Logan felt like one huge cramp. Every muscle in his body ached, except for the ones that were so numb that he could no longer feel them at all. Everything from his lower back downward on the backside of his body had lost feeling long ago.
The bound fireman had attempted to stand several times, but was so tightly fastened to his seat that it was impossible. He had even thought about tipping his chair over sideways to get a little relief. However, there were several problems with that idea. First, his arm was stationed on the outside of the seat back and a fall of that sort would surely bruise the appendage severely, if the unbuffered impact didn't break the bone against the hard floor. Next, after he got down there, there was no way of getting back up. He had no idea how much time might elapse before someone returned. If the kidnappers returned and thought he was trying to escape, there might be serious trouble. So, the aching young man sat there in misery, listening to the steadily pounding rain on the tin roof above his head.
That steady drone was enough in itself to drive him insane. He was also getting really hungry. What time was it, anyway? At least two meals must be overdue! Fortunately, he wasn't yet in desperate need of a bathroom, that probably wouldn't be too far in the future, however.
Shaking his head, the miserable lad had to laugh at himself. Whine and complain. Complain and whine, he teased himself, trying to ease his tension. All I want to do is bitch and moan.
Sounds like the words to a country-western song. My baby up and left me and I'm sittin' here all alone, whinin' and complainin' waitin' by the phone. I called her one big bitch. She said all I do is moan. Now my Bessie's left me and I don't know where she's gone. . . . Yeah, this tune could be a smash. He'd do anything to give himself a little peace and comfort, even make up silly songs! Is this the first signal of insanity?
A movement across the room caught his attention. The noise didn't sound like it came from the same direction that the kidnapper had left. One of the other hostages must be moving around. Logan heard a low muffled scream. Oh my God, was there something in the room with them, biting or clawing another captive? Whatever it was might come after him next!
Logan could envision some huge mutated swamp rat attacking his toes and eating its way up his leg until. . . . He had to stop that thought, the sensation was seeming too real. The skin began to crawl on his mostly numb lower legs. The muffled screaming continued, gradually changing in vehemence and tone. Thank God, now the commotion sounded more like frustration than terror. He felt somewhat relieved. The adrenaline rush did help displace some of the tension in his muscles making him even feel a bit invigorated.
Using the little rush of adrenaline, Logan twisted his hands behind his back, testing the strength of the cords that bound him. The rough material cut into his wrists, burning his skin unmercifully. His fingers began to tingle as the blood flow was returned to them, then they began to ache under the strain of his struggle. How could he get out of these bindings? Did he really want to? What if he were halfway loose and the kidnappers returned? That would probably mean a bullet in his head. The captive settled back into his seat. Maybe it would be better to wait for their return. At least he wouldn't be lunch for a hungry alligator right away.
The commotion across the room ceased abruptly. Even the sound of the rain was diminishing. Soon all that he could hear was the occasional roll of distant thunder and the runoff dripping from the roof and trees into the standing pools below. The silence was soon as deafening as the beating rain.
Jeez, he wanted to at least see some indication of whether the time was still daylight through his dark hood. The blinding cowl was made of really thick material allowing almost no light at all through. Logan felt locked away in a dark cave or a stranded at a fire scene. The fireman shivered. A burst of memory of his accident exploded into view. No, not something I want to deal with right now, he cautioned himself. The present is much more important than the past. I kind of have my hands full at the moment without going back into all that! He allowed the scene to wind down. Unfortunately, the worry was immediately replaced by another thought, then another! Mental images passed by so fast they seemed to tumble over each other.
A calm mind is always attentive to every possibility, ready to act at a second's notice, Logan could hear his Fire Academy Instructor's voice reverberate through his skull. When the mind is completely preoccupied with itself, a thousand situations could pass you by without even being noticed. Still your mind, focus on the task at hand! That's the way to stay alive at a fire scene. Boy, did that ever save his skin a time or two while at a fire! An idea sprang to mind.
Beginning with his toes, Logan focused onto different parts of his body, instructing each one, individually, to relax. That should keep his mind occupied for a while. The inundated fireman was really getting uncomfortable having his thoughts prance, dance and tumble through his brain like a three ring circus. Hell, at some points he could almost pick out the elephants. His racing mind gradually began to slow somewhat. Got to get some rest, I want to have all of my strength at the first available opportunity for escape!
Logan turned his attention to his hearing. He listened for every detail, every creak of a distant tree limb, every splat of rain on the metal roof. The fireman had always heard that if you lose one sense your others would compensate, becoming keenly acute. After what seemed an eternity of intense listening his awareness began to pique. Continuing for a few more minutes made him feel as if he could almost see through the dark hood. Logan could at least get a visual image of his surroundings in his imagination. Maybe this is what people mean about using their third eye! Even though his physical eyes were blind at the moment, his senses were keen to everything around him. The astounded lad could get an idea of how large the room was, where the doors and windows were. He could even sense where his co-captives were. It was a strange sensation, very similar to the earlier occurances in his bonding with Morgan, just without the eroticism. It was still a really great feeling. Bonding with the Universe, he thought, naming the feeling to remember it for future use. This could come in handy at a fire scene!
Unfortunately, the more Logan thought about what he was experiencing, the more the sensation faded from his consciousness. I guess thinking isn't necessary for pure experiencing. Intellectual reasoning actually seems to get in the way of being fully in an experience! Okay, mind, relax! He allowed his senses to drift out of himself once more, returning to a peaceful, quiet state. Logan drifted off into a light slumber.
Through the haziness engulfing his mind Logan thought he heard a woman's voice. The sound was low and far away. Must be a dream, he told himself. Then he heard the quiet voice again. The curious captive was suddenly more coherent, realizing that the sound was physically there in the room with him.
He became all ears once again. The sound was little more than a whisper, being overpowered by the sound of the light rain that had returned. Logan put all of his attention into his hearing, focusing the sound into auditory perception.
"Stop struggling, Mandy, you're only making the ropes tighter. Shit, stop it! I can't untie you with you moving around," the determined voice demanded. He surmised that one of the captives must have gotten herself free. "There, now, let me get this gag off." A muted scream. "Oh, shut up. I know it hurts. That old fart put duct tape all in our hair. We'll never get all of the sticky shit out," she complained. "Okay, one more piece. There."
He heard a ripping sound followed by a loud "Ow!" then lower, " Jesus H. Christ! I think you took half of my lip off on that tape."
"Oh, shut up or I'll put it back on," the first speaker responded shakily. "Gosh, I'm so glad you're all right. I was really beginning to worry about you. Hey, sis, did he do anything, I mean anything bad to you?"
"No. But he was damned rough when he tied me up. Probably how he gets his jollies, beating up on women. Who's that?" the second responded.
"I don't know. The old guy said something about a fireman or something. Must be who that is."
"Why don't you go untie him while I get my feet loose."
"Should we? I mean is it safe?"
"I don't think he's with the kidnappers dressed like that! Go untie him. We're going to need all the help we can get."
Yes! thought Logan, Thanks, sis! Thank you, God, for your little miracles! He heard light footsteps coming toward him.
Logan felt a body whisk around him and begin fumbling with the cords that were binding his hands. "Damn it," she said, "that's it! I think I've broken every nail I have on these stupid ropes. Look at them, they're awful."
Come on, just get me untied, the impatient fireman thought. There'll be time to look beautiful later.
His rescuer returned to her work on the bindings. Soon Logan felt the connection between his hands and feet slip. He stretched his legs as far out in front of him as they would go, in blessed alleviation. What a relief, the cramped captive sighed through the gag. Next he felt the tightness around his wrists relax. His hands slipped free of their restriction, with another stretch. Logan moving them stiffly in front of him, shaking the weariness from his limbs. He reached up, jerking off the blinding hood.
The firefighter grasped for the gag without even looking around. He immediately stood up, searching for the end of the duct tape covering his mouth. Standing wasn't the easiest thing to do right then, he could only manage it for a minute or so.
Finding the end of the tape, Logan sat back down, unraveling it from around his head. She was right. . . . The kidnapper must have wound a whole roll of sticky duct tape around his head. He felt as if he were pulling himself bald. Probably great for the complexion, he thought cynically.
"Ah," he sighed as the last bit of tape came off of his mouth. The relieved prisoner took a deep breath through his mouth. "My God, that feels good." He finally looked around him. The two girls were standing side by side, staring at him, looking confused and dazed by their harrowing experience. Both were wide-eyed, huddling close together, visibly fearful.
They were cute girls, not raving beauties, but definitely attractive, although, both looked miserably haggard at the moment. They each seemed early twenty-ish in age, thin but shapely, with brunette hair. Both girls looked enough alike that he could tell they were sisters. The younger one attempted a weak smile at him.
A wave of compassion overtook Logan. He had been in lots of dangerous situations, this was obviously their first. How would he be feeling right now in their place? Logan determined right then to do everything in his power to help them get through this, physically and emotionally.
"Hi, I'm Logan, Logan Keohane. Thanks for getting me out of there, I thought I never was going to be able to stretch again," he offered lightly, attempting to calm the girls a little..
"Hi, I'm Amanda Krause. And this is my sister Liz. Uh, Elizabeth," the older girl corrected herself, looking toward her younger sister. "Can't say I'm glad to meet you. At least not under these conditions," she continued bluntly, her face drawn tight.
"Hi," Liz responded simply. "You can call me Liz if you want." She attempted another small smile then looked down at the floor.
"Enough for the formalities. What are we going to do when the kidnappers come back? I don't think they're going to be real happy about us being loose around here." Amanda looked worried and stood up. Taking a few quick steps, she stopped in front of the nearest window. Leaning tiredly against the sill, she gazed intently out into the pouring rain.
Logan stood up, testing his own strength. He took a few wobbly steps around the chair, holding onto the high back. "You're right. The Cajun guy's not going to be very pleased that we're up walking around. Remember, he said that we'd better not try anything. And he did say that he was bringing a partner back with him. The new guy might be worst yet."
"We've got to have a plan. We've got to decide if we're going to take these guys out or what." Amanda paused shifting slightly between her feet. "I don't know about you guys, but I've got to find a restroom right now," she stated matter of factly. The jittery young woman moved across the small room exploring through the first of the three doorways that were there. "Here it is. Shit, there's no door. Don't look, I can't wait any longer."
Logan didn't bother telling the silly girl that watching her pee was about the farthest thing from his mind right then. "I think that we're going to have a while to plan our strategy," he said loudly enough for her to hear. "It's been raining really hard, still is, and it felt like we drove a long way down a dirt road to get to the boat. He might not be able to get back down that road for a while," he reasoned.
A timid voice streamed quietly from the bathroom, "Hey, this toilet won't flush! Nothing happens when I push the lever." Amanda walked out of the dark room, still zipping her tight blue jeans. "I think the toilet is broken, it won't flush." The thin girl volunteered, shivering violently. "My God, I wish I had some dry clothes to put on, I'm about frozen solid in this dampness. Hey, what time is it, anyway?" she asked unexpectedly.
Logan looked at his watch and announced, "A little after three thirty." He slipped off his heavy coat and gladly offered it to the shivering woman.
"Jeez, I thought it was a lot later than that," Amanda replied as she took the offering and wrapped it around her shoulders. "Thanks."
"Let's look around and see what we've got here," the concerned fireman directed, looking around the dingy room. "If we can find any weapons at all we'll be a lot better off. I mean, I, at least, would feel a lot better with something in my hands. And we need to check out this house, see if we have food or anything. Then we need to see if there's any way out of this place, wherever we are. In a few minutes I'll go outside to see if there's any way out of here."
"Good idea, I'm frozen and starved. I haven't eaten since dinner last night and I'm drenched!" Liz responded with a shiver. The younger sister got up and started toward the kitchen area against the rear wall of the small room.
Logan walked a little more solidly across the dim room, pulled a dingy Afghan off of the musty couch and carried it to Elizabeth, wrapping it gently around her trembling shoulders. "Am I the only one in here that's hot?" he asked as he turned toward the three doors at the other end of the room. Gazing around the dim chamber, the exploring captive guessed the dimensions to be about fifteen feet wide by thirty feet long. All of the walls, including the ceiling were covered with an old, half rotted wallpaper of the most god-awful pattern. The kitchen seemed to be at one end of the house, while the rest of the rooms lay behind the three doors at the other end, now directly in front of him. A fine coat of a silty substance seemed to cover almost everything. The only thing he could figure it to be was dust that had gotten damp in the extreme humidity and solidified. Great, that would make for pleasant sleeping, he thought snidely.
The two women looked at him puzzledly. "Hot?" Elizabeth asked with a shiver.
Logan noted two large windows on either side of him as well as a smaller one over the sink in the kitchen. He made his way to the window on his right, obviously the back side of the house, peering out as far as he could see. Nothing on this side but a dense growth of trees surrounded by a continuous body of water. The only land in his view was a small strip that ran from directly under the house for about thirty feet to the waterline. Part of that was taken up by an extension of the cabin that extended another ten feet or so from the rear. This extension must be part of the room behind the third door. The torrential rain made it difficult to see out, however, after careful investigation, all that was in sight were trees, water, thick, bushy undergrowth and a large silver container, probably a propane cylinder. "Shit," the young man mumbled under his breath, "no help here."
Spinning abruptly, Logan strode to the window on the opposite side of the room. He leaned against the sill, checking out the country surrounding that side of the house. It looked no different. It did seem to be the front of the place, since the only stairway descended from the door on his immediate right. His heart sank. We've got to be on an island, he surmised. Maybe there's a boat under the house.
"I'm going out for a minute," the beleaguered fireman announced. "I've got to see if there's anything under this house. I'm not enamored with spending any more time here than necessary!"
The girls just looked at him. Amanda picked up an old blanket that was covering the lone, overstuffed chair and tossed it to Logan. He draped it over his head, stepping toward the door. A gust of wind whipped the cloth almost out of his hands as he stepped through the exit. The rain was so hard in the driving wind that it seemed to be coming down in sheets, sideways. The apprehensive lad ran down the slick stairs, being careful not to fall and hurt himself. The ground at the bottom of the steps was so muddy that he sank halfway to his ankle as he stepped off. Not good, he thought. Instead, Logan made a quick visual scan of the underside of the house from the bottom step. There was very little area that he couldn't see.
His initial assessment was correct, they were on an island in God knows where, obviously in the middle of a dense swamp. That must have been why the kidnapper wasn't worried about having them tied up in the boat, no one in their right mind would be in this God-awful place to see any captives!
There wasn't much under the house, just a few dark corners that he'd come back to explore later. There was, however, nothing like a boat. "Shit on this rain!" he responded again loudly. Enough is enough, the wet explorer ran back up the stairs through the driving storm. A bright streak of lightening crackled over his head.
Slamming the rickety door behind him, Logan announced, "I'm afraid we're on an island, stuck some-the-hell-where in the middle of a miserable swamp! There ain't a boat in sight! I don't know what we're going to do! When the rain lets up I'll go down again and see if there's anything we can use down there." The soggy fireman shook his rain- soaked head, tossing water all around him. "My God, it's raining hard! Right now I've got to go, then I'll see if I can find any kind of weapon in here." He headed stiffly toward the dark bathroom.
When Logan finished relieving himself, the ragged bathroom cabinets caught his eye. Of the three small doors on the front, one was half off its hinges, remaining permanently ajar. He cocked that door open first, a fine layer of the solidified dust falling to the floor. There wasn't a lot there. But, there was a pretty good supply of toilet paper, he noted, and a medicine chest with a couple of bottles of pain reliever along with some bandages. There was also a pretty good sized emergency first aid kit behind the second door, next to several thinning towels and washcloths. At the end of the little cabinet was a small drawer full of personal hygiene supplies: toothbrushes, toothpaste, that sort of thing. However, that was it, nothing that could be used as a weapon, unless, of course, he wanted to tie up his assailants with dental floss.
Logan walked out of the small room toward the next doorway. Glancing back across the living room, he spotted Amanda sitting in one of the faded looking overstuffed chairs that adorned the small living room. "Are you going to help us?" the surprised lad questioned her.
"Seems like you've got everything fully under control. I don't think it takes a full search party to explore this mansion," she responded snidely. "Besides, I don't take orders from anyone."
"My, but aren't we testy today? Must be PMS," Liz countered peering over the top of the small kitchen bar. Amanda gave her the best 'go to hell' look that she could muster and slouched a little deeper into her seat. "Hey, Logan, what is this thing?" The puzzled girl pointed to an ancient looking mechanism overhanging the grimy kitchen sink. "There isn't a faucet or anything, only this pipe with a long wooden handle!"
Logan smirked, "I'm afraid we have, what you would call, the classic hand pump for our water supply. You've just got to pump like hell to get the water flow started then keep pumping." The astonished fireman instructed, looking unbelievably at the contraption. I've never really seen a pump like this, but I've heard all about them from my dad. He grew up with something like this, way out away from the city."
Logan turned away from Liz, thinking about the last interchange between the sisters. People respond to crises in all different ways, I suppose, Logan thought, slipping through the partially ajar second doorway. It opened into a bedroom almost the size of the living room. In there were two full sized beds, a ragged loveseat and a large Armoire/chest- of-drawers combination, all looking pretty old and weather beaten. At the foot of each bed was a storage chest. A rickety nightstand stood between the headboards. The walls and ceiling, like the other rooms, were covered with dingy, cracking, old wallpaper with huge pink and green flowery designs. "Definitely not a fashion conscious bunch here," he mused aloud.
Then, leaning against the far corner of the room, the searching captive spotted a baseball bat. A broad smile broke onto his face. At least we have some protection! The satisfied bodybuilder hefted the club in his hands. He laid the bat across his shoulder, looking out the window to check the view from there. All he could see was trees and water.
Amanda quietly walked into the room, taking a quick look around to locate him. "Hey, Conan, come back in here. I think we found something," she responded shaking her head and turning back toward the door.
Logan started at the unexpected voice behind him. His fright embarrassed him. He could feel the heat of his face reddening. He slowly followed her back into the living room to see what they had found. "So what's the great find?" he asked curtly.
"This," responded Liz as she held up a .45 automatic handgun. "Problem is, we can't find any bullets."
"Where'd you find it?" he asked, suddenly changing his tone as he walked toward her.
"Here, in this duffel bag. I've looked all around, but I can't find the bullet part of it."
"The clip," the fireman corrected her.
"Whatever. Anyway, it's not going to do us a whole lot of good without something to shoot in it." Liz began digging through the bag again. "Come on, there are four more bags here. The thingy might be in one of them."
"Clip," Logan reminded her, picking out another bag to search. The sound of the rain suddenly grew louder, almost deafening. Logan stopped looking through the bag long enough to peer out of the window into a waterfall of rainwater pouring off of the roof. "Nope, I don't think we're going to be bothered for at least a couple of days," he told the others suddenly. They looked at him questioningly. "This rain should keep the kidnappers away for at least a day or two. That should give us some time to get ourselves prepared."
"Well, I don't trust that idea. They probably have several ways to get in here. I'd rather stay prepared. I think we should take turns watching for them to return. One of us should probably be watching right now," answered Amanda very matter-of-factly. "Boy, this guy's going to love this. He goes and kidnaps us, I'm sure just to get a few bucks, and now he won't even be able to collect on his ransom! Shit, he's really going to be pissed!"
"Bullshit! He could just leave us out here to die in this swamp and still get daddy to fork over the dough he wants!" Elizabeth returned despondently. "As long as we're out of sight and out of mind he probably doesn't give a flip about our well being."
"Yeah he does," the older sister countered. "This guy's not smart enough to figure out we're expendable goods! He needs us. They'll be back alright, and none too pleased that we're up and around!"
"Is she always this. . . this calculating?" Logan asked Liz, amazed at Amanda's conclusion.
"Yep, that's my sis. And you're a lot nicer about it than I am." she answered with an impish look in her darkly shadowed eyes.
Amanda just shot her sister another evil glance. "You don't know what you're talking about. I'm just practical. I plan my moves. I don't let anyone get to me," she informed them sincerely. "If I hadn't let Elizabeth talk me into going to that party last night, I wouldn't be here!"
"Calculating," he reiterated as his hand hit a cold heavy piece of metal in the bottom of the bag that he was searching. "I think I found it. Yeah, here is the clip. Cool, now we're prepared. Happy now?"
"Ecstatically," Amanda responded coolly. "Probably about as happy as good ole' Pop! He's going to have to fork out a bunch of bucks for two daughters that he never even sees! At least he'll be glad we're out of his hair for a while."
"That's not fair, sis. You know he's just always busy. He's trying to give us all of the best things that he can in life! He can't help it if that takes a lot of his time."
"Yeah, right. And frogs have wings and sail through the air! He just wants us out of his way, and now he's got it," the eldest girl lamented dejectedly. "Hell will be an ice cube when that man really cares what happens to us."
Logan looked between the girls in disbelief. Now this was something he had never experienced. His parents were always warm and loving, at least around him. How would he feel if. . . ."
Morgan pulled to a stop in front of Logan's parents' house. She had been there a couple of times before but it had always been at night. Somehow the house looked different in the daylight. It seemed more. . . regular, down to earth. . . uh, real. Maybe she had just been so giddy at her first meetings that everything seemed too perfect. Under the bright sunlight visible defects were obvious, such as the paint was beginning to flake in places and the lawn that seemed so pristine in the moonlight was in need of a good gardener.
The nervous young woman switched off her car engine and slowly opened her door. Morgan struggled with a very pronounced desire to leave, just crank the motor and speed away. For a five full minutes she sat in her car with the door partially open, taking notice of each and every thought that entered her mind. "Okay, Morgan, get a grip! But my God, I don't want to go in there. I don't want to go in there. I'd rather suck worms than go in there," she kept repeating aloud to herself.
Finally, the tension eased to a bearable level. The tenuous redhead slowly slipped first one foot then the other out of the car door until she found herself standing on the pavement, locking her car. With eyes fixed on the entry door, she started up the short sidewalk.
Morgan stopped just short of the translucent, stained glass door and tried to peek inside to see if Logan's parents were at home. Seeing no movement, she reached for the doorbell. No one answered so she rang the bell one more time. If there was no answer this time she'd leave and call the Keohanes later.
The relieved lass turned her back to the door and looked out across the yellowing lawn. A voice broke the silence of the moment. Morgan started, snapping her attention toward the unexpected sound.
"Can I help you? Oh, Morgan, it's you. Hi, it's good to see you. Can I help you with something?" Yancy Keohane, Logan's father, asked, stepping stiffly off the narrow driveway onto the soggy turf. He still had a soft Irish accent which Morgan adored. It reminded her of her grandfather who had immigrated from Ireland. The sound of his voice put her more at ease.
"Oh, hi! I'm sorry to bother you, Mister Keohane, but I have some news about Logan that you need to hear," she answered thoughtfully, her voice quivering slightly.
Looking suddenly very worried, Yancy Keohane shuffled Morgan into his house, calling out his wife's name as they stepped through the entry door.
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