Chapter 7 Unforgiving as Metal
Laurel began to stir and tried to move her arm to check the expensive Rolex watch on her wrist. However with the sound of clinking metal, she found herself unable to move, struggling to breathe, her mouth blocked by something, she wanted to spit out, but couldn’t. Then she remembered. The metal securing her wrists was still cold, mean and unforgiving. She had tried to get some sort of leverage, in a vain hope that they would break, but nothing. With a sigh she fell still, feeling the roughly sewn sacks beneath her. Her heart pounded and with a sinking feeling she thought of Darren. Her loving, considerate husband. Was he worried yet? What the hell was going through his mind now?
Tristan breathed a sigh of relief as he saw her move. He'd been worried she'd overheated, perhaps died in the boot of his uncle's snow white Mercedes convertible with personalised number plates. The car had of course been "borrowed" without the owner's consent, many years before, false number plates added and registered to someone who didn't exist, or had died conveniently at the end of a bullet several years before.
He had been relieved therefore to see her chest rising and falling as she breathed. She had however passed out. A dead hostage was no good to anyone and his uncle was an unforgiving man, as unforgiving as a knife blade thrust into your ribs. He had spent a long time plotting revenge from a prison cell. Tristan was pleased to note that nothing seemed impaired. Yet it was unwise to let her die of heat exhaustion.
She felt a stinging as the tape was ripped roughly from her mouth, then someone trying to get a bottle of some sort between her lips and opened her mouth obediently. Water trickled into her mouth and she swallowed gratefully. The bottle was taken away
“Thought you might be thirsty. Hungry too I suppose?” a soft lilting Irish accent spoke from the corner. She nodded. “I’ll fix that in a minute” he promised.
Then before she could stop herself, she spoke the words. The question that she had never meant to ask, the question that had been obsessing her brain.
“Who are you? What do you want with me?” she asked. The slight edge in her voice, betraying the terror she now felt in full force.
“That’s not a question, you should be asking me, I’m just the guy they employ to do their dirty work. Don’t ask no questions and I get paid the agreed fee at the agreed time. Safer that way see. If you don’t know nothing, nothing you say can incriminate you later, see.
"If it's money, my husband will pay" she vowed. Her companion seemed to sigh.
"Not everything is about money you know. That's what people like you need to learn"
"People like me?" she looked confused.
"You and your husband think if you throw money at a problem, then it solves it. You're about to learn a lesson you'll never forget lady" the threat in his voice chilled her to the bone.
He offered her a rather mouldy looking garage bought sandwich, ripping open the packaging for her and feeding her as though she were a baby. She took a bite. It was rather horrible, but she was nearly sick with hunger, so ate greedily. Who knew if and when she'd eat again?
Chapter 8 Held to Ransom
Darren sat on the edge of the bed, hyperventilating slightly. He took several deep breaths, before his fear gave over to a full scale panic attack. He’d tried several times to call her, always with the same result, voicemail. Alarm bells were really starting to ring now. But what could he do? If he reported her missing, the Police would only point out it had been less than 24 hours. He didn't even know when the 24 hours expired. Plus there was still the very slim chance, nothing had happened at all. She might well come in tomorrow, with a breezy “Stayed the night at Marina’s, forgot to call, weren’t worried were you?” He wouldn’t even be angry, if this was the case, just relieved.
He toyed absent-minded with the phone in his hand, thinking. He must have tried at least a dozen times to call her. Always the same result, that unconcerned robotic automated voice, declaring “The person you are trying to reach is unavailable.”
This was new. Did it mean her phone had died by now? Or was she somewhere that was out of range of a mobile mast. No service? In pure frustration he considered throwing his phone at the wall, but just in time, rational thought concluded that this course of action probably wouldn’t help matters. He hugged her pillow, as though by doing this, he could magically transform it into her. No such luck.
He picked up his mobile and went through his contacts. He should call the police. He knew this. But he couldn't. Reporting her missing, would make it official. There would be an investigation. He didn't think he could handle the fact that people would be looking for his wife, poking through his life. He ran his hand through his spikes yet again.
The rattle of the letterbox and the soft thud of something falling on the doormat, drew his attention back to Earth. It was way too early for the postman to call. Feeling slightly curious he got off the bed and went downstairs. This was a strange sensation, as the only feeling he’d had for several hours was blind panic. On the doormat lay a large package. He picked it up and stared down at the spidery unfamiliar handwriting. He retreated slowly to the living room, retrieved a steak knife from the table and clumsily ripped open the package. His hands were shaking so badly that several times during this process, the knife was in danger of slipping and slicing his thumb.
Finally though the package was open. He flung the knife away from him and slowly tipped the package upside down, his heart thudding audibly in his chest. As his sapphire blue eyes moved over the contents, his face became steadily paler. On the floor were both of her rings, wedding and engagement and the silver winged locket he had given her on their wedding day. Also on the floor was a DVD. With some trepidation, he bent down slotted it into the DVD player and switched on the TV. He began to watch. As the first image came up he gasped. He had never in his worst nightmares expected this.
This couldn’t be true, it couldn’t be happening, it just couldn’t. Someone’s idea of a sick joke. He ran a hand through his greying blonde hair. In a matter of minutes, his life had changed irreversibly. Even if things went back to normal, they would never be the same again, how could they be? He didn’t know what to do, think or feel. He ran into the kitchen and swiftly vomited, until there was nothing left in his stomach.
He went back into the room. Darren picked up the two rings from the floor and listlessly turned them over in his hand. He barely registered the stab of horror that went through him. The gold one, set with a band of gold and silver entwined was the engagement ring. He remembered going to choose it, aged just 16. The other was also a gold band, set with rubies, diamonds, sapphires and emeralds. Each stone sparkled as it caught the light, each individual colour dancing, was Laurel’s wedding ring. He had not seen it leave her finger since he had placed it there, exactly 33 years ago today.
The notes of We Will Rock You by Queen ripped abruptly through the air. Darren was off the sofa and across the room, as fast as a bullet shot straight from a gun. He snatched up his ringing phone. It vibrated in his hand as he read the name on the screen. The slight tremor of his hand could be mistaken as a last vibration. He took a deep steadying breath and his finger stabbed down as though on autopilot. Praying his voice would hold steady he cleared his throat and raised the phone to his ear.
He listened as a cold, chilling voice answered. He suppressed the shudder that ran through him. By the end of the conversation he could barely speak. He now knew what he had to do. He closed the phone and it fell with a dull thud from his limp fingers, to the thick red and gold patterned carpet. He sank slowly to his knees. For several minutes he was unable to move. This was so unfair, it was hardly a fair bargain, but blackmail is anything but fair. You may think that it’s an easy choice to make, his wife or some information that seemed so unimportant in comparison. But the information they had requested was so not unimportant. Darren Hunter was essentially an honest man and he was about to make the most important decision of his life. He wasn’t convinced he could live with his conscience, whatever he decided. However he had to make a decision and soon. He sank back down onto the black shining leather sofa and buried his head in his hands.