I shouldn't have opened the door. I knew I shouldn't have. Yet, I did, and I soon found my lithe form trapped inside a cramped wooden box in the trunk of a car whose appearance was still unknown to me. I knew the box was made out of wood - I could feel it; my bare forearms were pushed up against its hard and surprisingly cold surface.
The few movements I could still perform were limited. Very limited. And the only thing I accomplished by twisting and turning the upper part of my battered body was inducing more pain to my aching muscles.
I'm not sure how many rolls of duct tape they used to rid my wrists and ankles from the freedom I used to hold dear, but it sure felt as if they were overdoing it just a bit. If they had just asked me to come along quietly when the gun was pointed at me, I would've complied without any questions. This was just cruel and unnecessary; it merely confirmed that the people who were responsible for my current predicament possessed the most atrocious and sadistic natures I had ever seen in my entire life. Great.
My vision and my ability to speak had also been taken away from me in the same harsh way that seemed to be some sort of standard for these people. Opening my eyes, and narrowing them into a squint, I could still only see the adhesive side of the tape that was wrapped around my head - more times than enough to make me consider my words the next time I opened my mouth.
The three persons who had done this to me also disregarded the fact that the only sound I had uttered before they crammed a thick wad of cloth into my mouth was a meek yelp. Nothing more, nothing less. But I guess the gag was just a safety precaution in case I decided to be a whiner. After all, I had never heard of kidnappers who trusted their victim if she said she'd be quiet.
With most of my sanity still intact, I inhaled deeply through my nose, and then let out a final gut-wrenching howl that tore down my last hope of being rescued before my kidnappers arrived at their designated area. I wanted to cry so badly, but I pressed my lips together as much as I could, trying to force back the tears that almost seemed inevitable.
I felt nothing but nauseous when the car finally stopped - a result of my motion sickness - and a distinct pain flared through my entire body, making me cringe inside the wooden box.
Exhaustion hit my senses; I wasn't even sure if I could stand upright in my shocked state. But I figured the only way for me to survive this peculiar situation was if I obeyed my captors' orders; if they told me to walk, I'd walk. Considering how they had treated me so far, I reckoned defying them would get me nowhere.
A brief moment was all I got. A brief moment of catching the fresh air from the outside world through my nostrils before I was carried inside a building that reeked of smoke and vomit. Their footsteps reverberated through the seemingly empty halls, and I was sure we were getting closer to our destination, as the three men started mumbling to one another without much worry in their voices.
My muffled cries for help went unheard, and I received a smack across my cheek whenever they thought I was being too noisy. I was shivering with fear at this point, and I was convinced the man whose shoulder I was resting my stomach against could feel it.
We passed through at least two doors and one of the men locked them behind us. I whimpered behind my gag, no longer able to conceal the fact that I was terrified. And with a loud thud, I was dropped onto something that reminded me of a bed—no, it was a bed, but the mattress was hard and uncomfortable. The tape around my eyes was removed and I shot a quick glance across the room.
It took me just a few seconds to realize what was going on. Dark, concrete walls and a metal door with three different locks attached to it - this wasn't just a normal room; this room was made for me. I gulped, eyes widening, as I stared up, meeting the cold gaze of one of my kidnappers. He peered into my shaking eyes with an insane darkness I could barely even perceive. The seemingly sharp contours of his face were well concealed by a black balaclava, and the rest of his attire matched it; all three of them looked alike.
With a firm grip around my throat, he leaned forward and whispered into my ear.
"I don't want to hear a fucking sound from you. Understand?"
I responded with an indistinguishable moan, but quickly received another abrupt slap across my cheek in return.
"Nod, or shake your head."
I nodded, averting my eyes, as I tried to press back the fear that was running riot through my body. A stray tear ran down my swollen cheek, and the man wiped it off together with a smear of mascara. He grabbed my chin and forced my heavy breathing up against his face.
The tape around my wrists and ankles were cut off, but my freedom was very short-lived as they pulled my hands above my head and handcuffed them to the headboard of the bed. My feet soon met a similar fate as they were fastened to the bed's lower edge with tight ropes. The black bag came last. It was pulled over my face with considerable force, and as I tried to resist, one of the men slammed his fist into my stomach. They laughed as I started fighting for air behind the bag; my heart pounded against my rib cage and the burning pain in my lungs grew more distinct with every passing second.
When the break came at last, I was left tied to the bed, sobbing behind the quite unsparing gag they had wrapped over my mouth. I heard them walk out of the room, one by one, and as the door closed, I waited for the clicking sound from the three locks.
A few minutes passed, but the door opened again and the men strode back into the room. The floor under their feet creaked with an unintended graveness, and I didn't know whether to be scared or relieved. I raised my head in anticipation, but I was pushed down the very next moment with a forearm crushing against my throat while the other two men began untying my bonds, starting with my feet.
I let out a muffled noise through my gag that barely resembled a question and the man who pinned me down slapped me once again.
I gasped, but quickly recovered from the strike and nodded. And despite having my arms and feet free, I was still too shocked to even move them an inch - nor did I dare to remove the bag over my head.
They stood up and gave me some room to regain my breath. For a second, I thought they might've reconsidered their decision to kidnap me, but that proved to be quite naive.
A pair of strong arms pinned me down and I didn't even bother resisting. But as I felt my clothes slowly being torn off from my body, I panicked and began struggling in a desperate attempt to throw the men off me. I screamed and cried; I couldn't even tell the difference anymore. But the kidnappers ignored me and continued undressing me in the most merciless fashion.
Seconds later, I found myself naked on the bed. All of my clothes were gone, even the skimpy pieces of fabric that used to be my underwear. I tried to cover my private parts with my arms, shuddering at the thought of what kind of gruesome fate I had waiting for me. Tears were streaming down my cheeks as they were impossible to hold back at this point, almost dissolving the adhesive tape.
Just as I thought the only thing on my kidnappers' minds was to molest the remainder of my naked innocence, one of the men slid on a warm, soft dress and dragged it up below my chest. He grabbed my hands and directed them to the thin straps, and I pulled the dress up to cover my breasts. Still terrified, I managed to mumble a faint 'thank you' behind the gag.
I didn't put up with any kind of fight when my kidnappers retied my wrists and ankles. It seemed meaningless, and I was already well aware there were no one around to help me for miles. These people were professionals, and they were going to keep me there for as long as they wanted.
When they left the room for the second time that day, I finally heard the clicking sound from the locks. I was alone again, shrouded in an eerie silence, and tied down to a bed. My muffled sobs and cries were the only things that could be heard, almost tangible within the concrete walls.
I closed my eyes, focusing on maintaining a steady breathing. My mind and heart were dark and tired, and I wanted nothing more than to burst into tears, embraced by warm and gentle arms. But none of that was possible right now; I had lost all control. Now, I was nothing but a pawn whose only purpose was to obey and listen. Stripped of all rights.
Engulfed by a million thoughts, I slowly drifted off into sleep; and the last words I managed to form with my gagged lips were...
"I'm scared."2: Drink
I jolted awake from my momentary stupor, eyes blinded by a sharp light that penetrated the black bag, as one of my kidnappers emerged through the door. I didn't know how long I had been sleeping; keeping track of time was impossible in my current state. The bag over my head was pulled off, and I stared up in bewilderment at the man I recognized as the most violent of the three. He held a bottle containing a liquid that looked far too turbid to be water in his left hand. Putting the bottle aside, he began unwrapping the duct tape around my mouth and then helped me spit out the large wad of cloth that was stuck on my tongue, increasing my bout of nausea.
"We need to keep you hydrated," he explained, though less terse in his tone than before, and held the bottle closer to my lips. "Drink."
I peered at the concoction with distaste; it was definitely not water. Straining to raise my head in an upward position, I gulped and shot him an incredulous look. "I-I'm not thirsty..."
His eyes hardened. "Drink."
Taken aback by the sudden change of tone in his voice, I gathered myself and tried to sound more convincing. "I said I'm not—"
"You little shit!" he barked, as he forced the top of the bottle into my mouth, pouring the cold liquid down my throat. "I told you to fucking drink!"
It didn't taste as bad as I had expected - more like an energy drink of some sort. But I still couldn't help the fact that I coughed up half of it on the bed.
A hand whistled out and struck me across the face; I was getting used to this kind of treatment already. And the stinging pain in my cheek got even worse as he pressed my cheeks together between his fingers.
"Now, let's go through some basic rules while we're at it, shall we? Whenever I say something. Anything. You just shut the fuck up and do as you're told. Are we clear on that?"
"Y-Yes," I rasped, eyes twitching from suppressed fear. "I understand."
"Good," he said, and reached for the wad of cloth beside my shoulder.
Reality quickly came back to haunt me, and I let out a loud, yet inadvertent yelp as I realized he planned to gag me again. I didn't want that sticky tape wrapped around my head; it was uncomfortable and hurt like hell when he ripped it off. He slapped me again - harder than before - and took another fierce grip around my throat.
"Shut the fuck up, you little bitch!"
I couldn't hold it back anymore. The fear, the uncertainty; it was too much for my weary mind. My irrational subconscious took over my actions and I began thrashing about with my bound legs, glancing up at the man who seemed to hold no sympathy for me at all.
"Please!" I cried. "Please, just let me go—I... won't—I won't tell—uummph!"
He crammed the cloth into my mouth and pushed it in further with the tip of his middle, and index finger, almost causing me to choke. The tape wasn't too far away from his reach, and I felt how a vast amount of the roll he picked up was wrapped around my head. But he didn't stop there; my eyes were up next.
If I had known beforehand how I would react to not being able to see what was in front of me, I probably wouldn't have panicked as much as I did. My breathing would've maintained its steady and harmonius rhythm instead of being heavy and filled with an underlying dismay. And then maybe—just maybe—would I have been able to press back the tears in my swollen eyes.
When he left me alone to cry in the absolute darkness that engulfed my vision, I thought about how different everything would've turned out if I hadn't opened the door last night.
I was studying for an upcoming exam in law school when the door bell rang - thrice in a row, as if someone was in a hurry. The rest happened too fast. Three men dressed in black pushed me back into my apartment as I opened the door, while one of them pointed a gun at me. I was ordered to lie down and put my hands behind my back, and so I did. One of the men ran out while the other two secured my wrists and ankles, and he later returned with the wooden box. I was told that if I made a single sound, they would kill me without hesitation. Simple. Quick. And no mistakes.
Not even once did I question them, or doubt the truth in their words. The rough treatment had reached my inner senses and it broke me down into an inevitable submission; I was on the verge of abandoning every last bit of will to fight for my freedom that I still had left in me.
An explanation was all I wanted now. Or at least some kind of confirmation that nothing was going to happen to me as long as my family paid the ransom, or whatever my kidnappers were after. The psychological torture was much worse than the duct tape covering most of my face. Not knowing whether I would live through this experience, or be able to see my loved ones ever again was driving me insane.
But there was nothing I could do about it. Absolutely nothing.3: Smile For The Camera
The hours passed by with agonizing slowness. It must've been hours; they even felt longer than regular ones. Could it be that within the human mind, there exists some kind of mechanism that modifies the way we perceive time in different situations? If so, then being kidnapped must be a prime example of that peculiar function.
Despite the obvious circumstances regarding my current predicament, I wasn't feeling too bad. Sure, the gag and blindfold were both held in place with an awful lot of tape; my wrists and ankles were rubbed raw and stinging after a few sets of futile struggling from earlier. But apart from that, I couldn't say that I was in serious pain.
It takes a while, and how long must differ from person to person; but the tears eventually stop coming, no matter how much you want to cry. I really have no idea why. Perhaps it's a natural reaction when all hope is gone. For me, however, that took longer than expected.
Even if my kidnappers had decided to let me run around freely in my little cell, I probably would've cried just as much. I've been a crybaby for as long as I can remember; ever since my first day in kindergarten when a boy who was two years older than me stole my first Barbie doll. Of course I got it back after I had calmed down and told the teachers what happened. But by then, I'd been crying for more than an hour already.
Alright. Maybe my personality wasn't the most suited for an ideal kidnap victim, but honestly; what could I do about it? The only person I could really blame for being responsible for my kidnapping was my father. Or should I say his wealth? Either way, him, and my kidnappers of course - if they weren't there to begin with, I never even would have been kidnapped.
I could've sworn that I heard the noise coming from a radio or a television outside. Perhaps the walls weren't very soundproof after all? Because at the first glance, the room had reminded me of a bomb shelter. Absolutely impenetrable. But now, I was seriously starting to doubt its limits. Even so, what would it help me if it was true? I couldn't speak coherently with the gag in my mouth, nor could I be sure someone other than my kidnappers were out there somewhere. When I first arrived, I was blindfolded, but I would assume that the place they had taken me to was abandoned.
It was definitely a bet, but was it worth betting on? I was sure my kidnappers wouldn't treat me lightly if I pulled a stunt like that. But what other choice did I have? Closing my eyes, I gulped and took a deep breath. Just as I was about to let out loudest scream my lungs could produce, I heard the clicking sound coming from one of the locks. Two more clicks followed and the door opened. I couldn't be sure of how many they were this time, but the footsteps walking on the creaking floor belonged to at least two men.
"You will call your daddy and tell him you've been kidnapped," the violent one said.
The tape around my mouth was slowly being removed again, and a few strands of my auburn hair must've been ripped off in the process, as it hurt with every turn. I spat out the wad of cloth from my mouth, gasping, and had almost regained my breath when one of the men yanked my head up by my hair. A phone was held against my ear while something cold and hard, like metal, was pressed against my temple.
"You will tell him exactly what's happening, got it? If he ever wants to see you again, he'll pay up. If he contacts the cops, we'll blow your fucking head off. Simple."
I nodded as much as I could. "I understand... I understand."
The dialing sound started; it almost felt absurd. Just the other day, I'd called my parents to cancel a dinner due to my upcoming exam. And now, a day later, I was calling them again to inform them that I'd been kidnapped. A shocking change of subject - most definitely.
He picked up at last. "Hello?"
I gulped. "H-Hi, dad."
"Mira? Mira, what's the matter? You sound—"
"Dad, you're not gonna believe this," I rasped. "I-I've been kidnapped. I don't know who they are, but they will hurt me if you don't pay them the money they want. A-And if you call the cops, things will turn out really really badly for me..."
A moment of silence followed, and it stretched out between us.
"Are you serious?"
Before I could respond, a hand clamped over my mouth and forced my head back. I screamed as the man who pinned me down gagged me again, thrashing about with my bound legs. To my surprise, I didn't get slapped this time, nor did they punish my screaming; and I soon realized why.
"Did you hear that Mr Von Perner?" the violent man said while ruffling my hair. "We have your daughter, see? And I highly recommend you not to call the cops if you care for your little angel here. Tomorrow at two, we will call you with further details about the ransom. You'll also receive a photo of your daughter, but you won't be able to talk to her from now on. Safety precaution, you know. So, remember. Tomorrow. Two. No cops. Until then, take care."
His accent was impossible to identify. He could've been from the Balkans, or even Latvia, Estonia or Poland; I never would've been able to tell the difference.
I was back in my original position. Tied up, gagged, and last but not least, vulnerable - exactly how a good kidnap victim should be.
Honestly, there must've been a thousand different thoughts running through my head at that time, possibly even more. But none of them really helped me now. It was virtually impossible to sort them all out at once. Knowing, however, that the call had been made eased up the tension in my muscles if only for just a bit. That meant the rough part was over. Hopefully.
The men were still in the room with me; I could feel how they towered over me like two watchdogs, regarding my movements evenly. And it was the violent one who broke the indwelling silence that shrouded the room.
Even behind the blindfold - the darkness - I could still feel the malicious grin that was plastered on his face. I groaned, loudly, and shifted my body to the side, as if on instinct.
"Smile for the camera, sweetie."
Very funny. Asshole.4: Bad Move, Kiddo
Hours turned into days.
Whether it was dawn or nightfall didn't matter anymore; the only things that existed in my world was the constant darkness and the occasional noises coming from outside the room.
I had tried to figure out how many days they had held me captive by counting the times they fed me. A dry sandwich with ham and cheese and a sip of water. Twice a day - over and over again. I could've been wrong; it might have been three times a day. But being slightly delirious after several mild beatings and dehydration left me in a state that couldn't really tell the difference between dreams and reality anymore.
They did, however, tend to my other needs if I deserved it. And whether I deserved it or not was decided by how obedient I'd been.
Whenever I had to relieve my bladder, I'd scream loud enough to make at least one of the kidnappers burst through the door. I never knew who it was, but I always assumed that it was the violent man; he seemed to be in charge of me for some reason. Six or seven quick steps forward, and then he bestowed me a swift smack across my right cheek. It was always the right one. He must've been left-handed because he was clearly not holding back either - although I wasn't sure if knowing that would help me in any way.
We didn't have a system for it yet, nor did I expect him to come up with one, as he seemed to enjoy seeing me squirm around in pain. Perhaps I was a bit naive when I thought they'd at least let me use a real bathroom, but as a first-time kidnap victim, I had no idea what to expect. Thus, the first time I was introduced to the cold, average-sized bucket, I couldn't even guess its purpose.
It's amazing what a couple of days in captivity can do to the human mind. Doubt and irrationality eventually takes over—in just a day for me—and screws up every last bit of logic that's still in there somewhere.
Knowing that the only person who knew of my current situation was my father did not really ease up my anxiety either. Would he defy my kidnappers and contact the police anyway? Would they find out if he did? If so, what was going to happen to me? I didn't even want to ponder over the latter.
My father and I have never been very close. We have always had conflicting opinions regarding life, ambitions and pretty much everything else. And after a few days of not hearing anything from either him or the kidnappers, I began doubting whether he cared for my well-being or not. I knew I shouldn't have. I knew he was doing everything he could to save me. And I knew he wasn't allowed to talk to me. Yet, these frustrating, selfish thoughts assaulted my mind without much resistance.
I had been sleeping for while - long enough to shake off the initial weariness. Now I just had to wait until my eyelids became heavy again. Great. With a deep, unsteady breath through my nose, I relaxed, loosening every muscle in my body.
Slowly recounting every single event—which I had done several times—up until now, I heard the door open up. All three men entered the room with considerable haste—no, there were four of them this time; I could hear an additional set of footsteps.
"Untie her," a distinct female voice said. "And hurry up; we gotta move."
I winced, albeit unwittingly, as the handcuffs around my wrists were unlocked, and the ropes binding my feet together were untied. Lifting my shaking hands up, I reached for the duct tape covering my eyes, but a strong hand quickly latched onto my forearm.
"Not so fast," Violent whispered into my ear. "Keep that on."
My wrists were forced together and taped up in front of me, as were my ankles. I was thrown over one of the men's shoulder in an abrupt manner, still not entirely sure of what was going on. Were they going to release me? Or were they going to dispose of me? Neither option seemed plausible to me.
We moved swiftly through the building, and that's when I thought I'd realized what was going on. Doors were opened, but they weren't closed; we were definitely leaving this place for good - a simple deduction. Despite the fact that fatigue had taken its toll, I was still surprisingly clear-headed considering the circumstances. It must've been the fact that things were finally happening that filled me with this newfound fervor.
I knew I had one chance only. Once we were outside, I would have one chance to scream for help before they put me in the car, which I assumed they would. If I were lucky, someone nearby would hear me and hopefully react in time. If not - well, shit.
We passed through one last door, and their footsteps started reverberating, just like the first time. I knew it; we were close now.
My heart must've been beating at an abnormal rate as I felt the cool breeze caress my face. I tensed and swallowed hard, trying to summon the courage I knew I had in me. As the man carrying me stopped for a brief moment, I chose not to throw that opportunity away. I slammed both of my fists into the back of his neck and jerked away from his arms, making him drop me to the ground. The fall was hard, but I quickly gathered myself and tore the gag out of my mouth.
"Help! Help me someone, please!" I cried out at the top of my lungs. "My name is Mira Von Perner and I've been kidnapped! Help me, please!"
A few seconds passed and my heart skipped a beat as I heard my own voice echoing. Then, as if on cue, all four of my kidnappers began laughing. It was an absurd moment; I couldn't perceive why they were laughing, nor did I find it amusing. With my hands still taped in front of me, I ripped off my blindfold, squinting my eyes as I tried to adjust to the awfully bright sunlight that shone down upon us. I turned my head around, shooting a glance at the building that wasn't nearly as big as I thought it was. An abandoned house in the middle of nowhere.
I gazed at my surroundings. Tall grass, and trees, whose overgrown canopies seemed to block out most of the harsh sunshine. How could I have been so stupid? Why on earth did I think anyone other than my kidnappers would be around? Isn't that what you learn in kidnapping one-oh-one? Shit.
My eyes widened. Tears were streaming down my cheeks, glistening for a moment before they dropped to the ground. And through gritted teeth, I admitted defeat. The bet was lost.
Violent had walked up behind me, towering over my crumpled form. I didn't say a word, merely shivering at the sound of every breath he took.
"Bad move, kiddo."
A sharp pain exploded in the back of my head and sent me into a different world of darkness.5: Don't Go Anywhere
When I came to, and my eyes fluttered open, I found myself in a room with walls painted in the soothing color of green, lying on a soft bed with cotton sheets. The familiar, yet unpleasant scent of something new and untouched found its way to my nostrils; I couldn't tell whether it came from inside or outside the room, as the door was standing ajar. It reminded me of plastic, or some kind of fabric - either way, the smell was bearable to some extent.
But what did this mean? I wasn't even blindfolded anymore. Perhaps I should've been happy about that.
Raising my head up, I peered down at the certain part of my body that still refused to listen to my will. My hands were balled up into fists and taped up completely, rendering even my fingers useless. Tape had even been wrapped around my forearms, all the way down to my elbows, and also around my upper body. Thus, my arms were hopelessly pinned to my sides, leaving no room for any kind of movement. I guess they thought I deserved that.
Gazing across the room, I noticed a large window with its blind pulled down to the lowest edge. The blind did, however, not conceal the fact that it was still relatively bright outside - possibly a bit past midday.
Apart from the bed, the room was sparsely decorated with only a few pieces of furniture - yet it still managed to maintain a certain coziness. A wooden table with a matching chair was placed shortly under the window, dressed in white table cloth with a purple glass vase standing in the middle. A lone armchair sat silent in the corner of the room - on the opposite side of the door - seemingly missing its television. Absurdly enough, it looked new and somewhat expensive. Simple and smooth colors, clean and tidied; nothing stood out as deviant. Well, except the fact that I, a kidnapped heiress, was being held in there.
But even so, I could barely even believe what my eyes presented me with. Where had they taken me?
Sitting upright proved to be a bit too much for me in my current state, nor was it really possible, as I couldn't use my arms for support. And with my ankles crossed and secured, standing up was not an option. The throbbing pain in my head grew more intense, disturbingly so, and I eased back down on the bed, letting out a faint groan. I tried to close my eyes, but the pain lingered, no matter how many times I tried to shake it off. It felt like someone had knocked me out with a bludgeon, which wasn't really that far from the truth either.
As the minutes dragged by, the room fell into a dozy silence, and I found myself slowly drifting off again. Perhaps the headache enhanced my ability to doze off at any given second.
I couldn't have been out for long; an hour at most. But the sound of footsteps creeping closer made me break free from my short-lived stupor, and I turned to my side, facing the wall.
"Are you awake?" a voice muttered, and I felt how a rough hand jerked my arm and pulled me over onto my back. "Hey! Are you awake?"
I mumbled something unintelligible in response, eyes traveling from side to side.
His face contorted in blatant frustration, but he somehow managed to calm himself down.
"Uh-huh." I gave him a confirming nod. It was Violent; the first time I had seen him unmasked.
"You thirsty?" he asked, and pulled down the thick strip of cloth that was tied between my teeth. "I brought water."
"Please," I rasped, looking down. "My arms... Did you really have to—"
"Yes," he interrupted, grabbing the gag around my neck. "And if you pull a stunt like that again, it'll be worse."
Just as he was about to pull the cloth over my mouth, I jerked away from his touch, squeezing my eyes shut.
"No—wait! Wait! I'm sorry, I'm sorry. The water... please."
He stared at me with a disdainful look, clenching his jaw. But in the end, he let me take a few sips from the bottle of water he'd brought.
I decided to gamble on his unusual kindness; we hadn't even had a real conversation yet, as I spent most of my time gagged and blindfolded. It seemed odd that he would treat me like a normal human being all of a sudden. Maybe he was finally feeling guilty for putting me through this ordeal? Or at least for being partly responsible for it.
"Where am I? Didn't my dad pay you the ransom?"
His dark eyes hardened again. "I never gave you permission to ask questions."
"Oh I'm sorry," I spat, pursing my lips. "I didn't know I had to ask for permission to open my mou—"
"Careful, kiddo," Violent said, as he pulled up the gag and placed it between my teeth. "That's what we have this for."
He stood up, straightening himself, and gave me the first smile in a long time. Although it wasn't a very warm smile, rather the opposite. The dim light that found its way in through the blind illuminated his features well enough for me to get a closer look at him. Dark, unkempt hair, high, proud cheekbones, and a defined jaw line with a slight stubble - he could've been handsome in my eyes. If it weren't for one little detail: he was a criminal.
"I will be back," he said. "Don't go anywhere."
Irritated by his condescending tone, I gave him a haughty look and an ungrateful snort in return.
"Oh, and I'll leave the door open," he added as an afterthought. "Just call me if you need anything."
I guess assholes will always be assholes.6: Bad Girls Get Punished
The distinct scent of fried bacon permeated the air. I was growing more confused by the second now. He couldn't possibly be cooking for me, that wouldn't make any sense. Well, to be fair, a whole lot of things that had happened to me lately didn't make a whole lot of sense either.
I closed my eyes, depicting Violent's cold facade in my head. It felt like a waste that such a beautiful face belonged to a vile criminal. I'd always thought that kidnappers were supposed to be, well, ugly. Although in the movies, one could never guess their features as they were always... masked.
And at that moment, one particular thought struck me like a sudden slap on my cheek. My stomach dropped, eyes flickered open, and my heartbeats must've doubled.
Why did show he show me his face?!
The overwhelming silence in the room was now starting to creep me out. In fact, it felt like all the furniture I had once considered to be cozy now seemed to possess at least one pair of prying eyes. They were burning little holes into my chest, staring at me, as if they were alive. Creepy. Definitely creepy.
I could only come up with a few reasons why a kidnapper would show the victim his face, and none of them were very reassuring. Because I always came down to the same conclusion: they weren't planning on ever seeing me again. Shit.
Did this mean they were really going to kill me after all? Probably.
But why would they go through the trouble of transporting me to a different location if I was going to die anyway? I couldn't be sure. No—I couldn't be sure of anything anymore. But things were definitely looking quite grim for me now. That was just plain and unavoidable fact.
I started sweating, and desperately tried to push back the part of me that wanted to just sit down and cry, pressing my lips together. A rush of terror was running riot through my mind. My whole body was tensed and shaking; even my fingers trembled underneath the layers of tape that forced them together.
Fuck. Fuck. I don't want to die.
I rolled over to the edge of the bed, almost falling off as I stopped right before it. If I could catch a glimpse of the outside world then maybe I would get a hint of where they had taken me. And if it happened to be a potential body-dumping location, then so be it.
With a dull thud, my feet connected with the floor, and my knees followed. I wormed my way over to the door that was still half open. Focusing only on keeping myself up on all fours, I squeezed through the opening.
I came out into a short but wide hallway leading to what resembled a living room. But just as I had made it halfway across, I realized that the sizzling sound coming from a frying pan—in what I assumed was the kitchen—had stopped.
I didn't have much time now. I hurried into the living room, noticing a large window and the same kind of green trees I had seen before outside. It could've been any Swedish forest; I didn't even have an idea of how far they had moved me from Stockholm. We could've been miles away. And seeing a few trees wasn't nearly reassuring enough to ease up the tension in my body, or the despondency for that matter.
I was about to turn around when I felt a strong presence sneaking up behind me. I winced and slowly shook my head, face turning pale and bloodless, as if extremely frightened. Although I wasn't sure whether I had to be terrified or just confused.
"Honestly," a stern voice grumbled behind me. "When will you learn?"
The dangerous tone that coated his words sent a shiver down my spine. I turned my head around, staring up at him in utter disbelief. His dark eyes were still brimming with unmatched authority - they were in total control.
After just a few seconds of exchanging glances, I found myself wanting to apologize and beg for his forgiveness; but the gag in my mouth prevented that. I vowed, inwardly, that if he would give me one last chance, I'd behave. No more attempts to escape. No more stunts. No more insolence. I would behave.
Without another word, Violent threw me over his shoulder, carried me back to my room and sat me down in the chair.
"Wait here," he said. "And don't move."
He left, and soon came back with a new shining roll of cheap, yet irritatingly effective duct tape in his left hand; and a footstool in his other. I didn't resist, not even the slightest, when he began wrapping the tape around my body, pinning me tightly to the chair. My feet were untied and then fastened to each of the chair's legs. Now I was at least sure of one thing - if the chair fell over, I would go down with it. Fucking chair.
It only took him a matter of seconds to finish my bonds; the benefit of not using rope, I guess. When he was satisfied, he pulled the footstool he had brought closer and sat down in front of me. His eyebrows were lowered and he didn't seem pleased as he glowered at me with those vicious eyes. Not one bit.
"I'm very disappointed in you, Mira—I really thought I could trust you."
I averted my gaze as my breathing grew heavier. Having him address me by my first name made me feel oddly uncomfortable somehow.
"And look what you made me do! That's not very comfortable, is it?"
I looked up for a second, shaking my head.
He leaned forward and whispered into my ear, "This is what happens to bad girls. They get punished."
Not knowing how to react, I nodded to show compliance.
"You know what? I even prepared a hot meal for you... but you can forget about that now."
Still leaning forward, Violent pulled the cloth out of my mouth. It took me a short moment to regain my breath, no longer than a matter of seconds. But even so, I didn't know whether Violent would allow me to talk or not. However, since he had removed my gag, I figured he wanted me to at least say something.
"I-I'm sorry," I mumbled, not bothering to conceal the fear in my voice. "I won't do it again. I promise."
"I hope so." He cupped my chin and pushed my head up a bit. "Because I think you've had enough chances already."
He let go of my chin and I lowered my jaw, taking on a loosely submissive stance. I tugged a bit at my bonds, but the tape was way too tight; I couldn't even move my muscles one fraction of an inch.
"When will I be able to go home?" I sobbed, not able to suppress the tears in my voice.
"Take it easy there, kiddo. If you just behave like a good girl, you'll be back home in no time."
"Can you promise me that?" I rasped. "Please?"
He took on a more serious expression. "I don't make any promises, kiddo. And you're in no position to make demands either; remember that. I'm feeling extra nice today, that's why you don't have the gag in your mouth right now. So enjoy it while you can."
I gulped. Small beads of sweat had sprung up on my forehead and Violent pulled out a tissue from his pocket to wipe them off.
"Your face..." I mumbled. "Why did you show me your face?"
"My face?" Violent said, shooting me a disconcerted look. "Well, I guess you could say I had a change of plans."
"Change of plans?" I cocked an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
He narrowed his eyes again.
"I get it," I said. "No more questions—"
Patting my head, Violent stood up. He seemed calm this time as he didn't wear his usual cold expression. Whether that was a good or a bad thing, I didn't know - presumably good though.
We both enjoyed the lingering silence for a moment, eyeing each other up. And I swear that I spotted, even for just a split second, a faint smile tugging at his lips, which I obviously didn't return.
"Right," he said, pulling up my gag. "You better stay put this time."
I nodded, stifling a groan.
And with that, Violent left the room.7: You Don't Know Anything
"When will you let me go? My dad should've paid the ransom by now."
Violent seemed irritated as he scooped up another spoonful of porridge and held it in front of my mouth.
I lowered my eyes and accepted the food. It didn't taste like anything to me, but I felt warmth and energy slowly return to me with every single bite. So I kept eating.
This was the third time he had cooked me a hot meal, and the fourth day I had spent in my new cage. I was growing more and more accustomed to not being able to either talk or move, and during the few occasions when Violent untied me, I wasn't allowed to leave the room. However, he would sometimes let me watch an animated movie in the living room to make the hours go by a bit faster than they normally would. Well, provided I was tightly secured to whatever furniture I was sitting on.
I had been able to wash my hair—which was greasier than duck fat—once so far. It only takes a few hours of captivity until you stop caring about your hygiene completely, no matter how important it was to you. Odd, huh?
The few conversation we had were very brief. Violent had already recognized the chatterbox—a special trait of mine—in me, and whenever I was being a tad too talkative, he didn't hesitate to shut me up. I wasn't sure whether I was the only company he had or not; I hadn't seen or heard from the other kidnappers ever since they moved me from the old location. But I assumed that every time he took off my gag, he invited me to utter a word or two. So, in a sense, I think he enjoyed having me around - to a certain extent, of course.
However, I was getting uneasy by the fact that I hadn't heard a word from my father, nor did Violent update me on the matter. And if my father had defied my kidnappers and contacted the police, why hadn't they found me yet? Did they give up? No—they wouldn't. Maybe they were just looking in the wrong places? Yeah, that must've been it.
I still didn't know how many days I had spent in captivity, but I was convinced it wasn't too far from a month. A whole fucking month. I wasn't sure how much longer I could keep my sanity somewhat intact.
"Please." My lips thinned.
I took another bite, chewed, and swallowed it down quickly.
"Please! You have to tell me something!"
"Careful, kiddo," Violent grumbled, putting aside the plate on the table. "I don't have to tell you anything."
I lowered my gaze and shook my head slightly from side to side. "Why are you doing this to me?"
"Ah, yes - the obligatory question," he said. "I was starting to wonder when you'd ask."
Looking up again, a pair of tears ran down either side of my fair-skinned face - subsequently followed by two more. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to press out every last one of them, and bit my lower lip. "W-What do you mean?"
Violent grinned. "What if the answer is too simple? Would you get disappointed? No? Good - now listen. Whether you like it or not, you're worth a whole lot of money to me. Money worth risking life and limb for..."
"How can you say that it's—"
He tightened his jaw. "Listen, kiddo. I have nothing. I am nothing. Society sees me as a parasite; a nuisance. Ever since I came here, I've been stealing, lying, and doing unspeakable things to other people - all for my own sake. I've abandoned my beliefs and my convictions, that is what this country has done to me. So if I happen to come across a bratty little girl who's worth a ton of cash, I will gladly sacrifice half of my humanity to get my life back."
"But," I mumbled. "Money is not happiness... nor is it a tool to restore something you've lost. In fact, you—umph!"
He clamped his hand over my mouth, snickering, and baring his yellow teeth.
"See, this is where you're wrong. That's what all rich fuckers say - or at least something similar to it. You act like you're all bright and understanding, but at the end of the day, all you want to do is to bask in your own superiority. Bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. You don't give a fuck about me, or any other immigrant with a half-hearted will to be a hard-working citizen."
I let out a few muffled noises, hoping he would remove his hand from my mouth. But he responded by pressing my lips together harder.
"I'm not going to be moved by your fancy words, kiddo. I know you think you're smart, but this isn't something that's written in a book; this is reality. It is first when you're exposed to it that you realize how small you really are."
I jerked my head to the side, shifting my head quickly in his direction until our eyes met.
"Please," I panted. "Let me help you. I know you don't want—"
"You know?" Violent laughed. "You don't know anything. All you do is talk. Talk, talk, talk, and hope things work out in your favor. If you're trying to play on my emotions, let me tell you this; it won't work."
"I wasn't trying to—"
"You were, and it's understandable. You're not really in a comfortable situation right now. You'd much rather negotiate things with your daddy by your side, wouldn't you?" he sneered, showing me that contemptuous look I didn't feel I quite deserved. "Things don't always turn out the way we want them to. But you kinda know that already, don't you?"
"Yeah. I do," I sighed, looking down on the duct tape encasing what felt like half of my body. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said any of that."
"Don't worry, kiddo." His face softened, and he stood up. "You're just like everybody else."
"What do you mean?"
"When humans are exposed to situations they can't control themselves, that's when they show you their true nature. You're a bit different though; I give you that. But in the end, you're just another rich brat. So don't think you're special or something."
He took a step forward.
"Wait!" I cried. "What if I'm not like everybody else? What if... I want to understand you?"
"Understand me?" Violent cupped his chin for a moment; then he looked back at me and grabbed the gag around my neck. "Then I'd say you're crazy."
I let those words sink in for a moment.
"Really fucking crazy."8: What Am I Going To Do With You
Two weeks passed without a word from my father.
The tension between me and Violent had eased up a bit since our heated conversation. I thought we were actually trying to get along with each other - most of the time anyway - even though Violent probably wouldn't have agreed with that statement. But I have to say that for the first time, he seemed relaxed.
He was obviously still aware of the fact that he had to keep watch over a kidnapped, yet oddly troublesome girl. But the way he treated me was different compared to before.
As the days went by, I was allowed to use the bathroom and wash my hair more frequently. The time I spent in the living room also increased. Luckily, we both seemed to share the same taste when it came to TV programs, so we never had an argument over which show to watch. Although I doubt it mattered; Violent would've kept me gagged if I had raised my voice even once.
I had tried to escape several times. However, I never really got that far, not even past the front door. Violent was strong, fleet-footed and I couldn't find a way to outsmart him; it was both frustrating and humiliating.
Every time he captured me, arms wrapped around my middle like an ancient sea creature, a faint smile spread across his dry lips. Sometimes, it felt like he was just playing with me, that he somehow found joy in hunting me down and tying me up again. He never punished me severely, nor did he get angry with me; his behavior was disconcerting to say the least.
I wouldn't say I took advantage of his indulgence, but it was probably the main reason why I could even attempt an escape. Therefore, I can admit to have pushed his patience to its limits a few times. But it was his fault. Mostly.
"These apples are damn tasty. Or how do you say it? Juicy?" Violent slid a lazy gaze my way. "You sure you don't want one, kiddo?"
I shook my head more times than enough for him to realize I was displeased with my new position, letting out a strained groan. Tugging at my bonds, I rolled around on the wooden floor I was lying on. My forehead was glistening with sweat from all the struggling, but the tightness of the ropes persisted, making me somewhat irritable.
Despite the fact that Violent made sure my circulation was never cut off, I still felt how my muscles were gradually becoming weaker and weaker with every passing day. I had no strength left in my body to put up with a fight anymore, that was evident. Even an arm wrestling match with my eight year old cousin would've been out of the question.
I realized that I had abandoned my original resolve—to be an obedient captive—several times already. Every time Violent recaptured me after whatever stunt I'd pulled, I always promised myself—inwardly of course—that I would stop causing trouble and settle down. But that was never successful; I still had the determination of a foolhardy child, and that was all I needed.
Focusing one last time on challenging my bonds, I tensed my arms, furrowing my brows in concentration; then I tried to pull my wrists apart. Nothing. They wouldn't budge this time either. Well, crap.
"It's no use, kiddo," Violent said, as he leaned back into the living room's only couch. "Those knots won't come undone no matter how much you struggle. You'll only hurt yourself."
Behind the multiple layers of tape, I let out a muffled grunt, shooting Violent a rather menacing look. Well, I'm not sure if anyone other than myself would describe it as menacing, but Violent seemed to get the point.
"Oh come on," he grinned. "Don't give me that look; you only have yourself to blame. If you hadn't tried to kick me, I wouldn't have trussed you up like a chicken, you know."
It was true - most of what he said at least. I had tried to kick him earlier that day when I attempted to escape for the sixth time, and I did look like a chicken all tied up and miserable on the floor.
"How about this? If you stay nice and quiet, I'll let you out in time for dinner. Deal?"
I showed him a quick nod and rolled over to the TV, lifting up my legs as much as I could. With both of my feet almost touching the screen, I looked up at Violent with pleading eyes, carefully adding in a few meek moans.
"Nuh-uh." He shook his head. "No TV for you, kiddo. Didn't I tell you before? Bad girls get punished. You should be grateful that I even consider feeding you after that little stunt you pulled."
I narrowed my eyes. It wasn't my fault that an urge to slam my feet up between his legs took over my mind. If he hadn't been so thoughtful as to untie me before breakfast so I could stretch my stiff muscles, none of that would've happened. I mean, I couldn't just let an opportunity like that slip right through my fingers.
"You know what?" Violent said as he stood up, pulling out a black strip of cloth. "I have some business to take care of. How about you just take a nap until I'm back?"
My body winced on its own at his words, eyes widening, and I tried to worm away from him; but his hand reached out and grabbed the back of my dress. As I turned on my head, he pulled me closer to him, snickering as he straddled me while stretching the cloth between his hands. And with my arms secured behind my back, I could put up little to no resistance when he fastened the blindfold around my head.
Squeezing my tape-covered cheeks, Violent whispered into my ear, "One hour. Do you think you can be a good girl for one hour?"
I nodded and shook my head, almost at the same time, as my breathing grew heavy again.
"Yes or no. Not both."
Letting out a deep sigh, I nodded again - more clearly this time. I squirmed a bit to show my discomfort, and Violent must've read my thoughts when he lifted me up and carried me over to the couch.
"Don't wriggle around too much, okay?" he said. "You'll fall off the edge if you do."
Moments later, the front door slammed shut.
Shit. This didn't really go as planned.
My face contorted from a distinct, stinging pain, as the rope around my wrists dug deeper into my skin. It hurt badly; the dried scabs from my previous bindings had been torn off and blood seemed to seep out of them. Ouch.
When Violent had left me, I wasted no time in trying to rub off the black cloth that was tied over my eyes against the couch. I cursed and grunted behind my gag, even though it made little difference, but I somehow managed to get rid of it. However, now I had the difficult part left, and I wasn't particularly looking forward to it.
I turned my gaze around to inspect my bonds. Violent had done a thorough job; a copious amount of rope bound my wrists behind my back, and another short piece connected them to my ankles, forcing my feet up to my bum. The knots were all tucked in, even if they were well out of reach for my probing fingers.
It looks so much easier in the movies...
Moving around with my hands and feet tied together proved to be much harder than I thought, and it didn't take long until I had my face on the floor. But I refused to give up; my eyes were lit up with a burning determination. If I could just find a way to untie my wrists, the rest would be a piece of cake.
Come on, dammit! Stupid ropes!
The minutes flew by without any real progress on my part, and I started wondering what Violent would think if he found me like this. Squeezing my eyes shut, I thrust those thoughts to the back of my head and reminded myself that I had no other option than to get out. But no matter how much I focused on untying the knots, I didn't seem to get anywhere.
The whole room was shrouded in a complete silence, and the only thing that could be heard were my frustrated groans and grunts that grew louder even after my fiercest struggling had subsided.
I was just about to give up when I discovered a slack in the ropes. It was just the little spark I needed to get back the motivation that was seeping out of my body. Picking the knots gingerly, I furrowed my brows and tried to create a wider opening between my hands.
Got it! I got it!
A deep sigh of relief was my initial response when the ropes around my wrists slowly loosened, and the rest of my bonds were untied with rather ease. Although the duct tape around my mouth hurt like hell when I peeled it off. I stood up and gave my muscles a quick stretch before I headed for the second hallway that lead out to the front door, not bothering to look back even once.
I gasped as the fresh air streamed in through my nostrils. The gentle warmth from the sun's light embraced me, caressing my cheeks, and a tingling sensation appeared in my stomach. The soft touch from a careful breeze found its way to my aching muscles, easing up the pain. The birds in the surrounding trees were chirping on their mundane tunes, but they seemed more energetic somehow. Everything was perfect, and for the first time in my life, I felt truly euphoric.
Gazing across the wooden porch and the beautiful forest beyond it, a genuine smile tugged at my lips. It felt unreal, almost as if I had forgotten what it felt to be alive and free. Was this what the captivity had done to me? Or had I never been able to appreciate the beauty of life and nature until now?
Then, as I stood on the porch engulfed in my own harmonious thoughts, the humming sound from a car echoed amidst the trees. Breaking free from my stupor, I realized that my time was up. There was only one pathway that seemed to lead out of the forest, and that was where the sound was coming from. Shit.
My eyes widened, face blanched and legs were shaking; but I pressed my lips together and looked around for a potential place to hide. At the left corner of the porch, a rather large barrel—filled to the brim with water—was accompanied by a couple of outdoor furniture that had been thrown there. I could hide behind it, but if anyone came up and looked more closely, they would see me; however, it was the best spot I could find.
The car parked a scant distance away from the house and someone stepped out of it, closing the door shortly thereafter. Something else was opened. The trunk? Why would he open the trunk? Maybe he went to the supermarket? Shit. I wanted to know.
Don't look. Don't look. Don't look. Don't look. Just keep your fucking head down!
I closed my eyes and focused entirely on my hearing. There is a slight difference between closing a car door and a car trunk; the person in question has to put a little more effort into closing a trunk; thus, the sound is more rough.
I had no idea why I spent so much time pondering over something so trivial and possibly insignificant. Perhaps it was because I didn't fully trust Violent when he ignored all of my questions regarding my release. Not to mention the other kidnappers had not showed their faces for what felt like years. So, to me, everything Violent did was suspicious.
The wooden floor creaked under his feet, sending an authentic shiver up my spine. I gulped. Even though he was a few feet away from me, it felt like he could've been standing right in front of my face. His hands were free, no signs of a trip to the supermarket unless he just bought a chocolate bar that he kept in his pocket. But seriously, one hour for a chocolate bar? Yeah, right.
Inhaling deeply through my nose, I put my hands on the floor and prepared myself to take off. I knew he'd go straight to the living room to check on me, and if I could wait long enough for him to pass the hallway, I would get myself a good head start.
I felt nauseous. My breathing reverberated in my head; I wanted to throw up and cry. And if that wasn't enough, I was still only clad in the same dress I'd been wearing since the day I was kidnapped. No shoes, no underwear, just the dress.
The seconds were agonizingly much slower than they usually were, and I began to grow impatient; I couldn't wait any longer. Just a couple of seconds after Violent had entered the house, I dashed off at a speed that was abnormal, even for me.
It must've taken a short moment for him to realize what was going on, but as I passed his black car, I heard him coming out from the house.
"Hey! Stop! Fucking hell!"
I turned my head around to see how much he'd caught up with me, even though I knew I shouldn't have, but to my surprise Violent hurried back inside the house again. Not bothering to ponder over why he did so, I kept running as fast as my legs would let me.
My instincts screamed at me to get off the road and run deeper into the forest until he lost track of me, but this one time, I chose to defy them. I had a weird feeling that I wasn't too far away from civilization, even though I didn't have time to gaze at my surroundings. If I could just find another human being, I'd be safe, and then this whole nightmare would be over.
How long I had been running didn't matter, but I was panting to the extent that my lungs were burning when I spotted the clearing that marked the end of the forest. Another road was connected to the pathway I followed, and I changed direction, hoping that Violent wouldn't be able to catch up.
I could make out several large houses on top of a large hill a rather long distance away. Even though a couple of thick trees on the rim sheltered them pretty well, they were still visible to the casual glance. If I could just make it there, I was sure to find at least one person who could help me.
I wasn't sure how much longer I could keep up the same pace I was running in. I was on the verge of collapsing from exhaustion. My biggest fear at that moment was that my legs would falter and drop to the ground; the only thing that really kept me going was pure willpower.
As I crested a short uphill, my eyes spotted a man walking alongside the road, carrying a plastic bag. A sudden burst of hope filled me again, and I waved my arms in the air in an attempt to get his attention.
"Hey!" I shouted as I resumed my running. "Hey wait!"
The man turned around when he heard my strained voice and stopped for a moment, staring up at me. He couldn't have been older than forty, unless my eyes were deceiving me. Not wasting a single second, I hurried over to him and threw myself around his waist, burying my face in his chest.
"Please help me..." I rasped. "Call the police."
He released himself from my grip and grabbed my sore wrists, staring at me in utter disbelief.
"What the hell has happened to you?"
"I've been kidnapped!" I cried. "You have to call the police now!"
The man hesitated at first, but then he pulled out a phone from the pocket in his jacket and moved it up to his right ear.
A thousand different thoughts traveled in and out through my head. What would I say? That I was Mira Von Perner? That I had escaped? Wait. Did they even know about me?
The dialing sound from the speakers reached my ears and I dropped down to my knees, raising my head upward. I couldn't feel relieved yet, not until the ambulance that would bring me to the closest hospital started its engine. But I knew this nightmare had to be over soon.
"Poor reception," he grumbled under his breath.
I blinked my eyes once. Just once. And when I opened them again, the man before me fell backward and hit the ground with a loud thud. Lurching to my feet, I desperately moved closer to him and knelt down. His eyes were still open, but they no longer had the spark that was essential for a living being. The other detail that marred the picture of life was the hole in his forehead, and the trickle of blood that seeped out from it.
I gasped and winced back, hands covering my mouth. My eyes had widened and were shaking with both dismay and disgust. Yet, they couldn't avert themselves from his lifeless gaze. Standing up, I took a short step back before I threw up whatever food I had consumed over his legs. I coughed and panted heavily, arms wrapped around my middle as if I was in pain.
A man walked up behind me, letting out a deep sigh. When he got closer, he stopped and leaned his head forward, inches away from my ear.
"Honestly," he whispered. "What am I going to do with you?"
My eyes rolled up in my head, the whites showing, and my vision was devoured by the thickest darkness.9: See You Around
My eyes were closed, but I was, in fact, wide awake and mentally enfeebled, shivering like an infant in a cold winter night. If I opened them, even for just a brief second, I could make out the vague contours of a man sitting in the driver's seat, humming on a tune I couldn't recognize. Violent.
Even if my mind, thoughts, and memories were in shambles, I could still conjure a vivid image of the black hole in the middle-aged man's forehead, and the blood trickling down over his eyes and nose. He really did it. Holy shit. He really killed him; it wasn't a dream. Was it my fault? If I hadn't tried to escape, I never even would've met that man. It was so my fault. Shit.
Letting out a gagging sound, which did not go unnoticed, I forced my tensed body into an upright position, straightening myself.
"How was your nap, kiddo?" Violent asked from the driver's seat, his gaze remaining on the road. "Any pleasant dreams?"
"You killed him..." I mumbled, lowering my eyes. "Why did you kill him?"
"Aren't you gonna ask me if your daddy has paid me the cash yet?" he replied, showing me a nasty smile through the rearview mirror. "Or if you can go home now?"
"Why did you kill him," I tried again, clenching my hands that were tied up behind my back. "Answer me."
Violent shook his head, chuckling for a moment, and sent me one of his deadpan looks. "I don't feel like it."
"Answer my fucking question, dammit!" I spat, coating my voice with the last bit of courage I'd summoned. "How many people have you killed before?!"
"Careful, kiddo. Lower your voice," he barked. "Unless you want me to do it for you."
I lowered my head, shaking with suppressed emotions, and sobbed. "You didn't have to kill him... You didn't—"
"But I did. And I regret nothing."
"How can you say something like that?!" I clenched my teeth, bending forward, and shook my head in disbelief, squeezing my eyes shut. "Without showing even a hint of remorse..."
"That house," Violent said, and I jerked my head up when I noticed the dark tone in his voice. "There used to be an old couple living in that house."
"No..." Tears began streaming down my cheeks, sparkling in a dim shimmer of light that found its way in through the blackened car windows. "You're lying."
"Y-You're lying!" I cried. "How could you... You're not even human! You're a fucking monster!"
Violent snorted—he seemed irritated—and parked at the side of the road, with other cars passing by every second. Judging by their speed, I figured we had to be on one of the highways; E4 or E18. That could only mean he was taking me further away from home.
Before stepping out of the car, he grabbed a roll of duct tape from the empty front seat, and I sighed. Opening the door to my right, conveniently out of sight from the passing cars, he leaned forward and grabbed the front of my dress, pulling me inches away from his breath.
"I think I've heard enough out of you."
I chose not to resist, merely closing my eyes, counting the amount of times he wrapped the duct tape around my head. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. When he was satisfied, he gave me a light shove that made me fall over onto my side. "That should shut you up."
We traveled in complete silence for another thirty minutes, neither of us uttering a single word. Well, I was incapable of speaking anyway. I had fastened my gaze on something that seemed miles away, eyes bordering on almost lifeless, consumed by an overwhelming feeling of guilt and anguish. The more I thought about what Violent had done - all for the sake of keeping me captive - the more I started to grow sick with myself and everything else in this wicked, ruthless world. These lives were my responsibility; they had to be. If only I hadn't opened the door that night.
Another thirty minutes went by.
It was a mere coincidence that I happened to raise my head just as we passed a large road sign. If I had done it just a second later, I would've missed it. But that wasn't the case; my eyes were wide awake, and they weren't deceiving me this time. Arlanda - the largest airport in Sweden - 15 kilometers.
"See that building over there?" Violent said, looking out the window to his left. "Isn't that the new shopping mall, Eurostop? Well, it's not really that new. How old is it again? Five years? No?"
I didn't even bother looking up. Eurostop was just another random shopping mall in the middle of nowhere; a few minutes away from Arlanda. The building itself was not that appealing. Anyone who had spent a day of shopping in Stockholm would never even set their foot in there. It had never been very popular - it felt more like a ghost mall, if that's even a word, and there were basically no logical reasons why any of the stores in there could be even slightly successful.
The building disappeared behind us in a matter of seconds, and I redirected my eyes to the rearview window, narrowing them as Violent passed me a faint smirk.
"I'm convinced you've figured out that I'm taking you to Arlanda, but that's not all of it. I'm leaving the country, and I'm not planning on taking you with me," he said. "And that means this is the end of the line for you, Mira. This is where we say goodbye."
I winced, eyes flickering uncontrollably, and my heart pounded, like a relentless drum, against my rib cage. A bead of cold sweat dripped down the side of my face, and I swallowed hard, trying to maintain a somewhat calm and collected posture.
Violent chuckled, grinning from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat, "Don't look so devastated; we still have some time left before we part ways."
A twinging pain plagued my heart. Was he going to kill me too? Was this really how it was going to end? No—I didn't want to die just yet; there were still so many things I wanted to do. I had never told my brother how much I truly loved and appreciated him. I had never gone on a crazy road trip with my friends while listening to John Denver. I had never slept under the stars. I had never even been kissed in the rain.
With tears streaming down my cheeks, I lowered my head, my messy, auburn hair curtaining my features. Everything seemed hopeless. My trembling hands were bound and pinned against my back, leaving me vulnerable for anyone to literally feast upon my body. Even if I wanted to put up with a fight, all I could do was to thrash around with my trussed up legs. Utterly helpless.
We stopped on a narrow road, not too from the highway, as I could still hear the sound from the fast moving cars echoing among the thick trees that surrounded us. I closed my eyes for a brief second, bracing my senses for the fate I deemed as inevitable.
The door to my right was opened, and Violent grabbed my feet, pulling me out of the car. He lifted me up, one arm under my knees, and the other clutching my back.
"I'm gonna have to put you in the trunk now," he said. "Would be really troublesome if I let someone see you like this. But you kinda understand that, don't you? Oh yeah, you're a smart girl."
The trunk was coated with an obnoxious scent of old gasoline and dried blood, making my face contort in outright disgust after just a few inhales through my nose. Trying not to ponder over what Violent had stored in there, I turned my head to the side, facing the back of the trunk.
"Hey." Violent grabbed my chin, forcing my gaze toward his own. "Sorry about the smell. Didn't have time to clean up, you know."
I snorted, lowering my brows, and tried to explain my discomfort through the gag. "Hurph mermph hwa mnhrh... krmumph."
"What was that?" he sneered, poking my tape covered lips. "Were you trying to say something?"
"Hmph." I didn't even bother responding to that; I wouldn't give him the satisfaction. Closing my eyes, I just waited for the complete darkness that would engulf me as soon as Violent chose to close the door to the trunk.
"I see. You're not feeling very talkative today, are you? Well, that's a shame," he said. "After spending a whole month together, I thought you'd be a little more... clingy? Is that the right word? Anyway, don't worry; it'll all be over soon."
The door slammed shut, and I finally started crying.
I wanted to spend my final moments alive contemplating my life. It felt appropriate, and eased up the pain in my stomach. The first thing that came to my mind was how I wanted to thank all the people who had made my relatively short life enjoyable, and one person stood out above the rest: my brother, Noah.
During my childhood, my parents were almost never around, and it was my brother who took care of me most of the time. He was four years older than me, which would've made me the bratty, annoying little sister, but he never thought of me like that. We played together, ate together, and sometimes even slept together - I was afraid of the dark. Of course, there were times when I screamed at him, and said things I would regret for the rest of my life, but he never raised his voice at me - not even once. Noah had always been my hero.
I loved him with all my heart, and pleaded fervently that no one would ever let him see the remainders of my cold, lifeless body. He wouldn't be able to handle it.
The car stopped moving, and a few seconds later, the trunk was opened. I looked down, strands of hair framing either side of my pale face. From the corner of my eye, I could see Violent's hand approach me; and I squeezed my eyes shut for a brief moment, pressing out the last couple of tears.
His hand ran through my hair, and then slowly moved down to my cheek, caressing it with a gentle touch. "It's been a fun ride, kiddo." He mustered up one last smile, stroking my forehead. "See you around."
The last thing I could remember, before hearing the police banging desperately on the trunk, and the siren of an ambulance, were Violent's dark, alluring eyes glittering in the bright sunlight, staring into mine; and the shrieking engine of an airplane flying overhead.10: I Promise
I could hear voices around me, but they were dull, almost distant. A throbbing pain was stuck in my head, growing more intense with every passing second; and my eyebrows narrowed, even though my eyes were still closed. But that wasn't all of it. So many unanswered questions had been left behind; they plagued my heart and conscience to no end, leaving me with little room to feel at ease.
The voices got louder, disturbingly so, yet they were still indistinguishable to me. I tried to listen to them, what they were saying; but as soon as I pushed aside all the thoughts engulfing my weary mind and focused entirely on my hearing, all of them disappeared until only one voice remained.
"Hey," the voice said. "Are you awake?"
Violent? Opening my dry mouth, all that came out were a few weak moans. I shuddered.
The air that flowed into my nose was bringing in an abundance of information. First came the distinct, stinging smell of disinfectant. Then came a sweet aroma that reminded me of home, and finally, an odor I recognized as a person I held very dear to my heart.
My lips thinned, and I swallowed hard, slowly flickering my eyes open.
I looked up, as my gaze was met by two almond-shaped eyes, tear-filled and staring at me with a gentleness I hadn't seen from a human being in a long time. Even if I couldn't make out who it was, as my vision was blurry to the extent that everything in front of me was white, his presence spread a certain warmth inside my body - all the way out to my fingertips.
"Noah?" Closing my eyes, I let out a relieved sigh. "Noah, is that you...?"
"Yes, Mira. It's finally over."
"It is? W-Where am I?"
"We're at the hospital. The doctor was in here checking on you just a minute ago," Noah said. "He said you'll be fine - all you have to do now is to rest."
"And what about... what about Violent?" I blurted, coughing, forcing my eyes open once again. "Where did he go? Where did he go?"
"Violent? Were they violent? What do you mean?" Noah asked, staring at me as if he was talking to a completely delirious person. "Did they hurt you?"
"No," I groaned. "The man—he was in my apartment that night when I was... kidnapped. He left me—killed them. I tried... I didn't—" Memories from the past month began flashing before my eyes—a wave of panic seized me—like an endless horror movie. A vague scent of blood found its way to my nostrils, and I gagged. I could still see him in front of me, dressed in black from head to toe, glaring at me with that deadpan look that told a story I didn't want to know. "I couldn't move or, or—"
"Stop it," Noah said, putting his finger on my lips. "You're safe now. And I promise that no one will ever harm you again. I'm right here; I will protect you."
I felt his arms embrace me, hugging my slender form, and my senses were slowly brought back to me. He began humming on an old tune I had almost forgotten; the one from my childhood, when I couldn't fall asleep. The touch of his hand brought tears to my eyes - tears I couldn't stop from streaming down my cheeks like a thundering river. Squinting my eyes, I could finally see the world before me - the real world.
I could see Noah's bright smile form on his lips as he released me and rested his head on my chest. I could see the typical white and bland hospital interior, the basket of flowers on the small table beside my bed, and the drip stand that transferred a turbid liquid into my veins.
Looking down, I grabbed the front of the hospital gown I had been clad in and brought it closer to my nose. It smelled clean and fresh, and was enough to force more tears down either side of my face.
"Noah," I whispered as I tried to sit upright, a hand to my stomach. "I love you."
He looked up, tears running down his cheeks too, and hugged me again - tighter than before. The moment lasted for a long while, until I put my tiny hand on his back. "Noah," I smiled. "Noah, I can't breathe."
He let go of me, and his hands moved over to my cheeks, pinching them, and forcing my lips into a wide smile. "That's the cute little Mira I remember," he laughed, tears still coating his voice. "Welcome back."
"Noah." I grabbed one of his hands and squeezed it tightly, lowering my head. "Where is mom and da—"
"Later," he said. "Father will be here later. He told me he had something really important to do."
Of course. Why would I even think my dad would visit his traumatized daughter at the hospital; he probably had more important matters to take care of. "I see. That sounds like something he'd say."
"Mother is in London. She'll be back home on Tuesday." And why would I think she even cared about me at all.
I shook my head. "I don't even know what day it is."
"Oh, of course," Noah smiled. "It's Saturday - your favorite day of the week."
"Lies," I grinned. "Friday is my favorite day."
He gave me a light punch across my face and we both shared a laugh.
"So when are you going back to Cambridge?" I asked.
"Honestly, Mira. Is that really the first thing you want to ask me?"
"No... I'm sorry," I mumbled, looking down on my hands. "I don't even know what to say, or what to ask. It feels like I've been gone for a year. It's weird. I-I always thought they were going to kill me eventually, that I would never be able to go home. And now here I am, talking to you..."
"I know your situation is absurd to say the least. I know you've been through a lot, and that nothing I say can erase those horrible memories. But trust me—right now, all I wanna do is to stay by your side for the rest of my life, and never let go of you. I mean it. We have to look forward, and live in the future - not dwell in the past."
"And that sounds like something you'd say," I laughed. "Silly."
"But it's true!" he smiled. "Believe it or not, but you're everything to me, Mira."
A moment of silence followed. I didn't know what to say. Was there anything I should've said? Was there anything I wanted to tell my brother who had been worried to death while I was held captive? It was just so absurd. This past month had been absurd. But I had to say something; I couldn't just let this moment pass away. So I forced my lips into a soft smile and whispered, "It's nice to hear someone say that for once. I can't remember the last time I—"
"Don't be like that."
"Like that. Stop pretending no one loves you," Noah said, pointing at the basket of flowers. "Who do you think sent those?"
"I-I thought you brought them."
"Kristian, Markus, Kristoffer, Alexander, Julia, Erik, Ellen." He handed me a postcard, laughing. "I think I even remember Markus, that cheeky little brat!"
I held up the postcard. Ironically, it resembled a bundle of flowers and a cat that really failed to remind me of my own. But it still made me... happy somehow. A warm sensation of love and appreciation spread inside me, sending a tingling feeling to my stomach.
"Don't you see, dummy? Even if you look down, there are people who will smile and be happy for you," Noah said, ruffling my hair. "So drop those negative thoughts, okay? We're all here for you."
"How..." I mumbled. "How did they know I had been kidnapped? And how did you know?"
"You've been on every newspaper in the nation," Noah said. "But that's not where I first heard it."
"The first thing father did was to contact the police. At least that's what I've heard. But it was mother who informed me," he said. "I tried to get as many details from the police that I could, but they wouldn't tell me everything. Even father avoided talking to me. It was frustrating."
I looked down on the white blanket covering my midriff. "Maybe you would've been better off not knowing," I mumbled. "Even when you came here, what could you do? Nothing, right? You could only sit idly by and watch, worrying. So in the end, all it did was distracting you from finishing your—"
He clamped his hand over my mouth. "Stop it. Do you even realize how much you're hurting me when you say things like that? I didn't hesitate for one second when I took the first flight back to Sweden after I heard my little sister had been kidnapped from her apartment. And don't you dare tell me I should've done otherwise."
He said it with such fervor that I couldn't help but crack a faint smirk under his hand, letting out a muffled, "I'm sorry."
"Don't be." He removed his hand.
"I just have too much stuff on my mind right now," I said as my eyes turned blank again. "That man. He said he would kill me if dad contacted the police... So why didn't he? He must've known—"
"Stop. You have to promise me to stop thinking about this, okay? The important thing is that you're safe now. That's all that matters."
"Okay," I said, twisting my mouth into a wry smile. "I promise."
Before any of us could say another word, the door to my room opened, and three men—one of them dressed in a white doctor's coat—strode in. Noah, who was seated on a chair next to my bed, stood up and greeted them.
"How long has she been awake?" the doctor asked. "You should've pressed the red button."
"Just a couple of minutes." Noah shrugged, and then threw the other two an inquiring look. "Who are these people?"
"They're detectives. They have some questions for Mira, " the doctor said as he walked over to me. "Hello, Mira. I'm doctor Anders Högberg. How are you feeling?"
"I'm tired." The monotonous tone in his voice made me feel uncomfortable. "And my head is throbbing."
"Have you had anything to drink after you woke up?"
"No," I replied. "But I'm not thirsty."
"You passed out due to dehydration and exhaustion, that's why we're giving you IV. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't drink on your own."
"Good," he smiled. "So, Mira. Do you feel well enough to answer a few questions?"
Frowning, I averted my gaze. "I think so."
"Alright, I will be back later to check on you." Before walking out of the room, he gave the men a confirming nod.
The two men stepped forward, flashing their badges, and then hardened their eyes a bit. "We're going to have to ask you to leave the room," one of them said, casting a swift glance over at Noah. "It won't take too long."
"Sure, I get it," Noah said, shooting me an apologetic look before he left us.
"Right," said the man, and looked at me. "We just have a couple of questions for you, Mira. It would be very helpful if you could tell us everything you know about the people who kidnapped you. And if you're unsure about a detail or something, just let us know. Okay?"
There was something strange about them; they didn't look like regular police officers. At least not with their custom made suits and sophisticated hairstyles. And their eyes were brimming with arrogance.
"Okay," I mumbled. "But I have some questions of my own."
"We'll send in an officer later who will answer any question you have," the man stated before quickly moving on. "How many were they?"
"Three—No, four. There were four of them. Three men and one woman, I think..." I said. "And then, suddenly, there was just one man left."
The man cocked an eyebrow. "Just one, you say? What happened to the others then?"
"I don't know."
"You didn't hear anything?"
"Alright." He shot me an incredulous look. "So, this man you mentioned... what did he look like?"
I began sweating, and a nauseous feeling stirred up in my stomach when I tried to create an image of Violent's face in my head. "I-I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"He was masked," I added. "And he always put tape over my eyes; I couldn't see anything."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure!" I spat, clenching my teeth. "I said I don't know!"
"Couldn't you get a look at him when he fed you?"
"I don't know..."
"You must know the answer to that question."
"No! He just put the food in my room whenever I was asleep, okay?!"
"How tall was he?"
The images in my head slowly came to life as I kept going, sending a searing pain down my throat, which spread throughout my body. I gasped; the pain was excruciating and left me breathless. My face blanched, hands covering my mouth, and tears welled up in my eyes. "I don't know!"
"Do you know why he kidnapped you? Did he ever tell you? What was his eye color? Was he a foreigner? Can you tell us more about his appearance? We have several reasons to believe that he is—"
His voice reverberated in my head, repeating itself over and over again; and I couldn't take it anymore. "Stop!" I screamed, squeezing my eyes shut, and pressed my hands against my ears. "Stop! Get out! Now!"
"Mira, we still have a few—"
"I don't care about your fucking questions. I want you to get out! Now!"
The man grabbed my wrist. "Mira, we need you to calm down. I know you've had it tough, but we need you to answer—"
"You don't know shit! What the fuck were you doing while I was out there fighting for my life, huh?! Sitting at your desk drinking coffee, rolling your thumbs?! Get out!"
Noah burst in through the door , bewilderment in his eyes. "Mira, what's going on?!"
The two men exchanged a quick glance and nodded to each other, standing up. "We'll be back later." And with that, they left the room.
The moment Noah sat down on my bed, I threw myself at him, burying my face in his chest. Sobbing, I tried to form a few words in my mouth, but they refused to leave my throat.
Noah put his arms around me and pressed me tighter against his chest, wiping off a stray tear from my cheek. "Forget about it. Just... forget about it. I'm here. You're safe now."
I couldn't forget about him. He was still in there, still deep inside my mind, haunting my consciousness. Even when I closed my eyes, his dark, cold facade appeared before me, baring his yellow teeth like a bloodthirsty hyena. Would I ever be able to get rid of these memories? Would I ever get rid of him?
"He's still in there, staring at me," I sobbed. "He won't disappear—"
"But he won't be able to hurt you ever again," Noah assured me. "He can't hurt you. Not anymore"
I tightened my grip around his chest. "What if... the damage has already been done?"
"Then I will nurse you back to health, back to your normal self. And I won't stop until I see that brilliant smile on your face again."
"Noah..." I cried. "Noah, why didn't you come and save me? Why did you leave it to people like them?"
"I'm sorry, Mira. I'm so sorry," he whispered. "I told you; I will never leave you again. I will always be by your side."
"Can you promise me that?" I rasped. "Can you?"
I brought myself closer to his ear, catching the sweet scent of his hair, and whispered, "Thank you."
I couldn't stop the tears this time either, but it felt good. It was thanks to Noah I realized that even if I was damaged, broken, there was still hope. That maybe one day, I would be able to stop dwell in the past, and move on to a brighter future; a future without Violent, death, and horrible memories. And then, I'd be able to smile too, just like my former self.
While Noah stroked my back as I cried, I looked with tear covered eyes through the window. In the thick blackness outside, I thought I could see the shadow of a man with dark, alluring eyes, unkempt hair, a perfectly defined jaw line, and a slight stubble.
He grinned, as he turned around, and slowly moved far away...