A/N: This is not an easy chapter to read…
It was getting late. Jean sat on the couch with his head hung low, a glass of whiskey in his hand. His hand trembled as he brought the glass to his lips. He guessed it would only be a matter of time before it started to happen. The thought had been burning in his mind for several days before he had made the drunken decision and sent a clue of Michael’s whereabouts to Ricky.
He wanted Michael back, nothing else mattered. He wanted Michael to appreciate him again, wanted to make him see, to understand what he had protected him from. He needed to be reminded.
The plan had its risks, if they failed, they would both die. He would have to win Ricky’s trust by some means, then he could be the hero again! Sure, Michael would suffer at first, but Jean would kill Ricky, and then Michael would love him again. In his alcohol-obscured mind, the plot was perfect.
After waiting for some time, he had called Rick a couple of days ago. The man had been surprised. ”Did you get my message?” Jean had asked. Had to be confident. ”I took your whore because you didn’t want to play with me anymore, I wanted revenge.”
”And Michael betrayed you like the one before him?” Ricky had asked bemusedly. ”I should be angry, but because you told me…”
”I want revenge,” Jean had said defiantly. “I want to do it with you. I could have encouraged him to talk to the cops about you, but I didn’t.”
Ricky had said he would forgive him, even though Jean knew the monster couldn’t be trusted. He took the risk and decided to watch what would happen. Ricky was already on his way and hesitation and remorse had waned Jean for a moment after the call. However, it was already too late, and he knew it.
The night before, Jean had woken up in the middle of the night and had seen Sebastian at the door of his bedroom. He stood there and looked at him, let out a disgusting grunt, and brought his hand to his throat where blood had oozed out with unnatural force.
Jean had woken up and quickly realized that he had only been dreaming. At the same time, he realized he had just made a deal with the devil. Ricky was going to slaughter Michael in the end, just like Sebastian, his own plan might fail.
Jean was ready to die if Michael could not be saved. He trembled at the thought, his abdomen tightening. He brought the glass to his lips once more.
As the doorbell rang, Jean was startled and gazed fearfully toward the front door. He took a couple of deep breaths, emptied his glass, and rose to his trembling feet. It was too late to retreat now.
** ^^ ** ^^ ** ^^ **
Michael was excited, he couldn’t wait to be reunited with his parents. Muriel had granted him the rest of the week off, he hadn’t even needed to ask, it was enough that she heard that his parents were coming.
Tuesday’s workday was long, that morning he was helping Santo in the kitchen, he had gotten to do it more and more often and Santo thought he would soon be ready to work in the kitchen even on busy evenings and weekends servings.
They had talked about changing the menu, Michael had cautiously pointed out the menu was a little too mixed and that it would be a good idea to change it by choosing a direction, maybe theme weeks separately. Santo was on the same lines with him, but they still needed to convince the other head chef; Adrien, who was quite stubborn and had had a big impact on the list.
Adrien had been working with Muriel for almost thirty years, so he had that advantage over them. Most of the time, however, all the complaints came when Adrien oversaw the kitchen. But the man didn’t take the critique very well, he only thought that those who complained merely had an uncivilized taste.
“We will get this worked out somehow,” Santo had told him that morning when they were in the kitchen alone. “I think Muriel is starting to see that the change would be in the restaurant’s best interest. One day soon you will be promoted as the other main chef, believe me!” Michael had laughed at this.
“One can always dream,” he had sighed then and smiled.
“It will happen, trust me,” Santo had winked and patted his back.
His parents would arrive at one o’clock on Wednesday afternoon. Michael planned to bring his parents to the restaurant on Thursday for lunch and hoped he could prepare the dishes for them.
There was reportedly no problem with that, Michael had become close with most of his co-workers, and they were also excited to meet his parents.
In the afternoon and evening, Michael worked in the front of the hall. When his shift finally ended at nine that evening, he was quite exhausted and eager to get home. Sam had promised to prepare warm sandwiches, Sam’s specialty, and give him a long back massage after a bath. Michael smiled happily at the thought.
He had promised Sam to come home by taxi. Although Jean hadn’t bothered him for several weeks, Sam still didn’t trust the man to stay away. Samuel himself had an evening shift as well and since he worked on the other side of town it made more sense for them both to come home straight away, Sam was probably already home when Michael would arrive.
As Michael stepped out of the restaurant intending to walk to a nearby taxi stop, he noticed a boy crying on the corner of the street. The boy was around seven or eight by the looks of him and looked frightened and lost.
”Madre, Madre!” The boy called and happened to look at him as Michael slowed his steps. ”Por favor… sénjor, ayuda me?” The boy cried, and Michael got closer, squatting to the level of the child when reaching him.
”Don’t worry, I’ll help you. You got lost from your mother?” He asked in Spanish.
The boy nodded with tearful eyes, ”I’m scared.”
“Let’s find her together,” Michael smiled reassuringly and looked around the street. He was annoyed by other people’s indifference to the child’s distress. ”Do you live here or are you only visiting?” He asked.
“We’re visiting,” the boy replied timidly. ”My aunt.”
“Which direction did your mother go? Do you remember?” He asked and wondered if it would have been better to just take the child to the police station in case his mother had gone to them as well. The boy looked around and shook his head.
“My aunt lives there,” the child pointed the way, ”I-I’m scared to walk alone.”
”Is it a long way there?”
”No,” The boy shook his head.
“I can accompany you. Maybe your mother is there too.”
”Thank you… sir,” The boy said quietly and wiped his eyes, Michael smiled softly.
“I’ll just call my friend that I’m coming a little late,” he said to the boy who was waiting next to him. At that very moment, however, Sam did not respond, and Michael quickly sent him a text message: “I’ll be a little late, don’t worry. I found a lost child and I’ll escort him to his aunt.”
After Michael had sent the message, he started walking with the boy to the direction where he said his aunt lived. He tried to keep up a light conversation with the child, hoping to ease the distress the boy was under. The boy was quite silent, however, only giving short replies and Michael assumed that he was simply too scared to keep up the conversation.
”Don’t worry, I’m sure your mother is there waiting,” he assured the child.
Eventually, they turned onto a remote and quiet street. ”Does your aunt live here?” Michael asked with a little doubt in his voice. This wasn’t a secure neighborhood and the buildings… It didn’t seem that…
”Around the corner,” The boy replied interrupting his trail of thought. They turned in the direction indicated by the boy.
”Madre, Madre!” The boy called. A woman and a man stood in a secluded cul-de-sac. The woman cried when she saw her son running toward him and Michael smiled for a moment, however, the uncomfortable feeling soon took over.
There was no residential entrance on the street. The woman squatted and hugged her son while looking at him with crying eyes. Michael was puzzled, looking at the man standing next to the woman whose face was hidden by the darkness of the evening until he slowly stepped a little closer and the streetlight revealed the face carved in his nightmares.
Michael let out a desperate, shocked breath.
”It’s been a long time, Michael,” the monster said and took another step closer.
Escape, run! Quick! His mind screamed, and Michael quickly turned, just to collide with another man who immediately grabbed him, pressing his hand to his mouth and a gun to his temple.
“Wow now, easy boy,” a strange voice breathed into his ear. Meanwhile, Ricky dug up his wallet and threw money at the squatted woman, who still looked at him apologetically and cried before lowering her head and holding her child closer.
”Remember… if you talk one word about this then you both suffer, my contacts know where you live.” Ricky threatened the woman, ”Get lost!” He added. The woman snatched the money and fled the scene with her child.
”I knew this would be the best way to lure you into a trap,” Ricky smiled, “Boohoo, I lost my mother, help me,” he mocked, and at the same time, Michael heard the car approaching, stopping somewhere behind them. Ricky stood right next to him now, looking at his face with a smile.
“You were a naughty boy, Michael, to run away from me…” He said and Michael felt tears flow down his face. The fear gripped his chest, this was bad, and he knew it.
He also knew Ricky well enough that he didn’t benefit anything from trying to be brave. It would only make a man more violent. He was scared and angry at the same time. Michael would have liked to scream with rage and despair, everything had been about to turn for the better! He was just about to reconnect with his parents! Why did this happen now?
His cell phone started ringing at that moment. Ricky smiled and dug the phone out of his pocket, looking at the screen. “Sam is calling,” he stated, looking at him, still grinning.
“Your new boyfriend. Samuel Wentworth is from a rich family… Yes, I too can search backgrounds,” Ricky smirked when he turned off Michael’s cell. ”Best to get rid of this, throw it out on the way.” He spoke to another man.
Ricky touched his cheek, smiled, and then nodded to the man behind him who started dragging him towards the dark van, he was gaged with a scarf, and his hands were tied behind his back. As he was pushed into the car and the doors closed, a third man held him in place while the other tied his legs together.
Ricky stepped in with sickening calmness, sickening satisfaction over his capture. One man jumped out and closed the doors. Ricky continued smiling cruelly as he watched him, and Michael knew his days were numbered. Ricky wouldn’t let him go alive.
It felt hard to breathe, he felt panic begin to rise. The steady hum of the tires, the traffic noise in the background, at times the car was driving on an uneven street, and he felt his head bumping against the body behind him, a man who held him tightly. Sickening breath against his ear, fear seemed to choke him.
Ricky watched and remained suspiciously silent. He just looked and smiled, perhaps triumphant at the fact that he had caught him and could give his punishment. Michael knew how much the man enjoyed seeing the fear rise in him and his understanding of how the final situation was for him.
Michael wondered how long he would still have time. This one night? A day or more? Maybe a week? He didn’t want to die; he didn’t want everything to end like this. He didn’t want to leave Sam, he still wanted to see his parents. Fearful anger kept building in his abdomen. Had Jean told Ricky where to find him? Could Jean be so cruel?
The man sitting behind him lifted him to sit between his legs. One hand was around his shoulders, the other pressed against his crotch. Michael let out a suffocated cry. Ricky’s grin grew. The man behind him laughed and at the same time rubbed him harshly.
”It’s going to be a fun night ahead, right, Michael?” Ricky smiled brutally. ”Do you still remember how much fun we had before?”
Michael closed his eyes; he didn’t want to see the monster’s face. And the reality of what would happen before his death struck even harder. This time, Ricky wouldn’t show even that little grace of drugging him. This time, it would not matter what kind of traces would be left. Ricky wanted him to feel everything and suffer, Michael was sure of that.
The traffic noise in the background began to subside, they had left Paris. His struggling deceased, it was no use in wasting his energy. Tears broke from his eyes, silent terror that shook his whole being. Thoughts of Sam and his family gnawed his insides, he knew their pain when they would realize… Bitterness and sorrow combined, he felt powerless in front of the nightmare that was only dawning in front of him. He had tried and fought and crawled and still, the darkness had caught up with him, soon it would swallow him completely.
Part of him was numb in front of the evil, the other part filled with rage, he would not give up! He wasn’t ready, not at least until he would have pulled the monster into destruction with himself. A miracle, that was what he needed to live.
The car was driving on a dirt road, and Michael heard the sand rattling under the tires. The pace slowed down and finally; the car was parked.
Ricky opened the rope around his legs. The doors were opened, and he was dragged out roughly. An old, two-story farmhouse, on the other side, was a barn where animals were probably no longer kept, the grass had gotten long. Ricky’s grip was tight, too tight for him to wriggle free. No neighbouring buildings were visible nearby, the dirt road was lined with forest; if he could get free, maybe the forest would offer shelter to hide in?
They came in, and Michael squinted at the sudden brightness. He heard the voices, a bang from somewhere further away, they headed towards the sounds. There were more men? Michael tried again vainly to pull himself free and his poor attempt made Ricky laugh.
”Calm now, you’ll get it soon.” He said and pushed him further into the living room. Michael’s eyes landed on Joe first.
The man sat on the opposite side of the room, with a whiskey glass in his hand, looked at him, and smiled. The old closet clock was ticking loudly in the corner of the room; Michael checked the time: 10.40 pm. They had been driving for at least an hour, maybe a little longer. He heard the men say something, the words pounding in his ears, mixed with laughter. The scarf around his mouth was removed but there were no words to speak.
“You remember Joe, but there’s another acquaintance here,” Ricky said. ”Jean, aren’t you going to greet your former lover?” He asked and Michael was startled. He looked to the other side and saw Jean.
The man was sitting sideways in an armchair, he also had a whiskey glass in his hand and the man avoided his gaze. Michael breathed shocked; the first thought was that Ricky had abducted him as well because Jean was the one who had helped him escape the monster.
Another thought was the awareness that Jean was sitting there as one of the “guests”. He was puzzled, trying desperately to meet with his eyes to get some understanding.
When the gaze was finally given, it was difficult to interpret. Jean straightened on his chair, jaw clenched for a moment, eyes narrowing before he smiled, lacking any emotion.
”Jean, what is this?” Michael gasped breathlessly.
”You really don’t know, Michael?” Ricky said, his lips close to his ear and Michael sensed the familiar sick grin on his features that savored the situation.
“Jean and I,” the monster began, “we have a common history. We had fun together for a while. How long did it last Jean? Half a year? Jean was an A-grade student.”
Michael looked at Jean in pained shock. The man raised his gaze once more to meet his, and clenched his teeth, a numb look on his features. Michael didn’t want to understand what Ricky told him that all that time Jean was… What? Had all of it been just a sick play for him?
“I know I should be mad at Jean. He took you from me, but on the other hand, I guess it only proves that I taught him well. You’re not the first boyfriend who betrayed Jean, we took care of the first one together too.”
Michael looked at Jean, tears flowing down his cheeks, he wanted to ask why but couldn’t get the words formed. His thoughts were tangled and confused; the pain of Jean’s horrid betrayal ached in his chest.
When Ricky began to open the zipper of his jacket, panic swept over him. He tried to fight, kicking and screaming against him. He was wasting his energy but there could not be any logic once consumed by the real-life nightmare.
The monster and its men laughed, drunken over their power.
“Jean! How can you do this?! “Michael shouted, his voice filled with anguish and terror that satisfied his captors. Jean didn’t meet his gaze, sat there, eyes fixed on the drink in his hand. The man was not able to face his own deception, not able to face to the horror it brought.
Ricky opened the rope around Michael’s hands. Michael bunched his fist towards the monster, there was no logic, there was nothing except the primal will to survive.
“You monsters!” Michael screamed, though deep down he knew it would not affect them, only please them. These were not men who possessed the ability to empathize with another human being. They feasted upon his fear.
Ricky hit him in the face, and he fell. Michael continued to struggle but he was outnumbered, the men helped their master.
Michael didn’t see their faces properly, he fought back with pure instinct, refusing to admit how hopeless his situation was. He bit Ricky as hard as he could while clawing at him, getting momentary satisfaction when the man roared in pain.
He was forcibly dragged into the adjoining bedroom. Ricky closed the door behind them.
”Well, Michael, just the two of us like in the good old days.” Michael retreated, looking franticly around the room. On the other side was a double bed with a bedside table on the left, and a desk in front of the window. There was not much other furniture in the room besides a few closets.
Ricky, on the other hand, enjoying the situation, slowly took off his belt, and approached. ”You don’t know how I’ve fantasized of this situation.” The monster spoke. “I said that if you ran away, I would find you before long and make sure you suffer. Well, here we are now.”
Michael’s whole being trembled, wondering if he could break the window and escape, but there was no small object in the room to break the window with. However, that would be the most sensible route to try to escape as four other men were waiting on the other side of the door besides Jean. ”You can’t escape.” Ricky grinned. “Of course, you can shout as much as you want, in fact, I’m looking forward to it. The nearest neighbors are several miles away.”
Michael clenched his fists, his eyes narrowing and glistening with anger. Ricky smiled sickeningly. However, Michael managed to surprise him, attacking him with enormous rage. For a moment it seemed he could overpower the monster, but only for a moment.
Ricky forced Michael to his stomach against the floor, holding his knee on his upper back. The man was out of breath, his hold tight.
Michael roared with rage and frustration. For a moment he had already hoped to strike the monster with such force that he would have time to escape through the window. Ricky licked his neck, breathing heavily against his ear.
“You’re unique… I missed you,” The man breathed. “Such a pity,” Ricky turned him around roughly and picked up a knife that he pointed at his face. Michael felt the tears in his eyes again.
Ricky brushed the flat side of the knife to his cheeks almost affectionately. ”Years have treated you well… You are more beautiful than I remembered,” Ricky forced his lips to his own. ”Let’s enjoy these last moments now,” Michael trembled as Ricky pushed his tongue into his mouth and shifted all his weight over him.
Ricky tore his t-shirt off with the knife. Michael still tried in vain to take the knife from Ricky’s hand, they struggled. Michael trusted that Ricky wasn’t serious about killing him yet, not until he got his pleasure.
He was right, but Ricky was stronger and hit him in the face with force, making him dizzy and disoriented.
Before long, Michael realized he was pressed against the bed on his stomach, naked and Ricky was behind him. “Finally… You’ve become feisty my dear, I enjoy this…” Ricky breathed in his ear. Michael closed his eyes, squeezed them tightly, and tried to find refuge in his mind. Refuge, to which he had not had to flee for a long time, but which was the only form of escape he had left.