The Thought Thieves
By Chris Court
Yuri was pissed. The brain-drain had been going on for over five hours and they were nowhere. No info. No names. And worst of all, the security codes were deep down in his limbic system blocked off by an impenetrable frontal lobe. Kessel’s brain was a harsh maze of trap doors, dead-ends and endless hallways. Whoever trained him did a hell of a job. They’d come to the end of the road. It was time to move on.
“Take it off him! Pack the truck up. We’re getting out of here.”
After the helmet was removed, for a moment Kessel felt victorious. The sensation soon abandoned him as the four men in long leather jackets gathered their things and packed them into the back of the white cargo van. With his arms and legs still duct-taped securely to the chair, he knew that if they left him there, chances are he would starve to death. The abandoned warehouse looked as if no one had been there in years. But he was resourceful. He’d snaked his way out of plenty of should’ve-been-killed situations before. He kept his hopes alive as he eyed the inside of the large room.
Yuri closed the back doors of the van then walked straight over to where Kessel was positioned. “Do you know who Gallagher is?” he asked him.
Kessel was quiet as he repeated the name in his head.
“He’s an American comedian,” said Yuri. “A prop comic to be more specific.”
Kessel narrowed his eyes trying to figure out where this was going.
“Yes I’ve never been a fan of that type of humor either,” said Yuri. “But it was the way that he closed his show that I enjoyed the most. And it’s where you fit into this conversation. Gallagher would tell the audience that he had this great invention called the Sledge-O-Matic that slices and dices and chops and peels all kinds of foods. But the thing was just a big wooden mallet that he smashed everything with. And the pieces of food sprayed all over the audience members. It was really kind of hilarious.”
One of the men in the leather jackets gave Yuri the wrap-it-up signal.
“Yes, yes. I ramble. I know. So short story - the final piece of fruit that he smashed with his Sledge-O-Matic was a watermelon. Today we’re going to reenact the Gallagher finale. And this is the best part. You get to be the watermelon.”
Kessel was silent. His eyes wide.
“We can’t get the data out of your head. So it’s pointless to keep trying. But we can’t leave it in there. So our only option is to destroy the evidence.”
Kessel was still trying to swallow the saliva caught in his mouth when he heard the large heavy door open thirty-or-so feet behind him. His heart drummed the inside of his rib cage as he watched Yuri look past him toward the sound of the heavy door and give a nod. Then his body shook when the sound of the metal head of the sledgehammer hit the concrete floor and echoed through the building.
“My comrades have weak stomachs and don’t even want to be around to hear this,” said Yuri with an almost heartbroken tone to his voice. “So unfortunately I won’t get to stay and watch. And on that note, I will be leaving you in the capable hands of Mr. Gallagher.”
Kessel finally choked down his swallow. “Please! Don’t do this! I’ll talk. I’ll tell you everything you want to know.”
Yuri stopped at the van passenger door. “Sorry my friend. You’re too well-trained. The data in your head is so protected, you don’t even know what’s real and what’s fake. You could tell us the security code is 1-2-3-4-5 and still pass a lie detector test.”
Kessel didn’t see Mr. Gallagher walk up behind him, but his panic reached stroke level when he saw his hands, covered with rubber gloves, grab the back of his chair. When the chair tilted back and began to be dragged away, it was all he could do not to scream like a girl.
“For God’s sake then, shoot me in the head at least!”
Yuri smiled. “What’s the point of killing someone if you can’t send a message to your enemies by scaring the hell out of them? If you had known we were going to do this, would you have agreed to hold the information?”
The door to the van closed and it drove outside and down the road. Kessel listened as the sound of tires on gravel slowly faded away in the distance – along with his hope. The chair stopped sliding backwards shortly after he was dragged into a small room. Before he could begin to plead for his life – or at least a painless death – Mr. Gallagher locked some kind of metal contraption around Kessel’s neck. He then tightened it like a vise until his head was immobilized. Mr. Gallagher was silent the entire time.
Kessel’s mouth was wedged shut by the metal plate under his chin. He knew this was it. He tried desperately to make his last thoughts pleasant ones. His parents. His wife. His daughter. But try as he may, he could not conjure up their images in his head. Only one thought kept running through his mind: This was all Mike Barton’s fault. Kessel hoped that if they ever found anything left of his smashed brain, they’d be able to pull out this last piece of data from it:
I hope they kill you too Barton!