Home > I Am Death (Robert Hunter #7)(7)

I Am Death (Robert Hunter #7)(7)
Author: Chris Carter

Captain Blake handed a file to each detective. The hesitation in her voice wasn’t for effect.

‘A fucking nightmare, that’s what.’




After the man had taken him captive, Ricky was undressed and beaten to unconsciousness. When he finally came to, he was hosed down with a powerful jet of freezing water and then beaten again, this time with a thick belt that broke his skin and left him bleeding. A few lashes were all it took before he passed out once more.

Ricky’s eyelids flickered in rapid succession for a long moment before he finally managed to force them open, but it made no difference. The darkness inside the small, windowless cell was absolute. In spite of that, his drowsy eyes first moved left, then right, as if searching for something before almost closing again. The blur of confusion that had enveloped his brain was so intense, he was unsure if any of this was true, if he was really awake or not.

But then came the pain – powerful, unmistakable and immediate like a nuclear blast, spreading through every atom of his body with unimaginable speed and doing away with the doubt.

This was no nightmare. This was something much, much worse.

That realization brought with it fear on a scale Ricky had never experienced before.

He coughed, and that seemed to enrage the pain further. Colored sparkles of light exploded just behind his eyelids, and with each explosion he felt as if a nail was being hammered deep into his skull. He was about to succumb to the pain and allow it to drag him back into oblivion again when he heard a noise coming from somewhere to his right.

Ricky froze.


It sounded like the door to his cell was being unlocked.

The boy’s terrified eyes darted in that direction and he waited.

Clunk, clunk.

Two more rotations of the lock, a pause, and then the door began to open.

Sheer fear made Ricky reflexively recoil on the cold cement floor, burying his face into his arms and bringing his knees up to his chest, in a defensive, human-ball position. With his movement came more agonizing pain and the bone-chilling sound of metal scraping against metal, as the thick chain firmly shackled to his right ankle rattled against the metal loop fixed into the crude brick wall.

Tears automatically welled up in his eyes, his throat constricted and his breathing became erratic. His heart hammered inside his chest as if trying to beat its way out of his body.

The light bulb encased in the metal wire box at the center of the ceiling blinked a couple of times before engaging. As it did, it brought with it an electric buzz that made it sound as though the room had suddenly been swarmed by angry wasps. Ricky had been lying in darkness for such a long time that, even though he closed his eyes, the light burned at his eyeballs.

The sound of his captor’s boots clicking against the floor as he entered the room fired a new stream of white-hot panic through Ricky’s small and fragile body. He began shivering uncontrollably. He didn’t have to look. He knew the man was there because he could smell him – a bitter, sour, and sickly sweet fear-inducing mixture of scents that scared the little boy down to his soul. If evil had a smell, Ricky was sure that that was it.

The man’s nauseating odor ripped through Ricky’s nostrils and scraped at the back of his throat like cat claws.

Ricky wanted to be strong, just like he always was when he was bullied in school by Brad Nichols and his gang, but he was so terrified he had practically lost control of his actions.

‘Please . . . don’t . . . don’t beat me again.’ The words escaped his lips without his consent.

There was no reply. All Ricky could hear was the man’s heavy breathing as he stood by the door, and to him the man sounded like an angry, fire-breathing dragon.

‘Plea— Please.’ His voice came out weak and in spurts.

The footsteps got closer.

Ricky curled into an even tighter ball and squeezed his eyes, bracing himself. He knew what was coming and the anticipation hurt almost as much as the blows.

‘What’s your name, kid?’ The man’s voice filled the room with undeniable authority, but it sounded very different from when they had spoken near Ricky’s school. It was now throaty, firm, and cold.

Ricky froze. Was this a different person again?

The boy’s breathing became even more labored.

‘Look at me.’ The words sounded like they’d been delivered through angry, clenched teeth.

Ricky was too scared to move.

‘Look. At. Me.’

The human ball that Ricky had turned into slowly began to come undone.

‘Open your eyes, and look at me.’

Ricky finally lifted his head from his arms. His eyelids flickered again, this time for a little longer while his eyes adapted to the light. At last, he opened his eyes and stared at the stranger standing in front of him.

Who was this man?

‘You don’t recognize me, do you?’

Ricky breathed out, unable to answer.

‘Maybe you would if I spoke like this and told you a little more about my son, John. The shy kid.’ Effortlessly, the man’s voice transformed into the same voice he had used when he’d helped Ricky up from his bike fall. ‘Well, John doesn’t really exist.’ The man chuckled.

Ricky’s eyes widened in surprise. The man standing in front of him also looked completely different. His goatee was gone. So was his wavy brown hair. In its place was a perfectly shaved head. The pale-blue eyes that had once showed concern were now of the deepest shade of brown, bordering on black.

‘Don’t look so surprised, kid. Changing your appearance isn’t really that hard.’

Ricky was still shivering.

‘So,’ the man said. ‘Let me ask again – what’s your name?’

Ricky’s lips moved, but his voice failed him.

‘What was that? I didn’t hear you.’

The man took a step forward. Ricky’s arms jerked toward his face to protect it. The man paused and waited, observing the boy.

‘Richard. My name is Richard Temple.’ The boy’s voice was barely louder than a whisper.

‘Umm.’ The man nodded as he scratched his chin, apparently missing his goatee. ‘But everyone calls you Ricky, right?’ His voice was back to being throaty and cold.

The boy nodded.

‘Well, not anymore.’ The man sucked in a breath through his nose as if getting ready to spit. ‘I’ll tell you a secret. You were supposed to die here. I was supposed to do whatever I wanted with you and then kill you.’

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