The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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It was like a switch had been flicked, that’s how suddenly Madison had woken up, and for a second, her memory was hazy. Just for a second, she had forgotten everything. Then it all came flooding back once she realised, she wasn’t in her own bed.

The crying had exhausted her after she’d ransacked the entire room for a key or a weapon but with no success. Eventually, her sobs swallowed the rest of the night. In-between the deep breaths, she’d heard the girls in the other rooms, their cries in tune with her own as men came and went through the early hours of the morning.

The bedroom door opened slowly, revealing Jase leaning up against the door frame, his legs crossed at the ankles and both hands in his jogger pockets. It looked like he’d just woken up as well.

“Get up. You’ve got 20 minutes in the shower, shave your legs, wash your hair. We’ve got guests tonight, make yourself presentable,” he said. Madison sat on edge of the bed, staring at him. Her cheeks were puffy, and her nose was red and blocked. He held her eyes for a few seconds before stepping back and leaving her to get herself together.

Her limbs ached and her throat felt like it had been rubbed raw with sandpaper. Taking a shaky breath, she got up and trudged towards the hallway, stopping on the landing. From there, she could see the front door and hear several different voices downstairs.

“Don’t be stupid,” someone whispered, causing Madison to jump out of her skin. She looked over and saw a thin girl with big blue eyes peering at her through a small gap in the door. “They won’t kill you, but they will torture you if you try to make a break for it.” She opened the door wider, just enough to extend her arm out. At first, Madison thought it was cigarette burns but upon closer inspection, she saw they were track marks from needles. Then she realised, this was the girl that had been laying on the sofa next to her. “I didn’t have a habit when I got here, they do it if you misbehave so that you’re willing to do anything for a possible fix. Just take your shower and do as they say. It’s the lesser of two evils.”

As she finished her sentence, Adam had appeared at the bottom of the stairs and narrowed his eyes at Madison before he slowly climbed towards her. Her lips parted and the other girl quickly shut her door, catching his undesirable attention. He gritted his teeth, grabbing Madison by the roots of her hair, ignoring her yelps of pain and her hands instinctively clawing at his.

“Get in the fucking shower,” he demanded, shoving her into the bathroom and slamming the door. Madison didn’t move, cemented to the spot as she listened to him enter the girl’s bedroom. Once the screaming apologies started, she turned the shower on full in an attempt to drown out the imagery that might accompany the animalistic sounds coming from the room.

Someone had been in the shower not long before, the mirror on the medicine cabinet was steamed over and the bathtub was wet. She wondered how many girls were here with her, confined to the brick walls of this house of horrors. How many they’d tortured and hurt. She wondered if they were girls on missing posters she’d seen and thought nothing of. Presuming they were dead after the police received no leads for weeks on end. And for a second, she wondered if anyone had noticed that she’d gone yet.

The idea was almost laughable.

The only one that would notice her absence anytime soon the neighbour’s cat. It wasn’t as though she had a friendship group. She’d moved from the other side of London two years ago and hadn’t formed any long-lasting relationships at school after how messy her life had been. Keeping her distance from everyone and everything had been Madison’s safety precaution. She had never thought that being an introvert would bite her in the arse as much as it did right now.

After stripping and avoiding her pale complexion in the mirror, she stood underneath the showerhead that poured down over her, with water that was far too hot. But she didn’t adjust the temperature, allowing it to bring colour back to her skin whilst she focused on her breathing and pathetically hoped that this was just one long dream she hadn’t woken up from yet.

She managed to focus so hard on her breathing that she hadn’t noticed when the screams had stopped, only being brought back down to earth by a pounding on the door.

“You’ve got ten minutes, make sure you shave your legs,” a deep voice called. There were expensive soaps, shampoos and new shaving razors in packets on the ledge of the bath. At least they cared about the personal hygiene of the working girls but then, why wouldn’t they? They were making money. Rolling one of the new razors in her palm, Madison envisioned her blood splattered over the white tiles that lined the bathroom walls. She wasn’t going to abandon ship this soon.

She could get out; she was certain of it.

To slit her wrists would be a permanent solution to what she currently saw as a temporary problem.

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