Finding Daniel – Chapter 26

Sally paced back and forth, frustration gnawing at her.  Every few minutes she marched to the door and thumped on it or kicked at the wooden panels.  For a while she had tapped against the wall and listened to the pathetic response and then stopped.  As if by mutual consent she and her neighbour had slowed and then ceased the constant back and forth of limited contact.  It was getting them nowhere and so for a while now there had been nothing.

She had brushed her teeth with the tiny, one use brush and she had taken off her knickers and socks and washed them in the little wash basin, using the liquid soap.  They dried quickly on the heated towel rail and pulling on clean underwear lifted her spirits a little.

She threw herself onto the bed and as the dullness crept in and her mind fugged over she pushed back to her feet to wash her face in cold water. She wouldn’t sleep, wouldn’t give up.

When the handle began to turn and a key rattled in the lock she moved to the door.  The intention was to push aside the slight girl and run.  If she could get out into the house at least that would be something. She would run and fight and win her freedom.

As the door pushed inwards she raised clenched fists…

He was tall, and though not as huge as the thugs who had first captured her, the man standing in the doorway was broad and imposing.  He was dressed in a dark grey suit.  Short hair, almost black was swept back from his forehead and he looked down at her with deep blue eyes.  He was a striking man, the sort that would draw a glance should she pass him in the street and the shock of seeing him there immobilized her. He cocked his head to one side and without a word took a step into the room.  There was no choice for Sally but to move backwards.  Fleetingly she considered kicking out at him but knew that it would be pointless.

“What the hell do you think you are doing?  Are you in charge here?  Let me out.  You really need to let me go now.  I have no idea what is going on but this is wrong – so wrong.  All I was trying to do was speak to Mr Braithwaite.  I’m trying to find my boyfriend.  That’s all I’m doing and you have no right to keep me here, how dare you – and those thugs, those two brutes, are they yours?  They threatened me.  They were going to rape me… …”  She was heading towards hysteria, could feel it ramping up, her breathing quickening and hands beginning to shake.  The visitor had yet to speak.

Without laying a finger on her he drove her backwards and closed the door behind him. As the rant petered out she had no other choice but to stand in silence before him.

“I am sorry you have been afraid. I hope you have been comfortable.”

“Comfortable.  Of course I haven’t been comfortable.  I’ve been locked in a stinking, cold barn, forced into this place, held captive.  No, No I have not been comfortable.  Let me out, let me go.  I don’t know what sort of deal you have going on here and to be honest I don’t care.  Just let me go home and I won’t tell anyone.  I should, I should report you to the authorities but, well, if you just let me go now I won’t.”

He sighed deeply and shook his head. “I’m sorry.  This is not possible.  What you ask, I can not do it.  You have to stay here.  For a little while, just a little while and then we will see.”

“No, no what the hell do you think you’re talking about?  I’m not staying here.  You have no right, no right at all.”

“I am sorry.  I would prefer that you would be comfortable and patient.  If you can be patient, for just a little while then I think all can be well.”

Like the thugs his accent was strong and suggested Eastern Europe, maybe Poland, Russia.  It was difficult to tell, his English was fluent and in another situation she may have found the delivery appealing but right now all she knew was anger.

She drew in a breath, about to launch into another tirade but he raised a hand.  “I want you to be calm, think of yourself as my guest and in just a little time you will go home.  I also want to tell you that your boyfriend, he is well – up to now”

“Daniel, Daniel, is he here?  Let me see him.  Here, why is he here?  Take me to him.”

“I am sorry, that is not possible.  He is well now and he can stay that way, it is up to you.”

“Up to me?  How do you mean, how is it up to me?”

“You have been angry, you have made much noise, you have upset my other guests.  I would like you to stop that now.  I would like you to be quiet and calm and if you do this to please me, then your man will remain well.”

Her throat had dried; there was no mistaking the threat.  The horror of what was being said robbed her of speech.

The well dressed handsome man smiled down at her.  “Ah, I see now that you understand.  This is good.  Please be comfortable.  I may speak with you again.”  He shrugged, “Who knows – we shall see.”

He spun on his heel, strode across the floor and disappeared into the hallway locking the door behind him.

Sally sank to the floor, the frustration and anger replaced now by a profound sense of fear, not for herself, but for Daniel who was possibly near to her but unreachable.

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 25

At first she didn’t register the noise.  There was ambient disturbance from outside, leaking through the shuttering across the casement.  The occasional swoosh of a car passing on roads made wet by the rain also pattering on a roof somewhere nearby.  There were other sounds of activity, unidentifiable given her scant knowledge of her location and proof that, as she lay in the dim room the world continued without her.

Once recovered from the bout of panic and sickness she had taken herself in hand and calmed down. A closer examination of the window confirmed the earlier assumption that it was sealed against ingress or egress.  The heavy wooden door to the room was solid and closely fitted in the frame.  She had rattled the handle and thundered with her clenched fist against the panels but there had been no reaction.

The fitted wardrobes were solid and unyielding.  She had searched for anything that she could use to try and pick the lock; though in truth she didn’t know how you did that, except that in films it looked fairly easy.  It was pointless in any event because whoever had furnished and fitted her comfortable little cell had ensured that there was nothing loose to help her and nothing that could be pried or levered away to make a tool.

She sat on the bed, angry and afraid.

Then she heard it.  It wasn’t possible to say how long it had been there but once heard it was incredible to believe that she had missed the scratching and tapping.

She froze, perched on the little stool, and held her breath.

It was coming from the wall near the bed head, she crawled across the white duvet and knelt on the pillows, waiting, listening.

She had heard something, surely she had.

There, there is was again, a tapping and scratting.  She pressed an ear to the wall to better determine the location of the noise.

She rapped with fingers against the cream paint, scratched her nails over the plasterwork.

For a long moment there was nothing and then three taps.  She replied – three taps. Three more came back.

Excitement flooded her, she tapped again and was answered. Her first instinct was to shout, to yell to the person who was undeniably there in a place adjoining her own room.  She held, thought it through.  Although all the screaming and crying that she had done had elicited no response that didn’t mean that no-one had heard her, it meant that no-one had answered and that was all.

She tapped again, and a smile curved her lips as she listened to the small response.

“Hello.”  She had turned to the wall and willed her words to reach the unseen ears which she was convinced were listening for her.

For a while nothing happened and then the tapping resumed.  So, it seemed that her voice didn’t carry and the communication was restricted to percussive call and response.  Okay, she would find a way to work with that.

She didn’t know Morse code, couldn’t spell out a message and so in truth, though the knowledge of another person close by and trying to contract her was comforting, the hopelessness of her situation flooded in yet again. She laid her hand on the wall, the palm flat, fingers spread and wondered if another hand mirrored the sad action.

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 24

She was floating, half in and half out of sleep.  The effects of stress and the lateness of the hour closed her eyes only for tension to jerk her awake senses jangling, nerve endings prickling just as the mists began to close in.  Sally had slid up the bed and laid her head upon the pillow.  She wouldn’t undress and though it was chill now she couldn’t huddle under the duvet.  It would feel like surrender, acceptance.

At some time in the night sleep dragged her down and lost her in the darkness.

A blackbird woke the morning.  For moments she lay disoriented on the soft mattress and now, now it was day she dragged the downy cover up and, sitting propped against the headboard she let the warmth soothe away the residual aches from yesterday.

She knew vaguely where she was but not with whom.  It was scary and confusing and no matter how the thoughts rolled and curled through her mind she found no answers.

The doorknob turned and her stomach clenched.  She leapt from the bed, fists balled, body tensed.  She felt stronger now and couldn’t believe that she had ever considered giving in without a struggle.  Well no, not today.  Oh no, if they wanted to harm her, rape her they were going to have to fight every inch of the way.

The door swung inwards and she rocked to the balls of her feet, prepared to run.  A short, slender girl with smoky skin and a long fall of dark hair stepped inside.  She carried a tray balanced on one arm and with the other she slid a key into the lock and secured the door. She placed the tray on the dressing table. The smell of coffee escaped from under the covering napkin and quisling taste buds filled Sally’s mouth with saliva. Without a word the girl went into the bathroom and turned on the bath taps.  As warm water filled the tiny room with steam she dipped a hand into the pocket of her white tunic and withdrew a sachet of bath foam which she swished into the flow of water.  Then she turned back to the room and smiled shyly, just a quick upward tightening of her lips before going back to the door.  She unlocked it and pushed it ajar glancing back once before leaning down to retrieve a towel and a robe from the floor in the hallway.  She closed the door and locked it again, with the key hanging from her belt, before stepping back into the room.  It was all done swiftly and efficiently.  “Hey, what’s happening?  Where am I?  I need to get out of here.

It was as if she hadn’t spoken.  The linens were placed on the end of the bed and then with a tiny inclination of her head the girl left, as smoothly and silently as she had arrived. It was bewildering and when Sally heard the key turn in the lock she ran belatedly to the door pounding and yelling.  “Hey, hey, come back.  Come back, what the hell is this? Come back.”

The tray held a plastic thermos mug of coffee and a paper plate holding toast and butter.  There was a tiny plastic packet of strawberry jam and a wooden spreader not much thicker than a nail file.

By now the water was deep in the tub and the thought of being clean was so very tempting.  The inner battle didn’t last long and in minutes Sally sat in the warm water with the cup of coffee cradled in her hands and she let it all be, just for now, just until she got her thoughts together… …

With the clean robe wrapped around her and her damp hair in the small turban that the girl had left she perched on the bed and drank the last of the coffee and ate the toast.

Outside the boarded window she heard the rattle of a vehicle which she took to be the van and then a sound that was familiar to her.  She knew the rumble of her own car and it passed under the window and, shortly after she heard the great doors of the storage shed closing.  They were hiding her car, they were hiding her.  No-one knew where she was, she wasn’t expected in the office and Tessa was away on a course, wasn’t she – in Plymouth, was that this week, or last week?  She couldn’t remember and anyway Tess didn’t know what had happened.  Who would look for her, who would know that they needed to?

She felt the panic build in her chest and nausea forced her to run to the bathroom and drop to her knees in front of the toilet gulping and sweating.  In the event she didn’t lose her breakfast.  She pushed shakily to her feet and ran cold water into the basin to splash on her face, dabbing it dry as she struggled to regain her composure.   There was no-one to rely on now but herself and truly she had no idea what to do.

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… other worlds … 

Diane:

Echoes and resonance.

Originally posted on Course of Mirrors:

Writers that inspire and make me think are like a family of heart and mind. Luis Borges belongs. His imaginary worlds shine from beyond time and space, and delight with paradox.

‘The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of any indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between … The Library is a sphere whose exact centre is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible … For every sensible line of straightforward statement, there are leagues of senseless cacophonies, verbal jumbles and incoherences … it suffices that a book be possible for it to exist …’   The Library of Babel, by Jorge Luis Borges

Between each breath, comma, pause, number, node, and each period, we string symbols towards stories. Some make sense to some, others make sense to none, and yet others inspire more stories. Ideas that resonate have…

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 23

When she pulled back the door and crept out Andrei grabbed her again.  They resumed their parade through other rooms, a large square kitchen fitted with modern units and then on to a little sitting room.  Xander opened and closed the doors and the three of them paced onward without speaking.  The rooms were bright and clean and the house was warm.  Polished wood and glittering glass made Sally desperate for her own home, not as swish as this one but home nonetheless.  They made their way into a hall, a square space where a small crystal chandelier splintered light onto polished wood and cream painted walls.  There were flowers and paintings and the beauty made Sally want to cry.

The stairs were wide and carpeted, the whole place had been remodelled and money thrown at it to turn a country farm-house into something plucked from the pages of a magazine.  Andrei pushed her in front of him for the climb upwards.  At the top she was escorted along a galleried landing to a room where the cream door hung open.  She half turned.  Instinct cried at her to run, to avoid a bedroom with these men but common sense told her that there was no point to it and the more trouble she was to them the harsher her treatment could be.

They pushed her inside.  She spun around to see the door closing and heard the sharp click of the lock.  She stood then, bemused in the quiet.  There was a single bed, neatly made with a white duvet and pillows.  Dark furniture ranged against the walls and, in front of the long drapes was a dressing table without a mirror but with a stool.  There were no ornaments or paintings on the walls.  She ran to the window and flung back the curtains.  She couldn’t see anything and was a few moments before she understood that there was something fixed to the outside of the glass.  Shutters maybe or just wood fastened to the frame.  There was no handle.

She scurried to the door, rattled the knob.  It was no surprise when it didn’t open.

It passed through her mind that Mr Braithwaite might still be here.  If she called and made a fuss would he come to her rescue? She should shout, scream and throw things?  She flicked a glance around the room.  Throw things, what things?  There was nothing here that was loose or moveable, the pillows of course but no “bedroom things.”  She pulled open the wardrobe, it was lined with shelves, there was no rail and no coat hangers.  The drawers of the little dresser were a façade, nothing moved or slid.  The smallest thing was the stool, she pulled at it.  It was fixed in place.  There was nothing to use to make noise.  Nothing that she could use to break the window, though why she would do that when it was boarded was another question.

This wasn’t a bedroom, it was a cell.  She tried hammering with the side of her balled fist against the door.  “Hey, hey come on, you can’t do this!  Let me out!  Hello, let me out!”  There was nothing but silence.

She gazed around her.  Though the abject terror  she had felt in the outbuilding had begun to fade it was replaced by a deep sense of unease.  This room, behind the boarded window was quietly threatening,

She thumped again, shouted again. The house was hushed, she pressed an ear to the door but could hear nothing.  Andrei and Xander had locked her in and gone away.  So what was she to do now?  There was a doorway in the corner and, as expected it gave on to a tiny bathroom.  She ran some water and used the liquid soap from a plastic bottle fixed to the wall.

She washed her hands and face, the leather strap had rubbed sore patches at the corners of her mouth and she dabbed at the places gently with a cold facecloth.

Back in the bedroom she threw herself onto the end of the bed and let herself flop back onto the mattress.  With eyes closed she waited for the silence to soothe her. Just for a little while she let it all go and felt her muscles soften and relax.  She could do nothing, knew nothing.  All there was now was the soft duvet, the ache in her shoulders and the quiet of the beautiful house wrapped around her.

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 22

It was impossible to judge how long she sat shivering in the darkness.  The pain in her shoulders and back was a constant nag, her feet had lost all feeling.  She was cold and scared witless.  An eternity had passed since Andrei and his mate had roped and tied her.  There had been no sound since then except the occasional melancholy hoot, she thought an owl, but didn’t believe she had ever heard one before.  No cars had passed as far as she could tell.

When a beam of light flashed across the tiny window every nerve ending jumped.  Her stomach clenched.  She struggled with control as her bladder threatened to let her down, partly through the effects of fear but as much because she had been kept there for so long.

Two voices rumbled outside and she heard the exterior doors grate across the concrete.  Footsteps echoed and then the small door swung inwards.  Andrei switched on the light and threw his keys onto the scarred Formica table.  He barely glanced at her.

He was angry.  It was obvious from the set of his shoulders and the low grumble which spiked now and then with what she thought was probably an expletive. She couldn’t make head or tail of it, Polish perhaps or maybe Russian, not French or any of the other Latin languages but hell what did it matter.

Their discussion became more and more animated and Andrei shrugged off an attempt by his mate to throw an arm around his shoulders. As he turned to her Sally froze and her heart thumped.  He made his way across the small room, she wanted to cry out in terror.  She held her peace.  The feel of the leather strap in her mouth was still vivid.

He towered above where she sat shivering from head to foot, eyes drenched with tears.  The whisper slithered from her lips.  “Please, please don’t hurt me.  Just let me go.  Please just let me go and I’ll drive back home and never tell anyone what happened.  But, if you’ve seen him, if you know where he is, Daniel, can you tell me?”

He leaned down and began to untie the ropes with rough hands.  He gave no indication that he had heard her speak.  The other man stood beside the table watching.

“Please don’t.  Don’t hurt me.”

Soon the knots were unfastened.  Sally dragged her hands forward, biting her lip as the pain surged through the abused joints and misused muscles.  Andrei chucked the rope to the floor and then grabbed her by the upper arms.  The ends of his fingers were cruel and a hiss of pain escaped her.  How would she bear it – what was going to happen.  Should she fight or perhaps she should accept.  Articles she had read disagreed, discussions she had seen on the television gave conflicting advice. Fight because you have nothing to lose some would say, try to make him see you as a person suggested others.  Avoid the worst damage by reaching any gentleness that might be hidden inside him.  At the end of the day advice was of no use when the threat was real and the act was upon you.  She raised her eyes, she wouldn’t be cowed in front of him but no, she couldn’t fight it would be pointless.  He was huge and she was weakened and afraid and so when it came to it she would take herself away and inhabit another reality until it was over.

He pulled her forward, stumbling on numb legs and as they reached the centre of the room he spoke. “Xander the door.” So they moved out into the larger space where the cars and van were parked.  The huge entrance stood open and the night chill cooled her face where tears had flowed.

A tiny moon floated above the shadowed trees, stars pricked the dark void and the owl called again into the quiet.  Andrei had her by one arm now with Xander walking beside them close to her but not touching.  For a wild moment she thought she might run, if she could twist away and take them by surprise she could reach the gate.  The idea died even as it was formed, should she reach the road what then?  It was too far to the main highway, she had no idea where she was.  There was no realistic chance of escape and so she trod quietly between them as they headed across the little yard and towards a door in the side of the big house.

Xander pushed into the entrance in front of them and switched on the light.  As Andrei led her through he had to release her arm and Sally rubbed at the sore spot.  They were in a utility room, where wellingtons lined were lined against the walls and rainwear hung from hooks above a wooden bench.  It was clean and warm and smelled of leather and old shoes and damp.

A small door on the right of the entrance stood ajar and Andrei pushed her towards it flicking the switch to illuminate a small cloakroom.  Overwhelmed with relief Sally rushed into it and slammed the door as she pulled down her knickers and groaned at the relief of pressure in her lower abdomen.  There was no lock but she didn’t care, if they wanted to come in and watch her pee so be it.  Right now the only thing that mattered was the bliss of an empty bladder.

A quick glance around showed her that this was no refuge.  There was no window to climb through, no secondary route to outside and freedom, and so when one of the men thumped on the door she stood and pulled up her pants and went out to face what was to come.

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 21

“Tess, the dinner’s on the table, what are you doing?”

“I’m trying Sally again.  She’s still not answering.  We’re going to go round there.  When we’ve eaten.”

“When did you last speak to her?”

Last weekend really, she did send me a text but I’ve been so bloody busy.  I feel awful, there she is all broken up and I’ve been a useless friend.”

“No, no you haven’t.”

“I have, I should have been there for her.  I should have made more of an effort.  She sent me a text saying that she had been visited by Mr Braithwaite, you know Dan’s boss and it had upset her.”

“Yes, but you were away, in Plymouth.”

“I still could have called her though and I just kept putting it off, meaning to and then – oh to be honest I didn’t know what to say to her.  She was so screwed up with Daniel leaving her.  I did ask her over to lunch on the Sunday but that’s not much of an effort is it when your best friend’s falling apart.”

“Okay, we’ll eat this and then go over there.  You girls can have a real heart to heart and I’ll – oh actually, why don’t I take you over there, you grab a bottle of wine and then I’ll pick you up later when you’ve had a good moan and got smashed. Okay.”

“Yes, I’ll send her another text and tell her I’m going. I just hope she’s not mad with me.”

“Why would she be mad?”

“Well, you know because I let her down.  It’s just weird that she hasn’t answered her phone or replied to her text, she hasn’t been on Facebook. – Christ!”

“What.”

“Freddy, my God you don’t think she’s done something to herself do you?  Oh my God I never even thought.  Sod the dinner, we need to get over there right now.  Grab your coat.”

“Oh shit Tess, you don’t think… Oh shit!”… …

Freddy laid a hand on Tessa’s fists which were clutched, wringing and writhing on her lap.  “It’s okay, it’s going to be fine.  Probably her ‘phones bust or – you know maybe she’s had it turned off because she doesn’t want to talk to anyone, or maybe because she doesn’t want to talk to Dan, you know If he’s turned up.”

“Oh, Freddy just get there, please just get there!”

It’s fine, it’s fine look, we’re nearly there now. Two more minutes.”

Before the car had come to its screeching stop Tessa flung aside her seat belt and grabbed the door handle.

“Hang on, hang on.”  Freddy grasped at her arm as she swung in the seat desperate to go to her friend.

Tessa leaped from the car and bolted through the gate and up the short drive only to come to a skidding halt before even reaching the front door. “Oh.”

“What, what is it?”

“Her car’s not here.”

“Are you sure?  Look in the garage.”

“She doesn’t use it, the garage.  It’s full of junk.” Nonetheless Tessa walked down beside the house and peered through the grubby little windows.  “No, not here.  There are no lights on anywhere either.”

“Well that’s it then.”

“What is, how d’you mean?”

“Well she’s gone away hasn’t she?”

“Without letting me know?”

“Well you said yourself you thought she might be miffed.”

“Yeah.  I think she might, and you know she’s got a point.  I feel awful.”

“Well there’s nothing we can do now is there?  You’ll have to send her another text and tell her you came round.  Tell her you’re worried.  Tell her you’re sorry Tess, you guys have been friends for ages. She’s feeling sensitive and vulnerable right now but you’ll sort it out.  Give it a couple of days.  Wait until she comes back and then you can have a big soppy crying session, drink that wine and go and buy things together.

Tessa turned and smiled, “Yeah, at least she’s okay, wherever she is.  Hey maybe, you know maybe Daniel came back and they’ve gone off together to sort things out.”

“Yeah, yeah could be. Come on let’s get back and see if we can rescue dinner.”

In the dark Sally felt the tears trickle across her cheeks as she waited, wanting someone, anyone to come and yet, not wanting the two thugs to come in.  Not with more time on their hands.  She wasn’t a fool, “Do you want to get jiggy – it took no imagination, none at all to guess at what he meant.

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 20

He was soundless, creeping in the darkness along the quiet road to where Sally was pushing to her feet.  Though his bulk was impressive, like a cat he had moved through the night and now his hands gripped her from behind and pulled her backwards against him.

She shrieked in fear and shock but he tightened his hold and leaned down to whisper into her ear.  In that intimate moment she felt the warmth of his breath against her cheek and the heat of his body enveloping her. “No point to scream, no point at all.  Nobody to hear you. Now you will come with me.” Swift as a blink he had the piece of leather in her mouth and twisted behind her head.  With her mouth gaping she could only grunt and struggle to draw breath past the gag. With great arms around her, pining her to him he carried her across the short paved drive.

She kicked and squirmed and tried to shake her head, but his brute strength was more than a match for her and, though she did get in a couple of kicks against his legs it made no real impression.

He took her past the house and to the rear.  A couple of large buildings loomed in the darkness, a dim light burning in one small window. Barns perhaps, or some sort of storage.  At one a great double door stood open and in the dim interior the white van was parked alongside a couple of other cars.  As the bloke carted her through she caught a glimpse of another figure who moved to push the huge wooden doors together and to shut out the night.  Neither of them spoke and she hung helpless in the arms of her captor as he made his way past the vehicles and into a small room formed in the corner of the bigger space.

He pushed her onto a wooden chair and then, as his mate joined him they closed and locked the door.  He hadn’t said another word, not since his whispered warning in the lane but now he removed the gag and flung it away as blood specked moisture drooled from her abused mouth.  He turned to grab another chair which he turned around so that the back was towards her.  He cocked his tree trunk of a leg over the seat and leaned his arms along the back.

For a moment he simply watched, head tilted to one side.  His dark eyebrows drew together over brown eyes and he pursed his lips.  She was a puzzle to him, a mystery and so he was taking his time to assess and evaluate.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?  Let me out of here you great pig!  Let me go!” As she shrieked at him he turned and looked at his companion who was still by the door, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed against the barrel of his chest.  He grinned back and shook his head slowly.

Sally braced her legs to stand and the thug simply raised his hand, index finger extended and he shook it, just one movement from side to side.

“I think it’s his woman.” Half turning, the one on the chair addressed his mate. “I’ve seen her, at the house.”

“Yes, his woman.”

The words were not a puzzle, she knew, a deep sense chilled her.  His woman.  She was only one person’s woman.  The house.  She knew which house, she just knew.

“Do you know where Daniel is?  Have you seen him, please, have you seen him.  Is he alright?”  Tears flowed across her cheeks and she wiped them away with the soiled dampness of her sleeve.  As the face before her creased in a sly grin she felt the bottom fall out of her world and the fear fill her.  “Please, if you’ve seen him, if you know where he is, please tell me.”

Again they shared a moment of amusement, silent communication that was more of a threat than any words they might speak in the heavily accented English.  Now, the one by the door lifted his chin in a sharp toss of his shaven head.

“You want jiggy Andrei?”

Andrei lifted his arm and pushed up the sleeve of his sweater to examine his watch.  “No time.  It can wait.”

“Huh, okay.  Put her away.”

Sally had never before fully understood the meaning of the word terror, hadn’t believed that a person could be petrified but oh yes, now she knew.  In a sharp movement the man called Andrei dragged a length of rope from the table and with quick movements he bound her to the chair.  Round and round, over her body and then both ends around her ankles and the chair legs and back up to where they had dragged her hands behind her back.  It was accomplished quickly and though she fought, though she struggled it was hopeless, she could not escape.  He lifted the length of leather still glistening with saliva and leaned to her.  “I can tie your mouth, or you can keep quiet.”  He cocked an eyebrow and through lips quivering with horror she managed to whisper.

“Please, please no – I’ll be quiet.  Please don’t do that.”

Without another word they lifted the chair between them and carried it to the corner of the room where they fastened it by means of a length of chain to a shackle in the wall.  They moved to the door and with a final last glance they clicked off the light and left her – alone in the dark.

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 19

It was almost full dark.  They were through the suburbs and out into the countryside.  On the one hand it made the van easier to follow, but Sally understood that her headlights constantly in their rear view mirror would alert the thugs to her presence.   When the road stretched ahead straight and quiet she drew in to the kerb and waited until the other vehicle was almost out of sight and then pulled back out, switched on the lights and resumed the chase.

As the opportunity arose she hid behind other cars, allowing joining traffic to slide in front and prayed that the subterfuge was working.  There was no reason for the two men to believe that they were being followed and this must surely work in her favour.

Though she had known it must, when the journey wound to its end and the van turned into a wide gateway she acknowledged that there was no further plan in her head. The night was still and there were no streetlamps, her headlights would paint a glow across the road and floodlight trees and shrubs and so she pulled to the side of the road and turned off all the illumination.

A penlight from the glove compartment lit her way as she stepped onto the tarmacked road.  She closed the door quietly and crept forward.

The house had been a farm at some point.  There were numerous out buildings but it had all  been prinked and prettied and was now a beautiful dwelling.  From a hiding place squatting beside a huge oak she peered as far as possible down the short paved drive.

The van had drawn almost to the door and there was now the quick sound of the horn, just once, loud into the countryside quiet.  A bird broke from the bushes and she tumbled sideways in shock.  Her hand, stretched to save the fall, landing in a pool of mud and grit and she felt moisture spit against her leg as water slid into her shoe.

Steadying, and ignoring the slime on her hands and the cold nastiness on her foot and ankle, she leaned forward and was rewarded with a clearer view of the van where one of the thugs was pushing open the passenger door.  For long moments all that she could see was the broad, bulky body as he climbed down.  Then, as he stepped to the side there was Mr Braithwaite, his hands braced against the door, stretching a leg forward and clambering down.

She knew, with absolute certainty that there was nothing she could do to help him.  She had no weapon, she was small and alone and so she crouched in the darkness and waited.

The door to the house opened, spilling a glow across the steps and smearing the pavings with gold.  A tall figure stood backlit in the entrance.  Mr Braithwaite made no attempt to escape but appeared to dust himself down, straighten his coat and square his shoulders.  He stepped forward and, leaving his two captors standing beside the white van he paced towards the shallow steps.

There was no indication now of tension and no attempt to restrain him.   At the top of the stairs he paused for a moment and then, with a wave to the driver and his companion the tall man turned and ushered the solicitor inside.

It didn’t compute, Sally had seen him dragged struggling from his home and had chased through the county in fear, believing him to be at risk of his life and now here he was, calmly joining another man in a lovely country house as if he were simply paying a casual visit.

If she were to go back now and call the police what could she tell them?  If they came to this place and interrupted a business meeting or a social event what would they think of a story of pursuit along the roaring motorway?  If they found Mr Braithwaite sipping a nice single malt with his companion, how could she explain her muddy trousers and dirty hands gained while she crouched in the deserted lane in the darkness.  And, which was worse, did this have anything at all to do with Daniel.  She had spent the day and evening playing cops and robbers and now here she was, alone muddy and dirty and, it would seem, not one jot nearer to finding her boyfriend.

She leaned her head forward onto bent knees and closed her eyes.  What an idiot.  Mind you, there was the strange behaviour of the two huge thugs at Mr Braithwaite’s or had she in fact misinterpreted the whole thing.  The only saving grace, as far as she could see was that she hadn’t been seen.  She would have to go now, sneak away and try to find her way back.  She felt ridiculous, and cold and lonely and she really, really wanted Daniel beside her or to know that he was there, in the house waiting at home.

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 18

(Editing note – I have taken Mr Braithwaite and put him in the front of the van.  A small change in the last few paragraphs of the previous  chapter.)

They joined the never-ending flow of traffic on the motorway.  Sally followed as closely as she dare as the van wove and threaded between cars and trucks eventually settling to a fairly constant sixty-five in the middle lane.

As soon as she had the chance she slid her right hand up and around the steering wheel.  Her liberated left hand grabbed the handbag and upended it so that she could find her phone and call for help.  They were on the public highway.  Surely it would be easy to tell the police what was happening and they would take over, trap the van and deal with this surreal situation.

She reached into the jumble of stuff beside her.  “Bloody phone, where are you?”  She flung the bag into the footwell.  Sorting and sifting through tissues, comb, purse and all the other personal detritus she flicked her eyes between the pile of belongings and the van.  It began to draw ahead as she struggled to concentrate both on the racing traffic and the mess of stuff on the seat.  “Bloody, bloody ‘phone.  Where the hell are you?” She leaned and tried to peer into the dark well at her feet and let out a squeal, jerking upright in shock as a screaming horn warned her that she had crossed the line and was weaving dangerously in the hurtling traffic.

“Shit, shit, shit.” It hit her like a physical blow.  The ‘phone wasn’t there, the blasted thing had fallen out hadn’t it and was probably even now peeping out from under the Range Rover where she had hidden in the Brathwaite’s drive.

She needed to clear her mind.  Now, the only choice left was to concentrate on the driving, and to try and still her hammering heart and settle her breathing.  Vans, lorries and motor bikes shuffled and wove around her and there, just a few cars ahead was the back of the van.  She would follow it, see where they went and then find a ‘phone to call the police.  And so she drove on, knuckles white where her hands gripped the wheel, eyes flipping back and forth on the off-chance that she would spot a police car or motorway patrol.  If she could do that and attract their attention, maybe she could bring an end to the most frightening thing that had ever happened to her.

They passed a sign for a service area.  It was an impossible hope that they might stop.  Why would they with a frantic and frightened passenger captive in the vehicle.  Should she turn in, get help? if she did and had to spend time finding someone in authority, or a phone, then the van could leave at one of the many junctions which were just ahead and, once clear of the main artery it might well become untraceable.  Though she could tell them what she knew, what would happen to Mr Braithwaite in the meantime? And so she sped on.

Now and again she would slip into the inside lane to hide amongst the constant stream and, to give herself a breathing space from the headlong rush.  Now though, the great spaghetti tangle of junctions loomed ahead and she knew it was time to risk being seen because if they turned and she missed their direction all was lost.

The indicator flashed, a glinting orange bead in the deepening dusk and so she flicked her own light on and slipped in behind a minibus which was also pulling into the nearside lane ready to leave the motorway.  She was out of her usual area now and tried to memorise the names on the notices.  If she lost sight of the thugs then at least she would be able to tell the authorities the area to search but the main thrust of her endeavour was to keep them in sight, to follow them to their destination and then bring help.

As the light began to fade and the traffic in this more suburban area calmed she concentrated on keeping the rear lights in view but also noting landmarks.  A Mosque, a large superstore, a derelict warehouse and so she drove on into the gathering darkness.

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