A/N: Thanks for those of you who reviewed my previous chapter! I hope you liked the action. Don't worry, I'm not going to kill Caine off yet (OR EVER). :D I'm talking nonsense, so don't mind me and just read on!
While the trio were being kidnapped, Anna wasn't having a very good time either. This afternoon, her father, the Tiger, had confronted her. "Anna, come here." he had said in a stern voice, just as she walked in the front door, home from school. Though trembling inside, Anna refused to show it, as she knew that her father didn't like any signs of weakness. "So, you got the hair band back?" His voice was emotionless.
"Yes, father. I got it back."
"Good. Did anything else happen?" Once again, his voice was toneless, cold. Anna couldn't tell whether he knew or not. She decided to lie.
"No, nothing else happened, father."
"Nothing, you say?" her father slowly turned the chair to face her, and his face was cold, which turned out to be even more frightening than when he was just plain angry. "Then why did my men see you being chased around by two boys?"
Even in her utter shock and fright, Anna was quick enough to notice a few things. Firstly, her father didn't know about the meeting at Macdonald's. Secondly, her father's information was wrong – there had also been a girl chasing her. In fact, it had been the girl who confronted her. Thirdly, her father was keeping tabs on her. He didn't trust her. "I… I thought that that wasn't important, father." Anna's lie was weak, and both knew it.
"Next time, you had better tell. Because you, like Caine Jenks and his friends, are going to be punished." the Tiger said, his voice getting louder and with a faint emotion of anger. "To the cellar. Now!"
Anna trembled involuntarily as her father stood up and roughly jerked her towards the stairs. He opened the doors, and she climbed down into the dark cellar. Above her, the wooden doors slammed shut, and there was a sound of key turning into lock.
She would probably be stuck here for the rest of the day. It was punishment that she had endured before. She sat down on the dusty floor of the dark cellar, and curled herself up into a foetal position. What she was worried about now was Caine and the group of teens. When her father wanted something to be settled… it would be settled. Usually bloodily. Anna couldn't bear to think what kind of orders he was giving at this very moment, to teach them a lesson.
There was dried food and water in the cellar, where her father stored his collection of wine, but Anna didn't feel like eating. Instead, she started sobbing, and the sounds echoed off the walls, bouncing around again and again.
I was awake long before I could see what was happening. When my mind finally roused, I had no control over my body. I couldn't open my eyes. My head was pounding rhythmically, sending a wave of pain flooding throughout my nerve system. I winced, then realised that I could wince. With a huge amount of effort, my eyes fluttered open.
Slowly, I took in my surroundings. It was dark. Very dark. I could hardly make out the faint outline my fingers, not half a metre away from me. I lifted my hand and rubbed my sore head tenderly, only to realise that my arm felt a million times worse. Slowly, very slowly, I rubbed my shoulder in small circles, trying to return circulation my stiff body. The feeling would go away after a while, I knew. I had had experience with this kind of situations, except that I didn't usually wake up in an unknown, totally dark room. I sucked in a deep breath, and couldn't stop the rasping cough that followed.
"Carla?" Dave's tentative voice called out from the darkness. My head swivelled around immediately, trying to locate the sound of the voice.
"Dave! Where are you?"
"Over here! Just try and follow the sound of my voice." Dave kept on talking while I scrambled over, relying on my sense of hearing and the instructions Dave was giving based on the noise I was making. Finally, I reached him.
"Are you okay? Where's Caine?" I asked anxiously.
"Caine's on my right. I think that I got dumped here together with him. Are you okay?" He answered before asking.
"I'm fine." I lied. "How's Caine?"
"He's not awake yet. I'm fine too, but I think Caine's worse off. I managed to get a last look in at him before I blacked out too. He was helping me." Dave said guiltily. "He had finished off with those two guys, then he helped me, and another guy snuck up on him." I could hear the guilt layered in his voice.
I felt my way over to Caine's still figure and, with Dave's help, propped him up against the wall. I wanted to check if he was fine, but there was no light here! Who the hell were those people who kidnapped us here? Were they the same people whom Caine chased earlier this afternoon? What was with this case? Why did so many people seem insistent on forcing us off this case?
I felt Caine's clammy forehead and wiped the sweat off. There was some sticky liquid on his forehead that felt suspiciously like… blood. I wiped it clean on my shirt. I desperately needed some light… weren't there any windows in this room? Standing up, I blindly felt around for the wall, and ran my hand across the whole length of it. Nothing.
Just then, there was a deep groaning sound. "Caine?" I asked, returning back to his side. He flew up at the sound of my voice.
"Carla? Carla, are you okay?" he asked worriedly.
"I'm fine." By now, all the soreness had disappeared. "What about you?"
"I might be a little bit messed up." he warned.
"Funny." I said, thought it was anything but. "I thought you'd try to convince me otherwise."
"I would, if I wasn't quite sure that once the lights came on, you would scream like mad upon seeing me."
"I don't take that as a good sign." I bit my lips.
"How about a little warning?" Caine said, and I saw him fishing into his pocket. Out came something, glinting in the dim light. "Swiss Army knives always come in useful." he commented casually, while fiddling around with it. "Especially when they have torchlights." With that, a bright light illuminated our surroundings.
"Talk about prepared." I muttered under my breath. "Hand it over." I tried to snatch it from him. He dodged, before obediently passing it to me. I couldn't help but notice how much stiffer his movements were. I shone the torchlight on him, expecting the worse.
The worse wasn't far off from what I saw.
There was a large patch of dried brown on Caine's forehead and under his nose. His lip was bloody, and the awkward smile just made it worse. His beautiful hair was messy, plastered all over with sweat. There were bloodstains and bruises along his arms, and he was sitting very awkwardly, as if moving any body parts would cause him pain.
"Woah, you are so messed up, dude." Dave said, frowning. Comparatively, Dave was better, but still quite bad. He had a huge bruise on his cheek and a bleeding lip, but that was all.
"Oh my God." I exclaimed, already blaming myself. "What the hell happened to the both of you?"
"I'm not sure, but I'd hazard a guess that we were beaten up by four thugs." Caine said humourlessly.
"Haha. Shit, I shouldn't have screamed, should I?"
"Don't even think about that." Caine said, just as Dave spoke too.
"Of course you should have! And you did!" Caine and Dave glanced at each other, before shrugging, and I noticed the brief wince of pain flash across his face at the small movement. I bit my lip hard.
"Stop frowning like that, Carla. You're going to have those worry lines carved into your forehead." Caine said disapprovingly.
"I made you injured. Both of you. It's all my fault." I muttered under my breath, but both boys heard it.
"It's not, Carla." Both said together, and once again they glanced at each another, before letting out a brief snicker. Just as Caine was about to say something, there was the sound of someone unlocking the door. All three of us, including the torchlight, instinctively turned around to the source of the sound.
Light flooded in, like a tide on a sandy beach. It was so good to actually see again. That is, until I looked at Dave and Caine again.
Dave wasn't quite as okay as I thought. He had an extremely long swollen cut along the length of his arm, and his knee was bleeding from a deep scrape. And then, there was Caine, who, amazingly enough, managed to look worse than when I had seen him before. Now, the light threw his injuries, dark contrasting against his light skin, in focus. The blood on his forehead seemed to be too much to the normal, and his lip was swollen. His nose looked a little too crowded to be right, and there was an area on his arm where he had apparently scuffed against the floor or a rough surface, because it was raw and bleeding a little. He sat very straight, leaning against the wall gently, and although there was a smile on his face, the true pain he felt was reflected in his eyes.
A man walked in, and I recognised him as one of the thugs. "Huh. For a bunch of teenagers, you guys sure put up quite a good defence. But you're not going to enjoy screaming in pain as you have that nose set, blondie. If you wanna blame someone, boys, blame girlie over here. We didn't even mean to take you guys along, just her, but she had to go scream and ruin everything. Including your nose and yourlip." Caine's lip curled in obvious disgust and Dave slowly clenched his fist.
The man noticed Dave's action. "You think you're in a position to fight now?" He chuckled once. "Though, I must admit, you did put two of them in the hospital. It's so hard to get good thugs nowadays. Can't even fight properly, half of them. Well, boys, I'm afraid that I'm going to have to deprive you of girlie here for a while. Boss wants to meet with her."
"The Tiger?" I asked, raising my eyebrows while hazarding a risky guess.
"You wish. Nah, the Tiger's assistant. As if a bunch of nosy teenagers like you would get the Tiger himself to come down here. Damn, a gas leak last month didn't even get him to pay us a visit. Get up, girlie."
"I'm coming with her." Caine said, while Dave pressed his lips tightly together.
"Like hell you are, blondie. You're staying here."
"How can we trust you?"
"Let's put it simply here, blondie. You're locked in a room, not even handcuffed. You've been unconscious for the past two hours. We could have gotten rid of you so easily by now. And yet you're still alive. Makes a good case, huh, blondie?" Caine just gritted his teeth in silent fury. "Just stay here enjoying the agony that you earned while we talk to girlie here for a while. Then, we throw you out and let you make your way back." The man roughly yanked me up, and I slammed into him with as much force as I could muster, making sure to jab my elbow into his side, pretending that it was inertia. He stiffened, before dragging me away.
I took one last look at the bloody pair of them, then took a deep breath for what was coming ahead.
God, how much I wanted to slam my fist into his stupid face when he smirked as he took Carla away. If not for that stupid leg that was holding me down…
The door slammed ominously close, but not before the man, with a teeny bit of compassion, turned the lights on. The room was utterly bare, with its wall a colour of something that was once white, but was now defaced. There was a silence that spanned a few seconds, before Dave let out a long sigh.
"Oh, God. Finally, I can scream in agony. Shit, it's so damn hard not to even be able to cringe when you're in pain." Dave said, and I couldn't agree more. He loosened up his muscles, and apparently his mouth too, as a stream of muttered curses was let loose. He moaned once again, gently rubbing his still bleeding knee, before turning to me with a curious look on my face. "Carla's gone know, it's fine to let loose and yell in pain. You are so much worse off than me."
Mind over matter. Pain was easy to ignore when you've been through enough of it. But it wasn't like I was about to tell Dave that particular fact. In truth, I knew that the moment I relaxed my extremely stiff position, all the torture will come coursing through my nerves. But, then again, I had to do it some time. Slowly, I eased my tense right leg, probably the worse off all the injuries, and squeezed my eyes close as the expected agony came. No matter how cliché this sounded, deep breaths did help. It was another mind over matter thing; if you focus on breathing, it diminishes the suffering. Just a little, but that's better than nothing.
Forty-seven breaths later, I managed to open my eyes, only to see Dave shaking his head in amazement, staring at me. "Man, how the hell do you do that? If I were you, I would have screamed down heaven and hell by now." I glanced down at my leg, which was bleeding from a deep gash in my thigh, and a patch on my knee where the skin had been grazed off. I dug my fingernails deep into the palm of my hand, trying to concentrate on that source of pain, which I could control, unlike the other.
"Practice." I managed to get out, but even I could hear the barely concealed pain in my tone. I continued the deep breathing technique, trying to get the damn feeling to lessen. Fifty-three breaths later, I finally loosened up my whole body, and cussed loudly.
Damn. My head was spinning rapidly from the hit to the ground, and everytime I made the slightest movement to my neck, it protested, screaming in pain. My leg was… it felt pain just thinking about it. My arm, where it had scraped roughly against the cement floor, was throbbing, and it was as though I could feel the blood underneath pulsing. Examining it clinically so as not to feel the bile rising in my throat, I realised that it was sore and raw, though not bleeding. One thing which I learnt was that you don't need to see the blood to feel the pain. Blood looks scary, but open wounds can hurt less than an injury deep inside.
All in all, other than the day when Carla found me, worse than anything that the git had done to me. Slowly, I leant back and rested my head on the wall, brain on overheat. Then, still thinking furiously, I waited anxiously for Carla to return. I closed my eyes in silent prayer to any of the big guys up there who were willing to sympathise us,
"Hey, Caine, you still there, dude?" Dave's worried voice asked. I opened my eyes.
"Good. What're you doing?"
"Didn't know you had a religion."
"Yeah, I didn't." I said. "I thought now might be a good time to start."
The man dragged me roughly down a lane, yanking me by my bloodied sleeve. I took care to memorise the turns, just in case…
I was brought to a room, where a man was standing. There were two chairs and a table. It reminded me eerily of an old police interrogation room. The door was closed politely behind me, and I examined the man. He was tanned, dark and tall, with an undisturbed expression on his face. "Sit." he said, tone inexpressive.
"What's your name, girl?"
"Jessica." I made up on the spot.
"Jessica, huh? Well, Jessica, consider tonight's incident just a mere warning."
"The warning being?"
"Smartmouth, huh? Well, if you feel so smart, remember that blondie's nose back there might not be so fixable if you don't listen to us." I bit my lip in frustration, and stopped before I could give myself an injury. "Jessica, dear, you and your group of friends are dipping your noses into a little too much than you should dip your nose into. Get out of this, and you might still be left alone. But it's the Tiger's final warning." The man stood up, walking towards the door. I stood up too.
"It's his final warning, huh?" I said, before continuing rashly, "Well, tell him it's his final warning too, cause we're going to find out whatever the Tiger is so insistent on not letting us know." The man paused, fury painted on his face, before dragging me and slamming into the door. I ignored the mild shocks of pain that erupted from where my forehead had made contact with the iron door, but instead grinned defiantly at the satisfaction that my words had infuriated him.
The man pushed me out of the open door, into the arms of another man, who dragged me along the path, back to Caine and Dave.
Good. I'd learnt enough from this little chat.
Dawn was muttering anxiously under her breath, while glaring at her watch, as it the watch had done something wrong. "Damn it, damn it, damn it! Where the hell are they?"
Dawn was in Dave's room. The problem was that Dave, Caine and Carla all weren't there, and were mysteriously missing. The specific choice of people that had to go missing at once made her worried, and after nine, she started organising a search party.
Stan, Bernard, Ashmond, Ted, Greg and Dylan all couldn't find them, despite all their efforts, including Stan going into every male restroom and yelling out, "IS DAVE OR CAINE HERE?", scaring all the occupants. Deck had his eyes pried to the school's cameras, which he had hacked, but even Dawn's amazingly observant eyes couldn't pick them out. They were officially missing.
Dawn glanced at her watch yet again. It was a quarter to eleven. Suddenly, Dylan's head burst into the room. He yelled something in a super fast speed that no one understood, before gasping for breath and repeating it, this time slower. "Oh my God, you're going to kill me Dawn, sorry sorry sorry I only just remembered."
"What?" Dawn crossed the room into two lunges and grabbed Dylan shoulders, yanking him into the room and kicking the door close. Behind her, she could sense Ted, Greg and Deck's equally curious presences. "Damn it, talk, Dylan! If you don't, I'm going to kill you here and now, and I took the same black belt course as Dave, and you've seen what Dave can do when he's violent, so, damn it, TALK!" Dawn shook Dylan's shoulders.
"Okay, okay, chill, Dawn! Though you probably won't be very chill once I say this, but… I heard Dave ask Dawn and Caine to meet him at the pavilion after dinner at eight. I only just remembered. Don't kill me!" Dylan uttered the last sentence in a high-pitched squeak, running to Deck for cover as fast as possible, as Dawn began to see red.
"Dylan…" Dawn growled, dragging the word out. "Nope, I can't bother with you. Greg, Dylan, follow me. We're going to the pavilion. And Dylan, if you so much as irritate me this much –" Dawn stuck her forefinger and thumb a millimetre away, "– your body will be found floating in the nearest river. Move!"
Three minutes and fifty three seconds later, Dawn, Dylan and Greg were standing, jaws slacked, in front of the pavilion. Dawn swore once, but Dylan and Greg didn't so much as lift their gazes to her. All of their eyes were fixated at the pavilion.
"Holy mother of –" Dylan abruptly stopped, remembering Dawn's faith, "Allah!" Dawn broke her gaze off to glare at Dylan, before returning to the pavilion.
The pavilion was… in chaos. Tables had been knocked over, with chairs lying on their sides all around. Picking her away between the fixtures, Dawn noticed that the neat piles of leaves that the janitor always swept up had disappeared. In their place were leaves and twigs strewn all over the floor. There were red stains all over the ground, and it looked scarily like blood. The bushes by the side of the pavilion looked like they had been wrecked, and the some flowerpots were overturned.
But, most importantly, there was a drop of blood on the ground. And, ten centimetres away, another. And another. And another. A trail of blood, leading… somewhere. Her concentrated glare had attracted Dylan and Greg's attention, and they followed it closely, squinting to see it in the dark. The dried brown contrasted with the lush green grass, but was harder to distinct with the brick red car park. It led to a car park lot, and then abruptly stopped. A car had been parked here. A trail of blood had led to the car. It wasn't hard to put two and two together, but Dawn didn't particularly want to, since she could pretty much guess the results anyway.
Dawn swore again, louder this time, before sprinting with all her might back to Dave's room. Deck, she yelled mentally, where the hell are you when I need you? Momentarily stunned, Dylan and Greg exchanged a look before chasing after the soon disappearing figure of Dawn.
Back in Dave's room, Dawn ordered Deck, "Get on the cameras for the parking lot and tell me which cars were parked at lot 54 now!" Deck moved into action, fingers literally flying over the keyboard as he keyed in some complicated looking code. The images on the screen changed rapidly, before he stopped. "Here." he said, and froze the image. It showed a silver van with the words 'Harris and Jackson Food Catering' on the side. Dawn took down the license plate number in her notebook. "Check the school records as to why this damn van is in the school."
"They cater the daily buffet." Deck answered immediately. "I've seen their van before."
"You mean, they've been here for a long time?" Deck nodded. "Damn, these people are good. Play the video for around eight." Once again, Deck set to work, and the tape started, with the three boys and Dawn watching intently. Two men carried a limp Carla to the van, and behind them were two men, holding up Dave, whose mouth looked bloody. Dawn winced. In the distance, right at the back, was the pavilion. Deck blew up the video, and they saw Caine land a few more hard hits before finally passing out, looking very bloody. A man kicked him once to make sure he was down before, with the aid of another, picking him up and tossing him into the van. The man which Caine had been attacking was helped up by another, and, limping, made his way back to the van. Altogether, there were the three of them and eight men. The doors to the van were shut, and, with a loud revving of the engine, the van drove off out of sight and out of the screen.
"Shit," Dawn swore, still staring blankly at the black screen.
"Yes," Ted agreed, for once appearing shaken, instead of his usual confident self, "Shit."
The doors opened, and Dave and Caine were escorted outside with me. Caine had managed to wipe off a lot of the blood, which left him with a red shirt, though he had started out with a white one. Dave too, looked better. But it was very obvious that Caine was limping heavily on his left leg, and that he was moving very carefully and as slowly as possible. We were taken to a car park, where we were loaded into a silver van with no windows and driven away. At a place not far from the school, the van opened and a man shoved us out. Behind us, the van disappeared into the night sky.
I saw a taxi approaching and stuck my hand out. The driver stopped, glad for a customer at this time of the night. But his eyebrows narrowed at the sight of us, especially the state that Caine was in. "You kids got money?" he questioned grumpily.
I was about to snap back at him before Dave answered in a dangerous tone. "This enough?" he threw five ten-dollar notes at the driver, who caught them in surprise. The driver didn't say anything, instead muttering something about 'teenagers who go partying and then get into a fight and splurge their wealth' while we all got in.
At the school, the fare didn't even touch twenty. "Keep the change as a tip." Dave said in a savage tone as I helped Caine out. We left the driver staring at the fifty dollars that he had earned in ten minutes and walked to the gate. It should be close, but maybe a hairpin could pick it…
"Carla! Caine! Dave!" Stan whispered loudly. We walked over to him, relieved. "Oh my God, you're back! What the hell happened to you? Especially you, Caine! Again!"
"Get us back in first." Dave said, as Stan unlocked the gate and we climbed into the campus. "We're so dead if we're found. How'd you know we were coming?"
"Dawn had Deck eyeing the cameras, just in case. It's half past twelve, where the hell have you been? Never mind, tell me back at the room."
Finally, after taking many long detours to avoid teachers and staff, Stan lead us all back to Dave's room, where we were greeted by sharp intakes of breaths and Dawn going on about something. Caine sat on a towel, so as not to dirty the carpet, and Dave and I sat on either side of him. Everyone seemed to be talking at once. Finally, Dawn waved her hands once to say stop, and everyone shut up. Then, in a voice that exuded power, she very simply said, "Talk."
Dave talked. "Me and Caine were having a talk in the garden while Carla waited in the pavilion, then, we heard Carla scream and ran over there. Carla went down first, and then Caine helped me finish off my two guys, but then two more went at us, and I think I went down before Caine did. We fought three to one and lost. I'm not sure about the details after that. You've got to ask Carla."
I swallowed once before answering, "This guy just came out of nowhere and attacked me. I managed to scream, and Dave and Caine heard me, I guess. After that, we woke up in a dark room, and a man brought me to another room, where a second man warned us not to mess in the Tiger's affairs, or else. They dropped us somewhere near here in the van, and we took a taxi back here. That's about it."
"That's about it?" Dawn yelled. "I can't believe that we haven't already dropped this damn case! This case is way too freaking dangerous. I mean, imagine it!" Dawn had a point, but at least half the boys in the room didn't want to drop the case, I was sure.
"Nope." Bernard said, and Stan, Greg and Dave agreed.
"Maybe we should…" Dylan said softly, surprisingly all of us. We stared blankly at him.
"Yes, maybe." Ted said, even more shockingly, not so sure of himself for once. I agreed with Dawn, this was getting out of hand. Deck didn't say anything, and neither did Ashmond. But it was the last opinion that settled the decision.
"We're going ahead with this." All of us turned to stare at Caine, whose calm and steady voice rang out clear and decisive. Since he was the one who introduced this case to us, and the one who had been a victim of both attacks, his opinion did mean something in this discussion. "We can't stand by and do nothing. We're not dropping the case."
Finally, after what seemed like ages, Dawn nodded her head slowly, looking as if she might regret this. "Fine, I agree with Caine, we've got to do this. But I insist on way stricter security measure, and everyone had better keep their mouths shut."
We dispersed slowly, after that. Dawn helped Dave clean up his wounds, as I did to Caine back in his room. Antiseptic on the open wounds, bandages for this forehead and his leg, and plasters for the smaller cuts caused by falling into the prickly bushes. I had to admit, he looked a lot better in clean clothes and without blood all over him. "Sleep well." I said as I stepped out of the open door.
"A good night's sleep will be a night dreaming of you, dream girl." he said, flashing me his smile.
Back at my room, it wasn't hard to fall asleep after the events of the night (and very early morning, since it was past one by now). For the first time since I came to Durnfield, I sank into a dreamless sleep.