The car stopped and he was pulled out, landing on his knees. Yanked to his feet, he was pushed forward. They stopped. Two pounds on a door and it creaked open. The door slammed behind him and he heard a bolt being thrown.
Forward again. Another door opened.
“Steps.” The voice on his left shoulder grunted. Bender tripped immediately and began to fall forward. And down. Hands tied behind him, his face would be the first to hit wherever he ended up.
A big hand gripped the back of his collar and brought him back just in time. “I said steps assface.”
“I thought you meant up, sometimes they go that way too buck.”
The hand gripped tighter and his head went sideways, hard against a wall. The wall had something hanging on it because his head found a nail. Whatever had been hanging there clattered down the steps.
“You want to take the quick way down smartass?”
The other guy had a much deeper voice and agreed. “Yeah, let’s just do it that way huh?”
Bender said nothing this time.
Down they went, a slow stilted walk down into the certain hell that waited for him. It was cold again as they descended and the basement smell got stronger. Mildew, cinder blocks and shit. A sump pump he guessed.
At the bottom he was shoved forward, a chair scooted and he was pushed down onto it. The blindfold was roughly removed. Glaring light made him squint at the figure before him. Bender leaned forward, “Hey, hey Dig, what uh…what’s going on?”
Digger Miles stood towering in front of him, feet apart. His fists were clenched. One was holding a baseball bat, a short one, like for a kid to use. Miles was grinning too, but it was the kind of grin you never wanted to see from him.
Bender glanced around the basement. The two gorillas stood like bookends at the bottom of the staircase. His mind raced. This was it. They knew. Knew about the skimming on the last few deals.
“Digger, listen, what’s going on here now?”
“Shut the fuck up Bender.”
“Okay…okay man, I – .“
“This is going on”, he stepped aside and waved behind him.
Bender’s gaze went from Digger to the figure seated across from him. It was Dee. Dee, who’d always been there for him. The only way he could recognize him was by the LSU sweatshirt. The head was lolled backwards, chin pointing up at the unfinished ceiling. Broken wrists bound to the old ratty armchair. Legs tied down.
Bender’s heart was hammering now. Blood was everywhere, Dee’s face, body, floor. Every fucking where.
“His face is gone…too many bones to count…but he didn’t give you up.”
“What are we talking about here Dig?” He tried his best to act confused. Sincere.
“Out of everyone, I didn’t think you’d ever do me wrong. You motherfuck.”
Miles nodded to the muscle. “Bring her in.”
They opened a peeling wood door on the far wall and waved. Lisa Noonan came out slowly. Her shirt was torn. She had a purple orange bruise under one eye and a cheek bone that was swollen. They’d spent a few wild nights together a month ago. Despite everything, he thought about those nights.
Her eyes burned into him. Pleading.
“You did her.” Digger’s voice was low and dangerous.
“No I never. No sir.” Bender’s eyebrows went up and so did his voice.
There was a pause.
“Same thing she said. Said only Dee, and only once.” Digger stared at him hard. Silence again.
Then the sudden boom and rattle of the furnace as it started up. Bender’s heart leaped and he felt his bladder let go.
“Damn straight and I would never – “
“You remember that.”
“I will. Swear to you Digger.”
“This was just a test Bender… You passed.”
Lisa’s eyes softened and he could feel the tension in the room ease. She’d thrown Dee under the bus for him.
Digger sniffed and spit on Dee’s body, motioning to his boys. “Cut those plastic ties. Take him home.”
Bender walked to the steps and turned. “Digger, I gotta tell you something man. I’m your guy, and always will be. But man, I had plenty of chances…I mean well…you know?” He shook his head with sadness. Looked at her, then Digger. “I’m sorry man, but you needed to know that.”
“Liarrr!” Lisa eyes came to life again. Digger glared at her.
Before Bender reached the top of the steps, she had screamed liar at least five times.