That evening, I put Christine to bed and left her apartment. I knew she was terrorized…I knew she needed sleep. Me, on the other hand, I was going to make sure that Christine got her revenge. Instead of wallowing home to sleep, I found myself at her place of work, sitting at the back table and waiting for the man that hurt Christine to appear. I kept an eye out, watching each and every scum as they moved around the club. And when I saw him, I acted out…He was a tall and despicable man. He was bald and dressed in a dirty white shirt. He was already harassing another waitress, pinching her bottom and laughing as he did so. I stayed put until I saw him grab hold of her arm…Oh, he was violent and most likely Christine's attacker. I waited until the man left the club and that's when I got up and followed him. I followed the man all the way out into the back alley, and that's when I reached for my lasso and wrapped it around the bastard's neck. He was strong, but I was stronger. I pulled tight on the rope, pulling it tighter as each moment passed. But I wasn't going to kill this man…No, I was simply going to torture him and then, I would make him apologize to Christine.
"You like beating up women, do you?" I snarled.
The man made gurgling noises as I pulled on the lasso, but I didn't stop, not until I was satisfied with this horrible man.
"I could kill you right here, but I'm going to spare your life. So, here's your ultimatum. Tomorrow night, you will apologize to the brown haired waitress for what you have done to her. And then, you will leave the club and never return. Fail to do so, and I won't hesitate on killing you…"
With that, I let the man go. He fell to the ground and gasped for air, but I did not hang around. Instead, I headed back to Christine's apartment. I would not be returning to my home tonight…No, I would stay over hers and watch over her while she slept. By the time I returned, it was nearly morning. I had work in a few hours, but I didn't care, Christine needed me and I would be there to see that she was all right. When I arrived back, I placed a kettle of hot water over the stove to make some tea. I had been sure to stay quiet, but a few moments later, Gustave came walking out, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. He stood there in the doorway and looked up at me.
"Mr. Erik, what are you doing here this early?"
I lifted the boy up and placed him on the counter, turning to tend to the boiling water that was on the stove.
"Your mother wasn't feeling well last night, so I stuck around to see that she was better this morning."
"Is she all right?" he gasped.
I pressed my finger to my lip to shush the child.
"Not sure. Though I'm certain that after she sleeps off whatever it is that was making her ill, I'm sure she'll be perfectly fine. For the time being, I'm here. So, since it is almost morning, what would you like for breakfast?"
The child shrugged. "I'm not sure, Mr. Erik. Usually, I don't get breakfast. Mother doesn't have much food."
I walked into the hall to Christine's room and checked to see if she were up or not. When I noticed that the woman was still in bed fast asleep, I closed the door and walked back out into the kitchen.
"Why don't we let your mother sleep and head to the bakery?"
"The bakery?" he gasped. "Really?"
"Why?" I questioned, raising a brow. "Do you like that sort of stuff?"
"Mother never has the money to take me, but I do look at their window. Oh, it seems to wonderful, Mr. Erik. They have everything."
"Indeed, they do. They have everything you could ever imagine for breakfast. Sticky buns and doughnuts…I'll treat."
The child smiled and I told him to get dressed. The boy wasn't even gone for five minutes when he came back dressed in a shirt and shorts.
"Could I ride on your shoulders, Mr. Erik?"
I nodded and lifted him up onto my boney shoulders, carrying him towards the bakery. Once we were there, I sat Gustave down on the counter and pointed towards the glass cases.
"What would you like, Gustave? You can have anything you want."
The child looked at everything, taking a long time to choose.
"That looks yummy…"
The boy pointed towards a sprinkled covered chocolate doughnut.
"It does. I think I'm going to pick something up for your mother too. What should we get for her?"
Gustave looked back at the case and pointed to a raisin covered sticky bun.
"Mama would like that."
After ordering, I picked up our food and walked with Gustave back to the apartment. When I sat him down at the kitchen table, I poured the child a glass of milk and placed his breakfast down in front of him.
"You didn't get anything, Mr. Erik…"
"I don't usually eat that sort of stuff. Besides, I'm not hungry. I'm going to check on your mother, so, just eat your breakfast. I'll be back…"
Once Gustave was situated, I headed towards Christine's room and entered. Her cuts had scabbed, but that didn't take away the bruises that were covered along her arm. Oh, what was I going to do with her?
I lightly shook her shoulder, causing her to stir. When she opened her eyes, she gasped loudly and sat up.
"Oh, I'm sorry…" she apologized. "I didn't expect you to…What are you doing here anyway?"
"I'm here to see if you were all right. You had a rough night, Christine. I thought it was best that you rested."
She nodded. "Thank you, Erik."
"You're welcome, Christine. I took Gustave out to the bakery to pick something out for breakfast and I brought you something back as well. There's also a fresh batch of tea waiting for you out on the stove."
"You didn't have to do that, Erik."
"You're right," I said. "I didn't. Anyway, don't make me regret it. On another subject, I have work. Therefore, I would advise you to rest until it's time to go to work. You have a nasty cut on your head."
With that, I left Christine's room and headed back towards the kitchen to head to work. Gustave was sitting there at the kitchen table, devouring his chocolate doughnut.
"Where are you going, Mr. Erik?"
"To work. Though, I shall return later, boy. In the meantime, let your mother rest. She still isn't feeling well."
"All right, Mr. Erik."
Before leaving, I ruffled the child's hair and left, headed towards Luna Park. Once again, the heat was already intense, and I knew by the noontime hour, the heat would be unbearable. Though, I wasn't even anywhere near my podium, when Mr. Tilyou stepped in front of me. Oh, what could he possibly want now? I wasn't late for work, and I hadn't done anything wrong…What on earth could he possibly want with me, and at this early hour?
"Ah, there you are," he eagerly began. "I've been searching all over for you."
"Same place, same time everyday…" I scowled.
"Don't get smart with me, demon…" he warned. "Remember who you're speaking to."
"And what do I owe this pleasure?" I questioned. "And at this early hour?"
"Why don't you step into my office?"
If there was anything I didn't want to do, it was step into Mr. Tilyou office. He was a cruel man, one that enjoyed teasing me. I was damned if I did and damned if I didn't. Therefore, I stepped into his office and took a seat across from his desk.
"I was thinking," he began, taking a seat in his office chair. "This freak show needs something a little more entertaining. We have a lot of freaks here…Miss Fleck on the other side of the tent is what others call "half bird, half woman." Dr. Gangle is the master of ceremonies. Yes, we do have others such as the bearded lady and a human Cyclopes, but then, we have you…The Devil's Son… You are, after all, the most hideous thing to walk the earth. But in saying that, I believe we could do more with you than we do."
"Such as what?" I shuddered. "I show my face to the paying crowds, do I not? And then, when you wanted me to sit shirtless, in order to show off my scars, I did. There is nothing more to show…"
"Of course there is…" he sneered. "There is much, much more we could do with you, monsieur. I was talking with my other associates last night, and we believed that if there are scars covering your chest and arms, there must be more…There is, isn't there?"
"That…That is none of your business…"
"Oh, it is my business. You have them on your legs, don't you? You have them on your bottom and your sides…I know you're covered in them. Therefore, you're going to sit on your podium in the nude and show off everything."
"This is a family park…" I growled. "I refuse to sit there and show everyone my body! I am entitled to my privacy…It's not right! It's not decent…"
"It's right in my book. People will pay high to see you on display. Whatever makes me the money…"
"I won't do it!" I stood to my feet in a flash. "I'll quit! I don't need you…I can get a job elsewhere…"
"You're never quitting, Erik…"
From around the corner, Mr. Tilyou's men came strolling out. They grabbed a hold of me and pushed me back into my chair.
"Oh, when will you learn, Erik? When will you learn to obey my wishes?…And now, because of your insolence, you will pay dearly in blood."
Mr. Tilyou looked up at his men and smiled.
"Take him out back and give him a good lashing. One that will beat some sense into him..."
I tried to fight off the men, but it was no use. The men were strong, stronger than any man I had ever beaten. They dragged me into the back alley that was behind Mr. Tilyou's office and tore off my shirt. They held me down and whipped my back. Oh, how it hurt more than anything in the world, and I cried out for them to stop, but they refused. Over and over again, the whip licked the flesh of my back until I could feel fresh blood trickling down every inch of my back.
"Do you have it in your head, Erik?" Mr. Tilyou barked. "Do you understand what will happen if you ever leave this park? Now, tomorrow, I expect you to come to work with an open mind and no clothes. You will make me money, and you will do as I say…"
When I was left alone, I gathered my cloak and quickly crawled into it. The heat beat down upon me with an uncomfortable feeling. Blood dripped onto the ground and made a trail as I headed back towards Christine's apartment. I wasn't sure why I was headed that way, but I couldn't clean my wounds on my own. Yes, before I was stubborn, but I couldn't be stubborn any longer. When I arrived at the apartment, I spotted Christine standing in the kitchen cleaning up from breakfast. I knocked on the door and the woman quickly spun around, smiling at the sight of me.
"Erik, I didn't expect to see you back so soon….did you forget something?"
"I…I guess you could say that…" I exhaustedly replied.
Christine's smile quickly faded, leaving her face filled with one full of concern.
"Erik, what's wrong? You look hot…"
I came inside and pressed my eyes closed to cut off the scream that wanted to escape my lips. Not long after, Gustave came running into the kitchen with a smile across his face.
"Mr. Erik…You came back!"
I couldn't let the child see me like this. No, I motioned to the bathroom.
"Christine…c…could we go into the bathroom?"
"Yes, of course." She looked at Gustave. "Sweetheart, go into your room for a few minutes and play."
When the boy was gone, Christine followed me into the bathroom and closed the door. Only then, did I remove my cloak.
"Oh, god…" Christine gasped, placing a hand against her mouth. "Erik…What happened?"
"My boss…" I cringed, gripping the sink. "He wanted me to sit naked in front of the crowds…I refused and he whipped me."
"You're back is gushing blood…"
"I can't clean it myself…I had no place else to go. Hospitals don't help people like us…"
Christine took a cloth and wet it under the sink, pressing it against my wounded flesh.
"Oh…" I cringed as the liquid burnt my flesh.
"Are you going to be all right?"
I nodded. "Yes, it's happened to me before. Mr. Tilyou isn't the kindest man in Coney Island. When I disobey him, he gets angry and abuses me…"
"And why don't you stop it? Why don't you do something, Erik? You're strong…You never let anyone hurt you. Why is it that you let that man do with you as he pleases?"
"Because," I cringed. "This is the only job I can get around here."
"Why, Erik? Why do you think that Luna Park is the only job available to you?"
"Because it is. I've tried over and over again to get a job in music, but every time, I was denied because of my face…Things are different here, Christine…"
"I've never seen your back…" she replied, running her fingers over my old scars I had received when I was a child. "You look as though life has not been friendly to you."
"And I'm sorry for never seeing this before."
"Don't start with me again…" I pressed my eyes closed. "Just don't, Christine."
"You're better than them, Erik. I know you are… You shouldn't let others push you around in life. Perhaps there aren't any jobs besides what you do available to someone such as yourself, but that doesn't mean that it's impossible."
Christine handed me my cloak. "There. You've stopped bleeding. Though, it's too hot to stay in that filthy cloak. Why don't you shower and I'll let you borrow one of Raoul's shirts? I still have a couple lying around in the closet."
"That's very kind of you, but I don't think…"
"I don't care what you think at the moment, Erik. You're more than welcome to rest here for a while. Besides, Gustave would love it…He talks about you all the time, you know."
"Don't argue with me, Erik…Just for today."
My back was in agony, and therefore, I did not argue. Perhaps I would tomorrow, but for today, I would hold my tongue…