Tonight, Ms. Garrison, you will deliver a message to your lover. You do not know what the message means, but he will understand. He will know because he knows my heart and my mind. He will see you and shed tears—tears of joy, tears of dread. He will remember the past and know just how close he came to once again losing the newfound love he has endeavored to hide from for all of these years.
He will owe me a life. For now I have saved you from the fate that the others have suffered. He will know that everyone he loves and cares for is vulnerable to whatever I deem to be their fate. I have the power to grant life as well as destruction. This is a lesson that he will understand. It is important now before anyone attempts to sway him to go against me.
My grace is not given lightly. You are indeed a rare and fortunate soul. Sleep well, child. We will meet again. Soon.
Ben was met by a dozen police officers when he arrived. Captain Black had made sure that the closest officers in the area had surrounded the building, but he’d been explicit that no one be permitted to enter until Ben had arrived.
Time was short now, less than ten minutes left before the deadline. Though prudence dictated caution in entering, Ben could not justify saving his own ass at the sacrifice of another’s. He told the surrounding units to hold their positions while he looked inside. He’d then let them know if conditions were safe.
Ben didn’t know what to expect as he prepared to open the door. All he knew for sure was that there was supposed to be a young woman’s life in the balance and he was dealing with a mad man. When he opened the front door, he was surprised to see the building illuminated. He was expecting darkness. He was expecting an ambush and hidden traps. What he found instead was an open warehouse. And in the middle was a steel cage holding Laurie Brady and some sort of contraption that looked as if it had come from the middle ages. The girl was strapped down, facing the steel blade of a guillotine. It seemed Mr. Smith had wanted the girl to see the horror that awaited her.
Ben instructed two officers to go in with him, the others to remain outside and keep the area secure. He rushed to the girl. “Laurie!”
Laurie could not believe that someone was there, hadn’t even heard their entrance.
“Hang on, Laurie. We’ll have you out of there in just a minute.”
“Please hurry,” Laurie replied. “We’re almost out of time.”
At first Ben hadn’t seen the clock counting down. When he did, he knew that there was no way they would be able to get inside the metal cage in time. The clock was down to less than two minutes and ticking. The entrance to the cage—or what used to be the entrance—was welded shut, and they didn’t have any equipment to free her before the clock ran down.
Ben thought frantically for a solution. He couldn’t just stand back and watch the severing of the girl’s head. There had to be an answer. There just had to be.
“I can’t get in,” Ben told the young girl. He looked at the clock. It was down to less than a minute.
Laurie was sobbing, she couldn’t seem to catch her breath. Her time was running out and there was nothing she could do to stop the clock.
Fighting with everything she could muster, she looked at Ben.
“Please tell my parents that I love them. I’ll always love them.”
Ben watched the clock. He had no words of comfort.
“I’ll tell them,” he said finally.
The timer seemed to go into slow motion. Yet so did everything else. The numbers dropped from five to four to three and onward to zero. There was a loud metallic clap, then the sliding of a bar at the top of the doom machine. The stainless metal blade slipped from its restraint and gravity took over.
The sound of metal scraping against metal was one of the most evil sounds that Ben had ever heard. But nothing could compare to the horrific sound that the machine made when the razor sharp bar reached its destination. The noise of metal striking metal in that abandoned and empty place echoed for what seemed like an eternity. The noise was so loud that it pained Ben’s ears, and reflexively, he closed his eyes and turned his head away from what was sure to be pure, unadulterated horror.
Ben didn’t look at her for seconds that seemed like minutes. He just couldn’t will himself to look. But then another noise filled the room. When Ben looked up, he saw that the far end of the cage was opening up mechanically. Daring to look at the girl, he saw she was not dead. The stainless metal bar had fallen only far enough to stop inches above her neck. She was alive, and they could now get to her. Ben rushed to her and got the others to remove her restraints.
Laurie had passed out from the ordeal, but she was alive, and she would tell her parents herself of her love for them. The stump of the missing hand had been cleaned and bandaged. It looked as if a medical professional had dressed the wound. Ben knew her trauma would take years to overcome, both physically and mentally.
She would live and, at least for the moment, that was good enough.
Ben needed to share the good news. The first person he wanted to call was Sue. Then he remembered the call that had taken place just before he’d entered the building. Sue had called, but there hadn’t been anyone on the line when he answered. Ben tried reaching her now, but got nothing but her answering service. He left a message for her to call him right away, but something was wrong, and he knew he had to get someone over to the site immediately.
He called Cheryl Johnson, told her the news and that she should go with the parents to the hospital. He’d meet with them later. Right now, he had something else to take care of.