Author's note: I am still currently writing this story but i would greatly appreciate comments and criticism.
Chapter ONEMy teeth clenched together and I held my breath as I listened to the girl crying and begging in my arms. Her body doubled over in agony as she received another punch in her stomach. My eyes focused over her head, not wanting to see how much they were hurting her while I held her arms behind her back. Jared threw his head back and laughed loudly at her pain.
“Ow! Please stop!” she sobbed in anguish. “It hurts!”
The sound of her pleas pierced through me and I felt the tears welling up inside me again. With a resigned sigh, I pushed them back and held her arms tighter so she could not get away. Michael delivered the final punch to her stomach and I threw her on the ground. She whimpered in quiet agony and curled up into a ball on the ground, wrapping her tiny arms around her knees. I could not help staring down at her while Jared and Michael howled with laughter and high fived each other. She laid there at our feet looking fragile and broken.
“Poor baby,” Michael said in a mocking tone. I could see the anger in her eyes as she ducked her head down and hid her face. She knew by now not to respond when we taunted her.
“Jake,” Jared’s voice was amused as he stared down at our victim. “Why don’t you take a few shots at her?”
My body stiffened in horror and the girl looked up at me with frightened eyes.
“Please no,” she whispered. I forced back the lump in my throat and wiped my expression clean of all emotion. I pulled my foot back and swung hard at her, delivering a swift and hard kick to her gut. She shrieked in pain and her hands flew to her stomach. Michael reached down and pulled her off the ground. The two of them held her back for me and grinned widely. Without thinking, I pulled my arm back and punched her in the face with unnecessary force. I grabbed her out of their arms and slammed her body up against the wall. She was screaming at me to stop but I didn’t. I pounded my fists into her roughly and violently. I was barely aware of Jared and Michael cheering me on. I beat her viciously for a while longer before I dropped her.
I laughed loudly with the others and mocked her cruelly. Her eyes stayed focused on the floor as the tears streamed down her cheeks.
“I want to go home,” she whispered repeatedly more to herself than to us. She closed her eyes and tried to block out the sound of Jared telling her that she was a pitiful and hideous b****. “Please let me leave.”
When they finally grew tired of torturing and teasing her, they smiled down at her, kicked her a few more times while she lay there helpless, and headed back upstairs.
“I’ll be right up,” I murmured still smiling at the girl wickedly. Jared and Michael chuckled in amusement before leaving the girl and me alone in the cold basement. My robotic façade instantly fell down the second we were alone. She refused to look at me.
“Why are you doing this to me?” she asked in a weak voice. “What did I do?”
My heart lurched painfully and I fell down onto my knees at her side. My hand shook as I reached out to her hesitantly.
“Don’t touch me,” she begged. My hand dropped.
“Ellie,” I whispered in a pained voice. “I am so…very, very sorry. You do not deserve any of this. You did not do anything.”
“Then why are you hurting me?” she cried. I did not respond. I stared down at her bruised body shivering slightly from the cold. “Why are you doing this to me!” My head hung with shame.
“I’m doing it for my sister,” I whispered in a pleading voice. I wanted desperately for her to forgive me for all that I had done to her and continued to do to her. “We need the money.”
Two years ago, my parents were killed in a brutal mugging. I was 19 years old at the time and my baby sister was seven. After our parents died, Julie and I were completely on our own. I refused to let her be taken away from me and put in some foster home. For a long time, we lived on the streets and I hated to see the desperation in my sister’s kind and gentle eyes. She knew very well how bad our situation was but she trusted me to take care of her. I could not find a job to save my life. Or my sister’s apparently. I struggled to keep her warm, fed, and clothed.
Nine months ago, I met Jared and Michael and they offered me a job. I took the job immediately without question of what I would be doing. I know now that I should have asked. If I would have known that the job involved selling drugs I would not be in my current state of enslavement. Right now, however, I would rather sell a million drugs than to see this innocent girl being tortured any longer.
“Does your sister know about you kidnapping me?” Ellie demanded in a small voice. “Does she know that you beat me and lock me up in a freezing basement?”
Agony ripped through me again as I imagined my sister’s reaction if she were to find out. My sweet and innocent little sister, sleeping just upstairs in her bed, safe and warm. My little sister who now, thanks to my dirty dealings, went to bed every night well fed, safe, and happy. While this girl with me now went to sleep at night hungry, terrified, and broken.
“No,” I croaked. “She doesn’t know about you. If she did know she would hate me.”
Ellie’s expression remained hard. I could expect no sympathy from her. I stood up and moved to the closet on the far side of the room. I came back with the long ropes, the blindfold and the tape. Her eyes filled with pain again when she saw what I held in my hands.
“I’m so sorry,” I mumbled as I bound her wrists and ankles with the rope, blindfolded her, and taped her mouth shut. She squirmed around helplessly and whimpered a desperate plea. I swallowed hard and forced the tears back again. “I’m sorry.”
Part of my “job” with Michael and Jared involved keeping all drugs, and now kidnap victims, stashed at my house. I had already told Julie a million times never to set foot in the basement. I had all but beaten the message into her head. I did not actually touch her of course. The basement had recently been soundproofed when I received the news from Jared last month that they were planning a kidnapping. A 12-year-old girl, named Ellie, who apparently came from some rich family. The ransom of 2 million dollars was to be demanded tomorrow. The $500,000 that I would get from the ransom was not what made me desperate for her parents to pay. If her family did not pay, they would make me kill her. I can’t do that to her. I cannot take away her life. She was too sweet to deserve all of this. In her eyes, I was already an inhumane monster. Was I? Did the remorse and guilt I felt after hitting her make me any less of a monster? I thought about the way she had screamed tonight when I punched her. I remembered the way she had pleaded with me on her first night here after Jared and Michael had left. That first time that I had apologized to her for what was happening and explained to her that I hadn’t wanted to do this to her. I remembered what she had said to me. She looked up at me with tear-filled eyes. We had beaten her to the point where she could barely move and I could tell that she was in agony.
“I didn’t have a choice,” I whispered to her.
“You don’t even know what that means,” she said in a pained voice. “You had a choice. I don’t. You can leave and be free from all of this. I can’t.”
In that moment, I knew that she was right. I did have a choice. I chose wrong. I am still choosing wrong. I am not any less of a monster than Jared and Michael.
I tiptoed quietly into Julie’s room after Jared and Michael had left for the night. I moved silently to her bed and I leaned down to kiss her cheek. She yawned and stretched.
“Jake?” she whispered rubbing her eyes.
“Shh.” I shushed her and tucked her blanket in around her. “Go back to sleep.”
“Mmm,” she breathed. “Kay. Goodnight Jake.”
“Goodnight sweetheart,” I said stroking her hair. She yawned again and drifted back to sleep. Staring at her in her bed made me think of Ellie downstairs weeping into her blindfold. I crept silently out of Julie’s room. I went to my room and retrieved a thick wool blanket from my closet and a pillow from off my bed. With tears in my eyes, I went downstairs to see Ellie lying on the ground curled up in a ball. I carefully placed the blanket over her and lifted her head to slide the pillow underneath her. She mumbled something into the tape on her mouth. It sounded like she had said “thank you.”
“You’ll be home soon Ellie,” I whispered to her. She mumbled something else into the tape but I could not understand. Michael and Jared were supposed to come over at noon tomorrow. There was no reason why she had to stay bound through the night. I removed the blindfold first and then the tape. She watched me with weary eyes as I untied her wrists and ankles. “I’ll have to tie you up again in the morning,” I mumbled without meeting her eyes. I expected her to say something about how I did not have to do anything. She remained silent. I tucked the blanket in around her.
“How much longer do I have to stay here?” she asked in a small voice.
“A few more days,” I told her gently. I heard her intake of breath and watched as the tears flooded her eyes.
“Are they going to hurt me again tomorrow?” her voice shook with fear. I sighed deeply and nodded. I was not going to lie to her. “Are you going to hurt me again tomorrow?”
“Yes,” I whispered.
“You’re stronger than they are. It hurts more when you hit me.”
“Ellie, I promise this will all be over soon.” My voice was unconvincing and weak. I did not know for sure that it would be over soon.
Her face went pale with terror and she looked up at me slowly. “How much is the ransom?”
“2 million dollars,” I told her. Her face was now green. She looked like she was going to be sick.
“If my parents don’t pay...will they…kill me?” she croaked. I stiffened and shook my head no. “Will you kill me?” My throat closed up and I could not speak. My body was rigid as the tears flooded my eyes.
“It’s going to be okay,” I promised her in a broken voice.
“Please don’t kill me,” she pleaded. “Beat me. Tease me and call me names. Just please don’t kill me.”
“Ellie…” I whispered.
“I don’t want to die! I want to go home! Please!” her voice grew hysterical as she stared up at me with wild eyes.
“We don’t know anything yet,” I tried to comfort her. “We still have to make the ransom call.”
She burst into sobs and shook her head no. “Please don’t do this to me! It’s not fair, I didn’t do anything!” The sight of her crumpling on the ground begging for her life tormented me. I was raking my brain for a way to comfort her and to save her.
“Don’t cry,” I begged in a frail voice.
“I hate you!” she shouted angrily. “Go away!”
I watched her as she laid there on the ground crying loudly. “Ellie I won’t kill you!” I promised rashly. I could not stand to hear her say that she hated me. She just shook her head and cried louder. I was a monster! I pulled her off the ground and held her in my arms. She was still too busy sobbing to fight me.
“I don’t want to die,” she sobbed into my chest.
“It’s okay,” I promised her. “You’re not going to die. We won’t kill you, I promise.” She still did not believe me. Her body quaked in my arms. My hand stroked her cheek gently. I held her in my arms letting her sob into me until she eventually fell asleep. I prayed with everything in me that her parents would pay the ransom.