In fact, one could easily and accurately argue that Chris had benefited from P.T.’s efforts. While he appeared to be burning her bridges, he was actually constructing the one she desired. Gaining employment in the household of the county’s wealthiest rancher involved considerably more than responding to an ad. Peter Townsend, (P.T., as he was known) was particular when it came to choosing caretakers for his terminally-ill wife, and once he made his decision, his was the only say that mattered. Chris knew the job paid well and included room and board. She’d heard Mrs. Townsend probably wouldn’t last the month and slept all but about an hour a day. Exactly what she was looking for.
After Chris had rudely refused his offer of a cocktail after work, P.T. took the Café’s owner aside and stated her new waitress had attempted to pick his pocket. Chris was fired on the spot. When she arrived at the rooming house she had called home since arriving in Oak Falls, she found all her belongings on the sidewalk, with the Manager informing her they didn’t cater to loose women. P.T. had phoned ahead to advise them of her lack of morals. As she bent down to retrieve one of her suitcases, P.T.’s hand joined hers. He smiled and said “Ready for that cocktail yet? I’ve found having a drink together is a great way for an employer and an employee to get acquainted. You’re going to love it at the ranch and I just know my wife is going to be crazy about you.”
Chris told him a little about herself--as much as he would sit still for, and he gave her a list of her duties. His wife occupied her own room, and Chris was to check on her four times a day: before breakfast, lunch, dinner, and at bedtime. She was also to provide whatever Mrs. Townsend needed during those visits, like a diaper change or sip of water. When she inquired as to what the ‘other duties as assigned’ meant, P.T. simply smiled and told her that would become clear soon enough.
Most days, Chris never saw her employer. He spent his time in his office on the ranch behind closed doors. He transacted all his business from there, on the phone and via the various computers he had set up. Cook brought his meals and Chris would be in bed sometimes a couple of hours before she heard him coming up the stairs and making his way to his room at the opposite end of the hall from his wife’s. Chris knew the woman was comatose, more or less, and was grateful this poor creature was spared the pain from her husband’s neglect. Never once did Chris see him so much as peek into his wife‘s room. He just went about his days and nights acting as if she didn’t exist at all.
One evening as Chris was having dinner in the dining room, P.T. brought a plate in and sat down to join her.
“This evening, Christina… That’s your name, isn’t it? Christina? Or is it Christine?”
Chris had told him when she first arrived that her name was Chris, and not an abbreviated form of any other. She wondered what other details he had filtered out.
“No, sir, it’s just Chris.”
“Well, you don’t have to call me ‘sir’. Call me P.T. like everybody else does. I had Cook prepare this dinner especially for us tonight since this evening is going to be very special. Do you know why?”
Chris could well imagine, but shook her head.
P.T. smiled and said “Let’s finish this terrific meal, and then you can make your bedtime check on Celia and join me in my office. I have some things I’d like to show you. By the way, I’ve sent Cook and all the hands to town so it will be just you and I for the evening. Well, Celia too, of course, but then she’s not really here with us anyway, is she?”
Chris knew she had done the right thing coming to Oak Falls and taking this job. Definitely, the right thing.
The next morning, Chris could barely walk. When she finally made it downstairs to breakfast, Cook avoided eye contact, and quickly served the food and disappeared into the kitchen. Chris had found bandages in the hall closet, along with antiseptic to treat her wounds. Hers and P.T.’s evening had been quite eventful. Once he got her in his office, he locked both doors and led her to the bookcase, which contained a sliding panel that opened up to reveal a small windowless room. Inside was a table with leather restraints, and a smaller table that contained candles, matches, small knives, and a pair of black gloves. P.T. pushed her into the room, closed the panel, and punched her in the face so hard she blacked out. When she came to, she was naked and restrained on the table, and P.T. was alternating dripping hot wax onto her chest and punching her stomach, legs and arms, delighting in the newly forming bruises.
“I told you I had something to show you, didn’t I? These are the ‘other duties as assigned’. Since you work for me, I own you and I do what I want with my property. You will not make any attempt to leave or tell anyone about this or I promise that by the time I’m done, you will have prayed several times over that I had killed you. Just do your job, let me have my fun, and when I’m tired of you, I’ll let you go. Remember, this is our little secret.”
He laughed all the while she half crawled up the stairs, and it sickened her. Soon, she thought. Soon.
Two weeks passed without incident, but one warm Saturday night during dinner, Chris heard Cook and some of the workers talking about where they’d be spending that evening in town. My turn, she thought. Tonight.
When the house was empty and P.T. called for her, she walked into his office, smiled seductively at him, locked the doors, opened the bookcase panel herself and entered his homemade chamber of horrors. He was very pleased.
“I knew you’d end up enjoying this as much as I do.”
She plunged the carving knife she’d been carrying under her robe deep into his chest, careful to miss his heart. She didn’t want him dying--not just yet. The look of surprise on his face amused her and she guided him to the table, pushed him down and fastened the restraints. In between his irregular breaths and pathetic attempts to free himself, she explained.
“Remember when I first came here I tried to tell you about myself, but you wouldn’t listen? You’re already regretting that, I’m sure. Anyway, you asked about my name. It is simply Chris. Daughter of Marie. Marie Hennessey. Remember her?”
Chris could see the faint glimmer of recognition in P.T.’s tear-filled eyes.
“That’s right. Your first wife’s caretaker. She was dying too. You’ve got really bad luck with wives, huh? Anyhow, you brought Marie here to care for your wife, but she had other duties too, didn’t she? You brought her into this room, brutalized her, raped her, and scarred her from head to toe. When you were done with her, you tossed her out like yesterday’s garbage, disfigured for life and pregnant. She did the best she could, and when I was old enough to take care of myself, she ended her pain with a razor blade. By the time I found her, it was too late. She left a note telling me you had done those things to her, and what you were to me. I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. What you are is my father.”
P.T. tried to speak, but his mouth had long since filled with blood.
“It’s okay, you don’t have to say anything. It took me a long time to find you. I’m just glad I got the chance to get to know you, and the man you are. I’m going to get my things and go back to the life I’ve made for myself. By the way, Celia passed away this morning. You’ll be joining her soon, I expect. Hopefully, you’ll treat her better in the next world than in this one. So long, Daddy.”
Chris closed the panel to the small room and wondered if any of the staff knew of its existence. She made a call to the town’s physician to notify him of Celia’s death, and hoped he’d arrange for her to have a decent burial. She neglected to mention where P.T. was resting uncomfortably. That was, after all, to remain a secret…