After emptying her stomach of its meagre contents in an unclean bathroom, Abigail rinsed her mouth out with cold water, watching the last of the liquid from her mouth disappear down the plughole. With the water still running she splashed her cheeks before turning off the mixer tap and reaching for a towel. After dabbing her face with it, she noticed how much cleaner it seemed than the rest of the room. In fact, since her arrival, nothing else had looked even remotely sanitary.
She exited the bathroom and considered a brief wander through the upstairs rooms. She closed her eyes tight and shook her head. I don’t even want to know what might be in the rest of this house.
As she descended one step and then another, Abigail was as light on her feet as possible, breathing gently, listening. I can’t hear the girl struggling anymore. I wonder what they’ve done with her.
She took another few steps taking her to the halfway point between the two floors. There was still very little sound coming from the lounge, only that of the same two girls and their temporary companions, engaging in their artificial amorous activities.
Looking straight ahead, Abigail noticed the front door at the end of the hallway. She tried to remember walking through it only minutes earlier. Did they lock it behind the tall guy? Had the overdose distracted them? She had been too overawed by the scene in front of her to take notice of such small details, however crucial they could prove to be to aiding in her escape.
She crept down the final few stairs, peering in through the doorway. If I sneak past without being seen, I can at least try the door. She walked further down the hallway, holding her breath. If it’s locked, I’ll rush back to the stairs and pretend I’ve just reached the bottom. They’ll never know I tried to get out of here.
As she reached the door, she placed a hand on the handle and paused. She held her breath again, listening. Nothing.
It was the kind of door handle that would need to be lifted to engage the lock. At the moment, the handle felt like it could move. She pressed downwards and had to suppress a yelp of delight. It’s unlocked.
Taking a deep, slow breath, she pushed the handle down the rest of the way and then paused again. Still no one coming.
She pulled the door towards her and winced as there was a slight sucking noise, the door pulling away from dirty seals. The noise was quiet enough that the two men would not have heard it if they were busy elsewhere.
With nothing to lose, Abigail flung the door back and sprinted for freedom, rushing across the street as if shot out of a cannon. With each panicked step she hoped she was getting closer to true freedom.
Her head was spinning as she reached the end of the road, unsure of what to do next. By that point she could hear shouts behind her getting louder. She felt her legs start to wobble as she ran. She was struggling to stay upright. Her feet were unable to carry her as far as the hope in her heart, fading with every dizzying step. They’re going to catch me. There’s no way I can outrun them.
As she felt her legs start to buckle, the result of nausea and exhaustion, she felt the iron grip of two arms around her midriff. No sooner had the arms taken hold than she felt her legs give way completely. The taller of the two men had trapped her, and was holding her off the floor. He dumped her on the ground and squeezed her shoulders.
“You’re not getting away that easily, girl,” he said.
Abigail, hysterical and barely able to breathe, could do nothing but sit and stare down at the tarmac, her chest heaving. I just wish this could all be over somehow, but I can’t stop this.
“It’s time to get you home again, girlie,” said the shorter man, who was far more capable of running than he had looked. Continuing, but talking through gritted teeth, he added in a judgemental tone, “And we’ll make sure to lock the door this time.”
He grabbed her arms, the other man grabbed her waist. Both lifted at the same time and Abigail was back on her feet, once again unable to fight back.
As she was turned around and staring at that awful house, she heard the sound of a struggle before hearing a dull and sickening snapping sound. In an instant, the taller man let go, dropping to the floor like a used towel.
Abigail let out a scream and she turned her head, unable to see what was happening. She could see no one but the tall man, lying motionless in a heap, his head sitting at near right angles to the rest of his body. It was the second sickening thing she had seen in almost as many minutes. Two people who had met an untimely end in horrific ways.
As she looked down, a sound as terrifying as it was loud exploded somewhere not too far away. She turned back to the shorter man to see a red dot in the middle of his chest growing bigger with each passing second, and a look of sheer disbelief frozen on his face. He dropped to his knees, put a hand to the ground, and fell on his side, a wide, blank stare aimed at Abigail.
Abigail’s latest attempt to yell achieved nothing. It was as if there was no air in her lungs. She collapsed onto her hands and knees, gasping for breath and staring at the road, watching a trickle of blood edging closer. What’s going on? Why can’t I breathe?
“Abigail, it’s okay,” she heard a familiar voice say. “These men, these despicable human beings, can’t begin to hurt you anymore.”
The surprise of the voice caused her to lift her head. It couldn’t be…
Standing in front of her, smiling, was Joshua. “Are you okay?” he asked.
With her body finally willing to let her breathe, she took a breath so deep and quickly that it hurt her lungs. She exhaled and did the same again. “What’s happening? Why are you…? Where is…?”
Joshua put his arms around her and helped her to her feet. When she was standing on her own he walked her at a snail’s pace down one street and then another until the familiar car was there, by the side of the road.
She didn’t know what to think. The man who had kidnapped her, stripped her naked several times, the man who had degraded her, and then sold her like some cheap, second-hand furniture had come back for her. If he hadn’t come for me, I’d soon be dead. She shook her head, feeling too much dizziness to consider doing the same again. On the other hand, if he had left me alone, I wouldn’t be here anyway.
Lost in conflicting thoughts of gratitude and hatred, Abigail was soon placed in the passenger seat of the car.
“I’m sure it’s difficult for you to understand,” Joshua said, struggling to fasten her seatbelt at arm’s length, “but you need to know that I didn’t intend for any of this to happen.”
Abigail shook her head, hugging herself
“I’ve dealt with Sergei,” Joshua said. He cleared his throat and added, “It’s time we both moved on with our lives.”
After several minutes of staring at the dashboard, Abigail lifted her head to look out of the passenger window. She shuffled into a more upright position as she could see the Hyndburn Hotel approach to her left. Police cars and vans had their lights flashing. Every remaining part of the car park was covered with police officers and forensic tents.
For a moment, she thought she saw the face of her father amongst a sea of faces. On second glance he was gone. She turned to look at Joshua. He seemed unconcerned, perhaps oblivious as to their location.
Without looking at her he said, “I know what you’re thinking.” He took in a deep breath and then let it out slowly. “Our new destination is somewhere else.”
“But what about moving on with our lives?” Abigail protested.
“As a collective,” he said, turning his head to look at her for the briefest of moments, “not as individuals.”
“You mean I’m still stuck with you?”
Joshua shook his head. “A deal’s a deal, and your father has yet to honour his part of it.”
“A deal? It’s extortion. It’s holding me for ransom!” She tried the handle, realising that it had been tampered with. She couldn’t get out. “Let me go!”
“Where did you learn to talk like that?” Joshua said, shaking his head like a disbelieving headmaster. “Unless something changes soon, you’ve got a couple of hours of sitting in that seat.”
Before Abigail could utter a response, Joshua laughed and said, “It’s a good job, too. Did you see how many police officers there were?”
Only metres from her father and a safe trip home, Abigail felt tears forming in her eyes as the hotel disappeared from view behind them. If only I’d have known we’d be passing here. I would have yelled out of the window. I would’ve grabbed the wheel. I would’ve done something.
“Abigail,” Joshua said, breaking her train of thought, “You were supposed to stay warm and safe in that hotel until your father paid me. Instead, I’ve had to take matters into my own hands, and now it looks as if you’re coming with me.”
Abigail looked at him. “With you? Where are you going?”
“Dover,” Joshua said.
“You know, shipping port. White cliffs.”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m familiar with Dover, thank you.”
“From there we board a shipping vessel and travel to a different country, and a new life.”
Abigail shook her head. “I don’t want a new life. I just want my old life back again.”
Joshua cocked his head to the side and said, “There is still time, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up.”
Abigail watched the buildings thin out, and the city disappear behind them in the wing mirror. There was nothing left to be said. There was nothing left to do. All she could do was to sit there, feeling defeated again.
At least I got to see my father’s face again, or at least I think I did. She looked out of the window, watching green hills approach on the horizon. I can only hope he gets one more chance to find me before I’m gone for good.