Darkness greeted Abigail as she opened her eyes. Nothing else. Am I fully awake? Did that last drug screw up my eyes as much as it screwed up my brain?
Since being injected by Joshua, she had seen several things, and she couldn’t separate reality from psychotropic-drug-induced dreams. She could swear that she had seen Joshua abduct another girl, but she could also swear that she had seen her parents pointing and laughing at her as she was standing in a strange place in her underwear. She had seen colourful creatures and plants, she had seen make-believe characters.
Finally, she had also, for a brief moment, been sitting on her sofa at home, having her parents explain to her why she wasn’t worth the full ransom. They had told her that she needed to have all of her limbs to be worth more, but she did not. She looked at the vacant spaces where her arms and legs had been and tried to scream out in terror.
Instead, her eyes had opened to blackness. She squeezed her eyelids closed and opened them again. Still nothing. I can’t see. Can I hear? Can I feel things?
She listened in the hope of hearing something. She could hear a rhythmic sound, and then she recognised it. She could hear wave after wave scraping the sand of a nearby beach.
She tried to concentrate on her other senses. There was a smell of petrol, and she felt very dizzy. She felt a tightness around her mouth and the back of her head. She had been gagged.
She moved her arms and legs. They’re still there. Of course they’re still there! She breathed a slight sigh of relief, before realising that she was bound by her feet and ankles, lying in a shallow, dark space.
Abigail forced herself to take deep breaths, despite the petrol fumes. In, hold it, and out. After several cycles she felt herself return to a rational way of thinking. I’m stuck in here. How do I get out?
Words of her father, spoken at some point in the past, shot to her mind, in context with her current predicament.
Going into a panic doesn’t help any situation. It never helps. It reduces available oxygen, burns through your reserves of energy, and it clouds your judgement.
She nodded to herself. Whatever you do, Abigail, don’t panic. She kept her breathing slow and steady and started to notice small details in her surroundings. Her eyes had started to adjust to the darkness. It became apparent within the next few seconds that she was lying in the boot of a car.
With a nudge of her right shoulder, she could tell that she was lying on her left side, with the back seats of the car against her back. The first object to emerge from the darkness was a small lever, designed to allow the boot to open from the inside. If I can reach that, I might be able to get help.
She wriggled in position, her muscles aching more than she had remembered them aching before. She felt her wrists stick to and then come loose from something. Her wrists and ankles were bound by tape, not some kind of rope. The tape was strong, and it had enough adhesive to cause every hair to cling to it as she tried to move again.
Moving her feet, she discovered that the tape around her ankles was over the top of a pair of socks, which she had not been wearing the last time she was fully conscious. She remembered the clothes being handed to her, and her attempts to wear a dress with one hand attached to the car door. She had eventually been loosed, but not for long enough to attempt an escape. She had immediately been injected with a different drug.
As she started to lose consciousness, she had seen Joshua with another girl, approaching the car, and then things started to get cloudy. Did he drug the other girl too? Where is she?
She swung her heels backwards where they collided with the hard backs of the rear seats. Between the closed lid of the boot and the immovable rear seats, Abigail was entombed, waiting for something to happen that would allow her to move and to see daylight again. How long is he going to keep me here, and why?
Her heart leapt as a thought occurred to her. Is he leaving me here? Is he preparing to let me go?
The small space was warming up as she moved and breathed, causing beads of sweat to run sideways off her forehead and onto the thin carpet beneath. She moved her head in an effort to shake off the sweat, and felt it collide with plastic. She heard a liquid move inside the plastic container. It’s a petrol can. That explains the smell.
Abigail started to realise that she had learned as much as she could about her new surroundings, and that she was not getting out of there without help. Her eyes had fully adjusted and she had identified every object. Nothing in there could help her, and if it could, she wouldn’t be able to reach it or do anything with it anyway.
Without warning, the lid of the boot opened, causing bright sunlight to illuminate the small space as a freezing blast of cold air struck her. Abigail winced, blinded by the light. After a few seconds of blurry vision, she identified a figure towering over her. She could only assume that it was Joshua.
As her pupils adjusted, she could see his face. He had the forefinger of his right hand over his lips. The universal sign requesting silence. His left hand reached into the boot and placed a mobile phone next to her face without saying a word, and then he closed the lid.
This was an intriguing development. Why would he give me a phone? Does he expect me to use it?
A minute after being plunged back into darkness, the display of the phone gave off enough light to allow her to see every crevice of the space into which she had been crammed. Mobile phones usually stayed like that when a call was in progress. Was there someone on the other end of the line? If so, they would need to talk in their loudest voice to allow her to hear anything.
She wriggled around and adjusted her position to get her face as close to the phone as possible, knocking the petrol can with her head several times as she did so. If someone was speaking, she wanted to hear what they were saying.
Abigail couldn’t bring herself to even hope for rescue. It’s all too simple. He wouldn’t just leave me here to be tracked and picked up.
Or maybe the other girl she had seen was her replacement. Maybe he planned on keeping her by his side, and letting the troublesome Abigail go. At that very moment her captor could have been about to leave with a new girl, never to trouble her again.
What if he’s playing another sick, twisted game? Am I bait? Am I a prize?
She listened to the phone, her ear still far enough away to make it difficult to hear anything.
Whatever the kidnapper’s reasons, he was still there. She was still here. She listened again, and heard the sound of car, but this one wasn’t passing traffic. The sound was coming from the phone, and it was very faint. The slightest noise around her drowned it out, but she could hear something. There’s someone there.
Almost instinctively, she tried to shout through the gag, hearing only her own muffled attempt. The boot lid opened again and Abigail felt a sharp pain on the right side of her head. She looked up to see Joshua standing there again, shaking his head and pointing a gun at her. This time his left forefinger was over his lips. As Abigail squinted to see him in the brightness of the light, she could see him mouthing the words, “one more sound and I use this” before pointing at the handgun.
The lid closed again. Abigail didn’t dare to try and make another sound. She just laid there, listening. Waiting, and daring to hope that the next few minutes would bring freedom.