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Auteur Theory (The Ogden Review)

The air in the trunk was thin and sickly, a blend of rotten meat, gasoline and the packed, dense heat of bodies in close proximity. Mary laid there, knees up to her chest, looking out into the darkness and wondering what was going to happen to her. One minute, she had been pottering around the house, excited for John to come home when a greasy, meaty hand had clamped around her jaw. The man’s grip was hard enough to make bright lights flash before her eyes and he handled her with a casual strength that made her realise that she was in deep trouble.

He had not spoken to her. She had tried pleading but he had merely guffawed and shot out his left hand to smack her cheek with an offhand ease that still knocked her to the linoleum. He had grabbed her by her hair and dragged her off the street and into his car. The buzz from the wine was gone entirely, and she was forced into the trunk of the car, sober and terrified.

In the dark, she cursed herself for not fighting harder, for not screaming until someone came. She would have fought and screamed if she had known about the Culpepper Brothers and what happened to anyone that they came across.

It wasn’t like they had money to offer and the only thing that she thought might have warranted it was John’s job.

Which, in a way, it was.

Mary Turner thought of herself as an auteur. She had read it somewhere, and had not really understood it’s meaning but it was better than writer or director, so she appropriated it for herself. Her productions were serious affairs, and she would drill the cast in death march length improvisational rehearsals that caused Kenny Underhill to quit after twenty years of stalwart character acting for the group.

Harlan’s review had upset her because it confirmed the insights that her insecurities had whispered to her. She had cried to John about it and he had promised to seek redress, but ever since Eddie, he had become someone else. A strained and haunted man, hiding his wounds where he thought no one would see.  A good man, though, and he could never bear to see her upset and not solve it in some fashion.

She had avoided town for a while, but people had been kind. Even those who had agreed with Harlan’s sentiment, if not his wording, had said that it was part and parcel of making something of yourself. So, it was with Harlan’s review in the rear view mirror of her life, that she had gone to Robyn’s baby shower.

How she had ended up in the trunk of the fat man’s car.

She had seen in movies, where they were able to figure out where they were by studying the environment for clues but she was unable to think past her own fear. She wanted to die in a bed surrounded by family. Not that she was sure that she had wanted children until she was denied the possibility of seeing them grow up.

When the car stopped, she began to weep hot, bitter tears and clutched her hands into fists, determined to go out fighting. The prospect of impending death made her determined to fight. She could hear the man talking to someone but he did not open the trunk.

She heard the growl of some rough large beast, and she struggled not to wet herself. She heard the struggle between them, and squeezed her eyes shut, determined to fight if it came to it. If it was to be the end, she would go out a trier.

The guy who actually opened the trunk was younger, about half the size of the fat man but still muscled. She was so relieved to see him that she didn’t register that he was half naked.

The missing leg came later.

She got out, her legs stiff and prickling with where she had been restrained for a while but she reached for him as he laid there on the asphalt. He had flecks of foam at his cheek and his eyes were rolling in their sockets. Where she touched him, his skin was hot to the touch.

Avery, who had never spoken more than two words to her, had rescued her and it had cost him. She did not scream when she saw the dead man, a beached whale on the asphalt shore because she was trying to help Avery to his feet.

She saw the phone where it had fallen and picked it up. It was a folding phone that had survived the fall and she looked at Avery in panic.

‘What do I do?’

He croaked something but she had to lean in to listen to him properly. A name then a series of numbers. She dialled them, waited for it to ring until someone on the other end answered.

‘Your brother asked me to call you.’

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