Chapter Thirty One
“Get your hands off me.” I twist my body as they stand me upright. The van doors echo in the cavernous garage. The cloth around my eyes is retied, but it’s only one ply and even in this dim light I can see their outlines through the fabric. Without any warning, they gag my mouth.
“Lil ducky’s goin say we raped her,” the agent who rode in the back with me says, “whether we do or not...”
Oh my God. What is he saying? The guy’s a psychopath.
“Don’t make this any harder,” the oldest of them says, and I’m not sure if he’s talking to me or the others. My mind works overtime. I’m beyond scared. Calm down. It’s just another test. I’ll wait for my chance... I’ll be extraordinarily calm. I’ll be quiet. I’ll be deceptively sedate... Then strike.
These handcuffs are much tighter than the zip-ties Cochutemete first applied. I’d thought I could squeeze out of them, but it’s impossible. We walk and I see the Double Tree logo on the elevator doors through the material. Okay. I know the Double Tree on Chestnut is a hotel just north of City Hall. Of course. That’s where Chantwell said the cops from Quebec had rented rooms. He’d seen the bill.
Blindfolded, I count the beeps as the elevator rises. Twenty three. That’s the Penthouse I imagine, but the first two floors would’ve been Parking. So we’re on the twenty first floor.
The men push me into a posh corridor that’s carpeted and quiet and smells like lavender soap. We walk thirty paces and a door is unlocked and we turn into a big bright room. Through the blindfold, I see a posh hotel suite. It’s like an apartment with a living room and a kitchen. Through the bedroom, I see wide open balcony doors which look south and east over the downtown core and College Park.
“Take off her shoes and socks.” The East Coaster agent says and my heart races. Why?
“Why?" the bald driver echoes my thoughts.
“These hoes always keep shit in their socks.”
“Plus the bitch likes to kick.” The chubby one says. How does he know that?
My hands are cuffed. They push me backwards and I fall. I let out a muffled yelp, the only complaint I can manage. I land on the couch and lie helpless as they remove my shoes and socks. The chubby one holds my legs. I can smell his body odour under cheap cologne. They don’t bother undoing the shoelaces. “I bet this is where she keeps all her money. You watch.”
“Dibs,” the fat cop says, as if my possessions are to be divided. There’s nothing in my socks.
East Coast tugs away the bandana wrapped around my eyes. I can see again, and I stare at his ugly freckled face and split lip. “That’s better.” He sticks his dirty fingers in my mouth and removes the gag. I clean my mouth with my tongue. I’m tempted to spit in his face but that would be counter to my plan. Already my passivity is paying off; they’ve removed the gag and blindfold.
“Why’d you take it off?” The bald officer regards the scene with horror. He raises his left hand to shield his face from me.
“I’m gonna uncuff her too.” Freckles produces a tiny key from a little pocket in his armoured vest. These two despise each other.
“No. Stop!” The old bulldog protests and stands close to prevent any attempt to unlock my handcuffs.
“We can be civil.” The freckled agent with the split lip declares. I keep quiet and stare at my feet passively. My plan is working.
“No. We can’t.” The bald bulldog stays close.
The air conditioning is turned-up and it’s chilly in here despite the balcony door being open in the bedroom. The coffee maker on the kitchen bar looks like it has already made three pots and the table is littered with paper cups and empty sugar packages.
On the wall between the windows in a huge TV which is turned-on and the youngest, most overweight agent sees something on-screen. He picks up the remote and raises the volume. “Look. They’re talking about her...”
It’s CP24's Special Coverage of Emancipation Day. The graphic on screen shows a picture of me on the skateboard zooming down Yonge St. The announcer says, ”... officially wanted on terrorism charges, and yet we’ve seen her on the streets of downtown Toronto.” I hear familiar music and see the graphic bumpers announce a CP24 Breaking News Alert.
“Toni Petti is on the run. Post your videos and hashtag CP24News. We’re keen to exhibit all we receive, and we’re having a contest for an iPhone10 to reward the best shots. We already have some contenders...”
The scene changes back to CP24 and two announcers with open laptops. ”We’ve just got another one come-in, and this one’s fantastic. I think we have a new favourite here..."
The media plays. It’s shaky cellphone-video of me taken from inside a TTC streetcar. I see myself through the curved rear window of the mass-transit vehicle. I’m skateboarding down the middle of Dundas between Bay and University. The clip shows me grab and hold onto the back of the utility truck as it passes the trolley going west. My hair blows in the wind and I look right at the lens a couple of times as the kids inside scream my name. It’s a really good video.
The three cops get comfortable and leave me standing in bare feet on the carpet in front of the TV.
The coverage continues with a graphic leader board showing the TV audience vote totals on the user submitted media. Then it cuts to a live shot of Yonge Dundas. There in the bottom corner of the frame, behind the barricades with the speakers and BLM organizers are the white shirt police officers and most prominent is Captain Mark Berlette. Of course that’s where he’d be today; I was dumb to go to 52 Division. He’s in the square because that’s where the cameras are recording history.
The coverage changes to show a Black Lives Matter speaker in the bandshell. The orator holds a megaphone to his microphone and shouts, “... we need to end Qualified Immunity!" The crowd cheers. "We need demand more individual officer accountability!"
“Changing the channel,” the fat cop raises the remote.
“Camera loves da lil lassy,” East Coast declares. He shows me today’s Toronto Sun. The paper has a shocking two-word title, Terror Girl, and the photo is from Rabethgie’s security camera. Its a frame which shows me crouched as I record his door alarm. It’s a half second afterwards, when I realized I couldn’t publish the clip. The look on my face is me wondering what to do.
The fat cop changes the channel to TSN and I see Ryan Dewer, the NHL hockey player that I recorded in the bike lane on Tuesday morning. That seems like a year ago. He’s being interviewed by Steve Gerson of SportsTalk at an outdoor hockey training camp. They both wear masks and stand six feet apart.
"It has been a weird Off-Season that’s for sure,” Ryan remarks. ”I didn’t think I’d be in the Press in August talking about this..."
Steve asks the hockey star how he feels about Toronto bike lanes and the athlete sighs and issues a prepared statement.
"I apologize for what I did,” Ryan mans-up and accepts blame. ”I asked the cab to stop out front. And I’m sorry Toronto. I won’t do it again."
"That’s wonderful. We forgive you...” The reporter breaks the social distance barrier and pats the young athlete's shoulder in a show of support. ”Now tell us about Toni Petti. We’ve all seen you in her video, and how she said your mom’s calling?" He mimics my tone of voice and then chuckles to himself.
"Yeah. Her clip’s really blowing up the web,” Ryan says. ”She’s got anger issues. Like they say.”
"Do you really think she’s dangerous?"
"Yeah I do. Chicks like that can go off at anytime...”
"Chicks like that?" Steve Gerson sighs, ”Oh, Ryan..."
The hotel room phone rings on the crud covered side table. The ringer is a strange burbling sound like the phone’s underwater. The bald bulldog leaves my side to answer it with his business voice, “Special agent Termosa.”
Termosa. That’s the second time I’ve heard that name. I’ll remember it. These guys are not using any names when they speak to each other, and there are no nametags on their bulletproof vests or anywhere on their equipment. It takes practice not to use names...
“Yeah. We’re secure.” The bald cop listens to the caller. Half-a-minute passes before he speaks again, “Roger that Whisper. Just let us know.” He hangs up the phone and checks his watch.
Whisper. That must be their name for Cochutemete. Ghost girl said his name was similar to the French word for whisper. What did he just agree to do? I must escape.
“What’re his orders?” The corpulent cop asks. He reads the Toronto Sun and slouches in the suite’s most comfortable recliner.
“You need to use the bathroom?” East Coast asks and grins creepily. His manner suggests that he hopes I do. Ugh! I’m sickened by that horrible thought and shake my head no just to be rid of the notion.
“Won’t be long.” Termosa says in a way that makes me think he also wants Freckles to back off. Wont be long till what?
“I’m ordering a pizza.” The heavyset youth whips out his cellphone and speed-dials a number. “What do you grouches want?”
“Oh look. Look how her little hands are turning purple.” The freckle-face Sadist pretends to be concerned about me. “They’re too tight aren’t they?”
“Don’t take ’em off. We do this by the book." The bald agent seems frustrated. He obviously doesn’t outrank anyone because the East Coaster enjoys pushing his buttons.
“What book?” the Sadist’s split-lip stretches in a sick grin.
“Whisper didn’t say to uncuff her,” the overweight officer in the recliner sides with the bald driver.
“Relax you two.” Freckles turns me and stands behind my back, “she’s not going anywhere.” He uncuffs my hands and massages my wrists. I just stand motionless and turn away when he steps around to check my face. He moves my hair aside and caresses my neck with his fingers.
“Don’t touch her. I mean it.” The bald agent objects to the sexual treatment. He won’t look at me directly.
“Yeah. Knock it off,” the portly fellow agrees, barely.
“How does it feel Terror Girl?” The freckle-face sadist ignores them both and whispers in my ear. The other two groan at his dereliction. “Are you scared? Are you terrified?” He continues to caress my neck and shoulder in spite of his comrades’ disapproval. “Is this how you make others feel?”
“Okay. That’s enough Smits,” bald cop used his partner’s name. Nobody reacts to his mistake though. The other two study him to see what he’ll do to protect me. Will he draw a weapon?
“I’ll say when.” Smits the Sadist stands back to study my body, and appreciate my chest. He points to my arms which hang loose at my sides. “Now that her hands are free, I’d like her to take her top off,” he grins again. “I want to search it.”
“Guys...?” I break my silence and look at the other two for intervention. I look to Termosa. But instead of saving me, my bald protector backs down.
“No...” Termosa turns and heads for the front door. “Can’t be here. My daughter’s age for Crissakes.”
“If you leave me here...” I plead, but he doesn’t even slow down his retreat to listen. “...You’re still part of it.”
“Oh shut up or I’ll gag you again, Terror Bitch.” Smits barks at me. Then he gestures his older companion out the door. “You should go.” He waves the bald cop away and out into the hall, “and be sure and tell Whisper everything.”
The bulldog's face looks even more flustered. He turns and slams the door. There goes my best hope.
But now there are only two of them. One is a slow and the other stupid.
“Didn’t you take an oath? To serve and protect?” I glare at the obese young agent in the recliner.
“Who do you think we are?” the chubby one replies in his Quebec accent.
“Oh my God...” I realize they’re wearing nondescript black tactical gear. There’s no official insignias on their uniforms anywhere. “You’re not cops are you?”
“Now she’s figuring it out...” Smits grins at me. He points to my checked top and motions for me to remove it.
“Make you a deal...” the chubby goon reasons. “Just do what he says, and he won’t touch you. I wont either.”
“And if I don’t?”
“If you don’t do what he says,” the rotund mercenary shrugs like its fact-of-life, “yeah, then he’s gonna touch you. I can’t help that.”
“Take off your top,” Smits demands. “Last time I’m going to ask.”
I slowly raise my hands in a show of compliance. My God! I really draw it out. I take two seconds or more to undo each button. I expect them to get annoyed, but instead of being impatient, they both just sit mesmerized and stare at me. They’re enjoying this. It’s not my body they want to see, it’s my submission. How can I turn this around on them?
I’m wearing a white Victoria Secret lace bra. I drop the shirt on the couch and sadist comes and picks it up. I could kick him when he crouches, but I hesitate and the moment is lost. He stands and makes a big deal of searching my shirt’s two little breast pockets. The chubby one eyes my jean shorts. “Are you wearing panties?”
I ignore the question.
“Drop your shorts next.” The Sadist says and liquid fear courses through my veins. He returns to his chair to watch the show. I could try and run, but they both expect that. They’re positioned to catch or block any attempt. The chubby one checks my eyes to sense my emotions. His gaze probes my face to see if I’ll bless this sinful act with a smile, or some sign I’m enjoying the attention. He wants me to behave like the girls in the pornographic movies they watch; they already believe they can do whatever they want. They already think nothing will happen to them because whatever I say will never be believed. They don’t see me as a person.
“My real name is Antonia. My mom lives in Cobourg. I have three younger brothers.”
“Who cares?! Shut up bitch.”
“They care. And I have friends. And a job at a local TV station. You’ll see me again.”
“Not likely. Not where you’re going,” the round one says.
“Do you wanna see how I cause pain without leaving any marks?” Smits asks, “I kind of wanna show you...”
Oh my God! The guy’s a full-on Sadist. I look to the chubby accomplice and a tear rolls down my cheek. I’d like to say, I can’t believe this is happening, but I can. I imagined the worst when Cochutemete kicked me. I was already flat in the sidewalk when he booted my stomach. That’s when I knew I was in real trouble. They don’t see me as person.
My freckle-faced tormentor rises from his chair and reaches for my waist, the button on my jean shorts. I twist away.
“I’ll do it.”
He sits down again. I unbutton my shorts and push them down my knees. I let them drop to my ankles without fanfare. I now stand before them in mismatched bra and underwear. My Daisy Duke’s are on the carpet at my feet. I’m humiliated, and the Sadist grins with pleasure. I know this tweaks his kink, which means he’s not going to stop. My shame makes him even hornier.
“My goodness. Stop my heart. You’re a sexy-ass broad.” The Sadist and the chubby goon both stand up and high-five each other as if they’ve accomplished something. The junior feels happy to be included and to share his partner’s comradery. I’m in real trouble here.
I dry my tears defiantly; I’m not the girl who gets raped. I’m not a silly kid anymore and I’m too smart for this... I have to escape.
“Now let’s see what’s under that lacey bra. It’s so suspicious looking...” the evil one taunts and the young one laughs. They won’t be happy until I’m naked. They won’t even be satisfied then..
“Guys... You had your fun. Let me get dressed.”
“Come on, let’s see,” the chubby goon crosses a leg in order to better conceal his swollen member.
The freckled Smits stands up again to make me comply.
My eyes drop to my checkered shirt which lies crumpled at his feet.
He sees where I look, and he bends to pick it up. Here’s my chance.
I step forward and dropkick his face. Thwack! I catch him while he’s crouching, his head moving down. The top of my foot connects with his inverted nose.
The strike cripples me. It kills my foot, but I do real damage. I break his nose. His whole body spins backwards and bright red blood spurts down over his lips and chin.
“Yah dharhty boitch!” Smits crouches and cups his face with both hands.
The chubby cop rises from the sofa and I waste some time watching to see what he’ll do. Instead of coming at me directly, as I’d expected, he circles around to block my path to the front door. I take a step back when Smits also rises to his feet. He holds his nose with one hand and stretches another in my direction. “Bahsought egfre hokill de bitch!” He’s furious and breathes through his mouth, but he’s back in the fight. He circles the sofa and inadvertently leaves me an opening.
I hop over the chesterfield and dash past them both to enter the bed chamber. I slam the heavy wooden door shut and bolt lock the handle. Click.
Now what? The cops throw their bodies at the door, but it holds. “Geh de key!" The sadist tells his chubby partner.
I knock the handset off the phone and dial 9. I put it on Speaker. It rings, but there’s no time. These goons will likely just countermand anyone sent from housekeeping anyway. I stand back and shout, “I’m being held against my will in this room. Can you hear me? Help! I’m being held against my will in this room ! Help me. Heeeeelp me.”
Okay don’t panic. Don’t panic! I have a few seconds. Could I smash through that wall? No... No way. It’s got to be over the balcony railing. Oh my God! Really?! Maybe someone will rescue me. “I’m being held in this room,” I shout again. Then I grab onto the drapes and pull hard until the whole metal bracket comes off the wall. The iron bar comes down in a shower of drywall dust along with the angular mounts and screws. Two dozen steel rings secure the floor-to-ceiling fabric to the rod. I wrap the heavy material around the pole once.
Oh God. Am I really doing this? It’s two hundred feet to the ground, Elizabeth Street, hundreds of protesters mill about on the tarmac below. No. I’m not doing this. I can make it look like I did though. A plan forms. I can let the drapes hang from the balcony like this and then hide under the bed. They’ll think I’ve dropped down to the balcony below or worse, I’ve fallen to my death. They’ll both panic and they won’t even think to look under the bed. That’s a good plan! It’ll work. I feed the fabric through the gap under the balcony’s handrail.
But I’m too slow. Before I can complete the deception and hide, the bedroom door bursts open. I hop over the balcony rail and slid my bare feet into the gap under the metal siding. I clutch the fabric and pull it all the way through until the curtain rod clangs up against the metal.
The chubby cop spots me on the wide-open balcony. He sees how the patio door has no curtains and he spies the metal rod. He meets my eyes just as I let go of the rail and drop out of sight.
I don’t look down; I clutch tight and put all my weight on the velvet. It bunches up and pulls taut against the rail. Oh no! I should have wrapped it around twice or three times because I can hear and feel the fabric tear away from the rings. I drift away from the building.
I’m falling... Agghhhh! Just in time the chubby agent above catches the end. He saves my life. I swing onto the balcony below and crash into a plastic recliner which breaks under my weight. I bounce-up off its puffy white cushions and I’m back on my feet. The sliding glass door is unlocked. Thanks again Lord!
I pull open the heavy patio door to find the hotel suite is occupied. A wealthy older woman watches television on the bed while someone else takes a shower. The lady saw me crash down on the furniture outside and now she straightens up in fright. I raise both hands to show I’m no threat, but she screams anyway and this upsets her partner in the bathroom. I hear the occupant fumble with the shower taps. They’re tourists. The sight of me in their hotel room really freaks her out and she loses her mind. “Ahhhhh!”
I ignore the woman and sprint towards the exit. I round the bed just as a naked man with a big belly and white groin steps dripping wet from the bathroom. I duck under his arm and open the suite door. I hear him slip-sliding behind me on the tile floor. I feel his fingers touch my back, but that’s as much as he gets before my toes grip the carpet in the corridor and I bolt away down the hall.
There are three separate stairwells in this hotel and I can assume the cops are coming down two of them. But which two? The closest ones, I imagine. I hustle past the elevators all the way to the far end. There’s a pop machine and an ice-maker here and I grab the full scoop. I spin and reverse through the fire door to use my butt to depress the push-bar. I see the bloody-faced Smits coming down the hall after me at top-speed. He’s thirty steps behind and closing fast. That means I guessed right about them using the handiest stairs.
I jog down the southernmost emergency stairwell taking two steps at a time, gyrating around the center handrail. I’m almost two flights down when I hear him smash-open the door above. The plastic ice scoop I carry spills cubes as I descend in frantic circles. I toss it over my shoulder and leave it bouncing in my wake. The effect is devastating. Just as I round the next corner, my pursuer slips on the errant ice cubes and loses his balance. “Arrrrgh bloody ’ell!” He flips and tumbles down a flight of stairs. I don’t see how he lands, but notice it’s quiet above. So long Smits. I don’t stop running or even slow down; I hug the walls and descend another three levels as quickly and quietly as possible.
On the eighteenth floor, I reemerge into the carpeted hall and find Housekeeping with their laundry bins comporting fresh supplies. I grab a plush white bathrobe on my way past the bathroom towel-cart. Two maids protest but nobody tries to stop me. I carry-on through the masked gaggle to the middle of the hall where I press the down-button on the elevator.
I know what I have to do. The rudiments of a master plan form in my head, but I’ll need supremely good luck to bring it off. Doctor Barbara Drennan’s theories on luck be damned, I’ll need advanced serendipity to turn this around, but there is a way.