Dogs

Dec. 7th, 2015 06:00 pm
fodschwazzle: (Sandy hole)
Iosef could smell the ale. From the tap, it had a faintly honeyed aroma with a citrus finish. From the stains in the hardwood floor, where repeatedly sloshed drinks had destroyed the varnish and warped the oak boards on the ends, it reeked of rot.

A low hanging light cast a red glow over the bar top across the room, and the shadows of the stools and the men sitting upon them crossed paths and broadened as they stretched toward the prisoner. The liquor cabinet behind the bar was small, and the bartender seemed too familiar to the men, laughing while pouring drinks poorly so that the foam rushed toward and over the rim of each glass while men rushed to suck on the foam before it could spill too much. Another man behind the counter, to the bartender’s right, set a record to play. The song was a swinging rendition of--it was hard to place the melody with saxophones rather than bellowing bass voices--“The Song of the Volga Boatmen” transitioning into Tchaikovsky’s “Marche Slave.”

Only the bartender’s face was illuminated in the light. He had a scar from his chin to just over the left side of his lip, giving him a curious smirk. He noticed Iosef looking at him and smiled with tiny brown eyes. Iosef could not recognize him even when the bartender exclaimed “Ho, Iosef!” heartily and walked with two other men to where he was sitting on his knees with his hands chained to two steel bolts a full arm-span apart.

Iosef felt the sudden pang of a wound on the back of his head--strong men had been carrying him by his arms through the snow, and when he dared to open his eyes and remark on it, they clubbed him. It was a reminder to not be alert, and Iosef had already failed to heed it. One man gripped Iosef’s hair and dragged it up so that he was almost lifted off his aching knees. Only the glistening eyes and general body outlines of his captors could be discerned, but it was enough.

“Are you awake now?” the man holding his hair roared. The three men who were still at the bar chuckled, but they did not turn around. The man’s name was Matei. He was the first of the group to whom Iosef was introduced when Iosef started to ask. He stank of dead fish, though it was difficult for Iosef to discern if the smell was coming from the man’s armpits or his breath or both.

“No,” Iosef softly replied. More laughing from men at the bar which didn’t stop even when another of the men standing next to him shoved his fist into Iosef’s gut. Iosef guessed that it was Petru. Even the shadows and the dark glint of Petru’s eyes couldn’t hide how far apart they were within his head. Petru had a head like a goat and was probably blind right about where his nose, a mountain with two caves in it, sat on his aggressive face. Sandu, is this what they did to you? Iosef wondered, and he hoped he would be alive long enough to find out.

“Did you really think you could get away with your cheating, old man?” Matei gloated, dropping to a crouch and talking directly into Iosef’s mouth. “Did you not think we’d notice when you slipped two aces into your hand? Or maybe, where you come from, Ferbli is played differently.”

Iosef smiled. It was, actually, but that had little to do with him being in this place tied up by the strangers who assuredly murdered his son.

Matei slapped Iosef’s face with his own forehead and continued speaking. “In our house, we play fairly. In our house, if we play with someone who doesn’t abide by the rules, we set a different kind of stake.” Matei and the others stood up and walked back to the bar, relieving Iosef slightly in spite of the pain in his nose and the blood dribbling down his chin. “You will die here, old man.”

Iosef tried to remember. Did he wear the right shoes and the right trousers and the right shirt? It had taken enough. They should be here by now, he thought. He was not worried. He knew the danger.

Matei pulled darts off the countertop of the bar and took aim at Iosef’s chest. He threw a dart and landed far outside of Iosef’s right leg, striking the straw bed next to the prisoner. Iosef became worried quickly and tried to whistle, but couldn’t produce a sound through bleeding gums. Matei threw another dart, and it glanced off Iosef’s thigh, cutting him slightly.

Through a ragged gasp, Iosef did manage to produce one shrill note through his teeth. A door opened to the right, and a pack of dogs rushed into the room, sharp teeth ripping through the air. The bartender reached for a rifle in the corner, but he failed to move quickly enough as one of Iosef's hounds bit into his ankle while another one attacked his face.

Men whose names Iosef had learnt from a card game were now food for dogs he trained for this explicit purpose. Iosef's wife followed them in after a few moments and unchained Iosef, tending to his wounds.

*****

In the end, Iosef could find no proof that his son had gambled and perished at the hands of these men while away at college. Regardless, it seemed like a fitting trick to lull them into attacking him when he had seen how viciously they could attack. His wife rubbed his shoulders every night before he went to sleep, assuring him that he had avenged his son in the end.

Iosef slept well, all the same.

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