Really, really bad idea, Richard.
His eyes burned again, and he could imagine them rimmed with red and tearing up. He didn’t dare turn to his left to look at his captor. Instead, he stared ahead and looked at the concrete in front of his muddy boots.
“Very good. It seems you’re willing to cooperate, if nothing else.” The voice next to him was thick with sarcasm. He saw a figure move out the corner of his eye and stand in front of him. “Well, maybe ‘cooperate’ is too strong a word. But nothing can stop you from listening.”
Richard took a deep breath, hating himself for its shuddering release. Was he going into shock? He couldn’t remember what happened to him, or how on earth he got wherever he was.
The man kneeled before him, and Richard couldn’t avoid looking at his face. The man was obviously European, with dark skin, hair, and a strong jaw. His smile was both charming and sinister, and it brought an alarming gleam to his eyes.
“So this is the great Richard White,” he began slowly, taking his time looking at Richard as if he was committing his features to memory. “We’ve heard so much about you.”
Richard glanced around the room, noticing the two other men inside it. He was surrounded by large crates. The smell was… strange, but nothing to be worried about. Nothing at the moment, anyway. The room itself reminded him of one of those TV dramas where the kidnapped actor was locked in the basement of some house – devoid of windows, only one light source right above his head, and not a door in sight.
“Do you like your room?” the man said, letting his eyes scan the wooden crates. “It’s more of our storage area than anything else. Forgive me. We ran out of five-star accommodations for superior reporters such as you.”
The two men behind him chuckled. Richard only stared at them, and then let his eyes gaze on the floor before him. What happened…?
“I’m afraid it’s not going to be very comfortable, either. I hope that your profession as a reporter has assisted you in sleeping in uncomfortable positions. You’re going to be in that chair for a while.” He then stood and crossed his arms in front of him. Richard had no idea how he must have looked, but suddenly his demeanor changed and he gestured behind him. “How rude of me. Are you thirsty, Mr. White? Your throat must be parched after being in that chair for so long. I can’t imagine when you last had water.”
The man turned and walked to one of the crates. Sitting on top of it was a cooler, and he reached inside and pulled out a bottle of water. Unscrewing the cap, he kneeled before Richard, removed the gag from his mouth, and held the bottle up to his lips. Richard took two deeps gulps, nearly choking on the third. The man smiled again.
“Good. I was hoping that your fiancée hasn’t had much influence on you. I was half-expecting you to spit the water back at me. Fortunately for you, I’m in a good mood.” Keeping the smile in place, he took the bottle and held it out to his right. Rotating his wrist, he let the water pour slowly, agonizingly, out of the bottle. “You see, I could have put that back in the cooler, but now it’s there for you to enjoy should you need it. Getting to it might be troublesome, but, being a reporter, that shouldn’t be a problem for you. You know how to get yourself out of tight situations, don’t you?”
Forcing the last bit of phlegm down his throat, Richard opened his mouth. “Who are you?” His voice was scratchy and weak from lack of use.
Suddenly the smile was gone, and seeing the face behind it brought more fear to Richard than he expected. Instead of answering, the man stood and walked away from him. Speaking quietly to the others in the room, the trio walked behind a crate. A door opened and closed. There was no sound from the outside.
Now I screwed up. I’m just not sure how I did it.
Richard took another glance around the room to make sure he was alone. When he was certain that he was, he sighed deeply and allowed his shoulders to sag. His exhaustion caught up with him quickly, but he knew that sleeping would give them a chance to do… something. Instead, he forced his eyes open and looked at his wrists. His shirt sleeves were messily pulled back, and his arms were tied to the chair with wire. Moving his hands or fingers resulted in sharp pain. Leaning forward as much as he could, he saw that his legs were similarly bound at the ankles, though the wire was cutting into the skin, making any movement worse. His torso was tied at the biceps.
He leaned his head back and let the light blind him momentarily, feeling morbidly grateful that the pain meant he was still alive. The uncomfortable dread settled back in moments later, as he became fully aware that he really had no idea where he was or how long he’d been out. Jason and Lois had to be worried sick by now…
I was hoping that your fiancée hasn’t had much influence on you.
His heart stopped. They knew about Lois. Which meant they had to know about Jason, too.
Of course they do. If they know you are a reporter, then they know about Jason and Lois. I told Uncle Perry not to put our engagement notice in the Planet. Still, he couldn’t stop the dread that threatened to overtake him. What more could they possibly know about him or his family? He shook his head. He knew he shouldn’t be thinking pessimistically. The best thing for now was to make sure this man, whoever he was, learned nothing more about his family than he already knows. And hopefully that isn’t much.
Moments later the door opened again. The man from before came back in, his short hair gleaming in the soft glow of the single light. This time he was alone and carried something with him in a brown bag. Holding it up so that Richard could see it better, he tossed it onto one of the crates. “I’ll get to that later. For now, you asked me a question, and I believe it’s very rude not to answer questions.”
The man stood before Richard with his hands clasped behind his back. With a small, knowing smile, he said, “Then again, I think you already know who I am.”
He paused, obviously waiting for Richard to figure out his great secret. Richard only stared back, letting his eyes memorize every feature, begging his memory to capture the image of this man so he could find some small measure of comfort. When he didn’t answer for a while, the man’s smile seemed forced and impatient. “Fine, then. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Christopher Hendrick. Please get as comfortable as you can while seated in that chair. Turns out it’s the only place you’re going to be while staying here.”
Richard did his best to keep the panic out of his voice. “What do you want with me?”
Hendrick shook a finger at him. “There are a few questions I cannot answer at the moment, Mr. White. You must live with that mystery for the time being. Now, as much as I would love to continue our little conversation and let you discover all the answers you crave, I have an employer I must meet with. But don’t worry – there’s a gentleman outside who will keep you company.”
When his captor moved into the shadows, they seemed to envelope him quicker than Richard remembered. The door opening and closing was suddenly loud in his ears, and the footsteps that followed echoed hauntingly around the room. A taller man, younger and built better than Hendrick, stepped into the light and leaned against one of the crates. Richard stared back, waiting for him to make a move, feeling his heart race with panic. The blue-eyed man’s mouth slowly wrinkled in a smile. “How are you doing, Mr. White?” he said sarcastically.
Richard blinked in surprise then turned his head to his lap, fighting the headache that began to thud in his brain. He needed to focus, to concentrate on staying calm and assess his situation. He needed to figure a way out, and he needed to do it quick. He took another look at the binding around his hands…
…and noticed, for the first time, the small thread of dried blood coming from a vein in his arm.