A basement, Somewhere in New York City

8:47PM

The rain beat down on the small window pane like a hail of ammunition from a Nazi Blitzkrieg.  A stranger wrapped in the cotton of a thoroughly worn hooded sweatshirt gazes out towards the bleeding night sky soothed by the sound of the precipitation.  He glances at his watch before he turns around to speak to a very uncomfortable young lady.

“The rain just won’t let up huh?”  The stranger sits down on a stool in front of his visitor, nonchalantly querying about the weather while adjusting a well-equipped gun holster around his shoulders.

“I remember being a little boy, coming up with my own definitions on how the world should work.  I used to think that if I could shoot a star at night I could make the rain stop.  Silly.”

The stranger peers down at his watch before pulling his stool a little bit closer to his visitor, analyzing her face.  He exhales before removing a moderately sized blade from a sheath wrapped around his shin then inches closer yet again.  He touches her cheek as she attempts to pull away from the rubberized feel of his gloves.  She thinks of screaming but remembers the muffled bursts of mute desperation from her last attempt.  She tries to panic but she can’t, she can’t move any of her limbs and whatever has been applied to her face for the purposes of obstructing her vision is working far too well.

“Ok, so this is a little; awkward.  Well, perhaps that’s an understatement, so I’m going to cut the tape from your mouth; I just have a couple of rules.  Number one, absolutely no screaming and I stress the emphasis on the no.   Number two, I implore you to take advantage of this new vocal freedom and ask questions; at a tangible volume of course.  Alright, here we go.”  The knife splits through the tape with relative ease, she winces while the adhesive separates from her soft skin.  She presses her lips together relieved to have the freedom of movement and speech once again.  This brief reprieve is quickly overcome with the desperation of situation’s past, she holds back tears or at least she tries.  She’s almost panting as if she ran a marathon; she struggles to press a sentence through her lips.

“What’s going on, where am I?”

“Well, that’s a question I can only answer partially, allow me to add that I’m impressed you didn’t scream; that usually always ends in a scream.  So obviously, you’ve been kidnapped.  Therefore, it would be a gross error on my part to tell you where you are”

The tears are streaming out of her eyes, collecting in tiny pools within the fabric wrapped around her face.

“I don’t understand!  I mean, I haven’t done anything!  I’m just; I’m just a student.  I just go to school, please just let me go I swear I’ll never tell.  Please, I swear.”

“I’m so sorry Lyla, but I can’t do that.  You are right though, you haven’t done anything wrong but as with most kidnappings this isn’t about you; it’s about your value.”

The stranger folds the remnants of the tape into quarters then slides it into his pocket.  Lyla’s breathing begins to settle although still erratic.  He stares at her trembling lips, as the figurative wheels turn in her mind.  He thinks for a moment how easy it would be to comfort her, even if only just enough to calm her nerves so she relaxes.  He shakes off the thought then gets up from the stool moving back over to the small window.

“You out of questions already Lyla?  You’re generally very inquisitive; I have to say I’m surprised.”

“You know who I am, so you should know who my father is!  S, for your safety it’s even more reason to let me go, he’ll kill you!”

The Stranger sits in a chair across the room, resting his feet on an ottoman close by.  He grasps a dark brown folder from a stand to his right and opens it to a collection of pictures and annotated information.

“Your father, let’s see; Connor Jericho, popular guy, who happens to be a person of great interest according to the NYPD, the FBI, the CIA and Interpol; a regular Homecoming King your daddy.  Wait; then there are the verified ties to the Chase crime family.  The open court cases concerning money laundering, racketeering and conspiracy.  Trust me; I know everything there is to know about your father, and you.”

The stranger drops the folder onto the floor then leans back into the chair.  He tilts his head towards the ceiling and exhales, awaiting Lyla’s next batch of questions.  Only silence follows.

 

9:22PM

 

“Okay, I can’t take this anymore!  I’m tied up, I can’t see and you’re not even talking!  Just let me go!”  Lyla uses all her strength to move the chair she’s tied to as she screams for cooperation from her captor.  The stranger reaches into his holster and calmly chambers a round into his jet black Glock.  The noticeable sound brings silence to the room.

“Yeah, I’m sure you recognize that sound, you should imagine it being pointed directly at the middle of your forehead because it is.  Now calm the fuck down.”

“I’m sure cutting me loose is out of the question, so can you at least take the blindy-thingy off?!”

“Hello!  This is a kidnapping, the blindy-thingy serves a purpose Lyla; to blind you!”  She huffs and pouts as best she can without the use of her eyebrows.

“Act your age, please Ms. Jericho.”

“Oh, so now we’re on a formal basis, well Mr, I don’t know.  Mr. Cocksucker!  Why don’t you just shoot me and get it over with!?”  The stranger smiles, and then applies the safety to his weapon.

“And to think, when I brought you in here you were in tears and nearing shock.  Now look at you, begging to get shot in the face like a champ.  Touches my heart…  Oh, you can’t see it but I’m actually wiping a tear away from eye.”

“Ugh, I hope my dad kills you!”

Lyla screams as loud as she can prompting the stranger to remove the formerly folded piece of tape from his pocket and reapply it to her mouth.

“Warned you about screaming princess, rule numero uno.”

 

9:59PM

The darkness begins to swallow her whole again, her captor is entirely too quiet, she can’t even hear him moving around or breathing for that matter.

“What’s that?  You trying to say something, wish I could hear you but you’ve got tape across your mouth.  Shame.”

She mumbles a little louder through her taped lips.

“Ok, I don’t need to hear that shit either.  If you’re going to follow rule number 1 this time, nod slowly.  Good”

“OW!  What the hell, why did it hurt worse than the first time you took it off?”

“Should have only been one time, that’ll learn you.”  Lyla shrugs and licks her lips to make sure they’re still attached.

“Ok, I’m all screamed out.  I get the point, kidnapper is you, kidnapped equals me.  So, can you tell me why at least and how I get to go home.  Please.”

The Stranger feels Lyla’s desperation; the last please almost breaks his heart.  He pulls the stool closer to her chair and sits down.

“Yeah, ok.  Well, long story short.  I’ve worked for both your dad and Mr. Chase before-“

A reel of memories flashes through his mind, almost like a Black and white film of yesteryear.  Blood stained walls preceded by pleas for life.  He can almost feel the circular saw in his hand splicing through flesh and bone before he packed someone’s father, son or brother into a heavy duty garbage bag never to be seen of again.  Long walks along longer corridors that end in crematories dance in his mind before he snaps back to the present.

“-sorry, I…  Yeah, I’ve worked for both men, but this time I’m working for Mr. Chase.”

“That can’t be, Mr. Chase?  They do business together, it doesn’t make any sense.”

“Well Princess, that’s part of the problem.  They’ve done some business, I guess all three of us have done some business that’s, sensitive.  You’re father felt as though documenting that would be in his best interests.  Now Mr. Chase wants those documents back, at all costs.  I suppose it would be easier if it was just about money.”

“Oh my god, what did my dad do?”

“I think its best you don’t know.”  Lyla exhales to prevent herself from vomiting.  She loathes the family business.  The constant visits from Detectives, the secrecy and dozens of pre-paid cell phones scattered through her father’s office.  She hates it even more at this moment because a life of crime is finally catching up with her not her father.  Her anger leads directly to tears.

“I’m sorry, I’m crying again.  I just-“

“You’re pissed.  Pissed that you’re paying for someone else’s sins, pissed that you had a lecture presentation tomorrow instead you’ve got a son of a bitch with a gun pointed at you while your tied to a chair.  Cry it out, princess.”

“Yeah, how did you, well first off; stop calling me princess.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“It’s not funny.  I hate that.”  Lyla lets out a drawn out sigh of frustration then turns blindly back to her capture.

“So what’s next, when do I get out of here.”

His smirk disappears, for the first time in a long while he feels sorrow and guilt; they both smash through him with the force of a fifty caliber bullet unabated by a bullet proof vest.  He moves to get up from the stool but instead brings it closer, lowering his voice to compliment the decreased space.

“Listen, Lyla.  Usually at this moment I would lie, blatantly actually.  I’m going to tell you something now and I don’t know how you’re going to take it.  Mr. Chase didn’t ask me to just kidnap you and let you go to send a message.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Shhh, don’t cry again.  The thing, is your dad has a certain timeframe, 22 hours to be exact, to surrender that information to Mr. Chase and if he doesn’t abide by that timeframe.  Well, not sure how to say this except to say it.  He wants you dead, sorry to say it so, bluntly.”

She feels like she should be frantic, she should be trying to wiggle her way out of her constraints.  The only feeling she can quantify is fear, she can’t see the Stranger but she looks towards his voice.

“He’ll give him the information, right?  I mean he has to, I’m his daughter.  Do you think he will?”

“This information is damaging to everyone, even to me. First he’ll try to find you the only way he knows how, shaking people down.  He won’t find you, because I have you.  He only has 22 hours which means he can’t go to the cops with a missing person’s report before the deadline expires at 6:00PM tomorrow.  I assume by the time he closes in on 2 hours left he’ll make his decision.”

Lyla is listening intently to the stranger, staring directly at where his voice is coming from.  He feels almost like she can see him through the blindfold, he feels, exposed.

“Under the circumstances, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t believe me; but I don’t want to kill you, I don’t think I’ve ever not wanted to kill anyone as much I don’t want to kill you.  So, I pray your dad does the right thing; but I can’t guarantee that he will.  I’m sorry.”

“It’s funny, I can hear it in your voice, you’re telling the truth I do believe you.  Just don’t take it personally if I say my kidnapper’s reluctance to kill me doesn’t really sooth my fears; so if you’ll excuse me I’m still going to cry again.”

The Stranger exhales and gets up from his stool, simultaneously removing his gun holster.

“I’ll get you some tissue.”

 

Author of 'When a Unicorn Crosses the Unicorn'

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