Numbed

Courtney has been hurt many times in her life. Her mom left when she was only 6 months old and her father disappeared the same night. Now Courney is seventeen and lives with her foster parents, Reagan and Ronnie.
Courney has never been loved by anyone. At school she is severely bullied with no friends or support. Courtney has lost all hope in ever finding someone who cares and has numbed all of her feelings in fear of being hurt again. When one day she meets Hunter, a new kid who just moved from Florida, he tries to reach out to her. Courtney ignores him, fearing to be hurt and abandoned again. But When everything Courtney knows becomes a lie and she is stuck in the middle of a web of secrets and mystery will Hunter be the only one there to help her? Hunter cares for Courtney as more than a friend, but does she realize the obvious? Can she save what she thought was lost? But most importantly can she love Hunter back, or will her feelings and emotions be forever numbed...

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12. Chapter 11

    I don't know how long it had been since we had been captured, here where the days merged together and the torture was endless.  Every night I had nightmares that haunted me the rest of the day, echoing through my mind.  Hunter would always intervene, shaking me awake when I started to scream or kick.  I dreamed about my parents often; their sad faces and beaten bodies were an image of gore.  The most common one was Amanda lying on the ground, her face pale and her eyes blank-just like Reagan was.  Halock would be standing over her, his menacing eyes scanning her as if it was a job well done.  Then, out of nowhere, Gary would jump out and onto Halock's back.  I would watch as they pummeled each other.  Yet, Halock would always win, no matter how hard Gary tried.  Finally Halock would turn towards me, his piercing eyes penetrating right through me and looking deep into my soul.  I would scream but no sound would come; try to run but I could not move.  Then he'd attack me, flipping me over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.  My fists would hit his back over and over, but he never seemed to feel it.  Then, with sudden and fierce movements, he would whip me around, hitting my on the ground and table, over and over.

    I'd wake up to green eyes looking over me and rubbing my back.  Sometimes I felt horrible for waking Hunter, other times I was just grateful to have someone there.  Until the dreams started to include him too.  We would be in the field, laughing before breaking out into a run.  The sky, which at first was bright and blue, went black with clouds rolling in to warn us of a storm.  The wind would pick up and Hunter would gain speed, getting in front of me.  When I called out his name he wouldn't answer.  When I tried to catch up he just got farther away.  Suddenly he would turn around and yell, "Courtney, leave me alone.  You aren't welcome anymore" before running again.  Whenever I woke up after a dream like that I would let Hunter wrap his arms around me, just glad that I had someone there to help and support me.   He would rock me back and forth, shushing me.  I don't think he quite got that I couldn't be technically afraid, but that my body reacted as if I did.  I guess it was kind of like when you got a limb cut off and yet still felt the pain-phantom pain.

    Daily there would be torture sessions; Halock trying to beat out of us information that we didn't know.  He was fighting so hard for this and it made me wonder 'Why?  just to ruin the world you live in?'.  He was a thoroughly confusing person.  Sometimes, when I looked at him, I saw sadness in his eyes that looked like he could burst out into tears.  Other times it was a menacing fire that yearned to eat you up in its flames.  I had so many unanswered questions that I wanted to ask; so many things I wanted to know.  And it was this morning, while Hunter was asleep, that I decided that I had to ask, just give it a try.

     I was now trying to give my hair comb through.  It had turned into a matted mess by now and I hadn't been given a shower or a brush.  We were lucky that they at least let us go into an actual bathroom!  Of course we had six guards watching us through an open stall door.  It was uncomfortable at first, but when you gotta go, you gotta go!   Still, I usually waited until it was almost unbearable to yell for them.  They pretty much came whenever Hunter or I called, like a dog waiting for its master to say 'come'.  As my fingers attempted to undo the ratted knots in my hair, using a bobby pin that I had fallen out of my hair awhile before, I thought about how I could get my questions answered.  Would I even have enough bravery when the right moment came? Inside my head, I devised a scheme to get my answers.   As I sat there, thinking through the details with my fingers in my hair, the door opened wide and Halock ,along with three men, strutted in.

    "Hello, Darling!  Wake up your little friend and we'll be off!" Halock said with a menacing gleam in his eye.  Carefully, I stood up.

    "No"

    "WHAT?"  Halock was so flabbergasted that I think he forgot to be angry.  One of the men's jaw dropped so low I was afraid it would fall off.

     "I said no," I went on, "If you answer my questions then I'll tell you what I know"

    "Well," Halock drew out the word so that it was much too long, "I think we can work with that"  He finished in a voice that sounded more like the hiss of a snake.

    "Only you and me, no one else"  I hinted, giving his men a glance.

    "Of course" he said, snapping his fingers.  The men scurried out, leaving only Halock, a sleeping Hunter, and me.

    "Get me out" I ordered.

    "Why?" Halock whined, "can't you stay in there?"  I scowled at him.

    "NO, we need to be on equal ground.  I'm in a CAGE-that doesn't make this fair" I pointed to the lock and Halock grudgingly looked at it.

    "Fine,"  he sighed, "I'll let you out"  He fiddled with his keys until he'd found the right one and stuck it in the lock.  The door swung open and I walked through, straight towards the table.   With one hand I swiftly wiped all the papers to the floor, clearing the wobbly table for our 'meeting'.  We both took a seat, me trying not to think about how ragged my appearance was.

    "Well, let's get this started," Halock licked his lips, "what are your questions?"  I cleared my throat loudly and sat up a bit straighter.

    "One-how long have we been here?"  I decided to keep my questions simple at first, to ease him into the questions I wasn't sure he'd want to answer.

    "THAT'S your question!" Halock snickered, "ha! What a waste!  It's been about two weeks"  Wonder what the people at school are starting to think?  Just think of the amount of homework I'll have! Ah!  But Hallie has had to do her own for weeks now...payback!

    "Where do the teachers think we are?" I asked instead of saying any of my thoughts out loud.

    "Oh, they think Hunter and your family are going on a trip together in the Bahamas.  Such ignorant, gullible people are in the world today!"  Halock replied, still happy hat my questions were simple.

     "Ok, how did you know who and where I was?"  I asked, careful to read his expression.

    "It really wasn't hard.  Although we only started looking for you for, let's say, five years or so" Halock said, "We looked through the foster children files and found a young girl named Courtney Coolman who resembled our prisoners in name and appearance.  Your different colored eyes are a dead giveaway to your father's side of the family.  In fact- I reckon that your GRANDFATHER had the same eyes!"  My ears perked up at the word 'grandfather'.  Was it the same one who had come up with this deadly weapon that Halock now searched for?  Probably, but I did hope that maybe my other Grandpa hadn't been an evil scientist...Halock broke off my thoughts.

    "I have envied his work for years you know!  The toxin leakage in Bhopal, India,    , was just fabulous!"  He made a wide expressive movement with his hands and was looking off into the distance, as if forgetting I was there.

    "The toxin leakage?" I asked, eager to know more about this evil Grandfather of mine.

    "Yes, what so they teach you in schools?  Clearly not enough," Halock went on and I could tell that he was eager to share this piece of what he found 'exciting' information.  "You see, it happened on the night of December 2nd, 1984, at the Union Carbide India Limited, a pesticide plant.  To the world its a mystery, but not to anyone who has looked into your grandfather's past!  The chemicals that were being used there were some, should I say 'ingredients', for your grandfather's fumes.  He wanted to test out their capability and on that night he poked holes in the containers, big enough for a good amount of gases to seep out.  The release of gases killed 3,787 people and permanently injured 558,125"  Halock stopped there, trying to read my poker face.  I stayed totally serious, not wanting to give away my complete disgust at my ancestry.

    "So they never found him?" I prompted him after he didn't keep talking.

    "No, they weren't near as clever as him"  Silence hung over us again as I tried to think of my next question.

    "When did you find me?  How long did you wait before....taking me?"  This question didn't really matter to me, but I thought it would take up some time as I figured out how to word my next question.

     Halock smirked.  "Oh we have known where you lived since you were in seventh grade.  In fact, you may remember a certain person that we positioned there to keep watch on you!"  He leaned forward on the table, giving me a menacing smile.  "Do you remember?"  I racked my brain for seventh grade memories.  Then it came to me-Jack.  Jack had been new that year!

 

FLASHBACK

 

My teacher, Ms. Tolad, announced. The principal came in along with three students. I got excited, maybe one of these new kids would want to be my friend. 
    "Here they are!" My principal stated,"Say hello to Hallie Richards, Paul Gavin, and Jack Lavia. Hallie flashed everyone a smile, trying to charm them before she even spoke. Her perfect blonde hair and blue eyes had done that already, the 'it' group of girls were already beckoning her over go sit with them.  Paul had big black glasses that he nervously pushed up his nose. He didn't look up, just staring at the floor or the windows. He was the unapproachable type, I could immediately tell. The third one, Jack, made me squirm in my seat.  He had dark hair that was up in a quiff.  Almost attractive with his tanned skin and mature features until his eyes landed on me and a smirk appeared upon his mouth. The look in his grey eyes was a fierce glare, as if he was more animal than human.  
    "Would you three like to tell us a bit about yourselves?" Ms. Tolad asked after the principal gave her some papers and walking away. 
    "I would!" Hallie immediately spoke up. 
    "Oh I'm glad to see someone so happy in here!  Please begin!" Ms. Tolad took a seat back at her desk that sat in the right hand corner of the room. 
    "I'm Hallie Richards, as you know," Hallie started speaking as if she had won an awards show or making a popularity résumé. "I won three beauty contests in one year and have 6 soccer trophies along with 4 more from my old school's competitions. I am so happy to come and meet you all and I know that we'll all be the best of friends!" She squealed at the end and blew a kiss to everyone. I groaned inwardly, exactly the person I HADN'T wanted to join us. 
    "Paul, would you like to say anything?" Ms. Tolad asked, even though we all knew the answer. 
    "I, um, I like the color green. I have never gotten below an A+ and....uh, I would like it if nobody gave me wedgies this year. That's on my bucket list; go a year without wedgies" When Paul finished stuttering his words everyone exploded into laughter, except me of course. I didn't see what was so funny about him not wanting to be bullied. Paul's cheeks went bright red and he fiddles with his glasses again. He half walked half ran to a seat in the back that was unoccupied. Hallie, who had been laughing along with the others, rolled her eyes and batted her lashes, walking over to the popular girls who pushed me off my seat so that she could place her 'royal bum' there. 
    "Hey!" I shouted, standing up and brushing off my black sweater. 
    "Oh sorry, was this YOUR spot?" Hallie teased me. Already I loathed her with all my being. 
  Ms. Tolad said  "It's fine Courtney, go find another seat". I stuck my tongue out at Hallie as I walked to a pair of empty seats. "Jack would you like to say anything?" 
  Jack averted his eyes from me to look at the teacher. "Nope, if people want to know about me they can find it out themselves" he announced with a playful smile. He walked over to the seat next to mine, plopping down on it lazily. He looked to me again  
    "You get good grades?" He asked. 
    "Uh ya, decent" I answered. What if this dude was creepy, maybe he could be a friend! I just wouldn't tell him that I got straight 'A's' in every subject my entire life.   
     "Good, then I won't have to be doing any homework" he chuckled. He added quietly, "now we have found you and you won't get away" I ignored that last part, he was probably quoting his favorite sci-fi movie or video game.   My hopes fell all the way to the center of the earth. Ugh.

 

FLASHBACK OVER

 

    "Jack Lavia...was and IS working for YOU?!"  I said in accidental volume.

    "Oh yes, although that's not his exact name," an almost Guilty emotion flickered across Halocks face, but it left almost just as fast,  "would you like to met him again?"  He asked proudly.  Before I could say 'no' he had pressed a button on his wristband.

     Seconds later the door behind me opened and a deep, smooth, familiar voice said, "What is the matter, Boss?"

    "Oh nothing," Halock laid back in his chair to watch our reunion, "Courtney here just wanted to meet you"  A heard a low chuckle come from Jack.

     Slowly, cautiously, I turned around to face him.  My eyes went up, scanning his appearance.  He was still tan and was wearing a blue tank that showed off his ripped arms and chest.  When my eyes met his face he was smirking at me and his grey eyes stared contently and unmoving at my face.  It was the first time that I'd ben around him that I wasn't about to get punched and I took careful note of his eyes.  They were a light grey, as usual, but there was something I hadn't noticed-they were clouded.  As if a stormy veil had been placed over his vision.

     "Hello, Coolman, remember me?"  Jack mused, enjoying how uncomfortable I was.  I started to stand up as if in slow motion.

    "Oh yes, I remember you!  What are you doing here?  Why?  Don't you see that he is going to lose?" I was now at a full standing position and Jack looked confused, threatened.  "YOUR PRECIOUS 'BOSS' IS JUST GOING TO GET RID OF YOU-ALL OF YOU!  ALL YOU ARE IS A TOOL IN HIS FAILING PLAN!  WHAT KIND OF IDIOT ARE YOU TO FOLLOW HIM?!"  I yelled.  My anger from him beating me and that he was in Halock's control won me over.  I looked angrily at Jack, who was backing up and accidentally knocking thinks over.  The clouds that covered his eyes before had seemed thick and unmoving, but now started to thin out.

    "Use me?"  Jack whispered quietly.  He was pressed up against the wall, staring at me with a blank expression.  Halock stood up abruptly, the chair clanging around behind him.

     "NO!  Stop!  You are special to me Jack!  You know that!"  He desperately tried to get Jack back on his side.   Unusually, Jack perked right back up, standing straighter and looking at me with defiance.  With horror, I saw the cloudy veil cover his eyes again.

     "Yes-use you!" I went on.  I had found a weak link and was I gonna use it!, "You think he really cares about you?  No!  He doesn't!  And you're all going to lose this battle of yours!  Look around Jack-do you really think for even a second that this would work?  Destroying the world?!  That belongs in science fiction novels and in science fiction novels it will stay!  This is unreal and YOU KNOW IT!"  Now it was too much confusion for Jack to bear and his back slid down the wall as he hit the floor.

    "Jack-this isn't true?!  Why should you believe her?!  This is over, you must leave! How about you go get some food to eat! NOW!"  Halock ran over to Jack, surprisingly nimble, and ushered the dazed and stumbling Jack to the door.  When the closing door had echoed behind him Halock turned to me and strutted towards me, nose crinkled and mouth set in a deep frown.  "What were you trying to pull there little girl?!" He growls at me.  I could see plainly that he wanted to call this 'meeting' to an end, but knew that I would never agree to it.

    "Just telling him the truth, what will you do with Jack?"

    "Humph," Halock sat back down I his seat with his eyes far off in the distance, "I will have to dispose of him soon, won't I.  How could I get-" He broke off his sentence and jerked his head back to me.  "It's none of your business what I plan to do-none of these men WANT to follow me anyway!" He stated simply.

    "Ok, fine..."

    I was cut off by a hasty remark from Halock, "Only one more question, I'm sick of your game"

    I sighed loudly, but I already knew my last question.  "Why do you think that my parents and I know where this machine is-how to activate it?"

    "In his will he wrote that only family would know.  A secret hiding place with a map and instruction's location would be given to them-and only them.  As far as we know your parents were the only remaining family of his when he died. Logically, they must know and have told you so that they alone don't have to bear the weight of it"  Halock's words came out in a rush-for he was eager for this to be over.  "Now tell me the information you promised!" He shouted, pounding his fist on the table.   This was the dangerous part of my plan; I didn't know how he was going to react.

    "Fine, but can you put me back into the cell first?" I asked innocently.  Halock's anger blinded his conscience and he led me to the cell, opening the door for me. I let him lock it behind me.

    "NOW!  You got what you wanted; now spill!"  His angry voice made me shake.

    "I have told you before, Halock," I started, trying to keep the nervousness out of my voice, "I know nothing more than you, if not less.  I said that I'd tell you what I knew, and this is it: you are a crazy old man who will be arrested for this sooner or later!"  As the reality that he had been tricked dawned on Halock, who was standing with his face in between the bars, I grabbed my bobby pin.  Quickly, I stuck the pin at his eye, making him coil back away from the bars.

    "Ahhh!  You little twit!  Tell me or you won't live to see tomorrow!" Halock screamed at me.

    "No" I said simply.  Halock went to open my cell door but I moved up and jabbed my knee through the bars.  I hit the spot that should never be hit and he fell to the ground.

    He started cursing at me loudly-words that I had never heard spoken before.  After his rant he pushed the button on his wrist and Jack came rushing in.

    "What can I do Boss?"  He asked, confused at the sight of Halock laying on the ground moaning.

    "What does it look like?!  Get me up and out of here!"  He screeched.  Jack obediently lifted him up and carried him out of the room.  I held back laughter-I hadn't hit Halock THAT hard, he was such a big baby.

    I turned back and sat down on the ground next to the still asleep Hunter.  I finally let myself take in a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

    "Wow, you had some gut doing that" Hunter's voice startled me and I jumped.  He sat up on one elbow, smirking like crazy.

    "How long have you been awake?" I asked.

    "Oh, since right before Jack came in.  Are you okay?"  His bright green eyes shone with concern but amusement still lingered at my deceit.

    "I'm fine!  It's Halock who had to be carried out ya' know!"  I laughed and Hunter joined in with me.  For a while we rolled around, making jokes about Halock until we were both out of breath.

    Suddenly, Hunter went dead serious, the smile on his face gone.  "What do you think he'll do to Jack-to get rid of him I mean?"  I sat up, for I'd been laying flat on my back trying to catch my breath.

     "I don't know.  I highly doubt he'd hesitate before killing him on the spot though.  What he said about none of his men voluntarily following him- now THAT'S been bothering me"   I admitted.

    "Well, we won't have to worry about that pretty soon.  I've got a plan to get out of here-your parents included"

    I rose my eyebrows, "Really?"

    "Yep, but you're gonna have to trust me. Do exactly what I say" His statement sounded a bit more like a question.  I didn't think he was quite sure if I would listen to him at all.

    "Anything that happens is better than this!  Count me in-I trust you on this one" I said.  The thought of getting out of this place was like a bright light in the darkness.

     "Good," Hunter smiled, "but I'm going to be needing that bobby pin of yours"

 

~~~

 

    "Here, I'm almost done" Hunter mumbled.  We was working with a watch that had been left in his pocket when we came.  this 'plan' of his was something he'd experimented whenever I was asleep.  He said that he did it as to not get my hopes up, but even I could see that it made him self-conscience to have someone watch him as he worked.

    "How did you figure this all out?" I asked for the third time since he'd asked for my trust.

    "I told you! I want to be a science teacher!  I have a few tricks up my sleeve!"  That wasn't enough information about what he was doing and he knew it.  I sighed and gave up on knowing any more than he had told me-which wasn't much.  I knew he was going to unlock the cell and that I was to do as he said no matter what-that was it.  The unknown of what was to happen tugged at my brain constantly as Hunter worked.  If you looked closely you could see that he was attaching some of the wires in the watch to very small wires that snaked up the wall.  Being the unobservant person I was- I'd never noticed then, but Hunter had.

    "Ok, get me the bobby pin" Hunter said, holding out his hand.  When I passed him the small object, that was warm from me rubbing on it, his huge hand enveloped mine.  "Promise you'll do exactly what I say?"

    "Yes, I promise.  Just don't do anything too crazy alright?"

    "Really?  Man, I was gonna go jump into a gunfire-guess the escape is off..." he teased.

    I punched his shoulder lightly, "I'm serious!"

    "I know and I promise"  Hunter took the pin in his hand and walked over to where the watch hung.  "Stay by the door and be ready to go at any moment"  I took his instructions seriously, standing by the door with one foot placed a shoulder-length behind the other.  The seconds started ticking by as the only sound in the room was the clinking of the watch hitting the wall as Hunter got ready.  My position started to relax until, in the blink of an eye, the entire room went pitch black.  Before my eyes could adjust to the loss of light I heard Hunter's nimble fingers trying to open the lock.  I held my breath, waiting for the shouting men to come to our room.

    It was magic, I swear, that the door opened in time.  "Follow me and keep up" Hunter hissed under his breath.  He darted towards the door that had been left unlocked when Halock had been carried out.  Outside our room everything was just as dark as inside and we made our way through the inky blackness.  I heard shouts and footsteps coming behind us as we darted through the halls.

    "How long will the lights be out?" I tried to keep m voice quiet enough that only Hunter could hear it.

    "Not long enough; your parents should be just around here.  I think the lock on their door was electric.  Considering I was able to override the circuit I think we'll be able to open them without trouble"  He answered back-speaking fast and quietly so that I had to strain to hear him. It was then that we saw them.  My parents were being carried out of their room on men's backs.  Halock was standing next to them, a smug smile on his face.  He didn't even glance in our direction and I stood frozen to the spot.

     "C'mon, it's too late" Hunter grabbed my hand and moved me out of view.  Why were they taking my parents?

    "What do we do now?" I whispered.

    "We'll ne-"

    "Get them!" Hunter was broken off by a group of men who had come up behind us suddenly.  Hunter said a word I didn't catch and turned to run, his hand still on my wrist.  But he wasn't fast enough.  Two men grabbed onto him and started wrapping roped that bound his hands to his body.

    "Courtney, run!  Get out!"

    "Stop it!  Let go of him!" I yelled, ignoring Hunter's commands and hitting the men on the back.  It was no use and they started tying me up too.  The bristly ropes dug into the skin on my arms as they were pulled tighter.  We both started struggling, but it made no difference.  These men were much too strong for both us combined.  Our plan had failed and now all I had to worry about was the next torture session.  I closed my eyes tightly-as if that would make it all go away.

    "You are all being fooled by Halock!" Hunter yelled suddenly.  The lights suddenly switched on and I opened my eyes, blinking.  The men's tugging seemed to lessen almost immediately as they started to grow confused.  I glanced over at Hunter and he winked at me.  He had heard me talk to Jack!  How he got confused and vulnerable!

    "Halock will get rid of you all!  That or you'll be his servants the rest of your life!" I said.  The men stopped binding our feet and held their heads, moaning.

    "Do you really think this will work?" Hunter yelled.  As he spoke he tried to maneuver his hands to the know that held his bindings together.  I did the same, the ropes stinging my hands.  We kept talking, saying discouraging words as the group stayed baffled.  Within seconds Hunter's ropes slackened and he slowly reached down to take the ropes off his ankles.  My knot was impossible!  I couldn't seem to get it!  I was desperate.

    Hunter was free and walked over to me, the men didn't seem to notice his freedom.  "Here" he tugged at the ropes and puled them down my legs.  I gladly threw them off, wondering why I hadn't thought of that.  I even pretended not to notice the few small cuts they had made from being taken down.  The ones on my legs hadn't been totally tied and we started running.

    "Thank you!  I can't believe you thought of that" I breathed.

    "You taught me!" Hunter replied.  A few seconds after we had gotten around the corner the men started to stir-as our comments had ended suddenly.

    'They won't stay out of our way for long, you know where you're going right?" I asked. He didn't answer my question, for we'd reached an elevator.  Footsteps grew louder behind us, shouts echoing through the halls.  Almost instantly Hunter pulled out the vent that was placed a yard over his head. There was a hole MAYBE big enough for a dog to fit through. I caught me breath.  Me? Get up there?  Nimbly, Hunter put his hands on the edge of the opening and pulled himself up.  The footsteps grew louder and Hunter turned himself around so that his hands were out for me to grab.

    "C'mon!  I'll pull you up!"

    I reached my hands up to meet his, but I was to short.  With all the force I could muster I jumped off the ground and my hands locked with Hunter's.  My feet skidded against the wall as I tried to get up with Hunter pulling me.  We'd almost made it, I was so close to being in!  Yet all good things come to an end.   Three men all stumbled in.

    "Not so fast" One said, grabbing onto my feet.

    "Where'd you think you were going?" another one mocked, his voice raspy as if he'd been smoking a cigar.

    Hunter's veins stuck out of his neck as he tried to pull against them.  My limbs were stretched beyond their usual limits and I started slipping down.

    "NO!" I screamed, trying to kick free of the strong hands.

    "Courtney!" Hunter wheezed, his eyes shut hard as he pulled with all his might.

    Then, with a stroke of luck, my foot landed on the men's face and I used it as a spring.  I jumped up out of their huge hand's grasps and into the shaft next to Hunter.

    "You okay?" Hunter asked me, breathing hard.

    "Ya, you?"

    "I'm fine, but we should go-now"

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