Her name was Lacey Lloyd, and she was nearly convinced she was in the middle of a particularly realistic dream. Things like this just didn't happen in the boring everyday world real people inhabited; they belonged to TV crime dramas, or action-suspense movies. Jack Bauer's daughter on 24 had to worry about stuff like this, not Lacey Lloyd, who was nothing but a senior at NYU working on her thesis so she could collect a real official diploma and add to her resume that she had a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. She was preoccupied with job hunting, shopping for some new fall dresses, getting through the dense packet her Ethics professor had dropped on them for the weekend--not this. This kind of stuff just wasn't plausible.
Yet here she was, lying on her side in the back of an unmarked white van, feeling the scratchiness of the cheap carpet and wondering if details like that could exist in a dream. Because waking up was her best bet; she wasn't going to be doing anything proactive anytime soon. The man in the driver's seat had seen to that.
She was about as securely tied up as anyone could be, she thought. He had not paid any attention to her pitifully mild protests; the shock of actually being grabbed off the sidewalk in the middle of the day had rendered her initially somewhat speechless. After a few halting objections and pleas, a tight strip of extra-wide duct tape had made her *totally* speechless. Her lips, which were painted her favorite shade of dark red, might as well have been glued together, and the pressure against her mouth and the industrial strength of the tape itself made her attempts at cries for help sound like a gummy humming that never made it past her vocal cords. She could puff her cheeks out somewhat, but the adhesive wasn't about to give.
Also not giving anytime soon was the thin white rope the man had produced from his jacket pocket, unspooling from a tight coil as soon as he pulled on the end. There were actually several lengths of this cord, but she hadn't been in any position to count or ask questions. One had bound her hands behind her back, wrist to wrist, with astonishing speed and efficiency. He had gone around and around and then between them, cinching her arms behind her inside of thirty seconds. That was before he spun her around, reached into the van (he had opened the rear doors and was tying her up largely shielded from view by them), and brought out that roll of wide silver tape. Now it was masking her face from right below her nostrils to the bottom of her chin.
The rest of the job he'd done with the same swift efficiency, and even as she felt the cord cinching her ankles through the patent leather of her knee-high boots, she wasn't feeling the fear that would have been appropriate; maybe it was shock, or just simple surprise, but the thought in her head was, This guy has done this before. It was efficiency born of practice, pure and simple. His facial expression wasn't even much; he looked a lot like a factory worker winding cable around a spool or something, doing a task he did every day and had done a thousand times before, focusing on doing it right (his mouth was turned down in a tight little frown of concentration) but not really giving it much thought.
He tied her legs above the knees as well, and there was nothing but bare leg there, the length of thigh she had allowed to show between the tops of her gleaming black boots with their sexy stiletto heels and her short, stretchy black skirt. The man seemed to go easier here, though when he tied the final knot off, the binding was no less severe.
She had thought to try to squirm her way around, to face the open doors and maybe somehow reach them--or at least catch the eye of some passerby. One did, in fact, go past--a guy with great hair, texting and holding a Starbucks cup, someone she would have ordinarily been halfway trying to coax away from his Blackberry for a glance or two at her slender figure and carefully belted waist; her oft-studied high and sizable bustline; or one of her favorite pairs of catcall-attracting footwear, her black patent FMBs, as her roommate Cassie called them.
But the guy didn't even glance over, and he was past so quickly. If he had just looked to see what the guy was working on in the van he would have gotten a head-on view of an unmistakably distressed damsel, a 21-year-old blonde with her hair in a ponytail, her blue eyes wide and staring, and her mouth sealed with a duct tape gag. It was a long shot in New York, where looking the other way was something like an art form, and it was gone as soon as it was there. She imagined him doing a double take, backpedaling, fighting this stocky blue-collar type and taking him down with a swift punch to the jaw.
Reality intruded as she felt herself being turned sideways, spun by strong hands around her hips, as if she weighed nothing at all. She could only kick her bound-together legs up and down, making a *thump* against the floor of the van.
But then she couldn't do that. He ran another of those terrible thin white ropes through her arms above the binding, then pulled the slipknot tight around the cross-wrapping between them that really rendered them immobile. Her boots he gripped by the heels and brought up, bending her legs at the knee until she could feel the points of those eye-catching high heels against her ass. The man poked between her calves, pushing the other end of the rope between the tight black leather sheathing her calves, and slid it down so it was against the cord that bound her ankles.
From there it was just a smooth, long pull and her feet were hoisted back, those heels poking her cheeks again for a moment, and he went around and through and tied the rope off, leaving nothing loose or dangling, and Lacey was finished: Gagged completely, tied up hand and foot, and finally bound on her stomach with her booted feet only a few inches away from her curled-up hands, anchored to each other by a taut length of strong rope.
Hogtie, she thought. He just put me into a hogtie. How on earth did she know that word? It had just slipped into her vocabulary unnoticed somewhere, and she didn't think it was from rodeos. This, she would never have associated with a real animal. It was so specifically done to her, a person, a 21-year-old college student, five feet five inches in stocking feet (but a good five-nine today, standing tall in her boots), perhaps one-fifteen soaking wet, blonde, blue eyes, resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. A licensed driver in New York; an organ donor; an honor student; daughter of a middle class couple in Albany; a brother in the sixth grade, a sister who was an international flight attendant based out of JFK; a roommate who would wonder who she had hooked up with and wouldn't even begin to worry about her until Monday night at the earliest. Lacey Lloyd, wrapped tightly and efficiently in strong, thin rope strategically placed to render her as immobile as possible. Which was, as it turned out, essentially motionless. She could lift her head if she strained very hard, but it was pointless; she turned her head toward the doors and laid it on its side on the carpet. She could move her fingers some, though she didn't seem to be able to straighten them all the way. Something about the tendons in her wrists and the way they were cinched. She could wiggle her toes, her feet sheathed in knee-high nylon boot socks and the patent leather boots themselves. And if she wanted to she could wiggle her feet, rock them back and forth while they stayed right where they'd been put, up in the air and tethered to her wrists.
She watched the rear doors close, first one slamming shut, then the other. The man's shadow was visible as he did something, probably checking to make sure they were locked. Then he moved aside and there was nothing but the big empty rear compartment of the stupid van to look at.
Behind her, the driver's side door opened and the whole frame shook as the man climbed in behind the wheel. His door slammed. His keys rattled, then one slid in. The engine cranked a couple of times and then caught. It wasn't a new van; she hadn't really noticed it until she was grabbed by the man from inside it and a gloved hand was clamped over her mouth, but she could tell it wasn't a new model. It blended in with all the other crappy delivery trucks and assorted work vehicles that made up weekend traffic in midtown.
His seatbelt whisked down and clicked into place. Then, for the first time, she heard his voice. He was speaking to her.
"Blondie," he said. Standard-issue New York accent. He sounded like a cab driver, or a guy with a pizza truck. "You're a real pretty little thing. But don't you worry. This ain't a crime of passion or anything like that. This is all business. You just relax and sit tight and I'll make it all go as easy and as smooth as possible, okay?"
She couldn't reply. She twisted her head the other way with some effort, found herself looking at the sliding struts beneath the driver's seat, the bulge in the bottom of the reinforced cushion where he was sitting, shifting his weight, and his dirty brown workboots. Business, he'd said. *This* was work, for him. She was a job of some kind. She wondered idly if he was going to ask for ransom for her, and if her parents could come up with enough to make it worth it, and was surprised at how idle the thought was. Why wasn't she panicking?
The realization that she wasn't worried enough made her aware of a side effect she never would have predicted: She had given in. It infuriated her intellectually, but she couldn't seem to get worked up even by that realization. Being snatched off a city street and so effortlessly bound up, made utterly helpless and incommunicado—there was nothing she could do. The slender ropes he had trussed her with weren't going to break, or slip; that duct tape certainly wasn't going to melt away or suddenly become un-sticky. She was packaged for the drive, wherever that was, and as frightened as she genuinely was, she knew that right now she was about as capable of escape as someone in solitary confinement.
"Just you breathe easy, nice and slow, and you'll be fine. I ain't gonna drug ya; you're all tied up now, and you ain't goin anywhere, so I don't need to. Do I?"
She couldn't make a sound he could hear.
"Right answer." He dropped the gearshift into Drive and pulled away from the narrow alley he had been halfway backed into, turning right.
Lacey turned her head back the other way and stared out the back windows. From this angle all she could see was the upper floors of buildings they passed and blank white sky. She wasn't dreaming; she'd been kidnapped, and she had no idea why, and now she was being driven somewhere else. Her arms, legs, and mouth had been taken out of the equation; she couldn't even wiggle across the floor thanks to the hogtie he'd added. She'd just have to wait and see what came next. What choice did she have?
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