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Deborah’s mouth opened, but no words came.
Her brain seemed utterly incapable of processing this information.
Simon stared at her, a cruel look dwelling in those dark orbs.
‘So I wasn’t losing my mind?’ she said, a smile creeping onto her face. ‘You really were watching me.’
He smiled, the sight enough to chill her blood.
‘Yes, my child, I’ve been with you the whole time. I’ve been in you, at times too.’
Deborah furrowed her brow as she struggled to figure out what he meant by this.
He laughed, the childish giggle that she’d feared so much when in the cage.
‘Don’t you understand yet? We took turns.’ He giggled again, the high-pitched one that went right through her.
She felt sick to her stomach.
‘Didn’t you ever feel like you were married to two different people?’ Simon grinned.
‘Well, I guess, but I thought it was just cos he was so… you know… mental.’
Simon grinned so much it appeared his face was going to crack.
‘He was the sane one.’
He giggled again, making her wish she had the presence of mind to clamp her hands over her ears.
She felt like she’d escaped from hell only to be dragged back down again.
She thought back to her time with Wayne.
The first encounters in her house when it had felt like the killer was in two places at once.
The strange events during her Lent when she’d felt certain she was dealing with two different people – but had chalked it up to her captor being batshit crazy.
The strange irregularities she had noticed at the time, such as his eyes seeming different colours on different days, and his scars appearing in different places – and on different legs – but again she’d assumed it was due to the psychological effects of being caged for forty days and nights.
It all made sense now.
There were two twins, both as fucking crazy as the other.
They’d taken turns with her in everyday life, alternating which one got to stay in the hidden room in the basement.
‘I’m having an angry day,’ her husband used to say to her on occasion.
And of course this meant he was the other twin.
‘I’m not myself,’ he’d say on occasion too, a malicious glint in his eye.
And she’d always smiled along with him, not getting that she was part of some elaborate hoax.
Simon’s hand slapped her hard across the ear, bringing her back to reality.
‘Yes, dear sinful Deborah. Poor Wayne, God rest his pure soul, might be gone, but I am very much alive and well. And I have some very awkward questions to ask you.’
‘So, enlighten me,’ he said, smiling that sinister grin. ‘Why, when my brother is barely cold in his grave, are you making deals with the heathens in the Freelands?’
She whimpered and shook her head. ‘They aren’t our enemy. We both have things the other could benefit from.’
Simon shook his head, his teeth clenched so hard it made the veins in his temple stand out.
She braced herself for the slap she knew was coming but it still hurt and disoriented her.
‘You are making deals with the man who had my brother – your husband, in the name of God – murdered.’
‘He had to die. He was killing people for no reason. We can all live in peace now.’
Simon snorted in derision.
His nostrils were flared like that of a wild bull.
‘Liar! The pure must cleanse the impure. Did your time in the cage teach you nothing?’ he indicated the scars on her thighs.
She looked him hard in the eye, despite the terror that he inspired in her, and spoke slowly, as though addressing a child. ‘God does not want you to kill people, Simon. Don’t you understand that yet?’
Simon let out a horrid high-pitched cry and charged her.
His right hand gripped her tight around the throat.
His fingers turned white with the force he was exerting.
Her world began to blacken at the edges.
All she heard was, ‘Forgive her Lord, for she knows not what she does. Forgive her Lord for she knows not what she does. Forgive her Lord, for she knows not what she does,’ over and over as he rammed her head into the wall.
He was still repeating it when darkness claimed her.
She awoke in surroundings so similar to those in which she’d been imprisoned on her arrival in Serenity that at first she thought the years in between had been a dream.
It was close enough, right down to the utter darkness and the musty damp smell.
There was no hose and no cage on the floor but that seemed to be the only difference.
He was there, naked, another grim reminder of a time she’d repressed so deep it was probably floating around her ankles by now.
‘I gave you ample opportunities to redeem yourself,’ Simon said, his face going a beetroot colour.
His hands shook with the force of his rage.
‘What?’ Deborah said, having no idea what he was talking about.
‘I let you run Serenity for a while to see if you could follow the example set by my brother and I. But it’s already descending into a pit of depravity like the rest of this godforsaken world.
‘You’re making deals with the heathens in the Freelands, the people who arranged my brother’s death.
‘You’re cursing, setting a bad example for the parishioners.
‘You’re going lax on everyone. There hasn’t been a decent service in weeks. And I found out that there are young people fornicating here, right under your nose, and you have done nothing to stop it.’
‘I’ve been busy trying to stop everyone killing each other. Surely that is more important than stopping a few teenagers doing what teenagers the world over will always do?’
He slapped her again, mashing her bottom lip into her teeth.
She spat blood onto the floor.
‘You are as bad as they are,’ he spat. ‘No wonder the community my brother and I worked so hard to set up is taking the fast track to hell. You’re weak. You’re bloated with sin. You have forgotten everything myself and Wayne taught you.’
Deborah was terrified by the look in his eyes.
It was as though she’d seen the nice side of him in the cage, in spite of the horrors he’d inflicted on her.
This was an altogether different side to him and it frightened her so much that it made piss dribble down her legs.
‘See,’ he said, an expression of pure disdain on his face. ‘You’re terrified to face up to the truth.’
She sobbed, cowering.
All the strength she’d built over the years had seemingly evaporated in the blink of a bloodshot eye.
‘Well, I am going to take back control of Serenity. This is my village. I built it up from nothing. And I will be damned if I am going to see it under your control for a second longer.’
With that, he stormed out, leaving her alone in the darkness.
The first thing Simon Cross did was to march out into the village green and fire a full assault rifle magazine into the air.
The villagers looked around, in shock and awe at seeing their dead leader back in town.
Cross began to shout bible verses through the loudhailer, interspersing it with commands for everyone to come to the village green.
Soon, a crowd had amassed.
A sea of bemused faces greeted him.
‘This village is something I will always be extremely proud of,’ he began, his voice choked with emotion. ‘So it pains me to see it the way it is today. Bad leadership – weak leadership – has led us to this point. Well enough is enough. I am taking back Serenity. Things will return to the way they were before Deborah took charge.’
There was a ripple of talk.
‘First of all, we need a reminder of what this community stands for, since so many of you have already forgotten. This is God’s place on earth. And I will not have sin in its midst. I will not have cursing. I will not have blasphemy. And I will certainly not have fornication.’
His eyes flickered around the crowd.
His expression was that of a madman selecting a victim.
Sure enough, his finger fell upon one of the young men from the town.
‘You. Edward Maughan. I know that you have been having relations with some of the young girls in Serenity.’
He said nothing, just lowered his head.
‘As I thought. The devil has stolen your valour, young sinner. But you need worry not. I will cleanse you of your sins. And in doing so I will remind this once-proud community of the values to which we aspire.’
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