“If you let me go, I’ll do anything you say!”
“You’ll do that anyway,” Charlie said. Starting at her ankle, he slit her jeans up to the waist. “You’ll do whatever I want you to do.” He moved to the other leg, finished cutting off her pants. He threw them into a corner.
“Don’t hurt me, please!”
“Shhh.” He cut through the thin fabric of her panties with one motion, letting them fall to the floor.
“Charlie, don’t!” Gale cried.
“You’re really pretty,” Charlie said. He circled her. Gale could feel his eyes on her skin like clammy hands, groping, exploring. Naked except for the shoes still on her feet, strung up like a side of beef from the ceiling, Gale had never before felt so vulnerable, so helpless.
Charlie replaced the knife in its sheath, walked over to the generator and gave the starter string a tug. The engine coughed to life on the second try, belching fumes. Charlie lifted the two black cords, one in each hand. Both were tipped with metallic prongs, similar to blunt screwdrivers. Charlie touched them together and they arced fire.
“Lot of juice in these,” Charlie said, smiling. “Bet they’ll make you dance.”
Gale tensed, her eyes dilated, nostrils flaring.
“One of them is a grounder,” Charlie said, stepping closer. It goes—well, there are a couple of places where it could go. Do you have a preference?” He stopped in front of her. “Well?”
Gale whispered something.
“Hmm?” Charlie took a step closer.
And Gale kneed him between the legs with all the strength she could muster.
Charlie dropped the cables, sinking to his hands and knees with an explosion of breath from his lungs. Gale stepped onto his shoulder, raising herself up. She lifted the connecting links of her shackles up and over the steel hook that held them, the hook at the end of the chain depending from the ceiling. Gale jumped off Charlie, almost tripping as he tried to stand up.
Clasping her hands together, Gale drove the thick bracelets of the shackles into the side of Charlie’s head. He toppled over, and Gale stooped to hit him twice more in the face. She watched his nose flatten and burst, felt the bone and cartilage yield before the metal. His head lolled back and forth, lifeless. Squatting beside him, Gale unhooked the keyring from his belt, began trying to fit each key into the lock on the shackles.
“Please, God! Please!”
One key fit and she turned it. The lock popped open. Gale flung the shackles away and raced to the door. Opening it, she found the hallway empty. Taking a deep breath, she ran.
Charlie lay on the floor, unmoving.