Jazz sat in the room flipping through a book. What was going on with Victor? Were both Duncan and the other guy dead? Did anyone know where she was? All these questions swirled around in her head. Fear of her captors returned to her and tried to grab hold of her many times throughout these days. She clung to the only two Bible verses she had as if they were lifelines. “I know whom I have believed… I will bring you back from exile...” she’d repeat each time the fear threatened her.
It had been three days since she’d been taken, as near as she could guess. Time was only marked by a clock chiming down the hall, the light going off and on again under her door and the type of meal they brought her.
The book she held was an old pirate novel written in the twenties. She really wasn’t interested in reading about pirates, being more intent on figuring out a way to escape. It was a thought that constantly repeated itself in her mind. She had no idea if there was a guard outside her door, or if there were cameras in the room or in the hall, but she had to try something.
Startling her out of her concentration, the door knob jiggled instead of clicked, and a man came in with her supper. She watched him set it down. As usual he said nothing to her, but turned and left shutting the door behind him. The door jiggled again. She wondered why she hadn’t noticed before. The door wasn’t locked with a key, it had a turn lock. She smiled. All she needed was something hard and thin. All she needed was a butter knife. She picked up the utensils provided for her meal and found exactly what she was looking for. Excitedly she hid it, hoping the guy who picked up her plate wouldn’t notice it missing.
She ate all her meal, not knowing when her next would be if she succeeded. She had to plan this just right. If she tried it too early someone would find her in the hall. She would wait until the light in the hall turned off.
Not long after she finished dinner, her guard picked up her plate and left, again without a word. What a relief.
After almost falling asleep several times, the light underneath the door went out. She turned her light out too. Certainly if she could see the hall light under the door, they could see her light from the hall. Knife in hand, she began to work at the lock, trying to be quiet. The jiggling sound from the knife working the lock magnified in her ears. She couldn’t be caught. This was the first good idea she’d had and to be caught now would be a disaster. Were there occupied rooms near hers? She dropped her knife. Trying to catch it, she made more noise than if she’d let it fall on the carpeted floor. She waited a few minutes to make sure no one was coming. Her heart raced. One side of her brain told her to hurry but correcting the urging the other side of her brain told her she needed to be cautious and slow.
Finally the door unlocked and came open quietly. Jazz was glad Johnson seemed fastidious enough to want everything in perfect order, including the door hinges. What a contrast to Monroe! She shuddered. Just the thought of Monroe made her sick. Anxiously she crept out in the hall. Which way? She seemed to remember being brought in from the right. She went left. The hall seemed long and was completely dark.
To guide her in the darkness she walked with her hand gliding along the hall wall. It was an eerie walk in an alien world with unfamiliar aromas and textures. Soon she came to a break in the hall wall, and could only guess it was a door. She adjusted her hand to follow the door jam, and found a door knob. She hesitated, not knowing whether to try this door, or continue. How would she know which one to choose?
She decided against opening this door with a feeling she shouldn’t open the first door she came to. About fifty feet later, she came to another door, and passed over that one. Another fifty feet, another door; she decided she’d open the next one. As she suspected, after another fifty feet she came to a third door. This one is it, she told herself.
Jazz slowly turned the handle, hoping and praying it wouldn’t make a loud click. It turned easily, but she took her time, which seemed an agony of minutes. Her palms sweated and the door knob often slipped. When she was able to turn it completely, it opened quietly. Not opening it wide, she slipped in the semi-dark room. She could see French doors ahead of her, opening to what looked like a patio.
The night seemed unusually bright, but she didn’t think about why. Quietly she made her way to the doors, opened them and stepped outside. With no coat on, the icy wind cut through her clothing and her heart sank. Examining her surroundings, she realized she wasn’t on a patio at all, but on a balcony overlooking a snow covered courtyard surrounded by the walls of the house. She could see no way out, and there seemed no way off the balcony. Disappointment overwhelmed her. Tears blurred her vision, but a sudden rush of warm air from behind stopped the tears from flowing. She held her breath.
Someone began moving hands up her arms, across her shoulders and up her neck, then back down the path they’d followed. A cold shudder oozed down her spine as she smelled the anise aroma and felt Johnson press his body against her back. With his mouth close to her ear he whispered lazily, “Are you here to keep me company tonight?”
Of all the rooms she could have stumbled into, why did it have to be his? Johnson licked her neck, sending shock waves of repulsion through her body. She tried to fight him off, but he was much too strong for her. He turned her around and forced her to kiss his lips, holding her head firmly in his hands as he thrust his tongue between her teeth. His breath was foul and the residual absinthe on his tongue left an unpleasant taste of the liquor in her mouth. She gagged knowing that if she got through this she’d never enjoy another licorice again. He released her with a cold smile spreading across his evil face, “You’ll be nice, but I must save you for another time. Don’t worry though. That time will come soon enough my love. It’s been so long, but I can wait.”
With a firm grip on her arm, he dragged her struggling back into her room, and violently shoved her onto the bed. Before she could regain herself, he was on top of her, “You’re a surprising and resourceful young woman, but I told you there’s no way to leave me right now. Be assured you’ll have the pleasure of my company when I take care of Victor.” Johnson gave her another evil smile, rose and left. Fear, exhaustion and disappointment overwhelmed her. She sobbed herself to sleep.
It was light when she awakened at the sound of the door jiggling. She sat up in her bed and watched as the man who brought her breakfast set her food down, and walked out. Immediately after, another man carrying a large package wrapped in paper came in with Johnson following behind.
“Good morning Miss Phelps. After our visit last night, I thought you might enjoy a drawing of mine. It’s in pencil. I wish I’d had time to paint it in color like I wanted, but I think you’ll find it interesting. I was inspired to draw it after you left and finished it just this morning. It will remind you of our meeting and help you look forward to the next time we’re alone in my rooms. Enjoy your breakfast.” Johnson paused and stared at her, smiling a blank smile with those terrible vacant eyes. Jazz shuddered; she’d just had a glimpse of hell.
The man with the art unwrapped it and hung it on the wall. When he finished his work, he turned and leered at Jazz, then walked out the door. She caught sight of the new guard. The door closed.
Jazz knew she didn’t want to look at the drawing, but the room was too small to avoid it. Nothing prepared her for this glimpse into the horrific imagination of a man addicted to absinthe, a drink she’d never heard of before she’d met Phineas Johnson.
Johnson had used crimson and orange pencil to scribble a hell’s impression. A drooling Minotaur, blurred and indistinct in many places was clothed in rags. His muscular arms carried a woman next to his massive chest; her face was filled with a terrified look of fear and pain. The terror distorted her features so much that Jazz almost missed the representation of herself. It didn’t take long for the shock to dawn on her at what Johnson seemed to have in mind when he sketched this monstrosity.
The monster seemed to ignore the woman in its arms, watching Jazz wherever she moved in the room. It had as intense a look of satisfaction and appalling pleasure on its bull face as the woman had of pain and terror. It was a dark and evil picture which almost paralyzed the young woman with fear.
The awfulness of having that thing hanging over her, staring down at her while she slept and when she awoke was more than she could stand. She ripped the fitted sheet off the bed, and threw it over the drawing even though she loathed touching it. The double sheet fit perfectly, but she knew it was still there. Its torturing image haunted her all day long. How was this going to end?
At lunch she could not eat, but by supper she was famished and quickly finished her meal. Feeling a little better, she decided to go ahead and shower since she intended on going to sleep early. Last night’s attempted escape and the emotional drain of the day left her exhausted and sleep would pass her time of captivity away better.
The shower felt good. She allowed herself the enjoyment of the hot water until it was almost gone. When she finished the shower, the bathroom was hot and steamy. She opened the door, just a crack to allow cool air to circulate while she spent some time washing her underwear. She hung them up on the shower curtain and finished dressing without them. As soon as she walked out the door, she stopped aghast.
The sheet was off the drawing and was folded neatly on the bed. Johnson sat at the desk dressed in a brown silk robe with gold trim. She could see his bare legs. A bottle of water and a bottle of Absinthe with its glass sat on the desktop. Johnson was just preparing himself a fresh drink. “Good evening Ms Phelps,” he said in mock politeness, “After last night I felt I did you a disservice by leaving you alone for so long. I decided that you should have the pleasure of my company on these evenings that you are a guest in my home.
“I’m very hurt that you don’t like my creation. I thought maybe we could discuss it and you might come to appreciate my creativity.”
The shock of seeing this loathsome man sitting in her room in just his bathrobe left her speechless for just a moment. She dared not let him know just how terrified she was. “I don’t know what the point is, Mr. Johnson,” she replied in equal cold politeness, “We don’t have that much in common.”
“We’ll find something I assure you. Perhaps you’d like to try a little Absinthe? No? Well, it’s okay for now. More for me.” He raised his glass to her.
“How are you doing tonight? Tell me. Why did you cover my art? I spent all night drawing it and dreaming about how much you would enjoy it.”
Not knowing what else to do, Jazz sat in another chair. Her one idea was to keep him talking. It might help him think only of the drink and keep other ideas out of his head. The more he drank, she hoped the more drunk he’d become. The more drunk he was, the more relaxed he’d be; or would he? She had no idea how Absinthe affected the mind.
“Mr. Johnson, I don’t like Greek mythology. I never have.”
“Ah, but this is special. Can you tell me why?” He watched her while sipping his drink.
Shaking inside and gulping, she whispered, “That’s me.”
He smiled, “Yes, you are a very intelligent woman. Who is the other?”
“Ah, no wonder Victor loves you. It’s too bad really. You should never have gotten involved with him. Oh, but I almost forgot. He didn’t tell you; did he.”
She said nothing.
“Ms. Phelps, you really should be more careful who you get involved with. But I guess it’s too late for that now.” Johnson took another sip and grew quiet. His head seemed to droop. Glass after glass he filled and emptied, while his eyes looked more vacant with each drink as he just sat in her room.
At one point, Jazz got up and went to the bathroom. How long was he going to stay? She was so tired, but she dared not crawl into bed. What if he wasn’t as drunk as he seemed to be?
“Do not be afraid, and do not be dismayed,” a quiet voice whispered. Where did that come from? She knew the answer before she even asked. From somewhere in her past she’d heard it, but she didn’t’ know where and could only guess it was from the Bible.
“How can I not be afraid?” She cried out to the Voice.
“I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Sleep.”
“Sleep? With him here?”
She could not resist the Voice and she was tired to the point of falling down. Obeying the words she lay down and was almost asleep before her head hit the pillow.
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