The cold air was freezing Vas’ breath in a billow of icy mist as he hissed with pain through clenched teeth. He was laying in a soft bed of undergrowth; his ankle gripped by the iron bite of the trap, unable to free himself from its hungry jaws no matter how much he tried.
He knew that there was no way anyone inside the cottage could have failed to hear his screams and acutely aware that he was now in terrible danger.
Even so, he had forcibly quelled his cries of anguish, hoping that by some miracle he had not given himself away. But already he could hear movement from the cottage; a door opening and the sound of footsteps approaching. What a fool he had been.
A moment later there was a rustle of leaves being disturbed nearby and Vas craned his neck to get a look at whoever was coming at him from behind, knowing it could only be one man; Roger Finch.
“Well, well, well,” said a weasely voice. “What kind of creature have we caught ourselves here?”
“Please! It’s just a mistake,” Vas blurted, trying to bluff his way through. “I got lost in the woods, that’s all. I was out for a walk and—”
“Oh, it’s a mistake alright,” said Finch suddenly looming large over Vas, his beady eyes appraising him like those of a vulture sizing up a rotting carcass. “This is private property and you’re trespassing.”
“I didn’t mean to, Mr Finch. I had no idea – if you could just release me and let me call an ambulance then I’ll be—”
“You know me?” Queried Finch, before sniffing loudly to prevent his beak-like nose from running, although a damp residue of mucus still lingered around the edges of his large nostrils.
“What? No, of course not,” Vas denied, “how could I?”
“Exactly what I was thinking. Yet you just called me ‘Mr Finch’.”
“No – no I didn’t!” Vas objected, realising his fateful error too late and knowing Finch to be correct. But he had no choice other than to keep up the pretence. “I mean, why would I? You must have misheard.”
“You know what?” Finch smiled amiably, his big, yellow teeth visible for the first time under the thick, ginger moustache, “you might well be right. But I think not.”
As he spoke, he produced a flick knife from his pocket and sprung the blade. “I tell you what though,” he continued, “you and me are gonna have ourselves some fun until I find out the truth of it.”
With that, he raised up one of his muddy boots and stomped down hard on Vas’ head, sending his world instantly to black.
Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here.