Dreams of Death
Ella heard the front gate glide back on its rail and set her book down. Daddy wasn't meant to be back for another couple of hours, he must have forgotten something in his office. She wondered if now would be the best time to tell him about her new dance partner. Better he hear it from her than Gabriel blabbing his version of the story.
The foot falls leading up the drive way sounded strange, unlike Daddy's steady purposeful stride. Frowning she pulled back the lilac curtains and squinted against the bright afternoon sun.
"Gabriel." She called startled. Two men clad in black jeans and shirts were making their way towards the house; one looked up at her and gave a two fingered salute grinning arrogantly. Ella dropped the curtain back into place and stepped away from it. "Gabriel!" She shouted more urgently.
"What?" He yelled from somewhere in the house. Ella's feet thumped dully on the hardwood floor as she ran through the house checking rooms until she found her brother in their father's bar. He perched on a stool with his back turned towards her, the muscles there tight. An empty whiskey glass rested in the curve of his unclenched hand.
"Gabriel," she said slightly breathless. "There are people inside. The gate opened…did you let them in?" Her worried tone was now laced with confusion. Gabriel wouldn't be sitting up here if he was expecting friends and no one but the two of them, excluding their father, had a key for the gate.
He shook his head still not looking at her. She moved closer hesitantly then saw her brothers pale face shadowed in the gleam of the security camera screen set in the bars counter. The two men stood just outside the door. One was bent over the door's lock working it open while the other stared up at the camera. He was speaking, there was no sound on the screen but they could both read his lips clearly.
We're coming Gabriel.
His lips twisted up sickly and Ella's skin began to crawl.
"Who are those guys?" She demanded. Gabriel, in a state of shock, said nothing. He was beginning to get on her nerves. "What the hell Gabriel! They said your name. Who are they?" She said stridently giving him a rough shake. They'd take a long time to get through that door with whatever they were using, enough time for her brother to explain - BANG! The sound echoed through the house and then the front door slammed against the inside wall. Ella watched in silent horror as the guy that had spoken into the camera tucked a gun into the back of his jeans.
"Get Dad's gun." Gabriel said flatly snapping into action. "You know where it is? In his office, top draw," he told her before she could answer.
"Listen to me Ella." He said taking her by the shoulders and looking into wide brown eyes. "Get Dad's gun and get out of the house. Do you understand? Do you?" He shook her until she nodded. "If you see them shoot. Don't be scared and don't hesitate. Just shoot them and run." Ella's heart was hammering somewhere in her head but she heard Gabriel and did what she was told. He pulled her against his chest, hugging her quickly, before he pushed her gently towards their father's office. She shot him a worried look before she disappeared into the adjacent room.
"Gabriel," a voice sang from downstairs. "Where are you?"
Ella crouched at the dark wood desk. Her hands shook and the key missed the lock several times before sliding into place. She pulled open the draw and tossed out various documents that hid the metal panel beneath it.
Staring at the key pad for a moment she steadied her hands. She couldn't afford to make a mistake with this. 101193. She punched in the numbers of Gabriel's birthday and the safe clicked open revealing the cold hard gun within. Gabriel's voice cut into the room.
"What the fuck are you doing in my house?" The resentment in his voice was substantial. She had never heard her brother sound so harsh before.
"We're here to collect." One of the intruders said conversationally. Ella took the gun out its case. The weight of it frightening her almost as much as this whole situation did.
"You took a huge chance coming here. Not to mention the disrespect-"
"Disrespect," a new voice seethed. "What the hell do you know about respect?! I have a God damned mind to-" There was the rowdy sound of shuffling feet then a hard thump and a gasp.
Ella recognized her brother's taunting voice, "What?" He pressed, "You have a God damned mind to do what? Tell your mommy and daddy on me? Oh right, you don't have those anymore."
"Get off of him." The first voice said then cocked his gun warningly. "I'd play nice if I were you Gabriel." Someone scrambled off the ground; she doubted it was her brother.
"Listen up, Daniel," Gabriel started irritably. "You wasted your time breaking in for your money. My Dad's not even here, so how about we do this whole confrontational get-together another day."
"We're not here for the money." Daniel said his voice hardening. "Where is she?"
Gabriel's voice was tense when he responded, "Who?"
"Bridget." The other intruder spat. Ella's mind suddenly reeled with images of the pretty blonde girl with pastel blue eyes that visited on weekends - Gabriel's girlfriend. She hadn't been around for a few months but he had never told her what that was about. These guys can't be talking about the same girl.
Gabriel made a sound at the back of his throat. "Really, you trashed the front door for that? Look, I have no idea where she is. And correct me if I'm wrong but isn't she your responsibility, not mine."
"Don't lie to us." Daniel murmured lowly, Ella almost didn't hear.
"I'm not lying-" Gabriel was cut off by a gun shot and over the ringing in her ears Ella heard a body collapse. Her brother swore colourfully at the pain. She bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself from crying out to him. She couldn't leave without him. She wouldn't.
"We know your father took her somewhere." Daniel continued. "And I'm guessing, since he isn't here, he's with her. So tell us where she is. Oh, and if you're thinking of lying again, the next bullet's going through your head. Do you understand?" The only sound that answered him was Gabriel's pain laboured breaths. "Where is Bridget?" The sudden burst of Gabriel's laugh made her stomach churn uneasily.
"You must think you're really smart." He chuckled. "I'm not going to tell you anything. So why don't you take that vase over there, it's probably worth more than your house, and call the debt even."
Ella knew it was coming but there was nothing she could do to stop what happened next. The bang that was now a familiar sound ended in choked gasp as her brother's blood painted the office door with fine red spray. Her breath hitched as she stared transfixed at the scarlet trickling down. A sob tore its way from her throat into the dead silence and again, there was nothing she could do to stop it. The boys in the bar shuffled then went quite.
"Sounds like we have company," Daniel said sounding unfazed. Ella stood slowly. Gripping the gun tightly in both hands she aimed it at the door. Her whole body was trembling. If you see them shoot. Don't be scared and don't hesitate. Gabriel's words played through her head and she tried her best not to be afraid.
A boy stepped into the doorway and she gazed at him confused for a moment. He was tall and lean with sharp angular features that made him appear almost pretty. His stormy eyes softened when they fell on her, clutching that gun as if it were her life. He raised his hands showing them to be empty.
"I won't hurt you." He said gently. Ella put her finger on the trigger, the boys eyes flicked to her hand as she did. "I'm not going to hurt you." He repeated and took a step closer. She stumbled back. "Who are you?" He asked.
"None of your business," she spat thickly. More tears spilt over and rolled down her cheeks in fat drops. She wiped at them with her shoulder irritably. The boy continued to move closer forcing her to retreat until the windowsill pressed coldly against her back. "I'll shoot." She warned. The gun trembled notably in her hands. "Don't think I won't do it."
"I know you won't do it. Now put the gun down and we can talk." He moved slowly not because he was afraid of her but because he knew she was terrified of him. She backed up farther so that he was behind the desk and she stood on the other side, the desk now a barrier between them. She stared into his eyes coldly and pulled the trigger. It didn't budge. She pulled back harder desperately, her cold desire to kill freezing over to panic. The boy smiled sadly.
"You forgot the safety on." He said and before she could do anything about it she was grabbed roughly from behind. Ella kicked out, thrashing her arms wildly. The gun clattered heavily to the floor as she was pulled from the room back into the bar. Gabriel's still form filled her field of vision and all fight left her body.
"Gabriel." She croaked. The guy holding her threw her down next to him and she landed awkwardly on her knees, her hands landing the sticky dark puddle around Gabriel's chest. Ella cried out and scrambled back.
"You didn't have to do that." The stormy eyed boy ground out.
She crawled back to her brother's side and pulled his limp body into her lap cradling him. His chest lifted and fell weakly but his eyes were close and his face was still. "Gabriel," she cried, "Please, you can't leave me. Please." Squeezing her eyes shut so tight it hurt she tried not to see it anymore. Gabriel still felt warm in her arms as if he was just sleeping or drunk but that image had been permanently scorched into the back of her eyelids. There was nothing she could do to pretend. He was going to die. Her eyes blazed with hatred and anguish when she opened them at the boys towering over her. "Help him! He's going to die you can't just stand there! Help him!" She screamed coarsely. The other boy stared down at her indifferently, not an inkling of regret in his pale blue eyes. The grey eyed one's jaw was tight but other than that he too didn't look sorry.
"It looks about time to wrap up the farewell don't you think?" The blue eyed boy said clapping his hands together. He bent and yanked her from away from Gabriel who thumped against the ground once. She tried to pull away but he held her in such a way that all efforts inflicted pain only on her. Ella watched as the grey eyed boy brought a dampened cloth to her face. He took her chin gently in his hand when she twisted away and pressed the cloth over her nose. The stench of chemicals made her mind fuzz and then she was slipping away into darkness.
"Why'd you bring her here?"
Ella lifted her head sluggishly only to have it loll to the side. She was secured to a chair, it was the only thing keeping her up but the cable ties that held her there were too tight and cut into her skin. The boys that had taken her stood just out of sight. Their shadows painted the concrete beyond the steel bars that confined her. The air smelt of dank wood, grass and rusting metal and the only light came from a sickly yellow bulb that she couldn't see.
"Why'd you think, Jem?" Daniel shot rhetorically. "She knows where Jonathan is. And she looks like she'll be more cooperative than Gabriel was." Ella could hear the smirk in his voice and thought she might be sick.
"This is unnecessary."
"Is it?" Daniel spat dangerously. "Do you not care that Bridget could be gone forever if we don't find him? Don't you care about her?!" His shout echoed and she heard the impact of Jem's back hitting the wall. There was a moment of silence broken by uneven breathing.
"Of course I care." He's voice was rough. "How could you even ask something like that?"
"Then this…this is necessary." Daniel muttered. Material brushed as they moved apart, then Daniel said, "Let's go wake her up."
Ella's heart sunk with the sudden wave of dread. Her eyes darted around the cell, it was big but empty save for the chair she was attached to. Their shadows grew like monsters as they approached. The grey eyed boy's shirt was creased, untidy around the collar, and she guessed he was Jem. The blond boy with the icy blue eyes must be Daniel then.
Ella forced herself forward as far as the restraints allowed, they cut deeper into her wrists and ankles but she didn't cry out, not in front of these animals.
"What do you want with me?" She sneered meeting their eyes with a cold stare.
"This one looks like she's going to be fun." Daniel murmured then smiled her way. "We just have a couple questions for you, beautiful. Tell us what we need to know and you're free."
Jem moved forward and unlocked the gate. His keys jangled loudly against the metal, jarring Ella's already frayed nerves. That steel gate was the only thing that separated her from them and now, as they stepped in, she realized how truly helpless she was. Daniel regarded her thoughtfully, his eyes raking up and down her body.
"Question one," he smiled. "What's your name?" A low screech rattled through Ella's bones and she bit back the urge to whimper. Jem sank into the low stool he pulled from the back of the cell where it had been too dark to notice.
"I'm not telling you anything." She spat thinking of Gabriel. Daniel's hand collided with her cheek rocking her head to the right painfully. A faint cry escaped her lips.
"The next time I'm using a fist." He taunted and she cringed at the thought. Hadn't he used a fist the first time?
"Just answer him." Jem said tiredly.
"Ella," she breathed.
Jem glanced at her, "Ella what?" He pressed.
She pulled her head back up, her heart hammering. "Michaels," she said. "Daniela Michaels."
"Good girl." Daniel cooed stroking the cheek he had just hit. She twisted away. "I'm guessing Gabriel Michaels was your brother." He jeered. Gabriel's still body seared her mind's eye; his dried blood that caked her hands and knees seemed to burn them now. "Well?"
Her lips quivered but she couldn't speak.
"You don't have to answer that." Jem murmured staring at the ground. He had leaned forward, his elbows rested on his knees with his hands loosely clasped dangling over.
"Come on Jem, you're ruining the fun." Daniel chuckled light-heartedly. "Alright, Ella Michaels, you ready for question two?" She pulled in a shaky breath preparing herself.
"Who's your father?" Jem asked.
"Ay! She's getting the hang of it!" Daniel cheered brightly as he strode behind her. She didn't like not being able to see him. It scared her so much.
"Where is he?" Jem asked. Ella rolled her lips into her mouth, a nervous habit, and then stuck her chin out stubbornly. She saw Daniel's fist before it crashed into the side of her face. Her teeth rattled and blood filled her mouth. Her cry of pain echoed back at her.
"Where is he?" Jem repeated. Her head dropped to her chest as tears trickled off her chin. She did her best to hide her face but she knew they could see. Jem's voice became desperate. "Ella, please just tell us."
Her head was yanked back so she now looked at him; his angelic face framed by locks of light brown hair. His grey-blue eyes pleaded with hers. How could someone like this be so horrible inside?
"You said you wouldn't hurt me." She breathed, unwanted tears tracking down her face.
"That's not the answer we want." Daniel sneered and another blow had her wind along with blood wheezing past her lips.
"I don't know." She gasped.
"Wrong answer," he snarled hitting her harder in the ribs. Ella doubled over, going limp against the restraints. She coughed then lifted her head heavily.
"Then you should have kidnapped someone with the right ones!" She retorted spitting blood. Another hard punch caught her right in the gut forcing her to cry out. She barely recovered before the second jab connected with her side then another and another. She should have kept her mouth shut, she knew it. This guy was going to kill her.
"Jesus, Daniel, stop!" Jem snapped. "She's had enough."
"We've barely started." He protested shaking his hands out.
"I don't care. I said enough!" Jem stood and the stool toppled over. Daniel's brow rose then he shook his head at him.
"Oh don't be a pussy James. If you can't handle it go upstairs."
Jem's fists clenched and unclenched restlessly, "That's not my problem. If you keep this up she'll die, then what are we going to do?"
Daniel stepped back, regarding her with his head tipped to one side as if regarding an art piece. "Yeah, you're right. We'll continue this tomorrow." He walked behind her chair and grabbed her bound wrists roughly. Her breath hissed through her teeth as the cables cut into her skin.
"Sorry, sweetheart, am I hurting you?" He asked in mock concern. Ella gasped when she felt a blade press against her arm. "You girls are so fragile. It would be such a shame if I were to break you." He tugged again at the cable and she yelped.
"Stop it." Jem muttered.
The cable ties broke away and her hands fell free. Daniel walked around then crouched in front of her.
"You're no fun these days." He complained severing the last of the restraints.
"Whatever, let's just go." Jem had already stalked from the cell and stood on the other side waiting for Daniel who followed soon after. Jem's keys jangled loudly then both boys walked out of sight.
"Do we still have two minute noodles? I'm starving." Daniel complained. "I haven't eaten since this morning." Steps groaned quietly under their weight then a door was opened and closed and the light went out.
Ella sat there for a long time, terrified at the thought that they'd come back. Her whole body was trembling; she could almost feel her bones rattling inside her body.
She should have run. She should have climbed out that office window and run like Gabriel had told her to. But she hadn't, and now her body was battered and bruised and her big brother was dead.
The sound of them moving farther away could be heard through the ceiling, a low rumble of voices growing softer. She couldn't hear any words but then again, she could live without knowing what they were planning to do to her. Dragging in an unsteady breath Ella got up off the chair tentatively. Her stomach pained. The feeling almost brought her to her knees.
They were going to kill her; there was no doubt in her mind about it. A tear trickled down her cheek at the thought and she wiped it away roughly. Tears weren't going to help.
Using the wall as support she approached the gate. The opening was held shut with a heavy duty chain and a padlock. It didn't stop her from throwing herself against it just to test the actual strength of it though. The metal chain gave way a centimetre before pulling tight and ramming into Ella's shoulder knocking her back. She ground her teeth in frustration before grabbing the bars and shaking them violently. The loud metallic rattle echoed back at her tauntingly then settled leaving her in the damp silent dark with one more bruise. There was really no-one out there to hear her. Her legs gave out and she sunk to the floor.
Why was this happening?
She really didn't want to cry. She didn't want to seem weak but she wasn't sure how long she'd hold out. A hard lump was rising in her throat and the backs of her eyes pinched.
A ray of light speared from the ceiling to the cold ground suddenly. Ella gasped shrinking away from it. A loud sigh drifted down with the golden light. Hope stirred in her chest and she scrambled closer. The unmistakable rhythm of breathing was followed by the shuffle of feet.
"Hello?" Ella called hoarsely. The quiet breathing stopped abruptly. She squeezed her eyes shut as she stood to get closer to the light. "Please, I need help."
"It's just me." Jem's voice answered.
"Jem," The name rolled from her lips, the single syllable dropping like lead.
"Save your breath, there's no-one here but Daniel and I." She bit her lip to stop herself from screaming out in frustration. "I'd rest up if I were you," he added. "Tomorrow's going to be hard." Then the light went out and Ella was washed in darkness once again.