Dubious Justice

Read the first chapter of Dubious Justice. 

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Curiosity played a major part in his next movement. As he opened the door, it creaked its objection. Peering into the darkness, he ran his hand along the damp surface of the walls in search of a light switch. There wasn’t one. Paul Lee turned, looking for his toolbox, and searched inside for a flashlight. He located it, but to his annoyance, it faltered on and off a few times before the batteries finally died. “Damn thing. I wonder what’s in here.”
He returned to investigate the opening. The door creaked again. A shudder rippled the length of his curved spine. Venturing farther into the small entrance, where his eyes were slow to adjust, he let his hands guide his way along the moist walls. Before long, he came to an abrupt halt. Once his eyes adjusted to the dark, he wondered if they were playing tricks on him. A skeleton?
A noise from behind disturbed him. Shit! It’s the owners of the house. If they find me in here…
The woman called out, then he could hear her feet clomping down the wooden stairs. “I’ve brought you a cuppa…” Her voice trailed off. His heart skipped several beats when he heard her running back up the stairs.
Shit! She must have seen the door open. I’ve got to get out of here. In his haste to retrace his steps, he slipped on the wet floor. He grunted from the impact of his torso hitting the protruding rock-faced wall. Because he was distracted, the blow from behind came as a shock. Paul crumpled to the floor and covered his head with his hands, protecting himself from further blows. “Please, don’t hit me again.”
“Get out!” The man’s harsh tone reverberated round Paul’s confused and wounded head.
Paul struggled to his feet. Glancing at the entrance, he saw only the huge brute of a man blocking his path. Stay cool. Don’t anger him any more than he already is. Paul eased out of the confined space, his hand still holding the back of his head. He could feel the stickiness of the blood oozing through his fingers.
The man’s steely, angry gaze locked on to his. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing in there?”
“I’m sorry. I was tracing a cable back through the wall. I thought it went into this cupboard. I was wrong. Please, I didn’t see anything in there.”
The man’s stare intensified. His jaw moved as he ground his teeth. “Are you sure? I think you’re lying to me.”
“No, I swear. I saw nothing. It’s too dark to see anything in there anyway.”
The man stepped forward. The dreadful smell of the man’s stale breath filled Paul’s nostrils and warmed his cheeks when the brute said, “I don’t like liars. Nothing good comes from telling lies. I’ve been surrounded by liars all my life, and not one of them has got away with it. Now… tell me what you saw.” His lip twitched, curling up at one side to reveal the left half of his mouth and the rotten teeth hanging on by a thread.
“Nothing, I swear. Please, let me go. I won’t tell anyone.”
“Uh-oh, mistake number one. You said you saw nothing, yet you’re not going to tell anyone. Tell them what? Answer me, prick. What did you see in there?”
His tone turned more menacing, along with the glare. Paul could feel his bowels loosening, and his body began to tremble. “Nothing. I need to go now. The job’s finished anyway. My boss will be expecting me. He hates it when I return the van back to the yard late.” Paul tried his hardest to come up with a plausible excuse to exit the situation, and the house. Truthfully, his boss didn’t care how long his employees took to do a job, and they often took the vehicles home with them. That’s how he was able to do his little jobs on the side, like this one. Why the fuck was I so nosey? Why?
The man’s eyes narrowed. “You’re a bull-shitting piece of dirt. Tell me the truth, or I’ll shove you back in there and let you rot just like the other one.”
Tears sprang to his eyes. He swallowed the lump of bile that had mysteriously formed in his throat. A picture of his happy family swept into his mind. “Please, sir. Let me go. I have a young family, a wife and children. They’ll be expecting me home soon for my daughter’s birthday party.” I hope he doesn’t figure out I’m lying.
“Yeah, I’ve heard all about them. You’ve been boring my wife senseless for days talking about how much you idolise them. You should have thought about your damn family before you started snooping in places that don’t concern you. Now, fucking answer the question… what… did… you… see?”
Paul heaved a large sigh, as a sign of defeat. “A skeleton. Please, let me go. I swear again, I won’t tell anyone about what’s in there—I promise. Just let me go. My family needs me. My head hurts. I’m losing blood. I need to get to the hospital. Your secret will be safe with me. Just let me go, please?”
“Stop your whining. You’re getting on my tits. Get your things together and get out of my fucking house.”
Quickly, Paul gathered all his tools together under the man’s watchful gaze, not caring if he left behind any of his prized equipment. All he wanted to do was get out of there, alive.
“There, I’m done. I’ll call back in a couple of days for my money. There’s no need to go to any bother paying me now.” Paul’s head was throbbing violently after bending down to collect his tools, but he kept his smile fixed firmly in place all the same. He extended his hand to the man, who slapped it away.
“Just get out of my house and don’t come back. You hear me?”
Paul didn’t need telling twice. He turned and marched towards the wooden stairs, wondering if the man’s wife would be at the top to greet him. He didn’t get very far before he felt the first whack on the back of his head. The excruciating pain rippled through his body and weakened his legs, knocking him off balance. He swung around, hoping his toolbox would connect with his assailant’s face, and he cursed when he found he didn’t have the strength to put any significant power behind his swing. He slumped against the wall and stumbled back down the two steps he’d taken. “Please. No more.”
In spite of his begging, the blows continued, intensifying in strength and frequency until neither his head nor his body could take any more. Even curling into a foetal position couldn’t offer the protection from the man’s strikes. It didn’t take him long to work out the man wouldn’t stop until he’d taken his last breath. The menacing glimpse he’d caught in the man’s eye made him aware of that fact.
The final image that filled his mind was the day he’d stood in church, marrying his childhood sweetheart. I love you, Jess, and our kids. Go on to find another man who will take care of you the way I have. Never forget me, my love. Never forget how much I love you all…

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