by: Marty Chrisman
It was hot and stuffy in the trunk and Luke found it hard to breath because of the gag in his mouth. Plus the exhaust fumes that were leaking into the trunk was giving him a headache. He tried to shift positions but no matter how he moved, there was no way to really get comfortable. He had no idea where they were taking him but they had been driving for quite awhile. Luke estimated that it had been at least an hour. They had been on a paved road most of the time but a few minutes ago, the car had turned onto a badly rutted road with deep potholes. Every time the car jarred down in one, Luke slammed his head against a rim with no tire on it which didn’t help his headache any.
Finally, the car jerked to a halt and Luke heard the doors slam as the three other men got out of the vehicle. A few moments later, the trunk lid opened. After being confined in the dark cramped space for so long, it took Luke’s eyes a second to adjust to the glare of sunlight. He blinked as Billy and Tommy grabbed his arms and pulled him out of the trunk, none too gently. He winced as he felt his back scrape against the trunk latch on the way out.
Standing him up, the boys got two shotguns out of the trunk. Now all three men were armed. As his eyes adjusted to the change in lighting, Luke looked around and realized that they were at the edge of Hazzard Swamp. If they were planning on taking him into the swamp Luke knew that they didn’t plan on having him come back out alive. He wondered if anyone would be able to find him before it was too late. If not, they may never find his body. The swamp was a dangerous place even for someone who knew it as well as Luke did. It was full of snakes, alligators, and quicksand.
“Let’s go.” Cyrus ordered, giving Luke a shove to force him to move forward into the swamp. Luke started walking, keeping his eyes down so he could watch where he was stepping. Copperheads could easily be mistaken for a fallen tree branch if you weren’t careful and the last thing he wanted right now was to get snake bit. As they moved into the swamp, the heavy foliage and trees blocked out the sun making it gloomy and poorly lit in spots. There was also a noticeable drop in the temperature of the air.
When Luke didn’t move fast enough to suit Cyrus, he slammed the butt of his shotgun into the small of Luke’s back knocking him to his knees. Luke grunted in pain and struggled to catch his breath. “Git up!” Cyrus growled “And keep moving!”
Luke struggled to his feet. He realized that Cyrus didn’t really care how fast Luke was going or how slowly for that matter, he just wanted an excuse to hurt him. He had a feeling that they planned on hurting him a lot worse than that before they were done with him. They kept walking with Cyrus or one of the boys hitting Luke in the back occasionally with the butt of their shotgun. Unable to protect himself from their abuse, he could only grunt through the gag in his mouth and fall to his knees, then stagger to his feet again and keep going. His back ached from being hit.
Finally after walking for a couple of hours, Cyrus said “This here’s a good enough place.” He motioned with his shotgun in Luke’s direction. “Billy’s gonna untie your hands for a minute and if you know what’s good for you, you ain’t gonna try nothing.” Cyrus told him “Cause if you do, you’re gonna get a belly full of buckshot from me and Tommy both. You got that, boy?” Luke nodded. With two shotguns aimed at him, there was little he could do but comply.
Billy used a hunting knife to cut the ropes tying Luke’s hands behind his back. “Put your hands in front of you” Billy ordered. As Luke did as he was told, Billy used another rope and tied his hands again, this time in front of him instead of behind his back. Laughing, Billy threw the loose end of the rope up over a tree branch above Luke’s head. Jerking on the rope, he forced Luke’s arms up in the air above his head. He tied the rope securely to the base of the tree. Picking up the rope that had originally bound Luke’s hands behind his back, he used it to securely tie Luke’s feet together. When Luke was securely bound, Billy took off the gag.
Luke swallowed and licked his dry parched lips. He swallowed a few times to get some moisture back in his mouth. “You’ll never get away with this.” Luke said with more bravado than he really felt.
“But I already have.” Cyrus told him with a sinister laugh “And even though I’m sure Jesse will figure out that we’re the ones that have you, he has no idea where to even start looking for you. And out here, you can yell and scream all you want and there nobody around to hear ya.”
Luke glared at the three men. They could do anything they wanted to him out here and nobody would be able to hear his screams. And when they were finished with him all they had to do was leave him for the gators to get and there wouldn’t even be a body left for anyone to find. Cyrus smiled and moved around so that he was standing behind Luke. He tried to turn his head so he could see what Cyrus was doing but the older man stayed out of his line of vision.
. “You know, Luke…” Cyrus said in a mocking voice “I bet your Uncle Jesse tanned your hide real good more than once. And right now, I’m gonna tan you like you ain’t never been tanned before for what you done to my little girl.”
Luke felt the butterflies fluttering in his stomach as he realized what Cyrus was going to do. His muscles tensed involuntarily as he waited for the first blow to fall. He knew this wasn’t going to be like the whippings he got as a kid when he did something wrong this was going to be much worse. There was a swish and a crack then Luke felt the heavy leather belt cut into his back. His thin cotton shirt offered no protection from the strap. Luke gasped aloud at the searing hot pain that shot through his body. Cyrus drew back his arm and swung the strap again. He had a strong arm and could cause a lot of pain with each blow which was exactly what he intended to do.
Luke clenched his teeth even as his body jerked in response to the next whack. He struggled not to make a sound even though it hurt like hell. Three more whacks landed across his back and hind end each one more painful than the last. Luke’s body felt like it was on fire and in danger of being torn to shreds. “My boys can usually take 8 whacks before they started yelling, let’s see how many it takes for you” Luke managed to hold out for 10. Still Cyrus continued to beat him. Luke gasped and cried out, his body jerking against the ropes that held him prisoner. There was no escape from the relentless beating, only more pain. Finally, Luke felt the darkness creeping in around the edges of his mind and he retreated into it willingly. He had found a way to escape at least for a little while.
He was forced back to consciousness by the sudden chill of cold water being thrown in his face. With a start, he opened his eyes, choking and trying to orient himself.
Tommy was standing in front of him with a leering grin on his face. Luke felt Cyrus grab his shirt collar in the back and jerk hard tearing the shirt. The older man smiled in pleasure when he saw the heavy welts that covered Luke’s back. Most of them had broken the skin and blood was oozing from the wounds. Some of them were already turning black and blue.
Luke screamed in agony as Cyrus reached out and rubbed his hand across the welts and open wounds. The sudden flare of fiery pain took his breath away and made the darkness swirl around Luke’s mind once more. Cyrus grabbed Luke’s hair and jerked back on his head, hissing in his ear “This is only the beginning, boy!” When he let go of his hair, Luke’s head fell forward, his chin resting against his chest. Luke took several long slow breaths trying to find a way to manage the pain that threatened to overwhelm him.
Cyrus and his boys ignored Luke for the next hour or so as they set about making camp. Tommy pitched a tent while Billy built a fire ring and started a camp fire. Cyrus sat on a rock watching his boys work and smoked a cigarette. Occasionally, his eyes would drift in Luke’s direction as he pondered ways to torture the man he held responsible for his little girl’s death. He wanted him to suffer as much as Cyrus was suffering. There was a certain sense of power in knowing that he alone held Luke’s fate in his hands.