Written by CJS :: [Wednesday, 10 July 2019 20:49] Last updated by :: [Friday, 12 July 2019 14:56]
Soreness in her arms awoke Beth. Her eyes fluttered open and she took in her surroundings. She glanced up, blinking to shake off the effects of the chemical her captor had used on her. Her wrists were bound behind her, and her ankles were tied.
She was in a barn. That much she knew. The floor consisted of packed dirt with traces of hay mixed in. Any hay bales were long gone, and the barn was otherwise vacant of farm equipment or supplies. It was now daytime, or at least dawn, evidenced by the dim light seeping underneath the large door at the end of the building.
Her abductor, the stocky man, sat ten feet away on a folding chair, thumbing through his phone. He hadn’t noticed she was awake yet. Another folding chair rested a few feet away from him. Her bag sat on it.
The sight of her bag gave her hope. But it was teasing, false hope. Her costume and necklace were at the bottom of that bag, and would help her out of this situation. But bound as she was, the bag could have been 100 miles away.
The man’s phone rang, startling him almost as much as it startled Beth. He noticed her movement, and a grin crossed his face as he met her eyes. He tapped the screen of his phone to answer. He listened before speaking.
“Yes, I’ve had her for a while,” he said into the device. “She’s just waking up. Where have you been?”
She couldn’t hear what the other party to the conversation was saying. The man replied.
“Sorry, boss. I knew you were anxious to get your hands on this girl,” the man said. He sounded as if he was defending his actions. Clearly, this man wasn’t running this operation.
“Yes, a bag,” he said after listening again. He nodded and reached for her bag.
Beth breathed in, afraid he would dig into the bottom of the bag, but he pulled out her wallet, which had been sitting near the top. He found her driver's license and held it up, looking between it and Beth. He moved the license closer to his face and studied it before speaking.
“Elizabeth Harper,” he said into the phone. There was more silence as he listened.
“No idea who she is,” he said. There was another delay as the other person spoke. Finally, the man nodded. “Okay, see you soon.”
He hung up the phone before placing the bag, her wallet, and her license on the other chair. He rose from his seat and walked toward her, like a cat stalking its prey. His eyes traveled along the length of her body as he approached. She squirmed under his gaze.
When he got close, he circled behind her. She tried to follow him with her eyes, twisting her body on the ground. He finished the circle, coming around in front of her again.
“You’re one of them fancy college girls, huh?” he remarked.
Beth met his eyes with a glare. Her look only caused him to laugh.
“You and I could have some fun, you know,” he said, chewing on his lips. “Except then I’d have to answer to my boss. So that will have to wait.”
He walked away, heading back toward the chair. He took her bag in his lap, opened it, and fumbled around inside.
Beth swallowed, praying he would put the bag aside before discovering the secret that lay within it. But it was not to be. After setting aside a brush, her car keys, and some lipstick, a curious expression came over his face. He leaned in closer and peered into the bag, and withdrew his hands.
Her blue and white costume was draped between his fingers. His eyes widened in recognition, and he tossed it on the nearby chair as he thrust his hands back into the bag. Within seconds he had withdrawn her boots, gloves, and necklace, and stacked them upon the chair.
He hopped to his feet, an excited look on his face. He took the blue and white costume from the chair and approached Beth.
“Well, well, well,” he said, letting out a soft whistle. “Looky what I found.”
Beth didn’t speak, maintaining her glare. He used a toe of his foot to push Beth onto her back, causing her to grunt with the pressure of her body against her arms. He crouched close to her and laid the costume on top of her, arranging it so it covered her torso. He nodded.
“Looks like just the right size,” he said approvingly. His eyes went between the costume and her face. He shook his head slowly and let out a soft whistle. Without warning, his free hand lashed down in a balled fist, drilling her in the stomach.
Beth grunted and her body flinched. She bit back a soft whimper as pain flooded her abdomen. Then he flashed a backhand across her cheek, whipping her head to the side in a cascade of blond hair. She groaned, trying to catch her breath as she lay on her side staring sideways at the floor. The room was spinning.
He grabbed her by the hair, tugging her head a few inches off the ground.
“I owe you some payback. For me and some of the other guys you hurt. Sapphire Angel.” He spat the name of her alter ego like a taunt. “But my boss said not to hurt the merchandise, so that will have to do for now.”
He turned, costume in his hands, and walked back toward the two chairs. Beth clenched her eyes shut, fighting back the tears that were forming. Despair and fear flooded over her.
What had she expected? She was a college girl, and had gone out in a skimpy costume and crossed paths with these terrible men. She should have left the police work to the authorities. And now she would probably die, just like John had.
The thought of John triggered something deep within her. An anger, or fire. At that moment, she decided she couldn’t give up. She couldn’t let John’s death go unavenged.
But right now she didn’t like her chances. She was bound and helpless, and this man had discovered her secret, which had been her one chance at escape.
She watched as the man retrieved his phone and dialed. Seconds later he spoke, holding her costume out in front of him.
“Boss, you might want to move up your plans and get here ASAP,” he said as he stared at the costume dangling from his hand. “I have something to show you that will solve another one of our problems.”
As the sun rose above the horizon, Steve Freeman wondered if Rick Malone’s information was correct. Freeman had been hiding in the bushes near Stanley Devor’s garage for what seemed like hours, but was probably less. There had been no sign of the old man. With daylight approaching it would soon be difficult to stay hidden.
He wondered if Malone was making out any better. His partner‘s job was easy. Malone only had to nab one little college girl. Freeman needed to kidnap two targets at once.
Freeman felt the gun in his jacket pocket. He wished he could just shoot them and be done with it. But Dominick’s orders had been clear. He wanted them alive so he could question them. That made this harder.
As he contemplated calling his partner to tell him his information was wrong, Freeman caught movement to his right. He looked toward the garage and saw a man tapping on the garage keypad. Freeman swore under his breath and waited for the man to show his face. After a few seconds, the figure turned so that the dim morning light fell across his face. Stanley Devor. The old man ran a hand through his unkempt hair before taking three steps and disappearing around the edge of the building.
Shit. How had he missed him? How had Devor gotten so close without being detected? And where was his car? At least the old man hadn’t seen his unwanted guest yet.
Freeman stumbled out of the shrubs, his legs tight from lack of movement. He reached the edge of the house and peered around just as Devor disappeared around the back corner of the structure.
Hurrying now, Freeman lumbered toward the back of the building. As he turned the corner, he saw an object moving toward his head. He was too slow, and a large block of wood thwacked him on the side of his skull. His vision blurred as he fell sideways to the ground.
He looked up, trying to focus. It was Devor standing above him.
“Wait…” Freeman said, but Devor swung down again. The wood crushed into Freeman’s face, and all went dark.
After securing the man’s wrists and ankles, Stanley bent to check his wounds. He would live. The man’s breathing was steady and his pulse was strong.
Stanley would have preferred to keep the mugger awake for questioning, but that wasn’t possible. Stanley was an old man, and he couldn‘t subdue the mugger without incapacitating him.
The older man would rely on other means to get information from the mugger. Stanley certainly had those means. He searched the man’s pockets and found a smartphone. He pulled it out and placed the man’s finger on the phone’s fingerprint sensor. After the phone unlocked, Stanley accessed the phone’s settings and changed the passcode, which required one more use of the man’s fingerprint.
Stanley had a dilemma now. The police might get additional information from the man. But reporting the mugger through public channels, such as calling 911, would delay Stanley in what he needed to do. The police would require Stanley to remain at the scene for questioning. With Beth missing, he didn’t have time for that. He could make progress on his own with the man’s phone.
He pulled his iPhone out of his pocket, opened the contacts app, and dialed a number. A gruff, scratch voice answered.
“Brommer,” the voice said.
“Wesley, it’s Stanley Devor. I need a favor.”
Brommer sighed. “I owe you, Stanley, so go ahead.”
“I have a man subdued and unconscious outside my home. I need someone to pick him up and bring him in, but I can’t stick around. I promise I’ll come by the station as quickly as I can to answer questions.”
“You need to give me more info than that, Stanley.”
“The guy was planning to mug me, but I turned the tables on him. I need you to find out what he knows about the kidnapping of a young woman named Beth Harper.”
“Kidnapping?” Brommer asked, his voice rising.
“Yes. Well, I don’t know for sure. But she’s missing, and I think this guy and his friends were targeting me and her.”
“Isn’t that the girl involved in the Fizzure thing?”
“Yes. I promise I’ll give you the scoop on that as soon as I can. But right now I need to use my skill set to find her. Please get this guy and interrogate him. He’s out behind my house tied up.”
“I’ll get right on it, Stanley.”
Without waiting for further confirmation and without saying goodbye, Stanley hung up the phone. He darted into his house and hurried to his office. He gathered two laptops and stuffed a few other odds and ends into a bag, and rushed up to his bedroom to back a bag for himself and one for his wife. Ten minutes later he summoned another Uber, and five minutes after that climbed into the back of the driver’s Subaru. As the driver pulled away, Stanley pulled out his MacBook, attached a cable, and plugged in his would-be assailant’s phone. It was time to find Beth.