“Trilby! Are you awake now?”
Yes, awake, but fuzzy. Trilby took a moment to assess her situation. The initial confusion was clearing quickly. Her head throbbed, her tongue was stuck to her teeth, her eyes were gummed up. Otherwise, she felt OK. Good to go.
“Give me a moment. Then I’ll probably ask, where am I?” She was pleased to hear herself making at least some kind of sense. Her memory was clearing too. She heard Buddy’s final words again. Things just got serious, bitch. As he spoke, she’d decided it was time to make her break for freedom, but he’d knocked her on the back of the head head, hard. That blow was the last thing she remembered.
Trilby opened her eyes, only to realise that she still could not see. “Turn the lights on, would you?”
“The light is on. They put a bag over your head. Now you’re awake, you can probably shake it off. I managed to get mine off.” The voice was familiar. Not one of the bad guys, she didn’t think. The morning’s events were coming back to her fast. First things first. She followed the voice’s advice and shook the thick canvas bag off her head.
Now she could see her surroundings, but circumstances didn’t look much brighter than when she’d been blindfolded. She was sitting in one corner of a reasonably large room. The walls were made of thick, cold stone. A bare light bulb hung from the roof, strung on an electric cable that made its way across a wooden beam and disappeared through a hole high up in the wall. Her hands were tied behind her, bound with a rope that was attached to a large metal hoop, which in turn was riveted to the wall. Her ankles were tied together too, and lashed firmly to the iron leg of a workbench in front of her.
Her gaze travelled across the room. Diagonally opposite, in the far corner, was someone else. He too was tied to a hoop. He had the luxury of a bed to sit on, although in this case luxury was a misnomer. Instead of a rope, his bonds were of iron. A thick-linked chain, cuffed to his ankles, gave him enough leeway to reach a bucket positioned next to the bed. He could not get as far as Trilby, nor as far as the door. He was gazing at her with a mixture of horror and joy.
“Serge!” she said. “What are you doing here? I thought you were on sick leave! James said you were feeling ill and had gone home.” Serge Goss was the web developer who’d been employed to work with Trilby on creating the website. He’d come into the office the previous day as usual, but had disappeared halfway through the day.
“Same as you I guess. I heard something I shouldn’t.” Serge shrugged.
It’s good to have company, thought Trilby. But now I’m going to have to get you out of here as well as myself. She glanced down at the pocket of her cargo pants, where her mobile phone usually resided. Empty.
“How did I get here?” Trilby looked around the room in which she and Serge Goss were confined. It was clearly not a place intended for long stays. The bed was an afterthought, most likely for occasional use when the owner didn’t want to undertake the long drive back to the city. The rest of the room was filled with equipment for fishing, gardening, general maintenance of various sorts.
“There’s this guy called Buddy,” explained Serge. “He brought you in about half an hour ago. Told me your name was Miss Trench. ‘Trill something,’ he said. There’s only one Trilby Trench, so I knew it was you. I’ve been waiting for you to come round.”
“Where are we?” asked Trilby. She tried to touch the top of her arm to her head, to get some idea of the damage the blow had done her, but the rope was too tight.
“Dunno. They blindfolded me, remember? Hey, you have a nasty bump on your forehead, and a split lip,” contributed Serge. “What did you do? They didn’t bash me up. Just put me in a van and brought me here. Told me to be quiet, and all will be well in a couple of days.”
“A bump on my forehead? It’s the back of my head that’s killing me. Where Buddy hit me.”
“Gnarly!” Serge was enjoying having someone to talk to. Understandable, after a few hours alone in this joint. “Most likely you hit your forehead on something when you fell down. That’s where the bloody lip comes from too, most likely.
“So, as I was saying, Buddy brought you in. He was really upset. Rushed around the room collecting stuff, then rushed out again.”
“What stuff did he collect?”
“Ropes and stuff. A walking stick. You know, one of those bits of branch that some arty place has varnished and polished up to look like the real thing. Buddy was muttering to himself. Not happy with what he found.”
“Mmm,” said Trilby. “Good. That’s good.” Behind her back, she was working away at the ropes that fastened her wrists. It was giving some, but not enough.
“It’s good to keep them confused. Keep Buddy annoyed, on the hop. Don’t give him time to think too much about us.”
“Ah.” Serge thought a while. “The thing is, you see, that may not be best. I mean, James Amity told me I should behave, and nothing bad will happen.”
“Nothing bad will happen?” Trilby’s tone was scathing. “They kidnap you and chain you up in a remote shed, and you trust them when they say nothing bad will happen?”
“Right. It does seem odd, maybe. But they’ve been pretty decent, apart from all that. It’s only been one night, and they say it’ll all be over by tomorrow. They feed me and bring me water. They even empty that bucket for me when I’ve, you know, filled it up with piss and stuff.” Serge blushed and looked down. “Oh, and they’ve given me these magazines. All about cars. Not really my scene, but it’s something to read. So, they could have killed me, but they didn’t. I think they’ll keep their word and let me go tomorrow.”
“OK, no worries,” said Trilby. “That doesn’t work for me, though.”
“I get that. But you need to be careful. Like I said, they’ve been decent. But they can be kind of mean too.”
“Tell me what happened. From the start.”
“I overheard Buddy telling James Amity about something. They seem to be good pals. Like they’re running some sort of business together, separate from Amity Loans.”
“They’re brothers,” said Trilby.
“Brothers! OK, I can see that. They’re different, but kind of the same when you scratch beneath the surface.”
“Mmm.” The ropes were still digging deep into Trilby’s wrists. Not enough progress there. “What did you hear Buddy telling James?”
“They were talking about a business loan they’d applied for, in the name of a company called Amesbury Loans. They’re asking the bank for a huge amount of money, to kick start Amesbury Loans.”
“Amesbury Loans? You mean Amity Loans, the company we work for?”
“No, that’s the thing. That’s just what I said. I was at my desk, behind my double monitors. You know, it’s kind of like my man cave there.”
Trilby nodded. Serge had constructed a hidey hole for himself at the office. His desk was in a corner, behind a potted plant. With his two enormous computer screens, and a computer server positioned on the desk instead of the more usual location underneath it, it was indeed difficult to know whether he was there or not. He was a big guy, but surprisingly quiet and unassuming. A gentle giant.
“They didn’t realise anyone was in the office, but I didn’t know that. So, I just stood up and said, ‘You mean Amity Loans?’ Just like you did right now.” Serge grinned, then sobered. “Turns out, I shouldn’t have said anything. They were totally shocked. I mean, complete over-reaction, you know? Especially that Buddy character.”
“He’s a little volatile.”
“He’s all over the place. Sucking up to James one minute, furious the next. The man’s got issues. So, he rushes over, right into my space, and grabs my arm, hustles me through that big fern of mine, you know, the one that needs watering every day? And drags me over to James. Before I had time to think what was happening.”
Amity had been coldly furious with his brother for escalating the situation to violence. He could have handled the programmer without arousing suspicions, he was sure. They could have just laughed, and agreed they’d made a mistake with the company name. They hadn’t even said enough about the loan to be incriminating. Worst scenario, Serge Goss would think Amity Loans was in a bit of financial trouble. Which, after all, was true, though not the kind of trouble he might think.
Before Amity could stop him, Buddy made things even worse.
“Bro, we gotta keep this guy quiet. He heard us talking about the loan. He’ll call the cops!”
The cat was fully out of the bag. Even though Goss didn’t know anything, despite Buddy’s fears, he did now know that something criminal was in the works.
Amity thought quickly. “Buddy, you’re right. We’ll handle this together.”
Buddy calmed instantly. A look of satisfaction crossed his face. He liked to work hand in hand with James, as equal partners. “Cool, bro. What should I do with this guy?”
“Mr Goss,” said Amity, “As you may have gathered, you overheard something you shouldn’t have.”
Serge nodded, looking from one man to the other. Best to stay silent in situations like these, when you didn’t know what your boss was thinking. Especially with the additional unknown factor of a rough-looking man with a tendency to panic. Stay quiet and absorb information. Office politics had taught Serge that trick. His current situation didn’t exactly fit into the usual office politics scene, but close enough.
“We’re in the middle of a tricky negotiation,” continued Amity in a silky smooth voice. “Any interruptions at this point could spoil the deal.”
“I won’t say anything,” said Serge. “Just let me work on the code. That’s all I really want to do, man.”
“Bro!” interjected Buddy.
“Quiet, both of you! Mr Goss, I’m afraid that won’t work. You need to come with us. We’ll put you up somewhere for a little while. Just two days, I promise. You’ll be quite comfortable. When this is all over, there’ll be a little extra in your bank account. This is the best way for all of us.”
Amity moved towards the office door, put his head out and looked up and down the street. Nothing untoward was happening out there. Just lots of people going from A to B, minding their own business, part of a normal working day.
“Buddy, where did you park the van?”
“In the parking lot, bro, next to the beemer.”
“Good. Mr Goss, we’re going outside now. You’re going to walk with us quietly. Buddy will be next to you all the way. I’ll be behind you. If you do anything to alert anyone, you’ll find out how good I am with this little treasure.” Amity moved his business jacket aside, and showed Serge the knife sheath clasped to his belt.
END OF CHAPTER 4