Magic is a handy tool to have in your toolbox about ninety percent of the time. It can get you out of a tight spot, fix things, be helpful for a wide range of circumstances, or even make your life more convenient. The other ten percent can be split into two distinct groups of: makes matters worse, and is completely useless in your current situation. I’ll bet you can’t guess which one our current situation fell under.
I wasn’t a particularly powerful Drakken in terms of straight-up firepower. I had no talent for the red half of my heritage, and the power of persuasion I get from the black was meant for something more subtle than guns, knives, and the end of the world. I had the ability to steal someone’s freewill, but it was never an ability I practiced, therefore my control was spotty, at best. They weren’t going to stand around and wait for us to shift, either. I didn’t know what kind of magic Warren wielded, which probably told me all I needed to know about the priorities in my life. As I glanced over to his naked form, our make-out session the night before, (before last?), sent a rush of heat through me. Cut me some slack. I was a baker, for Goddess’ sake; not someone who asks a man about his magical arsenal in case of kidnapping.
Terry went out into the hallway ahead of us, to keep an eye on us from the front, and Military Man remained behind us. We shuffled to the hallway, the chains not having enough slack to allow for a normal stride. Terry had backed away to the side before I made it through, and when I entered the hallway there was a rather large weapon pointed right at my chest. Panic, pure and undiluted, clawed through me like a thousand cats set free at once.
I’d frozen in my tracks and Terry merely twitched the weapon toward the wall opposite the doorway, telling me in one intimating motion to keep moving—or else. My heart started back up with an excruciating thud-thump, and I moved. We all managed to get into the hallway, a tight squeeze for two people to walk abreast, and Military Man picked up his weapon from the side of the doorway.
Military Man grunted at Terry, and jerked his chin upward in a, ‘go on,’ motion. Terry gave me one, final, lethal look before turning his back on us and moving down the hall.
“I need to go to the bathroom,” I blurted out, and all the men stopped in their tracks. The hallway filled with a sense of exasperation men reserved for typical female stereotypes, but it’s not like I could help it.
“I’ll take her,” Military Man said, deadpan, and Terry whipped around at that.
“Why do you get to take her, Vern? It’s closer to my side of the hallway.” From the gleam of animosity that shone from Terry’s eyes like flames of hellfire, I was going to have to side with Vern on this one.
“Because I see the way you look at her, like you’re out for blood, and Mr. Pullman wants her alive and not damaged further,” Vern said, and I turned my head to look from Terry to him. “But that doesn’t mean violence is off the table if they resist,” he added, more for our benefit than Terry’s, but Terry latched onto the words like a blood hungry Vamp to a neck.
It took a bit of maneuvering to get Vern and me on the other side of Terry, what with their weapons and trying to keep an eye on us. The caution they showed thus far slowly crushed my slim hope for escape.
When all was said and done, Terry was closest to the door leading to our cozy dungeon accommodations, Warren hadn’t really moved, Vern took my place, and I stood where Terry had been.
“Come with us till we get to the intersection, then wait there,” Vern said, and the group moved on. There was enough space between Warren and Vern that he couldn’t grab for him, even without shackles, and Terry would have plenty of time to shoot him in the back. If we tried to turn around and grab our individual captors, that would result in death by bullet, as well.
A painstaking five minutes later, because the manacle shuffle is not something easy to master or use, we came to the aforementioned intersection. Warren was placed at one corner, and Terry at the opposite.
“If you’re thinking of trying any funny business with your powers, just know those chains have wards on them to keep you from using them, or shifting,” Terry said, keeping his weapon in the general direction of Warren, though not at the ready. Just like holding power, keeping a weapon trained on your target is tiring.
Warren and I said nothing, but irritation shifted behind his eyes for a split second before being washed away in a tide of nonchalance. Warren shrugged. As for me, I scratched a viable choice for escape from my list. Or rather, most of them. Can’t a girl catch a break?
Vern nudged me toward the left hallway, and I continued on. This hallway curved to the right, and twenty seconds after leaving we were out of sight of the other two.
After another twenty seconds–because I had nothing better to do than count the seconds–we started to pass doors, and when we got to the third one Vern commanded me to stop. He pulled a key ring with about ten keys on it out of a pocket, and unlocked a door that looked like every single other door in this place. Confusion to thy enemies, I supposed.
He motioned me inside, and I shuddered at the thought of putting my bare bottom on the metal toilet in the corner. I shuffled over, but he made no movement to leave.
“Um, a little privacy, maybe?”
He didn’t respond, just leveled an impenetrable stare that made Fort Knox look like a child’s make believe fort, and I sighed.
I’m not sure there was anything more humiliating that has happened to me in my life, than having someone watch me go to the bathroom while I was naked and chained. I’d have to say this took the cake, and bakery for good measure. The toilet seat did not disappoint as far as chilling my assets went, and I kept my eyes averted in an illusion of privacy.
I’d like to say that I was cunningly hatching a plan to escape, but in the moments I didn’t fear for my life, I was worried about the girls. It didn’t leave much room for someone as inexperienced as me about these situations, to entertain the idea.
I finished, and he moved around the room to follow me out. Since the door swung inward, there wasn’t even a chance I could slam it on him. Not that I had the key to lock it once it was closed. Hurdle, after hurdle, after hurdle.
I shuffled my way back to the intersection, and what greeted us there made me go still as a statue. Like the delicious scent of food when you’re starved, hope fluttered through me like a cloud of butterflies. Terry lay on the ground, his head bleeding profusely as head wounds were wont to do. He was shackled with what I presumed were Warren’s shackles, and Warren was nowhere in sight.
My mind hemmed and hawed between disappointment and fierce joy. He left me behind, was the sound of betrayal hitting a discordant note, but he might be moving on to rescue the girls, it finished with a satisfied, inner Cheshire smile. That is, if he wasn’t just trying to get himself out, which was possible, too. I’d like to think I was a pretty decent judge of character, and it didn’t fit with the whole, ‘out to do what’s good for Drakken,’ vibe I got from him as a person, or DSR Agent and liaison. But…there was always a but, and survival was survival. Maybe he saw zero chance and skedaddled. Crappity crap.
Vern did not rush over to Terry’s side to check on him, he scanned the immediate area first, then motioned me to the wall with the barrel of his weapon.
“Face the wall, get on your knees, cross your ankles, make sure your knees, body, and forehead are touching the wall, and lace your fingers behind your head,” he intoned, the instructions paced with my compliance to his commands.
I’m not going to lie, it hurt, like so many other things today. My knees dug into the stone of the floor, as the bone ground downward and my skin screamed. Beyond my knees, the only way to balance was to dig the tops of my feet into the ground, which sent razor-sharp pain through my bones. Crossing my ankles wasn’t easy with the shackles on, and I wobbled, but did as I was told. My shoulders began to loudly protest and ache as the weight of the manacles added pressure to a position I wasn’t able to relax into.
“If I so much as hear a single clink from the metal, I’m coming back and putting a bullet in the back of your head. Do you understand?” The threat was made with no inflection, no emotion. Just a guarantee that left my blood chilled.
“What if Terry moves and makes noise?” I asked, as my harsh, fearful hyperventilation had my breath hitting the wall like a warm fog and rebounding back to me, making my head start to feel light.
“Control your breathing, or you’ll pass out and I’ll shoot you on principle,” he said, with not a hint of concern.
I slowed my breathing as best I could, the edges of my vision going from a hazy white to something a little more solid and Technicolor. “I doubt Terry is going to be moving for a while, but if he does…well, you just better hope he doesn’t. He thinks you killed his brother, and after what your friend just did to him, I doubt he’s going to feel very magnanimous,” Vern finished, and from my peripheral he crouched to about half his height, and slowly headed down the hallway across the one for the bathroom.
He was silent, not making a single sound, and in seconds he was out of my limited field of vision. What I could see was Terry, and as I looked around as much as I could without moving, it was still his prone form that drew the eye. Kind of the same way a single red spot on a white shirt grabbed your attention. Except a red spot wasn’t going to get up and murder me for supposedly killing his brother. As far as I knew I hadn’t killed anyone lately. I’d sold a lot of cupcakes and gotten into one hell of a mess, but murder? Not really my gig.
However, as the seconds ticked by in my mind as loud as a pickaxe against stone, Terry looked more and more familiar. It had been hard to notice the green eyes before, because I couldn’t get past his want for my death, but they looked just like the kid’s from my bakery. I sucked in a breath of surprise, the realization shocking me as if I’d seen a ghost.
The half-kin from the bakery was Terry’s brother, and he’d been killed on my property. I guess it would be easy from Terry’s standpoint to draw the conclusion that it was my fault; he’d been at my place of business, and I had what they wanted but hadn’t given it to his brother, thus bringing about his demise.
As everything fell into place, he shifted and moaned. Adrenaline spiked through me and I bit my lip, stuck between one death and another. If I moved to get away from Terry, but Terry didn’t come to full consciousness, Vern would shoot me—of that I had no doubt. If Terry came to and went after me, Terry would rip me apart with his bare hands, and I likely wasn’t exaggerating. Fuck a damned duck.
If I thought the clinking would draw Vern’s attention before Terry fully came to, I was disappointed. Apparently Terry shook off blows to the head better than me, because his eyes snapped open, saw me, and he lept to his feet before I could even think the word move, let alone have my body comply.
“Well, well, well. What do we have here?” he asked, and when he moved the shackles ominously clinked again.
To hell with Vern’s threatened bullet—Terry was imminent danger versus a potential one. I leaned to my right and tried to get a foot beneath me to get up, but Terry was on me in a flash and I crashed to the floor. My side hit the cold stone with a meaty sound and my shoulder slammed into the floor with his weight and mine, followed by a dull pop. A red haze of agony washed over my vision, and new levels of excruciating injuries were created in the span of seconds.
A manacled hand clamped over my mouth, but though the metal hit my chin I barely felt it over what was going on with my shoulder. When Terry rolled me onto my back, I screamed repeatedly against his hand and tried to bite down, but he just pushed harder against my mouth until biting was no longer an option. I could choose to fight or breath, but not both. I stopped resisting, just sobbed and tried to breathe through my now clogged nose. I was an ugly crier, with everything stopping up and running at the same time, as my face goes splotchy.
Terry leaned down, putting us eye to eye, and the triumph I could make out through the haze of pain was nothing short of epic.
“Alone at last,” he crooned, and placed the heel of his other hand against my dislocated shoulder and pushed.
I passed out a second time in likely as many days, but this time didn’t last as long, and only a minute or two went by. When I came to his hands weren’t on my shoulder and mouth, and the resurgence of oxygen to my body and brain were probably the culprit for bringing me back around.
“You’re going to pay for what you did to my brother, you traitorous bitch.” He literally spat the words in my face, as he held the manacles down and over my head with his left hand. At least I wasn’t conscious when he moved my shoulder into that position. Small favors, to be sure. He was straddling my waist and sitting down on me, and there was simply no way to gain leverage.
When faced with insurmountable odds, awful injuries, and sure death, what is there left to do?
“Sticks and stones, you deluded jackass. Or are you all talk and no action?”
Smart off, of course.
He narrowed his eyes, clenched his teeth, and raised his hand above his head for a truly colossal blow. I refused to avert my gaze, because if I was going to die here it would damn sure be with my eyes open. Except the blow never landed.
A hand came into view and pulled Terry backwards and off of me. There was a brief scuffle, but I didn’t watch. I lay there in pure shock over how close I’d come to, and missed, being beaten to death. A hysterical laugh burbled up in my throat, threatening to spill out and never stop, but when I tried to move my hands to cover my mouth, my shoulder informed me it was an unwise move.
The short fight over. A familiar face hovered over mine, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever be happier to see Warren than I was right that second.
“I’ve…taken care of them, but we need to get a move on before they’re missed, or someone comes along,” he said, and pulled a key ring from the pocket of some pilfered clothing.
I didn’t ask who it belonged to, since Terry had had all of his on, but at that moment the little details didn’t matter. Even the one where I suspected that ‘taken care of’ meant he’d killed them.
I was alive, albeit injured close to uselessness, however Talitha, Mina, and Meriel were still here, somewhere.
Once more unto the breach.