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by Cal Marcius

I push Tom’s head under the water and hold it there. He doesn’t struggle, but it’s getting close to two minutes. I let him come up and he shouts at me.

“Again, again, do it again.”

I push him back under.

We’ve been at it for twenty minutes now. A bathtub full of water. His hands tied behind his back. I’ve water boarded him before, but he didn’t last five seconds.

The whole thing started five months ago, when he was trying to dig up dirt on Michael Desmond, property developer and all-round asshole. There’ve always been rumours about Desmond being involved in drugs and prostitution and who knows what. Business acquaintances back tracking on accusations against him, talk of pay-offs and friends in high places.

Tom went to his editor and said he wanted to investigate Desmond, but he didn’t think it was a great idea. He tried to talk him out of it, said to leave it alone. Tom couldn’t, of course, and sweet talked the guy with bullshit about sales figures and the importance of investigative journalism.

Three months into the investigation Tom was certain Desmond’s people were on to him. He couldn’t tell me how he knew. There was no evidence to suggest they were threatening him. No messages or taped conversations. Still, Tom was adamant. Desmond always got to them.

Then he started talking about making preparations, hardening himself up. And that’s where I came in. I wasn’t even his friend. I was just there for his sister. He seemed to think that automatically made me his chief confider and co-conspirator, and he just came to me one day and said I had to help him.

We didn’t tell Emily I was beating him senseless on a regular basis. He told her he’d joined an MMA club to get fit. That explained the bruises and black eyes.

At the beginning I just threw punches at him, roughed him up a bit, but that wasn’t enough for Tom. He wanted me to tie him up, break some bones, drown him. Everything he imagined Desmond’s men would do to him. I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t start to enjoy it.

I feel him struggle under my hand. I look at the timer. He’s getting close to two minutes, but I’m not letting go. Instead I push down harder. He’s shaking his head, trying to squirm free. I grab a fist full of hair, don’t let go. There’s water everywhere, and my jeans and boots are getting soaked.

I haven’t told him they got to me first, that they offered me fifty grand. That they said I should take it or go down with him. They knew what we were doing. What I was doing. Wasn’t much of a stretch to keep him under a few seconds longer. I think about Emily, wonder what I’ll tell her.

At two minutes nineteen, I can feel him getting weaker. At two-forty-seven he’s completely still. I lift him over the top and throw him into the tub, leave him face down. I wait another fifteen minutes, just sit there and stare at the lifeless body. They promised they would take care of it. I check my watch. In an hour I’ll have the other half of the money. I haven’t really thought about what I’ll do with it, if I’ll ever be able to spend it. I guess I’ll find out soon.

Cal Marcius is a freelance writer who lives in the frozen wastes of northern England. He has been published in Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter, Near to the Knuckle, and Yellow Mama, as well as Near to the Knuckle’s Rogue anthology and Aidan Thorn’s Paladins collection. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.