A smell of dust, oranges, cat litter. Darkness. She attempted to sit up straight and felt an enormous weight pull her back down.
She tried again, this time putting her weight on her elbow for support.
What the hell is this? She thought frantically.
She felt like you would feel whenever you wake up in the middle of the night on the wrong side of the bed and for a few seconds cannot remember where you are,
only this time it seemed to be taking too long to get out of it. She felt exhausted. The lack of strength however, was worse than her usual sense of weakness.
She’d normally require brave efforts to open heavy drawers or carry bags to the kitchen, and climbing stairs was never an easy feat.
But this was like somebody had removed all of her muscles and left her with a lump of flesh and bone.
What is this?! she panicked silently.
“You can keep doing that but it won’t get you up any sooner love.” A voice said.
She looked around and saw a man sitting on a chair peeling what looked like a fruit, next to him was a white cat, who he petted lovingly. She lay on her back breathing heavily.
“You should rest.” he added
“Where am I?”
“No, you’re in my house.”
She looked around again and could make out pipes, boxes, stairs and what was definitely a window through which light was coming in. Then she looked down at her feet and saw chains around them.
Oh this is just great, I’m in what looks like a basement, chained down on a mattress with a strange, talk about a cliché .
“Oh yes, sorry about the chains, it’s all very uncivilised I know, but I didn’t want to risk making this more complicated than it needs to be, and those chains are my only security.
But don’t worry I found chains long enough to get you to the bathroom. I’m not a monster."
Okay. Get up, she thought.
She once again tried to pull her weight up to a seating position but failed. She cried out in frustration and fell back down.
“Calm down love it’ll wear off by time. My advice is stay still while we chat for a whi-.”
“Who the hell are you?” she interrupted.
“My name is Hardy, I’m 55 years old, I weigh around 95 kilos and I’ve got quite the cholesterol problem. I like reading and fishing and playing with my cat Yuki here.”
“Yuki? Where the hell am I, what is this?”
“Yes, Yuki, its Japanese for ‘snow’ you know, because she’s white. As for your questions, I told you, you’re in my house and what this is, is justice.”
“Yes that’s right.”
“Justice for what? Oh God I’m so tired.”
“Well, like I said, it’ll wear off with time. Rest, we’ll talk later.”
Her eyelids began to close and open slowly, close and open...close.
She was walking towards her house, carrying her laptop in one arm and a purse in the other, trying not to trip.
Out of nowhere a voice sounded from behind her, startling her enough to almost drop her laptop.
“Sorry umm, yes?” she said out of breath.
“Could you help me carry some things out of my car? I sprained my hand and can’t carry them myself.”
She looked down at his hands and saw a bandage wrapped around one of them.
“Sure, give me one second to put my laptop down,” he reached out to help her but surprised, she said, “I think a laptop is a little too heavy for you with a sprained hand.
” Suddenly she felt apprehensive about the whole thing.
“You know what, I don’t feel comfortable putting this down on the ground. Let me go inside and come back out.
” She figured she’d go to her house and tell her mother to keep an eye out just in case something was amiss.
“Umm, here, put it here.” He pointed to his trunk, which was loaded with what looked like grocery bags. She smiled and slowly turned around to place the laptop into his trunk.
She woke up in sweats with a jolt. She felt the back of her head and grimaced.
So that’s what happened.
She looked down at her feet, which were still chained. This time, her efforts to sit up were met with success.
She brushed her hair away from her face, looking up to see the man she was just a few seconds ago helping with his groceries in her dream.
She was less light-headed now, and she could see clearly. By her side was Yuki who she reached down to pet.
“So what did you do? Knock me in the head with a pipe?” She asked.
“Morning Isabelle, I did knock you out, but didn’t need a pipe for that.”
“I’ve been on pretty heavy meds for the past year, whatever you drugged me with could have killed me.”
“How would you know that love?”
“Is daddy paying for that?”
“What does that mean? You’re going to kill me because you think I’m spoilt?”
“Kill you? I’m not a murderous maniac.” He said, offended.
“Right, chaining a woman to a floor is the epitome of sanity.”
“Now, don’t be a smart mouth.” He chuckled, “I like you. You’re nothing like your father are you? You seem more, real.”
“Yes well my father and I are very different. How do you know my father?”
“Well, would you like some lunch to go with that story? I’ve made spaghetti.” He offered with a smile.
You’d think she’d think twice before ingesting anything that came from the man who drugged her and is holding her captive.
But she was starving, and had a feeling she was going to be here for a while. “I could eat.”
“I’ll be right back then.”
She sighed, Yuki now purring on her lap. Hardy returned five minutes later with a plate of spaghetti and a glass of what looked like coke.
She drank the whole glass at one go and wiped her lips, out of breath.
“Sorry about that, couldn’t give you anything to drink until you were totally conscious, was afraid you wouldn’t hold it down.”
“Am I supposed to thank you? How do you know my father?” she snapped.
“Well, it was about a year ago. My daughter came home, said she’d finally found a job she liked, a personal assistant to a wealthy lawyer who ran a firm with his partner-Spencer and McCarthy.”
She swallowed her food and looked up at him, still not sure what this was about.
“You're confused, let me go on. So she’s happy, first time she smiles in six years.
Couple of weeks pass, maybe five, she starts coming home later than late, says she works for a busy lawyer who needs her at the office for as long as he’s in the office.
This goes on for another six months, her life revolves around him, she hadn’t had dinner with me once since she’d started working for him.”
“One night she comes home, talking to herself, walks to the kitchen and starts throwing plates and glasses across the room.
I hadn't known what happened yet but I recognised the look in her eyes, the last time I’d seen it was when her mother died. You see Melissa was a little troubled.
She had a mental breakdown after her mother died and never quite recovered completely. But she was manageable with medication, she could function you know, eat, sleep, work.”
Isabelle knew exactly what he meant, but didn’t respond.
“I manage to calm her down long enough to tell me what happened, and she tells me your father has been sleeping with her for the past six months.
She goes to his office that night to surprise him and sees him with another woman, who she knew wasn’t his wife, who he apparently spent six months saying he was about to divorce.
So she walks in, devastated, and he asks her what she’s doing there, and that she should leave before he calls the police. “The police?” She asks.
He turns to the other woman, tells her not to worry, that Melissa had been stalking him for the past year, meanwhile pushing her out the door.
Hysterical, she ran to her car and that’s when she came home. The next day she gets an email saying she was “‘terminated for bad behaviour’”
Now Isabelle understood it all. Months of arguments between her parents back home, during which the name Melissa had occasionally come up.
One night her father came home and blurt out during dinner that one of his employees killed herself. Mum slammed her fork, got up, left the table and went upstairs to pack a suitcase for dad.
They spent the next hour screaming until mum managed to get rid of him and they divorced two months later.
“She killed herself?” Isabelle asked the stranger in front of her.
“That’s right love, your dad’s a classy man.”
“I can’t believe this, I-I met her, I went to drop off some papers for him and she offered me coffee. She seemed so nice. I met her. God I just thought my mum was jealous and paranoid.”
“Well she wasn’t love, your father was sleeping with my daughter, my twenty year old daughter who’d never been with a single man in her entire life. This is the guy she picks.
He sleeps with someone else and drives my baby to suicide.”
"How do I figure in all this?” she asked curious as to what her father had gotten her into. She hadn’t spoken to him since the divorce, was too busy cleaning up the mess her mother was.
“Now you and I are going to be roommates for a while, until I decide your father has suffered enough.”
“You’re going to keep me here? And then what?”
“And then you go back home. Put your father through hell first, simple, love.”
“So my father drives your daughter to suicide and you repay him by spending the rest of your life in jail?”
“Ah, don’t worry about that, nobody will know you’ve been here with me.”
“So you are going to kill me.”
“No, I’m going to make your life better than it was before I brought you here.”
“How’s that then?”
“For each month you keep your mouth shut, after I let you go, you get a generous payment as thank you.”
She scoffed, “Why are you so sure I’d sell out my own father like that?”
“Because I know someone who tells me you’d sell your father out in a heartbeat.” With that, he got up, turned around, started climbing the stairs.
What is he talking about? she thought to herself.
“So we're done with this conversation?!” she yelled as he left. Around five seconds later, he started to walk back down, but behind him she saw someone else.
As soon as the light hit the figure, her heart sunk as she recognised the shoes. She stood up, Yuki following her, and took a couple of steps backwards.