Chapter 17

“I told you this was a waste of time.”

“Shut up.”

“If anybody knew this would be a waste of time, it’d be you.”

“I said shut your goddamn mouth.”

“All you’re doing now is making a mess.”

“Do you want me to kill you? Because you know I will. I’d do it happily.”

I opened my eyes. Stared up at Cashman crouching over me.

He had a sledgehammer in his hands and was glaring at the old woman standing beside him.

She noticed me first. “Oh dear, look who’s awake.”

Cashman turned his attention back to me. He had a bored, irritated expression on his face. “Welcome back to the land of the living, David.”

I was in a supine position on a cold cement floor. The walls, I noticed as my eyes adjusted, were gray cinderblocks. I tried sitting up but found I couldn’t. My legs were chained to the floor, as was my left hand. It was stretched out beside me on the floor. All around it were bits and pieces of metal and wood.

“How do you know my name?”

Cashman hefted the sledgehammer as he stood up straight. He glanced at the woman and said, “This is going to be harder now that he’s conscious.”

“Do you want to knock him unconscious again?”

He shrugged. “I’m kinda interested to see what happens now that he’s awake.”

“Hey,” I shouted. “Why are you doing this?”

“There is no why, David. All there is is that ring on your finger, and I want to get my hands on it. Except, see, the thing won’t come off. But you already knew that, didn’t you? Yes, I can tell by the look on your face. You’ve tried taking it off but it wouldn’t come. See, it was the same for us, so what did we do? We tried cutting off your finger.”

Cashman stepped back, grabbed a butcher knife off a table, held it up for me to see the damaged blade.

“But the thing is, once the steel touches your skin, it becomes like butter. Like I told you, you’re practically invincible. So for the past three hours we’ve been trying to first cut your finger off, then cut your hand off, but, well, we’re not having much luck.”

“But why — ”

Cashman stepped forward, raised the sledgehammer up over his head, and brought it down with a grunt.

The steel tip raced toward my left hand spread out on the floor. I didn’t even have a chance to move it a centimeter before the hammer made contact.

For an instant the silver ring flashed and the hammer burst apart, exploding into a thousand pieces.

“Goddamn it!” Cashman shouted. He turned and threw what was left of the sledgehammer across the room. It sailed end over end until it bounced off the cinderblock wall, hit the floor, and went still.

I stared at my hand, at the ring that was no longer glowing. The hammer had in fact made contact — I’d felt its cold tip kiss the skin — but I hadn’t felt any pain. I hadn’t felt anything.

“See?” the old woman said. “Are you ready to give up yet?”

Cashman glared down at me, his teeth gritted. “Not yet. Bring me the chainsaw.”

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