The air outside was frigid and still. Thomas brought his chilled hands up to his face and breathed a soothing warmth into them. With a single shove the door pushed open, the sound of his efforts masked by the awakening sound of the streets. He checked his watch, glancing over his shoulder as he entered the building. Sorel had said an hour – it had been half that. His heels clicked down the hall, throwing off a hollow echo.
As he neared the end of the hall and caught sight of the gray metal door, Thomas abruptly stopped in his tracks. Something wasn’t right. Again, he looked over his shoulder, seeing nothing but empty space. He stood at full attention, his senses on full alert. He closed his eyes, concentrating.
That was it!
The lights were shining overhead. He knew he’d turned them off when he left her some thirteen, fourteen hours ago. He turned back to the door, staring. She couldn’t have gotten out on her own. Could Corinthos have found her…or had Sorel paid her a late night visit alone? He wasn’t going to wait for his boss’s arrival to find out.
He carefully pushed down on the handle, listening for the sound of the lock as it released. A quick glance at the light switch beside the door, and he decided to leave it alone. No need to wake her if she was, in fact, still inside. He leaned, slow and steady against the heavy door, the light from the corridor spreading past him. It bathed the concrete floor with a soft illumination, taking a diagonal path across the room and coming to rest on the empty cot.
Thomas stood, unmoving, a vague flicker of relief passing through him. She was gone.
A small sound caught his ear from somewhere in the dark, and his glimmer of relief vanished. As his gaze drifted around the room, another sound – a small whimper – focused his attention in the right direction. Thomas’s pulse quickened, his head swimming as his eyes found what they’d sought.
“Good God.” He whispered. “What did he do to you now?”
Alexis sat crumpled on the floor in the far corner of the room, curled up in a semi-fetal position. Her arms were tightly crossed around her body like a straight jacket, her shoulder and face pressed against the cold, hard concrete wall. Her body gave way to a series of rhythmic tremors as her breaths moved through her in a sharp staccato.
Thomas knew this wasn’t right, not for what she’d been given. Not for what she’d been given the last time he’d seen her. He quietly, carefully moved into the room.
“Hey.” His voice was soft. “What’s wrong?”
She gave no indication that she’s heard him, that she even knew anyone was there.
“Miss Davis…Alexis?” He moved closer to her, curving his path to enter her line of vision. “Will you let me help you get up?” He whispered to her as he crouched down to the floor. Her face stayed pressed against the wall, her hair falling across what little part of it that he could see. He thought her eyes were closed…he wasn’t sure.
A second strangled sound locked itself deep in her throat, and Thomas’s stomach tightened at the pitiful sight and sound of her…at the part he’d played in it all. He checked his watch again. Sorel would be there soon. A sense of urgency rose up, his instinct telling him that Sorel witnessing what he’d wrought would only spur him further. Further would most likely kill her.
“Here, let me help you.” He reached out and laid his hand gently on her shoulder. Her whole body jerked violently backward. The shock of his sudden contact made her shrink into herself, her knees pulling tighter toward her chest.
“No!” Her small cry was weak. She turned her face even further away from him, her palms hitting the wall on either side of her head, as if trying to push it away. Then her voice began to shrink in line with her body.
“He locked me in…I didn’t want to…he locked it.” She was hit by a slight spasm, her body rocking back and forth in response. “It’s so dark...”
Thomas was truly frightened. He was frightened of what he was seeing, frightened of Sorel seeing it…and frightened of what his choices were. He glanced toward the stream of light bathing the other side of the room. She was afraid of the dark: he would take the dark away. He crept back, away from her crouching figure, before rising and heading out to flip on the lights.
She didn’t react to the brightness. Her eyes must still be closed, he thought. Thomas went to her again, kneeling. He wondered if she could possibly just be asleep, if this could all be just her dreams haunting her.
“There, it’s not dark anymore.”
Alexis’s hands suddenly began a slow decent from the wall until her arms finally hung freely at her sides. Her head bowed forward, rolling to the side. He could see now that her eyes were still closed, though her face was still covered with errant strands of her soft brown hair.
“It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you.” He once again tried to touch her, wary of her reaction. This time, her body failed to respond, allowing Thomas to gently take her arm in his hands.
“Shhh…” she whispered, “Don’t let her find me here. She’ll be so angry.”
Thomas turned her arm upward and found what he was looking for: not two, but three decided marks on her skin. Sorel HAD been there, without Thomas. Deliberately.
“You two starting the party without me?”
Sorel’s voice resonated from the doorway. Thomas froze. He turned an expressionless face toward the door.
“I thought she’d gotten out.” His voice was flat. “The light was on in the hallway, and I know I turned it off when I left. I come in to check, I find she’s been sleepwalking or such. Talking out of her head.”
That was enough explanation. He waited for Sorel’s next move.
“It seems Miss Davis is particularly sensitive to certain pharmaceuticals. It happens.” He shrugged as he came into the room, standing next to Thomas.
Alexis shivered, her head turning away again as her breathing grew quick. Thomas kept his hand steady on her arm, hoping it would help calm her as he was sure it had done before.
“I guess there’s something to be said for youthful experimentation. Helps keep things from being too overwhelming later in life. What about you Thomas?”
Thomas looked up, momentarily confused. Was this his idea of a test? He curved his mouth into the hint of a smile as he looked back down in a deliberate show of embarrassment.
“To tell you the truth, Mr. Sorel, I can’t even hold my liquor.”
“What, a big bruiser like you?”
“Two beers, I forget my own name. It’s kind of a sensitive thing for me…so if you wouldn’t mind keeping it just between us?”
Sorel laughed heartily.
Out of the corner of his eye, Thomas caught Alexis’s body stiffen with another tremor. She groaned slightly as her arms rose up to wrap themselves across her chest, her fingernails tracing up and down from shoulder to elbow. Sorel looked down at her, silent.
Thomas sought to distract him from her. “Mr. Sorel, if you don’t mind me asking, is there word from Corinthos? Has he given it up?”
“Given it up? No. I told him what he could do with his offer to send the Smith kid on a one-way trip to paradise. HIS version of paradise and MINE are quite different things.” He laughed at his own little joke. “So, my original deal stands, to be accepted or not. But I’ve got things set up five ways from Sunday to make sure the kid doesn’t make it to that witness stand, regardless of what Corinthos does.”
Thomas gave him a quizzical look. His gaze turned to Alexis, confused as to how she really figured into Sorel’s agenda.
“I WILL get what I want, Thomas – Zander Smith. But Corinthos will be subjugated to me, through HER. He wants her. He wants her safe, sound and whole. Which could have been possible if he’d acted immediately. But now…now he’s still going to get her – it’ll just be as a dead woman, or as shadow of her former self. A daily, constant reminder of the price that an innocent woman, one for whom he cares a great, great deal, had to pay for his arrogance.”
Thomas felt the blood drain from his face. He was standing in quicksand with no sturdy branch in sight. He turned to Alexis, who had begun to slump down toward the floor as her tremors abated for a brief moment.
“Get her up.” Sorel ordered.
Thomas gently slipped his arms around Alexis – again she pulled away.
“No…” her voice was plaintive, child-like. “He locked it…I couldn’t get out…” She squirmed, restless inside her other-world.
Thomas looked at Sorel, deciding to take a chance.
“Mr. Sorel, could the stuff have been cut with something bad? She just isn’t right.”
Sorel shrugged. “Could be. Just get her up. I don’t want any grief with her, bad stuff or not. Tie her down if you have to, I want her under control.”
Thomas held his breath as he touched her one last time, knowing that if he failed to keep her calm Sorel’s violent streak would flare.
“Don’t be afraid.” He changed his tact. “I know he locked the door. It’s okay, I’m not gonna hurt you.” He looked warily at Sorel, who watched with interest.
“I’m just gonna pick you up and put you down on the bed, okay?” Her eyes still tightly shut, she shivered as he touched her, but thankfully allowed him to wrap her up in his arms. Thomas laid her on the cot and she quickly rolled over onto her side, curling her body up with her back turned to them. Finally, she looked to be in a peaceful sleep. Thomas released a deep but quiet breath.
Sorel slapped him on the back. “I’m impressed! You’ve got that ‘good cop’ thing down very well indeed. We make a good team, you and I.”
“Whatever needs doing to get the desired result. Right, Mr. Sorel?”
At that, Alexis began to stir. She swallowed with difficulty, her eyelids hesitantly blinking open. She seemed to struggle to move her arms, as her fingers slowly curved inward toward her palm. Sorel placed one hand on her shoulder and the other on her hip as he pulled her onto her back. As she looked up at him through half-closed eyes, her weary muscles visibly cramped.
“Ow..” Her voice was shallow as she fought to push back the sharp pains that came over her without warning.
“What’s the matter Miss Davis?”
Alexis turned her head away, her shoulders tensing and releasing. Her hand found its way back to the unrelenting itch of her arm.
“How much…how much longer?” She asked haltingly. She seemed to be back in the present.
“Before what? Before your client meets my demand? Before he comes to rescue you? I wouldn’t hold my breath on either account.”
Alexis tensed against another surge of cramping, this time in her legs. As it subsided, she opened her eyes. Thomas wanted to make sure that she saw he was there, that she wasn’t alone with Sorel. He moved closer, as subtly as he could, and her eyes did find him.
“On the other hand, if you’re asking how much longer before you’ll get some relief from your physical discomfort...I can take care of that right now.”
Sorel reached into his pocket. There was no rubber band, no white cloth with which to bind it - not any more. His need for theatrics was over. Now he meant business.
Thomas peered over Sorel’s shoulder, attempting to determine any difference in what the cylinder held. Sorel felt his prying eyes and turned.
Thomas took a step back, startled.
“She’s all yours.” Sorel handed him the syringe. Thomas was stunned. Was this a dare, or Sorel’s brand of merit badge? He looked at Sorel, then down at the floor.
“Once again, I’m afraid I must embarrass myself. I’ve never - I don’t know how.”
Sorel slapped the syringe into Thomas’s hand and pushed him forward. “There’s a first time for everything, my friend.”
Thomas looked furtively at Alexis, as Sorel’s hands urged him down onto the edge of the cot. Her eyes were closed tight, her face so pale – she was clearly hurting. He told himself that at least she would have some relieve…for now. He held his breath as Sorel stood hovering over him, guiding him in his command performance. As the thin piece of steel slipped under her skin, Thomas felt his hand begin to shake. She hadn’t flinched. Before he’d even finished his violation, the drug had begun to claim her.
“See? Nothing to be afraid of.” Sorel took the syringe out of Thomas’s numb fingers. Thomas just stared at Alexis, watching her face flush, her breathing turn fast and heavy. He hoped she hadn’t known that this time, it had been him. He counted the seconds until he knew she was okay, until he could leave that room, that building, until he could breath fresh air again. His finger on her pulse, he waited.
Alexis had willingly given in to the heated rush that welled inside her. There was no fighting it…it washed away all fear, all pain, all sensation but for its own. As it rolled through the center of her being, her body tingled. Her back arched slightly in rhythm with its movement, her head tilting backward as it surged inside her brain. It left her warm, dizzy, breathless…spent.
At that moment, the connection was made. This feeling…what it did to her body, her mind…it was exactly how she felt when Ned made love to her. The image of Ned began to crystallize, taking hold of her. His arms wrapped around her body, his soft voice singing to her, his beautiful dark eyes, his smile. She smiled back at him as she serenely drifted off with a hushed whisper.
“I love you.”