Kim-Sum had never been so afraid in her life.
She was shackled to a wall inside a small shed filled with dirt and garbage. Its walls were soundproofed, according to her kidnapper, and the smell of urine and feces was too intense to ignore.
How had she ended up in such a situation was not her most immediate concern. She already knew the how; what she needed to know now was what to do to get out of there.
Mr. Lyle was reviewing some project reports that needed to be presented to The Triumvirate administration later that day. It was a boring thing to do, but one that had to be done. He wished he could succumb to his urges and get away from his office, but he knew better. The previous night’s adventure had caused him enough delays as it were. As much as he hated assuming it, he had to finish work first.
Raines had always told him, regarding his occasional trips to the world of eastern delicacies, “I’ll keep a blind eye, if you keep up with your deadlines.” That advice always rose from the depths of his mind whenever he felt the temptation becoming too overwhelming to resist. He was sure of one thing, though: he had no intention of getting deprived of his favorite hobby. That being said, when he had work to do, especially project evaluations, he would do it as efficiently as it was expected of him. He was a red-file, after all. He may not have had Jarod's training, but he was resourceful enough to be on top of the food-chain.
Fortunately for him, that resourcefulness wasn't enough to capture Jarod. So far, they tended to cut him some slack whenever an idea designed to capture the elusive Pretender turned into another failure. How long this ‘luck’ would last was dependent on him not failing on anything else. He also had some other leverage, but even that would not last forever.
Kim-Sum’s wrists were dirtied with dried blood. The shackles were too tight and the walls were too thick for her to break or to be heard by some outside passerby. Nevertheless, she screamed until her lungs were empty of air, until it hurt. Her throat sore, she took a breath, as deep as she could, and kept on screaming. No one would listen to her – she knew that for a fact – yet, she continued. To be silent would be the same as giving up. And she would not give up.
She ignored the pain once more and pulled her chain. Her goal was not to break it – it was too strong and too solid for her to do it – but to get a hold of the small piece of metal left among the garbage on the floor. If, by luck, it was sharp enough maybe she could use it as screwdriver and remove the bolts that held the chain to the wall. She still had hope.
Lyle’s next office neighbor was an accountant. An attractive accountant. Blonde hair, green eyes, nice smile, voluptuous body; the kind that could make men turn their heads without realizing they were doing it. Often enough they would pass by each other – sometimes at the corridor, other times in the elevator or the cafeteria – and she would try to flirt with him. Lyle never failed to match her intentions, but his actions were merely for appearances sake. No one could deny her attractiveness, but the truth was that he favored the east over the west.
Once again, as he exited his office for a quick trip to the cafeteria – and a much needed break after reviewing all those reports – he was face to face with her.
“Hi,” she said with a smile. She couldn’t stop smiling around him. Whatever it was, Lyle often wondered if there was something wrong with her, if she was simply an idiot or if a plastic surgeon had made a mistake while working on her face.
“Hi, Kate,” he said, without stopping his stride. Not in the mood right now.
“I was wondering if you'd like to have dinner tonight?”
With me. She didn't say it, but knew it was implied.
His response came with a sincere smile. “I’m sorry, Kate. I already made plans.”
She was disappointed, that much was obvious, but she hid it pretty well. “We’ll do it some other time, then,” was her answer. Lyle almost admired the way she kept her face straight.
The edges of Kim-Sum’s improvised screwdriver were too sharp for her to use without injuring her hands. Blood ran from her palms as she worked on the first of the four bolts that attached the chain to the wall. She was taking too long, but she couldn’t go any faster without seriously hurting her hand.
And that was not an option.
At first she had considered using that piece of metal to pick up the lock on her shackles. One simple try was all it took for her to realize that that wouldn’t be the best usage of her precious time.
She had no idea how much time had passed. She had to assume it was already too late and he would be back anytime soon to finish what he had started.
He had told her what he had done to the others before her, and how he planned to improve his work. Such a nice face, such a hideous monster. Captivity could awake a person’s will to live. Some chose to give up. Not her. She would not give up.
Lyle finished his coffee as he flipped the last page of the daily newspaper. It was now 4:30 P.M.., only one hour left before he could call it a day. His report was finished and twice revised to prevent any slips. Whenever he had dinner waiting at home, he feared that his mind would follow his stomach and write down compromising tidbits about his hobbies. No such thing happened this time but, as the commoners say, better safe than sorry.
He still remembered the one time when he accidentally wrote the name of his latest victim instead of the name of the contractor. He rectified that mistake before he delivered the report. From that moment on he was always on the edge when his hunts coincided with his reports. Luckily for him, he never compromised himself a second time. That assuming, of course, that the first time he noticed a mistake like that, was actually the first time he made one. No doubt if anything compromising had been divulged previously he would know about it by now.
One final bolt to go. Dried blood on her hands, Kim-Sum was on the verge of getting her freedom back. She could barely hold onto that piece of metal; it kept falling from hands numb from too much effort. Every time she dropped it, she would hold it again very tightly and proceed with her task until it would fell again.
Her father had suffered torture at the hands of people who could not let the past rest in peace. She had seen his wounds and knew, without comparison, that she was having a picnic compared to what her father went through, many years before she was born.
He had suffered immensely but never once did he compromised his principles or broke his code of honor. He said once that she was the strongest person he knew. That, coming from a man who had endured so much, was too important to ignore.
She would not disappoint him.
Once the final bolt was finally released, Kim-Sum yanked the chain from the wall. Slowly getting up, she slid the comportment door and exited the closet that served as a passage between a normal bedroom and a small torture chamber. Leaving the bedroom, she followed the corridor that lead to the living room.
Her body wanted to flee and just leave it all behind. Her mind, on the other hand, knew that she had to do something to keep what could had been her future from happening to others. She needed to let people know who Bobby Bowman really was, but first she needed a phone.
Lyle arrived home ten minutes earlier than usual. The traffic had been his friend and collaborated by offering little, if any, obstacles. Everything was quiet outside. Aside from the two cars parked on the other side of the street, there was nothing worth of notice.
He exited his car and crossed the path to his front door. He went in and for a while he couldn’t recall if he had left the curtains open or not. He remembered turning off the lights, but not drawing the curtains. Not to worry.
He turned the lights on and saw that his living room was packed with Chinese people. The look on their faces immediately told him they were not there to discuss sauces or salad dressings. Among them, he could see the person who, until very recently, he believed to be his main course for the evening.
He had no chance to escape. He knew that. He knew what his immediate future held in store for him. One could escape fate only for so long. He prayed for the end to come fast and painless.
He could only hope.