Silence hung heavy in the room. They all knew what a sniffer meant. They were the monsters parents warned their children about. They were the shadows in alleys good people were afraid to walk through at night. They were people who’d gone crazy from surgeries, or they’d been crazy to begin with and the surgery made it worse, or who the hell cared. They were the maniacs who kidnapped you and made you disappear forever, and everyone in the room knew it.
“Look,” someone said. A man. An older one by the sound of his voice. “I’m rich. You let me go, and I’ll pay you. I’ll never talk. I won’t go to the cops. You can just let me go, and I’ll give you more money. More than whatever you think I’m worth.”
“We don’t need your money, buddy. We work wholesale. Besides, you don’t look like anyone I’ve heard of,” the woman said. The footsteps moved over towards the sound of the man’s voice, moved closer, and the heavy, labored breathing of the sniffer filled the air. “What about you? This guy look familiar to you?”
The sniffer made a noise somewhere between a laugh, a cough, and a dog’s growl. “No.”
“I’m old,” the man went on, his voice trembling. “I look ten, fifteen years younger than I am because I’ve had work done. I spent my twenties and thirties drinking and doing drugs! My organs are shot! My–”
“He’s lying,” the sniffer rumbled. “His liver’s fine. His kidneys, too. Lungs. Heart. I think our friend here is a health nut.” The sniffer chuckled. “Is. Was. Whatever.”
The woman laughed. “Perfect. Start with this one.”
“Wait! Wait! I’m telling you, I’m rich! I’m–”
The man’s voice stopped suddenly, melting into a wet gurgle. There was grunting and the sound of struggle, of the legs of the man’s chair bouncing around on the concrete floor. It echoed all around Alyxa, filling her ears. Behind the blindfold she was wearing, she screwed her eyes shut tight and tried not to listen, but there was nothing else to listen to.
“Alright,” the woman said a few moments later. “Next.”