It’s generally advised not to go out at night on your own. Dawn knew that. It hadn’t been her fault that the bus had been late, meaning that she would have to walk through woodland, in the dark, on her own. But – well, here she was. The bus had been late, and nothing she could do would change that now.
The air was earthy, but cold. It was the kind of cold that seeps through every tiny crack, its one purpose of existence being to freeze the life out of anything living. Bare, claw-like branches reached out and snagged Dawn’s jumper, making her jump every time. Somehow, darkness manages to always make things seem what they are not.
Dawn strolled briskly over a frozen mud track through the eerily quiet woodland. Ice crunched underneath her boots, and her breath puffed out in clouds that slowly drifted off into the black night. She pulled her coat tighter around herself, trying to keep out the cold. Images of people being stabbed like she’d heard on the news kept popping into her head. Her heartbeat increased, pace quickening.
She tripped, and heard the crack of a twig behind her, frightening her into a panicked run. Afterwards, she knew that she’d reflect back on it and think ‘how stupid was I? Of course there was nothing behind me.’ But, in the dark and cold, thinking reasonably is almost impossible when you are frightened.
Ahead of her another shadow moulded itself into the shape of a man, or at least it did in Dawn’s head, for the twelfth time (she’d been counting) frightening her out of her wits. Only – she stopped dead in her tracks, the silence eating away seconds. She was sure, certain, that the man-shadow had moved. Yes, there it was again, just the slight movement caused only when trying to be still. Though, maybe it was her head playing tricks again. Maybe it was just a breeze rocking the branched slightly. Nevertheless, she strained her ears, hoping for her life that she didn’t hear breathing. Knowing her luck though, it was pointless expecting anything else.
The silhouette of the man stepped forward suddenly. Dawn shrieked, retreating, but finding herself stepping backwards into a bulky, muscly form of a man. She screamed, but a giant hand muffled her mouth before getting her into a choke-hold. Dawn struggled for breath, but it was pointless. Her line of sight went fuzzy, and soon darkness became her world.
She awoke, her head throbbing. Dawn was lying uncomfortably on a rough, stone floor, in complete darkness. Her neck ached. Her whole body ached. Hair was matted over her face.
The first thing that came to her mind was panic. Her eyes darted round wildly, her breathing rapid. How did she get her? What was happening? She remembered walking through the forest, and two men approaching her, quickly, out of the shadows. She put up a struggle, but – well, not a good enough struggle. But nothing else; after that, darkness, then she woke up here. Dawn breathed slowly and deeply, calming herself. She wasn’t going to get very far without a clear head.
Over in the corner, a slit of light was escaping underneath a thick concrete door. Behind it, muffled voices murmured to each other, but were indistinguishable. Dawn attempted to get up and listen with her ear against the door, but found that her wrists and ankles were tightly bound with coarse rope. There was literally nothing she could do, other than sit here in the cold and dark and damp. It wasn’t a nice feeling.
Roughly two hours later, Dawn sat up as the door grated open. She couldn’t see the man’s face because of the mask he was wearing, but she could tell that he had a square, masculine jaw, had a large, muscly frame and appeared bald. The man ordered her on her feet with a gruff voice. Dawn didn’t struggle as he pulled her out of the cell by the hair – she knew it was pointless. Better to save her energy, and not get hurt.
She was led into a dimly lit, damp room. There was no doubt that they were underground. “Okay, let’s cut to the chase.” A voice started speaking from the gloom of a corner. As he (and it was definitely a male voice) spoke, he melted out of the shadows slowly. He was tall, and skinny, wearing a tatty tuxedo. A crop of carefully unkempt, dark hair partially hid his golden eyes. A thin lipped smile played on his face as he spoke. “We’re not gonna toy with you. We’ll let you go as soon as we’ve got what we need. Do you know who we are, sugar plum?” It took a few attempts to get her dry throat to produce speech, but when she did, Dawn managed what was supposed to sound like a strong ‘No’ but it came out as a squeak. The other man stifled a laugh.
“Well, that’s probably a good thing. Most people who know us are our enemies. They end up dead. So, honey, all we want is a bit of info. You know what I’m getting at? Yeah, you do and you know it. I don’t care what we have to do to get it from you. We’ve got a job to do, and I aint gonna leave without what we need. What about you, Bob?” ‘Bob’ replied with a slight nod. “So,” the skinny man continued, “We can do this the easy way, or the hard way. You’re choice.”
Dawn went into panic mode. She had literally no idea what these two nutcases were on about. What information? What did she know that they needed to? So she replied, quite truthfully, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
The skinny man sighed. ‘Bob,’ who was leaning against the wall, shook his head. “Look” He spoke, for the first time. “We don’t want to hurt you. Seriously. Just tell us.” Dawn took a shaky breath, trying to calm her quivering self. “I will tell you whatever you want. I’ll tell you anything! But I seriously do not know what you are talking about. Ask me the exact question – what do you want to know?” The skinny man chuckled. “Oh, the voice of innocence. Look missy, I’ll play along with your act if you want. Listen closely…” He lent in, his breath hot and stinking on her cheek. Whispering, he asked her: “Where. Is. Mortimus?”