The sound of the door opening made Hermione Reddington tremble in fear.
“Please, let me go! I won’t tell anyone, I promise!” she pleaded. Or, rather, would have pleaded if she had the ability to speak. The 19-year-old college sophomore was currently muzzled by a large red ball gag. Every attempt to speak through the gag caused dripples of drool to trickle down her cheeks.
Her shoulder-length dirty blonde hair was matted and sweat drenched, spread out as it was on the padded bench she was secured too. Her hands were secured with dark mittens and firmly taped to her wrists, which in turned were lashed to her thighs. Circles of ropes and straps held Hermione to the bench, pinning her at her stomach, her chest, over and under her modest breasts. Her nipples were, red and sore from the painful clamps that had been applied and removed several times over the many hours – or was it days? – of her captivity.
Hermione was a well-bred girl, a former debutante, her wealthy father had ensured she had the best education money could buy to prepare her for a life among the upper class. Prim and proper as she was, she should have been more embarrassed by the fact that she was completely naked as well as immobilized.
But she had bigger things to worry about.
For one, she couldn’t even see her own body as she was blindfolded with a length of heavy black cloth. The last thing she remembered was hearing a noise outside her dorm room. When she woke up, she was in current predicament; lashed to the bench, gagged and blindfolded. She had not seen anything but the dark inside of the cloth since her abduction.
Second on her mind were the “liberties” her captor (or captors?) had taken with her. The inside of her thighs were slick and sticky with her own juices. Every few hours, someone entered the room and applied a buzzing device to her nether region, allowing it torment her until she finally erupted into an orgasm.
She had no idea where she was. Who had taken her. Or what they wanted.
All she could do is tremble at the sound of the door opening and moan into her gag as she felt the now-too-familiar sensation of a buzzing against her crotch.
“You get the idea” Captain Frank Parker said with his regular cynical grimness. A lifetime cop, Frank had seen everything the worst of humanity had to offer, and had developed a tough stomach.
His star detective Michelle Grey had less of a tolerance for what she was seeing. Playing on Frank’s office computer was a grainy streaming video. It showed a naked girl, blindfolded and ballgaged, restrained to a bench. Though there was no sound, Michelle could see the pink egg-shaped ball between her legs, and the way she writhed against her restraints made it very clear what was happening.
“I do. Turn that off please”. Michelle didn’t even wait for her boss to react; she reached over and turned the monitor off herself.
“The good news is, she seems to be unharmed.”
“Good news?” Michelle raised an eyebrow.
“They could be doing worse things to her, is all.” Frank said.
“They’re tormenting her and broadcasting it for anyone to see. For her parents. What if that was Kate?”
Before Frank could even answer, almost on cue, there was a banging on his office door.
“Can I come in now! Or are you two still watching the super disturbing thing that I’m *NOT* allowed to see?”
Frank looked to Michelle, who crossed her arms. Michelle knew she had a bit of blind spot when it came to Kate and indulging her fierce ambitions to become a detective. But, after the last few weeks… the incident at the warehouse and Kate’s encounter with that criminal professor… she would have been more comfortable if Kate wasn’t anywhere near this case.
Frank opened the door and Kate bounded in, her temperament the usual mix of wide-eyed enthusiasm and sassy defiance.
“I don’t know why you made me leave the room to show Michelle. You know I already saw the stream, right?
Frank eyed his daughter. “How did you—”
In response, Kate help up her phone. “You really should update your work passwords, dad. GUEST? Really? I’m shocked you haven’t been hacked.”
“Word of advice, Kate” Michelle cut in. “If you’re serious about becoming a detective, don’t openly admit to hacking the Captain’s email while you’re in a police station.”
Kate glared at Michelle, who smiled. She was teasing, and Kate knew it.
Returning to the subject at hand, Kate asked, “So, that’s really her? The Reddington girl?”
Michelle locked eyes with Frank. She knew where this was going. Kate would become obsessed with the case and demand to ride along with Michelle. If Frank forbid it, Kate would probably sneak along anyway, and who knows what kind of trouble she’d get into on her own.
Frank responded to Michell’s concerned look with another shrug. “She’s gonna figure it out anyway, might as well clue her in. This concerns her too”.
“Yes!” Kate pumped her fist in the air. “Wait, how?”
Frank stood and began pacing, his usual MO when he laid out details of a crime.
“Hermione Reddington vanished from her college dorm room 3 nights ago. 12 hours after that, her father—”
“Joshua Reddington, billionaire, head of a consulting firm Empire” Kate interjected.
Frank pushed on, ignoring the interruption.
“As I was saying, her father received demands 12 hours later along with a link to this stream, which has been running continuously.”
“And we’re sure that’s Hermione in the video?” Michelle asked.
“Honestly, at this point it doesn’t matter. The girl is missing, and her father is convinced that’s her. The 24/7 feed of her torment has led him to comply with all of the demands. Which, incidentally, is why I needed to talk to you two.”
Kate and Michelle exchanged glances; neither of them were aware that Frank had intended for them both to be here. Both had assumed Kate’s presence was due to her usual stubbornness.
“What do you mean?” Kate shifted on her feet, meekly, in a way that she normally did when she knew she was in trouble.”
“Joshua Reddington is dismantling his company and selling its assets off to a number of anonymous shell corps, at the kidnapper’s request” Frank went on. “And a number of those purchased seem to be orchestrated by someone you both know.
Frank pulled open the file on his desk. Kate couldn’t help but put her hand to her mouth. In the folder was a news clipping, a profile on successful women I business. On the front page was an image of a woman in her 40s identified as Sue Reynolds. But what drew Kate’s attention was the women next to Sue in the picture. Though she wasn’t named, Kate recognized her. She would know that platinum haircut anywhere.
Frank crossed his arms. Michelle looked at the floor.
“I know you two thought I wouldn’t find out about your little run-in with the counterfeiters”.
Frank cut her off.
“Keeping something that huge from me is a discussion for another day. That woman is Mallory Grey, and her boss, Sue Reynolds, stand to benefit from Reddington’s downfall more than anyone else on the planet.
“Do—do you think she’s behind the kidnapping?”
Frank considered is daughter for a long time. His expression softened, he saw in her eyes that she knew he’d disappointed her.
“Normally, I wouldn’t. Reynolds Is untouchable. Totally clean, so clean in fact that I’m convinced there’s more there. Mallory on the other hand… she’s a fixer. She has no official job title or salary within Sue’s consulting firm, which means her real job is something off the books. I’ve been looking into her ever since it came through the grapevine that she…”
He trailed off, not sure of how to say it. Kate nodded, understanding. That she tied up and brutalized my daughter.
“The one upside of you two getting involved is that Mallory was suspect from the get-go. Add in this, and they’re suspect #1.
“So arrest her!” Kate exclaimed, her shame over being found out suddenly gone. “Michelle and I can testify that she’s a creep. What are you even waiting for?”
“We don’t have any proof they’re involved in the kidnapping”.
“You can start by nailing her for what she did to us! They tied us up, they took off Michelle’s clothes—”
“She didn’t” Michelle said, softly. Though it pained her to relive the memory of the manhandling she’d experienced, she had to admit Mallory hadn’t been the one behind that particular violation.
“We trespassed without a warrant. They restrained us, but neither of us were assaulted or otherwise seriously hurt. She won’t see a day inside a cell for that”.
“That’s bullshit!” Kate yelled, her face turning red, matching her sharp ginger hair. “She has to pay!”
“Kate,” Michelle said, softly, recognizing how upset the girl was. “Mallory’s not the main objective right now. Rescuing Hermione Reddington is.”
“Fine” Kate said, in a pouty-but-accepting manner. “So what do we do?”
“We do nothing”. Frank said. “You, young lady, are going back to your dorm and staying out of this.”
“No.” Frank was soft, but firm, a heavy tone of finality in his voice. “This is too serious, and too dangerous for you.”
“Michelle is a trained detective. You’re a sophomore.”
A soft knock at the door broke the tension. “Pardon, hope I’m not interrupting anything”.
“Not at all. Michelle, Kate, this is FBI agent Natalie Tess” Frank said, indicating the new addition to his office. Tess was tall, shapely, even her bulky FBI windbreaker couldn’t hide her significant curves. Her brunette bob haircut trestle on her shoulders as she entered.
“Kate, right? I’ve heard so much about you” Tess said, ignoring Michelle’s outstretched hand for Kate’s.
“Really?” Kate responded, in awe of the female agent before her, and more than a little intimidated. Kate was comfortable with her body – at least as comfortable as a 19-year old girl could be – but she was always intimidated but who she considered to be “real” women… which in Tess’s case was largely due to the swell of her breasts visible behind the lowered tab of her zipper.
“Why’s the FBI involved?” Michelle asked.
Tess turned to Michelle, finally acknowledging her. “Beyond the high-profile nature of the victim, I have reason suspect this is a Van case.”
Michelle went still. “You don’t mean the Black Van?”
“Um, hello” Kate interjected. “What’s the Black Van?”
Tess looked to Frank, a silent request for permission to share classified details. Frank nodded. He didn’t mind Kate knowing what the case was about, so long as she kept out of it.”
“The Black Van is a professional kidnapper” Tess went on. A transient abductor-for-hire. He shows up in town, people disappear, then he’s gone. Most of his victims are never heard from again. The few that were recovered through rescue or ransom haven’t been able to share any details about what he looks like… or even if he is a he.”
“And you think he… let’s assume for now that it’s a he… kidnapped the Reddington girl?” Michelle asked.
“I’ve been tracking his movements for a few years. Based on what we know about the disappearance, it has all the markings of his work.”
“I thought Mallory was behind it” Kate said.
“She could hire him, either directly or through a proxy. It’s not likely Mallory or her employer would have taken part in the abduction directly. The Van grabbed the girl and either delivered her to them, or he’s overseeing her current captivity that we all, unfortunately, can watch.”
Kate said nothing. A professional kidnapper! If she helped bring him down, her father would surely let her be more involved—
“Right now” Frank said. “We need to piece together a timeline. Michelle, I want you following Agent Tess’s lead on this. Kate, I want you to go back to your dorm.”
“I’m calling the RA in thirty minutes. If you’re not checked in, I will send a squad car after you. Go.”
Kate crossed her arms. She wasn’t happy, but she knew when her father had the final say.
“It’s not fucking fair!” Kate shouted, throwing her pillow at the wall.
“Well I’m not sure what the pillow had to do with it, but you’re not wrong.” Kate’s roommate, Deb Ross, was reading on her upper bunk bed.
Kate paced about the room. “Michelle gets revenge on the Mallory bitch, and I’m stuck here studding Chem!”
“Not the worst idea in the world. Your Chem grades suck.”
Kate looked up at Deb, pouting. Deb sighed. Ever since the two had been kidnapped by that sicko Professor Newman, the roommates had been at odds about what constituted a “smart course of action.” Kate was eager to get back out there and make up for her perceived failure. She’d allowed herself to be captured, and they only got through the ordeal by Michelle arriving at the last minute.
Deb, meanwhile, had preached caution ever since that night. Being trussed to a frame and sexually tortured – while being filmed, no less – had shaken Deb. And while the university therapist had been helping Deb make good progress in getting past the PTSD from the experience, she was in no mood to put herself in a similar situation again.
“I just hate feeling helpless”. Kate sat at her desk and put her head in her hands.
“Fine,” Deb said, pulling herself off the bed. “I’ll show you this, but only if you promise me not to overreact.”
“Show me what?” Kate asked, her sullen mood suddenly gone.
Deb pulled up her laptop. “Purely out of curiosity, I checked out Hermione to see if anything stood out. They said she went missing from her dorm, right? But look… her university directory has a phone number that isn’t tied to any dorm on that campus. So…”
“She had somewhere else she was living?”
“Probably an off-campus apartment. Makes sense. Rich girl like that needs the nicest housing daddy’s money can buy”.
“And if she lived alone, that might explain why it was so easy to kidnap her!”. Kate was already pulling on her shoes.
“What are you doing?”
“You have the phone number. Let’s find the address and go take a look.”
“Kate, no. Your dad said to stay here, and I gotta say I agree with him. If This Black Van guy is really involved, then I don’t want to go anywhere near this case!”
Twenty minutes later, Kate and Deb were on the bus headed toward Hermione Reddington’s apartment.
“We haven’t moved anything since the CSIs wrapped their sweep” Michelle said as she circled the living space. Tess knew from the files that Hermione was kidnapped from her off-campus apartment, not the dorm like the papers had written. Right now, the FBI agent had her back to Michelle, focused on the ground. What she was searing for, Michelle had no idea. But she was the expert after all.
“Why aren’t you FBI?” Tess asked, which took Michelle off guard with the bluntness of her tone.
“Oh, um, I assumed I was maybe too young, too inexperienced”
“I’m only 18 months older than you. I’ve read your file. Aptitude, performance. Weapons training. You’re off the charts. But you never put in for Quantico. Why?”
“Guess I was happy where I am”. In truth, Michelle truly didn’t know the answer. She’d always been ambitious, but in a tapered way. She was the youngest detective the city had ever had, and she never imagined that she’d be able to move beyond that. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to.”
“Well, if you change your mind, you have my number”. Tess stood and ran her hand through her brunette hair. “This is definitely the Van”.
“How can you tell”.
“Fibers from medical foot covers. Lock was picked without a single chip in the metal. See this?” Tess approached a nearby chair that was toppled over. “Table’s all the way over there. There was no struggle. He knocked the furniture around just to make it seem like there was.”
“Make it look like a sloppier job than it was?”
“Possibly” Tess says. “Though he’s been known to overturn a victim’s apartment before they even return home. Something about wanting to see the fear in their eyes when they get home, and realize they aren’t alone. Before he grabs them.”
“So what can we take from this?”
Before Michelle could answer, the front door CREAKED open. Michelle and Tess both drew their pistols, leveled at the door.
“Who’s there?!?” Tess barked. “FBI, show yourself”
“Aw, man….” A familiar voice whined. Kate and Deb, both with their hands up, slowly entered the room.
“Are you serious?” Michelle exclaimed, lowering her gun. Tess followed suit. “Your dad told you—”
“I didn’t think anyone knew about the apartment!” Kate tried to cut Michelle off. “We just wanted to help.”
“She just wanted to help” Deb corrected. “I was coerced, though I think I may have found—”
“Nothing.” Michelle countered. “You found nothing, because you’re not working on this case. How did you even get here?”
“Bus” Kate admitted, facing her feet.
Michelle looked to Tess. “Do you need me here? I’m going to take them home?”
“I can get them” Tess offered. “You know the crime scene better, and driving Kate back would help me get my bearings in the city.”
“Don’t talk about me like I’m not here!” Kate burst out.
“you’re not here!” Michelle fired back. “One more outburst, and I’m calling the Captain!”.
“I mean, we did come all the way here…” Deb offered. “Maybe we could help?”
Two minutes later, Kate and Deb were in the back of Michelle’s car, riding in silence.
“I get it, you know” Michelle offered. “You want to help. It’s admirable”
“Then why won’t you LET us” Kate pouted.
“Because you’re not ready.” Michelle said, flatly. “Kate, I need you to understand. This is a federal case. These are professional kidnappers, they’re not here to mess around. You think they’ll go easy on you just because you’re a kid.”
“We’re not kids—”
“Well you’re acting like one. Stop for one second and think about what you would do if you found this girl.”
“We’d… well, we’d call you.”
“And if I couldn’t get there in time? What if you were found out? What then?”
Michelle was not saying the obvious part, in referencing her and Kate’s recent ordeal with captivity. Kate didn’t need to be reminded, but the genuine concern she sensed in Michelle’s voice softened her rage.
Kate hardly said a word the entire ride back to their dorm.
“She’s out” Deb said, closing the door to her shared dorm with Kate. Michelle paced back and forth in the hall. She shot glances to flyers of club meet ups, glowstick parties, outdoor dances. Things a normal college student should be getting involved in instead of investigating federal kidnapping cases.
“You uh, I think you hurt her feelings” Deb mention.
“I’d rather have her unhappy and safe” Michelle said.
“You know – It’s not my place…” Deb held up her wrists, where there were still the faintest rope marks from her own recent ordeal with captivity, “but Kate is always gonna do what she sets her mind to. Telling her ‘no’ is a surefire way to get her to do something. Giving her a little access to cases might go a long way toward keeping her in your sights”.
“I know, but…” Michelle trailed off, “her dad knows about what happened with Mallory. And I promise, I promise once we rescue the Reddington girl and close this one, I’ll make it an effort to give her more of my time. But this time, she needs to stay home, so I can do my job.”
Deb nodded, understanding. Between Kate’s hot-headedness and Michelle’s need to order them around to compensate for her own self esteem issues, Deb always felt like the levelheaded one between them.
“One more thing” Deb offered. “I don’t think either of us were on the wrong track, checking out that extra apartment. Hermione’s family owns tons of spots around town, and—”
“The police would never return to a place that they’d already confirmed was empty” Michelle finished her sentence. She could have hugged Deb in that moment. “Keep Kate home!” she yelled as she sprinted for the elevator.
Michelle made a quick call to Tess as she crossed campus, informing her that she was going to investigate Reddington house a second time. Originally built as a Fraternity House from a donation from Hermione Reddington’s grandfather, the place had fallen into disrepair and was in the process of being renovated as an on-campus residence for high profile guests.
The police had swept the property when Hermione first went missing, but what stood out to Michelle was her memories from the contractor’s schematics, which indicated a large basement space. Large, and dark enough to potentially be the anonymous location that Hermione’s torment was being broadcast from.
Michelle wasted no time in entering the unlocked front door. Her pistol at her hip gave her comfort against the eerie darkness of the home’s interior.
“Hello?” she called out, immediately chastising herself for giving away her position to any potential inhabitant. Rookie mistakes. Her least favorite.
The ancient stairs CREAKED with every step as she descended into the basement, coming down to a long, dark hallway that was just lit up by a crack of light from an ajar door at the end.
“mmmmm” she heard a distant, feminine squeal.
Heart racing, Michelle hurried forward, opening the door to find her helpless query.
Hermione Reddington was exactly as live feed depicted her – bound to a table, hands covered in dark mittens, gagged with a red ball gag and blindfolded. Her sweat-drenched body was completely nude, likely due to hours of struggling and pink egg buzzing between her legs.
“Holy shit” Michelle said to herself.
Her excitement at the break in the case was dashed as she heard the door slam behind her. Before she could turn around – before she could even draw her gun – a heavy blow struck her on the head.
She was out before she even hit the ground.
To be continued….
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