“What’s wrong with the car?”
“I’m not sure, it just started slowing, I can’t seem to get it to go any faster.”
Bob turned on his indicator and pulled into the side of the road.
“I’ll call someone, do you want to ring Marcy? See if she’ll be able to give you and the kids a ride home?”
“Yeah, I’ll try to find someone. It’s not too far, if we need to we could always get a taxi.”
“Yeah, I’m going to go take a look, see if the problem is obvious.”
Bob stepped out of the car, closing the door behind him. He glanced around as he walked to the front of the car, it was getting dark, but it seemed to be a nice enough neighbourhood, a few houses and shops. There didn’t seem to be many people around, most of the shops were already closed for the evening. To his left was a beach, the water crashing over the sand. He took a deep breath of the salt air and opened the bonnet. Hopefully what ever the problem was it would be sorted quickly, and cheaply. He looked at the engine, scanning for anything that seemed to be out of place but it looked fine. He sighed, he wouldn’t be able to fix this by himself, not even close.
“Hi, is everything ok?”
Bob jumped, then laughed.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t meant to startle you.”
“That’s ok, I was in my own little world. Our car broke down, don’t really know what’s wrong with it, I was just to about to call a mechanic.”
“Well, I know a few things about cars, want me to have a look at it?”
“That would be really great, thank you.”
“No problem at all, we all have to help each other out. Where were you and your family heading?”
“We’re on our way home, we were visiting some family, they’re about an hour from here. We still have another half an hour to go before home. At least I think. GPS brought us through here, haven’t been before myself.”
“It’s a nice place, quiet though, tourist season hasn’t properly started for us yet. In another week everywhere will be packed. I’m Tom by the way.”
They shook hands, Tom was tall, taller than Bob had first thought when he had been looking in at the engine, well over six feet, he had broad shoulders and a quick, easy grin, his eyes glinting with good humour.
“Now, I will warn you I don’t know a whole lot about cars, just enough to get me out of a few small jams. There’s a local mechanic, Anthony, he’s good, fast and cheap. If we can’t figure it out I can give him a call, you and your family could grab some food while he looks it over. I’d bet he’d even do it for free.”
“Wow, that would be really great. We’re a bit tight on money at the moment.”
Tom smiled, “aren’t we all these days?”
Madeline rolled down her window, “Honey, I can’t get through to Marcy. Can’t seem to get through to anyone. I’m going to try again in a few minutes though.”
“Well, worst comes to worst, if you need it I could always give you folks a lift home.”
“Oh no, we couldn’t put you out like that.”
“It wouldn’t be any trouble, I didn’t have any plans for the evening. Besides, it’s always nice to help out when you can.”
“Thank you, hopefully though it wont be necessary!”
After ten minutes Tom stood, “I’m sorry, but this has me beat. I’ll make a call to Anthony, your wife and kids should go on and find a place to get some food. We have a few good restaurants around here.”
Bob glanced at his watch, “Yeah, you’re right.” He went over to the window and leaned in, “Looks like we’ll have to get a mechanic in. Do you and the kids want to grab some food while we wait?”
“Yeah, it’ll give more time for Marcy to call me back. She probably didn’t hear her phone.”
Bob stood, as he turned something struck the back of his head. As he collapsed he heard a single scream, then darkness closed in.
He woke slowly, the steady sound of the sea matching the rise and fall of the throbbing in his head. In and out, in and out.
“Hey, Bob, are you finally coming around?”
Another spike of pain dug into his head as he tried to lift it. He gasped as cold water washed over him, coughing and spluttering he opened his eyes, Tom was standing above him, did he faint and hit his head?
“There you are. I thought you were going to miss the show.”
Something wasn’t right, he wasn’t lying down, he was sitting. He tried to move, but his hands were tied, he tried to stand, so were his legs.
“Yeah, the show.”
Tom gestured to wards the sea, Bob looked, his brain taking a moment to fully process what he was seeing.
Madeline and the kids were sitting in the ocean, water lapping around them, they looked frightened and their mouths were covered. Why were they there?
“See the tide is coming in and I’d hate for you to miss it. They’re tied down, just like you. Can’t go anywhere at all, all they can do is wait. Well, wait and hope you’ll save them.”
“Please, we don’t have much but I’ll give you anything you want.”
“There’s only one thing I want Bob. You’re going to answer some questions for me.”
“Anything, I’ll tell you anything you want to know just please let them go.”
“No, see that would ruin the fun of the game. If you don’t answer right, or if you take too long, well, you’ll just have to say bye bye to your family.”
“Please, let us go, what ever you want to know, I’ll tell you, just let them go.”
“Oh don’t worry. I will, if you’re truthful. First question, do you love your family? Really love them? Would you be willing to die for them.”
“Yes, I do, I love them, please, I’ll do anything.”
Tom bent down and picked up a gun, “Will you really die for them?”
“Yes, I would”
“Would you be willing to be shot, if that meant I would let them go.”
“If you’ll let them go then just shoot me, please.”
Tom smiled, then pulled the trigger, Bob flinched as it clicked.
“Oh please, where would the fun be in just shooting you? But then you knew I wouldn’t have done it. I said I had two questions. I want the answer to the second one, so you knew I wouldn’t have killed you. So, onto my second question and this one is a little bit of a doozy, if you love them so much, why did you have the affair?”
“What? I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’ve never had an affair.” Bob struggled at his bonds, trying to break free, feeling for a weakness, but he was shivering and his hands already started to feel thick and slow from the cold.
“Oh please, we’re all friends here. Isn’t that right Maddy? Did you know Bob here was out fucking around? I did. So did Marcy. She was one of his whores. There were a lot of them. Marcy, that slut you never liked from HR. The list goes on. Even your own sister.”
“That a lie! I would never cheat!”
“Wow, and you said you loved them. I’m shocked. Shocked at your behaviour Bob. Why not admit it now? Cleanse your soul, save your family. Tell your children why Daddy wants to screw women that aren’t Mommy. Is she lousy in bed, is that it? Or is it the secrecy? All that sneaking around get your dick hard? Is that it?”
“No, I swear to god, I’ve never been unfaithful.”
“Really? Never even a little crush on someone?”
“No. Never, please just let us go, please just untie my family and let them walk away, they won’t tell anyone, I know they won’t, just let them go.”
“Well, that’s all up to you Bobby. All you have to do is admit it. Say those few little words. I cheated. The truth will set you free.”
“But it isn’t the truth!”
“We both know it is.”
“If…if I say that, even if it isn’t true, will you let them go?”
“I don’t see why not.”
“See, I knew you had it in you to tell the truth. Don’t you feel so much better, see how easy it was? But tell me, how can you live with yourself? Knowing you betrayed your wife like that? Betrayed your vows? Hell, betrayed your children.”
“You said you’d let them go, please the water’s getting higher.”
“Wouldn’t it be better for them to drown, to be cleansed by the waters of the sea, then to live in a world knowing that the man they loved, the man they called husband and father had absolutely no regard for them.”
“No, please you said if I said it you’d let them go, I did, I said it, please just untie them.”
Tom smiled, “Well, I did say that, didn’t I? But then I’m like you Bob, I’m a liar. I cannot be trusted to keep my word.”
“Yes. See Bob I really want you to understand, it’s your fault that you’re all here today. Your actions and yours alone are hurting your family, they’ve been caught up in all your lies for so long. Tonight they’re going to be set free.”
Bob struggled at his ropes, but they were too tight, too strong, he watched with horror, screaming, begging as the tide came in. When it was over, Tom patted him on the head. “Don’t worry old chap. You’ll be with them soon. We haven’t hit high tide yet. It should just be enough to cover you. If you tried though, really tried, I’m sure you could manage to keep your head up, keep breathing for the most part. The final decision will be up to you. I just have one last question and then this will all be over. Can you really live with yourself? Knowing you killed your family? All you had to do was confess to your sins. What is worth it in the end? Keeping those secrets?” Tom squeezed Bob’s shoulder once, then he turned and walked away.
The cold water lapped at his feet, rising steadily. As it reached his face he felt himself relax, he was already so cold, there was no point, no point in prolonging the inevitable. He looked over to where his family were, he would be with them soon.