A sharp pain seemed to erupt from Winter’s face, which instantly spread to his temples where it become a dull lingering throb. He quickly opened his eyes and in the dark he could make out the figure of Princess standing over him. He was uncomfortably propped against a wall. She looked furious except for a few telling tears. He realised the sharp pain was because in desperation she’d slapped him, and also that the dull ache in his temples wasn’t going to go away. Her face stiffened and she threw the bottle of pills with the half pill in it at him.
From Princess’s point of view Winter had gone from talking about buying a car, to halting suddenly, taking a few staggered steps forward and then collapsing. In a panic she’d run to him to make sure he was alive then spent almost two hours trying to wake him up. Eventually she’d propped him against the wall hoping that if he was sitting it would somehow help at which point the pill bottle fell out his pocket and she’d slapped him. She didn’t actually know what it meant, but she had suddenly felt lied to somehow and was still so shocked by his sudden collapse that hitting him seemed the best way forward. Unsure what she wanted and still in the daze between awake and asleep, Winter just stared up at her and said dreamily,
“She worked there as a waitress, I loved her from the very first moment I saw her. It’s also why I can’t say your name… It was her name too, and everything I’ve done since she left was to try and forget about her so much so that it’s going to kill me.”
Princess gritted her teeth and stared at him,
“Not if I have anything to say about it.”
“With Gates dead it doesn’t really matter if we find any of these pills in the kidnappers house, I won’t be able to get more.”
Winter knew he was still making excuses to justify his coward’s suicide but didn’t really care.
“I’m Princess Keys, I can get anything I want.”
Her voice was determined and serious, and meant to let Winter know that he wasn’t allowed to die, or give up, because she wouldn’t let him. He sighed and they stared at each other a little while longer before Winter gowned and pushed himself back onto his feet, picked up his pack and started walking again.
“How long was I out for anyway?”
“A couple of hours, and I still don’t know how you plan to get a car.”
Winter smiled to himself,
“You’re Princess Keys, you can get anything you want. Is there anyone you trust with your life?”
A shiver ran over Princess and a more sombre tone slipped into her voice,
“You mean other than you?”
Winter sighed but didn’t actually reply, just kept walking and waited for Princess to offer a different answer,
“I suppose I could call Joshua?”
Winter let the idea roll around in his mind for a minute or two,
Winter continued on in silence, trying to push out the images of his Beloved and think of a plan. He knew they weren’t far away from their intended exit and so was feeling the pressure of time.
“I’m not sure Joshua is actually a good choice.”
His words were so unexpected that it took Princess a few moments to work out what he’d actually said,
“Wh.. oh, uummm, why not?”
“I got him to talk without even touching him, and the news report didn’t make any mention of him. This means either our kidnappers don’t know he’s involved which is why he’s still alive or he was already involved and leading me to you was always part of the plan.”
Princess thought for a moment,
“Do you think that means Thomas is involved somehow too?”
Winter took apart this idea for a moment and although he didn’t like it he had to concede that it was possible. Princess watched him for a bit and took his lack of argument as silent agreement.
“So if everyone I know is either in danger of being murdered or involved and there’s no way of working out which are which, what are we going to do?”
“I don’t know, but we’re here.”
He stopped and pointed to a dark green door which he then opened to reveal a grimy dust covered stairway. Princess looked at the stairs then back to Winter,
“But what are we going to do when we get up there?’
Her voice sounded slightly shrill and annoyed.
’and if you’re some master assassin why don’t you have spare cars placed in strategic locations and solid plans in the even that someone tries to kill you!”
Winter looked at Princess who was once again staring at him in frustration,
“For the same reasons I never stored any medication down here. I didn’t think I’d need it and I don’t care if I die.”
“That’s not good enough, and stop saying that. If you don’t care then why are we doing all this!”
“Because I care if you die, now follow me. Maybe we can bribe someone.”
Winter’s sudden admission of empathy had taken him a little by surprise and he wanted to walk away from it before Princess had the chance to turn it into a conversation. As he turned he pattered his pockets and realised with a silent grown that he’d not picked up the pill bottle with the last remaining half pill in it. Princess was too frustrated to react to his comment, then too annoyed that she’d missed her chance to try bringing it up a few moments later, so had to settle with a harrumph before jogging to catch up with him as he walked away up the stairs. They reached a door and still trying to keep away from Princesses potential comments he thrust it open, letting sunlight flood in stinging both their eyes. Winter blinked a few times into the light and could just make out the shape of a person before he felt a boot hit him hard in the chest, knocking his back down the stairs. Trying desperately too brace himself Winter shot his arms out and rolled until he ended up on his back at the bottom of the stairs. Turning to face the door way out of the tunnels he blinked a few more times until he could make out three larger silhouettes, one of which was holding a smaller struggling silhouette. He blocked out the sound of Princess’s screams and men’s laughter as he took a deep breath in and held it for a second. Then quick as lighting he pulled a gun from under his shirt and sent four bullets up towards the two larger figures standing separate from Princess. One of the men took two shots to the chest while the other got one in the arm and the other through his face. Michaels, who was standing further back only, smiled as he saw his henchmen became sprays of blood and brains. In the sudden shock of the moment Princess managed to kick her way free and seeing her jump out of view Winter sent the last remaining bullets towards the third figure, but only managing to hit him in the shoulder knocking him out of view. Michael lunged forwards and with one solid slap, knocker Princess so hard across the face that she was unconscious before she hit the floor. Winter looked up at the doorway and quickly summed up his situation. He could either quickly escape into the tunnels and leave Princess vulnerable, or charge up the stairs into the light, which would put him in a very vulnerable position. It only took him a moment to decide he actually only had one choice and forcing himself to his feet started running back up the stairs, arm out stretch in front of him ready to shoot at the first sign of movement, which quickly came in the form of a dead body being thrown down at him. He shot the first one before he realised what was happening and only just managed to get out of its way before it hit him. The second one soon followed which he also dodged, but lost his footing when the doors were shut and the stairwell fell back into darkness. By the time he reached the top and opened the door, he had just enough time to point and not shoot at the car shaped blur speeding off down the road. He then closed his eyes and turned his face towards the sun, which was shining bright and warm again his skin, and breathed long calming breaths. He was going to get Princess back, he was going to kill whoever had just taken her, then he was going to kill Keys Jr. then if there was still time he might try save his own life. When he reopened his eyes Winter couldn’t help but notice a black sedan standing empty with it’s boot open and full of guns. He smiled, then head back down the stairs to search the bodies. He first frisked the man missing part of his head and found a set of keys including a car key. He his hands ran over the second man and his heart frozen as it went over the unmistakable shape of a pill bottle in his pocket. Slowly he reached in and pulled out a bottle of his prescription strength pain killers. As Winter took two he couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed that it wasn’t his usual pills. It did however confirm that these were, in fact, the same people that had kidnapped him and Princess in the first place. He quickly moved back up the stairs and smiled again when he discovered that the car key from the body fitted the abandoned car. He searched it along with the guns he found a stainless steel bat and a cell phone. He looked at both the car and the phone and wondered if either of them had tracers in them, and if it was a risk he was willing to take.
Princess blinked her eyes as the sharp painful memory of Michaels hand across her face brought with it the actual pain. She had been handcuffed, gagged and tossed into the back seat of a car. Michael was driving as the third henchman was still reeling from the bullet in his shoulder. Princess looked up in fear at Michael who had what looked like a proud smile on his face. He put a hand on the back of the third henchman’s head,
“That was incredible don’t you think?”
“Ha, ha, don’t be like that. I mean how often do you meet someone who actually deserves their reputation?”
The henchman gawked at Michael, who laughed a little then sighed, still smiling.
“I’m going to enjoy killing him; it should be a challenge, fun even.”
A cold shiver of pure terror spread our in waves over Princess’s back. Even the henchman had a look of mild panic on his face at the sight of his boss talking about how much fun it will be to kill Winter. As the fear and anxiety grew in Princess she started pulling at her cuffs and kicking the chair in front of her, desperate to find a way, anyway to get out of the situation she was in. Rather than cry and beg she felt an uncontrollable urge to scream muffed threats and profanities at her captors as the henchman reached into the back seat to try subdue her. His arm still hurt but he was still able to pull her up quickly by the neck so he legs slipped into the sitting position, then held up a Taser close to her face but not touching and fired it off a few times.
“You get the picture bitch?”
She frozen and he pushed her back down,
“Good, now stay that way.”
The car fell silent and stayed that way until they reached the house Princess and Winter had escaped from a few days earlier. Once again she was carried down into the basement and handcuffed to the wall. Only this time she was cuffed much higher causing her to have to stand. Michael undid her gag, pulled up a chair and sat down in front of her.
“Good afternoon Ms. Keys, my name is Michael how are you?”
He smiled warmly which caused his scar to wrinkly strangely making him look even more sinister. Nothing about his actions or demeanour gave Princess any comfort. He looked far to at ease with the situation, too in control of himself, as if everything he did, every slight movement were done on purpose. He oozed confidence and self-awareness and that frightened Princess. This was a man who was excited to fight Winter, pleased to have a woman locked in his basement, impressed by one man managing to killing 2 while at a strategic disadvantage. He was in short, psychotic and thrilled about it. Princess swallowed hard and forced herself to speak, although her voice gave away her obvious fear,
“I, I’m fine thank you. How are you?”
“Good thank you, it’s been an interesting day so far.”
“What are you going to do to me?”
Michael considered her for a moment,
“First we’re going to use you as bait, then we’ll probably kill you. Originally we were just going to kill you, but I feel like if Winter is fighting for something he’ll be more of a challenge. If he arrives and you’re dead, he might be enraged sure but he’s heart won’t be in it.”
Tears began streaming down Princess’s face, causing Michael to get up from his chair and walk over to her. He put a caring hand on her shoulder.
“I’d like to tell you not to worry, or that there’s no reason to cry… but in your case it’s just not true.”
He kissed the top of her head,
“Are, are you going to rape me?”
Michael made a disgruntled face,
“No, no I find the whole idea of beat a woman into submission just to put your penis in her totally unnecessary.”
Michael walked over to the door and knocked a few times, when it opened the same large man from Gate’s office walked into the room and smiled at Princess. Michael put his arm around the man,
“This guy is going to rape you, and torture you,’
He then turned his attention to the man,
’But you’re not, under any circumstances going to killer her.”
In a blind panic Princess screamed out,
Michael looked at her again,
“Because the more you’ve obviously suffered the more passionate Winter will be about stopping us.”
Michael winked at her then walked out of the room, closing the door behind him. The man walked closer to Princess who through the blur of tears and panic realised who’s face she was looking at,
“But, but, no, I, I don’t understand! You were the one helping me, you were going to get me off the .”
He smiled and ran his hand over her body,
“No I was the one who was going to delay you until Winter found you, then make it look like he’d murdered you.”
She blinked the tears out her eyes and saw the scratches and bruises on his face.
“I can’t actually believe you agreed to whore yourself out though, I was actually a little disappointed you didn’t take more, persuading but that can all be rectified. You’re in my world now, and I can do whatever I want with you.”
Princess’s eyes grew wide with fear and a sudden numbing feeling rushed over her whole body. She was aware that Thomas had ripped open her shirt but it didn’t feel real, as if it were happening in a dream, a terrible dream. The longer it went on the colder and more distant she felt from the situation until a cold hard hand stuck the side of her face and adrenalin burst through her veins shocking her consciousness back into her body. A scream of uninhibited desperation erupted out of her like a roar, emanating from a primal part of her that managed to say without words,
“I’m not safe, someone help me.”
She began kicking and fighting to get free. Tears poured down her face and her pleas echoed around the room. On the other side of the door Michael made a content face and walked away into the house.
The house itself was a standard two story four bedroom house in a reasonable part of the city. Michael liked the idea of hiding in plan sight and so enjoyed the idea of using a normal house in a normal area to work out of. The neighbours weren’t so close that they would ever know what happened inside or how many people were coming and going, but close enough that should they ever get found out and stopped, and some new paper released details of what they had done, lives might be permanently altered by the proximity of horror. That idea made Michael smile when he went into what was his office and heard the television asking the public for any information about Princess’s location.