Young Adam Svenson was working frenetically.
He couldn’t remember ever having been so afraid in all his young life. Nor so desperate. He didn’t know what would happen to him. Neither did he know how much time he had to work on those ropes tying his hands. If he was to have any chance of escape, he had to get rid of them.
Adam was in the hands of a ruthless man, he was perfectly aware of that. Since the moment he had struck him so violently in that van, Wilson Grover had demonstrated it very clearly. Adam’s head had still been reeling from that first wallop when he had woken up in this God-forsaken place. That’s when he had noticed that his hands had been bound together in front of him; but he wasn’t able to reach his face, his arms being secured against his body, leaving little freedom of movement. He couldn’t see a thing; there was a blindfold covering his eyes. Another piece of cloth, pushed into his mouth, prevented him from speaking. He felt bad, sick in the stomach. The place and the thin mattress he was lying upon had a strong reek of damp and stale sweat upon it. That was almost too much to bear.
Then Adam had heard the echo of a bolt being pulled back and the creak of a door opening. That was Grover coming, and Adam’s heart, already filled with worry and fear, knew complete terror. The man had approached him to tell him what it was he wanted from him. From his father, to be more precise. “Your dad’s gonna make me rich, kid,” Grover had said with a cackle. “It was easier than I thought it would be. I was gonna use your little brother, but I couldn’t’ve hoped for a better chance than the one you gave me. Thanks a lot. I really appreciate this.”
He had removed the gag from the boy’s mouth, so he could breathe properly. Adam tried to plead with him, begging him to let him go, swearing that he wouldn’t tell anybody anything. The boy’s voice shook with fear and terror; he would have promised anything just to get out of that place and back to the safety of his home. But Grover was adamant.
“D’you really think I went to ALL that trouble just to let you go now?” he had snapped in a hissing tone.
“Please, let me go… Nobody will know. I promise, I won’t say a thing!”
“Of course you won’t.”
With that mocking answer, Adam knew that Grover would stop at nothing to get what he wanted. And it was pretty clear now what would happen to him… Adam’s heart missed a beat. He was a bright boy. He realized that Grover wouldn’t let him go after this, since he knew perfectly well who his kidnapper was. The man couldn’t take that chance. It was too risky. The boy would have to disappear.
At this realization, Adam became so desperate that he found himself shouting for help, right in front of a startled Grover. He knew that Grover would eventually make him stop shouting, but he was hoping somebody would hear him before that, and call the police.
“Stop that, kid!” Grover’s growling order hadn’t reached the panicky young boy and he continued to call for help. Blindfolded as he was, he couldn’t see Grover coming to him and striking him a violent backhand that sent him flat on the mattress, half-stunned. “I said stop that!” Grover added furiously. “ What do you hope to accomplish? There’s nobody around to hear you! You’re alone, kid. There’s nobody to help you!”
That hadn’t stopped Adam having one last try. Grover’s hand was swift to silence him. “I hate shouting!” the man shouted in turn. “My old man was always shouting at me! He couldn’t stop. But I stopped him! I stopped him all right! Now, you’re gonna keep quiet! Or I swear to you, you’ll regret it!”
A couple more brutal slaps almost completely stunned the young boy and left him moaning in pain and distress on the mattress. Grumbling with bad humour, Grover had gone away, slamming the door behind him and fastening the bolt again. Through a daze, Adam had heard his steps fading away, until he couldn’t hear them anymore.
He wasn’t sure if he had lost consciousness at that moment, from the combination of despair, fear and pain. The only thing he was sure about was that he woke up again, and that there seemed to be a blank in his mind. There was an unpleasant salty taste in his mouth, as if he had cried, but he didn’t remember having done that. It could be blood too, he reminded himself, and the thought had the effect of making him redouble his efforts to free himself.
He had found a nail, protruding from a wall against which his mattress had been placed. Adam had been trying to use it to undo his bonds for what now seemed to him an eternity. He could feel the ropes biting deeply into his wrists and tightening around his body; the rough surface of the wall was painfully scraping the skin from his hands, as he rubbed them feverishly against the nail. It hurt him a lot. He bit his lip so as not to cry out, but there was little he could do not to let an occasional grunt escape him.
The wall he was leaning against didn’t seem to be very thick; he could hear a television on the other side. And from time to time, footsteps, which seemed to be approaching him. He was wondering if it was Grover coming back to visit him again, and the mere notion sent a shiver down his spine. But no, he had realised suddenly. Those footsteps weren’t Grover’s. Grover had a heavy step; the other one was quieter. From a different, much lighter person. And when Adam heard a sigh – a definitely feminine sigh – he understood that he was right. There was a woman out there; probably Grover’s accomplice.
That person never came into the room where the prisoner was; always, she had turned away and left. Adam only heard her; Grover, wherever he was, didn’t seem to be around. The boy, even while wondering where he could be, wasn’t complaining in the least about that fact. Grover frightened him.
Time passed, with Adam still trying to work on his bonds. He didn’t feel as if he was making the slightest progress, but he wasn’t giving up. He couldn’t afford to.
That’s when he heard, through the wall, a door being opened and slammed violently. He almost jumped in dreadful surprise; the footsteps he was now hearing were those of a man. His heart missed a beat, when the voice of Grover reached him:
“Has the kid been behaving himself?”
“Why have you been so long?” a woman’s voice answered with a nervous catch to it. “I was beginning to get very worried, Will. I was wondering…”
“If I’d been caught? Naaa… There’s no danger of that, believe me! Nobody would suspect me.”
All of a sudden, Adam felt the ropes around his wrists coming loose; feverishly, he shook them off and finally succeeded in untying his hands completely. He could hardly move them, they hurt him so much. But now wasn’t the time to stop. He proceeded to try to get rid of the loop of rope that held his arms against his body. With his hands now free, it was a lot easier.
He could still hear Grover, on the other side of the wall, as he gave a low chuckle. “Would you believe it? Svenson thinks his kid has run away! He figures the boy was so angry at him that he chose that way to get back at him!”
“So nobody suspects…?”
“Not at the moment, anyway. The kid’s folks think they’ll hear from him, sooner or later. Svenson is furious.”
“Why did you have to go back there, Will? You know it could be dangerous!”
“No. It would have been dangerous if I hadn’t gone. If I’d disappeared at the same time as the kid, someone might have suspected me… And anyway, I had to keep up with what was going on. For the moment, I can say it’s pretty safe.”
“That won’t last, Will. When the boy doesn’t come back in the morning, his parents will suspect something is wrong. They’ll alert the police…”
“Don’t you think I know that, Marsha? Don’t worry, I tell you. I’ll make my move before there’s any danger for us.”
“What… what are you going to do?”
Adam had finally succeeded in getting free of the ropes. Marsha’s voice, he had noticed, was still very nervous. She had a beautiful voice, strangely soft, compared with that of Will Grover. Not at all a voice the boy would have associated with a kidnapper.
“You must be VERY careful, Will. If you get caught…”
“I don’t intend getting caught. Now, please calm down. There’s nothing to worry about.”
Adam had now removed his blindfold. Not that it helped him in any way, he realised immediately; the room he was in was almost pitch black; almost no light at all entered it, except for a very faint ray coming from a small hole on the very wall he was so close to. Adam carefully approached that hole and put his eye to it, trying to get a glimpse of the other side. He couldn’t see much; only a modest kitchen table, a counter with a sink, and a couple of chairs.
Then she came into view; a young woman with dark hair. She walked toward the counter, to pick up a cup. All the while her eyes, filled with worry and sadness, were looking in the same direction.
“I still think all this is a very bad idea,” she then said, nervously turning the cup in her hands. “Will, we’ll live to regret this, I feel it.”
“Don’t you worry about a thing, honey,” the voice of Grover answered smoothly. “Nothing can go wrong! We’ll have the money. More money than you ever dreamed of! And then, my darling, we’ll live the GOOD life! Thanks to that spoiled little brat!” He paused, before continuing. “How is he? Seems quiet enough…”
Adam shivered and nearly jumped on hearing that remark; he caught himself just in time to hold back a gasp of complete outrage.
“I haven’t heard anything from him for hours,” Marsha sighed tiredly. “Since you went out, actually.”
“Bet he learned to keep his head down, since I had my talk with him,” Grover cackled wickedly.
“It’s not funny, Will,” Marsha protested with an annoyed frown. “You shouldn’t have hit him like that.”
“Well, it did the trick, didn’t it?”
The troubled look Adam saw in the woman’s features made it clear enough to him that she didn’t agree with Grover. The latter cleared his throat, and walked toward the woman. Adam saw him appearing in his field of view.
“It’s time now to let those people know what’s happened,” Grover declared, taking Marsha’s cup. “Time to show them what’s happened to their kid and what they have to do to get him back.”
“And what will you do, exactly?”
“I have it all figured it out. I’m going to leave a message for Svenson, in a way they would never relate to me.”
“You’ll see.” Adam saw the thoughtful look of Grover as he took a sip from his cup. The cruel twinkle he could see in those eyes, even at this distance, sent shivers down the boy’s spine. “I’ll need something from the boy, something that belongs to him, to send to his folks. Say, that cap he was wearing when I brought him in…”
Nervously, Adam looked around. His eyes had quickly adapted to the darkness in this room. He found, on the mattress where he had been lying, the object in question. The Red Sox cap his father had given to him some days ago; strangely, that was the one he had chosen to wear to the game his father had forbidden him to go to. He couldn’t explain to himself exactly why.
Adam reached for the cap, picked it up and pressed it against himself, as if it had been the most precious treasure in the world to him, at the moment. He then noticed, with horror, the sorry state of his hands, all scratched, and covered with blood, following his recent efforts to get himself free of his bonds. They were sore and numb, and he had trouble flexing his fingers. Nevertheless, seeing them like that gave him a crazy idea.
“I think it’s with the boy,” he heard the voice of Marsha say, making him jump nervously. “I’ll go fetch it for you.”
“No need. I’ll go myself.”
Adam heard the heavy steps of Grover approach. Apprehensively, he searched the darkness with his eyes, and found the door; at that exact moment, he heard the bolt being pulled back and saw the door open, with a creaking sound. A little more light entered the room, surrounding the powerfully built silhouette of Will Grover.
The big man saw the boy, crouching there next to the mattress, leaning against the wall, staring at him with his blue eyes screwed up against the sudden increase in light, and pressing something against his chest with both hands. He gave a faint chuckle, and nodded quietly.
“I see you got rid of your ropes, kid. You’re resourceful, I’ll give you that.”
He entered the room. It had a very low ceiling, about five feet high, Adam then noted; it probably was some kind of big closet. It was too low for Grover to stand upright; he had to stoop in order to get in. Adam backed away, as Grover stepped toward him; he kept his eyes fixed on him.
“You don’t have to worry, kid. I just want…” Grover stopped right away, as he just had spotted what it was that Adam was clutching in his hands. He gave a devilish grin, and indicated the object with a demanding finger. “That’s exactly what I want, in fact. Gimme that cap, kid.”
Adam kept his distance; he didn’t make a move toward Grover, nor did he give any intention whatsoever of wanting to obey. There was a glitter of defiance in his blue eyes, now. The man’s brow furrowed deeply.
“I advise you not to make it difficult for me, kid,” he told the boy with a warning tone. “I’m not patient. Now you give me that cap right away or…
Instead of obeying, Adam suddenly went deeper into the darkness of the room, as far away from Grover as possible; the man was totally taken aback.
“Kid! Come back here!”
He went further into the room, growling with anger, searching the shadows for his quarry, but keeping himself between Adam and the door. It took him some seconds, but he found the boy, rather easily, curled up in the farthest corner, keeping his cap close against him, trying his best to protect it from the man who wanted to take it away from him.
“Give me that, kid,” Grover demanded again, approaching the boy.
The cry of complete anger and outrage from Adam took Grover completely by surprise, especially when he saw the youngster suddenly lurching at him. Because he was standing in a rather precarious position, Grover lost his balance and fell on his knees, away from the door. Adam couldn’t believe his luck. For a fleeting second, he thought he had the chance to run from this dreadful place, away from that horrible man, and his evil plans.
Grover’s hand roughly caught his ankle and held it tight; Adam lost his footing and fell heavily, face first on the floor. He wrapped his arms round his head to protect it, the best he could. His forearms, and his already sore hands took the full brunt of the fall, and he grunted in pain. Still, he wasn’t giving in. He started kicking the face of the man holding him down, hoping to make him let go.
“Enough, kid! Stop that right now!”
Adam wasn’t about to obey. He could see the danger he was in, so he had nothing to lose by trying to get away. He was just too desperate.
“I said, that’s enough!”
This time, Adam saw Grover’s big hand coming right at his face. He tried to avoid it, but was too slow. It caught him over the left ear; the impact was such that it made his ears ring. He sprawled on the floor, half knocked out.
Panting, Grover got to his feet; he ran a hand across his face and then down his jaw, and grunted in disgust; the kid had landed at least one blow hard enough to draw blood. He spat some blood on the floor.
“You little twerp!” he growled with fury. “I’m gonna teach you…”
That was the woman – Marsha – standing in the door way, who was looking down at the scene with a dreadful expression on her face. Adam weakly raised his head and his eyes met hers, with a desperate, pleading message.
“P-please, help me,” he begged in a murmur.
He could see the eyes of the woman trembling, but it was all he was able to see. Grover was over him, and dealt him another strong wallop across the face, that sent his head reeling. “Shut up, you little creep! I don’t wanna hear another word from you!”
“Will, stop this!” Marsha suddenly shouted in protest. “You’re hurting him!”
“Damn right, I’m hurting him!” Grover tore the cap from Adam’s now weak grasp and tossed it toward Marsha. There was uncontrolled fury in his eyes, now, as he stared at the young woman. “Take that away, and keep it a moment. I won’t be long.”
The intense way he was looking down at the half-stunned boy at his feet made his intentions all too clear. Marsha felt the fear creeping inside her and blanched instantly.
“No!” she protested. “Will, he’s just a boy! You can’t…”
“Mind your own business!” Grover barked at the young woman, his face red with anger. “This is between him and me! Get in the other room and keep yourself busy!”
Distraught, Adam saw Marsha close her mouth, without any more protest and she disappeared from his view. He was in deep trouble now, he knew it. He was so very afraid, and he could feel his heartbeat increasing within his chest.
“That was a very stupid thing to do, kid!”
The growling sound of Grover’s voice made Adam look up; the big man was standing over him. Even in the dim light of the room, the young boy could see the flash of anger in his eyes, the way his lower jaw was tightening and the evil smirk curling his thin lips.
“Do you really think you could take me for a fool like that?” Grover continued ominously, sending a shiver down the boy’s spine. “You need a lesson, kid. You need to learn respect. If your dad was unable to teach you, I’m gonna do it.” He cracked his knuckles, nodding with a satisfactory expression of anticipation over his face. “Just like my old man used to do!”
Adam’s features became white; the fear within him mounted again and he could feel his heartbeat still increasing.
The next thing he saw was the big hands of Will Grover coming to grab him…
* * *
Captain Blue woke up with a start; that flashback, so vivid in his mind… That was exactly as he was reliving it now. The beating he had taken as a kid at the hands of Will Grover, so many years ago, had been a very painful one. It didn’t matter to Grover that he was striking a nine-year-old boy. The memory of it was absolutely horrible, and had haunted Adam long after it had actually happened. With time, he had managed to somehow dismiss it from his memory, but still it had never completely left him. He just had no idea how painfully present it still was.
Blue ached all over. Grover had not held back, and had relished every single blow he had laid on the defenceless man. He had beaten his prisoner, until he couldn’t keep himself upright. Then Blue had lost consciousness, waking only now. He could hardly move, and still hung limply from that rope. Yet, he could feel the floor underneath his dragging feet. Unsteadily, he made an effort to get his footing, grunting under the efforts demanded of his aching body. That’s when he noticed that something was covering his mouth, similar to what he had over his eyes.
He heard movement nearby, and voices murmuring; instantly, Blue pricked up his ears, trying to catch on what was going on. Grover was there, all right, with somebody else; they were busy discussing setting something up, apparently, as Blue heard the clicking sounds of buttons being pushed.
“Right, that’s how you use that thing,” he heard the voice of Grover say. “Be sure to wait for my signal before switching it on. I want the surprise to be complete.”
Blue was wondering what it could be all about; he moved on his feet, and checked the strength of his bonds. He grunted under the gag, as he felt the rope biting into his already abraded wrists.
“Awake now, kid?”
Blue had barely heard the limping step of Grover approaching him. The man stopped in front of him; the captain could feel his presence as well as he could smell the cigarette he was smoking. Despise his rather precarious position, Blue made a threatening step forward, only to be stopped by the rope. He heard Grover’s derisive gloat in answer to his vain attempt.
“Got to hand it to you, you’ve grown up tough, Svenson.” There was a short pause, that Grover used to pull on his cigarette; then he blew a mouthful of smoke right into his prisoner’s face. Blue grunted with annoyance, trying to escape it. “Right,” Grover continued, “now that you’re back with us, kid, we can proceed. I hope you won’t mind, but I’ll do the talking. At least at the beginning. Don’t worry, you’ll get your chance too, in a short while.”
The only answer Captain Blue was able to make was an angry and very frustrated grunt, as he tried once again to reach for his tormentor, quite uselessly. He couldn’t do anything to stop him from doing what he was planning…
* * *
John Svenson was a genuine workaholic.
He had come into his office at “Svenson and Sons” in Boston at exactly 5:30AM and didn’t plan to leave until nine in the evening. There was important business to attend to, and accounts to check, and he intended to have it all done before leaving for the comfort of his home. His son Peter – who had certainly inherited some of his father’s flair for finance – worked in another office, not far from John’s, on a similar task, but John trusted only himself to handle some of the more important files of the company. There were clients and business partners that only John Svenson himself would handle. Neither he nor they would have it any other way.
He loved every minute of his work. He only really felt alive when he was under pressure like at this precise moment. He had instructed Tracy, his secretary, not to disturb him under any circumstances, unless she deemed it to be very important. He always trusted Tracy to make a good judgement about that, and never once did she disappoint him.
The morning had passed quickly, and Svenson, after an hour’s lunch break that he took with a business partner, discussing a new account, came back to continue his work at his office. He was about half way through an important report when the intercom on his desk buzzed; without doing more than looking at it and without stopping work on his report, Svenson frowned, and pressed a button. “What is it, Tracy?”
“The important call you were waiting for from the West Coast, sir.”
“Thank you. I’ll take it right away.”
He cut the intercom and, putting his pen down, pushed the button for the hands-free phone speaker. At about the same moment, he realised that he actually wasn’t waiting for any important call from the West Coast. He picked up his pen again, sighing with irritation.
“Mister Svenson, how nice to talk to you,” came a cheerful-sounding voice over the speaker.
“You have about three minutes to explain to me why you have called me under false pretences, sir,” Svenson stated roughly, continuing to write. “After that, I’m hanging up. I’m a very busy man, and I don’t like to be disturbed for nothing.”
“So you haven’t changed much over the years.”
Svenson signed his name before closing the folder in front of him. “Do I know you?” he asked.
“We met, a long time ago.”
“Who are you?”
“Don’t you recognise my voice?”
Svenson furrowed his brow. “I don’t have time to play games, mister. If I had recognised your voice, do you think I would have asked your name? Now state your business. You have less than two minutes.”
“My business… Well, I have something to offer you. In exchange for a… small remuneration.”
“You have gone to all this trouble to sell me something?” Svenson sighed, annoyed. “I’m about to hang up, sir.”
“Please don’t. You’ll regret passing up an opportunity like this.”
“Sir, whoever you are, I can assure you, there’s nothing you can offer me that I haven’t been offered before. I’m pretty sure you don’t have anything that could be of interest to me.”
“What about your son?”
“I’m sure he won’t be interested either. We are financiers, sir, not commodity traders. I’m sorry, but as I said, I’m a busy man. Your three minutes are up. Have a good day, sir.”
Svenson was about to press the button to end the communication, when he heard the man suddenly shouting into the speaker: “Put down that phone, and your son is dead!”
Svenson froze in mid-movement. He blanched, upon hearing the harsh words, not sure what to do next. “Peter?” he murmured, almost without really thinking. He shrugged and shook his head, dismissing the thought. Now he was starting to get very angry. “I saw my son not half an hour ago! He was in his office and seemed quite fine! What kind of sick game are you playing, mister?”
“You asked me the same question, twenty-five years ago.”
The remark was followed by a cackle that sent a shiver down Svenson’s spine. That was a sound he had heard before... A sound that had pursued him for a long time in his most nightmarish dreams.
He couldn’t forget it.
“Grover,” he whispered. “Wilson Grover. That’s you, isn’t it?”
“Ah! So you recognize my voice.”
“I’ll never forget your voice, you despicable bastard,” Svenson snapped with obvious disgust in his tone. “I thought you died in prison.”
“You would think that. Heck, you even did your best to make sure it would happen!”
“What do you want?” Svenson suddenly interrupted.
“Don’t you have a LITTLE idea about that?”
Svenson’s brow furrowed. “If it’s about that hollow threat against my son Peter…”
“I’m not interested in Peter,” Grover cut in. “If I recall correctly, you have more than one son, Mister Svenson.”
Svenson’s frown deepened. His youngest, David, was away somewhere in France, for what he called a ‘cultural trip’ with a bunch of his friends. He was pretty sure that, wherever David might be, Grover could not reach him.
No. It wasn’t about David either. Svenson was pretty sure that only one of his sons would be of interest to Will Grover.
“Adam?” He snorted slightly. “I don’t even know where he is, but I’m pretty sure he’s out of your reach. You can’t hurt him this time.”
“You’re so sure about that, are you?” Grover paused, before continuing: “Are you in front of your computer?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I’ve got something to show you. Plug your phone into it.”
“Grover, I’m warning you –“
“It’s me who’s warning you, Svenson! Hook up that damn phone! And don’t worry about a thing: we’re already online, waiting for you to join in!”
A bad feeling began to make its way inside Svenson’s mind; he could tell Grover was up to something, but he was almost afraid of what it could actually be. He turned to his desktop computer and obeyed Grover’s demand. Svenson was about to enter a command so the computer would take charge of the current phone communication, when he saw an image beginning to form before his eyes. He was wondering how Grover had managed to actually hook himself to the computer, when the screen gave him the image of the man, standing in a dark room, a cordless phone to his ear, looking directly at him.
“You look a lot older,” Svenson noted, narrowing his eyes.
“Why, thanks!” Grover responded, grinning. “I wish I could tell you the same, but as this is a one-way image transmission, I can’t. Which is too bad, I’d love to see your face now. By the way, don’t bother to record this. It won’t be of any use to you.”
“I won’t.” That didn’t stop Svenson from entering a new command on his computer keyboard, thus instructing his computer to begin recording, unbeknown to Grover.
“You better sit tight, Johnny,” Grover continued, “I’m sure you’ll be quite surprised at what you’re gonna see!”
He nodded toward the camera operator and the angle of the picture changed… And John Svenson discovered with shock that his dreadful feeling about all this was even worse than he had first imagined.
He saw a tall, battered blond man hanging heavily from his bound hands. His mouth and eyes were covered with duct tape, soiled with blood from multiple cuts, and his face was heavily bruised. By the look of his clothes, all loose and torn up, and dirty from sweat and blood, the man had recently been at the receiving end of a particularly harsh beating.
The blond hair, height and general features of the man were more than enough for Svenson to recognize him. He blanched instantly. He jumped to his feet, his eyes wide open with untold horror, glued to the screen. “My God! Adam!”
How could that be possible? thought Svenson. The last time he had heard from Adam, he was still stationed at Cloudbase, whatever and wherever that was. One thing he thought for certain was that that place was probably the safest spot on Earth.
And now, Adam was there – in the hands of Will Grover.
Again, like so many years ago.
“What have you done to him?”
For an awfully, horrible instant, the thought that Adam could be dead before his eyes came creeping inside Svenson’s mind. But then he saw him raise his head and move, struggling against his restraints, and heard him grunting through his gag. John Svenson let out a sigh of relief. He then saw Grover appear next to his captive; he didn’t have the phone in hand. Must have connected it up to the main machine, Svenson mused, when he heard the man address him again.
“So, do I have your attention now?” An evil grin curved Grover’s lips, as he looked thoughtfully at his prisoner. That did nothing to reassure Svenson. “I suppose NOW you know what I was planning to offer you.”
“Don’t you hurt him, Grover,” Svenson croaked.
“Ah… But I don’t plan to. Not just yet, anyway. Maybe later, it’ll depend on the agreement we make, you and me.” Grover turned again his attention toward Blue, musing. “Now what do you have to say about this, Adam, my boy? I’m really curious to know.”
He violently yanked off the length of tape covering Blue’s mouth. The latter let out a cry of pain and pure outrage. John Svenson winced. He saw his son taking only one second to regain his breath.
“Father! Don’t agree to ANYTHING!”
“Now, now, Adam… That’s unkind,” Grover admonished his prisoner with a false note of kindness in his tone. He pulled Blue by the hair and forced him to turn toward the camera. The younger man made a commendable effort to resist, in vain. Svenson could see his eldest son’s face covered with bruises, blood running down from his nose. It was a wonder he hadn’t choked earlier, with that gag on.
“He’s still the cocky, arrogant little kid he was, twenty-five years ago, huh, Johnny-Boy?” Grover said, chuckling. “And he’s grown big and strong… You must really be proud of him!”
“You madman,” Svenson whispered. “Let him go!”
“Not so fast, my friend.” Grover gave a quiet look at Blue, before releasing him brutally, pushing his head back. “As you can see, your boy still has plenty of fire in him…”
Svenson swallowed hard. “Where did you find him? How did you…”
“Oh, quite by chance, actually. It’s really, really weird, you know. I passed the better part of the past year looking for him, and never finding him. And then, yesterday, he literally fell into my lap. Driving around the Nevada desert with his girlfriend.”
“The Nevada desert?”
Svenson frowned, wondering what the hell Adam was doing in Nevada. Must be for his damned Spectrum job, he thought grimly.
“What do you want from him? Didn’t you do him enough harm when he was a boy?”
“Would you rather I went after one of your other two boys?” Grover asked wickedly. Behind him, upon hearing his words, Blue lifted his heavy head. “Or after your daughter, for that matter? Now what’s her name… Kathy?”
Svenson paled. How could that maniac could even imply that HE should choose which of his children would end up in his hands? He could see that Adam was having his own reaction to Grover’s hateful statement. He made a sound that resembled a growl as he struggled, trying to reach Grover.
“Keep away from my family, you bastard!”
Almost instantly, Grover turned around and brutally punched his prisoner in the side; with a yelp of pain, Blue slumped back, knocked off his feet by the vicious and unexpected blow; he would have fallen to the floor, if the rope keeping him standing had not stopped him. Svenson blanched at the sight.
“No, stop!” he yelled.
Grover didn’t seem to hear him. “Thanks for volunteering, kid!” he cackled wickedly, addressing the stunned Blue. “Doing your job as a protective big brother, I see. Well, your brothers and sister should be grateful to you…” He hit his captive in the face, knocking him sideways. Blue wasn’t in any position to avoid the blow. It was all he could do not to lose consciousness. Witnessing it all, John Svenson, in complete disarray, was biting his whitened knuckles.
“Stop that!” he repeated, anguish in his voice. “You’re hurting him!”
“That’s the general idea.” Grover turned back to the camera. A dazed Blue dangled at the end of his rope, moaning faintly. “Now, concerning this business of ours, Johnny…”
“What is it you want?” Svenson murmured.
“You, of all people, should know what I want from you and your boy. It’s the reason why I went after HIM, instead of one of your other kids. That would have been easy, really. But it was Adam I wanted. He owes me. Like you do.”
“He owes you? Why?” a revolted Svenson replied. “Because you kidnapped him when he was a nine year old child and then tried to ransom him? Because your plan failed miserably, you got caught and went to jail?”
“It was a perfect plan!” Grover snapped. “It failed because your kid messed things up! And because you didn’t follow instructions and went to the police!”
“And what would you have had me do?” Svenson scoffed. “My boy was in the hands of a maniac who had threatened to kill him! And seeing the state he was in when the police found him, I was right to call them in. You would have killed him anyway!”
“That mistake, alerting the police, I’d advise you NOT to make this time, Svenson!” Grover retorted ominously. “Because what I did to your boy back then will be NOTHING compared to what I’m ready to do NOW!”
Svenson shivered and found the need to sit down; his hands were sweating and shaking. He swallowed hard, his eyes riveted on the disturbing image of his battered son, now apparently too weak to even stand on his feet. “I see you’ve already made a start,” he said weakly.
“Just to show you how serious I am, this time,” Grover said rather quietly.
“WHAT do you want, exactly?”
“You’re ready to negotiate, then?”
“Just tell me, you son of a bitch!” Svenson shouted furiously. “What’s the price for my son’s life? You didn’t call just to show me how you had already tortured him! Tell me your price, I’ll pay it!”
“You shouldn’t call me names, Johnny-Boy… I really, REALLY, hate that.”
To Svenson’s dismay, Grover turned back to Adam and started hitting him again. The look of pain on his son’s face was almost too much for Svenson to bear. He desperately fought himself not to look away.
“Grover, stop it!” he pleaded. “He can’t defend himself. You’ll kill him!”
“Isn’t that what those guys you sent after me in jail tried to do to me, Svenson?”
Grover had spun around to face the camera again, leaving his prisoner, groaning in pain, barely able to keep his head up. There was an expression of anger in the man’s eyes.
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t play games with me! I know they came from you! You paid them to come after me! I came out crippled from it, Svenson! But I survived!”
John Svenson didn’t reply. Yes, he knew perfectly well what Grover was talking about… And it was true, he had paid some tough guys in the federal prison, to get to the maniac who had almost killed his young son, way back when. Svenson had not been satisfied with his jailing, not after what he had done to Adam. Not after leaving him for dead, and in a coma the boy had fought so very hard to wake up from. Svenson had not thought Grover had been dealt with appropriately. In his mind, the punishment wasn’t severe enough. Grover had to pay.
“So, you don’t deny it anymore, huh?” Grover said with an evil grin. “You bastard, you tried to have me killed…”
“Tell me what you want,” Svenson interrupted in a bleak voice. “You’ll have it. I’ll do whatever you want.”
“I’m sure you will.” Grover paused a second, thoughtful. Then, he cleared his throat. “I want you to book a plane ticket for today. Not your private plane. Take a regular, commercial flight. Go to Las Vegas, and rent a room there, at any hotel you want. Keep a low profile. The ONLY thing I want you to take with you is a portable computer, which will enable you to transfer the funds I want.”
“You’ll know that in due course. Don’t be too eager to find out yet.”
“What should I do, in Las Vegas?”
“You still have a cellular phone, haven’t you? Don’t worry, I know the number. I’ll call you back, tomorrow, with further instructions. You BETTER be in Vegas by then. Remember: don’t say a word about this to anybody. Not your secretary, your associates, your wife, or any other member of your family. Just say you have urgent business to attend to, if anyone asks you. No further information. Just go. Nobody has to know where you’re going. And don’t call the police… You try to trick me, your son dies. Very painfully. And if I get the chance, I’ll make you watch it. It’s all the same to me, Svenson: I’ll take much pleasure in doing that as in getting your money!”
Svenson’s throat tightened, hearing those terrible words. There was so much anger, so much hate in them… He had no doubt that Grover would do as he said.
“I believe you,” Svenson croaked. He took one look at Adam, who was trying to get on his feet. He was desperately hoping it wouldn’t be the last time he would see his son alive. “Adam, if you can hear me, I swear, I’ll get you out of this, son…”
He didn’t get the chance to see if Adam had actually heard him. The communication was suddenly shut down and he found himself staring at a blank screen.
For long seconds, John Svenson could do nothing more than stand there, his mind as blank as the screen itself. He then sat down very slowly, mechanically, his legs weakening, leaning against his desk. He buried his face in his hands and gave a long, desperate sigh.
God! The nightmare he had lived twenty-five years ago was beginning again! With a Wilson Grover even more bloodthirsty and violent than he had been when he had a nine year old kid in his clutches. And Adam, with all his strength, all his vaunted skills honed from years of training in his present job as well as his preceding one as a security agent at the WAS seemed as helpless as he did when he was only a child. In those days, Grover had not hesitated to brutalize him; now that he was a man, John Svenson didn’t have any doubt that he would hesitate even less to hurt him.
For all the differences and arguments that had grown between them, John Svenson always had admired, even envied his son his force, both physical and of character, and his courage. Of his four children, Adam was the only one who had ever dared stand up openly to him – and was still doing it today. Of course, David was the unconventional one – living some kind of bohemian life, but always he had come back to the family fold when he had felt the need for it. Katherine had a strong will, one that resembled Adam’s, but still not quite the same; she was ready to argue with her father, but more often than not, she would side with him, and accept his decisions. As for Peter, he was more like his father. John saw himself in Peter. That was probably the reason why Adam and Peter couldn’t get along for more than five minutes in the same room together.
Peter and Katherine were working with their father at the family business; David was still too young, still a student, and was only concerned with the pursuit of personal pleasures. He would come around eventually, Svenson was convinced of that. But Adam… Adam was a whole different thing. He had already made choices in his life that his father couldn’t understand. What was that idea of becoming a test pilot, after years of studying economics, anyway? Why take the risk of getting killed just to make sure some dumb aircraft would fly properly? That wasn’t the kind of proper job a Svenson would do.
And then came that job with Spectrum, even more dangerous, that Adam accepted, three years earlier – giving up his identity in the process, to adopt a colour-coded name. Adam had tried to explain to his father it was to protect the rest of the family. John Svenson wouldn’t listen. The only thing he was very aware of was that the son he had been so proud of in his younger days – proud of his character, of his achievements as a human being, a student and an eventual heir to his company – had grown up to become a total disappointment. A stranger. An embarrassment, even. Especially when people asked about him. How could Svenson tell them about him, without revealing that so damned important secrecy that surrounded Spectrum? So he had to lie, and pretend not to know anything about what his son was ‘up to, these days’.
But now, Adam was in trouble. DEEP trouble. And apparently, that Spectrum organisation he was so proud to be a part of could not even get him out of it.
In that case, what can I do? Svenson mused in despair, looking back at the empty screen. He felt that he had no choice other than to follow Grover’s orders. There was no doubt in his mind that this maniac would continue to mistreat his son until he obtained what he wanted. And Svenson only prayed that Adam’s great strength would be enough to permit him to survive this ordeal, until HE could get him out of it.
Svenson quickly picked up the phone and called the airport to find out the time of the next flight to Las Vegas. Upon hearing that there would be one in less than an hour, he booked a seat in his name, and quickly hung up. He got to his still unsteady feet, and feverishly gathered his papers to throw them in the first drawer he opened. He shut down the portable computer and snapped the lid closed. No time to call home. Anyway, Grover had specifically told him to give no explanations, to anybody. If he were to call Sarah to tell him he was going away for a couple of days, it was a sure bet she would wonder where he was going and would ask questions. He would have a lot of trouble lying to her about what was going on. And he certainly wouldn’t tell her.
Damn you, Grover. I’ll play your sick game. For now. You don’t leave me much choice, do you?
He was about to go, when the door of his office opened and a young blond man entered, to quickly walk toward him, while consulting the contents of an open folder he had in his hands.
“Dad, I’m sorry to barge in like this, but I need some information concerning Webster in…” He noticed at that moment that his father was clearing his desk, and gave him an inquiring look. “You’re leaving?”
“I’m leaving town, Peter,” Svenson answered rather abruptly. “Something came up. I must go.”
“Oh.” It wasn’t so rare that John Svenson would go off like that, after receiving an important call from an investor, or an associate from out of town. He seemed to always be on the run to some business or other. So Peter wasn’t so surprised to see him go. He knew he was planning to work late today, but… it was just that his father appeared somehow nervous this time around.
“When do you expect to be back?”
“I don’t know yet.”
Svenson took his attaché-case and closed the lid. Peter watched him busying himself, puzzled. “Can’t you be more specific? Will you be gone for the rest of the day, or…”
“I told you, I don’t know. A couple of days, maybe. I’m going to the West Coast.” Svenson bit his lip, but it was too late. The information was already out. He didn’t have to raise his eyes towards his son to know he was staring at him curiously.
“The West Coast? What for?”
Svenson hesitated for just a moment. “I can’t talk about it right now,” he said. “I’ll inform you the minute I’m sure if… all’s going well.”
He was aware that his answer was stirring even more questions within Peter’s mind, but at the moment, he really didn’t care. He was just hoping he wouldn’t press.
“Tell your mother about this, will you?” he quickly said, leaving his desk.
“You didn’t call to let her know you’re leaving town?” Peter’s voice sounded more and more puzzled.
“I don’t have time. I must catch my plane…” Svenson glanced at his watch “…which will be leaving in about forty-five minutes.”
“What do you mean? You’re not taking the company jet?”
“It’s otherwise occupied…”
“Come on, Dad, you’re the company president! If anybody’s entitled to take the jet, it’s you. I don’t understand why you…”
“I don’t have time to answer all your questions, Adam,” Svenson suddenly interrupted, walking with a quick pace toward the door. “I really must be going now. This is a date I can’t afford to miss. I promise, I’ll tell you all about it, when I return.”
He failed to notice the puzzled look on his son’s face as he passed by him; Peter followed him with his eyes and suddenly called to him as he was putting his hand on the door handle.
“It’s about Adam, isn’t it?”
Svenson frowned and stopped; he looked toward Peter, surprise on his face. “And what makes you think it has something to do with your brother?”
“You called me ‘Adam’, just then,” Peter noted. He furrowed his brow, apparently irritated, as if he had thought he had figured out something. “What has he done this time? Hasn’t he caused you enough worry as it is?”
John Svenson sighed tiredly; Peter was always quick to put all the blame on his older brother, in any circumstances, whatever the reason. It had been like that for years, and even more since Adam had decided not to work in the family company, and follow the family tradition. Sometimes, John wondered if Peter’s motivation in acting that way was really related to his true feelings on the matter, or if it wasn’t simply to please his father, by trying somehow fill the void left by Adam. No matter how hard he tried, Peter had to be aware he would never be able to fill Adam’s shoes, to somehow replace him. Not in his father’s heart, and certainly not as a human being. He was simply out of Adam’s league. Hence the reason why he was always picking on his brother. Sometimes, Peter’s attitude bothered John greatly, even though he understood why he did it.
“Your brother has done nothing,” he replied coldly. “When are you going to stop picking on him like this, anyway?”
“When he understands where his real place is, maybe?” Peter shook his head.
“I really don’t need for you to start that argument right now,” Svenson sighed.
“Come on, Dad… I’m only stating what you yourself say all the time! And what argument could there be, Adam’s not here to argue with!”
“Well, this time, you’ve got it wrong. I told you, Adam has nothing to do with this.”
“Are you so sure about that?” Peter asked, with obvious doubt in his voice. “It seems that you’re thinking about him right now.”
“Because I called you by his name?” Svenson sighed. “It was just a slip, Peter. Nothing more.”
Peter shook his head, musing. “Okay, Dad… If you say so.”
“I REALLY have to go now, son. I’m counting on you and Kate to take over for me while I’m gone.”
“You know you can, Dad. And I’ll tell Mom, don’t worry.” Peter nodded slowly, watching as his father opened the door. “You sure you won’t need any help there? I can go with you, if you like…”
John Svenson nearly shivered. He already had one son in trouble; he certainly didn’t want another joining him.
“That won’t be necessary. Thank you anyway.” He cleared his throat and turned away. “I’ll see you in a couple of days.”
Peter watched as his father walked out and closed the door behind him. Musing, he moved toward the desk and went behind it, to open the top drawer. He looked into it with a puzzled expression upon his face, as he could see the documents his father had been working on, just thrown inside, in a disorderly heap. That was perplexing; it certainly wasn’t the way his father usually behaved. Even considering that he was probably in a hurry, he would usually put his working papers carefully in order. And in a safe place.
Peter closed the drawer, wondering what could be going on that he wasn’t aware of. It had to be something very important and out of the ordinary for John Svenson to act so out of character.
And even though his father had denied it, Peter couldn’t shake this feeling that it had definitely something to do with Adam.
* * *
The minute he was certain the communication had been cut off, Grover had addressed a very satisfied grin toward the man handling the camera.
“All right. Now, we’re in business.”
“You’re sure Svenson won’t alert the police?” the other man asked, lowering the camera, a note of doubt in his voice.
“He won’t. He knows I’m serious. I’m pretty sure he won’t risk his son’s life this time. Now we just have to wait until tomorrow, and then I’ll give our friend another call.” Grover shook his head quietly. “Go tell the others, Wesley. I’ll let them know soon what we’re going to do next. For the moment, I need a talk with our guest, here.”
“I’m not sure if I can leave you alone with him,” the other guy mumbled. “I can’t believe you just said my name in front of him!”
“He already knows ME. Do you think it could make any difference, now? Go, I tell you. And stop worrying.”
The man grumbled again; he took off, taking his equipment with him and closed the door behind him. As soon as he was alone with his captive, Grover turned again to face him. Blue was struggling to get back on his feet.
“You were very good, kid,” he said with a mocking tone. “I’m sure your father was very impressed with your performance.” He laughed faintly, pausing to allow Blue to regain his footing, and took advantage of the moment to light a cigarette. He blew out some smoke, with obvious satisfaction. “How nice of your old man to come running to your aid like that, don’t you think?”
“What… do you want from him, anyway?” Blue asked, trying very hard to overcome the stress imposed on his arms and wrists, not to mention the pain in the rest of his body. “It’s about more than money, isn’t it? There’s vengeance as well.”
“What makes you say that?” Grover asked innocently.
“What exactly happened to you in prison?”
Blue’s footing was rather precarious; he slipped and felt the rope tightening around his burning wrists; he repressed a groan. Grover was looking blankly at him.
“You mean to say you don’t know?”
Blue shook his head. “No… No, I don’t. What happened?”
Grover scoffed loudly. “It was about two weeks after I landed in federal prison after my trial for your kidnapping. A couple of tough guys were waiting for me there. Think I gave you a bad beating just then, kid? That’s nothing compared to what they gave me. I spent the next few weeks in the prison infirmary, breathing through a tube in my throat! You’ve seen how I walk today? Well, I have your dad to thank for that! I found out he was the one who paid those guys to beat me up, probably even kill me. Because I had the audacity to touch his precious brat!”
Blue was obviously astounded to hear that revelation. For a moment, he didn’t have any reaction. Then, to Grover’s surprise, he found the strength to laugh out loud, although very weakly. “Dear old Dad… Leave it to him to take justice into his own hands if it doesn’t go the way he expects it. I must admit, though, I would never have thought he’d go that far.”
“I just told you your father is responsible for me being a cripple, and that’s all you’ve got to say about it?” Grover asked dryly, his eyes flashing in anger.
“And what would you have me say?” Blue suddenly snapped with renewed fury. “I was nine years old when you kidnapped me, Grover! Remember how you beat me to within an inch of my life? Remember that fall I took because of you? You think you got it bad? I spent days in a coma, with a major concussion, weeks to overcome the pain of broken bones and months to learn to let go of all that pain and fear. Do you know how long I was scared to go to sleep, because of the nightmares?”
Blue could feel the anger and hate still mounting by degrees within him. He was rather out of breath, after this prolonged speech, but he hadn’t finished yet. “I was NINE YEARS OLD, Grover!” he repeated dryly. “I certainly wasn’t much of a threat to you. You didn’t have to beat me up like you did, or try to kill me. What could have motivated you?”
“You were an insufferable, spoiled, little brat,” Grover replied. “A rich kid who never had to work or suffer to get what he wanted. You had it all. You were never hungry, or cold, or needy, and always had top medical attention when you got sick.”
“If I’m not mistaken, you could have it good too, Grover. You were in the Minor Leagues…”
“I never made the cut to go higher, and have the success I deserved.”
“Did you work HARD enough for it?” Blue replied accusingly.
“Don’t push it, Svenson.”
“So, was that all there was to it? Jealousy, pure and simple? I didn’t have to suffer, so you decided to make me suffer?”
“You needed a lesson, kid. You don’t seem to remember all the trouble you gave me, back then, by resisting me, and trying to escape.”
Blue scoffed in complete disgust. “Right! Like, you kidnapped me and I had to play dead!” He shook his head. “And now, you kidnap me again, beat me up again, and complain that it’s all my father’s and my fault, if you have a crippled leg today? Do you EXPECT me to feel sorry for you? You’ve got some nerve! You have NOBODY BUT YOURSELF to blame, Grover. You’ve made your own bed, now lie in it!”
“Shut up, you bastard…” Grover growled, taking a threatening step toward his captive.
“Or what, you’ll beat me again?” Blue replied, still in the same tone. “I told you once, I’m not a kid anymore. And I’m not afraid of you! Do your worst, if you want. You won’t see me grovel.”
“I’ll kill you, kid,” Grover spat between his teeth. “I’ll kill you, you and your father.”
“Yes, I thought as much,” Blue replied, his voice amazingly calm. “Your revenge won’t be complete unless we’re dead, is that it, Grover? Did you happen to tell this detail to your accomplices? Do they know you intend to make murderers of them?”
Grover cackled wickedly. “They don’t really care what happens to you. So long as they receive their cut. And they know there is plenty of money involved. Millions, to be exact.”
“Bet you care NOTHING about the money, do you, Grover?”
“Oh, I care about it. A lot. But you’re right about one thing: I care much more about revenge. Much more.”
“You’re a petty man, Grover. You were, twenty-five years ago. You still are, today.”
“So I am, according to you.” Grover looked thoughtfully at his captive. He narrowed his eyes. “You’re really not afraid of what’ll happen to you, are you, kid?” Blue didn’t answer, and contented himself with standing as tall as he could, considering his situation. Grover shook his head, and gave a low sigh. “Ah, by the way… Before I talked to your father, one of my buddies brought me some interesting news from Los Lobos. It appears your girlfriend went back there.”
That had the impact he expected on Blue; the Spectrum officer shivered, and lifted his head. He now seemed very concerned.
“Karen?” he murmured in a worried voice.
“She wasn’t on her own, though,” Grover continued, ever so quietly. “She brought a friend with her. A tall, dark-haired fellow, who speaks with an English accent. It seems they ran around town, asking questions about where you were. Since you’re not in Los Lobos anymore, I’m guessing they won’t have a chance in hell of finding you there.”
Blue let out a sigh. At least, he thought, Karen was not alone. She had Paul with her. He knew she was perfectly able to take care of herself, but that extra help would be needed against the likes of Grover and his friends.
Knowing them as he did, Blue didn’t doubt for a second that, if they were looking for him, they would stop at nothing until they found a clue to where he was. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t in Los Lobos anymore. They would find him. The question now was: in what condition would he be by then? Would he even still be alive?
Grover cast a suspicious look at his captive, obviously wondering was what going on in his mind. He thought he could guess, and he came close to him.
“You think they can actually find you, anyway?” Seeing that Blue was keeping quiet, Grover nodded. “Yes, you’re sure they could, now, are you? Well, I wouldn’t bet on that, kid. And anyway… They have their own problems to solve, before worrying about you.”
Blue pricked up his ears. Grover smiled with satisfaction. “ Yes, that guy with your girlfriend… He already ran into trouble with the sheriff. He’s in the joint, for public disorder.” He chuckled evilly, when he saw the apparent discomfort in his captive. “Which means now that your precious Karen is on her own, alone on the streets of Los Lobos…”
Blue understood the implications of this new development. He could hear the threat in Grover’s voice. It was too much to take. Furiously, he launched himself in the direction of that hated voice; Grover stepped back, just out of reach and gazed contentedly at his struggling captive.
“You keep away from her!” Blue yelled with complete fury. “If you ever touch even one hair on her head, I swear, there will not be one safe haven for you on Earth! You hear me? I swear, I’ll kill you!”
“Oh! Now that’s really threatening! You would actually have the guts to do it?”
“You’d better believe it!” Blue tried again to reach for Grover, naturally without any success. “I would not hesitate one second to snuff out your miserable life!”
There was something in Blue’s tone that made Grover wonder about that. The fury and determination were certainly there.
“Yes, I believe you would. But that won’t happen, kid. Because it’s ME who’ll have the last word. I hold all the cards, and I can do whatever I want. And nobody can do anything about that. Not your girl, not your English friend, not your father… and certainly not you.”
“Grover, you dirty…”
“I think it’s better if I leave you now to meditate on all this,” Grover cut in with a wicked chuckle. “You have plenty to think about, now, kid.” He moved toward the door, leaving his captive to struggle anew, trying desperately to free himself to get to him. The older man knew that there was no chance that he would succeed. “I think seeing your girl would do you a lot of good.”
Grover looked over his shoulder to witness what effect that declaration had on his prisoner; he saw him shivering again.
“Leave her alone, Grover!” Blue shouted, his anger and worry mounting.
“I’ll give her your best, kid. I’ll make sure of that.”
With that quiet promise, Grover went out; Blue heard the door being opened, then closed; he heard a lock being turned. He frantically pulled on his bonds again, but only succeeded in hurting himself. He let out a furious shout:
“Grover! Come back in here, you scum!”
He heard Grover’s limping steps fading away, followed by the echo of his cackling laugh. A distressed Blue then knew that he was alone with his despair. For the moment, his situation was certainly desperate, and it seemed that it was going from bad to worse. Hungry for revenge, Grover was using him as bait for his father, who was about to fall into a deadly trap. And Karen… Karen was now set up as a target. There was no telling what that sick man would do to her, just to torment her lover. Just the thought of knowing she would be in danger was driving Blue mad with worry, and pushed him to pursue his efforts to get free.
But without avail. The only thing he obtained was getting his wrists deeply damaged. He bit his lip over the pain and let out a frustrated cry. Then he stopped, trying to regain his breath, and to calm down his rapidly beating heart.
He felt so useless.
“Karen,” he murmured, almost hoping she would hear him. “Please, be careful… Don’t let that maniac get his hands on you!”