Location Unknown; June 29th, 2012
“It was awful,” Janie finally murmured, digging her nails into his back to keep him closer.
Taran obliged, pulling her flush against his chest, wishing he could take away the painful memories as easily as he’d taken away her tears.
“What did he do?” he asked, though he was completely positive he wasn’t going to want to know the answer. As he gazed down at the broken girl in his lap, he felt something stir in his chest.
Janie was far from wanting to experience the horror all over again. “I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“Are you hurt? Do you need me to fix anything?” he pleaded, looking her over, though the dark obstructed much of his view.
She nodded. “My hip.”
He lifted her gently off his lap, placing her on the floor. When his hands met her cold flesh he flinched and noticed for the first time that she was shirtless. “Where’s your—?” he began but caught himself. “Never mind.”
“He tore it up.”
Taran nodded, though he knew she couldn’t see him.
“I thought he was going to kill me, but when I opened my eyes, he was tearing up my shirt…I gave him the picture; as far as he knows, there’s no reason to keep me alive anymore.”
Taran squinted in an attempt to find whatever ailed her in her hip area, but when he began to prod, he found her skin slick with fresh blood. His pants were soaked with it after the night she’d spent sitting there, bleeding out without his knowledge.
“Jesus Christ!” he yelled, finally finding the wound with his fingertips. “You should have told me about this when you came back!”
Janie couldn’t help the look of confusion that passed over face. “Sorry.”
“You’re lucky he didn’t pierce any organs, or I would’ve woken up with you dead in my lap!” he enthused, tearing a strip of cloth from the hem of his dress shirt to wrap around her.
She hissed as the cloth stuck to her open slice, but didn’t fight him, even as he applied pressure to the raw flesh. “You’re so cold,” he said, handing his suit jacket to her. She donned it thankfully.
“I’m always cold,” she countered, viciously clenching and unclenching her fists against the pain when he went back to work.
“That’s deep,” he mocked, tying the ends of the cloth together to ward off the dust itching to infect her. “Janie, what did you mean about the pictures?”
She sat up and against the wall beside him, leaning heavily against his shoulder. “I had one of the pictures on me. I gave it to him. I have two others stashed, but he doesn’t know about those. They’re gonna kill me, they don’t need me anymore.”
Taran bit his tongue until he tasted blood. “You need to go to the hospital.”
Janie snorted despite herself. “Ya, let me know when you see one.”
Taran ground his teeth together, carefully thinking over his words before he whispered, “What I’m saying is, I’m getting you out of here.”
“How do you plan to do that?” she asked.
“We’ll have to run,” he explained, pulling himself to his feet. “We’ll run! I’ll fight them off while you get out and we can find a—”
“Taran!” she interjected. “I can’t run, look at my leg!”
Truth be told, he’d forgotten about that. “Right. Stand up.”
Her glare was sweltering as she sat there, not bothering to dignify his demand with action. “I can’t stand either, dumbass.”
“Then, I’ll…I’ll carry you! I’ll carry you…while I fight them off. Then, when we get to the door, I’ll let you down and you’ll crawl away while I cover the door. You’ve seen around the building more than I have, have you seen any way out?”
“Ya, but my last attempt didn’t go so well. That’s kinda why I can’t walk.”
Taran stared thoughtfully at the floor. “If you can point us in the direction of the way out, you won’t have to walk. You won’t last much longer here without medical attention.”
She bit her lip. “I know.”
“And when we’re out there, we’re gonna hang out after the hospital. We’re gonna go cliff diving, so I can break your arm, too. Then we can split some KFC chicken and live happily ever after. Y’know, normal stuff.”
Rolling her eyes, Janie mumbled, “Normal stuff. We’re really gonna do this?”
“You don’t know what they’ll do to you if it doesn’t work out. They haven’t taken you for that, yet.”
“We have to risk it,” he swore.
“I…I…” she pulled her damp hair away from her face, staring warily up into his face. “I’m gonna trust you on this, Taran.”
He released a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. “Good.”
“So, when are we doing this?”
He reached over and pulled her, bridal-style, into his grasp. She wrapped her arms securely around his neck in return, ready at a moment’s notice. “Now. You’re dying. Act like it.”
“This is crazy, we need to plan this better, Taran!” she objected. “You’re gonna get us killed!”
“Just do it!” he hissed.
“Uhh…” she closed her eyes and let her head loll over his forearm.
“Very good. Help! She’s bleeding out! Somebody help her!” he screamed, waiting for the door to open.
Janie could foresee a tragic flaw his plan, but remained silent anyway. There was no reason for them to want her alive, anymore, so what did it matter if she was dying? She’d given them what they wanted.
As far as they knew, anyway.
Which was why she was incredibly surprised by the screech of the opening door.
“What’s going on?” the man’s familiar voice snarled as he entered the room.
“You cut her too deep! She’s bleeding out! She won’t wake up!” Taran insisted, pulling her closer to him as he neared them.
“Where all the blood’s coming from, shithead!” Taran screamed. Janie could feel his hand gently fold over her wound.
“She’s breath—” he began.
The sharp smack of Taran’s head colliding with the man’s silenced him.
“Hold on tight,” Taran ordered, his voice thick as he recovered from the blow to his head. Janie could feel it when he ran headlong toward the exit and adjusted herself until she feared she had to be choking him with her death-grip. “Not that tight.”
She looked around as he barreled down the hallway, taking in the sights she’d seen only once before, when she’d failed in her original escape attempt. Just like before, she watched the door come into view once he reached the second floor landing. She pointed in its direction. “That’s it!”
“Hey!” a voice called as someone’s hand closed around her ankle.
It tore her from Taran’s arms just a few feet from the door.
She toppled to the floor, rolling until his grip on her leg kept her from moving further.
Taran stopped only when his body hit the door. “Janie!” he yelled, turning back as more men ran toward them.
Janie clawed at the hand binding her but her bleeding hip hindered her. “Taran!” she cried, reaching for him.
Her friend’s foot stomped on the windpipe of her captor, releasing his hold on her easily. “Janie, go! You have to go!” he yelled, shoving two men to the floor as they ran for her.
“But what about y—”
“Go! I’ll catch up,” he hastily replied.
Janie rolled over, with much effort, and crawled toward the door, crying out as her leg protested to the hard ground. She reached up, gaining leverage with the push door handle, and, painstakingly, wobbled to her feet. After several failed attempts at standing on her good leg, her shoulder pushed the handle into place in the door.
She fell out into the open.
The world was beautiful, just like she remembered, but she couldn’t stop to admire it while she was still vulnerable. Looking around, she spotted an armed guard patrolling the grounds not fifty feet from where she knelt, but his eyes were diverted from her, focused on the woods at the edge of the yard. Without a plan from this point on, she realized that the woods were her only chance without Taran. There was nowhere else to hide.
Taran would find her there.
She crawled silently toward the line of trees separating her from freedom, marine-style, so she wouldn’t attract the attention of the guard.
She was so slow.
Her heart pounded in her head to the soundtrack of her fevered breaths as she pulled herself across the short grass.
“Stop!” a male voice called from where she assumed the guard was standing, watching her. She could do nothing but continue pulling herself toward the woods with a renewed determination.
Taran separated his throat from the grasp of one of the men inside, throwing him away and into another man that ran toward him.
He didn’t wait for any others to come his way. Throwing himself outside, he found the edge of the forest easily and nothing else. Janie must have gotten into the woods, he realized, she couldn’t be hiding anywhere else.
He was impressed, he was worried she wouldn’t get far without him, but he’d obviously underestimated her. Hearing the door open behind him, he loped toward the trees, searching for Janie as he went.
But, he didn’t find her.
He went back to find her, where she must have been hiding low to the ground.
He stopped to catch his breath, knowing they wouldn’t be pursuing him anymore. Janie would need to take a break to nurse her most recent injury soon, anyway, and he needed to find her to stop the bleeding. He bent over his knees.
“That was…exciting?” he chuckled, more to himself than her, though he yelled to get her attention. “We need to find a hospital. Are you bleeding, again?” He looked around again by the very edge of the woods, hoping to see her lying there, holding her breath, waiting for his return. “Janie?”
He was alone.
“Janie!” he called.
His useless scream received only its echo in response.
Movement back in the yard caught his attention, and he turned behind a tree to investigate. His heart dropped.
As he stood safely in the shadows, he watched his Janie writhe in the arms of an unfamiliar man as he walked toward the door of the building.
He dropped her, and Taran briefly debated whether it would be wiser to go in after her or get help. When the guard reestablished a hold on Janie, this time on her hair as he pulled her, screaming his name, into the building, Taran’s options had run out. Now, whichever way he spun it, he could think of only one thing:
He’d escaped the prison cell, but he’d left Janie behind.
When the door slammed closed, he turned on his heel, running as fast as he could toward where he thought he would find civilization. He didn’t think he would have to do this alone, now it was all he thought.
He was alone.
Janie was alone.
Janie could die without him there to help her; as if he’d been such a great help when he was there. He forced himself to run when he realized the only help for her now would be to get the authorities. If they hadn’t already been corrupted by Petrov and her goons.
Janie wailed as she was pulled back to the room of her nightmares by her hair, now without a single person to buoy her when she was returned to the cell. She could only pray to whatever God would listen that Taran would come back for her. That hope was all that got her through the next hour, while her head was wrenched to and from the concrete trough. But, in all honesty, what else could she do?
Don’t put me back in the tub. Don’t put me back in the tub. Don’t put me back in the tub.