That gets Anton’s attention. He starts trying to buck up in his chair.

John moves to my side, preparing to calm Anton down with his fists, but I wave him off.

Looking down at the scalpel, I examine its razor-sharp edge.

“Ah fuck, I’m out.” John grimaces and walks away to sit with Lucifer.

Jude looks up from Anton and shrugs his shoulder at the work of the ratchet straps. “This tight enough?”

“Yeah, I don’t want to push all his blood down there. Don’t want him bleeding out,” I say.

Anton has calmed a bit now. His eyes are practically bulging out of his skull, but he’s trying to play the hard-ass who isn’t scared.

“Anton, I’m going to give your leg a skin avulsion from the knee to the foot,” I say as I cut into the jeans covering his leg. “This shit’s going to hurt, not gonna lie about that. You’ll probably pass out from this, but we’ll wait until you’re awake to ask another question.”

He’s got a couple of tats on his leg that look like they’re straight out of the jailhouse, but they’re well done.

That’s a shame.

“I’m going to ruin your ink, man.”

Lifting the pant leg up and over his knee, I look at the stars tattooed there. “Your boy here’s a made man with the Russians.”

“Then he should have plenty to talk about,” Simon says.

“Sure, looks like it,” I say, and then look Anton in the eyes.

He may have given a bunch of oaths over in Russia about how loyal he is, but I doubt they’ll hold true here.

Pushing the scalpel into his shin bone, I work slowly around his calf.

His screams reach past his gag and fill the room with the sounds of pain.

Blood spills out of the wound. As the life sustaining fluid runs over my hands, I almost feel like I’m washing my hands clean of ten years of restraint.

“Jude, push down on his shoulders. James, I’m—” I start to say, but James immediately shoots me down.

“Nope. I did a face peel with Simon recently. I’ve filled my quota,” James says, and I can tell he won’t be budged from that.

Just what the fuck did I miss? Simon’s been doing face peels without me? Well fuck, looks like big brother has grown up without me around. I used to be the one who did shit like that for Lucifer. Now it’s like everyone has been doing my fucking job.

“Looks like it’s just you, me, and Jude,” I say to Anton.

Digging my fingers into the wound, I push past the hypodermis until I hit bone.

Pulling down isn’t exactly an easy job, given all the blood. Makes things a bit slippery.

Midway down, I stop and look up at Anton. He’s screaming and his eyes are almost rolled completely back. He’s about to go under.

“Remember, Anton, I told you I wouldn’t ask you anything until I’m done with this,” I say, and then yank as hard as I can down his leg.

It’s like skinning a deer. I feel the fat and hypodermis ripping away from what’s beneath it. Then I push the flesh down until it folds up like a pair of pants when a guy’s sitting on the shitter.

“And… he’s out for the count, ref,” Jude says with a laugh.

“He lasted longer than I thought he would,” I say as I stand up from where I’ve been kneeling.

Anton screamed until I reached the bottom of his ankle.

“I would have told you my mom’s social by mid-calf. Then again, that crack-headed bitch would have given me to you for a twenty spot,” Jude says with a shrug.

He’s right, that bitch was one careless whore.

Looking through Simon’s bag, I spot a small bag of vials with fresh needles. “You got anything to wake him up with?”

“Yes. I stumbled across a cocktail mix a few years ago from a CIA dossier. It wakes them up pretty quickly, but it plays hell on the heart and respiratory system after too many uses,” Simon says.

“Eh, not like this fucker’s going to need either of those in a couple of hours,” I say and hand the bag back to Simon.

Simon quickly pulls a vial and syringe from the bag.

Handing both of them to me, he says, “Into the neck artery is the quickest method of getting him to come around.”

“Got it,” I say.

Ripping the tape off Anton’s mouth, I yank the dirty gag out as well.

“Jude, wake this fucker up,” I say as I hand him the needle.

Like a Christmas fucking miracle, the asshole wakes up from his stupor and lets out a low moan of pain.

Slapping his face twice brings his eyes back into focus.

“Let’s get started with the questioning. I ask, you answer. If you need clarification, tell me so. That’s it, got it?” I ask.

“Fuck you—” he starts to say, but I slam my fist into his balls.