The cell is eight feet wide, twelve feet long. I measure it, taking slow, cautious steps, arms out in front of me, feeling for the wall in the darkness.
I stub my toe on something. Reaching down, my fingers find a bucket. Not quite the en-suite facilities I was expecting on this trip.
There’s a bed against one wall, a small basin in the opposite corner. I run the tap, stick my mouth under it. The barest trickle of water emerges, and it tastes foul.
I feel my way around. No light switches, no handle on the door, no lock to pick. Not that I have anything to pick it with. I’m naked. Even my tongue stud has gone.
I shiver, crossing my arms against my chest self-consciously, wondering if anyone’s watching on infra-red camera. Standing on the bed I can reach the ceiling and feel all along one wall and corner. Nothing there. The bed is firmly fixed against the wall, so I can’t pull it across the cell to check the other corners. I hate to think of some creep watching me like this. Maybe a bunch of creeps. Hell, they could be streaming it over the internet for all I know.
I wish I’d gone to the beach with Mickey, my latest boyfriend. But he’s starting to get possessive, hinting we should become exclusive, maybe live together. I just want uncomplicated fun, no strings, no pressure. Mickey’s good company, in small doses, easy on the eye, dynamite in bed. But I’m going to end things soon.
I staged an argument which gave me the excuse of escaping the trip he’d arranged. He went anyway, in a strop. I booked myself a trip to Vegas. Plenty of uncomplicated men there to keep me entertained.
But, in the taxi on the way from the airport I started feeling woozy. I must have passed out because when I came to I was tied up. And in a different car. My eyes were blurry so I couldn’t see the person sitting next to me properly. Whoever it was reached out and put something over my nose and mouth. I got woozy again.
When I woke again I was here in the cell. Naked, cold, thirsty…and pissed as hell. If this is Mickey’s idea of a joke, it isn’t funny.
No, this isn’t Mickey’s doing. Not alone anyway. I have the feeling there were three people in the car with me earlier. At least one was a woman. Before the smell of chloroform overwhelmed me I detected the faint scent of Chanel.
It can’t be the authorities. Even if the FBI are on my trail, knew about my… indiscretions… they wouldn’t go to these extremes. They’d just arrest me. Perhaps I’m just the unlucky victim of a random snatch. Someone waiting for the first single woman who left the airport.
They probably assume I won’t be missed. And I won’t. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going. The terse message I left Mickey simply said I was going away for a bit and wouldn’t be contactable by phone. Not that I have my phone any more. My abductors have likely destroyed it by now.
I took a week’s leave from my job, so they’re not won’t enquire after me for a while either. Maybe not even then. It’s telemarketing, they’re used to people walking out without notice. I’m screwed.
A faint light appears through the small gap beneath the door, ending my speculation. Someone’s coming. For the first time in my life I feel fear. I’ve seen fear often enough on the faces of others. I’ve usually been the one causing it. I don’t like being on the receiving end.
The door is unlocked. Whoever is there takes their time, making plenty of noise, prolonging the agony. Even in my frightened and confused state, I appreciate their methods. Under different circumstances, we could be friends.
The door finally swings open. A flashlight shines in my face, temporarily blinding me. Footsteps enter the cell. More than one person. I blink rapidly, trying to clear my vision. All I see are black shapes in the doorway. Before I can open my mouth to protest, two shadows either side of me grab my arms and I’m dragged out.
I always thought I’d fight back if ever captured. Fight tooth and nail for my life, to kill my captors or die trying. I’ve seen people fight before. I’ve seen others frozen to the spot, unable to move of their own volition. I’ve always had a grudging admiration for the former, felt disdain for the latter. But now I too am frozen. I let them drag me, can’t even find the energy to put one foot in front of the other.
They manhandle me across a hallway into another, much larger, room. My vision clears and I look around as I’m forced into a chair and roughly tied to it. I’ll give them credit, the knots are good, better than mine. Houdini couldn’t escape these restraints.
The room is brightly lit. No windows though. With all my faculties returning, it seems strangely familiar. I frown. It can’t be…
“Recognise the place?” A woman’s voice, in front of me. I turn my head to meet her cold gaze. I focus on her face, knowing I’ve seen it somewhere before, but not remembering where or when.
She sits opposite me, about six feet away. There are other chairs either side of her. The people who dragged and bound me, also women, sit on the chairs to her right. The door behind me opens and closes. More women take their seats. Seven in total. And all but one, the only one who doesn’t meet my eyes, look as vaguely familiar as the one who spoke. The one I assume to be their leader. When my eyes return to hers, she speaks again.
“I believe you once knew this place quite well. Although from a different perspective.”
I decide to brazen this out, whatever ‘this’ is. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I say. “You have the wrong person. I’ve never been to Nor… to Nevada before.”
She smiles at my near-slip. “Ah,” she says. “But you’re not in Nevada. You were about to say North Dakota.”
I shake my head in denial, feigning confusion. She’s right of course. I do know this place. Which means we really are in North Dakota. Somewhere I don’t want to be. Too many near misses in this state. Too many skeletons in the closet. So to speak.
Her familiarity bugs me. I’ve never met her before, but I’ve definitely seen her picture. She says nothing further for a few minutes, just lets me study her. As they all study me. Even the younger, nervous looking one, who wouldn’t look before.
“You don’t remember my name, do you?” the leader says. “Any of our names. But we know yours. Or, at least, some of your aliases. You change identities every time you move.” A statement, not a question.
“I don’t think you’ve seen Sally’s face before though,” she adds, indicating the younger woman. “Her photo hasn’t appeared in the papers, or on local news. She’s the only one of us not portrayed in the press as a grieving mother.”
My gaze meets the speaker’s again. Now I remember. She’s Tom’s mother. Marilyn Freeman. Her face had indeed been plastered over the papers and local news. Her son, the first of my ‘boyfriends’, had been horrifically murdered. Tortured and mutilated first, mutilated further after death. I know because I’m the one who killed him. Right here, in this room. Tom was my initiation. The final exam my teacher gave me before I took up her mantle, continued her legacy.
Tom was just the first. I look around again. I remember them all now. Liam’s mother, and John’s, Patrick’s, Robert’s and Keith’s. Not Paul’s mother though. She killed herself on what would have been Paul’s 18th birthday. I like them young. When hormones are raging and they’ll do anything for, and to, an attractive older woman who pays them attention. Boys like Mickey. Mickey! The light dawns. Again, I turn my gaze on the mystery woman. She has Mickey’s eyes.
“That’s right,” says Marilyn, correctly interpreting the recognition in my face. “You’re not going to make Sally’s son your number eight.”
I open my mouth to put her right. Technically, Mickey would have been my eleventh, as I dispatched another three boyfriends on a very entertaining trip across Europe last year. I shut my mouth again, realising owning up to that would hardly improve my predicament.
“Nothing to say? No denials, no pleas for mercy?” Marilyn asks. It’s clear from her tone that any such pleas would be futile. I’m dead no matter what I say.
These women, these mothers, are not here to turn me in. I’ve no idea how they found me, how they found this place, how they got me here. And I find to my surprise, I don’t care. I’ve had a good run. Deep down I always knew my end, when it came, would be violent. No way was I going to jail. Not like my teacher, who screwed up and found herself on death row, wasting away. Until they stuck a needle in her arm.
I smile, remembering our time together, the best of my life. I smile even more when I see the disgust on Marilyn’s face, the hate as I laugh out loud. My earlier fear has gone. Yes, I’m going to die. And, as I watch all seven women get to their feet and approach me, most of them with weapons, I know I’m going to die slowly, painfully.
Yet, even knowing this, ultimately I’ve still won. One woman turned me into a monster, long ago. Today, I’ve turned seven women, seven otherwise ordinary women, into monsters. This… this is my legacy. I wonder if any of them will develop the same taste for it that I did.
updated by @americymru: 11/18/16 09:18:47PM