The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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A bump in the road jolted Madison’s head, hitting it against the scratchy material underneath. She was in complete darkness and that same chemical smell still lingered in her throat. Male voices were barely audible above the sound of the engine of the car she had been locked in the boot of. It was cramped, and a weight had her legs pinned, even her wrists had been bound with a cable tie.

Her consciousness didn’t last long, another bump in the road knocked her back down.

“Is she still alive?” someone asked. Madison murmured as she came to.

“Of course she’s still alive, we only gave her a show of chloroform, she’ll come round.”

She felt heavy. Like she was underwater and the smell of marijuana consumed her. Slowly, she blinked open her eyes, three men coming into focus.

One of them was leaning his lower back against a table in the corner of the dim-lit smoky room. The other was sat in one of the dark wooden dining chairs and the third, the man who was speaking to her, was leaning forward in a brown leather armchair in the corner. His eyes were alive with unnerving excitement.

Madison shuffled around, trying to sit herself up on the sofa she had been carelessly slumped on. Something groaned beside her when she accidentally nudged it with her elbow. The girl whose ankle she had touched was barely conscious, her skin had a shiny wax-like complexion and mousy brown hair stuck to her sweaty face. She wasn’t tied up like Madison, which was presumably because she was in no fit state to do anything.

“Isn’t she a picture?” the wild-looking armchair guy said triumphantly, his voice low. How he spoke, anyone would think he was talking about a puppy he’d been gifted.

“What do you want us to do with her?” the man standing up asked. He had dirty yellowish hair and blue eyes that would have seemed almost angelic in any other setting. The erratic man shot out of his chair and kneeled down in front of Madison. He reached up to hold her chin, carefully examining her like a bag at a market stall.

“How old are you?”

Madison refrained from the overwhelming urge to recoil at the acrid smell of beer and stale cigarettes on his breath. The last thing she wanted to do was offend this psycho.


He grinned, for whatever reason; her answer pleased him.

“Get Jase. Go and get Jase so he can have a look.” He didn’t take his eyes off of her as the other guy left the room.

“Where am I?” Madison managed to stammer, “what’s going on? Who are you?” As she became more grounded, the gravity of the situation started sinking in.

She didn’t know where she was. Or who these people were. Or anything about the entire current situation.

They disregarded her questions as if she wasn’t there. The guy retreated back to his armchair, not breaking eye contact as he grinned manically. A few minutes later, his friend returned, followed by a tall topless man with dark curly hair. Madison recognised him immediately, her eyes glossing over his muscular arms up to his familiar face. A cigarette sat between his lips and he lit it, examining her through narrowed eyes.

“Isn’t she beautiful, Jay?” the crazy one asked. ‘Jay’ took the cigarette in his thumb and forefinger, blowing smoke from the corner of his mouth, slipping a hand into the pocket of the grey joggers he had slung low on his waist. He didn’t make it obvious he recognised her and the concern he had last week was nowhere to be seen.

“Lovely.” He said, his voice sincere and almost apologetic. She watched his every move as he lowered himself down into the empty armchair in front of Madison, a coffee table in the space between them.

“What’s your name?” Crazy asked, Jase looked at him, then back to Madison.

“Excuse his lack of manners. I’m assuming none of the boys have introduced themselves?”

Madison was dumbfounded. She didn’t know how to respond to his calm nonchalance, so she just shook her head.

This was a mistake.

This was all a mistake.

He’d soon let her walk away like he had done before so she remained calm. “This is Benny, I’m Jase,” he nodded over to the two at the dining table, “that’s Sam and Adam.” Sam was the blonde man.

She looked around, absorbing as much information as possible, she’d need to remember everything so that she could tell the police when they let her out. Her eyes rested on the window in the corner and Jase sat back in his chair. “And do you have a name?” For a second, she contemplated giving him a fake name, figuring at least then when they were busted, they couldn’t come looking for her. But it was taking her too long to answer and she knew it when Jase tilted his head,

“Madison.” She said. He nodded slowly, letting her name sit in the air before turning his attention to Adam,

“Go get Madison a glass of water. Chloroform sticks in your throat.” She relaxed a little, Jase was the nice one, he’d apologise on their behalf soon and take her home. She was sure of it.

“Why am I here?” She asked again, waiting for him to explain the mix-up. Jase just stared at her and she felt the cold chill run down her spine as she came to the realisation that he wasn’t about to cut her loose and laugh about it all. Then he took another drag on his cigarette, speaking with full lungs,

“We work with trafficking organisations,” he exhaled, “drugs, girls, arms, anything. Madison, I’m afraid it’s your unlucky day.” Madison’s head pounded. His tone of voice, the casualness, didn’t suit what he had just said. It wasn’t even registering in her thoughts. She felt the bile churn in her stomach and a heaviness shrouded over her again.

“What’s going to happen to me?” She asked, still not cottoning on that this was indeed happening. He chewed the inside of his bottom lip before replying,

“Nothing yet.” Adam came back and held out a glass of water in front of her. She looked down at her still cable-tied hands. Jase rolled his eyes, “for fuck’s sake, cut her loose.” As instructed, Adam took a switchblade from his pocket and cut through the plastic with ease. She turned her sore wrists, allowing the blood could circulate properly again. Benny looked over to Jase sharply,

“So, do we get to keep her? Can she replace Janine? Look at her.” He glared at the unconscious girl beside Madison. “She’s damaged goods. All used up. We should keep the new girl.” He’d been bouncing his knee up and down in delirious excitement in the corner, only pushing the sickening feeling inside Madison further. Jase continued watching her, chewing her up and rolling her around his tongue. He was clearly thinking something and she wanted to know what. She also wanted to know why he hadn’t let her go already as he had done a week prior. She silently questioned if the others knew he’d let her go and if he would get in trouble if they found out. She wondered it would benefit her if she said anything.

“Please let me go.” She pleaded desperately, seeing her window of opportunity to escape getting smaller and smaller the longer she sat there. “I swear I won’t say anything-” The words started to spill from her lips, laced with more panic than she wanted to let on. But Jase silenced her as he raised his hand to signal her to stop.

“Save the theatrics. We get them all the time. I can’t do that.” He said, looking at Sam and jerking his chin upwards slightly, an unspoken order for Madison to be taken away.

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