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Snappers/The Man on the Mattress

Robb T. White


“You’re probably wondering what’s going on, right?”  Asking yourself, ‘What happened’? ‘Where the hell am I?’ Can’t say I blame you,” he said, watching his eyes focus as he tried to turn his head one way and then the other. They still had a drug shimmer, although it was hard to tell from the semidarkness inside the Quonset hut he’d built from a DIY kit had no windows because he covered them over with roofing paper.

He hoped he got the dosage right. A Reddit thread on GHB suggested a 1.5 ml for a man weighing one-hundred-eighty pounds with about fifteen percent body fat. He used himself as a guinea pig, figuring he weighed twenty pounds more and had a muscular, lean physique from daily workout sessions with the iron. He started with half a teaspoon and worked his way up to a point where redosing would have been necessary, noting it all down in his journal, where he kept all his “project” notes. The man on the mattress was nude, already showing signs of going to fat at thirty, which was a good thing, muscle tissue denser than fat tissue and harder to get your teeth into. His first busload of snappers was already on the road from downtown Albuquerque, and he needed the man on the mattress to be fully alert when they arrived.   

He looked at the man squirming harder against the restraints and decided he was back to himself enough to take off the mouth gag, a red plastic ball with leather straps he’d bought in an adult store two blocks from the Greyhound bus station where he did some of his recruiting. The leather buckles also came from there; he pulled out the fur-like fleecing inside. The package said the gag was perfect for beginners and designed to keep “the corners of your moth comfortable.”

“First, I’m going to remove the gag,” he said in a pleasant, calm voice to the squirming man bucking up and down as though that would free him. He knew knots. The man on the mattress wasn’t going anywhere. “Doing that will only abrade the skin of your wrists and ankles and will delay my explanation.”

Mumbling sounds, then bellowing into the silicone ball—another waste of time. He was screaming so hard into the ball that all it produced were Y-shaped veins emerging from the center of his forehead. The twin stems of the Y reaching into his hairline were blood engorged, like fat worms appearing beneath his skin like in a horror movie.  

“I’ve only got a limited amount of time to talk, you see,” he said to the man thumping up and down on the mattress on this backside. “You can keep screaming, no one can hear you. We’re miles outside town. Nothing but the Chihuahuan Desert between us and the Sandias. No people around, however. I have a cyclone fence around a couple acres out here in case somebody comes out here hunting coyotes or rattlesnakes.”

“Good,” he said. “Now, then. The gag first.”

He stepped behind the prone man and released the Velcro strap. He swung the silicone ball away from his face and set it behind his head.


“Tut-tut, I warned you, didn’t I?” He lifted the ball by the strap and jerked it toward the man’s mouth. He swiveled his head away from the gag and clenched his teeth. After a few attempts, the man gave up and set the ball gag on the mattress again. He went to a corner and selected a crowbar from a variety of tools he kept there while he built the hut. 

The man stepped over to his victim and straddled him by sitting on his chest with his full body weight, expelling a whoof of air from his lungs.

“See this crowbar? Feel it,” he said and played the beveled edge of the crowbar around the man’s mouth and over the tender skin of his lips. He pushed the lips apart gently with it and tapped the man’s front tooth. “You either open your mouth for the gag or I will ram the end of this bar through your bottom teeth and pry up your jaw. The end result will be the same. What’s it going to be?”

The man stilled himself, settled back onto the mattress; his chest went up and down from exertion. His eyes were big with fright and rage boring into the man’s face. He opened his mouth. The man, still straddling his chest, replaced the ball gag and cinched it tight. He got up and stepped behind the man on the earthen floor.

“There’s a cot behind you. You can’t see it but I’m sitting on it. You’ll have questions. Ask them when I finish. Keep that crowbar in mind . . . You remember the gray-haired gentleman in the business suit you met at the restaurant yesterday evening? Nod if you do.”

A long pause followed by an abrupt nod from the man on the mattress.

“He’s an ex-con who got out of the penitentiary in Santa Fe a few months ago. I paid him to impersonate a businessman. He’s the one who contacted your office and set up the meeting in the restaurant. He did time for check-kiting, cheating old people out of their pensions, various fraud charges. He had the right skill set for his limited task because here you are.”

He wanted to observe the man’s reactions fresh without the man interposing a filter between his reactions and the words he was hearing.

“Good,” he said. “You’re paying attention. There was no proposal—not a legitimate one, anyhow. Do you remember feeling groggy after a couple drinks while he spoke about acquiring property and land your company wants to sell?”


“My gray-haired associate was told to lead you out of the bar as soon as you began slurring words.  If he couldn’t get you to agree to leave with him, he was to call me in my Jeep out front and I would enter the restaurant, drop a few twenties on the bar, and the two of us would escort you out the door and into my vehicle. If any waiters or Good Samaritans dining nearby got overly curious, I had a line of patter ready to drop on them about ‘my friend having too much to drink’ as we led you out the door. . . . But you came out yourself and waved off his offer to put you in an Uber, remember?”

No nod, a stillness but the glassy stare was pure hatred.

“Do you recall my helping you into the Jeep? No? I didn’t think so. Your arms were limp noodles when I strapped you into those eyebolts I welded into the frame. Voilà, here we are. I dragged you in—sorry if ruined your suit—and fastened you here. I imagine your sleep was falling into a black hole with an anvil in your arms. That’s how it felt to me. You said something. Let me remove the gag again so you can speak. You will remember the crowbar, right?”

The ball was sopping with spit. The man gasped and panted for a few seconds. He squeezed his eyes shut. Then he groaned and tried to speak. The words came out in a gargled rush.

“Sorry,” the man said. “Try that again.”

“Why . . . are you . . . doing . . . this?”

“It’s not a long story,” the man said. “I’ll leave out all the descriptive terms in the interest of time—” He checked his watch again. “But there’s a certain amount of pathos to it a real storyteller might linger over. In essence, you harmed my life in significant ways and I want revenge.”

“I DON’T EVEN FUCKIN’ KNOW YOU! YOU MOTHERFUCKING—Wait! Wait! Not that plastic ball in my mouth again! Okay, Okay. I’m calm. Don’t, please, not again.”

The man looked at him, set the ball gag down again and went over to an ice chest. He took a plastic water bottle out and opened it in front of the man on the mattress. He lowered himself beside him and set the mouth of the bottle against the man’s lips.

“Easy . . . easy. Don’t choke. There. Better now?”

“Oh God, I was dying of thirst. My head aches.”

“GHB works on men as well as women, “ the man said. “But it does have side effects like memory loss and headaches.”

“Why . . . did you—”

“I’m coming to that,” he said. “You recall that hit-and-run accident you were in five years ago?”

The man on the mattress was slow to nod.

“That was my father you killed. He was coming home from his late-night shift at Walmart. You were coming home from an all-night, binge-drinking session with your date at an after-hours club.”

“WAIT! NO! That . . . that was an ACCIDENT. The court ruled it was, said I wasn’t to blame. That old man . . . that man, he . . . your father SWERVED into me. They did a—what-do-you-call-it—”

“Accident reconstruction,” the man unemotionally said from his cot, checking his watch again. He’d need to leave if he wanted to avoid rush-hour traffic in Albuquerque.  

“YES! YES! That’s it! The highway patrol reconstructed that accident and proved I was innocent. I’m sorry your father was tired, sleepy from work, whatever, but he crossed the centerline and hit me!”

“I spent thirteen thousand dollars on a private investigator. Eight thousand alone went to him for his work, all duly written out with line items for each expense. Five thousand went for bribes and payoffs to witnesses in the courthouse, the highway patrol barracks, and your date at the time. By the way, she hates your guts and she wants money for the abortion she had because you lied about wearing a condom that night. Or, should I say, that morning when you finally got home after the cops finished with you. You spent the day having sex. Rough sex, too, from what she told me. No worries about that old man you plowed into back there in his shitty economy car going up against your big-ass Humvee, right?”

“I tried to help him, I really did, but the door was jammed on the driver’s side.”

“Not what she said,” the man on the cot replied. “Her exact words to me, after the air bags inflated and his car began burning and he screamed for help were these, ‘Fuck him, serves him right. Let him burn.’”

“No, no! That bitch is a lying slut!”

“Let . . . him . . . burn.”

I didn’t . . . look, we can come to an agreement here, right? Water under the bridge, over the dam, whatever.”

“You left her at the scene to talk tot eh cops and drove home to sober up—only you didn’t sober up. You called your greasy lawyer, the one who got you out of every scrape you’ve been in since you were killing family pets in your garage and forcing girls to have sex with you in your bedroom as a teenager. He told you to drink booze, didn’t he? So the cops couldn’t accuse you of driving drunk. You told them you were so shaken up that you drove for help and you drank when you got home. . . . Oh, you’re thinking about lawyer-client confidentiality, right? Well, you put the barrel of a Colt revolver into a man’s crotch he’ll piss his pants but he will admit the truth.”

“He made that up . . . Listen, he made that up! Okay, fuck it, I’ll give you twenty-five thousand dollars. Cut me loose. I’ll walk out of here back to town. I won’t say one goddamned word about this to anyone, not the cops, nobody. I’ll go to the bank, withdraw the money. You call me. You tell me where to meet you with the money, and I’m there. Even-steven.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Thirty thousand, man! That’s all I have! I’m in hock up to my ears. I’ve got a mortgage, car payments—”

“I know,” the man replied. “My investigator did a deep financial dive on you. A Ferrari, a Lamborghini Countach, a resort house in Taos. You spend it as fast as you make it, don’t you?”

He stood up, brushed away flecks of the yellow grit from the desert off his pants. “I have to go into town now or I’ll be too late. Those ladies won’t wait. I believe you know some of them, in fact. More than a few at the The Rare Cherry told me about you—for a fee, of course. I’m always happy to pay for good information.”

“Those lying skanks! I’ve never been to that shithole!”

“I’ll be back soon. We’ll talk some more.”

* * *

The man on the mattress heard the Jeep take off. He thrashed against his restraints, screaming at the top of his lungs for help. For minutes, he exhausted himself bellowing for someone to come help him. He wept. He watched an orb weaver in the periphery of his vision capture a cabbage moth and roll it into a mini-burrito of cottony web for a later meal.  

He kept telling himself he had to get free, but he had no idea how to do it. His wrists and ankles were raw from rubbing against the buckled straps that’s secured him. If he looked down his chest to his outspread legs he could see the steel bars they were secured to and cemented into the ground.

His mind wanted out of there. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed before he heard the sounds of a vehicle pulling up. Voices, women’s voices.

Thank God, I’m saved . . .

“Back sooner than I thought,” the familiar voice of the man said. An unhurried, masculine voice with no trace of Hispanic or one of the many Pueblo accents heard around town. He remembered the man he hit looked dark, like a Mexican. At the time, he hoped the man was Mexican. His family knew a judge who’d have given him a certificate of merit if his case had gone before him. As it was, strings were pulled, an old boy network went to work. He got probation and a suspended license for one year. The family was bought off with paid funeral expenses from his father’s lawyer.

The man was speaking quietly but in a commanding voice to the women out of his line of sight. The metallic hut he was in smelled of dirt and desert heat until that moment. The aromas of citrusy perfume began wafting about. Another smell, more pungent, overlaid it: the rancid smell of unwashed bodies.

Something else nagged at the corner of his mind . . . something about the old man’s family. He couldn’t bring it into focus and his heart was racing with fear. What were these women doing here?

“I’m going to tell you a story first,” the man said standing above him.

“I don’t want to hear a story,” the man on the mattress said. “I want out of here, you freak! Forty thousand, my final offer!”

This time the ball gag was stuffed into his mouth with rough hands wearing thick gloves.

The man resumed his story as though nothing had happened. He heard giggling where the women were standing together. If he could see them, he might be able to negotiate with them. Turn them to his side with promises of money and influence.

The man began talking again, some story about an ancient Chinese emperor and his new goldsmith. The other fifty goldsmiths in the guild were so envious they plotted to kill the emperor’s favorite so they had to do it so no one of them was blamed.

He tuned the maniac out. He’d bring him around the way he always did people he wanted to manipulate. And when he had him where he wanted him, he’d use all his connections and wealth to see this bastard rotting in the foulest prison in the state. He’d pay to have the other cons make his life a constant, never-ending torment—what was that about biting?

“The goldsmiths bit him to death, each man had to show his bloody teeth to the others . . .”

His mind couldn’t wrap itself around the sheer lunacy of the man’s words. The women were talking, talking about something, doing something for him, getting into . . . a line for him?

“Girls, ladies, listen to me now. This is the man who has been preying on little girls for years. Some of your own relatives, your sisters, nieces, your next-door neighbors. Sweet little girls who never had a chance. The law has been protecting him. No more. Today you will bring justice to all those families.”

What is this bullshit? He never hurt a little girl in his life—Okay, teenaged girls, yeah, but those dumb bunnies asked for it, and he paid them off, some of them anyway, so what’s the big deal?

“ . . . one at a time, show me your mouth if you want to get paid. No blood, no money.”

What was this bullshit?

A girl in a neon-orange thong stepped into view and smiled down at him. I know you, he tried to say behind the gag. You’re Raina. You gave me lap dances at . . .

He begged her with his eyes: Lift the gag. I’ll pay you

Before he could finish his thought or prayer, she dropped to her knees—mumbled something obscene, and bit him in the stomach.

He screamed.

His eyes watered with tears.

The next girl in line came forward. She didn’t smile. Her face was a mask of hatred. She spat a gob of phlegm into his face.

Wait! Wait! I didn’t do anything—Oh merciful God, the pain was searing, intense, like having a live wire jabbed into his flesh.

She stood up; then she smiled—with a top row of bloody teeth.

He thought his navel had been ripped out.

The third girl came. She looked like a teenager, pink streaks in her hair, nose, and lip rings. One of those runaways he saw all over downtown Albuquerque.

When she, too, fell to her knees, he knew what his fate was and waited for the tearing of his flesh. She gripped the flesh near his ribs and sunk her teeth into him. She wagged her head back and forth like a terrier with a barn rat in its teeth.

From some red vortex of pain, he heard the man’s words: “Show me.”

The next biter was an older woman, a drug fiend, filthy. She had a thousand wrinkles in her face and greasy dirt caked into the ridges.

She apologized to him before biting him on the triceps.

The girls and women kept coming. He didn’t know for how long because he kept passing out. He would come to and see a face leering or mocking him. He heard their excuses: “I need it for my child’s operation” . . .“I need to get my boyfriend out of jail” . . . “You’re rapist scum, you deserve it . . .”

He tried to send his mind away from the scorching pain, but he didn’t know how to escape the hellfire he was cast into. Thei faces blurred into one wobbly, nightmare face with jagged, bloody teeth.

At some point, he knew it was dark—but the line of biters kept coming. His mind jumbled and kept changing scenes on him. He was at the beach, he was at the blackjack tables in Vegas. Then he came roaring back to that filthy, hot metal prison. He passed out again and stayed gone for a long time.

* * *

When he woke again, his body was dotted with rosettes of open wounds, gashes, jagged flesh from bites up and down the length of  his body. His penis and testicles were still intact, thank God, but many biters had gouged out small, red-rimmed craters near his crotch. Their teeth marks and saliva stains were a helter-skelter of horrible tattoos in indigo bruising and crusted flesh. 

The ball gag was ripped from his mouth. He heard the man’s voice above him. “I’m taking these ladies back to town.”

Over, it’s over . . . If sepsis didn’t kill him, if he got medical help and antibiotics in time, he’d make it.

“Take me . . . doctor . . . pay you . . .”

“Oh no, sorry, I really can’t do that,” the man’s even voice explained. “This is only the first entrée, so to speak. I have more ladies coming out for the feast. Word travels fast in their circle, you see. Word on the street is, you’re the best meal ticket in town.”


Robb T. White is a Midwest writer of genre fiction, mainly crime and horror. He has two series private eyes: Tom Haftmann and Raimo Jarvi. His collection of revenge tales, Betray Me Not, was selected by the Independent Fiction Alliance as  a Truly Best Indie Book in 2022.