Katie awakened with an unladylike groan followed by the sudden urge to puke. She rolled out of bed and made a dash for the bathroom, making sure to close the door behind her. There was no point in Brandon hearing what she was about to do. She made it to the toilet just in time.
Several minutes later, with her stomach empty, Katie was still kneeling on the ground, resting her head against the bathroom wall. This morning was solid evidence that she was no longer a college student who could marathon drink with no consequences. Oh, how the mighty have fallen, Katie, she thought. Three glasses of wine and you find yourself kneeling at the porcelain throne. It was funny. Last night when they arrived home she felt fine. She felt better than fine. She felt great. Great enough to put off going to bed for several hours. As of now Katie’s new dress was tossed on the floor of the garage, of all places. Her shoes had fallen off someplace in the hallway. She was pretty sure if she were to walk out of the room she would find a steady line of clothes leading to the bedroom. Last night had been great. This morning was anything but.
After several minutes, Katie was convinced that she was no longer at risk of being sick again. She slowly got off the floor, brushed her teeth, and went back to the bedroom. Brandon was sitting up in bed, the sheet was just skimming over his hips. Katie’s body twinged. If she wasn’t feeling like death warmed over she would definitely be taking advantage of his body.
“Is something wrong?” he asked, concern written all over his face.
“Yeah, just having some unpleasant after effects from the wine,” she mumbled.
“You only had three glasses,” he replied. “You used to drink twice that and still be fine in the morning.”
“Yeah, well, that was several years ago. Apparently, my tolerance has dropped significantly.”
“You seemed fine last night.”
“I was. I felt fine up until about ten minutes ago,” she replied. “Don’t worry, Brandon. I’ll be fine. I just need some water, toast, and sleep. I’ll be back to normal in a few hours.”
“Well, if you say so,” he sighed. “Why don’t you lie down?
I’ll get you some water and toast.”
“Thanks, I’d appreciate that.” Katie gave a half smile as he left the room. She opened his drawers and pulled on a pair of his basketball shorts and a loose-fitting t-shirt then climbed into bed. Brandon was back a few minutes later with water, toast, and the remainder of the cantaloupe.
“Yes sir,” she mumbled then complied.
Brandon ignored her sarcastic remark. “You look good in my clothes. Not as good as you do without clothes, but you’re damn sexy in my shorts and shirts,” he joked.
“Well I feel anything but sexy right now,” she replied. Brandon gave her a quick wink then slid under the sheets.
“You know it would be so easy to take these off right now.” “Ugh. Down boy.” Katie chuckled. She knew he was joking. “If you don’t stop I’m going to go to the guest room and lock the door.”
Brandon frowned. “Don’t do that. I like you here. I promise to behave.”
“Good.” Katie smiled then polished off the last of the toast. She took several sips of water then snuggled back into bed and fell asleep.
Brandon climbed out of bed the moment Katie was asleep. As much as he wanted to spend the morning holding her, he still had work to do. Last night had been a nice reprieve from the horror that had brought her back here in the first place, but now he had to face reality and solve this case.
He pulled on some sweatpants and a t-shirt then quietly walked out to the kitchen and brewed some coffee. Once it was done, he filled his cup then went into his office and turned on his laptop. After what Katie had told him about Hunter he had a good guess as to what he should be looking for. Sure, he’d still need a subpoena, but there were plenty of other sources he could check.
Personally, he would love nothing more than to get this guy into an interrogation room. But, given his relationship with Katie, he knew that would be a bad idea. As much as he’d love to go a round with this scumbag, he didn’t want his lawyers to have anything to use against the investigation.
He was about to start his search when he heard a gagging noise coming from the bathroom. It appeared his investigation would have to wait. Katie needed him right now.
The Killer walked up from the basement and into the kitchen. It had been quite a busy morning and now she wanted some lunch. The Killer had just begun making a sandwich when her guest yelled from downstairs. She ignored it. The man could yell all he wanted, no one would hear him. The house was located in the middle of nowhere; her nearest neighbors were two miles away.
She had to admit, her newest captive had proven to be far less exciting than the others. At least the women put up a fight.
This man, however, merely pleaded and whined. It was incredibly annoying. She expected more from a man of his stature and reputation.
While she ate she thought of different tactics she could use to get the reaction she wanted. The Killer liked it when people fought. It made their deaths that much more fulfilling. The women had all held out hope for either mercy, rescue, or escape, even into their last dying breaths. The Killer remembered what it was like to have that kind of hope snuffed out. But she was alive. This man had taken something far worse from her. He had spared her life, but stolen her humanity.
The Killer finished her sandwich then went back down to the basement. Her captive was dressed only in a pair of boxers and chained to a wall. Small cuts covered the majority of his body. She was not done cutting, that was for sure. There was one more thing she needed to slice, but that would come later. Right now she had other plans.
She walked over to her captive and placed a rubber bar inside his mouth. “You may want to bite down. This might hurt a little.” She smiled then grabbed a long, electric cattle prod from the workbench along the far side of the wall and went to work.
“What are you writing now?” Brandon asked while he paused the basketball game. Katie was once again sitting at the kitchen table typing furiously on her laptop.
“My letter of resignation,” she replied without looking up.
“That’s what you’ve been doing for the past two hours?” He was bewildered. How on Earth could it take someone that long to write a letter of resignation?
“Yeah. I’m almost done. I just need to proofread it.”
“I don’t see why it’s taking so long. How hard can it be to say ‘Hey, thanks for the opportunity. I’ve enjoyed my time here but I’ve decided to leave and pursue other interests.’ Truly, it can’t be that difficult?”
“Well, unlike you, words are my profession. I can’t just type a quick email saying thanks for the fun, but I’m done. I want to make sure that I don’t burn any bridges. Besides, I still need to go back there to get my things from the apartment. I’m sure they’ll want it vacated as soon as possible.”
“Speaking of, you should call your landlord and see how much it will cost to break your lease. I’ll help you out with the money if need be,” he said. He would do anything to get her home as soon as possible.
“Thanks, but that’s not necessary. You see, the apartment isn’t really mine. The paper is paying for it. It was part of the contract I negotiated,” she said, still staring at her screen.
“You mean you didn’t pay rent?” Brandon was shocked.
How she negotiated a free apartment in New York City was beyond him. Apparently they had wanted her much more than he thought.
“Yeah. The only condition was I had to promise to stay there for a year, which I have fulfilled.”
“So what did you do with your paychecks?”
“Really? You want to know how I spent my money?” Katie rolled her eyes. “Honestly Brandon. I promise that I was very responsible with it.”
“That’s not what I meant.” The question had come out all wrong. “I’m just curious.”
“Well, aside from daily living expenses and a few pairs of nice shoes, I put the majority of it in savings. Right now I have enough stashed away to pay for most of my grad school, that is if I decide to go.”
“Oh, okay.” He wanted to ask her how much she was able to save, but decided against it. If she had enough for grad school then it was a pretty sizable sum.
“Although now that I’m back I suppose I’ll have to get a car
“Well, we’ll find you one soon,” he said. He was about to put the game back on when an idea popped into his head. Quickly he jumped off the couch, grabbed his laptop, then sat down at the table with Katie.
“What are you doing?”
“Nothing,” he lied. He was pulling up a car website to begin his search. He would get her one as a welcome home present.
“Uh huh,” she mumbled then went back to work.
They worked together in silence for another hour. By then the sun was setting. Katie stretched then stood from the table. “Are you hungry? I’m starving.”
“Yeah, I could eat.”
“Good. Let me see what I have to cook,” she said then headed to the kitchen.
“I’m glad to see you’re feeling better.” He smiled.
“Like I told you, all I needed was water, toast, and sleep.” She smiled while pulling various items from the refrigerator. “Chicken salads okay? You could grill a couple of chicken breasts while I make the salads.”
“Sounds great. I’ll warm up the grill.” Brandon stood up and walked out the back door to the patio. He quickly warmed up the grill then walked back to the kitchen to grab the lightly seasoned chicken from the counter. “It shouldn’t take me more than fifteen minutes to cook these.”
“Awesome. I’ll have everything else ready by then.” Katie gave him a quick kiss then returned to prepping the salad.
Brandon strolled back to the patio and put the chicken on the grill. As he cooked the breasts he thought about this morning. It was rare for Katie to have a hangover, even rarer for her to throw up due to one. Even though she didn’t drink near as much as she did in college, he still did not believe three glasses of wine would cause her to be as ill as she was this morning. At first he thought maybe she had contracted some sort of food poisoning, but he had eaten the same thing she had and he felt fine.
He let his thoughts drift back to the last couple of days.
They certainly had been making up for lost time. He hadn’t thought to ask her if she still had her IUD. He figured she would have said something if she had gotten rid of it. Brandon made a mental note to ask her when they sat down and returned his focus to the chicken.
Katie watched as Brandon reached for the last piece of bread.
“Do you want to split it?” he asked, holding a piece of it towards her.
“No, I’m good. Thanks though.” She smiled. The giant salad she made had more than filled her up.
“Okay,” he replied then slathered it with butter.
Dinner had been comfortably quiet. Brandon, as predicted, inhaled his salad then turned his attention to the bread. Katie had been lucky to finish her salad. Her stomach had started hurting again, but she hadn’t told him. No need for him to worry. This morning she thought the nausea was a result of too much wine.
Now she wasn’t so sure. It probably was a result of stress; she’d definitely experienced enough of that lately. As if reading her thoughts, Brandon spoke.
“Hey, I know this is probably a too little too late question,” he began, “but you still have your IUD, right?”
Katie gasped. “Of course. Why wouldn’t I?”
“I figured you did. I just thought…that is, after this morning…that perhaps, well,” he stuttered.
“Don’t worry. Of all the things under the sun that could have caused my stomach to hurl, that is not it. Even if I was pregnant, it’s far too early for me to have morning sickness.”
“Okay. That’s what I thought. I figured you would have said something if you had gotten rid of it. Sorry for asking.”
“No, it’s okay.” She sighed. Didn’t he trust her to tell him the truth about something like that? “You trust me, right?”
The question caught Brandon off guard. “Of course I do.
Why wouldn’t I?”
“You know I wouldn’t try to trap you with a kid, right?” “Of course I do. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for the question to come out like that. It’s just, well, we haven’t been taking things slow and easy as of late. I thought maybe, in the rush of it all, it might have slipped your mind.”
Katie’s bottom lip trembled although she didn’t know why. “No, I understand,” she said as a tear trailed down her cheek.
“Aww, sweetheart, don’t cry,” Brandon soothed as he pulled her into his lap. “Really, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”
“No. You didn’t. I’m sorry.” Katie had no idea why she was crying. He hadn’t been mean and she wasn’t at all mad at him. “I’m sorry. It’s probably just nerves.” She sniffled.
“I understand. These past few days have been eventful to say the least. And you haven’t had much sleep.”
Katie nodded. It was true, she hadn’t been getting the amount of sleep she needed. Although she hadn’t complained, at least not the last couple of nights.
“I’m sorry. A large part of that is my fault. I promise to behave myself and let you sleep tonight,” he whispered.
Katie smiled through her tears. “Excuse me, but I seem to recall enthusiastically participating in the activities of the past two nights. I am to blame, too.”
Brandon smiled. “That is true. Still, how about tonight we tone it down a bit and get some rest?”
“Okay, thank you.”
“Anytime,” he whispered then gave her a quick kiss. “I’ll tell you what, I’ll get the kitchen cleaned. Why don’t you go take a shower then we can watch a movie in bed?”
“Okay.” She smiled and hopped off his lap. “If you hurry, you can join me,” she called out as she ran into the bathroom.
A few minutes later, Katie stepped into the steaming hot shower. She let the warm water wash over her body for a short while. She just stood there, enjoying the mini-massage the water was giving her body. A few minutes later the water was replaced by a strong pair of hands.
“Tell me where you hurt,” Brandon whispered. “My neck.”
Brandon nodded then started working the knots of stress from her neck and upper back. Afterwards he washed her hair and body, turned off the water, and wrapped her in a warm, soft towel.
Katie savored the feel of the cotton wrapped around her. It made her feel safe and secure, like she had when she was a child. Once she was dry she pulled on a pair of loose sweatpants and a t- shirt. The night had turned cold. While Brandon got dressed she picked out a movie, put it in the Blu-ray player, then cuddled under the blankets. She was asleep before Brandon even came out of the bathroom.
The Killer picked up her captive from the ground and dragged him outside, tossing him in the trunk of her SUV. “You really are pathetic, you know,” she hissed as she closed the door. She had spent the past few hours torturing him in every imaginable way. Not once did he scream or fight. No, the whole time he alternated between begging for his life and crying like a baby.
“P-p-please, just let me go. I won’t tell anyone anything.
Please, just set me free,” the man whimpered.
The Killer did not answer. Instead she turned up the radio and pulled onto the highway. Thirty minutes later, she parked her car along a side street adjacent to Hatch Hall. The dorm was located on the outskirts of the Mizzou campus. She stepped out of the SUV, grabbed her backpack, and headed towards the back.
Before she opened the trunk, she carefully checked her surroundings, making sure she was alone. It was three in the morning, so more than likely all the students were asleep or otherwise occupied in their beds. The Killer sneered. How many of those women in bed were unwilling participants? She shook her head. “Focus,” she whispered to herself.
Satisfied that she was alone, The Killer quietly opened the trunk. She pulled a syringe from the pocket of her cargo pants and inserted it into her captive’s neck. “Don’t worry, I’m not killing you. Not yet at least. I want you to feel everything that is happening to you.”
The paralytic took only seconds to act. Once she was convinced that he could not move, The Killer threw the man over her shoulder, closed the trunk, then made her way towards an open field.
A few minutes later, the Killer unceremoniously dumped her captive on the grassy field. Next she pulled out a bottle of lighter fluid and began spraying it on the ground. The message would be loud and clear in just a few minutes. There was no way the police would be able to keep this one quiet. She quickly removed her gloves and tossed them on top of the pathetic man. She had no desire to set her hands-on fire. Once she was done, she doused her captive in the remainder of the fluid, flicked a match, and walked away.