“Tell me what I want to know and I won’t hurt you again.”
Andi Carter stared into the deep green eyes of Richard Thomas as she tried to collect enough saliva to swallow. Pain had dulled her senses, and her throat was raw from screaming. She wasn’t sure she could speak, or if she did somehow manage to utter a few words if they would be coherent. “I don’t…I don’t know what you want…to know,” she whispered.
Thomas sighed as he followed her gaze to the door leading out of the basement. “Still think Jerry is going to barge through that door and save you, Andi? He isn't, you know. In fact, dear old Jerry is the reason you're here. He's the one who told me what you were up to.”
A burning river of rage flowed through her, much like the sensation from the whiskey he kept feeding her, but instead of dulling her senses it cleared her mind. He's going to kill me anyway. “Jerry Palano is a good cop. Scum like you would never understand that. If he told you anything it was because he was your partner and he trusted you.”
Even white teeth flashed, but the green of his eyes darkened. “That's my Andi, spirited and loyal to the end. Would you like a drink?” He reached for the bottle of whiskey on the table. “If you spill it, you know it’s going to hurt.” He inserted the tip of the bottle between her lips. “Drink up now, like a good girl. Then we’ll talk some more.”
Andi tilted her head back, guzzling the alcohol. Tears ran freely down her face as a tiny stream of alcohol dripped from her chin onto the raw blistered flesh of her legs. The pain was excruciating and she struggled not to scream as she continued to drink, praying for oblivion.
Only when the bottle was empty did Thomas pull it away and pick up the scalpel. “Tell me what I want to know and I won’t hurt you again.”
“Gambini! Gambini was running young girls. I was going to expose him.” Her words began to slur, and came from a long way off. “Please. Please just kill me.”
Thomas began to laugh, his roar filling the damp, musty room. “I can't believe that crap actually works.” He leaned in close, his breath hot on her cheek as he whispered, “I'm not going to kill you, Andi, but you're going to wish I had.”
His threat seeped through the alcohol induced fog as bile rose in her throat. A tiny pinpoint of satisfaction surged through her as she opened her mouth and spewed vomit on both of them.
“Son of a bitch.” Thomas leapt up, knocking over his chair. “You'll pay for that, Carter.”
Andi tried to smile, but the acidity of the vomit had reignited the pain from her cuts and burns. She began to tremble, her breath coming in short gasps as she watched his hands clench and unclench. Three days as his captive had convinced her of one thing—Thomas was crazy. His moods swung from euphoric enjoyment of torturing her physically and mentally to angry depression and occasionally to apologetic sympathy for having caused her pain. I don't really want to die.
Thomas pushed the table bearing his torture instruments into her view and lit the blowtorch. “You shouldn't have done that, Andi. I was going to let you go.”
“Please don't, Richard. I told you what you wanted to know. You promised you wouldn't hurt me again.” She struggled against the ropes binding her arms and legs.
He studied her, tilting his head to the side. “I did, didn't I?” His lips puckered as he turned off the torch. “Perhaps I'll give you some time to think about your apology.” He leaned in close, staring directly into her eyes. “Your punishment will depend on just how well you can beg.”
Sobs shook her body as she watched him leave, the heavy steel door slamming behind him. The alcohol had dulled the pain in her body, but not the emotional devastation of realizing Jerry wasn't going to save her. He betrayed me.
Time passed as she drifted in and out of consciousness until a scraping noise at the door jerked her wide awake. The door slowly swung open and Stuart Gambini peered inside.
“Jesus.” He crossed the room and knelt in front of her grabbing the scalpel on the table and quickly cutting the ropes around her wrists and ankles. “I'm gonna get you out of here. Can you walk?”
“Why? You’re just going to kill me anyway. Do it here.” Andi croaked out. Her mind was still fuzzy, but she was pretty sure Gambini was the reason she was here.
Gambini frowned, took off his jacket and lifted her from the chair. “We can talk about that later. Here, wrap this around you. Patrick is waiting for us at the top of the stairs.” He slipped her arms through the sleeves and pulled the coat up around her shoulders.
“How did you find me?” Andi leaned against him, taking a step toward the door, a small trail of blood dripping from her swollen feet.
“I've had my girls watching Thomas. This is the only place he kept coming back to.” Stuart placed an arm around her and half lifted, half dragged her toward the door. “We don't have a lot of time.”
Placing her right foot on the first step Andi took a deep breath as she raised her left foot and placed it on the second step. “Where are you taking me?”
“Put your arm around my neck.” Stuart tightened his hold around her waist, placed an arm under her legs and picked her up. “We'll hide you at the boarding house for the time being.”
Andi leaned into him and placed her head on his shoulder. “I need to call the Tribune. I was on a case and they must be going crazy wondering what happened to me.”
“You're old news. They gave up on finding you after the first three weeks.”
“Three weeks? I've only been missing three days.”
Stuart grunted as he took the last step. “Honey, you've been missing for over a month.”
Darkness closed in around her. A month? What the hell did Thomas do to me before he tortured me?