Before he properly woke from the tortured sleep Carl was aware of pain, in his shoulders and back, in his legs, and a thundering ache in his head. His hands stung from where he had picked and pulled in vain at the cover on the window. When the effort had become too much and he had acknowledged at last that it was pointless, struggling in the dark, his hands confined and becoming steadily more wounded, he had slid into the corner and lay on the hard, wooden boards. Tied as he was it was impossible to find comfort, but eventually exhaustion overwhelmed him and. he had drifted into an uneasy doze.
He had no idea how long it had been, not long he didn’t think. There was no light leaking in through the cracks on the window covering, and there was no noise. Earlier he thought he heard the faint hum of traffic on a road outside and the distant blare of a horn, just once. But all that had gone, leaving a quiet emptiness.
He shuffled on his backside until he was propped, sitting against the wall. For a moment, his eyes filled with tears but he blinked them away. He wasn’t going to waste time feeling sorry for himself. It was still unclear to him just how this had happened, what on earth was his aunty mixed up in. What information did she have that these people wanted and why had she still not given it to them? That’s all she had to do. Surely, he was more important to her than anything she knew about these thugs? Okay, the girl was dead and that was terrible but he wasn’t, he was alive and his Aunty Jean should just give them what they wanted and get him out of this. She would, he knew that she would, but he wished she would bloody well hurry up.
Though it brought with it such dread that he had tried to ignore it, there hovered in the back of his mind, the thought that perhaps, she couldn’t. She hadn’t gone into much detail about when she found the girl, but didn’t she say that she had tried to comfort her? If that was true then what had been said? All she had to do was tell these people, really, what difference could it make to anything now? And it was their business. But if she couldn’t, what would they do? The thought churned his gut.
He wished that they would let him call her, if he could talk to her, properly – have a conversation, then surely, he could get her to just fix all this. She probably didn’t understand just what they had done to him. She couldn’t. If she had any idea then she would get him out of here – right now.
He thought about his mum, she’d be desperate, she was hopeless in a crisis and he hated to think of her going to pieces. On top of all of it, he really wanted to talk to his dad. He hadn’t seen him for a few weeks, he was away. They had been going to talk on Skype just last night but then, this had happened. He hoped he didn’t feel that he had to dash back from his business trip, there was no need for that. Surely this would all be over soon. He’d be back home and then he’d talk to his dad and give his mum a big hug. God – what a mess it all was.
The other room was quiet for now, he listened hard but there was no shuffling of feet and the low mumble of voices had ceased.
Earlier, the one that he called The Man had stood in the doorway, a huge carving knife in his hand, his face hidden behind the balaclava. He had asked again what Carl knew, what Jean had told him. When Carl shook his head, and repeated what he had already said, that as far as he knew the girl hadn’t said anything important, that his aunty hadn’t told him anything more. He insisted that all he had done was help her with her computer, the bloke had snorted in fury and kicked out bruising his already damaged legs.
From the room beyond he had heard voices raised in anger once more. The smaller one, the one that he thought might be a woman, had come in shortly afterwards and held a bottle of water to his lips. She hadn’t spoken. Carl had tried to plead with her for his freedom, or at the very least to have his hands unbound. He told her about his desperate need to pee and shortly afterwards the bloke had come in, and given him an empty bottle.
After, with the half filled bottle left in the corner, shaming and disgusting him in equal measure, he heard the clunk of the lock and replayed the scene. He should have done something, that had been his chance. He should have fought, he should have run. But how could he, his ankles shackled, his wrists bound and the urgent need to pee taking precedence over everything. It made him angry to feel so weak, so helpless.
So, was he completely alone now? He called out – “Hello, hey arseholes, are you there?” There was no response. Okay, that was good wasn’t it. They’d gone and so all he had to do now was get his hands and feet free and he was out of there. He could smash down the door, of course he could. All he had to do was just get his hands free.
He twisted them back and forth and hissed with pain as the thin, plastic bindings dug into the already torn flesh of his wrists. He drew in a deep breath and, screwing his eyes up against the sting of it, he tried again. It was no use, there was no give and the stuff was far too strong for him to break it just by trying to jerk his hands apart. He needed something sharp to cut through the plastic. He rolled across the bare boards and once more kicked at the door with his feet but it was soon obvious that it wasn’t going to help and he was wasting time and energy.
He rolled into the corner and then pushed himself upwards, leaning against the wall.
There was no furniture in this little space, no radiators, or fittings. He was convinced that it had just been a store cupboard, a pantry maybe. It appeared that the walls were painted, when he rubbed his hands across them they felt smooth. He moved sideways sliding his feet along the floor. If it was a store room maybe there would be a hook in the wall, a nail, anything. Inch by inch he moved towards the next corner, rubbing his hands up and down as much as possible, which was hardly at all in truth, but he stretched on his toes and lowered to his haunches. He had thought he was very fit but this effort was painful and he could only continue for a very short while before he had to stop and rest but he had to keep going, he had to keep trying.