The Thorn in my Flesh *shortlisted for Movellist of the Year 2013*

Escaping captivity was just the beginning. “My breathing speeds up as I slowly come to realise what is going on, why I’m here, why I’m bound up, why he’s attempting to be nice to me: I’ve been kidnapped.” My name is Farrah Fisher, and I was kidnapped for nine years. Even though I escaped, am back home, the nightmares of the long, torturous days I spent in captivity still haunt me. The secrets I buried won’t stay hidden for long, no matter how hard I dig. Even I know that. Jordan Frost is hailed ‘the best defence lawyer in the City’. But when he takes on the most complicated and mysterious case he’s ever had, will his reputation be destroyed? For Farrah, escaping captivity was just the beginning.

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1. Prologue

1998

 

    Above me, the jet black sky threatens to open up and release the storm from hell. I pull my dark blue hood up, my feet walking faster to avoid the unwanted rain. The rain doesn’t come; the wind just blows violently, threatening to blow me over. My mouth turns up into a smile, however:

    I have beaten the rain!

    Putting my hands in my jeans pockets for warmth through the freezing English cold, I feel a piece of paper. Pulling it out, I unfold to find the drawing of Deanna I did the other day while I was bored in Math. I smile as I remember her showing it to our art teacher the next lesson. He admired it and told me to keep it to put in a portfolio; he thinks I’m good enough to go to art school eventually.

    I want to be an artist when I’m older, obviously. I love drawing, painting, using oils, pastels, mixing colours together to make something new, something amazing, and something worth looking at. I have so many paint sets, colouring pencils, oils at home; I spend a lot of my pocket money on art products; my mum says she’ll have to clear out the spare room to make room for all my supplies and art work.

 

    Whoosh.

    A bus whizzes past me. I hate those damned buses, white with the ‘City of Southampton’ signs glaring out in deep blue. I don’t get why the city can’t have some of those red buses, like in London, they are so much nicer…

    Screech.

    Wow, this person must be in one heck of a hurry.

    A car whizzes round the corner and past me, creating a freezing gust of wind around me. Lucky I’m not wearing a dress, it would have ridden right up.

    I carry on toward the park, running my fingers through my hair under the hood, trying to smooth it down from where the wind’s been blowing it everywhere. My friends always have a go at me for doing that too much.

    Out of nowhere, the new Britney Spears song gets stuck in my head: ‘Hit me Baby, One More Time’.  As the lyrics make their third cycle in my head, the gates of the park come into view.

 

   Hearing a car door slam down the road, I carry on, and think about whether the girls will be there yet. I bet I’ll be late, as usual. They always have a go at me about being late. I remember one conversation we had yesterday when we planned this trip:

    ‘Don’t be late, Farrah.’

    ‘Yeah, you’re always late!’

    ‘I’m sorry. I’ll try tomorrow, I promise.’

 

    Darkness engulfs me.

    What the hell?

    My mouth opens and in protest of the darkness, a screech leaves my mouth.

    My heart pounds hard like I’ve been running a marathon.

    Screaming now, I manage to figure out it’s a bag over my head; the smell of a damp, dusty attic fills my nose.

    Making the mistake of opening my mouth, the smell of it goes into my throat to make an acidic taste. I retch loudly.

    “Get off me!” I screech, trying not to smell any more.

    The ground under my feet is no longer there; I’m being lifted. A cold, hard grip of iron clutches around my waist, further restricting my oxygen flow.

    Oh my God. Oh my God.

    Struggling, the person grabs my arms and bind them with thick, wiry rope which digs into my wrists: friction burn. In retaliation, I start to kick and yell. As I do, I feel my foot hitting a muscular stomach.

    A groan. A manly groan.

    Ignoring it, I carry on, knowing I have to try harder to get free.

    Kick and yell.

    Kick and yell.

    Inhaling less and less air with each yell and kick I make, my legs tire easily.

    I can’t understand what’s going on.

    My mouth opens automatically again. A loud screech escapes my throat, burning it.

    I try to dip my head like a dolphin to get the bag off my head but it fails. Kicking around me, I feel his body again.

    This isn’t working. He has me.

    Oh, God.

 

    Quick breaths fall down my back, sending an icy shiver down my spine, into the depths of my bones.

    He pushes me harshly, causing me to lose balance and fall onto a seat.

    A hand comes into the bag; a huge hand. It’s rough and it smells like sweat. The gap in the bag lets me see a tiny bit of my surroundings through a tiny hole in the fabric. I’m on a cold, hard, leather seat and below me is a black floor. I’m in a car.  

    The hand suddenly returns in to the bag; a sharp metallic needle glints at me. I try to back up; screaming for help, but nothing around me can help.

    A sharp stab in my neck startles me.

    Wow.

    Little stars engulf my vision, like fireworks in my visual field.

    Within an instant, everything goes completely black.

 

    Rolling onto my side, I groan. It seems too dark to be morning; it must be early, so I still have time to sleep. The mattress beneath me; it feels a little less comfortable than I’m used to.

    I inhale. Rank…rancid…damp.

    Then it all comes back: the street, the car…the bag, the struggle…

    The sharp needle in my neck.

    Forcing my eyes open through the sleepiness, everything is pitch black.

    What the…?

    I can’t see! What the...?

   My arms feel restricted in movement. Looking down, I note they’re still bound together by rope. Panicking, I thrash them out to attempt breaking the bonds, but it fails. My skin just gets torn despite my tries.

    Feeling around me – my bound hands covering everything in an attempt to work this out – I notice the floor is concrete, walls are made of brick, and I’m crouching on a mattress. The one I thought was my own.

    I am completely and utterly confused, my mouth opens but no words form.

    Where am I?

    What does that person want with me?

    Who is it?

    Why am I here?

    All these questions and no answers.

   

    Suddenly, I hear a creak and ray of brilliant, golden sunlight bursts through, making me squint. When my eyes adjust to the light; I look at my surroundings: a tiny square room. Bare and dark, no light anywhere, only the golden rays of the sun. An old, repulsive mattress and a pan are all that’s in here. A sauce pan, which I guess is the toilet.

    Why the hell am I here, in a room with no light?

    No window, no source of air.

    A tall man walks in. In the light, I’m able to take his appearance in; brown hair, his body muscular with broad shoulders and a small mole on his left cheek. I’d estimate him at thirty. He wears a smug expression with a sort of solemnness in his piercing green eyes.

    As the door clanks shut, he’s just a silhouette again.

   Scared out of my mind, I back up to the wall for safety and I whimper in fear. A tingling sensation starts in my hands, making them physically shake.

    I want to yell: ‘What the hell is going on? Where am I?’ but the fear in my mind manages to control my mouth and keep it locked tight.

    “Shhh!” He gestures with his finger to his lips. “Keep quiet and I’ll explain.”

    A veil of obedience flows over me. I worry about what he would do if I didn’t. I press my lips together. I’m ridiculously thirsty.

    “You are with me now,” he whispers, a hint of a grin in his calming voice. “My name is Brian Cooper. What’s yours?” I stare up at him, not saying a word; the words can’t form in my throat.

    I’ve never seen him before, never heard of him. Why is he being friendly?

    Why would I be with him?

    “Not speaking, are we? Well, lucky I know your name anyway, Farrah Fisher. That right?” 

    My lips part slightly to try and protest, but still, no noise comes out my throat. There’s something harsh in his voice, something that makes me feel uneasy, makes me want to cry.

    My breathing speeds up as I slowly come to realise what is going on, why I’m here, why I’m bound up, why he’s attempting to be nice to me:

    I've been kidnapped.

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