Chapter 1 – Human Resources

“To see others suffer does one good, to make others suffer even more: this is a hard saying but an ancient, mighty, human, all-too-human principle [....] Without cruelty there is no festival.”
—Friedrich Nietzsche
On the Genealogy of Morals: Ecce Homo

“A friend is known when needed.”
—Arabian Proverb

Chapter One
IF SOMETHING SEEMS too good to be true, enjoy the hell out of it before it ends. That was Nelson Dupar’s philosophy. His perfect life began when the hospital elevator closed him in alone with her. She stood six feet tall and dressed to wither other women. A mile of toned leg stretched between candy-apple high-heels and a black leather miniskirt. She flipped her dark hair, sending a wisp of perfume—or something—to his nose. Whatever it was, Nelson smiled. Standing so close to her was a treat. She made the 28-year-old self-confessed slob wish he owned an iron.
Nelson’s daily wardrobe was unimportant while buried in a tiny cubicle at the CPA firm. Today he wore his standard attire: scuffed gray deck shoes, wrinkled slacks and an untucked button shirt that failed to conceal his gut.
The woman moved forward to crowd the door and closed her eyes. Nelson leaned slightly to enjoy a deeper whiff of her while he sucked in to tuck his shirt. He then enjoyed an unrushed visual tour of this magnificent being’s backside, taking in her smooth curves, generous display of skin and hair that shined where it bent at her shoulder.
She sighed and wrung her hands.
“You okay, ma’am?” Nelson asked.
She shook her head, not looking back. “I’m always nervous in elevators,” she replied.
Nelson reached to pat her shoulder, but reconsidered. “We’ll be fine,” he said. “And if anything happens, there’s a hospital real close.”
She laughed a breath through her nose and bowed her head as if praying. When the elevator bumped and lifted, she teetered and pressed her hand against the wall to steady herself.
Nelson watched, intrigued. I wonder if she might faint, he thought. The slim chance of a CPR opportunity excited him despite having no training for it. The honorable thing to do, if she collapsed, would be to give her a little mouth-to-mouth, he reasoned. He’d seen it a thousand times on TV. Just ease her to her back and tilt her head. Her moist lips would part ever so slightly. He’d gently place his mouth over hers. And, not forgetting the chest compressions, he’d need to unbutton…
The elevator door opened, popping Nelson’s fantasy.
“Thank God,” the woman said as they stepped out.
“See? We’re elevator survivors!” Nelson said.
She laughed and turned to him. “Yes, we are!”
The brightness of the hallway added detail to her features. Her hair, almost black, contrasted with piercing blue eyes over a perfect smile. He wished she had fainted.
“You take care, ma’am,” he said, reluctantly turning to leave.
“Wait! What’s your name?” she replied, fanning her face.
From the side of his mouth Nelson whispered, “Clark Kent.” She laughed again—a bit longer than he expected.
“Nice to meet you, Clark, I’m Morana.”
“Actually, my name is Nelson, and it’s even nicer to meet you. Come here often, Morana?”
“Only as a last resort.”
“Some ‘resort’ this is, right?”
She laughed harder. Either he was on a roll, or she was just incredibly giddy after conquering the elevator.
They walked toward the hospital exit. Morana sidestepped moving gurneys and oncoming foot-traffic, hurrying to stay near him. When Nelson noticed that they had taken on the appearance of a couple, his chin lifted and his stride took on some swagger. As they passed through the crowded lobby, Morana drew intrigued smiles and lustful examination from people. Nelson knew she was out of his league, but for this fleeting moment, he relished being the nerd who baffled the jocks by seducing the hottest cheerleader.
Outside at the patient loading zone, their linked journey came to an end. Nelson pointed to the far side of the parking lot. “My car’s way over in the last row. You take care.”
Morana smiled. “Thank you for calming me with your comedy.” She extended her hand.
As they shook, Nelson said, “Hey, I’m here all week—be sure to tip the veal and try your waiter!”
Morana bent over in a belly laugh that turned nearby heads.
Flattering, but the line wasn’t that funny, Nelson thought. Never before had his cheesy jokes impressed any of the women he wanted. He scratched his neck, waiting for her to finish laughing.
She caught her breath and said, “You are absolutely adorable.”
“Thanks. You know, I get that all the time,” Nelson said, finger-framing his face.
She laughed again and touched his arm, saying, “Oh my God—I want to take you home with me.”
Nelson felt blood rush to his head as he realized that her flirtation might have traction. How is this possible? He knew that the moment Morana stepped from the dark elevator her first glance had swept up the details of his grooming and pegged his socio-economic rung, yet her enthusiasm toward him hadn’t dimmed.
“Hold on,” she said, digging in her purse. She handed him a business card. “Call me.”
Centered on the card was one word: Morana printed above a barely visible gray phone number. No company, no title and no address.
“Secretive much, Morana?” he asked.
“I can explain some other time. Please call me ‘Mo’ and call me soon.”
“Sure thing,” Nelson said. He watched her walk away—graceful, confident, gorgeous. Not a chance in hell, he thought.
He was wrong.

§

Two months later, Nelson waited outside a hangar at Nadi Airport in Fiji. He rested against the leather headrest in the chartered helicopter and fanned the front of his shirt for relief from the humidity. The twelve hour flight from San Francisco had him foggy despite the many naps he had enjoyed fully reclined in first-class.
On the floor beside him, dangling her feet outside the helicopter door sat Mo, or Cover Girl, a nickname Nelson’s envious buddies back at the office had given Morana after seeing her pick him up from work a few times. She wore a denim mini-skirt and a men’s dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up—a neglected gift she had purchased for Nelson weeks ago.
It seemed not even jetlag could damper Mo’s excitement about this impromptu trip, until the helicopter’s charter company rang her cell phone to say the pilot would be late. She reached back, gently twisted Nelson’s wrist to check the time and then frowned.
“What’s your rush?” Nelson asked.
“We have lunch waiting,” she said. She poked out her bottom lip and blew hair from her face. “And I wanted so badly to have you at the resort already.”
After seven weeks of dating, Nelson had given up trying to understand Morana’s infatuation with him. Whenever they ventured out in public, both men and women hit on her. Some of her suitors appeared to be wealthy and many were incredibly attractive. She withheld her phone number and dodged all advances with polished finesse. But for some reason she couldn’t get enough of Nelson. When he asked what she saw in him, she would only stroke his chin and say, “You make me crave you.”
Nelson didn’t know where her money came from—she wouldn’t say. But he did know he could never have afforded the lifestyle Mo gave him. She showered him with expensive gifts of artwork, furniture and concerts. Any material indulgence he mentioned to her in passing seemed to materialize for him within days, sometimes hours. She always paid when they went out and when they returned to his place she insisted on massaging him every night before the sex—lots of sex—sex that she joked was all the repayment she needed.
A month ago he came home to find a new, white Porsche Carrera parked in his apartment’s carport, the dealer spec-sheet still taped inside the window. After he circled the car twice, grinning, he said, “Mo, there’s no way I can accept this—it’s far too expensive.”
“You are so worth it! Don’t hurt my feelings!” she replied, feigning a pout. She tossed him the keys and when he caught them, she squealed and jumped up and down, clapping. Obliging her by accepting her lavish gifts made her so happy. It was the least he could do. He had it good, real good, too good.
Finally, they saw their pilot jogging toward them from the hangar office. He climbed into the helicopter with a clipboard tucked under his arm and wearing a bright tropical shirt.
“Hi, I’m Captain Kurt. Welcome to my Skyship Enterprise,” he said. Nelson laughed. Morana rolled her eyes. “I’m sorry for the delay, folks. I can make up the time,” Captain Kurt promised. He eased into the cockpit and donned a headset. The helicopter’s turbines began to whine.
Outside, a man in a grease-smeared outfit shut the helicopter’s door, muting the whipping rotors. He and Captain Kurt exchanged salutes.
Mo pulled the cockpit’s partition closed for privacy in the passenger cabin. She nudged Nelson with her bare foot and said, “I have a new game for later.” He grinned and rubbed his hands together. Mo’s games for him always included happy endings and two winners.
She pulled a plastic grocery bag from her purse and from it removed a black leather-studded dog collar attached to a long leash. Nelson wrinkled his nose to raise his thick glasses for a better view. A slow smile of recognition spread on his face. He wagged his finger at her, saying, “I didn’t think you were serious!”
They felt the helicopter cabin tilt. They were airborne.
Mo winked at him and said, “Bow-wow-wow.” She opened the collar and whistled. “Here boy!”
Nelson laughed and leaned to her. She wrapped the collar around his neck and secured the chrome latch. The lengthy leash bunched on the floor. Nelson picked up the end, swatted his thigh and said, “I’m such a naughty pup. Teach me to obey—arff-arff.”
They laughed. Mo said, “I wish I had my camera.”
Nelson pointed to the collar. “Sure you can hold out ‘til later?”
Mo nodded. “Your hotness is burning me up, but yes, later.”
They looked out the window as the helicopter ascended, nosing its way out over the ocean, headed to a surprise paradise for some relaxation, tropical sex and stress reduction—at least that’s how Mo had billed it.
After a few minutes, the view locked onto a two-toned blue portrait of sky over sea so they turned their attention back to one another. Captain Kurt cracked the partition for a moment to say, “Folks, weather’s perfect. We’ll be about an hour. Go ahead and get comfortable.”
Nelson’s inner ear pinched with the pressure change. He pushed his duffle bag under his seat. Morana lowered an armrest and adjusted her vents for some face-on air conditioning. She carried no luggage, only a purse, having promised Nelson that she’d be naked for most of their trip.
Nelson looked around the supple helicopter cabin and then to Morana. He smiled at his life’s unfair bounty. He was accustomed to merely counting the money of people who lived like this.
Morana peeled back the wrapper of a homemade energy bar and broke off a bite-sized piece. Nelson held up his bent wrists and doggie-begged. She giggled and popped it into his mouth. Before he could chew it, she pecked him on the lips.
He palmed her knee, rubbed a few circles and then slid his fingers up her inner thigh toward her skirt’s opening. She crossed her legs.
“What?” he said, as if she had robbed him of an inexorable right. He cocked his head like a curious puppy and whined, “But later feels so far away!”
She laughed and said, “Let’s wait until we get there.”
Nelson frowned. “So you’ll bang me in a cramped 747 lavatory with a line outside the door, but a spacious private helicopter cabin is too risky?”
“I’ll make it worth your wait,” Mo said. Nelson’s frown deepened. It was unlike her to deny him anything—especially sex. “Is the possibility of getting caught what gets you off?” he said. “Let’s open the partition. The pilot might look back.” He slid his fingers up her leg again. She gently pushed his hand away, grabbed the edge of her skirt and wiggled to pull it lower.
“What happened to you?” he said, leaning in for a kiss.
She turned away. “Nothing happened. Trust me, I’m saving my energy for you... Give me your back.” She twirled her finger for him to swivel and then pulled a tube of gel from her purse. She slipped her hands under his shirt and rubbed the gel onto his shoulders. She put her mouth close to his ear so he could hear her over the smooth hiss of the engines and whispered, “What’s most important right now is to get you as relaxed as possible. I’ll give you more excitement than you can handle later—I promise.”
Mo’s massage and the gel’s tingly warmth weighted Nelson’s eyelids and after a few minutes his head fell forward. She massaged deeper. He nodded off. She raised the armrests and laid him down on the full length of three seats. She moved to the set of facing seats, plugged ear buds into her phone and watched the sparkling ocean slide beneath them.
Fifty minutes later Nelson awoke when Captain Kurt opened the partition to announce, “We have a ten minute ETA, folks.” Nelson sat up and checked the window. Still only sky and sea. Morana sat with her purse strap over her shoulder and arms crossed as if she was ready to step out the door at any moment.
“You look worried,” Nelson said as he yawned. “According to Captain Kurt, it’s our last chance.” He slipped off his seat to his knees, reached down and tried to spread her legs. She kissed him and gently pushed him back into his seat.
“What’s wrong? Ever since we got on this helicopter I’m smeared with shit to you.”
“We’re almost there. If you can wait until we get to our room, I’ll be the naughty stray that dug up your petunias and I’ll wear the leash this time,” she said.
“Deal,” Nelson said. He fumbled with his collar, turning it, tugging at it, but it would not open. “Would you unlatch this?” he finally asked.
Morana made a feeble attempt and then said, “It’s broken. We’ll get a paper clip at the lodge. It looks good on you. And the fact that you can’t get it off gets me hot.”
“You tease,” Nelson said. “I want it off. I want to see if it fits you.” He continued pinching and pulling on the latch. When it wouldn’t budge, Nelson wound and tucked the leash into his shirt to hide it. He couldn’t understand Mo’s need to delay a quickie. She was always game. Damned mood swings. PMS—it must be.
Outside the window, a slit of land on the horizon stretched and became greener as they neared it. Like all the small islands within five-hundred miles, it was blanketed in lush foliage from beach to beach. The helicopter sank into a narrow clearing amongst trees whose branches leaned away and trembled under the whipping rotors. When the struts touched down Morana moved to rest her hand on the door handle.
“I guess you’re eager to get out,” Nelson said. “Can’t wait to get to the room, right?” he asked.
Morana smirked. “Baby I want you so bad I could burst,” she said.
A man’s dark face appeared in the window. He cupped his hand against the glass to peer in and Morana signed thumbs up. Captain Kurt opened the cockpit partition and said, “Welcome to Mapetoa Island, folks. Have a good time.” Morana shook his hand, transferring a folded hundred. Then she pulled the handle and the door swung open. A motorized step slid out.
A thin white man in a safari outfit—complete with brimmed hat, shorts and black boots—stood by outside. Six men, islanders, dressed in hats and white uniforms stood in a half circle at the door. One of them leaned on the handles of an empty wheelchair. The safari man offered his hand to Morana as she stepped down.
“Welcome, Sweetheart,” he said.
Nelson wasn’t crazy about this man calling Mo “Sweetheart,” but he chalked it up to island protocol for high-value guests.
He felt strong hands take his arms to help him from the helicopter, but he shrugged them off and said, “I’m fine.” So the man grabbed Nelson’s duffle from under the helicopter seat. Some of Nelson’s leash slid out from under his shirt. He tucked it into his belt.
“Mister would you like a ride to the lodge?” the wheelchair man asked.
“No,” Nelson said. He looked to Mo who had walked with the safari man toward the edge of the clearing. The others followed so Nelson did too. They came to a narrow dirt path barely wide enough for the wheelchair pushed behind Nelson.
“Mo, Mo!” he yelled, trying to catch up.
He felt a hand on his shoulder. “Please relax, mister. Why not have a ride?” the wheelchair man said.
“I don’t want a ride. What am I? Crippled?” He pushed the man’s hand off.
Morana turned back and said, “Sweetie, would you just relax?”
“You’re practically jogging,” Nelson said. “Would you just slow your roll so I can catch up?”
“Sorry. I’m hungry,” she replied. Safari man chuckled.
They walked single file uphill on a trail through lush gardens lined with palm and balsa trees, some connected by hammocks. Soon, a grand log cabin lodge enclosed by a wide porch and log railings, came into view high up on a bluff. Huge picture windows faced a break in the foliage to a panoramic view of ocean under the cloudless sky. Waves crashed and sea birds shrieked on a beach below. Nelson heard the distant sound of their helicopter revving up.
He also noticed a glass-enclosed watchtower atop the lodge. A man stood inside holding a rifle with its butt rested on his hip, barrel angled upward.
“What’s with the prison guard tower?” Nelson asked.
Mo nudged safari man and then said, “This island has been a target for pirates so the resort goes overboard with guest security. It was one of the reasons I liked them.”
Nelson said, “I wish that made me feel more secure.” Safari man whispered into a wire connected to an earpiece. The tower gunman dropped out of sight.
They climbed the steps to the lodge entrance. Above the front door hung an ornate carved sign that read, El Sabor de La Vida. Two other uniformed staff washed windows and swept the porch.
Inside, the lodge was laid out with the care and attention to detail of a 5-star resort. A rock fireplace tapered to a thirty-foot chimney dividing two indoor balconies that overlooked the Great Room. An adjacent dining area featured a twenty-foot table made from a solid trunk of balsa, polished to a mirror shine. Sofas, a set of massage tables and reading nooks were interspersed with painted vases filled with tropical flowers cut from the gardens they had passed. A curved wooden staircase led to the upstairs guest rooms. The aroma of seasoned grilled onions and peppers wafted throughout the space. Nelson’s stomach growled.
The delicious smell and fancy accommodations would normally have wowed him, but he’d prefer to take the tour later. Mo had him horny with the thought of a quickie. She should have pulled him straight to their room for some overdue sexual “heeling,” but instead she chatted up Mr. Safari. As they moved to the center of the Great Room, Morana laughed and hugged one of the workers around the neck and then kissed him on the cheek. Jealousy flooded Nelson.
“Did you bring kinky-collars for the help, too?” he said, stepping up to her. His voice had a strained, pre-tantrum calmness.
Safari man stepped between them. “Hold on, pal.”
Nelson shoved him hard. “I’m not your pal, asshole. I’m talking to my woman and I need a private word with her or we’re back on that helicopter.” Morana bit her lip to avoid laughing, but the staff that had slowly encircled them didn’t hold back. Some shook their heads as they chuckled and watched.
“There is no more helicopter,” Mo said.
“What?”
“We aren’t leaving.”
“The hell we aren’t,” Nelson said. He pulled her arm and before safari man could stop her, Morana planted a foot behind Nelson’s ankles, grabbed his throat and slammed him to the floor on his back. His glasses flew off. His mouth froze open to catch his breath as Morana mounted him, her knee in his chest. She raised her elbow behind her to drive the heel of her hand into his face.
“No!” safari man hollered, “Morana! No damage! No damage—please!” He lunged and pulled her off. Before Nelson could make a move, four workers jumped him. They pressed his arms and legs to the floor.
“Get off me!” Nelson yelled. “I’ll sue you and own this island!”
The men raised him to his feet and then forced him down into the wheelchair. A cloth gag pulled firmly over his mouth absorbed his screams. They tied his ankles, wrists and arms to the chair using lengths of soft cloth in a tight candy stripe pattern. He felt the leash sliding out the top of his shirt as a smiling worker pulled it hand over hand and then wrapped it around a bollard mounted to a shoulder-high banister. After the brief struggle, Nelson sat strapped to the wheelchair, his collar moored to the banister like a docked boat.
He bucked once, but the collar dug in and choked off a yell. A worker smoothed the top of Nelson’s shirt, brushing the wrinkles from his shoulders and chest. He then pulled a spray bottle from his back pocket and misted Nelson’s face with water before dabbing it dry it with a fluffy white cloth. Another worker combed and smoothed Nelson’s hair, checking his work from different angles.
Safari man and Morana strolled away from the scuffle. They sat on the far side of the Great Room by the front window. Morana’s voice pierced the on-going commotion. “Yes we do have a serious problem, Clay, if I don’t see the money.”
Safari man held up his hands to her. “Mo, calm down. Try again. I just got the wire confirmation a few minutes ago.”
Morana tapped on her phone and waited, watching the screen. After a few moments she said, “It transferred. Finally. That’s more like it.”
“See? What did I tell you?” the safari man said, beaming.
He and Morana made their way back to the workers surrounding Nelson. Morana continued to the staircase and said, “I’m going to my room to freshen up. Begin the rub and include two ounces of shuttle fuel. We have less than thirty minutes.”
Two workers yelled, “Yes ma’am!” and then ran, disappearing into a hallway.
Nelson’s heart pounded. What was she talking about? He wiggled under his restraints. His mind raced through the sequence of his two-month relationship with Morana. She claimed to have never visited this resort, yet her familiarity with safari man and the cryptic instructions the staff seemed to understand gave Nelson every reason to panic.
A man dressed in white brought Nelson’s glasses to him, and after polishing them with a white towel, he placed the glasses back onto Nelson’s face. Another man appeared from a hallway with a silver tray that held a pair of scissors and four small bowls. He put on latex gloves and nodded to the men that surrounded Nelson’s wheelchair. One of them cut the top of Nelson’s shirt to expose his shoulders. The man with the tray dipped his fingers into the bowls one at a time and massaged Nelson’s lower neck and shoulders until they glistened. The massage was gentle and the aroma of citrus was familiar to Nelson because Morana had used such scented ointments on him many times. The liquid from one bowl produced heat that penetrated his skin. It was uncomfortable, but not excruciating, so Nelson bit into his gag and took it—desperately trying to make sense of what was happening.
Nelson examined the tether that anchored his neck to the bannister. Without the use of his hands, it didn’t have to be strong to deter a run for the door. Even if he did make it outside, eluding these people on this small island was absurd and escape, impossible.
A worker approached him with a bottle of beer. He placed his finger to his lips, instructing Nelson to be quiet and then said, “Mister, drink this beer.” He loosened Nelson’s gag and it fell to his neck.
Nelson’s upper body relaxed with the sudden ease of breathing through his mouth. “Please tell me what is going on,” he said, panting.
Immediately, the gag returned, pulled tighter. The man with the beer shook his head and leaned close to Nelson’s face. “When we remove the gag, you will drink all the beer with no talking or I will have Miss Morana feed it to you and she will make you eat the bottle too.” He pointed up the stairs.
Nelson nodded. The gag fell to his neck again.
He parted his lips and took in healthy swallows of beer. The worker cupped his hand under Nelson’s chin for spillage and his smile grew bigger with each gulp Nelson took. “Eeeexcellent, mister,” he said as he put the empty beer bottle into a bag slung over his shoulder.
Nelson had looked forward to massages and beer as part of this getaway, but not like this. The forced massage, beer and careful restoration of his glasses had become forced doting that fueled his terror. He hoped he was the center of a joke that had gone way too far.
They re-gagged him and left. He heard voices from the other side of the bannister. One of them was safari man—Clay—giving some sort of instructions. A jarring electronic melody sounded and Clay answered his phone.
“Fantastic. We’re ready,” he said.
As one of the workers left the lodge to go outside, the faint beating of a helicopter seeped through the open door. The sound grew and soon the windows rattled lightly as another helicopter landed in the distant clearing.
Morana hurried down the stairs having changed into a safari outfit that matched Clay’s and her hair was pulled back into a pony tail. Nelson tried to call out to her, but his scream only heated the gag. She rushed outside and out of sight.
The gloved man returned and resumed massaging his shoulders. After a few minutes, two men and two women who looked like tourists entered the lodge with Clay and Morana. They led the guests to Nelson and surrounded him. The older gentleman with a camera around his neck, turned to Clay and said, “I must admit this is new for me. I can hardly wait. If price is any indication, this will be spectacular.”
“You’ll consider it a bargain, I promise you this,” Clay answered.
“Oh my, absolutely exquisite,” said the older, silver-haired woman. She let go of the man’s hand and pointed to Nelson. “May I?” she asked.
“By all means!” Clay said, hands in his pockets. He rocked from his heels to his toes wearing a broad, cartoonish smile.
“Wait—hold on,” Morana said. She stepped forward rolling something between her fingers. She raised her hand toward Nelson’s head. He winced. Morana twisted a compressed foam earplug deep into each of his ears. The foam expanded and within moments Nelson heard only the thumping of his heartbeat.
The silent mouths of his small audience moved. The older woman donned gloves. She approached him and touched his shoulder, gently squeezing it. Her mouth dropped open and she turned to the others in amazement. When she turned back, Nelson read the word “fabulous.”
Clay directed the guests’ attention to the edge of the Great Room where a man entered from a hall door. He wore a stethoscope draped around his neck and a white lab coat with the name, Dr. Lawrence Pradin, embroidered on it. With a somber, flat expression, he acknowledged the guests, approached Nelson and placed the stethoscope on Nelson’s chest. He aimed an infrared thermometer at Nelson’s temple and read the results aloud. After he poked and prodded Nelson’s upper body a few times he spoke a few words to the guests. Nelson watched the silent clapping. Morana pointed over the bannister to a distant part of the lodge, directing everyone to leave.
When the guests had departed, Clay nodded to Morana. From the banister beside Nelson, she opened a shallow drawer the size of a spaghetti box. From it she pulled out a ten-inch boning knife with the curve and point of an eagle talon. Crisscrossed, hairline lacerations along its cutting edge told a story of frequent over-sharpening. Nelson screamed, but the gag dulled it to a hum. He shook his head hard enough to dislodge one earplug and his glasses again flew off.
Morana dropped the knife to her side, her knuckles whitening around the handle. She paused to watch Nelson—to see his chest heave like it had so many times after his asinine, animal-role-playing sex games she pretended to enjoy in his shitty apartment.
Nelson squeezed his eyes closed and bit into the gag. How could she do this? His too good to be true had become too horrific to be possible. He anticipated searing pain into his chest or across his throat, but instead felt a gentle touch on his legs. He opened his eyes. The knife rested on his lap. Its blade reflected a silent spinning ceiling fan above.
Morana pointed and a worker rotated Nelson’s wheelchair while another untied his tether from the banister. They wheeled him out of the Great Room. The temporary reprieve brought Nelson a flash of relief, but now having to carry his own presumed instrument of execution brought a psychological cruelty akin to Roman crucifixion. Nelson strained to understand. If they were going to kill him, they could have easily done so already. They followed a carefully ordered agenda—that much was clear.
They wheeled him across the lodge where he passed the visitors who now sat on sofas in a lounge area. Morana joined them. The joyous, celebratory sounds of Mozart’s, Symphony No. 40 filled the air. Laughter erupted from the group as Clay held his phone up for each of the guests to view a photo on it. The older woman closed her eyes, and with a slight smile, rocked back and forth to the music. They were festive.
Nelson’s two handlers wheeled him down a dark hallway, stopping beside a door with three deadbolts. They flanked his chair and then slipped their fingers under the cloths that bound his arms and legs, checking for tightness. One worker picked up the knife while the other unlocked the door and pushed it open.
Light streamed into the hallway from the room and the bouncy melody of Mozart’s symphony swelled. Nelson saw his fate in unmistakable clarity. His eyes widened in utter horror. He screamed his muffled scream and bucked, swinging his torso in every direction.
The workers made no attempt to hinder him. They only steadied the wheelchair by stepping between the rear spokes. The one with the knife leaned against the door frame, whistling along with the music. The other pulled a phone from his pocket and scrolled it for new messages.
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