“Zoe. Zoe, wake up. Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey,” Zoe could hear a muffled voice calling out to her. She was sluggish; her head felt heavy. Her hands—her hands were tied to the armrests of the medical bed she found herself strapped to. Her shirt was ripped. Her jeans were soaking wet. The room was freezing. Her vision was still blurry, but she could make out one, swinging light across the room. And a man—someone she did not recognize. Someone whose voice she could not place.
“What—what’s going on,” she said in a whisper.
“Ask her where the stone is,” a lisped voice demanded.
“Where’s the stone, Zoe,” another deep accented voice asked.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I graduate from high school this Friday,” Zoe said.
“Tell the little bitch to stop lying and tell me where my stone is,” the deep accented voice erupted.
“Tell us where the stone is, Zoe and we let you go,” said the deep accented voice requested.
“I don’t know! I just want to go home. I just want my daddy,” Zoe yelled, crying and terrified. “Who are you? Why are you doing this to me?”
“Tell her who we are, isn’t important, but where my fucking stone is, is,” said the lisped voice.
“Who we are, isn’t important–“
“I can fucking hear you, dude! You don’t have to have your fucking lackey relay the same message you’re saying as you stand right next to him. Fucking hell! Just let me go,” Zoe screamed, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about. I just want to go home. Please, just let me go.”
“Zoe,” said the lisped man, “Didn’t you go on a five-finger shopping spree two weeks ago at Neiman Marcus?”
“What? No. I went shopping with some friends but I didn’t…no. What are you talking about?”
“One of the items you stole belongs to me,” said the lisped voice.
“What are you talking about? I didn’t steal anything!”
“Gianni, make her talk. I gotta take a leak,” said the lisped man.
“Right, boss,” Gianni responded.
“Zoe, Zoe, Zoe. You just had a birthday, didn’t you? All grown up,” Gianni said as he fumbled around in the desk in the back of the room. Zoe could not make out what he was doing, what he was touching. As he reemerged, Zoe could finally make out that he had something shiny in his hand. The swinging light bounced off of the long, thin blade he carried. “Tell me, when was the last time someone made you feel good about yourself? Made you feel pretty? Touched that pretty face of yours?”
“I swear I don’t know what you want or even what you’re talking about. But, but my step-dad—he’s got a lot of money. I’m worth a lot of money to him. I know that if you let me go he’ll give you a reward or something–if you don’t hurt me. Just—please. Please, don’t hurt me. Just let me go,” Zoe pleaded.
Gianni leaned over the girl, lightly grazing the blade down her right cheek, down her neck, down her chest and digging the knife deeper into her skin, deep enough to draw blood, a sigh of pain and tears from the girl. “Where is the stone, Zoe,” he whispered.
She swallowed and cried softly, “Please. Please don’t.”
Gianni made another incision above the girl’s breast and then another on the girl’s left thigh, slashing through her pants. Zoe screamed in agony. Gianni leaned over and grabbed a clear bottle filled with brown liquid. He made another slash on her arm and threw the liquid on her, burning her incisions. She screamed aloud in pain, crying.
“Funny, Pierce said you were a smart girl. You don’t seem so smart to me. If you were, you’d tell me where the stone was. That’s all we want. Give up the stone, we let you go. But if you don’t, I’ll make sure you beg for death to come swiftly,” he whispered.
“Okay. Okay. I took a few things from the store, but I don’t know anything about a stone. You can have all the stuff I took. Maybe it’s among those things, but I swear to you, I don’t know anything about a stone,” she sobbed.
“Now, we’re getting somewhere, love.” Gianni leaned over the girl once more, drawing his face close to hers, nose touching nose. Zoe stiffened as Gianni slowly cut her hands free. She looked into his dark brown eyes, trembling as she slowly raised her hands to his cheeks. Their lips touched. He grabbed the back of the girl’s neck, pulling her closer to him.
Gianni stopped suddenly, frozen from movement. The veins in his neck bulged. His eyes grew huge. Blood slowly dripped from his nose.
“You bitch! What did you do to—“Gianni could not finish his sentence. He began to hyperventilate, unable to catch his breath. He fell to the floor, grabbing at his throat, as Zoe slowly rose above him, with Gianni’s knife in her hand.
“I told you, I didn’t know what you were talking about. You should have let me go,” she whispered to him as she straddled him, and then, slowly and deeply moving the knife from Gianni’s left ear, through his carotid artery, down across his throat, and to his right ear. She could feel the warmth of his blood on her face and was briefly concerned about what she had just done without hesitation. “What the hell is going on,” she thought to herself as she stood and looked around the room to find the door, to find a window, to find an exit.
“If Lispy walks in on me, I’m screwed,” she thought. “Where is that lispy bastard?” She found the window, tipped toed over to it, shoeless, and looked out to see how far up she was. Unfortunately, she found that, opposite the glass she had peered through was wallpaper covering a brick wall. “Who the hell does that,” she thought to herself as she moved toward the door.
She touched the rusty, green door with the palms of her hands, realizing there was no door knob. She pushed gently to find that the door swung back and forth. She crouched down, slowly pushing the door open just enough to see if there was anyone standing there. No one was there. Then she slid her tiny fingers beneath the door to pull the door inward so that she could see down the other end of the hallway. The hall was empty. She crawled into the hallway looking both ways once more. She noticed a dead end with a tinted window to her left and to her right, another dead end and no window. She hurriedly rose to her feet and headed toward the window and noticed a camouflaged door just before the window. She slowly opened the door, leading to a stairwell. From looking down the stairwell, she noticed she was up pretty high. There was no floor number on the door she just came through. Up or down? I better choose wisely and fast. Up.
Zoe ran up the stairs, first passing the eleventh floor, then twelfth, then fourteenth, then fifteenth. When she reached the sixteenth floor she decided to take a look into the hallway, falling to her hands and knees to stay low. The hall, as she noticed with the rest of the building, smelled sterile, like a hospital. At the opposite end of the hallway she saw a window and an obvious door in the middle of the hallway. She nervously walked toward the door. She heard voices and smelled a familiar smell—an aroma she had not smelled for five years–the combination of stinky cigars with citrus, jasmine and bergamot—Clive Christian No. 1 cologne. Zoe closed her eyes, gulped, held her breath and walked into the room.
“There you are, Zee. I was beginning to worry,” the tall man standing opposite the door said to her. His voice was comforting, a symphony she had longed to hear.
“Daddy? Oh my god! Daddy? Is that really you,” Zoe asked as her body shook and tears welled up in her eyes.
“Yes, baby girl,” he replied softly.