“Maybe it goes there?” his assistant pointed.
He surveyed the piece he held in his hand, “No, wrong color.”The assistant rubbed his eyes, “Maybe we should try a different piece.”His eyes swept over the tables one more time, then he nodded his consent. Pain shot through his forehead and he grimaced.His headache just grew worse with each hour. He couldn’t help watching the clock, its hands slowly, slowly moving around its smooth face. A bead of sweat dropped into his eye, and he turned back to his work.“I found it!” The sudden cry of joy seemed out of place. “I found the last piece of the finger.”He shuffled over and examined every crack, carefully matched up. The boy grinned as the old man patted him on the back, “Good work. Now start on the other side. The more pieces we get sorted out, the easier this will be.”And he was right. First one, two, three were completed in two lazy turns of the short hand. Excitement and apprehension clung to their clothes like a bad odor.But he found himself exchanging glances with the clock once more as their streak stuttered and died. “Maybe we should just stick with the finished ones for a while,” he muttered, rubbing his right temple.“Are you crazy?”He looked up to find his assistant staring at him with large eyes, wide as the clock. “Pardon?”“You’re just going to give up? Quit? You’re going to let him win?” The young man’s voice was layered with a hundred feelings, anger, betrayal, disbelief. Each one stabbed him like a knife.He looked down the row of tables, imagining these twisted jigsaw puzzles as the people they once were, living, breathing, He studied the remaining pieces and plucked one from the pile, laying it down next to the nearest body. “This one goes here.”They went back to work, the assistant with a hidden smile on his face.They were down to the last twenty pieces before anymore words were said.“He must be one sick bastard.”He glanced up from placing a knee. The assistant didn’t even look up, just kept talking.“I mean, who cuts a penis in two, or an eyeball?”He murmured his agreement.“But then, maybe there’s some twisted, fucked up reason. What do you think, doctor?”He shifted his feet, “I guess no villain ever thinks he’s a villain.”“Exactly, doctor, exactly.” He moved to pick another piece from the tray.“I mean, maybe his dad was a surgeon. Maybe he was forced to watch operations. Maybe he was scared of the scalpel.”“Yes, maybe,” the doctor’s words were barely a whisper.“And maybe, those images stayed in his mind, the subtle give of the skin, the few drops of blood, chained together. Maybe he thought about them so much, that that was all he ever saw. Maybe he had to do that, perform that cutting, so at least what he was seeing was real and not just memories.”“You’ve given this quite some thought.” But the assistant rushed over him.“Maybe he isn’t crazy. Maybe it isn’t his fault,” his tone changed, as if he was trying to convince himself. He no longer sounded speculative, though again and again he repeated the word ‘maybe’.“You’re starting to worry me, Jon. Are you okay?”The boy blinked and smiled, as if coming out of a trance, “Never better.”“Are you certain? Maybe you should sit down? Have you been smoking?” A deep, well-weathered frown line appeared between his eyebrows.“I haven’t been,” his smile grew wider as the doctor gave a soft cough, “but you certainly have. Thought the cardiologist told you to lay off?”The next cough built up deep in his lungs and uncoiled like a snake, nipping his airways, making them swell. He grasped the back of a chair with shaking hands. Again and again he gasped for air and none came.Jon sat by, waiting patiently.His old knees popped when they hit the floor. The top of his head pressed against the chair back. His coughs no longer echoed around the sterile room, but caught in his throat, coming out as the smallest of wheezes. He reached one hand toward his assistant, then slumped to the floor.The room was filled with a strange quiet, as if someone had muffled all the sound with a sheet. His shoes made loud unnatural clicks as he approached the doctor. He squatted to feel the man’s neck. All was still.He lifted the man’s body, surprisingly light, and placed him on the only empty table. He stared at him for quite some time; his eyes roving over the stretched skin and skinny curves. A scalpel seemed to magically appear in his hand. It was time, while the body was still warm.He started with the heart, cutting into the exact spot his father had so many times.