The Hell Within
Pain was the first thing Blair became aware of. Pain, and the fact
that he couldn't move. Slowly, other things were made clear. He was on a floor,
a cold, hard floor. Both hands were bound tightly behind his back, and a thick
wad of cloth gagged him completely. There was light, and movement to his left.
As the throbbing in his gut eased, Blair turned his head to see who was with him.
Sitting on a chair in the far corner of the bare room was a large Indian man,
bent over and breathing heavily. He looked familiar, but as Blair turned his head
more to get a closer look, pain shot through his side. His reactive moan drew
the man's attention, giving Blair a better look at his face. A huge scar crossed
his left eye. Instantly, Blair recognized him as the biggest of the three men
who had attacked him at the cafe. In fact, this was the one he'd managed to kick
in the groin. Blair had dropped the man with that blow, but that was the last
thing he remembered doing.
Biting down on the thick gag, he managed to get
control over the pain again. Just in time to see the smile cross the large man's
face. It was a mirthless smile, revealing teeth yellowed by smoke and neglect.
Something rumbled deep within the man's chest, something Blair realized was laughter.
He swallowed as best as he could around the cloth, bracing himself against what
he feared was about to happen.
Slowly, still bent over in obvious discomfort,
the man stood, smiling down at his captive. He spoke in Hindi, words Blair could
only partially understand. He caught the ones that mattered; regret, pain, revenge.
Huge, ugly hands reached down, grabbing Blair's shirt and hauling him to his feet
in one swift motion. Before he could try to stand, he was thrown hard against
the wall. Hands pressed into his shoulders, pinning him there, helpless, as he
waited for the pain. Suddenly, kicking an attacker in his manhood wasn't such
a good self-defense idea.
Blair waited, trying hard to maintain eye contact,
desperate to show nothing but sure he was an open book of fear. Scarface smiled,
laughing from somewhere deep within his throat. One hand let go of Blair's shirt,
moving up slowly to stroke his hair. He spoke again, and Blair recognized with
dread the gist of his speech. The hand ran over his hair again, roughly petting
long strands that had been trapped behind the gag.
Blair swallowed, trying
in vain to get more air around the thick cloth in his mouth. Oh, God, not
this! I'll never kick another man in the balls, I swear! Just
In a rush of motion, the hand stroking his hair moved to his
throat, pressing up to force Blair onto his toes. The other hand began a slow
trail over his chest, working its way farther down.
"You maybe pay for
my pain, eh?" Scarface's English was broken, his breath foul.
speak, Blair shook his head slowly, moving only as much as the hand holding his
throat allowed. The other hand had stopped at his belly, pressing in gently, before
sliding farther down very slowly.
"Your friend, he will die quickly."
Scarface smiled again, his eyes glinting sickeningly. "But you, I think I
will enjoy longer."
Blair tried to move away, turning his face from the
threat before him. His breath came hard through each nostril; his struggles only
made the laughter increase. The hand reached his jeans, grabbing the waistband
roughly for a moment, allowing the knuckles to press into Blair's crotch, then
letting go. Before he could wonder where that hand was moving to next, a blow
struck him hard in the gut, forcing him against the wall in an explosion of pain.
His first thoughts were gratitude for the fist having struck his already sore
abdomen, instead of somewhere else.
His second thoughts were again fear. And
blinding anger. The palm no longer pressed into Blair's neck, and his body was
allowed to double over with the pain of the blow. As his head cleared again, he
realized Scarface was holding him, one arm around his throbbing stomach, the other
again stroking his hair.
Disgust took over. Blair lunged away, stumbling backwards
in a desperate effort to get away from those hands. One large fist grabbed his
jeans, pulling him back.
"Not so quick, my friend." Scarface's smile
turned to a frown. "We have plenty of time, eh?"
Blair didn't see
the fist coming until it slammed into his cheek. The power behind the blow sent
him straight to the floor, where he lay dazed and shaking until he could control
his breathing again. Scarface was still beside him, looking down, heavily booted
feet mere inches from Blair's face. After a moment, the feet moved, one swinging
back quickly, too quickly for Blair to move before it struck him in the side.
He cried out around the gag, then bit down hard against the violent pain. This
time, it didn't diminish as quickly. Blair continued to bite down, vaguely aware
that Scarface had returned to his chair in the far corner. It felt like hours
before he could breathe again, before he could relax his jaw and focus. He prayed
his moans were quiet, since he could do nothing to stop them. Scarface would enjoy
that. This was a man who had every intention of enjoying Blair's situation to
But what did they want? Why had they attacked him in
a crowded outdoor cafe on a busy street, beaten him, then dumped him into this
room and said nothing to explain why he was here? And where was Jim? Scarface
had said something about his friend dying quickly. Was Jim already dead? Was he
here? Was he the reason Blair was here? Who was in control? And what was going
to happen to him the next time Scarface wanted some fun?
Movement outside the
door caught both Blair's and Scarface's attention. Someone thrust a key into the
door and opened it, ushering Scarface out into the hallway. Relief washed over
Blair as the door was closed and locked, leaving his tormentor in the corridor.
He wanted to be sick, but the gag would make that very dangerous, if not impossible.
The pain in his gut wasn't easing off, and his right side throbbed painfully.
Something warm was running down his face, blood from the blow to his cheek. His
hands hovered somewhere between numbness and pain as the ropes holding his wrists
tightly together began digging into the skin.
With the heavy door closed, Blair
could only hear muffled voices outside, some in English, some in Hindi. Words
were difficult to pick out, muted by the thick metal door and the rushing of blood
in Blair's ears. If they would just leave him alone now, leave him locked in the
room alone until someone could come in and explain it all. Hell, he'd happily
skip the explanations and go right into Jim rescuing him, that would be just fine.
Anything but what he feared Scarface had in mind. They'd have to kill him before...Or
maybe he could pass out? Any more blows like he'd been given and Blair was sure
he would pass out. Then he only had to fear what he'd find when he woke up. If
he woke up.
This was far worse than any nightmare he could imagine. Worse even
than the one he'd had only that morning. It felt like years ago now, but lying
there on the floor, in pain, waiting for Scarface to return and start to play
again, Blair longed for the simple terror of a nightmare.
"Wake up, Blair!"
In a sudden rush of heat and fear, Blair shot
out of bed, eyes wide.
"Easy, Chief. It was a nightmare, it's over."
"Oh, man." With a heavy sigh, Blair nodded at Jim, realizing it had
all been a nightmare. Real to the point of sweating, but a nightmare nevertheless.
"Jim, I'm sorry, man." He held up a hand and rested it on Jim's arm,
smiling at his partner, who remained perched on the side of his bed.
were really going at it there for a minute." Slowly, Jim let his hands drop
from Blair's shoulders, looking him in the eyes. "You okay?"
Blair nodded again, pushing sweat soaked hair from his face. He glanced around
the hotel room, trying to compose himself and flush out the last of the nightmare.
"It's okay. You want to talk about it?" Jim
eased himself off Blair's bed and over to his own just three feet away.
don't really remember it." He looked at Jim, feeling the flush that reddened
both cheeks. A color he knew his friend could see, even in the dark. "It
wasn't clear, just a feeling. Kinda like when you're a kid and you're sure there's
a monster under your bed, you know?" He laughed a little and looked at the
blankets for a moment, then back at Jim.
"Yeah, I know. I used to get
those all the time."
Jim nodded, swinging his legs
back up onto his bed. "What, you don't think I ever had nightmares?"
Blair shrugged. "I just never thought of you as a kid."
well, when I was a kid and had those real screamers, I couldn't go to anyone about
them. Stephen was too young, and Dad considered fear a weakness."
that must have been hard." Blair looked at Jim, trying to see his eyes in
the moonlight. Just when he thought he'd seen every side of Jim Ellison there
could be, he'd turn and show another, revealing something not so much inside Jim,
but inside Blair. He was beginning to understand now that revelations about his
new friend weren't always discoveries of his subject. More often than not, they
were discoveries of his own capabilities. "What did you do?"
shrugged, looking back at Blair. "The only thing I could do, Chief. I'd get
up, check the closets, look under the bed, then go back to sleep."
sighed, then lay back down, resisting the urge to glance under the hotel bed.
"You okay now?" Jim glanced over, pushing the blanket down farther
off his body as he got comfortable again.
"Yeah, man, I'm fine."
Pressing his face into the pillow, Blair closed his eyes, checking the inside
for any leftover signs of the terror that had awakened him. It was gone, but the
last of the feelings remained. A monster was the closest Blair could come to explaining
the feeling, since it was really just a feeling, not a vision. At least, nothing
solid. He only knew something terrible was coming, but it wasn't chasing him,
it was after Jim. Blair was helpless to stop it--whatever it was--and he couldn't
see it clearly, but it was there. And it wanted Jim.
By the time he was up
and dressed the next morning, all thoughts of the nightmare were gone, burned
out of his memory by the hot, Indian sun.
"Jim, are you sure you don't
mind this?" Blair pulled his hair back, securing it with a thick rubberband.
"You can find the cafe okay? You know, you can come with me."
laughed, then reached up to slap the back of Blair's damp head. "I'm a big
boy. When I contact Robert, I'll leave a note downstairs in case you need to find
me. I have a feeling once you get in to see that thing, you're gonna forget all
about me, the cafe, even what country you're in."
Blair grinned, wondering
if Jim was guessing, or if he'd heard somehow about his trip to Tibet two summers
ago. "Don't worry, Jim, they'll kick me out at closing." Not like in
Tibet, where they'd locked him in the museum's basement for the weekend. Of course,
he hadn't even noticed until the next morning.
In fact, by the time Blair had
finished taking the photos and was sitting on the floor in front of the coffin
making sketches and taking notes, he'd completely forgotten Jim and the cafe.
It wasn't until they were ushering him out the door at closing that he thought
to check the time. Only ten minutes late, Jim had probably just had time to sit
down and order a beer, no problem. Blair searched the crowded cafe and found no
sign of his partner, so he grabbed the first available table he could find in
the courtyard and ordered some of the strong coffee he'd learned to value over
the years. To pass the time, Blair pulled his notebook out of his pack and went
over his sketches and comments, adding more as he found room.
It wasn't until
Jim was a full hour and a half late that Blair realized he wasn't there. Suddenly
worried, he put away the notebook and debated going back to the hotel. It was
three blocks away, but Jim said he'd leave word there as to where he'd gone to
meet Robert. He could just be late, having a good time. But if he was, being Jim,
he would have left word. But would he leave a note with the cafe, or the hotel?
Probably the hotel, since Blair wasn't convinced the cafe even had a phone. He
couldn't be lost, surely. New Delhi was an immensely populated city, and
all the streets could start to look alike to the casual visitor. No, that didn't
make sense either. Blair packed his notebook away, paid for the coffee, and decided
A large shadow fell over the table, effectively eclipsing the late
afternoon sun. Blair looked up to see a huge man, flanked by two smaller, yet
equally dangerous looking men. Swallowing, he glanced away and stood as casually
as he could, turning to look for an easier way around the group. Don't panic,
maybe they just want the table. The largest of the three reached out, placing
a huge palm against Blair's chest.
"Khabar daar hona, khaass."
care, pretty one? Oh, man, please let my translation be wrong! Blair
stepped back and the hand fell away. Forcing his fear down, he looked up at the
giant blocking his path. The man had a scar crossing his eye, and breath rivaling
that of Professor Kinyon's poodle. Hastily, Blair murmured apologies for being
in the way, and tried to go around.
"Not so fast, I think." One of
the other men stepped forward, smiling.
Blair moved as quickly as he could,
swinging the pack around to connect with the smaller man's face while kicking
out with all his might at the Goliath in front of him. His foot connected with
the large man's groin, dropping him like a rag doll, but before Blair had the
chance to recover his own balance, something slammed into his face, spinning him
around. His head hit the ground hard, dazing him. The sound of shouts, and of
tables pushed out of the way as the cafe's courtyard emptied of patrons rang in
his ears. Hands clutched the front of Blair's shirt, lifting him up several feet.
There was a flash of sunlight, then pain exploded through his jaw, and blackness
washed over the world.
Now he longed for blackness.
And for Jim to wake him from this. He has to be alive! He has to
be. It only made sense, after all. Blair knew he wasn't worth kidnapping
for any other reason. And Jim hadn't shown up at the cafe. Which could only mean
that he was here, wherever here was. But that meant he was in trouble. And Blair
had played right into it, probably adding to whatever trouble Jim was trying to
get out of. So was Jim here, or somewhere else? Did he know what had happened
at the cafe? But how did they get Jim? It had to be his friend, Robert. Jim could
have taken those three men easily, so he must have been tricked somehow. Jim must
not have realized he was in danger, why would he?
With a clang of metal, the
door opened again, sending a chill down Blair's spine. He heard footsteps, two
sets, coming up to him. One huge pair of hands grabbed his arm and hauled him
to his feet, spinning him around. Scarface adjusted his grip, holding one arm
around Blair's throat, then pulled the gag out of his mouth with the other
Blair had to fight for focus, blinking back against
the dizziness and fear to get a better look at the blond man standing before him.
"Pardon my manners. I'm Robert, Jim's friend." The smile that followed
was sickly sweet, as was his breath. Dull brown eyes held no humor, and teeth
stained from coffee flashed in a predatory grin.
Blair tried to control his
breathing, forcing his fear to morph into anger. He couldn't give them the satisfaction
they were seeking. "Where is he?"
"Well, now, I'm sure you're
just dying to know what this is all about." Robert began pacing the room,
glancing at his watch. "But I'm afraid I don't have the time to explain."
He stopped, then turned to face Blair. "Rest assured, Ellison is here, and
for now, he's alive. But soon, very soon, he won't be." He checked the watch
again. "So you see, it really doesn't matter all that much what happens between
now and then, does it?"
"What have you done to Jim? Where is he?!"
Blair's shout was no where near as loud as he wanted it to be, barely cracking
through the sandpaper lining his parched throat. But his forward lunge was more
successful. Scarface's hand left his neck for the amount of time it took the big
man to grab Blair's hair and pull him backwards again.
Robert chuckled softly,
watching Blair's futile attempts. "Don't worry, Blair. Can I call you Blair?"
He stepped forward, leaning his face into Blair's. "Just keep telling yourself,
it will all be over soon. And Jim need never find out. But I can't promise my
friend here will be gentle."
"What do you want with us?" Where
was Jim? Was he hear, nearby? Was he okay?
"You, not much. Though
you may fetch a handsome price on the black market. Ellison, I just need to borrow
his services for an evening." Robert turned and walked to the door, then
looked back at Blair. "When I'm finished, I'll kill him quickly. I promise."
Anger mixed with fear, tensing every muscle in Blair's body, but Scarface held
him easily, spinning him around so they faced each other. He chuckled at Blair's
attempts to free himself. "Maybe now we have some fun, eh?" Scarface
breathed into Blair's ear as Robert left the room, slamming the door shut behind
him with a metallic clang. "We'll be alone for a time."
Blair shook his head. "No, man, you don't want to do this." He swallowed
convulsively, surprised he still had spit. The guard's intentions were clear,
as was Blair's resolve.
Scarface put his hand back up Blair's shirt, running
it up to his nipple and back down past his belly over and over. "There is
little I can do, eh? Since you got in the first strike, I have some trouble down
Blair's eyes darted around the bare room, looking for something
-- anything -- he might use against his captor. "Then why don't you just
let go of me and get yourself some help, huh?" Scarface shook his head and
Blair knew there was nothing he could do to talk his way out of this one. But
he'd be damned if he was going to make this easy.
"No, I think I can manage."
One of the hands holding Blair's shirt moved up to stroke his hair again. "Don't
worry, your friend is too far down the hall to hear us, little one."
pulled away from the hand, and clung to the knowledge that Jim was down the hall.
He was alive, then. And that meant a chance. He just had to stall, and stay alive
long enough. "You don't want to do this, man."
"Ah, but I do."
Scarface smiled again. "Maybe later, we do this for your friend, eh? Right
before he dies?"
"No!" Desperate, Blair let his right knee come
up with all his force behind it, risking the loss of balance in one desperate
attempt. Scarface doubled over violently with the impact of Blair's knee into
his groin, screaming his pain and rage with a deafening bellow. Blair started
to fall backward, but his expected meeting with the ground was delayed. Hands,
the hands he'd come to dread so quickly, were still clutching him. His fall was
postponed just long enough for the first blow to connect with his right side,
lifting him off his feet for an instant. The second caught him in the belly. Blair
was unconscious before he hit the floor.