The clock on her mobile told her that it had been only three minutes, but to Tinny it had seemed like an eternity had passed before she received a reply to her text message.
That was all it said. Tinny frowned at the display in confusion. Surely the object of this whole weird series of events couldn't be merely a prank, designed to make a fool out of her? But she discarded the possibility instantly. Whoever was sending her these messages had Des. That alone told her that this was serious. But what was she expected to do now, she wondered. Wait for another message? Send a reply?
She was not long left in doubt when she felt a soft tap on her left shoulder. She whirled around to find herself face to face with a man. He wasn't very tall, wore his blonde hair in a long ponytail and was looking at her with big green eyes, magnified by the lenses of his glasses. He beamed at her, blushing slightly.
"I'm so sorry if I startled you," he said in a soft voice, still staring at her. Tinny was starting to feel creeped out by the way his eyes appeared glued to her face. He seemed to realize her discomfort, because he quickly looked away. "I apologize, again, but you're just so beautiful."
Tinny ignored the flattery and moved to the heart of the matter.
"What did you do to Des?" she asked sharply.
The man seemed disappointed for an instant, but soon perked up again. "You're just so sweet, caring about people the way you do."
This time, Tinny wasn't flattered in the least. "What did you do to Des?" she asked again with insistence.
"Oh, Des is all right. He'll feel a bit groggy when he wakes up, but I suspect he's been through worse." The man chuckled to himself as if he'd just made a joke.
"I want to see him," Tinny demanded, trying to keep her voice from trembling.
"Nothing easier than that," the man replied nonplussed. He pulled out his mobile phone and after a few seconds, turned the screen towards her.
Displayed on the phone's tiny screen appeared to be the feed of a CCTV camera of sorts. It showed the same room as she had seen in the video earlier. Des was still taped to the chair, but he was clearly awake now, looking around the room, struggling to free himself.
There was a time code at the bottom right corner of the video. It showed that the feed had to be live. Tinny felt slight relief at seeing that Des was indeed alive and appeared relatively unhurt.
"What do you want from him?" Tinny asked.
"Him? Oh, I don't want anything from him," the man replied placidly.
"Then why did you kidnap him?" Tinny demanded, her confidence increasing, or maybe it was just her anger replacing fear.
The man frowned mightily at that. "You really don't see it, do you?" he asked gently, with an expression of pity on his face. "Des would only have come between us, just like that despicable thug, Steve Travis."
"Us?" Tinny asked sharply, hardly believing her ears. She was trying to decide whether this guy was just delusional or whether he was actually dangerous.
The man whoever didn't seem insulted. "Tinny Doyle, I have been madly in love with you ever since the first time I saw you. And when you smiled back at me, that time at the coffee shop, I just knew you felt the same."
Tinny was struck speechless. This guy really thought that they could have a relationship, hell that they did have a relationship even if it was from a distance. She couldn't even recall having seen him before. However, it didn't seem like a good idea to mention that to him, even though part of her wanted to just to wipe that dopey smile off his face.
Instead, she said: "It's just...it's all a bit sudden," she fumbled, fervently trying to work out what to say. Running away wasn't an option, as the man had Des and was in all likelihood crazy enough to hurt him.
Des could have kicked himself had he not been securely tied to a chair with liberal amounts of duct tape. He had been so stupid it almost hurt. He should have known that the guy hadn't been a prospective client, but he'd sounded so convincing when he'd told him about being blackmailed by some nightclub dancer over a brief fling.
Des wasn't entirely sure when or how it had happened, but he did recall suddenly having felt a sharp pain at the side of his neck and then it had been lights out. The next thing he'd known, he'd woken up tied to a chair in a very ugly living room. The decor looked like it hadn't been upgraded in decades, the furniture was covered with large white sheets, formerly white, now gray curtains were drawn and dust lay thick in the corners. Near the door stood a tripod on which a small video camera was amounted. A blinking red light indicated that it was currently recording, recording his every move. Even if he did manage to get free of the chair, he wouldn't be able to escape undetected. Chances were someone was watching him from somewhere. Not that it seemed likely that he would be able to free himself. Whoever had tied him up had done a solid job of it, wrapping copious amounts of tape around his chest and the back of the chair, as well as taping both his ankles to the legs of the chair.
He might be able to tip the chair over, but he didn't see how that could possibly provide him with an advantage. He was just trying to gently rock the chair, trying to move it by alternately rocking right and left. It wasn't working terribly well, and he had to be careful not to gain too much momentum which could send him crashing onto the carpet. When the door suddenly and seemingly noiselessly opened and Tinny stepped into the room, Des was so startled hat he promptly overbalanced and crashed, chair and all, to the floor. The ancient and worn carpet send up a cloud of dust straight into his face, causing him to cough and sneeze at the same time.
"Tinny!" he exclaimed, between sneezes. "What are you doing here? What am I doing here, wherever here happens to be? He sneezed again.
"Are you okay, Des?" Tinny asked, advancing into the room and kneeling next to where Des was tipped over in then chair.
"I...I think I am, but I'm not sure," Des fumbled, thrown by the question. "Though I would really appreciate if you could untie me."
When Tinny made no move to do so, he added. "Please."
He had been so focused on Tinny hat he never noticed the man entering the room. He felt a sharp, familiar pain in his neck. He tried turning his head to see what was going on, but his vision was already blurring rapidly.
"Not fair," he slurred, before losing consciousness completely for the second time that day.
Rose slammed down the receiver in frustration. She had tried to reach Mal, both on his cell and at the house. When that had failed, she'd tried Des, then Leslie and finally Tinny, but none of them picked up their phones. She had left messages on all their mailboxes, laying the same every time.
HI, it's me, Rose. Listen, they found Jake. He's at St. Victor's Hospital near Mt Pearl. I don't know anything else, but I'm headed down there right now. Call me when you get this.
She grabbed her jacket, and was on her way out the door when she realized that she didn't have car. Cursing, she stepped back into the office and after a quick search of Mal's desk found the keys to Jake's GTO. It would have to do.
Tinny stared at Des, as his eyes drifted shut, drugged once again. She raised her gaze to Philip, as her unwelcome admirer called himself.
"You said you'd let him go!" she accused. "It's the only reason I ever agreed to come with you. Instead you drugged him! Again!" Tinny was well and truly angry right now. She moved to pull put her cell phone, but suddenly Philip grabbed her hand, hard.
"Ow! What the..." Tinny exclaimed.
"I'm sorry, but I can't have you ruin this. Not when I spent so long to make today perfect." He used his other hand to pry the phone from Tinny's hand. He pocketed the phone, still keeping a vice-like grip on Tinny's arm.
"Perfect! You call this perfect!" There was no stopping Tinny now. "You beat up one of my school mates, you kidnap my friend and you drug him. Twice! I don't know what is wrong with your head, but you're deluded to think that I could ever...ow, what was that? What did you do to me?" Tinny glanced over her shoulder and saw a syringe sticking from her upper arm. Philip pulled it back out, smiling sadly at her, as he pulled an arm around her shoulder. Tinny tried to shake him off, but she was suddenly feeling very woozy. Everything was becoming rather hazy. She felt herself being steered toward the door, stumbling along on unsteady legs.
"I'm so sorry, Tinny, I didn't want to do this but you've left me no choice. You were always headstrong and that's part of what I love about you, but right now, you're upsetting our plans for the evening."
Tinny tried to reply, but the words wouldn't form properly. "Stop! let me go," she slurred , the words barely intelligible.
Suddenly, without being aware of having made the journey, they were in Philip's car again. He was buckling first her seat belt, then his own and started the engine. The purr of the car and the noise of the engine seemed incredibly monotone, and Tinny felt herself drift off despite her best efforts to keep her eyes open and to stay vigilant. She kept telling herself that her life as well as that of Des might depend on it, but the pull of the drug was too strong.
She didn't lose consciousness as much as drift in and out, aware of snatches of their journey. They seemed to be driving forever, continuing even as night was falling outside. She didn't notice their arrival at their destination, but all of a sudden she wasn't in the car any more. The stuffy warmth of the car was replaced by cool air which helped clear her head a little allowing her to take in what little she could see of her surroundings.
They were in a parking lot of some sort, gravel was crunching beneath her shoes as she stumbled onward, half dragged, half led by Philip. She caught sight of a neon sign declaring vacancies, identifying the place they had stopped at as a motel. At that realization, Tinny tried to stop, not liking at all how this was shaping up, but in her drugged condition, she was unable to put up anything resembling effective resistance. She tried to call out for help, too, hoping that the place wasn't as deserted as it looked, but all she could produce were slurred sounds with no force behind them. Even if there were people out here, they would probably just think that she was drunk. It was maddening how little her body would obey her, but even her fear was being dulled by the drug cursing through her veins. It seemed impossible to follow any one trail of thought for longer than a few seconds, she kept forgetting what she'd been thinking and had to pick up again from the beginning. It felt like she couldn't even think in a straight line, much less walk in one.
Fear gave her strength when they reached the doorstep of a motel room. Tinny tried pushing Philip's hands away. He clearly hadn't expected her to put up any kind of resistance, and in his surprise, he actually let go of her.
Tinny saw her chance and tried to break into a run, to get away from the man. Without him to support her, she collapsed to her knees, unable to remain upright. Still not deterred and increasingly desperate, she crawled, on her hands and knees, trying her best to get away. But it was no use, she had put less than two yards' distance between them, when strong arms scooped her up, and dragged her back towards the room. She tried to dig in her heels, but Philip easily managed to get her inside even without her help.
"Tinny, Tinny, Tinny," he tut tutted as he gently laid her down on the double bed. He sat down on the edge, turned away from her. He remained in that position for what seemed like forever to Tinny who had no more illusions about how the evening would end. However, instead of turning on her, Philip suddenly sprang to his feet and rushed from the room.