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Again and again Cara tried and failed to find a way out of the bare concrete room, yet the door would not budge when she tugged at its handle.
There was no way out of the cellar in which she had awoken without any memory of how she had come to be there.
She remembered that she had been locking the doors of her ground floor, one bedroom apartment and padding her way along the long narrow corridor, switching off the lights of the adjoining rooms as she passed by them.
The last thing that she remembered was opening her bedroom door and stepping into the room…
… From then on, her memories had come to a complete stop.
Thought after thought chased each other through Cara’s mind, each more terrifying than the last…
… Had she been knocked out or drugged?
Yet however she had come to be trapped in what appeared to be a cellar room, dimly lit by a single caged light and a small narrow, barred window and containing nothing but an iron framed single bed with a bare mattress and a folded blanket lay on the mattress’s end...
Yet knowing how she had got there wouldn’t help her now even if she could remember...
... Her mind continued to reel.
Who would have done this to her?
Had she noticed anyone strange, suspicious, or out of place hanging around, someone who might have been watching her?
What did they want with her?
Did they mean to rape her, kill her, or even sell her into slavery?
You hear about such things, don’t you…?
… In the newspapers and on the TV, these stories were commonly told.
Tales of young women snatched out of their everyday lives and stolen away to some far off and distant part of the world to be sold to some sadistic and perverted monster.
Cara’s fears began to overwhelm her.
Her heart began to pound in her chest and her breath caught in her throat as her terror grew and flooded through her entire body, making her feel weak, shaky, and faint.
Could this be some idiot’s idea of a prank?
The sudden thought filled Cara’s mind with a flush of hope that had her rushing to pound on the door once more, yet this hope passed as quickly as it had arrived.
None of the people that she knew were sick enough to pull a prank this cruel and terrifying…
… This has to be real.
A sudden wave of nausea and dizziness washed over her, forcing her to rush back to the bare mattress where she had awoken and sink weakly down with her head in her hands.
Though her fuzzy mind screamed for her to lay down, at least just for a moment until the oxygen levels in her brain had equalised, every fibre of her being resisted the urge.
She had to be ready.
But for what?
She was too terrified to consider the possibilities.
Cara did lie down; however, biology had its way as the after effects of the drug that had been used to knock her out and abduct her and her sudden panic combined to cause her to faint, falling backwards onto the bed.
On a screen in the next room, her captor watched her with concern.
He hadn’t meant her any harm. In fact, he had looked for any and all other solutions to the problem that she posed him yet he had to dismiss each as either unachievable or just too risky.
The basic fact was that he needed her out of the way, out of her apartment behind the shop in which she worked.
He needed her away from her employer who lived in the apartment above hers and the shop without the risk of her unexpectedly returning.
He had hatched the plan of kidnapping her more out of simple base desperation than out of a real desire to do so and it caused what had been a simple plan to suddenly become far more complex.
He didn’t want to cause her harm or fear. She was innocent of any wrongdoing… He was sure of that.
Watching her fight dizziness and lose the battle worried him.
When he had set out to do what he needed to, there was only supposed to ever be one person who would pay the price… one person who was harmed and that was not supposed to be her.
Over the years, Cara had been one of the few people who had continued to treat him with a kindness and respect that even he couldn’t muster up for himself.
Seconds later he was kneeling at the side of the bed, his fingers pressed to the cold flesh of her throat, feeling for the pulse that he was relieved to find was strong and regular.
He carefully lifted her legs up onto the bed and repositioned her into a more comfortable position before taking up the still folded blanket, shaking it out and using it to cover her against the chill of the cellar’s air.
Aiden crossed the bare concrete floor, going back to the open door, and returned with a small stainless steel trolley on top of which was a blue plastic carrier bag containing food and drink.
He placed the trolley by the bed and unpacked the bag, setting out the pre-packed sandwiches, deserts, and bottles of drink before pulling a note out of his pocket and setting it beneath the bottle of orange juice so that it could not become misplaced.
He then returned to the corridor to fetch a bucket containing a sole toilet roll that he put in the far corner of the room, in the camera’s only blind spot, before quickly leaving the room so that the unconscious woman on the bed would not come too and recognise him.
After locking the door once more, he hurried back to his screen to anxiously watch over her until he had reassured himself that she had safely regained consciousness once more.
He watched her as she came to and groggily stared at the trolley and the food that it contained before picking them up one by one and suspiciously examining them and finding his note.
He watched her brow wrinkle in disgust as comprehension dawned when she read the note telling her about the presence and purpose of the bucket and once he had seen her begin to eat and drink he finally forced himself to turn away from the screen and move forward with his plans.
I’ll do what I need to do quickly and let her go once I know that it’s safe, he thought as he left the room and climbed the stairs that led up into the old disused and deserted house where he was keeping her and had been hiding out for the last few weeks.
Cara came too beneath the blanket and at first was confused and then she was relieved when she saw the trolley of food and drink, but only slightly.
Even though it appeared that this meant that her kidnapper was unlikely to mean her any harm, it didn’t mean that he didn’t have some other nefarious reason for abducting her.
After all, there were no good reasons for doing such a thing, were there?
Once again, Cara felt her panic rising as thoughts began to spring unbidden into her mind.
This, this food, this drink, did not mean that he was not some kind of irrational nut job or some human slave trafficker protecting their invested time, energy, and future profits.
Slowly, carefully, Cara pushed herself up into a sitting position, afraid that to move too quickly might cause her to faint again.
She examined the pre-packed sandwich packets, the individual cheesecake tubs, plastic spoons, and the bottles of drink, one containing water and the other orange juice before taking up the note that had been placed beneath the juice bottle.
The note informed her that there was a bucket in the corner for her to use if she needed to use the bathroom and in the note, its author apologised for being unable to provide any better.
“Great,” Cara grumbled as she glanced at the bucket in the shadowy corner and wrinkled her brow in disgust. “Now I have to crap in a bucket.”
Cara opened and inspected one of the sandwich packets and could see no indication that it might have been tampered with, yet in her mind that didn’t mean that it hadn’t happened.
She opened the packet, took out one of the triangular sandwiches, sniffed it, and then took the tiniest taste that she could manage.
Only once she had reassured herself that all seemed as it should did she wolf down the half of sandwich before repeating the entire process with the other half, and then with the bottle of orange juice.
She was hungry and thirsty and whilst there might be a drug in the food or drink that was impossible for her to detect, it was likely that if her kidnapper really wanted her drugged he could simply walk in, overpower her, inject her, and have it done with like she was now certain that he had done in her apartment.
By the time she had consumed all of the food and the bottle of orange juice, she still felt no physical indications of them being spiked with any drugs.
Cara soon found herself with nothing to do but stare into space, filled with worry and dread, and think about the possibilities of what the future might have in store for her.
George locked the shop door and for the hundredth time that day cursed Cara for going missing.
Having to mind the shop had taken his attention away from his other, less legal, business that he ran from his flat upstairs and his meetings with the two thugs that worked for him had to be held in the store room whilst keeping one eye on the shop and listening out for the bell above the shop door.
It had never occurred to George, in his selfish and miserly nature, that this was out of character or that when there had been no answer when he had pounded on the door of the apartment that he rented to her at an extortionate rate, that she might be lying dead or dying inside.
These things didn’t matter to George, because all he cared about were himself and his profits and though it would be a definite inconvenience, people were disposable and easily replaceable.
The old man had a reputation, locally, as a swindler and a ruthless and often cruel loan shark and slum landlord who often set the two nasty thugs in his employ to performing illegal evictions or terrorising families who couldn’t afford to pay what they owed.
To George these tactics were just business… It was the rest of the world, and not he, that had a problem.
Aiden was determined to do what he had set out to do, what the growing hate inside him was driving him to do.
He had put plans in place to ensure that Cara would be found and rescued within 24 hours should his plan go awry and he for some reason was unable to release her himself.
This night would bring an end to a lifetime of hate and rage and right a wrong done to him and his family when he had been only 10-years-old.
For too long George Bell had gloated that he had robbed the Stokes family, Aiden’s family, of all they had owned just as he gloated over the pain that he had caused countless others since.
George's actions had driven Marjory Stokes, Aiden’s mother, into an early grave when Aiden himself had been only 11-years-old, leaving him an orphan to be raised by an elderly aunt.
George Bell had been a family friend ever since Marjory had been a child and so when Marjory’s husband passed away it had been natural for her to turn to him with trust for support and advice.
In the months after Aiden’s father died, his mother, whose mind was frozen by grief, had come to rely on George when making any financial decision however small and George, who had never forgiven her for rejecting him in favor of another man, took full advantage.
He used Marjory’s grief to steal her dead mother’s shop, the money her husband had left them and their home, leaving her and her 10-year-old son homeless and making her pay for rejecting him in the process.
By the time that George Bell had used the money to set up his loan sharking business and established himself in the shop, Marjory had sunk deeper into depression and both she and Aiden were being cared for by Marjory’s elderly aunt.
By the time that Aiden had reached his eleventh birthday, his mother was dead.
His aunt had said that his mother had died of heartbreak but he had later learned that she had committed suicide having been unable to get over first her grief and then the terrible betrayal by a man who she thought was a trusted friend.
Aiden knew all about the shop. After all, he had spent the first ten years of his life living there.
For example, he knew how to easily and soundlessly pop open the catch on the cellar storeroom window from the outside so that he could silently slip through and drop onto the uneven brick floor.
He had also known that George Bell was too much of a miser to have spent the money that he had stolen and bullied from his victims on an alarm system and at that precise moment, he would be passed out drunk in his bed.
It took Aiden a matter of seconds to grab a couple of the bottles of lighter fluid from the shelves behind the counter beside the cellar and storeroom doors and squirt their content over the boxes of tissues, packets of toilet rolls and kitchen rolls and the shelving displaying newspapers and magazines.
Then after quickly lighting and dropping a few matches, he had set the shelves alight.
As he hurried back to the head of the cellar steps, the flames roared and spread with fuel aplenty.
By the time that he was pulling himself up and through the small cellar storeroom window the whole of the shop floor was alight, the flames having spread to the alcoholic and cleaning products… the heat melting and exploding bottles and cans of flammable liquids and gasses.
Moments later, Aiden was quietly closing the window once more and listing to the old and familiar click of the window catch falling back into place that he had heard a thousand times as a child when sneaking out of the shop late at night.
Nobody would ever know that was how the arsonist, if they ever even suspected one, had gotten into the shop with the window being locked from the inside.
Cara awoke slowly and for a brief moment she thought that she were in her own bed in her apartment before the memory of the cellar room flooded back to fill her mind.
Yet when she opened her eyes in a panic she found herself in the magnolia painted room of a hospital, laid not on a bare mattress but between the soft white sheets of a hospital bed with high barred sides.
A nurse, who was stood by her bedside taking a reading from a machine, which was connected to a clip that was clipped to Cara’s finger, glanced at her and noticed that she were awake.
“How did I get here?” Cara asked, feeling confused and groggy.
“You were found by the receptionist sat propped up against the doors of the doctor’s surgery when she went to open up for the day this morning. She called for an ambulance and they brought you in."
"It appears that you have been drugged and the police are waiting to speak to you about a fire at your home and place of work that killed your boss…It seems that whoever drugged you may have saved your life.
When the police checked through your clothing for ID they found a note informing them exactly what drug you have been given and how much along with your name and address… It seems that whoever did this to you wanted to ensure that you were looked after,” the nurse said.