The Gospel According to Mr. X 


John was bound, gagged, and naked in the back of a pickup truck that slowly followed a path deep into the Vermont woods. It stopped next to a small clearing and the driver came around to lower the tailgate. He was a fellow, probably in his forties, wearing jeans and a red plaid lumberjack shirt, and obviously well-muscled as he quickly lifted John out and carried him to a roughly-hewn picnic table.

“You can call me Randy,” he said as he removed John’s gag. Additional coils of rope were already there and sufficed to have John securely tied down.

“Please believe me, this is a mistake.”

“Always the first thing said,” Randy replied. “But no mistake. I read your contract with Mr. X.”

He took a paper from his shirt pocket and unfolded it. “Clear enough, dictated by you.”

In a futile movement, John pulled against the ropes. “Of course, it was. I placed the contract. The mark was to be Wilson Padget, not me. Your paper is wrong.”

“Mr. X doesn’t make mistakes. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that.” He pushed a hand through his hair. “I’m prematurely grey. That’s what this job does to you, but Mr. X pays well.”

Then John noticed the sheath on Randy’s belt. The knife that was quickly drawn was long and serrated.

“You asked for the knife first,” Randy reminded. “You’ll be unconscious again in two minutes, but it will be a long two minutes.”

John’s screams were answered by those of some large bird of prey, perched high on a nearby oak.

When he awakened, it took a half hour before he could speak. He had to wait for the pains to subside to heavy throbs.  The muscles in both of his thighs had been expertly severed, avoiding any cuts to the femoral arteries.

“It was supposed to be Padget, Wilson Padget,” he whimpered.

Randy stood by, casually tossing a hammer from hand to hand. “What’s your beef with Padget?”

“Took my wife. My whole life went with her.”

“Can’t say I’ve never heard that before.”

“Call Mr. X. He’ll tell you.”

“I told you, Mr. X doesn’t make mistakes. You probably thought you were lucky to find him. But Mr. X is a religious man, in his own way. He’s doing unto you what you would do unto others.”

“That’s not what the Good Book says.”

“Everyone’s entitled to their own church, so to speak.”

The last thing John heard before falling unconscious again was Randy reminding him the hammer had been requested after the knife.

By the time the world came into focus, Randy had pulled what was needed out of its camouflage in the bushes and he stood over John with a gasoline tank.

John’s world of pain did not allow clear thinking. “You’re going to burn me. Go ahead, get it over with.”

“Not at all,” Randy whispered in his ear. “Don’t you remember what you wanted? The gasoline is fuel to get that thing started.”

Randy moved aside, no longer blocking John’s view of the wood chipper.