Bryn swallowed hard and didn’t move; there wasn’t any point in trying anything, not yet.
Jane walked around from behind her and said, “The door’s locked, and if you don’t do what I say, when I say it, little Jeff’s going to have a very unpleasant assault and battery life experience. Do we understand each other?”
Bryn nodded as much as she could without damaging herself on the wire loop. Jane gave her a cool, evaluating look, then nodded at Mr. Smith behind her. He loosened the wire and slipped it over her head, and Bryn shuddered under the wave of relief that cascaded through her like glacier melt, but didn’t try to run. She didn’t doubt that Jane was capable of anything. “What do you want?” she asked. Her voice sounded even and calm, which was something of a triumph.
“For now? Your unquestioning obedience,” Jane said. “Here. Put this on.” She reached into a drawer, pulled out a hospital gown, the kind that tied in back, and tossed it to Bryn. There was nowhere to go for privacy. Bryn turned her back to a wall, draped the gown over her clothes, and undressed beneath it. Even though they hadn’t been her own clothes, and had fitted badly enough, they’d still been something connecting her to normal life. A hospital gown dehumanized her one step further. She tied the straps behind her as best she could, then waited.
“Good girl,” Jane said. “Kick the clothes and shoes over. Then sit on the bed.”
Bryn followed every instruction to the letter. Feet up. Lie down. Hands at your sides. She wasn’t surprised when they fastened the restraints on, and had a moment of flashback.…These were the same restraints as Liam had used for Annalie, oddly enough. Ankles, wrists, chest, waist, thighs. She didn’t resist. Houdini himself wouldn’t have been able to wriggle out of this configuration, not without hidden tools and time.
Jane tested the straps, then nodded to Mr. Smith. “Good,” she said. “Go on and make sure that idiot Carl’s squared away. He’s likely to throw some unfortunate fit.” He left. Like Jane, he was nondescript—an average-looking man, a little too heavy in the jaw, a little too small in the eyes to be considered handsome. Strong and well built, like Jane herself.
A cold, absolute professional.
Jane was watching her assess her opposition, with an amused smile lurking around her lips. “You’re not like Carl,” she said. “You pick your shots, don’t you?”
“Are we going to have girl talk now?” Bryn asked. “Because I can’t really braid your hair with my hands tied up like this.”
“You think you’re funny, don’t you?”
“Well, comparatively speaking, I’m probably the funniest in the room.”
“I think you’ll find I’m a laugh riot when you get to know me. And you will, Bryn. Very well.” Jane met her eyes, and dialed a cell phone without looking at it. A preprogrammed number. “The kid’s served his purpose. Dump him.” Bryn gasped and lunged against the restraints as Jane hung up and gave her a slow, icy smile. “Oh, relax. He’s being left where he’ll be found. You did a good job, so I don’t feel the need to be…punitive. Unless the mouthy brat wanders out into traffic, he’ll be home inside of an hour with a fun story to tell his friends at school.”
Bryn’s heart was racing madly, her veins singing with the desire to hurt this bitch, but she forced a smile that probably held more than a trace of that black fury. “I can’t wait for you to meet his daddy, Jane.”
“Oh, I already have,” Jane said. “Tall guy, six feet, bullet head? Wicked fast reflexes and charming as all get-out. He’ll remember me. He’s got the scars.”
“Liar.” But Jane had shaken her confidence, because that did sound like Joe Fideli.
“Let’s not start the name-calling. We’ve got loads of time before things get that catty. I’ll tell you how this is going to go. This place”—Jane made a vague gesture at the room, the building in general—“is a black hole. People go in, they don’t come out, and nobody bats an eye. Pretty genius, really. So you can forget about attracting someone’s attention.”
“Not a prison, then,” Bryn said. “A hospital. A mental hospital.”
“Oooh, close, but no. It’s a locked facility. It’s where they dump the severely impaired Alzheimer’s patients, the ones without families, the ones who never get visited. No witnesses. And no one cares who comes in, since nobody ever leaves except in a body bag. Fucking creepy, if you ask me.” Jane sat back in her chair and crossed her arms. “My point is this: you can scream and yell and curse as much as you want to. Doesn’t matter. Somebody’s always screaming in this ice-cold corner of hell. You won’t sound any more delusional than the rest of the loonies.”
Bryn kept her mouth shut, grimly wishing she had a hand free so she could punch the bitch out. Just once. Less than twenty-four hours, she told herself. You only have to make it less than a day. They’ll find you. Find her, too. And when they do…
That was a nice moment of warm, bloody fantasy, the idea of what Joe Fideli would do to the woman who’d kidnapped his son. If Patrick didn’t take her apart first, of course.
“You’re still wondering what I want from you,” Jane said. “I can see it in your eyes, Bryn. The fact is, I’m going to ask you some questions. Now, you’re probably thinking you won’t answer. Word is, you used to be a soldier. Maybe you think that makes you a badass, but baby, recruitment standards are so low they drag the ditches for volunteers these days; hell, half the gang members out there served their four years for free Uncle Sam–sponsored murder training. I wouldn’t count on whatever backbone your cuddly little drill sergeant managed to beat into you lasting more than thirty minutes once we get down to it.”
She cocked her head, watching Bryn’s face. “Oh, and I also know all about your…what do you call it? Healing? That seems like an advantage until you begin to think it through and realize that all it really means is I don’t have to hold back with you. I don’t have to do some pansy flower waterboarding technique; I can actually drown you as many times as it takes. Or skin you. Or…wow, so many choices. I don’t think I’ve ever really considered the possibilities.”
She shoved the chair back suddenly, and the noise of it made Bryn flinch, just a little. Jane stood up.
“So,” she said, looking down now, with a warm, genuine smile on her face. “You just close your eyes and get some sleep, because when I come back, we’re going to get things done, Bryn. Just see if we don’t.”
She walked to the door, and Bryn didn’t watch her go. She kept her gaze rigidly focused upward on the cracked ceiling. A spider had made a dusty web near the light fixture, and the silk billowed in the cold, dry breeze of the air-conditioning. The spider itself was sitting right in the middle of the web, waiting. Just…waiting.
When she saw Jane leave in her peripheral vision, and heard the door slam and lock, Bryn finally closed her eyes.
Less than a day.
She could do this. She had to.
Jane was gone a long time, but there was no way to accurately gauge the clock. Bryn tried counting pulsebeats for a while, but her attention wandered, drawn by distant querulous talking, or banging, or—shockingly loud—screaming. If there were nurses in this place, they didn’t check on her, and Bryn wished rather pathetically that she’d taken the opportunity to use the toilet before letting them strap her down. Boredom was a strain, because there was nothing to stare at other than the single, fluttering spider’s web, and the motionless arachnid. Why there? Bryn wondered. It didn’t seem like a great hunting spot. But then, spiders were surprisingly smart for their size. The little creature probably knew something Bryn didn’t.
She tried working the restraints, because it seemed like the prudent thing to do. After all, in any decent action movie, she’d find some weakness in the old bed, or a protruding screw, or something…but all she managed to do was chafe her skin raw and introduce an annoying creak into the metal bed frame.
The light had faded outside, and the world beyond the high glass slice of view seemed black—so black she couldn’t even make out the entirely superfluous bars.
Nothing to do. Nothing to think. Nothing to plan.
Bryn wasn’t good at waiting. The last time she’d been confined like this, she’d been in the white room, with that ominous drain in the middle of the floor and its easy-wash surfaces. Shambling from corner to corner, touching walls, counting steps, while the nanites in her bloodstream degraded and turned toxic and her body began to turn on itself.
This was better, she told herself. A nice, comfy bed. And so far, she didn’t need a shot.
That’ll change, the cold, cynical part of her brain declared. She’ll hurt you, maybe kill you. You’ll need that booster. And you won’t get it. And we’ll be right back in the white room, rotting, falling to pieces.
No. She’d been in the white room for days, long days without treatment. Here, it would be over—one way or another—in less than twenty-four hours. She’d survive. Whatever Jane brought to the party, she’d survive. And Bryn was going to make it her personal mission from God to see that Jane got paid back, in full.
The spider moved suddenly, skimming over the soft, strong field of its web and leaping on some tiny creature with the bad sense to tangle itself up. Bryn was too far to see the details, but she could well imagine. Here she was, thinking she was the spider, when in fact she was the fucking fly, trussed up in a tight cocoon for draining.
Jane was the spider.
And right on cue, Jane opened the door.
She was preceded by a metallic rattle of wheels, and a cheery, “How you doing, Bryn? Hungry? I thought you might be. I brought you a little something.”
She was expecting, well, instruments of pain. Steel cutting tools, that kind of thing. But as Jane whipped the covering sheet off the tray, she saw…green Jell-O and a spoon.