Teamwork – a short story illustrated by Simon Cope


By Jody Neil Ruth


Agent Holt’s world was upside down. Literally.

He hung suspended, with his fingertips brushing the concrete floor beneath him, his feet encircled by a noose.

He cursed himself at having trod on the scattered newspapers which had hidden the age-old trap – a trap set by his nemesis – Simeon – who sat before/beneath him, handcuffed to a radiator on the wall.

“So, Mr Holt,” the wiry man smiled, his dark skin and the low lit room emphasising the whites of his large eyes and unnaturally long teeth. “What do we do now?”

“Piss off.” Holt sneered.

Simeon rattled the chain holding him fast to the metallic heating appliance.

“Oh, I would, but I am somewhat indisposed,” he said, his voice calm and melodic.

Holt swung from his tether, his slow rotations allowing him to see Simeon’s smiling face like an upside-down moon orbiting the earth.

“I need to get down from here.” He said, gritting his teeth as he felt bile start to rise in his throat… or descend because of the position he was in.

“I would love to help, Mr Holt,” the criminal grinned, “but since you cuffed me I’m afraid I’m not much help to anyone.”

“You ain’t gonna be helping anyone from the electric chair either, Simeon.” Holt said, the anger making his face even redder as the blood rushed to it. He started to pull himself up his own legs, hand-over-hand, fists grabbing handfuls of his trouser legs.

Reaching the thick rope he struggled to free himself from it such was its tightness. Slowly he began to feel it cutting the circulation off to his feet. Exasperated he let go and fell back to his original position, swinging wildly, not helping his own physical or mental discomfort.

“Oh please,” said Simeon, holding his hand up to block the view as he curled his lip up and balled his free hand against his chest. “You’ll give me motion sickness.”

“I’ll make you feel a whole lot worse when I get down from here.” Holt snarled, once he felt he had the contents of his stomach under a loose control.

“And – pray tell – how will you achieve that? You’ve hunted me for so long that you haven’t been a ‘real’ agent for months. Discharged, I believe. No one knows you are missing, Agent Holt. No one knows where you are. You were very lucky to stumble upon my humble abode here in the hills. We are a long way from civilisation and from any help, so I am intrigued to find out just exactly how you plan to free yourself or to take me in.

“I assume that seeing as you have not produced it yet that your phone is in your vehicle outside?” Simeon continued, his brow slightly furrowing as his mind smoothly flowed into work. “I know that you would not have called back-up as you are forbidden from continuing this case…” his eyes then seemed to sparkle as they grew larger as he leaned forward ever so slightly and whispered; “And I know that you have no partner to follow behind anymore…”

Holt’s momentum slowed enough for him to stare at Simeon, the hulking former-agent of the FBI glaring at the frail, thin, almost ill-looking rapist, paedophile, and murderer of a dozen men, women and children. His anger was such that he found it difficult to move any words past his lips.

Simeon beat him to it.

“Mr Holt,” his mouth full of tombstone-like teeth suddenly grinned, his voice raising several octaves. “I believe that I may well have a solution to our problem. However, it does require an element of trust… on my part at least. ”

Holt could feel the blood pulsing in his temples as he shook, his face burning as his considerable body mass tried to adjust to being the wrong way up.

“Ok,” his voice was strained, his teeth clamped shut as he stared at his foe. “Consider me a captive audience.”

“You have been chasing me for… six years?” asked Simeon, closing one eye thoughtfully, his tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth in a childlike gesture.

“Eight years!” Holt spat out his answer, knowing that the man was taunting him. “I’ve been chasing you ever since you gutted little Evie Miller.

“Ah, yes,” Simeon’s eyes seemed to focus on some far away thought, yet his voice continued talking quietly. “Mrs Miller’s pride and joy…” he snapped out of his reverie. “I had to convince them to let me work on their farm just so I could get close enough to that darling little-“

I don’t want the details!” Holt shouted in anger, his body writhing uselessly. “Get me down from here!”

Simeon raised his free hand, indicating an apology his face did not convey.

“Forgive me, Agent Holt, I digressed.” He waited until Holt’s fury had lessened before continuing, the whole time his eyes watching the sway of the former agent as if hypnotised. Holt couldn’t help but be reminded of a cobra swaying to the sound of a snake charmer, although he wasn’t precisely sure who was which.

“Now, I have a knife on my person that will cut the rope that binds you,” he said. “But in return I want information. I need you to help me with something… A collaboration of minds… ‘teamwork’, even?”

“What sort of information?” Holt asked, his eyes wide and angry as the hatred barely simmered behind his words.

“Do you recall Louisiana, approximately two years ago?” the maniac asked, eyebrow raised.

Holt nodded, his whole body moving slightly due to the motion.

“Russell Martin, twenty four years old, from Akers. We found some of him in Lake Maurepas, and the rest in his home.” said Holt. “He worked as a male prostitute… I didn’t think he would be your type.”

“Oh please,” Simeon said, eyes fluttering and Holt could almost imagine he was blushing. “Anyone is my type, dear.” He said and winked at the agent.

“What about him?” Holt said, desperate to change the direction of the conversation.

“Well,” said Simeon, all pretence vanishing as he sat up, cross-legged, hand still attached to the radiator. “After you had walked in and seen my… ‘artwork’, if you will, and then finished emptying your stomach out of the back window you found something of mine that you took with you.”

“How did you know?” Holt asked, his eyes widening.

“I was under the floorboards, my dear!” Simeon squealed, enjoying the tormented look in the other man’s eyes. “You were so close to catching me that day! Ha!”

“Your bag,” Holt said quickly, his own brain working furiously as he tried not to torment himself about not catching the killer two years ago. It would have saved four other people, his mind lectured him anyway.

“Yes,” Simeon said as he leaned forward. “My bag of tricks.”

“You had knives, a hook, pliers, hammers…”

“Yes, my bag of tricks.” The killer repeated and smiled broadly. “Where is it?”

“In a police evidence locker.”

“Ha!” Simeon pointed an accusing finger at him. “You lie! When I took your partner and strung him up – much like yourself now – and tortured him for hour after long hour he admitted that he had never seen or heard of my bag!”

Holt’s blood pounded in his head and he shook visibly. Simeon had killed his partner a year ago and Holt had been the one who found him, hung from a ceiling and barely resembling that of a human being. He had barely been able to keep his footing amidst the blood and entrails covering the floor.

“Actually, he told me straight away that he didn’t know where my property was,” Simeon said. “But I tortured him anyway…

“So, Agent Holt,” he continued, his mind back on the matter at hand. “Where is it? I bet it’s somewhere you can sit and stare at it from time to time… trying to get in my mind, no?”

Holt swung impotently.

“It won’t help you, but it’s tucked away in my garage.” He said finally. “And when we get out of this and you’re sat smouldering in the chair I’ll destroy it and the world will be rid of you.”

Simeon’s smile broadened. He stood up, rubbing his wrist as Holt stared dumbly at the handcuffs attached to the radiator, empty of Simeon’s hand. The killer looked down at them and then back at the agent.

“If the combined forces of the FBI, CIA and police in every state of our fair country couldn’t catch me,” he said. “How the hell do you think I’d let you just walk up to me and cuff me if I wasn’t able to free myself?

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and retrieve something that belongs to me.” The killer said as he opened the door.

Pausing at its entrance, he poked his head back into the room and spoke quietly;

“I take it your wife and son are home?”

The door clicked shut.