Fugue by Terry Conrad
Excerpted from Fugue by Terry Conrad
A serial killer is on the loose in Cleveland, kidnapping and mutilating young girls. Homicide detective Jack Hargrove thinks one of the victims is still alive, and will do whatever it takes to find her. Jack isn't the only one obsessing over the case, though: middle school teacher Chad Sturley is starting to doubt not only his own innocence, but his very identity, as telling clues relating to the crimes begin surfacing in his dreams...
CHRISTINA awoke to find herself lying in a strange bed in a darkened room. She had no idea how she got there and could only vaguely recall what she was doing before she blacked out. She remembered that she was out with some of her friends partying at Shooter’s in the Flats, and that she had had a little too much to drink, but the rest of the evening was a blur.
Her head ached something fierce though and for the first few minutes of consciousness she was disoriented and a little confused. Was she at home? Did she go home with a friend or a stranger? The room had almost no light and it was taking awhile for her eyes to adjust, so she really couldn’t tell, but from the size of the room she knew she was not at home.
Once Christina regained some of her composure and her vision adjusted to the dimness of the room, she realized how much trouble she was in. Christina was completely naked, and there were no clothes laying anywhere in the room around her. She also realized that she was shackled to the bed that she sat upon.
Around her wrists and ankles were leather straps that fastened much like a belt, except that the ones she wore had a metal ring pulled through a hole in the leather to which a lock held it in place. Around her neck was a similar device that closely resembled a dog collar. She was not going to be removing these restraints any time soon.
The bracelets, anklets, and collar were all attached to small but thick iron chains which at first appeared to be attached to the bed, but upon closer inspection Christina realized were only run through iron rings on the top and bottom of the bed posts. The chains then disappeared through the floor near her feet and through three holes in the wall near the top of the bed.
There was quite a bit of slack in the chains, so Christina decided to venture into the nearly pitch-black room to see how far she could go. Outlines of objects in the room finally began to take some shape, which encouraged Christina to try to find a possible escape from this dungeon she was being held captive in.
The room she was in held a refrigerator and a microwave and also had cabinets like a kitchen. There was a toilet in the far corner of the room, but in other ways felt more like a bedroom. It seemed as though this place could be an entire house rolled into one room, Christina thought.
Christina soon discovered that the cabinets and fridge were full of food for her to eat and there were plenty of beverages as well — enough to last her for quite some time. Had her captor intended on leaving her here for a long period of time? What sick plans did he have in store for her?
From the bed, her chains were long enough for her to reach the refrigerator and the cabinets, so she assumed that she was being allowed usage of these things by the madman who took her. Christina had no idea how long her captor planned on keeping her here, but with the amount of food and drink he left for her, she could be here for months if he so chose.
Christina began to suddenly get very cold. It was as if someone had turned on the air conditioning full blast. Since she had no clothes, Christina looked for anything she could warm herself with. There was nothing in the room that would help — no blankets, no towels, nothing.
It was then that Christina felt she knew what was going on. This fiend was turning up the air to get her cold for a reason — he liked perkiness — and there was nothing she could do about it. She knew what he had in store for her, and it seemed as though he might have his way with her unless she could find a way out soon.
Christina frantically began to search through the drawers to see if there was anything she could use to free her from her restraints or use as a weapon against her captor. A knife or fork would be great, but even a spoon might do. As she desperately searched, she found nothing but plastic utensils. She searched the remainder of the room, but came up empty.
Despair was beginning to set in now, and the more Christina thought about the hopeless situation she seemed to be in, the more panic began to take over. She began to yell out for help at the top of her lungs, hoping someone might rescue her, but all she heard between her screams was dead silence.
Christina’s eyes had now adjusted to the dark as well as they were going to and finally she was able to make out the frame of the door, which was at the opposite end of the room from the bed. Instinctively, Christina ran towards the door at full speed, praying that the door would open.
Just as she was about to reach for the door handle, however, something happened that took Christina completely by surprise. It was then, as she reached out for the doorknob, that she heard the doorbell ring.
CHAD unlocked the front door to his darkened ranch house, and reached for the light switch. When he flipped it to the on position, nothing happened, much to his dismay. Great, now I have to find a light bulb.
Chad set his keys on the small stand next to the door, and searched blindly through the dark for the switch to the kitchen. Stumbling over his sneakers which he had left in the hall earlier, Chad let out a curse word and continued onward. He placed his hand on the wall just below shoulder height and reached for the light switch. It’s gotta be around here somewhere…
Eureka! Finally, the switch touched his fingertips and he flipped it into the on position. Expecting this light to turn on, he found himself disappointed yet again. What’s going on here? It can’t be a power outage because the street lights were on and so were my neighbor’s lights. Had a fuse blown out all the lights in the house?
Chad didn’t have much time to think before a bolt of electricity pulsed through him, leaving him writhing on the ground in pain. At first, he thought some electrical surge in the house had administered this cruel torture, but within moments he knew that this was no accident.
Chad’s muscles twitched uncontrollably as someone dragged his body across the hallway floor and into the kitchen. Next he heard the scraping of the legs of a chair across the tile floor until it stopped right next to his left ear. Chad would have grated his teeth at hearing the sound if he had not already been grating his teeth due to the shock treatment he had just received.
“Go get the lights,” growled the man hovering over him as he hoisted Chad up onto one of his own dining room chairs and then propped him up.
The lights came on a few seconds later as a man behind him forcefully bent his convulsing arms behind him and fastened them to the chair with handcuffs. Next, the figure took another two pairs of cuffs and locked each ankle to the chair as well. It appeared as though Chad wasn’t going anywhere for awhile.
“How long is this going to last?” asked the man who re-entered the room.
“What? The effects of the taser? It depends on the person. It could last up to fifteen minutes on some people, but for most it’s only a handful. Why? Are you in a hurry or something?”
“I’d just like to get this going and find out what this bastard knows, that’s all.”
Chad could not see the man behind him as he began to regain some control over his bodily functions, but he knew the voice; it was Hargrove from the incident at work.
The man standing in front of Chad looked like the man from the hotel he had seen earlier. The short but brawny gentleman had a face that looked like he had been hit with a frying pan. His nose was short and stubby and seemed almost flat against his face. He was cross-eyed as well, a feature that enhanced the compressed nose.
The stubby-nosed man appeared very anxious about the events that were unfolding, but at the same time, Chad could sense that the nervousness wasn’t due to apprehensiveness in being a part of the situation, but rather due to wanting to get things going. Hargrove definitely seemed to be the one in charge, but this man was certainly a willing participant.
“Make him tell me where she is!” shouted the stub-nosed assailant.
“Patience. Let me set things up first.”
“I’m all out of patience with this monster!” he responded as he leaped towards Chad and tackled him, knocking the chair backwards and onto the tile floor.
Chad’s head hit the ground with a thud causing him to yelp in pain. The man then put both hands on Chad’s neck and began to cut off his ability to breathe. Shackled, Chad was unable to fend him off as his life was suddenly quite literally in this stranger’s hands.
“Hey! Have some composure Gary!” yelled Hargrove.
Hargrove stopped what he was doing at the kitchen table and dragged Gary off of Chad. Gary was still fuming, but reluctantly backed off, at least for the moment.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing? Cooler heads prevail here, Gary.”
“Tell me where Brenda is you son of a bitch!” Gary directed at Chad, “Make him tell me where she is!” he then yelled at Hargrove.
“Hey, listen to me!” Hargrove slapped Gary across the face to gather his attention, which he now had. “A guy can’t talk with someone choking him. We’ve got a plan here, now let’s stick with it. He is going to tell us where she is, I promise you. OK? Can you settle down and let me handle this?”
Gary looked at Hargrove and then at Chad. He was still on edge, but at least for now, he was willing to give Hargrove control of the situation. Gary had a plan of his own though. After Charley told him where his daughter was, he was a dead man.
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Publication date: 7/31/2013
Publisher: Elizabeth River Press
Author: Terry Conrad
Editor: Jay Waitkus
Cover image: NZ Graphics
Fugue copyright © 2013 Terry Conrad. All rights reserved. Image and excerpts used by permission.