At a quarter till six, dusk was already falling. Brian was walking Cassie home from the ball field where her daughter had just played. Cassie and Nicci were kind of new in the town and Nicci had gone home to spend the night with her own new friend. She only lived a block away but he really wanted to spend more time with her. They were laughing a little self consciously, the way two people do when they are first getting to be comfortable with each other. They didn't notice anything out of the ordinary when the van pulled up.
The man riding in the passenger's seat called out amiably, "Hey, can you tell us how to get to Camp Street?"
Brian had lived in the area longer and he stepped closer, already gesturing into the distance
Suddenly, the side door on the van slid open and two men stepped out, both holding guns, pointing at Brian and Cassie.
The passenger said, "Get in quietly and no one will get hurt."
Cassie froze in terror, eyes wide and white.
The man grinned down at her in the most maniacal way she'd ever seen, showing all his teeth in a horrible sneer. "I might even get around to committing another crime while you're here, darling."
Another man reached out and roughly pulled Cassie into the van and as they were shoved inside, the fourth man put a hood over each head. There were no seats in the back of the van and Cassie stumbled when she was pushed inside. When they'd taken away her sight, her terror rose and she scrambled up against one wall, drawing herself into a tight ball.
They rode for only a very short time and, although she had completely lost her sense of direction, Cassie felt sure they were still in town. It was fully dark now, she could see that much under the bottom of the hood.
When they stopped, she felt strong, rough hands pull her out and lead her away from the van. She noticed first grass, then a sidewalk, then three uneven steps. A disgustingly filthy smell assaulted her nostrils as someone pushed her into a house. It felt hot and musty like it had been closed up for a very long time with rotting garbage left inside.
She was shuffled through the house then almost brutally slammed against a wall and told to sit.
"It's hard to breathe under these sacks," Brian spoke up.
"No one asked you," one of the men answered.
"Go ahead and take them off," the leader intervened. "We may be in for a little wait. Don't want to kill you if I don't have to."
Cassie was almost afraid to move, terrified at what she might see, but she slowly pushed the fabric up off her face. The cooler air hitting her felt immediately better but the smell was suddenly much worse. Nauseating.
She looked around slowly - her eye for detail noting everything.
They were sitting on the soiled carpet, backs against two walls that formed a corner. The carpet was threadbare and stained so badly it was slick and shiny. The house was obviously vacant although the power was still on. The room was dim, lit by a single naked bulb hanging near the far corner where the captors were congregated.
Cassie watched the men carefully, trying to figure out what they wanted. Especially the one that she considered their leader. Eventually she heard one of his buddies call him Randy. To her, he looked more like a charming used-car salesman. He was a handsome man and very charismatic. His eyes gave him away. They were open just a little too wide for a completely sane person. He looked like he was hyped on crystal meth or he was a paranoid schizophrenic. Either way, that meant he was unpredictable.
She wished she'd worn jeans today instead of this short sundress. They kept staring at her and she was continually fighting to tug it down just a little further. She sat cross-legged up close to Brian and kept her mouth closed.
Randy had a cell phone and he used it to notify the sheriff's department of his hostages and his demands. He didn't tell him exactly how many were in the house. He just named a figure and gave a time limit of 18 hours, which would be noon the next day. He said that when the time limit expired, he would shoot a hostage every half-hour till he got what he wanted. He really didn't want to have to do that - it would cut a big chunk out of his profit. He hung up quickly.
"Might as well take a nap, guys," he told them. "Seems like we'll have a bit of a wait."
Nothing further happened for the next five hours. Tension was so thick in the room that Cassie felt her muscles turn to stone. She kept shifting positions, trying to stretch and relieve the ache but nothing seemed to work. They were encouraged to talk but Cassie didn't feel much like talking. Rage was lurking just below the surface and she didn't think it would be too smart to let it escape. Besides, she had nothing to say. Making pleasant small talk was just not an appropriate thing to do at this time.
Brian had been a soldier, she already knew that. In their lowest tones, they were weighing their odds of escape. "If you get a chance to try, take it without hesitating," he told her. "You can bring back help, understand?"
She nodded, wondering if that meant he'd leave without her if he got the chance.
At midnight, Randy made a quick call to check the progress of his expected pay-off. Just before he hung up, he said, "Well, shit!"
When he put the phone down, he strolled across the room and knelt down right in front of Cassie.
"Got some said news for you, baby," he told her with an evil grin. "The cops said they can't find where you have any family to contact. I guess that means when the time comes, I get to shoot you first." It was as if he craved the fear that would cause.
Instead, Cassie's fear had begun to turn to anger hours ago. She'd been on her own too long to let fear turn her into a jellyfish and now this man was threatening to take away the new wonderful life she'd just begun.
"I'm not scared of you," she said coolly.
For just one second, there was a flash of surprise and anger in his face. His need was to be fully in control, to have other people quaking in awe at his power. The moment passed and he laughed a harsh, menacing sound that made her want to turn away.
"You will be though," he promised Cassie. "It just became my main purpose in life to make sure are." He patted her cheek and turned away. The look in his eyes made her blood run cold.
"Don't confront him like that," Brian warned her in a whisper. "He's not playing with a full deck, sweetheart."
But she'd set her jaw. "The worst he can do is kill me."
Brian sighed at her belligerent tone. "No, it's not," he said.
She fell silent, her mind racing, looking for something to do to save herself. It was very difficult to concentrate when she needed to go to the bathroom as bad as she did now. She asked Brian what she should do. Turned out, he had to go too.
"Is there a bathroom here we can use?" he asked. The captors glared at his boldness but figured it might not be a good request to refuse. It would only make the smell worse.
Randy delegated the duty to one of the other guys. "Take them one at a time and don't let them close the door all the way."
The youngest guy Kevin, seemed not quite as cocky as the others, was given the task. He took Brian first, since he'd asked. When they returned a few minutes later, he asked, "Who's next?"
Cassie stood up, feeling unused muscles creak.
He walked behind her down the short dark hallway. It was very eerie because the walls were painted black throughout the house. The bathroom was a horror and there was again only one small bulb burning over the sink. It cast looming shadows in the corners.
As soon as she entered, she saw what she was looking for. A window at the end of the room opposite the door. Now if she could just manage a little bit of privacy.
When she entered, she pushed the door closed just like she would've done under any normal circumstance. This time however, her guard caught the door just before it shut, leaving an unacceptably wide opening.
"Please?" she asked in her most appealing helpless voice.
"You heard Randy."
"But you can give me a little more privacy. At least turn around, okay?"
For some reason that voice always had the desired effect on men. It melted them and rarely failed to get her what she wanted.
His compromise was to keep the door open only wide enough to get his hand inside and cover the lock. As an unhoped for courtesy, he did turn away.
Trying to make it seem an innocuous as possible, Cassie really did take the time to use the toilet. She was surprised to find dusty toilet paper on a roll but not surprised at how rank and foul the room was.
While she used it, she got a closer look at the window just above her head. The lock was broken, which was a good thing. The bad thing was that she would have to climb up on the toilet unnoticed to get out. She wasn't sure if her guard might be peeking at her or not, but if he did, her plan was moot.
When she stood up to pull her panties up, she reached out quickly and quietly to test the window. She was amazed to find it swung out sideways. She'd noticed too that all the other windows she'd seen were covered with thick black tar paper. This one was not... maybe in a past attempt to air it out?
"Hurry up!" her guard called. He'd heard her moving.
"I am. I want to wash my hands." Whether there was water or not, she had no idea but she had to buy some time to get her nerve up.
She moved closer to the door and examined its lock. Though badly tarnished, it was a standard indoor lock, the kind you pushed in and twisted. His hand pressed against it.
It was now or never. She kicked the door with all her strength and the man howled, jerking his hand away reflexively. She shoved the door closed and turned the lock in one swift motion.
As she scrambled onto the toilet, she could hear shouting and running in the hallway. She heard someone slam against the fragile pressboard door as she pushed herself through the tiny window. Just as she realized she was going headfirst into some overgrown shrubs, the door burst in behind her, but she was outside.
"Shit!" someone yelled behind her. "Randy! She got out the window, man!"
A brief instant flashed and she wondered what Brian would think of her actions. That she was brave or just stupid?
The yard was rocky and overgrown and it slowed her down until she cursed out loud. Her mind was working faster than her feet, trying to figure out where she should go. If she stopped to pound on a neighbor's door, most likely Randy or one of his men would catch her there. She could already hear the scrambling of someone coming out after her.
"You bitch!" Randy's voice called, much closer to her than she had estimated. "When I catch you, you're really going to wish you hadn't done that!"
His inevitable nearness made her decide quickly not to try to keep silent. She started screaming as loud as she could, calling for help.
She came to the edge of a large yard or vacant lot, she wasn't sure, but it seemed there was nothing past it - no lights, no buildings, nothing. Just as she checked back over her shoulder, realizing she'd made a disastrous error in coming this way, a huge weight slammed into her and knocked her to the ground.
In the darkness, she felt jagged rocks tear her hands and arms and she tasted dirt. Randy's body pinned her down and no matter how she struggled, she couldn't budge him at all. She continued to try to kick and punch him, but he grabbed both her arms and held them, bruising her skin.
"I should kill you now!" he panted with chilling amusement in his tone. "But I have something much more fun in mind!"
Cassie had frozen at the pure evil of his voice and it terrified her. She fought him harder than ever but his muscles were like iron.
"Stop it!" he laughed again and his laughter was the scariest thing of all. She couldn't stop though, Randy finally sighed in exasperation and punched her in the face with his fist. She went out like a light.
He stopped for a moment, partly to catch his breath, partly to listen and see if anyone was coming out to see what was going on. A couple of lights had come on as they'd run past.
"Stupid bitch!" he called her again as he picked her limp body up and tossed it over his shoulder. "Gotta fucking carry your ass now!"
One of the other guys saw him coming up the walk and opened the door for him. They'd ripped a small piece of the black paper out of the front window to be a peephole when they first arrived. From the outside, the house still looked unoccupied.
Randy entered and dumped Cassie's body on the floor right at Brian's feet. Her dress had come up and the other guys were staring intently at the tiny white bikini panties she wore.
"Wake her up," Randy ordered. "I ain't done with her yet."
At first sight, Brain had been afraid she was dead. There was blood down both arms, skin off at both knees and her face clearly showed swelling and a cut beside her lip. She looked like the corpse of someone who'd been beaten to death.
Brian patted her cheek and called her name. She woke quickly with a jump and a cry, immediately trying to pull away from the hands that worked on her.
"Cassie! Cassie!" Brian called, pulling her close to him despite her efforts. "It's me, baby. Stop fighting us!"
When she recognized them, she slumped limply and grabbed her head. The world seemed to be spinning around her. "Where... ?" she moaned.
She didn't get a chance to finish her question before Randy leaped at her. He knelt down and shouted right in her face, making her flinch and pull back.
"I guess I didn't hit you hard enough to kill you!" he yelled. "I should've knocked your fucking head off! That was the most stupid thing I ever saw!"
"You wouldn't kill me," she whispered where only he could hear. "You want the money too bad."
For a moment, Randy was stunned right into silence, then he started that horrible laughter again. "I like you, little girl. You got balls." He was quite unused to having anyone talk back to him. "But I can't let you get away with this or somebody else will be wanting to try stupid shit."
He snatched her up by the arm and dragged her towards the hallway.
"No!" Brian called out involuntarily.
One of the others pointed a gun in his direction and asked calmly, "You got something to say, big guy?"
He reluctantly sat back and closed his mouth. His death wouldn't save her.
Cassie weakly tried to pull away from Randy but she was still very dizzy from being knocked unconscious. His grip hurt her arm.
They went past the bathroom on to the farthest bedroom at the back of the house. Very little light came from the hallway but enough for Cassie to see it was just a large empty room. Randy shoved her roughly inside, making sure she fell onto the dirty floor. He didn't bother to shut the door behind himself.
Time became very distorted for Cassie then. It appeared to slow down so that everything moved in slow motion but at the same time, it sped up so quickly that she hardly had time to realize what was happening.
Randy stripped her panties off her and pushed the thin dress up around her waist. She screamed for him to stop and tried to fight him off. She never had a chance against his size. He unzipped, pulled himself out and without any lubrication, he forced his way inside her. Cassie screamed in sheer agony now. He was larger than average and she was much smaller. It felt as though she was being ripped open with a hot metal rod. It burned and it tore and he was ruthless.
"Damn girl! You got the tightest little pussy I ever been in. It's as tight as a twelve year old!" He kept pumping and grunting and calling her names.
Cassie fought and cried the whole time, screaming until she ran out of breath and could only lie there gasping. Thankfully her struggling had excited him all the more and he came quickly. When he pulled out of her, he had not even broken a sweat. She curled up in a fetal ball and rolled away from him.
He used her white panties to wipe the blood off himself, ignoring her for the time being. She felt unconsciousness trying to claim her again and was torn between giving in to its peace or exploding into a screaming rage.
When he turned his attention back to her, he leaned over and whispered, "I bet you're a great fuck when you want to be." He drew back and slapped her bare ass loudly. "Get yourself cleaned up."
For the first time, she thought of the others. Surely they'd heard it all. They knew what she'd just had done to her. Her face burned with shame.
"Can I go to the bathroom?" she asked, avoiding his eyes.
'Sure," he laughed. He stood and pulled her to her feet with one solid tug. She took the bloodied panties and went into the hall. When she stepped into the bathroom and started to close the door behind her, he laughed again. He stood just inside the door with her.
"Like I'm going to let you do that again! I'd fuck you again in a minute but I ain't chasing you down for it."
She couldn't stop the quiet flow of embarrassed tears that wet her cheeks now as she fumbled to wipe away the blood and semen. It seemed no matter what she did, she couldn't get the smell of him off her. He kept up a stream of crude remarks the whole time.
When she was finished, she washed her hands and started to go out past him. He grabbed her, one hand behind her head and one on her chin, and kissed her hard and fast on the lips, forcing his tongue into her mouth.
It took her so much by surprise that she didn't even think to pull away and it was over before she could act. She stared at him in blank shock until he grinned at her. Cassie slapped him hard across the face.
He caught her hand as she drew back. It had only been a reflex action but she was suddenly afraid it would cost her her life.
"What are you trying to do, baby? Get me excited again?"
Gritting her teeth, she pushed around him, back towards the main room, hearing his laugh echo in her ears.
She returned to where she'd sat most of the night beside Brian but she wouldn't get close to him now. She felt dirty. She didn't want anyone to touch her.
"I'm sorry," he leaned down and whispered. She felt all the eyes in the room were on her.
"For what?" she said bitterly. "You didn't do anything."
"That's what I'm sorry for," he said. "That I couldn't stop it."
Cassie just shook her head. There was nothing to say about it. It had happened, it was over, it was her's to deal with. She closed her eyes and tried not to hear Randy bragging to his buddies.
She awoke abruptly to the sound of someone pounding on the door. Her whole body was sore and stiff and she inhaled sharply when she pushed herself to a sitting position.
Joe was watching through the small hole that faced the driveway. He hissed, "Fuck, Randy! It's the cops!"
"Ah, hell," Randy sighed, hardly seeming upset at all. He got up, cocking his gun, and paused to point an accusing finger at Cassie. "This is all your fault."
She was barely awake enough to understand what was happening, much less why she was being threatened again. The seam of Brian's jeans had left a print on her cheek.
There was another pounding and Randy yelled, "I'm coming! Hold your ass!"
"Open up! Police!"
"Don't make a sound!" he warned them in a whisper. To his guys, he said, "If the cops start in or if any of them makes a sound or a move, blow them all away!"
Randy opened the door a tiny crack, keeping the gun drawn in his right hand out of the cop's sight behind the door.
"Yeah, Officer," he asked sleepily, "What's up?"
"We are searching for a some people who committed a crime early in the evening. There were reports of some screaming on this street and we are checking out the neighborhood. We'd like to come inside and check, if you don't object. When did you move in? This house is still listed as being vacant."
"Just today," he answered. "We're just getting settled in."
"Well, welcome to the neighborhood, but I hope you don't mind if we come in and have a look around?"
This cop was on the porch alone and Randy could see another figure standing back beside the car.
Randy blocked the door and said without a trace of sleep, "Actually Officer, I do mind. Do you have a search warrant?"
Immediately the cop became suspicious. This guy was hiding something.
"I don't have one, no. I was just asking for your cooperation. Although I can get one very easily and be back in an hour. Would you prefer to wait?"
"Why do you want to hassle me, man? I just moved in, my family's in here asleep. Hell, I don't even know if you're a real cop. You could be some criminal pulling a scam. Cops don't normally search houses at 4am."
"Want to see my badge?" the cop asked. "Would that make any difference?"
Randy seemed to pause to consider the idea, then he answered, "Yeah. Yeah, that might."
The cop pulled a credit card-sized ID holder from his back pocket and took a step closer to the door, holding it out for Randy to examine. At that moment, Randy pulled his hand from behind the door, pointed the gun directly at the cop's face and squeezed the trigger. He was dead before his corpse hit the pavement. Randy laughed and slammed the door.
"What the hell did you do that for, asshole?" Jimmy asked. Cassie had come to the conclusion that he was second in charge.
"What? He's got on body armor. I had to shoot him in the face."
"No! Why'd you shoot him at all?"
Randy shrugged nonchalantly. "He'd have just come right back with more of them."
"Like that other one out there isn't calling in more of them right now?" Jimmy reasoned. "That was stupid!"
Randy only laughed. "It won't turn out any different. Anyhow, killing people makes me so damn horny!"
Cassie jerked her head up when he said that and found him staring directly at her.
"Back to the important stuff," he smiled at Cassie. He reached down to take her arm but she snatched it out of his grasp.
He hesitated and sighed, "I think we need a lesson about who's in charge." He stepped closer to her and grabbed a fistful of her long hair. If she'd not scrambled to her feet, he would have dragged her down the hall. She tried to fight him but it hurt so much that she had no choice to go with him.
Things began differently for Cassie this time. Randy shoved her into the back bedroom but this time he turned on the overhead light and he pushed the door closed.
"I like women with fire," he began, "But what I like most is putting the fire out. It's not that I want to break that spirit, I just want it to know who controls it."
"In the situation we are in, you can do pretty much whatever you want to do to me," she said, trying not to let any fear show. "But you'll never control what's inside me. You'll never change the loathing and disgust I have for you. You will never make me tolerate what you are."
"We'll see," he smiled. "Take the panties off."
She stood defiantly, amazed at her own nerve. "No," she whispered.
It was a contest of will for only a moment, both of them staring eye to eye. Randy was very impressed with her courage but was also beginning to get annoyed. He raised the hand that held the gun and pointed it straight at her face.
Cassie stood less than a foot from the barrel, her eyes going from the gun to his face and back. Should she let her life end this way trying to protect her dignity? Was it worth never seeing her daughter again? Making the little girl grow up with no family in the world? A tear trickled down her cheek.
No. It was not.
She started to reach down but Randy stopped her. "Too late, baby. I don't repeat myself and I don't play games."
Her eyes widened in sudden paralyzing panic. She'd pushed him too far and was about to lose everything! She screamed "No!" when she saw his finger twitch.
The gunshot was so loud her ears hurt. Everything seemed muffled, like in a room padded for acoustics. She was frozen but strangely she felt no pain. As the echo began to fade from the room, she opened her eyes. Randy stood in exactly the same spot but the gun was turned a few degrees to her right. He'd fired just over her shoulder.
Tears began to stream down her face and the sounds she made were part sobs, part manic relief. She was shaking so badly that she dropped to the floor.
Randy pushed her back to lie flat and ripped the panties down her legs, amazed that she hadn't pissed herself. He'd seen grown men do that before when they thought they were dead. He climbed on top of her and pinned her to the floor.
"I don't play games, little girl. Do you think you might remember that now?"
Cassie nodded her head in a frantic, jerking motion.
"Good. Now quit the blubbering and pay attention to me, okay?"
"Take a deep breath," he instructed, breathing deeply to demonstrate. She did it. "And another."
After five of these, she felt her heart beginning to return to its normal beat. Her mind still whirled madly.
"Now, I'm going to show you just how much control I have over you, baby." His eyes had gone to that lusty, half-lidded way and she felt him growing hard against her, pressing into her.
"Please don't hurt me," she sighed, hating herself for that pleading tone in her voice. Fear had her fully in its grip now.
"That's all up to you," he said, his breath coming harder now. He had started kissing her neck and shoulders. "I'm just going to prove to you that you have no control whatsoever here with me."
What scared her most now was that she knew he was right about that. He was already causing her skin to break out in chills because of the subtle nibbling on the side of her neck. He was being surprisingly gentle, tender, and she fought with all her might to resist any feeling of arousal.
He let one hand run down her side to her warm thigh and then shifted his weight so he could push the hem of her dress up. She didn't even think of the gun that he'd laid aside.
Cassie whimpered, biting her lip as she felt his fingers brush lightly against the closely trimmed hair down there. They tickled her for a moment, then separated the lips which had already begun to get puffy despite all her efforts to the contrary. A hard finger ran firmly from the bottom to her clit at the top.
"Hmmm," he whispered in a teasing tone, "My little prisoner is getting turned on?"
She shook her head in denial and cried, "No," very softly.
He leered. "You can say that all you want but all this wetness down here is saying a lot more." He continued to stroke the clit adding a bit more pressure, causing her to squirm beneath him.
"Mmmm, I like that! I bet you're amazing in bed when you want to be. I bet you're a regular slut, aren't you?"
"No!" she said, "no..." but it trailed off weakly.
"A nasty little slut," he repeated, relishing the sound of it. "To be getting so turned on. Maybe this kind of danger gets you hot? Maybe getting shot at makes you want to cum?"
"Please," she whined and it was unclear what she was asking for.
He pushed his long middle finger deep inside her causing her to gasp and arch her back.
"The little slut likes this, yes," he smiled, feeling like he was going to burst, he was getting so hard. He inserted a second finger and she grimaced.
"It hurts," she said anxiously.
"From before," he confirmed, "But at least you're nice and wet now. It won't be so bad this time. I bet you taste so good."
He pulled the fingers up and brought his hand to his face. Thick, clear fluid covered the first two fingers, making a glistening web between them. Instead of tasting them, he put his fingers to Cassie's mouth. He rubbed them over her lips while she tried to twist her head away.
"Don't fight me," he warned and she was immediately still. He pushed the fingers into her mouth.
"Lick them," a long sigh, then, "Suck them."
Cassie obeyed, trying not to gag. She tasted cigarettes and metal from the gun and she tasted herself.
Randy slowly withdrew the fingers and put them back to her pussy, pushing hard inside.
"Now I get to taste," he told her. She assumed he would suck his own fingers but instead he put his mouth on hers, driving his tongue into her mouth and licking around her lips.
"Oh yeah, just like I thought."
He began to move the fingers in and out of her now and he let the ball of his thumb rest against her clit. With each thrust in, it was pressed firmly and rhythmically.
"Give me your cum, little slut," he urged. "Give me that orgasm that's just dying to get out."
Cassie had clenched her eyes shut and was trying to get her mind on anything except the feeling between her legs. But she couldn't. It was building, getting stronger. She wanted to die before she wanted to cum for him and that was way too much of a possibility.
"Cum on baby, give it to me. Your body knows what it wants. Your body knows who it is going to obey. Don't try to fight it. Let go. Accept it."
Her panting let him know that she was very close but he could see her fighting with all her will.
"Open your eyes, slut. Get out of that place you're trying to hide and look at me!"
She felt compelled to submit to anything he demanded of her and she had to open her eyes. His face was only inches above hers and the intent and power in his eyes took her breath. She couldn't stop the feeling now and she tumbled over the edge.
"Look at me!" he shouted into her face when her eyes involuntarily shut again.
She did and the fear she felt prolonged the orgasm until her whole body shook with it. When it was over, he finally allowed her to keep her eyes closed. He was too busy unzipping his jeans to care at this point.
When he pressed his thick cock inside her, she cried out in pain. It was still very tender from his earlier assault and his cock went much deeper than his fingers had. He took longer this time, pounding her small body until she screamed incoherently before he'd let himself climax.
After he rolled away and sat up, Cassie didn't even move. It was as if her whole world had been ripped away and replaced with nothing but Randy. She could smell him and taste him and in her mind, she could still feel him inside her, now a part of her. There was nowhere to run anymore to get away from him.
"I hope that's proof enough for you, baby," he said matter of factly, all the previous signs of tenderness gone. It had all been an act. "I tell you when to eat, sleep and even when you can take a piss. Your body is not even yours anymore. You just remember that and you'll be fine. I'll really be disappointed if I have to kill you."
Cassie's face was streaked with tears and she felt numb to her soul. She couldn't respond to him.
Randy stood and pulled her up by one arm. "I want an answer. Are you finished with this fucked-up rebellion shit?"
Looking only down at her feet, Cassie nodded.
He put a finger under her chin and lifted her face. "No more fighting me?"
Her eyes were still wide and wild with fear and she shook her head.
"Good girl," he congratulated her. "Now go wash that thing. I could get addicted to it."
He watched her clean herself up again. At least she realized she wasn't bleeding this time.
Randy led her back to the living room but instead of returning to where she'd sat before, Cassie stopped at the corner of the hallway and sat down there. She turned her back to the others and leaned sideways against the wall, drawing her knees up under her chin and wrapping her arms around her legs.
Brian was amazed to see her alive and so relieved that he jumped up and hurried over to Cassie, his sudden movement causing at least two guns to be swiveled in his direction. He held his hands as a sign of surrender and slowed down to kneel behind her.
Randy watched this intently as he asked Jimmy to pass him the vial of coke they'd been dipping into all night.
"Cassie?" Brian reached tentatively to touch her shoulder. She drew tighter into a ball.
He sighed, having cringed every time he heard her scream back there. "I was so scared he'd shot you," he said quietly, leaning close. He didn't touch her but his big body was like a shield around her.
Still she didn't respond to him. Cassie was lost to the rest of the world for now. She was hiding somewhere deep inside herself, trying to prove that there was somewhere left that Randy couldn't touch. She had run to that spot and wasn't ready to come out yet.
Dawn came slowly inside the house with all the windows covered. They were sore from sitting on the floor, stiff from lack of movement and getting very hungry. The four gunmen were wide awake, still hyped up on what seemed to be an endless supply of drugs. They were all becoming more paranoid as the hours passed and the ringing of the cell phone made everyone jump.
"Yeah?" Randy answered, then there was silence. Then, "I told 'em yesterday what the demands were. I didn't figure anyone could get it overnight but now it's a bright new day and all the banks will be open in an hour. The cut off is still noon."
"It's plenty of time, you asshole," Randy continued after another pause. "It should be no problem at all.
I already killed a cop, what have I got to lose?" He ended the call.
"Only four more hours to wait, boys and girls," he said menacingly. "Then the fun begins."
"What if their families don't have that kind of money?" Kevin, the round-faced, inexperienced one asked. He looked like he was not even twenty years old.
"Then we just have to shoot them and hope for the best," he laughed, looking pointedly at Cassie.
During the morning, they could hear a lot of commotion outside. They heard voices on loudspeakers, all kinds of sirens and shouting of orders. It was very obvious that the house was now surrounded.
At ten, Randy called again to see what kind of progress they were making. He'd ignored all efforts the cops had made at contact.
"Just remember," he warned them, "Two more hours. And at the first sign of anyone trying to come into this house, you'll have corpses to scoop up."
The tension grew even worse now. It seemed that the captors were nervous, all except Randy. Jimmy paced continually and Kevin fidgeted so much with his gun that Brian was certain he would shoot himself. The fourth one, an Italian they called Joe, kept peeling back the ripped paper to watch outside. Randy seemed unaffected, but then most insane people weren't bothered by the details of reality.
At noon, Randy said gleefully, "Ding, ding, ding! Guess what time it is?"
He punched in a number and asked, "Is it here? All of it?"
The answer caused a frown. Even Cassie was watching him closely. "That's too bad." He ended the call abruptly and reached for his gun and strolled nonchalantly to stand in front of them.
"Decisions, decisions," he drawled dramatically, looking from one to the other of them. He stopped as he got to Cassie and his eyes were completely unreadable. She found she couldn't meet his gaze, but then he turned away.
"You're the clear choice here," he told Brian. "She's more fun to keep around."
Cassie turned her face away, digging her nails into Brian's arm.
"No, I don't think so," Randy said directly to Cassie. "You can turn around now or you can take his place."
She hastily responded to the tone of authority in his voice and obeyed.
"That's better," Randy said, "Just remember to keep your eyes open."
Cassie screamed, even Brian let out a yell. Randy had again fired over a shoulder into the wall between them. He laughed derisively. Cassie scrambled to get as far away from that sound as she could, not looking at him.
As soon as the gunshot rang out, Randy's phone started beeping.
"That was one," he shouted into the phone. "In thirty minutes, you'll have another one unless you do what I said!"
Cassie was on the verge of hysterics now, fighting with Brian to get up and run away. He was afraid Randy would shoot her if she did and he was doing the best he could to hold her down, although his own hands were shaking now.
Randy noticed and he came towards them. Kneeling, he reached out and grabbed a handful of her hair.
"You better calm down, little lady, unless you want to be next for being too loud?"
At his touch, she froze, her heart skipped a beat. At his command, she went very still and quiet. Her eyes did not perceive him as a man anymore but as some evil, supernatural creature.
Randy stayed on the phone most of the next half-hour arguing, screaming, cursing and threatening. However when time was up, they were no closer to a solution. He laughed derisively and shouted, "This one is on your head!" He held the phone up so the cops could hear and he fired again, absently, into the wall right over Cassie's head, immensely enjoying the way that she cowered and screamed.
"Two down now," Randy said into the phone. "You're really starting to piss me off!" He giggled when he hung up.
Still holding the phone, he knelt in front of Cassie so her whimpers were audible over the line. She was shaking so badly, her lips were quivering but there was so much fear that she couldn't even cry. A bright smile lit Randy's face. Into the phone, he said, "Exactly. Great. Thirty minutes. Why couldn't you do that an hour ago?" He clicked off again.
Over his shoulder, he told his friends, "They're bringing the money now. We should be on our way by one o'clock."
"C'mon, little girl," he reached out for her. "Now we get to celebrate."
She was frozen.
"Man, give her a break," Brian tried to intervene. "You've won now, please just leave her alone."
Randy laughed that ugly sound. "You don't understand though. She wants to fuck me. After our last session back there, she knows what her purpose is. And you want to see how eager she is to get to it?"
He quickly brought his gun up and put it against Brian's forehead. "Let's see some movement, bitch or your big boyfriend won't ever be able to go down on you again."
The gunshot was too fresh in her mind so she jumped to her feet and hurried towards the hallway, making Randy have to move quickly to catch up with her. His friends laughed at her.
Randy closed the door again in the bedroom. Enough light came through the cracks in the paper now that the overhead light was not necessary.
"Take everything off this time," he ordered, "We're going to go slower." He put his gun and phone down beside the door.