam leaned forward, jabbing the gun into Joe’s forehead. “You stole my girl! Now there’s a goddamned name tag on her.”
“We – I never meant… I’m sorry, Sam. What else do you want me to say?”
Sam stood. The cold steel retreated a few inches; its black zero eye unblinking.
The hammer clicked. No flash, no explosion, no brains on the wall.
Sam turned and twisted the three deadbolts. The door screamed as it swung inward. He stepped through and turned back. His grin flashed in the dark.
“If you can git yerself out of the ties, Joe, say goodbye to your girlfriend in the kitchen. She’s not mine anymore. Better hurry before the flies put their tags on her.”