Lead Us Not Into Temptation
Rocks tore at his clothing and ripped at his skin as his body slipped nearer the edge of the cliff. With the toe of one boot, he caught hold of a protruding tree root and held on tight. One foot, keeping them both from certain death, one hand, gripping the wrist of his friend, his partner, who dangled helplessly. He couldn’t let go, couldn’t slip, couldn’t…
Keys scraped against the lock of the steel-barred door, waking him. He rubbed both hands over tired, care-worn eyes. The nightmare was always the same. If only, if only, it had been just a nightmare! The cold, damp isolation of his cell reminded him, the nightmare was indeed, reality.
The prison guard waited, without giving a verbal command.
The prisoner rose in understanding and followed him from the cell, down the long corridor, to the office of Dr. Lang.
“But you were tempted, Mr. Heyes?” The voice of Dr. Lang remained calm, nonjudgmental.
“To let the Kid fall? Of course not!”
“No, of course not, Mr. Heyes. But after your partner had already fallen. Was it then, temptation took its hold?”
Heyes pushed out of his chair, accidentally tipping it in his anger. The guard, who stood just outside the door of the doctor’s office was alerted to potential danger. The doctor raised his hand, waving the guard aside, with a cautious shake of his head.
“But I didn’t! I couldn’t have! I never would have…” Heyes boldly pounded a fist on the wall before leaning his head against it. “You don’t understand how it was with the Kid and me. We were… We were partners!”
The incompleteness was excruciating, as if he had cut off his right arm, then sold it to the highest bidder. The emptiness, as if his heart had been ripped out by a pack of hungry wolves.
Kid Curry had been the stabilizing presence, the strength which had kept Hannibal Heyes grounded in reality. Together, they had been a formidable force. Now, alone, teetering so near the brink, Heyes fell easy prey to manipulative guilt. He felt icy fingers enticing his mind, drawing him down, into the bottomless pit of insanity.
“Tell me what happened after your partner fell, Mr. Heyes.”
“I don’t remember.” His voice was quiet. He closed his eyes.
“You can’t remember, Mr. Heyes? Or is the memory there, but painful?”
There was a long silence before Heyes righted the chair and again, sat. His voice was low, sounding like defeat. “It was only a fleeting thought. Nothing I ever would have acted on.”
“But you DID consider how easy it might be, to turn in your partner’s body and collect the reward under an assumed name.”
“It’s alright, Mr. Heyes. Your partner was dead. He probably would have done the same, given the circumstances.”
“You didn’t know the Kid. He never, NEVER would have…”
“No one is blaming you, Mr. Heyes. It must have been very difficult, to resist in the face of such overwhelming temptation.”
“Haven’t you been listening to me?! I did NOT turn in my partner’s body! I did NOT attempt to collect the reward!”
“Witnesses say differently, Mr. Heyes.”
Seeds of temptation had been planted, deep in the fertile soil of Hannibal Heyes’ regret. Watered with his grief and cultivated in loneliness, had they taken root? Had they borne fruit in this ultimate betrayal of Kid Curry?
“They’re lying!” Heyes cried. But seeds of doubt had already taken root deep inside, and his attempt at denial sounded weak, even to his own conscience.
The challenge idea was continued with another challenge story: Betrayal
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