It was just a job. That was the justification he gave to himself as his tools carved new orifices into the cranium of the man. An infidelious man, causing his woman pain and anguish. His own client. His own chest heaved has the hot breath escaped his lungs into the chill March air, as the dead man's lungs exhaled their last. The snow had melted enough to dig a shallow grave, but no more than that. His callused fingers gripped around the cold, unfinished grip of his cleaver. Jagged. Unrefined. Inefficient. But brutally effective. A tool fitting its wielder. Aiming for the cartilaginous joints, Evan found himself separating the parts by size. Lining them up like one would a logbook. It was calming, in a way. It did little to unwind the proverbial spring trapped within his chest, the tenseness that remained after these acts, but it cooled the mind. Forced him to be Evan MacMillan, and not just Evan. Evan was weak. A malingerer full of complaints and meekness. Apologetic even. After breaking the sternum of the man, Evan MacMillan gripped the undersides of the ribs, and wrenched the chest open. Like a trap caught shut. Evan MacMillan was a dutiful son. Obedient. Strong. Merciless. A wonderful tool was it not for his fancies. Once again, he found himself idly doodling on the stones besides him. A simple set of curves and angles, the dark red glinting in the moonlight. A childish rendition of a boat, resting upon a body of water. Idle thoughts, before he palmed his shame from existence. Evan had gotten worse. Out of practice. As he started digging into the cold clay like dirt, Evan found himself wondering when the last time he did something, something worth doing, just for himself. Open for judgment. For ridicule. For all to leer at. Evan MacMillan was someone who had to uphold standards. Evan MacMillan slid the slop of the dead into the shallow pit. He brought his iron-tipped boots down repeatedly on the slop, for good measure. Would be poor form to leave bones sticking from the muck. Climbing out from the pit, Evan wiped his bloody, muddy, dirty hands on his slick coveralls. Leather, only the best for a MacMillan, so father had said. In short order, the pit was filled, and his work for the night buried. As Evan made his way back towards the housing encampment, he found himself thinking. Was there a medium in art that shown better at night than during the day? Other than utilizing light itself, of course. But then the art piece becomes partially about controlling the perception of the piece than the actual craft of the piece, did it not? Controlling the narrative. His heavy knuckle thumped against the splintered wood. One knock, two. Not enough to wake the neighbors, but enough to startle the mutt sleeping in the ditch outside. With a quick glance, the thing ran. Good. The meek, small, fragile woman, frayed at the edges in her off-color yellowing apron opened the door to a crack.
"Did anyone see?" The woman hissed, biting down on her thumb, the nail chipped and frayed.
"No." MacMillan grunted as his thick fingers gripped onto the door. "Let's talk."
Her dark sunken eyes darted back and forth. "Talk about what?"
MacMillan found himself opening the door himself, tripping the woman over herself, sending her spilling to the floor with a pathetic wail. With one step, MacMillan closed the distance as the door clicked shut. The rubber sole of his boot applied a gentle amount of pressure to her forearm. Enough to make her squirm, but not enough to scream. "Don't."
Her frantic, utterly ineffective scratching at his boot stopped. "Don't what?"
Evan brought his knee to gingerly rest upon her sternum as he ran a hand through his shorn hair. "Do I look stupid to you?" Ice blue eyes met brown.
His thick fingers gripped around her cheeks, her whimpers escaping her puckered lips as her molars dug into her mouth flesh. MacMillan touched his index finger to her lips as he let out a soft tutting noise. "Shh. Quiet. Unless you want to be known as a murderer."
She gasped as Evan let go of her face, letting her skull clack into the hardwood. "Wha-? I, What?"
"You hired me. To take care of your lecherous man."
"And I appreciate it. Greatly." She gulped audibly. "Sir. Please let me go."
MacMillan applied more pressure to his knee. "Do you think I do charity?"
"Well-I... I thought you were a good man," whimpered the welp.
MacMillan could not stop the guttural laugh that escaped him. "Please. A son of Archibald's?"
"It's, just, Margret-"
His palm forced its way over her mouth as her skull smacked against the hardwood. "Keep my mother's name out of your mouth." There was a pregnant moment as the shack settled. "Understood?" He released his hand after the soft featured woman nodded. "Now, do you understand?"
"Y-yes. Y-you, you want..."
"Payment for services rendered, yes." Evan tempered the growl rumbling in his throat. "Spit it out, you useless woman."
The woman panted and fidgeted as her face began to fluster. "But I don't have much to pay you with. At most..."
"At most, what?" Evan grunted, as he stood from her prone form, and began rummaging in the various shelves in the room. "By God, you asked me for a favor without intent to pay me back." MacMillan found himself crushing or snapping various trinkets in his hands, feeling for soft, valuables. "Disgusting. Disgraceful even. You live on my property, eat food we provide, and yet you cannot even do the bare minimum." Evan snapped a metal fork between his fingers, before tossing the fragments back into the drawer. "No silver."
Like a newborn doe, the woman shakily got to her feet. "Please, sir!"
"Sir, what? Stop? Stall? Walk away, like some sort of moppet?" Another drawer was ripped from its socket and tossed onto the shoddy dining table. "Nothing in this one either."
"I can find something. I swear!"
"Don't play games, wench." MacMillan gripped the sides of the cupboards and ripped the empty box from the wall. "The prize is the same as the one you purchased." He began working through his evaluation of the dishes in the next cupboard, haphazardly tossing the tarnished dirty disks to the floor. "Still no silver."
Evan met her eyes for a moment. Begging. Praying. And a subtle eye flick. A singular, white kettle. Ceramic, with little roses painted upon it, vines encircling the base of the pot. MacMillan hooked a dirty finger under the braided thatch handle. "Now this looks awfully pretty." It looked homely. Hardly out of place. His finger slipped out from under the braid, letting the pot fall for just long enough for her to cry out before he caught the pot with his fingertips. "Whoops. Could have broken it. Might do so anyways."
She stepped forward without regard for her own safety, towards the blood scented man. "No, you can't!"
"Can't what?" Sneered MacMillan, as he started tossing the kettle from hand to hand. "Take it? Sell it? Break it?"
"Please, that was my mother's!"
Evan's fingers trembled, shaking with contained fury as he caught the pot. To humor, or to spite. Evan won out. "And what here is worth more than this?"
"There is one thing I can pay you with, sir, if permitting."
Evan rolled the kettle onto the table, finger still hooked under the handle. "Like what? You don't have any valuables to speak of."
She trembled and stuttered as she tried to find the words to sooth the beast. "Sir, I have no more vows to uphold. If you would have mercy..."
"That quick?" Scoffed MacMillan. "No wonder why father holds his opinion on the uselessness of women." He stopped and glanced at the trembling woman. "And there's not much either. Used goods, meager proportions. Attached to a weak, treacherous woman." She sunk into herself as Evan rolled his shoulders, his joints audibly popping in the silence. "But if you're offering... I won't say no."
Beads of sweat rolled from her taut hairline. "Thank you, sir, I-"
"Now, now, I'm not having mercy. Don't thank me yet." Rumbled MacMillan with carnal desire. "After I'm done with everything, I've done to you, you have until sunrise to disappear. If I see you after sunrise, I can guarantee you'll wish that you didn't take this deal." With two paces, he crossed the room, and his hands came to rest on her shoulders, fingertips playing with her frayed neck hairs. "I'll give you two pieces of advice: travel light and eat for one."