The expression “staring death in the face” is a harrowing one. And never has it been more literal than it was at this moment for this pair of unfortunate victims. It had been all over the news, men and women being abducted left and right, but no one thinks death is coming for them until its cold grasp has already ensnared them in a vise. Somehow, of all the people in the world, Tatiana Clarke and Edward Smith found themselves to be the latest victims of the Haysfield Butcher. “Butcher” was seemingly a misnomer, though. He hadn’t grinded them to pieces with a chainsaw or chased them through knee high grass with a hatchet...yet. Instead, following their abductions, Tatiana and Edward found themselves chained to a cold, hard wall, watching as water slowly filled the chamber.
At first, things went how one would expect. An abundance of screaming, pleading, and the other typical reactions a good old-fashioned torture would bring about. But the water really was filling the room so slowly. The capacity to yell had long abandoned the pair and after what seemed like four hours, the water had still only reached knee length. Terror and sorrow had paved the way for frustration and acceptance.
“Can’t believe I’m going to die next to a bum,” Edward said, his voice somewhere between a whimper and a growl.
“Excuse me? Who the hell are you supposed to be?”
Without the freedom of his arms, Edward strained his neck to emphasize his form. Tatiana returned his attention with a confused stare.
“Look at me!” Edward demanded.
Tatiana expelled a gruff breath and did as she was asked. To her, he was nothing special. In fact, he was less than that. His hair was short and dark blonde, clearly previously styled but now drooping under the weight of sweat and grease. The remains of what looked to have once been a nice, onyx suit jacket and pants combination clothed him. The dress shirt beneath had long lost its whiteness to dirt and sweat. Understandable, given the circumstances. But there was something about his appearance that wasn’t quite as understandable to her.
“Why the hell is your tie tied around your head?” Tatiana asked.
“That’s your takeaway? Not the two-thousand-dollar suit?!”
“What kind of idiot pays that much money for clothes?”
Edward ground his teeth at her blatant disregard for the tragedy of his sullied suit. “An ‘idiot’ that actually has money.”
Tatiana sucked her teeth and shook her head. “Sick burn! That still doesn’t answer my question. You look like you got drunk, failed to get your tie off, and took a header into a toilet.”
“I don’t know! The psycho that kidnapped me thought it would be funny, I guess. Happy now, bum?”
“I’d be a much happier ‘bum’ if I didn’t have to drown next to the Wish dot com version of Christian Grey.”
Edward gnashed his teeth and rattled the chains that kept him suspended. “Listen,” he started, “at least I belong to a family that actually means something. People will miss me when I’m gone, can you say the same?”
“Can it already. God, rich people are a scourge.”
Ready to burst with irritation, Edward set his caramel eyes upon the woman that continued to chafe his composure. Her brown hair was pulled back in a stringy ponytail that was undoubtedly sloppy even before her abduction. A freshly stained blue polo and ruined tan khakis joined her worn, gray sneakers to form an outfit he found punishing on the eyes. There was also something else that captured his attention.
“Yeah,” he chuckled, “I can see why a rat with an unflattering hole in the back of her pants would say something like that. Insecurity and all that.”
Tatiana scrambled to verify his observation but was painfully reminded of her steel bondage. “You better not look; I’d like to die with some form of dignity.”
“You lost all dignity when you put that on in the first place. What is that, standard issue uniform for scrubs?”
“No, asswipe. It’s what those of us who actually work wear on the job,” Tatiana said.
The blonde rolled his eyes and set a loaded smirk upon his partner in captivity. “I work too, you vulgar trash panda. As a matter of fact, I was supposed to receive a big promotion tomorrow. Six figures...”
“What a shame that the next millionaire douchebag is trading six figures to be six feet under. How will the world continue to spin?”
“Okay, so what do you do? Stock shelves?”
“Yes, actually. At a grocery store, where normal people go to buy food. I realize that might be difficult for a guy who probably has a McDonald’s in his house to understand,” Tatiana said with venom.
Tatiana and Edward flinched. A deep, commanding voice that neither of the pair recognized cut through their bickering like a cleaver through flesh. Frantic scans around the room revealed nothing to either prisoner. But sure enough, the voice came again, echoing around the area and booming with bass and aggression.
“I’ve had enough of this ridiculousness,” the deep voiced man growled.
Tatiana shot her gaze left and right until finally, she spotted it. There, in the top right corner of the room, a speaker sat upon a wall mounted stand.
“It’s time the three of us had a little chat.”