She’d been a selfish, naive idiot.
It was what it all boiled down to, really. She’d been one of those people, the ones who lived by a ‘oh that horrible thing will never happened to me’ mindset.
‘Go on home,’ she’d told her coworkers, the caddys and groundskeepers, and an hour later walked by herself across the acre sized lot of the country club to where her little blue bug sat parked beneath a flickering floodlight. The sun had set ages ago, but she had laced her keys between her fingers, clenched the character key chain in her fist, and told herself it would be enough if something did happen.
Which, of course, it did. And, of course, the keys were useless. She’d flailed her arms wildly, unable to bend them in such a way as to get at the taller person hoisting her up from behind. She’d kicked, gone limp, hollered and shrieked and heard her voice bounce off nothing and no one. She did everything and anything all the anti-kidnapping, anti-rapist ads and articles and news specials had ever said to do, but it didn’t matter.
“Damnation, woman, hold still-” Her attacker’s admonishment was cut off when she slammed her head back, and she heard a satisfying crunch even as her skull exploded with stars and dizziness. She heard a hoarse laugh, though not from the one lifting her in a parody of a bear hug. Oh, no; there was more than one of them. Her limbs went numb as her panic tripled. She stopped feeling where hard, thick fingers were digging into her flesh, stopped feeling the throbbing at the back of her skull. She stopped feeling anything but the need to get away.
“Having trouble, Rowe?” Said the second voice, which she barely heard.
“I wouldn’t be if you’d help me, Nix.” Her captor growled, though now his voice burbled wetly. She’d broken his nose, she realized faintly. Good. She still wasn’t free. She screamed again, and then bit the hand that clamped over her mouth. She heard Rowe let loose a string of what sounded like expletives, though her frenzied mind couldn’t track the words.
“Let her holler,” said Nix, sounding careless. “There’s no one around to hear, I made sure of that.”
“Where’s Sid?” Rowe gurgled. “He said he’d be here.”
It was then that she belatedly realized that there had been no other vehicle in the lot, and she hadn’t heard one come up, which in the dead country silence she was sure to have. Was a third kidnapper, this Sid, bringing a car? Think, she needed to think, she had to think. She had moments before her chances of escape, possibly even survival, plummeted.
“I’m here, I’m here,” gasped a third voice. This one ran around in front of her, and she got her first look at one of her attackers. He was as tall as any NFL player could dream, and as slender as a reed. He held in his hand some sort of leather package, though she didn’t register more than that; she was too busy gaping in sudden startled silence.
He looked, to his credit, thoroughly apologetic as she stared, her flailing ceasing with the weight of her shock. She knew him. She’d hired him!
“Sorry, Karlene,” said Sid, the shy young man with the sweet smile who’d charmed his way into her employ in the club shop without so much as a resume or reference. He’d said his name was Jon.
“Don’t do this,” she begged, shamelessly. She didn’t know what they planned, at the same time believing she knew, and didn’t want to know. She struggled again, but the adrenaline flooding her system was making her shake, and she couldn’t quite get her arms and legs to cooperate as they should.
“Not gonna hurt you, lady,” said Nix, coming into view now. He smiled at her, using far too many teeth in a way she thought was supposed to be rakish. Confusion edged out some of the panic. Since when did attackers attempt to charm their victims? The answer that came to her was, in some ways, more horrible than what she had been trying to not think about.
Nix took something from the leather package in Sid’s hands. “Nothing personal, Karlene, promise,” Sid said, still looking apologetic. “It’s just, we’ve been trapped here so long-”
“Too damn long,” gurgled Rowe. Now that she’d gone limp and trembling, his grip had loosened. Almost the same moment she noticed it, his hold tightened again before she could think of bolting. Even if she had, she wouldn’t have gotten far. Sensible shoes and jeans would only get her so far against Sid’s long legs.
“Quiet, both of you,” Nix snapped. “She doesn’t need to hear our story, just to bleed.”
Oh, hell, she thought, and screamed again. This time when Rowe clapped a hand over her mouth no matter how hard she bit he didn’t let go, even when coppery saltiness flooded her mouth and made her gag. She struggled with renewed strength, a new wave of terror fueling her kicks and twists. She managed to get one arm free, but it was snatched back almost as soon as she realized it was loose.
She met Sid’s eyes once, but his slid away from her as Nix came at her with the thing he’d taken from the leather bundle; a knife. Slender, with a pale bone handle that gleamed sickly in the fluorescent floodlight.
If this were a book, she thought, this was where some dashing hero in a hoodie or cloak would swoop in, blazing with uncanny skill and sexy wit.
But there was no hoodie, no wit. Just the knife, and the hollow of her clavicle where Nix pressed it’s needle-like tip. It had to be the sharpest knife in existence, because she never actually felt it penetrate, just a sudden trickle of warmth running down the middle of her breasts, beneath her plain cotton tank. Only when, at a signal from Nix, Rowe bent her over so that her perforated clavicle hovered horizontally over the ground did she feel the sting. Her hair, tangled and snarled from her struggles, fell around her face and her field of vision narrowed to the crumbling asphalt. Then she saw it.
Etched into the blacktop with chalk only a shade lighter than the ground itself so as to be barely visible, was a circle of markings. There was a pentagram, or something like one, at the very center, surrounded by what looked like drawn by some goth kid trying to be artistic. They looked...familiar.
The sting was burning, now. The heat began to spread as Karlene watched red drops, nearly black in the dim light, fall from her throat to strike the circle of chalk marks. Where they landed the chalk flared and left behind a scorch mark exactly alike the chalk that was no longer there. Splat, fizz, flash. Splat, fizz, flash. It happened again and again as Rowe tangled his big fist, no longer over her mouth, in her hair and guided her upper torso in some obscene rotation so that her blood fell on all quadrants of the circle until, at last, the whole thing was aglow, and there was hardly any chalk left. The scorch marks began to spread on their own, connecting to each other and burning away the chalk without more drops of blood. Rowe pulled her away, and she thought maybe they were done, maybe now that they’d done their insane little satanic thing they’d be focused on whatever came next and she could escape. Rowe shoved her to Sid, and for a moment she felt a spark of hope-
Instead, Sid tied a rope around her wrists, not looking at her, glancing nervously to where the circle was doing...something. Once she looked at it, she couldn’t look away. The lines were...thickening. Rising. Becoming three dimensional.
“What the…” she breathed, and then she was being hauled by her wrists towards the rising pillar of smoke and ash and charred asphalt.
“Hang on to me!” Sid hollered in her ear, using her bindings to pull her against him. He ducked into the circle of her arms, wrapping his own around her, and she thought with her hands tied and him clasping her the only way she’d get free was if her hands were detached from her wrists.
When he threw himself backwards into the swirling pillar, laughing, she had no choice but to fall with him.
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