Christopher, Craig & Co.
Part 118: Even Later Friday Night.
I knew someone was standing behind me. I knew to the core of my being that was what Scott was attempting to alert me to.
Here I was, standing in a basement dungeon under the club I had just inherited and taken possession of, with the love of my life locked into a bondage chair while some sort of hypnosis file played through hidden speakers. And all I had up my sleeve was a hammer.
I turned on my heel, ready to face Richard King.
But it wasn’t Richard King. It wasn’t even Bootboy. In the dim light around the bondage chair, I wasn’t sure who it was, but he looked familiar. Or, rather, on second look, his clothing looked familiar. Whoever this was was dressed like Leatherman.Except all of the leather clothes were a size too big. The absurdity of the moment wasn’t lost on me. He looked like Leatherman had shrunk in the dryer.
“What are you doing here?” he demanded. “Nobody’s supposed to be here.”
I had two possible avenues here. Beg or be brazen. I chose brazen. “Obviously you’re mistaken. Where have you been? Master King—” I grimaced “—sent me to find you.”
“Master King?” he hesitated. “No. Master King said no one was allowed to be here.” He stepped toward me.
My heart was racing and I could feel the adrenaline as it kicked in. I didn’t know who this guy was and I didn’t want to hurt him, but I didn’t know where Richard was and I didn’t have time for this nonsense.
I pulled the hammer out of my sleeve and swung it into the side of little Leatherman’s head.
He went down immediately, falling into the shadows.
I dropped to my knees, setting down the hammer to check his neck for a pulse. He was alive. I rolled him onto his back and felt his pockets. No keys.
I stood up and pulled out my cell phone. It was 9:31. I flicked on the flashlight on my phone and swept the beam around the chair. There were assorted cuffs and other gadgets around, but no keys.
Richard would certainly have keys with him, but with this many locks down here there had to be keys somewhere. Think, Chris! The problem was I didn’t think any of this had been here when Leatherman was running the club. So I had to think like Richard—which was a nauseating thought. I did a quick circuit of the dungeon, shining the light on tabletops and walls, and looking for any drawers or cabinets that could hold keys. I looked at my phone. It was 9:35. Wade would have called 911 by now. I didn’t really want to explain everything to whatever cops showed up, but it was a relief to know that help would be on the way soon. Now if only my luck would hold out and Richard wouldn’t show up.
I swung the light around again and saw it glint on something metal—which didn’t really help down here with all the clamps and locks and what-have-you. I walked over to a cage and almost cried out when I saw a ring of keys hanging out of the lock on the door.
I grabbed them and ran toward Scott. I got to the lock on the metal cuff on his right hand and started inserting keys. There were at least a dozen on the ring and I had no idea which one would open the cuffs. I kept jamming keys into the lock. On the seventh one, the cuff opened. I stepped behind the chair and unlocked the metal shackle around Scott’s neck, then shoved the key into the lock on the gag. It wasn’t the same key!
I cycled through keys again, keeping the one that had opened the cuff in sight. My fifth try unlocked the gag. I unbuckled the strap and pulled it out of Scott’s mouth. It was a huge bulb that must have filled his mouth. I threw it away from me and moved to the left side of his chair.
“Chris!” Scott gasped. “I don’t know how I got here. We’re at the club, aren’t we?”
“Yes.” I forced the key from the right wrist cuff into the left one. It was keyed the same. Thank heaven. “I don’t know how much time we have before someone comes back down here.” I looked him in the eyes. I could see the fear I felt mirrored in his.
“What is that awful track that keeps playing?” Scott asked, massaging his right wrist with his left hand.
“It’s an induction. Richard left you here with that playing in order to hypnotize you and take control of you.” I paused for one horrifying second. “It hasn’t worked, has it?”
Scott shook his head. “No. It’s repetitive and annoying but I don’t want to listen to Richard. I want to throw his ass in jail.”
I dropped down to one knee and put the key in the left ankle cuff lock. It popped. Then I moved to the right. I had 5 more locks to go and we could get the hell out of this place.
I made quick work of the cuffs on Scott’s thighs and his biceps. All that remained was the strap across his chest. Just as I was about to stick the key in the lock I heard something. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew we weren’t alone.
I cut my eyes to Scott. “Don’t move,” he mouthed.
I could stand there silently and wait for something to happen or I could get Scott out of this chair and we could get out of this chamber of horrors.
I put the key in the lock as noiselessly as possible. It didn’t unlock the strap. I cycled through every key on the ring. None of them worked. I examined the strap. It was thick leather and attached to the back of the chair.
I couldn’t possibly have gotten this far to be hung up by one stupid leather strap. I was going to need a knife if I didn’t have the key.
I heard a footstep and whirled around.
Richard was standing about ten feet away in the dim light. He held out a key. “You’re going to need this.”
To be continued in Part 119...
Christopher, Craig & Co.
Part 119: Gunfire at Kampas.
My ears were ringing. My ears were ringing but nothing hurt. I looked down. There was no blood on me and I was standing just to the right of the door to the hallway.
I looked around for Craig. He was on the floor. There was blood on his leg. “I need you to come with me,” he said between gasps. “I have to take you to Master.”
It was quiet except for Craig’s gasping. It was then I realized the music had stopped in the bar.
“You’re bleeding,” was all I could think to say.
Craig looked at his leg and pointed the gun at me. “Help me up. I have to take you to Master.”
“You have to go to a hospital, Craig.” I took my phone out of my pocket.
Craig tried to lunge for it and fell on his side. He sounded like he was sobbing.
I looked at the clock. It was 9:35. I was late. I pushed 911 and waited.
“911. What is your emergency?” a pleasant female voice answered.
“I have two emergencies,” I said. “A man has been shot—”
“What is your location?”
“At Kampas. The bar, not the college.”
“Kampas Bar. That’s on Liberty?”
“What number can I call you back at?”
While I gave my cell phone number the door to the breakroom bust open and Austin sagged against the door when he saw me standing on the phone.
“What is your name?”
“And you said a man has been shot. Is he breathing?”
“Yes. He’s awake and crying.”
“I’m sending an ambulance and police to your location. Where in the building are you?”
“We’re at the back of the bar in the employees’ breakroom. But there’s a bigger emergency!”
“What?” The 911 operator sounded surprised.
“Two other men are in danger at Leatherman’s Club on Fox St. They’re in a basement. If you go through the private backroom there’s a door. You have to hurry.”
“How do you know these men are in danger?”
I knew what I had to do and I had to get Austin out of the room before I did it. I tilted the phone away from my mouth. “Austin, please go to the front door. The police and ambulance are on their way. You have to show them where we are.”
“You’re ok?” he asked, looking at me with his big brown eyes wider than I’d ever seen them.
I nodded. “Please go.”
He jogged down the hall.
“Sir, are you there?”
“Listen to me. One of the men at Leatherman’s is an FBI agent. His name is Scott Wilson. You can check. I swear he works for the FBI. He was here looking for the guy who is shot. Please, you have to hurry. Scott and Chris could be dead already!”
“Sir, I need you to slow down. You said Scott Wilson and Chris…?”
“Yes. Call the FBI if you don’t believe me but please send police there.”
“Yes, Sir. Please remain calm and on the line. I’m dispatching police to Leatherman’s Club on Fox St.”
I turned around and saw that Craig had dragged himself into a seated position. He was holding the gun and pointing it at the right side of his head.
“Craig!” I yelled.
“I failed Master. I failed. I must end my life.”
“Sir, what is happening?”
“He has a gun and is pointing it at his head!” I shouted.
I looked wildly around the room. There wasn’t anything to use as a weapon. I dropped my phone on the table and picked up a chair.
“I failed,” Craig repeated, sobbing. I saw his finger pulling the trigger.
I swung the chair as hard as I could. And the gun went off.
To be continued in Part 120...
Christopher, Craig & Co.
Part 120: The Master Plan.
“You. Mother. Fucker.” I snapped.
“Don’t disrespect me, boy!” Richard glared at me menacingly.
I had to get the key away from him. The strap went across Scott’s chest and under his arms. There was no way for him to slip out. If I tried to run upstairs for help I knew Richard would hurt Scott. I glanced around wildly. The hammer was on the ground near the unconscious leather guy. I didn’t think I could get to it before Richard would try to stop me.
Richard stepped to a nearby table and set an attaché case down. He stared me in the eyes and smiled his creepy smile. “I had intended to brainwash your boyfriend and take him from you, but you forcing me out of my club and then showing up here tonight has necessitated a change of plans. You see, it has come to my attention that Mr. Wilson here is not just your boyfriend but a member of law enforcement, and I simply cannot let him leave here of his own accord.”
“What are you talking about?” I sputtered.
Richard opened the case with a key, pocketed the ring, and pulled out a small vial and a hypodermic needle. “Just this. I believe you’re familiar with the effects of this drug, aren’t you, Christopher? It’s something Damian was working on developing. A small dose will cause a bit of amnesia. A larger dose can wipe a man’s mind completely.”
I went cold inside as I remembered a scene many months ago...
The house had been dark. There hadn’t been a sound. I had reached for the doorknob. A key was inserted in the lock, ring dangling in the cold night air. I turned the knob.
“Hello,” I called, pushing the door open.
I felt around for a light switch.
Sudden brightness flooded the room.
A young man was bound to a chair in the middle of the room, stripped and unconscious.
I pulled off my glove as I crossed to the naked boy on the chair. I nearly fell over when I recognized him. It was Marty Jones!
There was a syringe sticking out of his upper arm.
I reached and felt for a pulse at his neck.
Slow, but steady. He was alive. Drugged, apparently. I pulled the syringe from his arm with my gloved hand.
Now, looking at Richard holding a syringe I knew it had to be the drug that Professor Damian Edwards had given to Marty.
“You look rather surprised, Christopher. Don’t worry. I have no intention of wiping your precious Mr. Wilson’s mind.” He inserted the needle into the vial and I watched as the liquid was drawn into the syringe. “I think this will be enough to simply make him forget all about meeting you.”
“You’re mad!” That was Scott.
I tore my eyes away from Richard and looked at Scott. He no longer looked fearful; he looked defiant.
“Why?” I demanded. I needed to keep Richard talking until the police could arrive. But where were they? Surely, they should have been here by now.
“Haven’t you guessed? I never thought you were stupid, Christopher. You were my best and brightest. Once Mr. Wilson and your youthful ward have been removed, there will be nothing stopping you from returning to serve at my right hand where you belong.”
Youthful ward? “Wade! What have you done, Richard?”
“I’ve done nothing. Tragically, your spurned ex-lover, one Craig Matthews, in a fit of rage and revenge shot and killed Wade Thompson this evening before turning the gun on himself.” Richard checked his wristwatch. “That is to say, I believe he has by now.”
Tears leaked out of my eyes. Wade? Dead? And Craig, too?
“Speechless, Christopher?” Richard taunted.
“You bastard! If Wade is hurt you have to know I will never willingly return to you!”
“Who said anything about willingly? There is plenty of this drug in the vial. It may take a little experimentation, but I’ll make you forget ever leaving me.” He drew his eyes up and down my body. “You’re not the boy you once were, but maybe I’ll let you dress up in your friend’s leathers and run this club like he did.”
Something in me flipped at that moment. My tears stopped. All I felt was loathing and fury. I could see things very clearly now. All of the distractions and the lies and the subterfuge were about a ‘spurned ex-lover’, but they weren’t about Craig.
“This. All of this—” I waved my arms around wildly “—is because I left you? Seriously? After all these years and all the boys, you showed up here because you want me back?”
“You’re the only one who ever challenged me, Christopher. You’re the one that got away.”
“Bullshit. This is your bruised ego. You couldn’t stand that I walked—ran—away from you. You don’t want me back because you love me. You don’t even know what love is. You want me back because I don’t want you and you can’t handle the rejection.”
“Enough!” Richard shouted. “You will NOT speak to me in this manner.”
“Look at me, Richard. I’m a grown man. I’m not afraid of you anymore.” That wasn’t entirely true. I was honestly afraid in that moment.
“It’s going to bring me such pleasure knocking that cockiness out of you, Christopher. You remember how creative I could be. Perhaps some time in the closet will help you control your impertinence?”
I took a deep breath to steady my nerves.
“Chris, get out of here and get help!” Scott shouted.
Richard’s gaze flicked to Scott and back to me. “I don’t think so. I think you’re going to stay here while I carry out the rest of my plan like the good boy I trained you to be.”
“Don’t call me that,” I spat.
“Now, let’s get this over with.” Richard took a step toward Scott.
I stepped between them, blocking Richard’s path.
“Come, come, boy. I’ll admit I’d much rather let you watch your boyfriend forget you. But if you get in my way I can always inject you first.” Richard took another step.
“Like. Fucking. Hell.” I lunged for Richard, headbutting him in the stomach and throwing him backward with all my might. He crashed to the floor and I landed on top of him.
The syringe skittered across the floor.
I got up on my knees, straddling his chest.
Richard grabbed my throat with both of his hands. I was ready for him; I knew all about his past love of choking boys. Instead of fumbling at his hands, I grabbed a fistful of his hair, wrapping it around my fingers, lifted his head off the floor as far as I could and slammed it back into the cement.
Richard looked dazed as his hands dropped from my throat. Keeping him pinned, I reached into his pants pocket and fished out the key ring.
I hurried over to the chair and tried two keys before the third one opened the lock on the strap.
Scott scrambled to his feet and pulled me into an embrace. “We have to get out of here.” He patted his pockets. “I don’t have my phone to call for backup.”
I pointed where Richard was lying on the floor. “He has it.” I strode to the attaché and opened it. There were several file folders inside.
Scott was looking at Richard on the floor.
I flipped through a couple of files. There were dossiers on me and most of my circle of friends. There were files from Professor Edwards, including what I imagined were several chemical formulas. And there was Scott’s cell phone.
I held it out to him.
Scott turned on the phone and waited. “There’s no signal down here.”
Under the last folder was a gun. I swiveled the case toward Scott. “Is this yours?”
He looked at it. “Yes.” He picked it up and checked it over. “Doesn’t look like it’s been fired. It’s still loaded.” He gripped it differently and turned toward Richard.
But Richard wasn’t there.
All this time I thought he was a Bond villain, but he was really a slasher flick killer.
I ran over to where he had fallen. “I don’t see the syringe either.”
Suddenly Richard stepped out of the shadows and snaked his arm around my throat.
“That’s because I have it,” he said, drawing his hand back and aiming for my upper arm.