The smell was pungent.
Still rotting flesh.
He had to wonder how often he used this room for his subjects. Or, did, as the case was.
Lawrence stood a long time, there, in the darkened catacomb, staring into a harsh darkness of the open door. There wasn't much time, but he wasn't quite ready to reach over and flick that familiar light back on. He hadn't been there since his initial test. By ignorance. And, if he was honest with himself, by choice. He never asked. And John never told him.
He didn't really mourn, when the news came. It was on every channel, written in every newspaper. The Jigsaw Killer. Dead.
It hadn't shocked him. Not really. He had been told Amanda's final game could (and most likely would) go that way. He hadn't met her properly, after his 'rebirth'. He hadn't met the others either. The protégés. John talked about them, those short meetings they had. And Jill. Always Jill. He had wondered why he had been so open about her, when he clearly did not share these things with the others. Why Lawrence had been so special in that regard. John was a master of puzzles. Secrets. And this dirty, foul smelling, hellish tomb had been his last.
His gloved fingers hesitated on the wall, brushing the plastic switch.
He tried to claw John's eyes out when he woke the second time. When he realized who he was, what he had done. He had cursed, and spit, as John tended his missing limb. Even tried to bite the man's fingers off when he placed that hard strip of plastic in his mouth, lest he bite off his own tongue while the 'game master' cleaned his still bleeding stump. Days had passed by the time John actually spoke to him again at length. Soft, rasping, honeyed words- inarguable, infallible, God, he made so much fucking sense, Lawrence wanted to vomit. It hadn't been a torture. It was a goddamn salvation. He had lost something so vital to himself; it took something so sick and depraved to pull it out of him again.
His drive. The desperation to try. He wanted so badly to keep the life he had, he sawed through his very bone and crawled into god knows where with a shirt sleeve tied around his gushing leg to have that. How blind could men be.
He flicked the light.
The all too bright fluorescents clanged on above his head, row, by row, by row. The tile still gleamed an impossible white. His eyes purposely strayed from the corner to his right, the blurred grey of the chain in his periphery. The red-lined box remained undisturbed on the floor. The broken glass laid, gray and unreflective covered in a sheen of dust. A large brown, dried stain, like a grotesque pool, stretched across the floor. Flies buzzed over an unfamiliar body, clad in white, green skin still clinging to it. Zep's rotted skeleton lying beside it. And there. In the corner. Near white bones still chained to the pipe.
He blamed his dreams, for the short conversation they had, before he rejoined the world. John was threading a leather cord through what would soon be part of his artificial foot when he asked. Too many nights, waking to darkness in a cold sweat, a voice echoing through his head, 'Don't leave me'. The hard, wet press of a forehead against his own, fingers fisting his arm, fingernails digging in through the cloth, 'Please'.
According to John, Lawrence had been out five days after he had found him in the catacomb. Dehydration would have killed the younger man, if the blood loss from the gunshot wound hadn't. Even if he had asked where the room was, Lawrence knew, as a doctor always did, he would be walking back to a corpse.
His cane crunched through the glass as he shuffled around the other two bodies and dried blood. He grunted, knees popping loudly, as he crouched in front of the body slumped against the pipes. The soft brown hair was gone. Skin all but disintegrated, a thin film still clinging around the teeth. His clothes were weighted with the decay of skin oils and bile, smelling of mold and meat.
Lawrence glanced at his watch. With a sigh, he ran his eyes over the body before him, lingering on the cuff about the grey, crumbling ankle. Leaning his cane against the wall, he lifted the delicate appendage with a reverence, digging a key from his pocket. The padlock came undone with a rusty snap, and he tenderly removed the metal from the sticky, preserved ring of flesh underneath. The chain rattled, echoing noisily as he tossed the cuff across the tile behind him. Replacing the leg in the filth left behind from the putrefied skin, he looked into the blank, sunken face, endlessly staring into the creases of faded denim.
He supposed John had been right when he said the younger man was beyond helping then. And he found pleasure, however perverse, in his work with the dying man. The ones who lived, they were free. A corner of his mouth turned upwards. He found them help.
Lawrence paid no mind to the dull ache in his shin as he shifted forward ever so slightly. The neck of the corpse creaked under the weight, the doctor pressing his forehead against the whitish skull before him, eyes sliding shut. The quiet was deafening in that place. The clock had long stopped ticking.
Lawrence sighed as the night air stung his cheeks. The town car across from the decaying house rumbled with life, the younger man standing beside it, shifting his weight. He watched him with wide, glassy eyes. Awake. Alive.
"Brad just texted me." Ryan eagerly pulled open the passenger's door, the rubber mask bobbing in his fist. "Your guy just got back to his workshop, with like-four cans of lighter fluid."
Lawrence smiled, palming his cane.
"Then I suggest we don't keep Mr. Hoffman waiting."