In The Midnight Of His Heart
By AL BRUNO III
September 9, 1993
Angie awoke with a dry throat and a pounding headache. The nightmare still rambled through her subconscious, a dream of an operating room and doctors who worked without anesthesia. Her last waking memory was of that weird old man trying to strangle her. Had one of Violet’s men saved her? Angie wondered as she stared blinkingly upwards. She realized that she wasn’t in Violet’s house any more- she knew the brownstone’s ceilings so very well. And this bed was far nicer than any of the sour, rickety things she had lived with for that last few months. Angie tried to shift and sit up but her arms wouldn’t work, she couldn’t even feel them!
Panicking she thrashed on the bed, hearing the too-familiar sound of handcuffs rattling.
Twisting in place she saw two sets of handcuffs, one for each wrist, anchoring her to the oak bedposts.
Where the Hell am I?
What the Hell is going on?
Memories of the nightmare setting her stomach fluttering she tried to wriggle her fingers. They obeyed lazily, the activity left her feeling as though a storm of pins and needles had been loosed beneath her flesh. Trying to stay calm, she took in her surroundings. There was a hospital smell in the air but where was the florescent lighting? The crackly PA system?
The fading adrenaline rush left her with the realization that she was thirsty and sore, a merciless headache roaring through her skull. In the face of some of the other torments she’d suffered over the last three months it meant nothing to her, she knew it could get worse- it could always get worse. An ornate ceiling fan cooled the room. Early morning light warmed the room. The dresser was mirrored and finely polished, with a TV and a mini stereo system set atop it. The bed she found herself handcuffed to was soft, with thick, fluffy pillows and a down comforter.
She didn’t know what to think, had she been rescued?
If I’m rescued then why am I still handcuffed?
Rescued. How could she even allow herself such a foolish hope? Doubtlessly she’d finally been sold off to Dr. Hatker, or more specifically, parts of her had been sold off to the black market physician. All of Violet’s girls had heard stories about him, each one more preposterous than the last. This, she assumed, was his ‘waiting room’, where he kept his patients until he could get them up on the slab.
The door of the room opened and a skeletal old man limped in carrying a TV tray. Angie shuddered at the sight of him, remembering his spidery hands around her throat.
“What’s going on?” she tried to sit up but all she managed to do was shift the covers off her torso, exposing her bare breasts. A year ago this predicament would have had her weeping with humiliation. She raised her voice to a shout, “Who are you? What am I doing here?”
The old man set the TV tray down on the dresser and stared down at its contents, the sound of his breathing filled the room. Angie felt herself trembling at the thought of how helpless she was, “I brought you some orange juice. There’s aspirin if you need any.”
“What are you going to do to me?” she asked as he approached her with a cup and a bottle of aspirin. The cup had one of those special no-spill caps on it, the kind they used for little kids. He sat beside her on the bed and put the cup to her lips, Angie turned her head away.
“I know you’re thirsty.”
“How do I know what that is? It could be poison or something.”
“It’s orange juice.”
Angie glanced defiantly at him, “Why should I believe you?”
“Why would I bring you all the way here just to poison you?” an expression of hurt and anger crossed his features.
“Then let me go.”
“This isn’t poison… see?” the old man took a liberal swig from the cup.
Angie observed him, half-hoping, half-fearing that he would fall to the floor, writhing in agony. This was too fucking weird , on one hand she was thirsty but on the other hand she didn’t trust this guy. What if it was some kind of poison? Or worse yet, what if he just wanted her to be in top form before he started torturing her? She licked her lips, wondering how long she could go without drinking. From what she remembered it wasn’t very long, but if she didn’t drink he’d have to give up and let her go.
Her captor placed a sweaty hand on her shoulder, Angie cowered at his touch. “You’re going to need all your strength”
“For what old man? For what?”
“Just drink something.”
“I’m trying to help you.”
“Help?” there was something familiar about him, something in his haggard demeanor and the shape of his mouth, “You call this sick shit help?”
With a growl he was straddling her again. Angie cried out at the feel of his hands on her cheekbones, forcing her mouth open, forcing the end of the spill-proof cup past her lips and teeth.
“I told you to drink and by my ancestors’ bones you’re going to drink!”
Angie’s cries of protest became choking gurgles. Before she could spit the liquid back out her captor dropped the cup and clamped his hands over her nose and mouth.
Time seemed to telescope as she struggled beneath him. How many seconds could she hold her breath? Thirty seconds? A minute? She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. He wasn’t going to beat her down like Violet.
Unless of course Violet was around here somewhere, watching to see if she’d break her training.
Memories of past punishments shattered her resolve, Angie swallowed. The old man let go and got up to retrieve the cup. The top had come off, a stain darkened the carpet. “That wasn’t so bad was it?”
“Where am I?”
“Where am I?”
“You-” he placed the cup back on the tray. He turned back around to face her, the sound of a truck downshifting filled the silence, “You still don’t recognize me do you?”
He shrugged as he crossed to the door, “It’s not often someone gives you a one hundred and twenty dollar tip.”
“What the fuck are you…” he closed the door as she called out after him, “Johnny?”