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For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 8 July 2007 - 11:54pm.

Chapter 12

The last thing Denise remembered was sitting on the sofa reading, with Barbara singing in the shower. Now she had a splitting headache and she was definitely not in the same room as before. The room was dimly lit, as though from a very small source. She was tied with her hands behind her back and her feet pulled up behind, tied to her hands so that she could not stand or walk. Her mouth was covered with what she guessed to be duct tape and she was lying on a cold, concrete floor, face against the rough, moist surface. It smelled of mildew, like a basement she had known at her grandmother’s when she was a child. Suddenly the reality of it all hit her like a freight train. She was in real danger and she knew it. Her very life could well be at stake. The thoughts swirled in her head like a tornado—had Barbara been hurt, would Ron know what had happened, could the police or anyone find her in time? She looked desperately around her as best she could, trying to get her bearings and see if she could determine where she was.

“Well, the sleeping beauty has awakened.”

The voice, though not loud, cut harshly through the silence, coming from behind her and startling her into a momentary paralysis. She knew the voice and involuntarily shrank at the sound of it.

“Oh, how the mighty have fallen….” He spoke this quietly, almost sadly, but there was an edginess in his voice that she sensed more than heard and it made her shiver. He came slowly around in front of her where she could see him and stood with his hands behind his back, head cocked as if studying a bug that he was about to step on.

This was not like Ted. He had never had a flair for the dramatic. He was just a straight-ahead, shortest course type of guy, impatient and reckless. It was hard now to believe that was what had attracted her to him in the first place. He had seemed to be impetuous, determined and successful in spite of his carefree approach to everything. He had a number of rough edges, but she had even thought that he might make a good husband at some time when they both were ready. She now saw that the problems had all begun when she had moved in with him. He’d become possessive and domineering almost at once, though it became more pronounced as time went on. This new side of him frightened her and told her that he might well have slipped emotionally into a zone she would rather not see. He was too cool—unconcerned and detached. They had lived together for only four months, but it had seemed like forever…and not in a good way. She now vowed that if she ever got out of this predicament (that seemed too soft a word to her) she would never, ever live with a man again, unless he were willing to marry her first. Only then could she believe he night truly care deeply enough to treat her with genuine love and respect. Denise began to pray and with genuine sincerity.

He had spoken softly, but it had sent chills through her. How different were these tones from the tender sounds of Ron’s voice. Even when Ron was agitated, his voice never made her shiver as this one did. She longed for the safety of his arms more than she had ever wanted anything in her life. Bang! A door slammed behind her and she was again in silence, this time accompanied by total darkness, but at least she was alone. A single tear fell from her eye to the cold, uncaring floor.

Barbara was absolutely livid. She felt that the police were doing nothing. Had she known the reality of the situation Denise was now in, Barb would have felt far more frightened than angry. Paul had returned home, abandoning their plans for the evening in light of what had taken place in his absence. He was trying valiantly to calm her.

“The police are doing all they can, Barb. Please, calm down, dear.”

“Well, it isn’t enough,” she screamed. “Why are you just standing here, all of you? We need to go and look for her. You are just wasting time!”

“Barb, what do you propose-that they go door to door searching for her? She may not even be in town anymore.” He knew as soon as he said it that it would not help her state of mind, but there was nothing more than the truth that he could offer her.

Barb began to sob and broke down in Paul’s ready arms. She buried her face in his chest and her own chest heaved uncontrollably with the heartbreak she felt. Denise was more than a friend-she was as much a sister as she could be without having the same blood in her veins. Barb had never realized how strong her love for Denise was until now. If only it had not taken a crisis of this magnitude to make her see it. If only I had stayed with her instead of thinking of my own wants. If only….

The door opened again and the outside light that had previously seemed rather dim now attacked with full ferocity as it hit Denise’s pupils. She clamped her eyes shut in pain and waited a moment to slowly open and acclimatize herself to the illumination that now intruded.

“I have food and water for you; and I assume that by now you will have need of some facilities.” He threw a plastic bucket into the corner where it clattered to a resounding halt on its side. She heard Ted’s footsteps exit again for a moment and then return. He placed a platter on the floor before her and began to untie her bonds. He paused just before he let go of the ropes and said coldly, “If you attempt to escape, we will see that you are punished appropriately for it.”

We, she thought. Was there someone else involved in this with him? Who…and why?

It was needless for him to have warned her, for as the ropes were released she knew that in a moment she would suffer excruciating pain as the blood surged back into her starved extremities. It did not prove to be an idle prophecy. She lay as still as she could until the tingling became bearable enough to hazard movement. The tape over her mouth he had left for her to remove at her convenience. The door was again slammed shut, but this time the dim light remained. She was surprised by this and turned about to see a small bulb in the ceiling, likely no more than 40 watts. At least she could see to eat.

“We shall return.” The muffled voice came from behind the door. She was alone. He had again spoken in the third person.

The food was very plain, being just bread, celery and a bit of cheese. The drink was water. An idea struck her as she looked at the glass—it was real glass, not the cheap plastic that had become so prevalent. She looked about for a place that she could hide a shard of it for later use, in case he retied her or she needed a weapon. There were some boxes and dust-covered cloth, folded in the corner, away from the full intensity of the light, if you could call it full intensity. It had seemed so when it was turned on after she had been in total darkness for so long. How long had it been? She realized she had no idea what time it was, nor even what day, for that matter. But first, she needed to take advantage of the time she had and make it count.

Denise rose to her feet carefully, her wobbly limbs still protesting from being tied so long-she was certain it must have been several hours. He must have hit her hard with something, for the headache was still insistently pounding it’s way into her every thought. Concentrate. She shuffled slowly and painfully over to the door and tested the knob. It was locked, as she expected. Might as well make yourself at home, girl. You may be here awhile. She involuntarily shuddered as the next thought came so quickly and easily to her mind. Maybe permanently.

Denise knew she must think ahead. She would need water, but the glass might come in handy, so she drank it as hurriedly as she could, all except an inch or two. She then dropped the glass on the floor and watched as it shattered into many pieces. Quickly, in case he had heard, she picked up the largest piece and examined it for sharpness. She might make use of this later, to cut her bonds or to cut her enemy. The thought repelled her, but she knew this was no time to be faint of heart. With her life in the balance, she might have little or no choice in the matter. Moving to the darker corner, she slid the gleaming shard into the folds of a dust-covered cloth that she found there on the floor, assuming, as she must, that he might tie her again and leave her on the floor.

The rest of the glass and the water lay on the floor, spread in a small pattern, as evidence of her supposed clumsiness. She would blame it on the lack of circulation in her hands—couldn’t hold on tightly enough, she would claim. She then set about eating the meager food that was there, for she was hungry. This, too, told her that she must have already been there an appreciable amount of time.

At best, her plan was to remain as calm as she could, not upset Ted and pray for help to arrive before he went over the edge and did something that was irreversible. At worst… she didn’t want to think about the worst right now.

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