Simple Question Simple Answer

Anthony McFadden


Laura Stevens sat with her head drooped, arms and legs tied to a chair at her pine kitchen table. Long blond hair hung halfway down the wine-stained pale blue blouse that she was still wearing from the night before. A slight raising of her head indicated that she was beginning to wake up.

“Finally,” munched her husband Michael, taking a second bite from the slice of buttered toast. “I was starting to wonder how much longer it would take.”

Laura’s head bopped backwards, moving from left to right a couple of times before dropping back down again.

“I guess that powder I mixed with your wine last night worked better than I thought. Special thanks to the dark web for that.” Michael raised his mug in way of a salute. “Mind you,” he said, “you were almost at the end of the bottle before it kicked in; so maybe that had something to do with it. Anyway, you’re awake now and that’s all that matters.”

Again, Laura lifted her head, letting it lean towards her right shoulder as she struggled to open her eyes. Michael watched her swaying for a few moments before getting up to make himself another cup of tea. The sound of her husband humming over the boiling water became clearer as the fog in her head lifted. Straightening up, Laura was able to focus on her husband as he sat down.

“Gaffer Tape, in case you’re wondering” said her husband, lifting up his mug as Laura realised her mouth was covered with something.

“You know what,” he continued as he took a sip, “some people say that the first mug of the day is best; but for me, it has to be the second. It just really hits the spot.”

Laura tried screaming at her husband as she wrestled with her bindings, but all she could manage was “Mmmmmm.”

Laughing, Michael said “I’m sorry love, I can’t understand what you are saying. You will have to speak up.”

Frustrated, Laura fell back into the chair, watching with furious eyes as her husband sat there enjoying his toast.

“Well now,” said Michael as he downed the last of the tea, “I guess you’re wondering what this is all about.”

“Mmmmmm” was all Laura could say.

“Good guess,” said Michael mockingly, “but no, it’s not that. What it is,” he said, the tone of his voice changing, “is me finding out that you are having an affair.”

The chair rocked as Laura struggled with the bindings, before stopping and fixing her gaze on her husband.

“Have you finished?” remarked Michael as he placed his hand on a half-folded tea towel lying on the table.

Laura’s eyes darted to the tea towel, then back to her husband.

Michael cleared his throat. “Now, I will say, you have been very clever using your once a week night out with the girls from work up as a cover. If truth be known, I would never have suspected anything; except, about six months back, I just happened to be in the city and one of your colleagues recognised me from a picture on your mobile and asked me if you were any better after having to miss that week’s night out because you were ill. I played along, of course, and in the process it transpired that at least once a month you would miss a night, opting to stay home with me. Funny thing, though,” he said, leaning closer to his wife, “I don’t remember you ever doing that and that’s what got me thinking: if you’re not there and you’re not here, where are you?”

Michael picked up his empty mug as he sat back.

“I really fancy another cup. It must be all this talking. You?” he asked, gesturing to his wife.

Laura screamed again through the tape.

“Just me, then” smirked Michael as he walked over to the kettle.

As he poured the water into the mug, Laura began rocking in the chair. The wood clanged against the ceramic tiled floor.

“Really,” said Michael as he took out the tea bag, “you’re not going to get free; so you might as well stop.”

Laura continued rocking in the chair as Michael retuned to the table, but already she was beginning to tire.

“I wonder how long you can keep going” enquired Michael, sipping his tea.

Laura stopped, red-faced, breathing heavily through her nose.

“Now, where was I?” said Michael, taking a digestive from the biscuit barrel and dunking it in his tea.

“Ah yes, me finding out” he slurped, putting the biscuit in his mouth. “Well, needless to say, I wanted to know where you were; so a few months ago, I hired a private detective to follow you.

To be honest, he wasn’t that great; twice he lost you, but he was good enough for what I wanted and, more importantly, he was cheap.”

Michael stopped as Laura once again began screaming at him through the tape.

Raising the mug to his mouth, he said in a darker voice: “that’s starting to annoy me and if you don’t stop, I’ll put tape over your nose as well.”

With one last scream, Laura stopped.

“Better” Michael said, his tone lightening. “Now, as I was saying. I hired this private detective and, would you believe it, the first time he followed you: you met up with the girls. A complete waste of time.

The second, the third…”

Michael shook his head, remembering the results.

“However,” he continued, “the Seventh time: now that was a different story. That night, he sent me quite a few pictures of you and a man getting up close and personal in a club.”

Laura studied her husband but he gave nothing away.

Finishing his tea, Michael said: “I have no idea how long you have been seeing this man, but I suspect that it is probably as long as you have been going out with the girls.” Leaning forward, he put his hands together; crossing his fingers. “What I need from you is his name and where he lives.”

Laura pulled against the ties with no effect.

“For obvious reasons,” Michael continued, sitting back, “I am not going to untie you until I’ve paid him a visit and we’ve had a little chat. After which, depending on what he says, you and him can ride off into the sunset together. But,” cautioned Michael, pointing a finger at Laura, “before I take the tape off your mouth: let me tell you what will happen if I don’t meet up today with the man whose picture is on my phone.” With that, Michael unfolded the tea towel to reveal a pair of secateurs and a kitchen knife.

“First of all with this,” he said, picking up the knife and running his finger very gently along its razor sharp edge, “I will cut out your tongue. Then, I will slice off your ears, then your lips and, once that’s done, I will carve your mouth wide open all the way to your back teeth.

And with these,” he said, putting down the knife and picking up the secateurs, “I will cut off all your fingers and toes and,” he laughed, “for a grand finale: it will be off with your nose!”

Michael stopped for a moment appearing to study a spider crawling across the ceiling before saying in a questing manner as he dropped his eyes to look directly at her:

“I wonder if he will still want you, looking like that. What do you think?”

Silence filled the space between the pair before Michael said in a softer, gentler voice:

“Of course, I don’t want to do any of that. Only a madman would want to do something like that; but, if you lie to me, that’s you saying that you want me to do it. So it will be your fault, not mine.”

Pushing the mug out of his way, he leaned across the table and peeled the tape from his wife’s mouth, saying “so, I will ask this once more and once more only: what is his name and where does he live?”

Resting back in the chair, Michael waited for the answer.

Laura sat terrified, too frightened to scream. Her eyes moving constantly from the smiling face of her husband to the tea towel and back again, all the time thinking:

‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God! Who’s the picture of? Paul or David? Paul or David?



Anthony McFadden is a member of the Rathfriland writing group ‘Honest But True Writing,’ from which a piece of his work has been published in the book Once Alien Here. He currently lives in County Armagh, Northern Ireland.