Going Back


By Jeb


Chapter One

Mirrors. Plate-glass windows. Polished steel countertops.
You learn to use these things.
You never look straight at them... you look obliquely. One eye on who might be following... the other always looking for that escape route.
I suppose most women have had to deal with being followed at some point in their lives, so in that respect, I'm not much different. The irony is that the men following most women would hold no more terror for me than would a stray housecat.
But, then, I wasn't hiding from the conventional "stalker"…
Making a new life for myself had been easier, in some ways, than I'd imagined. The logistics of creating a credit rating, a job history, and educational records were no challenge for someone with my training... after all, I'd used these things to find other women a hundred times. I knew how they worked.
No, going to ground and creating camouflage had been the easy part. The hard part had been learning to do things like… well, deciding what to wear.
It had taken some time for me to get used to clothes again.  I don't mean that I used to run around nude, of course... but uniforms aren't what I think of as "clothes". Garments that someone else chooses for you to wear aren't the same thing. It had taken me hours in the store just to decide on such basic items as jeans and underwear, and I still sometimes stood staring dumbly at my closet, as though waiting for someone to tell me what to put on that day.
Still, as hard as it can be learn to make choices, it beat the hell out of what I'd left behind.
That was my life, then, for months-- applying my trade craft, not for capture and retrieval, but precisely to avoid those things.
It was nice to have hair again, too... hair long enough to brush, anyway. I studied the mirror, seeing how it framed my face, wondering if I looked as different to others as I did to myself… and praying I'd never have to find out.
Money was the first thing I had to deal with. When, for all of your adult life, an employer has provided you with all your food, shelter, and garments, they tend not to regard lavish salaries as a priority.  
So, no nest egg.
I had to find a job.
Now, with my training, the natural occupation would have been something in the area of security or law enforcement, maybe even the military… and those are the first places they'd have looked for me, too. In addition, the history I'd been able to construct for myself might fool the typical HR staffer, but a trained investigator would have shredded it in minutes.
So it was that I found myself in the glamorous world of "Administrative Assistance" -the computer skills required were child's play, and at a fairly attractive 36, my looks were enough of an asset to get me chosen over the frumpy ones, but not such that I was getting hit on all the time... which, after all, would have rendered this entire exercise utterly pointless.
It paid the rent, put food on the table, and gave me something to do besides brood.
And, after a while, I decided to take a stab at something else I'd never had-- a social life.
I took it slowly. Close friendships were, by necessity, out for the time being. Busy shopping malls or crowded bars were where I felt most comfortable-- hidden in plain sight, as it were.
Thus, there I was that  Friday night. Out drinking on my own again-the other women in the office were either married, or so much younger than I, that I felt foolish going out with them. Once or twice, I had gone out with them, and when I'd lubricated my tongue a bit, I'd been tempted to clue them in... to give them the picture... tell them just what sort of risks they ran every day... tell them the dangers associated with the innocent drink, the drunken walk up the driveway to the front door... I actually had grown close enough to one or two to think that we might become friends... but this night, I was alone.
I can't say I had a special "feeling" of being watched that night... I always had that feeling. No, this was more a sense of something familiar. Something shiny caught my eye from across the room, for an instant... it was somehow familiar, but different. I'd used the bar mirror to check one angle, the glasses on the bar to check another. Whoever or whatever it had been was gone. I didn't exactly shrug it off, but neither did I have enough information to know if it had been significant or not.
I was still mostly sober when I got home that night... I'd like to put what happened next down to alcohol, but the fact is that I probably was just not as sharp as I'd been eleven months earlier: the sounds; the little details that should have warned me… I'd  overlooked them in a way I never had before.
I walked back through the living room, again taking a moment to savor what everyone else takes for granted: my home. The pictures I had chosen... the lamp I had bought because I liked it... the sofa that was just firm enough for me. A place to call my own.  Certainly, that's not why I left… but, in the end, it felt like the best reason of all.
After using the bathroom and brushing my teeth, I snapped on the lightswitch in the bedroom, and peeled. I hung up my skirt, tossed the blouse in the clothes hamper, and, still in bra and panties, went through my evening ritual of flexibility and strength exercises.
Finished, I stood up. I was breathing heavily, my skin dottted with perspiration, when I felt it.
I knew it was a mosquito bite... and at the same time, I knew that it wasn't.
My "New" brain translated everything to the mundane world I'd begun to make for myself,and sharp, stinging topical pain meant an insect bite, didn't it?
But, then, I'd spent a long time conditioning my "Old" brain... and it knew better.
The pain was in my left leg, just above the back of the knee. Instinct tells you to look, to see and make sense of the alien intrusion into your body... but training tells you not to bother. You can't see it, and even if you can reach it, it really doesn't matter. By the time your nervous system registers the pain, the tranquilizer is already working.
I didn't stop to think... I ran. Forward. Away from the direction of the dart. I could feel the drug beginning to make its way through my bloodstream, my skin starting to tingle with the warmth of drowsiness that I had to fight.
Bare feet made for good traction on the carpet… meaning I could run that much faster toward the hulking figure that suddenly showed in the doorway.
I skidded. I threw my head  this way and that, seeking  the escape route I knew didn't exist, succeeding only in making myself dizzy and nauseous in the process. I tried to make my sluggish muscles assume an attack stance as the big man stepped into the light.
You know, no law enforcement agency in the world would send an agent after someone with whom they had been "involved"… in my case, then, either someone had decided that he'd be more "motivated" than someone else might have been... or it was a sick, sick joke.
Sean. Sent for me.
For a moment, he just gaped at me, as though he'd expected to find someone else here.  But, then, considering how different I'd looked-and been-the last time he'd seen me, he probably had.
Just one moment.
"Sean… don't." I was surprised at the soft quaver in my voice... drug must be working faster than I thought. His eyes narrowed… and I realized that if there had ever been a time in my life to shut up, I had just let it go by. I don't know how he'd have reacted if he hadn't heard my voice… but the balled fist and flush in his face left me no time to wonder.
My bare feet burned on the carpet as I turned sideways to give him the smallest target possible. He raised that big right arm, and our eyes met. I don't know if he had time to see all that I was seeing... all the things we had never said to each other... all the things we'd never had... things we never could have had... but whether he was thinking, or regretting, or just  plain off balance ...he swung late, he swung slow...
…and I took him in the throat.
My mistake.
Even with my wavering strength, one to the gut might well have done it. I'd have put all of my 126 pounds into it, doubled him over, run past him... and I wouldn't have seen his face.
Instead, I jabbed three fingers at his throat... and as soon as I threw the blow, I knew that I hadn't put anything into it.  A slash to the larynx can do permanent damage… and with him looking me in the eyes, my hand just wouldn't do it.
I stumbled, fell forward, leaning awkwardly into the blow. His swing at me went wide, mine at him went soft... and we collided.
I bounced off his massive frame, stumbling back, and he reached for me again.

I had maybe ten seconds; I could feel the drug draining me as though it had opened a tap. Sean was tensed for what he assumed was coming next: a kick to the groin. I had one chance...

I let my eyes flutter; it was all I could do not to let them close right then and there, and my feigned stumble forward nearly unbalanced me, but it worked: Sean hesitated, his body relaxing as he thought I was falling... and with everything I had left, I ducked low and threw myself forward, my head catching him squarely in the groin… not much irony there, nope.

He made a sound like vomiting, and crumpled. My head spun as I tried to step past him and make for the door. I shouldn't have looked down, but the wounded voice that croaked out of him caused me to hesitate.

"No, Lani."
I'm not sure just what he meant by "No". That I wasn't going to get away? That he wished I hadn't hurt him? That we'd never had what I'd thought we'd had?
In the next second, it didn't matter… because Kim was there.
Of course. Not even Sean would try this alone.
I hadn't heard her light tread on the carpet, and there was no sound as she launched a sharp kick at the back of my left knee, which collapsed like a cheap umbrella. To keep my legs from splaying painfully wide, the right one followed it, sending me to the floor, on my knees, in front of Sean… irony clearly not finished for the evening.
The impact of my knees hitting the floor sent colors dancing in front of my eyes. As I tried to clear my head, there was a "zip" sound and I knew Kim had whipped a few lengths of binding cord from her belt.
I'd once asked Kim why she preferred rope over handcuffs. She said that a person trying to escape from handcuffs is working largely with their intellect and instinct, and has to be watched carefully... but that not even Houdini could escape from well-tied rope without some very obvious struggling... and struggling was something Kim would easily notice... and punish.
My hands were confused: trying to fend off Sean... trying to keep my balance... Kim simplified it all for me.
She caught my flailing right wrist first. Kim knew how to twist a joint so that pain was actually secondary to control. I must have stood a full head taller than she, and outweighed her by close to thirty pounds, but I could no more resist her now than could have any of the dozens of women she had taken before.
 I doubt if any person alive knows more about ligature of the female form than Kim does. There's not a curve, indentation or joint that she can't use to effect immobilization. Once she had started tying me up, the rest was almost anticlimax--there was no doubt as to my fate.
The left wrist joined the right now. She had them both trapped in one hand as she leaned into me, using her leverage, to whip the cord around them with a speed that I had always had trouble believing, even when I could see it. Three turns between, then three back again, cinching it off, my slackening muscles starting to sag in the bonds already.
I don't know if she regarded the next move as a necessity, or a flourish (I'd seen her in both moods), but I felt a large loop of cord passed around my upper arms, then slipped back through itself, pulling my arms and elbows together, hard. The elbows didn't quite touch, but Kim had a sure instinct for knowing just how far they would go. She knotted the cord off, leaving me with no leverage, no way to apply any of my failing strength to the cords at my wrists.
As she leaned forward, I could see the Taser hanging from her hip. Anyone else, I might have made an attempt for it. With Kim, though, there was no point. Even undrugged, I couldn't have got it off her-- that would have taken two or three Navy Seals with little regard for life and limb. No, it just hung there, reminding me of how much more she could do to me if I made it necessary.
I doubt twenty seconds had elapsed since she'd kicked me to the floor, and my hands were already useless behind my back. I felt the slickness as the cord whipped around my waist, giving her someplace to anchor my wrist bonds. My body took less convincing than my mind did: I didn't even bother pulling at the cords as she fastened my bound wrists tightly at the small of my back… my arms already knew it was pointless.
I'd nearly forgotten Sean-- which I'm sure he would have thought fairly typical of me. Back on his feet, his huge hand spread its fingers wide and he pressed hard on the back of my head, forcing me to look down at the floor, the strain on my neck muscles making it impossible for me to attempt to rise, or even look up. I tried to utter some sort of plea to him again, but it was just drug-impaired babble that I addressed to the carpet.
Kim knelt down beside me, and I felt her winding more cord around my ankles. Once again, her deft fingers completed the task almost before I realized that she'd begun, the cord digging into skin that was almost devoid of feeling by this point.
Kim had left about a foot of cord between my bound ankles, with a ring dangling in the center. Evidently, the drug would not put me under... I was expected to walk to my own doom.
Sean's massive paw now rocked my head backwards, and, for the first time that night, Kim and I were face to face.
Kim had hair! Glossy dark tresses danced around her tiny face... so different from her usual buzz cut... that's what I had seen tonight!  Back there in the bar-- light shining off her hair, as she'd disappeared out the door. The back of her head-- so familiar to me, but with hair, just different enough that I didn't recognize her... which, of course, was the idea. Must have taken her months to grow it out... which means they began planning my recovery as soon as they'd realized I was gone.

"Ki-Kim...?" My voice was thick and stupid. No matter. Kim wasn't a talker.
I'd worked with partners who enjoyed taunting the prey, gloating over them, telling them all the mistakes they'd made, how they'd been caught.
Not Kim.
There was not the remotest chance of her ever giving me even a hint of how she'd found me.  She was the definition of "all-business."
As I looked at her, her dark brown eyes were utterly blank... if she felt my betrayal as keenly as I would have in her place, she didn't show it.
She already had the thick rubber ball in her left hand and moved her right to my jaw. Vise-like pressure at the joint caused my drugged mouth to gape foolishly, and her fingers snapped the ball in place between my teeth.
Her left hand swept my hair aside, her right pulled on the leather straps, forcing the ball more deeply into my mouth. My nerves were still working well enough to feel the bite of the leather, my cheeks collapsing in on themselves, as she buckled the gag tightly in place.
Sean's hand had left my head now, to be replaced by Kim's slender fingers wrapping themselves in my hair. She twisted them into a fist, and for the first time, in that grip, I thought I felt some hint of her fierce anger... as though the feelings she wouldn't allow her face to show were, instead, radiating through that painful grip, straight to my brain.
I think that was when my first tear fell.
By her hand in my hair, she yanked me to my feet. She held my head close to her hip, face-down, so that I was bent over painfully, not even the drug masking the ache already starting in my lower back and legs. She pulled at me, and I was forced to waddle mincingly in her wake; it's a good position for disorienting a prisoner, but I hadn't been on this end of it since training classes, years ago.
As I was dragged toward the door, I saw my home for the last time. So much that I had made here for myself... and the last I would ever see of it would be the carpet rushing along under my feet as I was dragged out the door and into the dark night.
I don't think I really believed there was any chance of rescue-- I had no close neighbors, and  Sean and Kim could have handled anything short of a SWAT team if they'd been interfered with.
But I still found my mouth trying to form cries for help. They were faraway, gurgling sounds. Held face-down as I was, at least the saliva was not dribbling down my throat, as I was finding it harder and harder to control the muscles down there. Instead, it came out in a spray around the rubber in my mouth as my brain issued its last attempts at speech. The fact that Kim and Sean made no attempt to stop me showed just how much good it was doing me.
And then we were at the car.
Vans can be conspicuous... people watch a lot of TV. They always report vans.
Passenger cars, though, can pass almost unnoticed.
This one was a 3-year-old Taurus, some dark color I couldn't make out in the night. I had no doubt it had been tricked out with the modified version of the SHO engine that Sean had been the first one to test. Sean liked to drive fast. No one had ever caught him. No one would catch us now.
Sean opened the back passenger-side door, and Kim used the momentum of her pulling me along to fling me headlong to the floor, folding me over the lump of the the drivetrain . As Sean reached from the driver's-side door to hold me down, Kim yanked at the length of cord between my legs. She pulled it through the ring, drawing my ankles together with a sharp "crack" that would leave a bruise that my drugged muscles couldn't feel. This left her with about ten inches of cord which she now drew up to meet my bound hands, fastening wrists to ankles. Once tied, there was no appreciable slack between my wrists and ankles. I lay, face-down, trussed like poultry, gagged, my fate now in the hands of two people I had loved... and betrayed.
Kim got in back, settling herself with the soles of her boots resting against the back of my neck. Sean got in, and the powerful engine quietly turned over.  The car purred its way down my driveway and out into the sparse traffic.
There was no blindfold... there was no hood... there was no need. We all knew where I was going
 I was going back.
To Be Continued...

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