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Her eyes took it in and she was expert now in hiding her emotions, so she pretended she hadn’t seen it.

Still, she began to puzzle what it was.

He glanced around, looking sheepish.

‘Forgive me,’ he said. ‘State of the place.’

She found it suspicious that the first thing he did was to sweep the white powder off the edge of the counter.

‘I’ve seen worse,’ she said.

Memories of her time in the cage hit her hard.

The blood- and piss- and shit-soaked concrete floor.

The grinning psychopath carving inches of her away day by day and sealing the wounds with a red hot poker.

She’d seen much worse.

She’d survived much worse.

And she was fucked if she was going to let this drooling old pervert be the end of her.

‘Which way is the toilet?’ she said, again glancing around.

He pointed over into the corner.

‘Ah sorry,’ he said.

Again he tidied up, but the way he did it suggested that he had already hidden what he needed to, this was all just window dressing.

She nodded. Staggered over to the door.

She pushed it and was a little worried to note that she seemed too weak to open it.

‘Allow me,’ he said, leaning across her, his skin rubbing against hers in an utterly inappropriate and repulsive way.

His breath was hot on her face.

He lingered in the space a moment too long, making it uncomfortable.

He shoved the door hard.

‘Sticks at the bottom,’ he said. His eyes again did a lap of her body.

The feeling was akin to having spiders crawling across her flesh.

She moved into the toilet and pushed the door shut, using her whole force as she didn’t want him peering in at her.

She was utterly unsurprised to note that there was no lock, so she pissed as quickly as she could then leant her body against the door, to brace it.

Her eyes scanned for a weapon.

She knew this guy had bad intentions.

He was creepy in the extreme and clearly hiding something.

She wanted to be armed and ready.

There didn’t seem to be anything.

She forced herself to look anyway.

Come on look!

You need something.

You’re weak as fuck.



You need a weapon, just to be sure.

There was nothing.

A mildewed shower curtain.

A grubby bath.

Dirty grey tiles.

Thick black mould growing on the tiles.

A larger than before spider ran across one of the tiles and she noticed that it was cracked, roughly diagonally down the middle.

‘You ok in there?’ he said, his voice startling her.

‘Y-yes,’ she said. ‘Just finding it hard to go.’

‘Give me a shout if you need a hand,’ he said.

The thought went through her like a razor wire.

‘Ok, will do. Thank you.’

She went down to the tile and pulled tentatively at it.

The razor sharp edge cut her fingers.

Pain flared in her fingertips.

Blood immediately burst to the surface.

She cursed and went to suck her fingertips, but the black fluff growing around the edges of the tile made her reconsider.

She thought fast.

‘Hey, is it ok if I wash up?’

‘You sure you don’t need a hand?’ he said. And she could picture the leer on his face.


She turned the taps on full whack and rinsed her fingers.

The force of the water stung them.

But also the sound would cover up what she was doing.

She saw the dirty bathmat.

It was cold and wet, slimy to the touch.

She winced, but it was the only thing she could see.

She wrapped it round her fist and slammed it into the cracked tile.

It loosened a little, but not enough to prise it loose.

She repeated it.

The chunk of tile came free, a jagged blade on its edge.

It looked like it would serve its purpose.

She went to put it somewhere and realised she had no hiding places.

No pockets.

She was in a nightie and panties – Gus’s late wife’s if he was to be believed.

She looked around.

Wrapped a few layers of toilet roll round the tile and tucked it into the waistband of her panties on her right hip.

She quickly splashed water on her face and hair to make it look like she’d had a wash.

Then moved out.

‘Ah, you’re ok,’ he said, again leaning in a little too close. ‘Do you need a hand back to the bed?’

His hands were all over her, his touch making her recoil in disgust.

‘No, thank you.’

He seemed disappointed as she pulled herself away.

‘Mind if I make myself something to eat?’ she said.

‘You’re my guest. I insist that I make the food.’

‘Ah, don’t be silly. You’ve already done so much for me.’

‘I insist.’

Her eyes darted around the room, searching for inspiration.

She didn’t want to let on that she knew anything, and it seemed he didn’t suspect her.

But she couldn’t push much further without making him suspicious.

An idea lit up her mind like the proverbial lightbulb.

‘I’ll help you then,’ she said, a checkmate of a smile on her face.

‘Ah, but aren’t you feeling unwell?’

‘No, I’m fine. And I love cooking, so it’d be a nice distraction.’

She smiled at him, looking him in the eye, daring him to defy her.

‘OK then,’ he said, looking away from her gaze.

She smiled smugly to herself.

‘What do you fancy?’ she said.

‘Ain’t much to eat. It’s either toast or wood kid stew. Or both,’ he said, trying on a laugh that did little to hide the fact that he was annoyed.

‘Either sounds good,’ she said. She thought of the white powder he’d tried to hide on the counter earlier. ‘Where does the toast come from?’

‘I bake my own bread of course. Got a load of flour. Pretty easy to do.’

He pointed to the tiny amount of white powder on the side.

Trying to make a big deal of it, hiding its true purpose, she thought.

She smiled. ‘I can’t wait to try it,’ she said.

He smiled back.

‘So what’s the recipe?’ she beamed.

He went over to the fridge, which wasn’t working, but was full of pots of cold water which had various things poking out of them.

One looked like the leg of a small child.

Pale and thin, skin gnarled like tree bark, it was unmistakably the limb of one of the creatures from the woods.

He pulled it out, giving it a quick sniff.

‘This should do just fine,’ he beamed.

He set it on the chopping board and began chopping at it with the cleaver.

The heavy blade made short work of the bone.

He chopped it into four segments.

Put a pan of water on the stove to boil.

When it was boiling, he put the pieces of leg in.

They chopped garlic.




Threw it all into the pot.

‘Leave that to simmer for a few hours,’ he said, smiling. ‘Say, I know you’re recovering from injury, but do you fancy a beer?’

Trying to get me drunk, she thought.

‘That would be great,’ she said.

He went over to the ice box in the corner.

Of course it wasn’t full of ice – such a thing was rare in the world, except for in the city, Serenity, and the industrial sector of the Freelands, where electricity was still a thing.

He brought two cans of beer over.

They were unopened, she noticed.

Good, less chance for him to drug me, she thought.

She popped hers open with a hiss and they clinked beers.

‘Cheers,’ he said.


They both took a swig.

‘That’s good beer,’ she smiled.

He nodded, took another drink.

He quickly looked over to check on the stew.

‘Seems fine,’ he muttered, giving it a couple of tentative stirs.

He drained the rest of his beer and went back for another.

He offered Deborah another, but she was still barely through hers.

She shook her head.

They made small talk.

Deborah actually began to think he was a decent guy again.

His conversation was good; he had lived many lives, had many stories.

His eyes weren’t as unwelcome as they had been before.

‘Say, I’ve gotta pee,’ he said, draining the rest of his can, giving the stew a quick check then moving off to the bathroom.

Deborah took a quick glance to make sure he’d gone, then moved over to the cupboard he’d hastily thrown things into before.

She took another quick glance over and opened it.

She glanced back again, making sure he wasn’t coming back.

She could still hear the sound of his piss splashing the bowl.

The cupboard held a bottle of pills. She was ninety per cent certain they were sleeping pills.

Also in here was a rolling pin, covered in powder the same colour as the pills.

The toilet flush startled her out of her thoughts.

Shit… I was right. He was feeding me sleeping pills.

The sound of running taps made her wince.

He was almost done.


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