I started running for the door in my bare feet, stopped, grabbed my shoes, could slip them on and lace the elevator.  ‘Phone,’ I said, jerking myself to a stop a second time in as many seconds. I bolted over to the bedside table, reached for the phone, and ended up knocking it down between the bed and the table.

There wasn’t time to look for it.

I threw open the door and ran down the hall and hit the down button between the two elevators. I glanced up, saw they were both down in the lobby. Quickly, I slipped my shoes over sockless feet, hopping on one foot, then another, then, almost as quickly, did up the laces.

Neither of the elevators had budged from the lobby.

I realized I’d hit the button — the kind that doesn’t actually depress but senses your finger there — so quickly it hadn’t registered.

`Fuck it,’ I said and ran to the end of the hail for the stairs. I took them two steps at a time, leaping down them like I was in some sort of new parkour Olympic event. I came through the fire door on the first floor so hard it flew back and hit the wall. I sprinted down the hall and shouted to Carter as I passed him at the front desk:

‘Call the Police!

The motion-sensitive doors leading out of the hotel weren’t fast enough for me and I almost crashed through them, hitting the brakes just in time, then slipped through the opening the moment it was wide enough.

I realized then I didn’t have my keys, but even if I had I don’t know that I would have taken the time to get into my car and start it up. I was running flat out now and I didn’t want anything slowing me down.

I crossed Route I on an angle, only having to slow to let a taxi get by. There wasn’t much traffic at this hour. The small plaza with XXX Delights, Shaw Flowers and a couple of other businesses was about a hundred yards ahead. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest and even as I ran I tried to remember the last time I’d run like this and prayed I didn’t have a heart attack before I reached Ian’s apartment.

It’s Syd, I told myself. It’s her. He’s got her. He’s had her all along.

But what the hell was he doing with her in the van? Moving her from one location to another? Actually, maybe that made some sense. He could hardly keep someone hidden in an apartment right behind the shop. Mrs Shaw would hear something, notice something, wouldn’t she?

I’d reached the van and ran right past it.

It was dark around the back of the shop, but there was a single door with a light over it and a small curtained window to the side. There were lights on in the apartment.

I didn’t bother to knock.

I tried the door but it was locked. I put my shoulder into it, tried to force it open, but it held.

From inside,  a man, his voice filled with panic, shouted: ‘Who is it?’

`Open up!’ I shouted. ‘Open the door!’

Again, he shouted, ‘Who is it!’,

open the goddamn door!’

‘I’m not opening the door till you tell me who it is!’

I reared back, lifted my leg, and hit the door with the heel of my shoe with all I had. The door gave way a couple of inches, only held now by a chain.

In the crack, I could see Ian standing in what appeared to be a small kitchen, dressed only in red boxers, his skin pale and freckly.

He was screaming.

I gave the door another kick and the chain ripped off. I came through the door and shouted at Ian, ‘Where is she?’

`Get out of here!’ he shouted. ‘Get the fuck out of here!’

The kitchen area was part of a larger room that included a couch, a TV and DVD player and game console. It wasn’t much of a place, but for a young guy living alone, it was amazingly neat and tidy. No dirty dishes in the sink, no empty beer cans or pizza containers. A small stack of video game magazines were stacked perfectly on the coffee table.

`Where is she?’ I asked.

`What?’ `Where is she?’ I was shouting at the top of my lungs.

`Get out!’ Ian shouted.

There were two doors on the far side of the room. I shoved Ian out of the way and went to the first one, flung it open, expecting a bedroom or closet or bathroom. But it was an entrance into the back of the florist shop.

I turned to the other door, and as I was putting my hand on the knob Ian pounced on me from behind like a cat. He wrapped his hands around my head, digging his fingers into my eyes and cheeks.

He was slight, which gave him the edge on me when it came to speed and nimbleness. I tried to get fingers under his and pry him off, but he was hanging on. So propelled myself backwards and into the wall, Crushing the wind out of Ian. He let go and fell to the floor. He was up again in an instant, but this time I was ready for him. I put my fist into his face, catching him below his left eye.

That knocked him back a second time, giving me enough time to throw open the door and enter what turned out to be the bedroom.

It wasn’t much larger than a walk-in closet. A small dresser along one wall, a narrow door that must have been a closet, and a second door at the other end that was open and showed a sink and toilet.

There was just enough room for a single bed.

There was a person under the covers, and judging by the shape it definitely looked to be a young woman. Not moving. Drugged, I thought.

Or worse.

The covers were pulled high enough to hide everything but a few locks of blond hair. Despite all the ruckus, she still hadn’t moved.

Oh dear God . .

`Syd,’ I said. `Syd?’

I sat on the edge of the bed and was about to pull down the covers when I sensed Ian coming through the door. I turned and pointed and fixed my eyes on him with such fury that he stopped.

`You make one move and I swear I’ll fucking kill you,’ I said, barely able to get the words out I was panting so hard. Sweat was dripping off my brow, my shirt was plastered to me. I pulled the covers back down to the girl’s shoulders. Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong. Her skin looked rubbery, had an odd sheen to it.

`What the fuck?’

This girl was not Syd.

This girl was not a girl.

She was a doll.


Muneeb Zargar

Muneeb Zargar

My name is Muneeb. Proud Storyteller from Kashmir & an Electronics Engineer by choice.

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