Will Decker-THE THIRD CUT

TOMMY: THE THIRD CUT
A Short Story by Will Decker
2007

The following story is fictitious. All names, places, and events are strictly those of the imagination of the author. All rights reserved under standard copy-write laws. No use of this text in any way shape or form allowed without prior written permission of the author.

Most people agreed with the police report findings that Tommy’s grandfather’s mysterious disappearance was nothing more than a suicide. In a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business, it was no secret that life definitely changed for the worse for the old man when his daughter and grandson moved in with him. The loud and heated arguments she had with her father were common fare in the gossip mills and coffee shops of the little community, as well as her alleged abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs. Soon after his disappearance was reported by a suspicious neighbor, the local police in conjunction with the county sheriff’s department mounted a fairly exhaustive manhunt. The woods immediately surrounding the township were scoured square inch by square inch using search parties comprised of the local Boy Scouts, the Elk’s Lodge, and several other groups and organizations from around the area. Since Tommy’s grandfather was a frail old man, it was readily assumed that he couldn't have traveled far on his own. When the search failed to produce a body, thereby putting a damper on the suicide theory, another theory quickly replaced the first, and the assumption that he might have been picked up along the road on his way to or from the local pub came to surface. Although this latter theory seemed a bit farfetched, since he wasn’t young and female, the state police lost interest. Pulling their investigators and assigning them to more ‘important’ cases, they politely advised the county sheriff that they would keep an all points bulletin circulating with a brief description of the old man. But it was clearly obvious from their demeanor that they felt the local authorities were just overlooking the obvious. The obvious being that the old man had jumped or fallen from the single bridge along the route between his home and the pub. It wasn’t much of a bridge, barely twenty feet above the surface at its highest. But

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Will Decker-THE THIRD CUT for an old man, such a fall could prove lethal, and his body could very possibly have washed down the river with the current. Or, at least, that is what the state investigators believed. In fact, they went so far as to suggest that the old man’s body had probably washed out to sea by now. Of course, this theory didn't take into consideration that with the long dry summer that was just now coming to a close, the water level was so low in the river it would have been virtually impossible for anything heavier than an empty milk carton to navigate it without hanging up on the exposed bars and snags lining the bottom. At it's deepest, where it also narrowed to little more than two-feet, it was currently less than six inches deep. Yet, for the most part, it was barely a trickle. What it all boiled down to was the simple fact that in the eyes of a budget-stretched and undermanned state police force, an old man with failing health just wasn't worth their resources unless the public cried out for action. And, as of to date, excepting for his cronies and associates at the local pub, nobody was overly concerned. So, suicide was written on the local police report and it was filed away; in the same drawer next to his stepson’s mysterious murder that also was never solved. Neighbors and townsfolk did agree that some good had come out of the old man’s disappearance; his daughter and her son Tommy appeared to be turning their lives around for the better. The sightings of her sneaking into the local liquor store became non-existent. And except for an occasional refill on her penicillin prescription, she never purchased anything more potent than aspirin. In fact, it wasn’t even her that people witnessed in the drugstore. Rather, it was her son Tommy that people saw purchasing the aspirin and refilling his mother’s penicillin prescriptions. Excluding the occasional glimpses of her sitting on the front porch or walking in the backyard, she never left the house anymore. Tommy was the only one seen on a regular basis, doing all the running for his mother, even so far as doing the grocery shopping. At first, this strange and secluded behavior on her part fueled the gossip mills. But like all gossip, it didn’t take long to grow stale, and soon, everyone had come to the same conclusion that she was either embarrassed over her past behavior, or grieving for the loss of her father. The casseroles and cards eventually stopped coming, and people even began to ignore Tommy as he went about his business, giving him little more than a return smile when they met him on the street or in the stores. Now, if anything could be said about the change in Tommy’s character, it was definitely for the better. Most people never remembered seeing Tommy in such high spirits, even before the gruesome murder of his father. And once again, people assumed the change in him grew from the close bond that he was now sharing with his mother in her grief.

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Will Decker-THE THIRD CUT Tommy knew what people were thinking and was very adept at promoting that image whenever he was out in public. When asked how his mother was doing, he made a point of giving a little more information than the inquirer was really expecting. Tommy didn't do this carelessly. Oh no. Tommy knew how the gossip flowed in a small town like Millville. When I say Tommy was an adept, what I really meant was that Tommy was an artist at playing people. He gave out just enough of the right information for people to draw their own predictable conclusions. He knew that most people had preconceived thoughts about him and his mother and it was just a matter of confirming these thoughts in their minds by adding just the right twist. And Tommy was very good when it came to playing with the mind, in more ways than one! When Tommy’s grandfather first awoke from his surgery, he was very confused. But it didn't take Tommy long to make him understand what he had gone through, or all the benefits he would reap from it. At first, his grandfather was delighted to have a younger body. But only until the realization set in that his daughter had to forfeit her life in order for it to happen. Tommy was prepared for this argument and was quick to explain that his daughter didn't actually die; he was living proof of it! As long as he took care of the body he now possessed, his daughter would live on. His grandfather accepted this argument and began to recover quickly from the surgery. Having lived for as many years as he had in a worn out old body, he felt like he had been reborn. No more putting dentures in the glass to soak at night. No more fumbling around for the reading glasses that never seemed to be where you needed them. And most important, no more aches and pains that never seemed to quite quit aching and ached even more when the weather changed. Yes, life could be good once more, his grandfather had come to see. When his grandfather was really beginning to feel well, he even went in the backyard and played catch with Tommy. Tommy didn't really enjoy playing catch. He found it mundane and monotonous. But Tommy knew it served a bigger scheme to be seen playing with his mother and how the gossip mill would churn it out. "Mom, let's go in. I'm getting tired of this,” he would say after a while, only staying outside long enough for someone to have seen them. "Okay, Tommy,” his grandfather would say through his mother’s mouth, the tone somewhat distorted, but the disappointment clear. “Maybe later we can head down to the river and drown some worms?" Reaching the back porch steps, his grandfather suddenly pulls up short, and taking Tommy’s shoulder in his hand, whispers softly in his ear, "I don't like being called 'Mom'. You got that?"

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Will Decker-THE THIRD CUT The tone in his grandfather’s voice is almost threatening, and it tales Tommy by complete surprise. "Yes, grandpa,” he stutters quietly, taken aback, his mind reeling. Tommy is not used to being threatened or ordered about like a common child. He has always believed that he is a superior being, while others are just here for his preoccupation. As they ascend the final steps to the porch, Tommy is thinking hard and furiously. He has created this being and he firmly believes that he can destroy it. But he isn't ready to go to that extreme. It’s always possible that his grandfather just suffered a temporal-Lobotidae hormone imbalance, and when it passes, he will return to the normal docile self that he always was. As they continue on through the screen door, Tommy asks of his grandfather, “What would you prefer I called you?” "I don't know!" he shouts back. "Maybe if I knew what I was, I would know what I wanted to be called!" Tommy is quickly growing a little more than just concerned about this sudden change in his grandfather’s temperament. The white rat that he had transplanted the frog’s brain into had gone mad within a week after he thought the operation a success, and in its own way, committed suicide. The poor creature had literally tried throwing itself through the one remaining window in the shed that Tommy thought of as his lab. The impact shattered the recently connected neurons connecting the white rat’s brain to the frog’s brainstem. At the time, Tommy thought it was just an accident. But then he began to wonder why the poor creature had picked the one remaining window still possessing a pane of glass over the windows that were open to the outside, having lost their panes of glass to the elements many years before. Was it just coincidence, or was it something more profound? Now his grandfather is beginning to show symptoms of battling insanity. Sadly, Tommy realized that he would have to keep a close watch on him, in addition to keeping him confined to the house and out of his nosey neighbor’s view until he can figure out what to do. "Are you hungry?" Tommy calmly asks of him. "Yeah. Fix me some oatmeal, would ya?" he gruffly replies, and then adds more softly, "I'm going for a walk down to the bridge. I'll be back in a few minutes." Tommy ignores the last part about the walk, asking his grandfather instead, "Would you like some toast with your oatmeal?" "Sure, why not?" he answers, heading gracefully towards the living room and the front door. Anxiously, Tommy suggests, "Why don't you fix the toast while I make the oatmeal?"

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Will Decker-THE THIRD CUT "Because, I said I was going for a walk down to the bridge!" he angrily fires back, a hint of the old man’s tenor buried within his mom’s vocal cords. Suddenly the doorbell rings. Before Tommy can make a move past his grandfather and get to the door, his grandfather has already reached it and is beginning to open it. A wave of panic passes through him, as he stands mortified, waiting for the door to open. This will be the first time his grandfather has contact with anyone other than he since the operation less than three weeks ago. In his stomach, he fears that it is too soon, especially when he considers the strange behavior as of late. Watching the door slowly swing inward, Tommy is unaware of the fact that he isn't breathing and that his heart is racing within his chest, threatening to explode. One slip on his grandfather’s part and the whole world will come crashing down on him. As the door opens wider, Tommy is only somewhat relieved to see a face he doesn't recognize. It’s a man in a grey suit, and he’s holding something in front of him that Tommy can't quite see because his view is blocked by the shapely figure of his mother standing in the doorway. From Tommy’s point of view, however, he has a clear line of vision to the man's face. It is the face in its late thirties or early forties; clean-shaven and well tanned, almost what one might call handsome. "Good morning, mam," he says in a smooth, polished tone of voice. "My name is Larry. I'm with the state board of inquiries." "What can I do for you?" Tommy’s grandfather states, more than asks. "I'm here about the case of your missing father," he continues on in a practiced tone of voice, not belying the fact that he heard the impatience so obvious in his grandfather's voice. "May I come inside, where we can talk in private?" he politely requests, already taking a step forward. A voice in Tommy’s mind is screaming at the top of its lungs, “Don't let him in!” But there is no way to tell his grandfather without drawing attention to himself, and he learned a long time ago that his youth is what makes him invisible to adults. Moreover, his grandfather probably wouldn't have listened to him even if he did tell him. "Excuse me for being so rude as to keep you standing out there," answers his grandfather, while stepping aside to let the man pass. "Please, do come in. Can I offer you something to drink?" "Coffee, if it's no trouble" the man answers in a friendly voice, eagerly following Tommy’s grandfather into the living room. Turning to Tommy, his grandfather says as the man enters, "You heard the man, Tommy, be a dear and get us some coffee." Then, turning back to the man in the grey suit, says, "Would you care for cream or sugar?"

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Will Decker-THE THIRD CUT "Black will be just fine, thank you,” he answers politely, giving Tommy’s grandfather a once over with his eyes. "Tommy, don't just stand there, get the coffee!" his grandfather orders him, noticing that Tommy didn’t miss the lascivious look from the man either. Tommy is panic stricken at the thought of leaving his grandfather alone with a man from the state police. Yet, his grandfather hadn't given him any alternative that wouldn't raise immediate suspicions. Resignedly, Tommy turns and heads through the door leading into the kitchen. Moving quickly, he dumps coffee grounds into the filter and adds water to the pot before plugging it in. Then, as he turns to head back into the living room, he suddenly stops, and reaching quickly into a cupboard, retrieves the vial with the last of the sleeping pills. Stuffing them into the front pocket of his blue jeans, he turns and almost runs back into the living room, fearful of what might have transpired in his absence. Upon reentering the living room, he immediately notices that the man has set the package down on the coffee table and is sitting on the edge of the couch leaning forward with his hands held together, while his elbows rest firmly on his knees. He gives the impression of hovering over the package as though it contains something of utter importance. Meanwhile, Tommy’s grandfather has taken up residence in an overstuffed chair that hasn't been used since before the operation. He has pulled it away from the wall and positioned it to sit directly across the coffee table from the man in the grey suit and the mysterious package. He has also crossed his legs in a delicate manner, almost teasing the man in the grey suit with the exposed flesh of his inner thighs. Although Tommy is aware of all this, he finds himself unable to remove his eyes from the package. Some inner warning system is telling him that the package possesses something that might prove to be disastrous to him. "Just call me Larry,” the man is telling his grandfather. “Anything more formal makes me feel uncomfortable.” "Okay. Larry it is," his grandfather replies, smiling back at the man. "What brings you here today, Larry? I thought we’d answered all your questions before and that my father’s disappearance was ruled as a suicide." "Well," he drawls, switching to a pretense of possessing southern charm. Tommy is certain that the man is going to ask them something of a nature that will leave the asked party feeling uncomfortable and he isn't quite sure how to approach it. Not because he isn’t practiced at asking uncomfortable questions, but rather, because he finds Tommy’s grandfather seductively attractive. The dark rings under his eyes almost add a sense of mystique to his mother’s otherwise pale white complexion.

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Will Decker-THE THIRD CUT "They did ask most of the important questions,” he says, continuing to feign the southern drawl under the mistaken belief that it made him appear charming. “But, there are still a few things nagging at me, and I just thought it would be easier for all concerned if I came here personally and took care of them. Normally I just sit behind a desk and analyze reports all day." "Tommy, is that coffee ready yet?" his grandfather suddenly asks. "Why don't you go check on it?" "Yes, Mother," Tommy replies sarcastically, purposely dragging out the word ‘mother’. Tommy’s grandfather pretends to ignore his answer, as he turns back toward the suited coroner named Larry. Deliberately slow to move, Tommy turns and with the anger beginning to boil up within him, retreats to the kitchen. Thoughts of how he is going to make his grandfather pay for treating him so insolently are already beginning to drift to the surface of his mind. First, though, he has to find out what is in the mysterious package, and what questions are still nagging the police. Until the state coroner unexpectedly showed up on their doorstep, Tommy had assumed that the case had been closed. While pouring the steaming coffee into two cups, Tommy subconsciously fingers the vial in his front pant pocket containing the sedative, and then just as quickly as the thought came to him, he puts it out of his mind. It would be pure foolishness to drug the coroner’s coffee. Especially since, he doesn’t even know the reason for his visit yet. Setting the thought aside, he picks up the steaming cups and heads back to the living room. If he disposed of Larry now, it would only bring more detectives and more questions. That wasn't an option just yet. Upon entering the living room, both his grandfather and Larry look up. It is apparent from their positions that Larry is just about to open the package for his grandfather to see. But instead of continuing, they both sit back in their respective seats, and speaking simultaneously, thank Tommy for the coffee. Handing first one cup to Larry the coroner, Tommy turns his back to the man and meets his grandfather’s gaze, giving him a stern look while silently questioning him for answers. After taking a sip, Larry sets his cup on the coffee table beside the package and says, "That sure is good coffee, Tommy. Would you mind leaving your mother and me alone for a few minutes? I'm afraid that what I have to show her may be a little too gruesome for a lad your age." "I'll be all right, sir,” Tommy quickly replies, his interest even more aroused than previously.

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Will Decker-THE THIRD CUT "Do as the man asks, Tommy," his grandfather sternly orders him before he has a chance to argue further. Shooting his grandfather a venomous look, Tommy stalks sullenly back to the kitchen. This time however, he stops at the kitchen door and discreetly prevents it from closing tightly behind him. With just enough of a crack between the door and the jamb, he is able to see the two of them sitting in the living room, their attention again on the package. Unfortunately, however, he is unable to make out their words. As it turns out, though, no words are necessary for Tommy to see what Larry is showing his grandfather in the package. Without a doubt, the coroner is holding before him a clear glass jar containing formaldehyde, and within the glass jar, a human brain! Tommy’s jaw drops, and he has a hard time breathing. His mother would have been grossed out upon seeing such a gruesome spectacle and probably would have gone running and screaming from the room. But instead, his grandfather is enthralled with it, and reaches out for the jar, wanting to take it from the state coroner so that he may examine it closer. Larry, on the other hand, isn't missing any of his grandfather’s reaction. In fact, Tommy realizes with growing concern, the coroner had planned this little theatrical exposé just to get a reaction from the person he assumes to be Tommy’s mother. And the reaction he’s getting is similar to putting a hound on the trail of a coon. With the realization of what is happening, Tommy’s heart misses several beats. The coroner is playing a hunch. For whatever reasons, he’s concluded that the daughter killed the old man and disposed of the body. Probably going so far as to chop it into little pieces that are more manageable for a woman to carry and thus dispose of. His theory is based on the fact that the brain was recovered separate of the body. Possibly, just like the rest of the organs. They would have been kept intact, since they were already small enough to handle, and when he pulled one out in front of her, she would just naturally assume that the police had retrieved her father's remains. If his hunch played out the way he is hoping for, she may even go so far as to break down and confess. It was a natural assumption for the coroner to select the daughter as the prime suspect, since she had ample opportunity to commit the crime and was reportedly always arguing with her father. All the police needed to do was ask around at the local pub where he spent so much of his time and you were bound to come to the same conclusion; she tormented her father, possibly wanting him dead. In a drunk or delusional state of mind, she may have carried out the action without even realizing what she was doing. At the same time that the rest becomes obvious to Tommy, so does the realization that the police don't suspect him. If they had, Larry wouldn't have asked him to leave the room and thus spare him from the ghastly sight of the human brain.

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Will Decker-THE THIRD CUT And then, just as quickly as Tommy figures out the detective’s ulterior motives for coming here today, he also figures out a way for all of it to work in his favor. Moving swiftly, Tommy exits the house through the rear door, clearing the back porch steps in a single bound. Running full out, he circles the house, re-entering the front door without slowing down. His grandfather is still holding the jar containing his mother’s brain. Pretending to see it for the first time, Tommy blurts out as if in shock at the sight, "Mommy, did he bring that back for you?" Stunned by the realization of Tommy’s words, his grandfather drops the jar on the hardwood flooring, the glass shattering upon impact into a thousand pieces. As the smelly liquid splashes across the floor, the brain lying at his feet, his grandfather’s mouth moves open and shut, unable to form any intelligible words. The sudden realization of what Tommy is about to do fries the delicate new connections between the brain and the brain stem, and his new, young, female body goes flaccid, dropping onto the couch in a dejected slump. Realizing that it was only going to be a matter of time before he would have to deal with the problem of how to dispose of his grandfather in his mother’s body, Tommy takes full advantage of the coroner’s unexpected arrival and seizes the opportunity presented. With ease, he has shifted all the blame to an individual that can't even deny or explain because they are suffering a complete nervous breakdown. How complete, only Tommy knows for certain. And at the same time, he doesn’t have to fear an autopsy disclosing the brain transplant surgery because nobody has died. It’s almost impossible for him to contain his delight at the way events have worked out. Jumping to his feet, Larry kicks the coffee table aside and grabs his grandfather by the elbows, pulling and lifting him bodily to his feet while spinning him around and simultaneously extracting a set of shiny chrome handcuffs from the leather pouch secured to his belt. With a vicious twist, he pins his grandfather’s arms behind his back and roughly slaps the cuffs against the young, youthful wrists, locking them in place. While putting the cuffs on his grandfather, the coroner reads him his Miranda rights. Meanwhile, Tommy stands frozen in place, feigning shock at what is taking place before him, while his brain spins into high gear, already planning his next move. When Larry finishes reading his grandfather his rights, he pushes him back onto the couch and informs him that he also came prepared with a search warrant. Reaching for the phone on the side table near the door, Larry calls in his backup and crime scene unit. Still elated by the turn of events, Tommy realizes that he can supply the necessary evidence to seal the case for them. "I'm sorry you had to witness this, son,” the coroner says without any real conviction or sympathy, as he hangs up the phone.

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Will Decker-THE THIRD CUT All the while, this is happening, Tommy’s grandfather continues trying to speak, but nothing comes out. Nothing, that is, except for a white drool dribbling from the corner of his mouth and running down the side of his chin. It is obvious to Tommy, if not to Larry, that his grandfather is never going to speak again. His mother’s body has become a living tomb for his grandfather’s disconnected brain. To Tommy’s extreme delight, his grandfather is trapped inside his mother’s body with nothing more than his own thoughts to occupy him for as long as his mother’s body should go on living. It is a living hell that even Tommy hadn’t conceived in his most wicked dreams. Whole new possibilities were suddenly sprouting within his mind. "I need to use your phone again, son,” Larry says, drawing him out of his reverie. Numbly, Tommy nods in acknowledgement, and then quickly says, “There is another extension in the kitchen, if you need privacy,” raising a hand and pointing toward the kitchen door. No sooner has Larry passed through the door and it closes behind him does Tommy spring into action. Quickly removing the vial from his pant pocket, he heads straight to the coffee table and rights it. Undoing the childproof cap, he retrieves the two coffee cups and hurriedly empties the contents into one of them. There is still a small amount of liquid in it and he gives it a quick swirl to mix it up. Raising it to his grandfather’s lips, he pours approximately half of the contents down his throat. Gagging and sputtering, his grandfather swallows reflexively, all the while staring straight ahead. Tommy is well aware of the fact that there isn't enough sedative to kill his grandfather, only enough to calm the brain for a short while. He doesn't want him to die, after all. Then he bounds up the stairs to his bedroom where he keeps his doctor’s bag and quickly removes the new surgical instruments that he’s just received from the mail-order supply house. Next, he retrieves the original box they arrived in from under his bed, where he’d been using it to store old photos that he’d pilfered from his grandfather’s room. Being careful not to damage any of the instruments, he drops them back into the box. Although he doesn't have any of the original cellophane packing material, the box is still clearly addressed to his mother with no evidence that she had originally purchased it for him. To the uninformed, it will appear as though she’d purchased the surgical instruments for the sole purpose of premeditated murder. Still moving hurriedly, he throws his doctor’s bag back into the closet, now only containing the old toy scalpels and such that it came with, and pulls a bunch of clothes off their hangers to make it look as though he never played with it. To the crime scene

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Will Decker-THE THIRD CUT investigators that are coming, it will appear as nothing more than just another forgotten bunch of toys. After taking another quick glance around his room, and satisfying himself that everything is as it should be for a child of his age, he runs down the hall to his mother’s room and stashes the box beneath her bed, an all too obvious place to hide something incriminating only if you never suspected the police to search your home. Satisfied with his actions, he hurries back down the stairs, taking them three at a time and landing at the bottom just as the kitchen door opens. Holding his breath so as not to appear to be breathing hard, he slowly walks over to the mess in front of the coffee table and stares at the brain lying on the floor in the puddle of formaldehyde and broken shards of glass. Seeing the look on Tommy’s face, the coroner quickly takes him by the hand and leads him out the front door. "Tommy, isn't it?" he asks, as they reach the front porch. "Yes, sir," Tommy answers in as demure a voice as he can muster. "Tommy, there are going to be police arriving here shortly and they're going to be searching through the house. You don't remember your mother having other body parts or organs like the one I brought in the jar, do you?" he tenderly inquires, though Tommy sees through the act with ease. The man before him is not accustomed to the concept of empathy. "Yes, sir," Tommy answers him with all the innocence of a young child. It is an act that he’d been perfecting since he can remember. "She did, huh? Do you know what she did with them?" he asks, eagerly biting at the bait laid out before him. Tommy is almost finding the manipulation of this highly educated man too easy, as he confidently responds, "She put them in the freezer in the garage." And then, because he is having such a good time, adds, "She promised me that she would take me fishing soon, and that we would need them for bait." "Thanks, Tommy. You’ve been very helpful," Larry says, trying hard to contain his own glee, as visions of a promotion dance before his eyes. "There will be a lady here soon that will take you to a nice home with other children about your own age. You will like it there. There’ll be lots for you to do and toys of all kinds to play with." "Can I take some of my own toys?" he innocently asks, as an angelic smile lights up his face. "Sure you can,” Larry answers him with a smile, yet feeling a bit unsettled by the child smiling back up at him. "Why don't you run in and get just the special ones you like to play with while I go in the garage and have a look inside the freezer?"

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Will Decker-THE THIRD CUT "Okay," Tommy innocently remarks, returning to the house as the coroner heads toward the closed garage, wanting desperately to find all the evidence before the crime scene unit arrives and takes the credit away from him. While Tommy is immediately forgotten by him, Tommy quickly runs up to his room and retrieves the doctor’s bag with the toy surgical instruments in it. After throwing in the photos over the instruments, he re-closes the bag and retreats to the living room where his grandfather is sleeping soundly on the couch. Taking the almost empty cup of coffee that he spiked with sedative, he pours the remnants on the floor where they quickly blended in with the spilled formaldehyde. With care, he replaces the coffee cup on the coffee table as if his grandfather is still drinking from it. While he leans forward, he looks deeply into his mother’s eyes, satisfying himself that there is no longer any evidence of his grandfather lurking within them. They are blank and closed off to the outside world. Tommy is just getting ready to leave, when Larry walks in and sees him staring into his mother’s eyes. "I'm sorry that I had to arrest your mother in front of you like that, Tommy,” he says, again feigning sympathy. “But she did an awful thing, and now she has to go to jail.” "Will I be able to see her again?" he asks. "I'm sure you will be allowed whenever you want to. But probably not for a while at first, because they’ll be doing a lot of tests on her to see if they can determine why she did what she did," he answers solemnly. And then he adds, "But I’m sure after that, you will be able to visit her all the time." The sound of braking tires on warm asphalt assails their ears, and Larry lets out an audible sigh of relief. He is not accustomed to dealing with grieving people; he has underlings for such tasks. But he is especially uncomfortable when it comes to dealing with children; they possess an innocence that he finds most disturbing and unsettling. Shortly after the arrival of the police, a spinster of a lady arrives in a black government vehicle bearing the banner 'Child Services' emblazoned on the door. Without so much as an introduction, she takes Tommy by the hand and leads him back to the car. After instructing him into the back seat and verifying that he is securely strapped in, she leaves him there while she goes in search of Larry to have him sign the custody release form. Entering the front door of the house, she finds Larry just inside busily conferring with a homicide detective, also dressed in a grey suit. But before she can get his attention, a van pulls up in the driveway and Larry hurries out to give the driver instructions. The driver and his partner are dressed in all white hazardous material suits. After receiving instructions from Larry, he climbs back into the van and backs it up to the garage door.

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Will Decker-THE THIRD CUT While this is happening, the spinster-looking lady grows increasingly impatient with Larry, as every time she pushes the clipboard with the necessary forms in front of his face, another policeman interrupts and steals his attention. While Tommy’s watching these proceedings with interest and delighting in the spinster’s growing impatience, another vehicle arrives. This one is from the state mental institution, according to the banner on the side. Two burly men in white uniforms get out and enter the front door of the house. After a few minutes, they return to their van and extract a stretcher out of the back. They reenter the house and after a brief interlude, return with the stretcher steadied between them. On the stretcher, strapped down securely, is the shell of Tommy’s mother. While all this has been going on, neighbors and new media have begun to arrive. The police not directly involved in collecting evidence from the garage, or searching the house, have their hands full keeping the newly forming mob back and out of the way. When a news van with a satellite dish mounted on its roof arrives from a nearby city, all the attention is suddenly directed at Tommy, who is sitting quietly in the back seat of the Child Services car minding his own business. He hadn’t anticipated this turn of events, and all the attention makes him uncomfortable, even though he understands they are only interested in him because he is suddenly an orphan. Now he is beginning to wish that Larry would just sign the form and he can be whisked out of here and away from the spotlight. But Larry has plans of his own. Larry, unlike Tommy, thrives on attention. He wants all the attention directed at him, as he is certain to garner a promotion out of blowing this case wide open and having solved it single-handedly. When he sees the news media crowding the Child Services car, trying desperately to get a camera angle on the young boy, he quickly drops what he is doing and makes a beeline for the vehicle. Acting as if his only concern is for Tommy’s welfare, he politely asks the camera crew to step away from the vehicle, and that if they would be so kind, he would gladly answer any questions they might have. Seeing her opportunity, the spinster lady shoves the clipboard in front of his face, effectively blocking the camera. Quickly, and without giving it another thought, Larry scribbles his name on the form. Brushing off all attempts to detain her with questions, the spinster lady climbs into the driver’s seat and brings the engine to life. With a squealing of tires, she accelerates away with Tommy in the back seat, now clutching tightly to his doctor’s bag. It’s a short drive, and less than sixty minutes later, Tommy finds himself being escorted up the front steps of a state-run juvenile foster home. The building encompasses an

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Will Decker-THE THIRD CUT entire city block, is enclosed with steel mesh fencing, and sports wrought iron bars on every window. It reminds Tommy more of a prison than a home for children. He is led to a reception office and ordered to sit in a chair facing a large wooden desk. Behind this desk, sits one of the largest, most obese women Tommy can ever remember seeing. With her hair twisted up into a tight knot at the back of her head, and several bellies restrained with little more than a thin layer of white cotton, she reminds Tommy of a character from a horror movie. The distaste she has for her job is written all over her heavy features. Tommy is certain she has little or no sympathy for her wards. After signing the form on the spinster ladies clipboard and handing it back to her, she asks her to close the door behind her on her way out, stating with a snicker, “We don’t want any of the little shits escaping.” Watching until she is satisfied that the door is shut securely, she rises from her chair and faces Tommy from across the desk, all remnants of sympathy she may have had now gone. "What have you got there, young man?" she asks, nodding toward the doctor’s bag he’s grasping tightly in front of him, suddenly fearful that she might be intending on taking it from him. "Nothing" Tommy answers demurely. "Young man, you will soon learn that I am in charge here, and when I ask a question, you answer me. Understand?" she says angrily. "Yes, mam," he bashfully replies. "Now, why don't we start over and try again? What do you have there?" "Nothing," he again replies. This time, she doesn't say anything. But instead, comes around the corner of the desk. Reaching Tommy, she stands directly in front of him, raising her hand in preparation of striking him across his angelic little face. But Tommy isn’t afraid of her. He knew that this was inevitable so long as he continued with his act of insolent behavior. Her self-importance wouldn’t let her react any other way. This was also, exactly what Tommy wanted her to do. While she was preoccupied with the delicious thought of disciplining the young boy, Tommy had been inconspicuously removing the main incisor scalpel from his doctor’s bag, and now, with it firmly grasped in his right palm, the sharpened blade dangerously protruding forward, Tommy says, "This is what I have in my bag, and you are more than welcome to it!"

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Will Decker-THE THIRD CUT With that said, Tommy thoughtfully and meticulously goes to work on the matron of the juvenile detention center, or rather, orphanage. With practiced precision, he makes his first incision neatly and cleanly across the mid-section of her broad stomach. Not too deep, but deep enough to penetrate clear through the yellow layers of fat, allowing her bowels to slither through the opening and suddenly erupt out of her spotless white uniform. And he did this with such precision that he never even came close to nicking an organ. There is almost no blood. The obese matron freezes in shock and disbelief, as she stares down at her intestines hanging grey and swollen out in the open air before her. There is no pain, only numbness and shock. Before she can gather her wits about her and scream out for help, Tommy jumps up on the chair he’d been sitting in, and with the same skill and accuracy he has come to expect from himself, cleanly severs the cords in her throat that produce the sounds and noises we have come to understand as speech. "Kind of leaves you speechless, doesn't it?" he mirthlessly acknowledges, chuckling at his own joke. To this point, Tommy’s cuts are so clean that the fat matron hasn't even shed a single drop of blood. She is in no danger of dying. At least, not immediately. Tommy could easily re-insert her intestines and stitch her back up before they dry out. But he has no intentions of performing such an act of mercy. He is much too preoccupied taking extreme delight in watching her standing before him, trying desperately to mouth incoherent words while trying to push her intestines back into the cavity from which they have fallen. In her state of shock, she never even considers running for the door. She has been disciplining kids Tommy’s age her entire life. It has become routine for her to inflict pain and misery into their already dire plight. And because of her sadistic disregard for their welfare, her mind fails her as she tries to grasp the idea that this one has done her harm, serious harm. Casually, Tommy steps down from the chair and walks around behind the rotund woman. She is doubled over, trying vainly to collect her intestines as they stretch down to the floor. Slowly and with deliberation, Tommy finds the spinal cord beneath the thick layers of fat, and with meticulous care, severs the nerves that control her extremities. Almost before Tommy can back away from her, she collapses in a heap like a sack of potatoes. Standing, looking down at her as she lies flat on her back, one thick stump of a leg jammed against the front panel of the desk, she stares up at Tommy with pleading eyes. Because of the precision of Tommy’s incision, she is unable to move so much as a hand. For the first time in her career working with children, she is the one that is totally helpless. And to her further chagrin, she is at Tommy’s mercy. Unfortunately for the woman, Tommy doesn't know the meaning of the word mercy.

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Will Decker-THE THIRD CUT "Look at the bright side," he says sarcastically, gazing down on her. "You really needed to take a load off them poor feet, anyway." Chuckling, a twisted smile on his face, he continues in his ‘caring’ tone of voice, "We really need to do something about your hair, too. Maybe we can just take a little off the top.” He is enjoying her discomfort and fear immensely, discovering new depths of deprivation even for him. Getting down on his knees next to her head, he positions himself so that he can keep an eye on her eyes, because that is where he finds the deepest fear, the most vital sensations. Moving slowly, he makes a shallow incision encircling the top of her head. When it is complete, he peels her scalp off, much like filleting a fish. Holding it in front of her face so she can see what has brought her such intense pain, he laughingly says, "Oops, too much. Oh well, maybe it'll grow back." Seeing her scalp being held in front of her face, Tommy watches in morbid fascination as her eyes roll up into the back of her head and she falls unconscious. "You know," he says, speaking as though they are still carrying on a normal conversation. "You could really use a little nip and tuck on that face of yours. All that fat isn’t really very becoming on you. You won’t mind if I do a little cosmetic surgery. If it’s all the same to you, I'll just take a little of that fat out of your cheeks, and remove those extra chins. I've always felt that I could use some practice in cosmetic surgery. You’ll look like a million bucks when I finish with you. Of course, I can’t promise that there won’t be any pain." After almost thirty minutes of uninterrupted cutting, using his utmost in skill and speed, Tommy has progressed from the top of her head to removing the varicose veins in her legs, leaving little in between untouched by his bloody scalpel. He is drenched in her blood and thoroughly enjoying himself, when suddenly, he hears a familiar voice in the doorway behind him. "Oh my God!" exclaims the coroner in the grey striped suit. Turning to face the new arrival, Tommy says in his most innocent voice, his angelic face disguising the beast within, "You're just in time, Larry. The doctor is in!"

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Will Decker-THE THIRD CUT

ENJOY ALL OF WILL DECKER’S BOOKS AT WWW.LULU.COM/BOOKWORM The ‘HEÄLF’ Series: MORTALITY REVISITED CLONE WARS DAY OF NIGHT REGENERATIONS HORSPAW Action Adventures: HYBRID KILLERS THE WITNESS

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