Espresso Entrapment

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

This is a DiD(damsel in distress) themed story. If this offends you kindly move on, if not then stay!

Becky Carter, a reporter who is trying to bring crime boss Marta Alfonsi to justice via some damning evidence, is invited to a coffee shop meeting by Marta herself. Marta surely couldn't do anything sneaky in public, could she?

So far the date was going swimmingly.

Becky Carter smiled softly at her new boyfriend. She sat across from him at Poppa Mancino's, an Italian cuisine restaurant in downtown Manchester. They served the best Italian food anywhere. They were pricey, but totally worth it, on occasion. An excellent place for a date, Becky mused as she sipped her ice water with lemon. Glancing down at her now empty plate, her eyes went back up to her... boyfriend? It'd been awhile, truth be told. Setting her glass down, she resumed her story, "So yeah, Dakota lured the fake security guard over to the spot I had set up a trip wire of sorts, made from clothes." Becky's hands flew as she talked, her adrenaline pumped as she reminisced on that night at Macy's.

Ethan Ferguson, an up and coming doctor fresh out of med school, listened with rapt attention. He was around six feet tall, square jaw with brown hair, brown eyes, and a roman nose. His hands sat folded on top of each other, as he patiently listened to Becky's story. He wore a white dinner jacket, red shirt, and black trousers. He wasn't a big color connoisseur, but Becky thought it was ok. Herself, she was in a maroon empire waist dress, that just came past her knees, with the sleeves ending halfway down her forearm. She wore her square faced ladies watch with a black leather band on her left wrist, and her long blonde hair was allowed to flow loose and curly around her shoulders, more of a casual style from her usual French bun. Her hair flew around a bit as she vigorously and excitedly told Ethan her story, freckled cheeks were flushed, and her grey eyes intently fastened on his as she concluded her tale. After concluding, Becky daintily crossed a knee over the other, revealing her barely, sheer black nylons and charcoal grey heels with maroon ribbons.

"Wow," Ethan ran a hand through his slicked back hair. "That was something. Noted. Don't mess with the Carter sisters, or they might throw a couple clothing racks on you."

Becky laughed lightly, "We definitely look out for each other when the going gets tough."

"That's really sweet. And you even got a lovely dress out of it?" Ethan smiled.

"Yes! I am so excited about it! It is a beautiful dress." Becky sipped her ice water again, then raised an eyebrow, "So, how was your pre Christmas shopping experiences?"

"Oh, far more mundane than yours." Ethan carefully put his elbows on the table, as his eyes fastened on Becky, "But this post Christmas date has been very fun."

Becky blushed ever so slightly. It had indeed been a very enjoyable night out. Since her investigation on Marta was currently on standby, she had thrown herself into some more nominal reporting, doing non investigative reporting work with Cass, hanging out with her little sis, and dating now of all things. She may have blushed coyly at Ethan's compliment, but truth be told she was picky when it came to guys. Becky always tried to first get a handle on a guy's heart, how he treated people in general. It mattered far more to her then looks. Though, to be honest, looks certainly helped.
So far Ethan was super nice, and pretty relaxed to her constant talking.

You certainly love to talk, Becky, she told herself.

"Thank you, I thought it was quite fun too! I mean, I totally wouldn't mind doing it again sometime. It was a blast!" Becky mentally kicked herself, she hadn't meant to word it quite like that! What if he felt a little different? Then her cheeks reddened a bit more as she realized what she was doing.
Normally, she tried to be poised and polite enough that she didn't let the guy know exactly what she was feeling. Because sometimes she didn't want to encourage them, especially if she simply wasn't interested in another date, no need to drag things out. She did like this guy though.

Get a clue, Beck, he obviously enjoyed it.

The waitress came up, handing them their bill. Becky split it with him. She never let the guy foot the bill on the first date, it was only fair in her opinion, most guys didn't last through the first one. It was more of they said or did something that didn't sit well with her. Like how they talked to the waiters, or waitresses, some guys were total jerks or smart aleck rude types. Standing up, she slipped her grey pea coat over her athletic frame, and grabbed her purse. She pulled her new beret out of her coat pocket, light grey in color, and slipped it over her head.

After the bill was paid and waitress tipped, Becky always tipped generously, she felt like they were underpaid and it was a mostly underappreciated job, Ethan then walked her outside to her car, a red two door Honda.

"It was certainly an enjoyable evening." Ethan said, gently taking her hand.

"Oh I really enjoyed it." Becky felt light, almost carefree even. Getting out and doing other things had very much helped her get over some of her more recent brushes with the criminal underworld.

Ethan lightly pecked her on the cheek. "Let's do it again sometime."

Becky blushed madly. She almost never did any kissing on the first date. One of her rules. She genuinely liked this guy though, so she happily let it slide for once.

Just relax, Rebecca Lillian Carter, it's not every day I meet a guy as nice as him. 

With a goodbye wave and an 'I'll call you' Ethan Ferguson left, and Becky unlocked her car door, face flushed, enjoyment of the evening's activities still plainly written on her face.

Until she saw the envelope.

It was in the same typewritten script as before, and had the words 'Becky Carter, Intrepid Reporter' on the front.

No way.

First things first.

Becky yanked her car door back open, climbing out and glancing around wildly, hoping she might catch a glimpse of that sneaky bitch Violet.

Nothing.

Cursing slightly under her breath, her quick temper getting the better of her, she worked her way through the parking lot. Becky certainly would love to find the African-American woman squatting beside a vehicle, she had a small pink taser to try out on her, and lots of questions about her employer. A cursory look amongst the vehicles proved fruitless, and Becky made her way back to her own car. Since learning from Owen that Violet was in Manchester, and working with Marta of all people, Becky had kept a watchful eye out. She had no desire to get stuffed in a suitcase by that madwoman again. And Marta of course, there was always Marta.

With trembling fingers(she knew by now there would be no fingerprints on it) she carefully opened it, revealing a single piece of paper.

It said,

Ooooo, I hope you had a Merry Christmas! I apologize I could not come to the Carter Christmas party, or even Dakota's sweet eighteenth birthday. How disappointing! Not to worry though, I want to meet with you. Tomorrow. Two o' clock. At Beans Cups O' Coffee. Tell no one, or I will know, and not show my face. Don't be late! I know how tardy you can get, oh dear me, that's Cass, isn't it? You are the timely one. How endearing, you just have to tell me your secret.

Becky stared at the paper in her hands, Marta wanted to meet? Her mind buzzed with the ramifications. The familiar spike of adrenaline fed her overactive brain, as she discarded ideas and prospective ways to catch Marta in a trap.

What if it's a trap for me?

Becky's mind brought the image of the particular coffee shop Marta had referenced. It was located at a corner on Gibraltar Avenue, with a large alley right next to it. However it being a public place meant it was in her favor, right? Becky contemplated. No way could she leave it alone, besides, why wouldn't Marta try to snatch her right now if that was the Italian woman's intent? Pretty features furrowed, Becky idly drummed her fingers on the steering wheel. A thought occurred to her, one way to catch Marta, maybe two. She would do it alone, no sense risking Marta pulling a no show. And after the last couple incidents Becky wouldn't take the chance with Cass or any of her friends, even though Becky knew full well that they would be pissed she didn't tell them. It couldn't be helped. Another chance to interview the Italian socialite was too good to pass up. It had been four months since Becky had first walked into the Alfonsi mansion and been held prisoner. Four months of dead ends, untraceable threats, and now here was a chance, quite possibly a slim one, but still. Technically there was still a lead in England, but how was she going to get over there?
It was only because of her friends and how powerful Marta and Lorenzo were that Becky didn't do a write up in the paper, or even launch a blog using the internet to attack the ambassador couple.

I need cold, hard facts.

Tomorrow she might get them. First though, she needed to prepare.


**********************************


Lorenzo Alfonsi was worried as he sat at his desk, going over some figures on his computer. His handsome, trim frame was clad in a striped button up shirt and dark trousers. Italian loafers shod his feet. It was not an uncommon thing, really. He was the worrying type. He was worried about his criminal empire, worried about leaving evidence for police, worried about the Family back in Italy, if little Lorenzo didn't measure up.

And he was fucking worried about Marta.

His wife hadn't been acting the same the last while. Obsessing over the pretty blonde haired reporter that she held prisoner a couple months ago. It was not a healthy obsession, in his opinion. She was always scheming to put the Carter girl on edge, and trying to scare her off her investigation. At the same though, Marta seemed happy when her scare tactics repeatedly failed. Lorenzo remembered the stories about Becky Carter's grandma.
And now his lovely wife wanted to meet with Becky over coffee of all things. What the actual hell. He hated to do it, he truly did, but Lorenzo would be damned, quite literally, if he failed again. There was no way he'd let what both of them had worked so hard to achieve be torn down by a twenty-two year old reporter who fancied herself an adult Nancy Drew.

It pained him terribly to do it, it really did. He had no choice.

Lorenzo picked up his phone, a burner phone, to be exact, and prepared to make a call.


***********************************


Back home and up in her bedroom, Becky clicked open her Facebook page on her laptop, to see what was happening with her friends in far away places. Raine was doing spectacular in college, and had a great Christmas with Andy. Becky imagined her making an impassioned speech before a jury one day, in some large courtroom, a professional lawyer. That girl was so smart. Next up was Erin who somehow managed to find trouble before Christmas day, in the form of a naughty Santa Claus wrapping her up in ribbon. Becky shook her head, smiling softly. Erin was coming up to Manchester again for a visit in a week or two, and Becky really looked forward to it. She watched the cute redhead in a video talking about the annual Lakeside Gift Drive. Erin looked adorable in a Santa outfit and her friend gave an energetic performance.

No snooping though, this time we'll just have fun and do some girl stuff.

Next she did some research on the coffee shop she was meeting Marta at. It appeared to be clean, from what she could tell. It was owned by an old couple, Mr. and Mrs. Reuben. The manager had been there for years, and it was a public place after all. She generally liked to save her research work for the last thing, so she could fall asleep tossing ideas around, and in this case, exactly what Marta was up to. Becky made a few other preparations, then went to bed, to think, plan, and hopefully sleep.

I have a big day tomorrow.


**********************************


It was an unusual afternoon, to say the least. A spring like thaw had occurred before New Years. Snow was melting, the temperature rose to fifty degrees Fahrenheit, and people were running around in short sleeves. The sun shone brightly in the winter sky, and the general populace were in a happy mood. The two citizens sat outside at Frankie's Bar & Grill, a restaurant just two blocks down from Bean's Cups O' Coffee. A man and a woman sat at a little table for two, with a tiny umbrella shielding part of the sun's rays. They both wore dark shades, and appeared to be studying the plastic menus. The man checked his phone, then waved a waiter over.

They had time to order some food.


***********************************


Becky entered Bean's Cups O' Coffee an hour early. She figured it'd be a good idea to case the place out, as a precaution. It wasn't a big coffee shop, with two big display windows, and around a dozen tables scattered about. There was only one other patron, an elderly man reading a newspaper. The staff consisted of an older woman, and a young guy who smiled shyly at her when she ordered her coffee.

She was looking quite professional, which her friends always told her she rocked the look, along with dresses.
A maroon blouse, sleeves rolled halfway up, with a dark undershirt. Charcoal grey skirt with dark nylons that clung tightly yet softly to her long, nicely shaped legs. Dark grey high heels with the cutest little red bows on them. Her long, slightly curly blonde hair was in a French bun, that always managed to get loose during her busy day. She slipped out of her grey peacoat that kept her warm during the cold winter months, and draped it over her chair along with her slim grey purse. It was very warm today, ice melting and such, but Becky had no doubt the warm spell wouldn't last. It was Manchester after all. She sat down with her coffee by a window table, and sipped it in quiet contemplation. Marta couldn't try anything right where pedestrians walked by. She checked the time, a leather banded ladies watch fastened on her left wrist.

At least another fifty minutes. Damn, maybe I should have come a little later.

She is not a patient person, and hates waiting around. Although usually she was always twenty minutes early anywhere, but with Marta, Becky had to be sure. At least I brought my tablet. Becky pulled it out and began surfing the web. She checked out Kohl's website, looking for some new skirts and even though she just got a new one, dresses. She didn't really need anything, but Becky loves clothes, and has been guilty of spending hours looking at new outfits. A summery light green mini wrap dress caught her eye, it was gorgeous. The time passed as she window shopped. Suddenly the entrance door jingled its bells suddenly and Becky jerked to attention.

Only two businessmen, carrying briefcases entered. They sat several tables over and opened their respective possessions, revealing paperwork. Still, Becky's grey eyes watched them suspiciously. When they began debating about some evidence she realized they were lawyers.

She relaxed ever so slightly.

Next to come in was a young, scrawny looking mother, pushing a small baby stroller with an adorable little baby inside. The mother dug through her purse as she searched desperately for change, eager to buy a coffee. Becky's heart went out to the woman, and she got up and bought the mother a drink and pastry. She smiled gratefully at Becky, thanked her, to which Becky gave a soft 'You're welcome' in return. The mother was clearly in some dire sort of dire straits.

Becky returned to her table, checked her watch, sighed, then gazed out the window, fighting her impatience and rising unease.

Is this a good idea?

She had been secretly asking that for the past fourteen hours, but could come up with no other viable option. Marta, or more specifically, the Alfonsi family, had to be stopped. If meeting with the woman who had gleefully subjected her to hours of bondage and sending ominous threats was her only option, then so be it. The bells rang again as several more customers entered. Two elderly women, who sat one table over and immediately began gossiping about their womanizing preacher at whatever church they attended. A skater guy, board propped up against the wall, slurped noisily on a latte. The two businessmen were arguing by now, but not too loud. The scrawny mother's baby began crying.

Normal people, engaged in normal activities.

Was she normal for having such a strong desire to bring people to justice? Would this be worth it if her friends were hurt?

That was why she hadn't told Cass, Becky couldn't stand the thought of something happening to her bff. But for her personally, why didn't she become a cop? Or a lawyer? Or a judge? Why a reporter? She could do more as one of those, couldn't she? Not exactly. A cop who found evidence in a house without a search warrant, for example, couldn't submit it to court. A citizen on the other hand, well they certainly could. Becky also recgonized that there were different methods depending on the person.
Which ushered another question to her mind, one she'd been pondering the last while. Why had Maggie refused to let her look under the bed at Marta Alfonsi's house a couple months back? The reasons at the time seemed halfway legit, but what if there was something more to it? It wasn't like the current assistant editor to pass up a chance to get nosy, especially with suspected criminal activity. A glance over all of Maggie's publicized cases would be in order, and a few questions for her friend.

Becky grabbed another coffee, then sat down again, feeling restless. She stared at the second hand on her watch, it seemed to move soooo slow. It was five minutes past two. Marta was late. For some reason no surprise there. The music playing over the radio had a catchy fifties beat to it, and Becky found herself tapping her foot in rhythm.

She felt a nervous premonition.

The bells rang out again, and Becky halfway jumped out of her seat. She turned her head, staring.

And stared.

Marta Alfonsi walked through the door, looking like a billion bucks. She strode forward with confident steps, her six inch tall copper colored heels clicking on the floor as she walked, making her a few inches taller than Becky's own three inch heels. They're both the same height without shoes. She wore an expensive, shiny red dress that clung to her body in a way that Becky labeled as scandalous for her own personal tastes.

Marta obviously had no such scruples. She smiled devilishly at Becky, her dark brown hair flowing loose around her shoulders, cascading out from under a black hat cocked in a jaunty fashion. An extremely pricey looking fur coat was draped casually about her body, and in one smooth move she was out of it and carefully rested over her chair.

Becky actually liked the hat.

Marta slid, slithered in Becky's mind, into the seat across from her, and the girl reporter stiffened involuntarily. Her purse with her taser was in easy reach right beside her.

"Hello beautiful. You look gorgeous today." Marta said in a breathy tone. She carefully gave a long, almost lustful once over Becky's body.

Becky frowned at the compliment, foot still tapping almost with a mind of its own. She pointed to her watch, "You're seven minutes late."

"And you were an hour early, Becky dear. So I understand your restlessness. No one told you to come early." Marta smiled those perfect teeth of hers.

Becky felt her foot tap faster, out of rhythm with the music. She took a deep breath, forcing herself to calm down and not start talking a mile a minute. She had to gather info. Becky looked seriously at Marta. "You had eyes on me? No surprise there. You think you hold all the cards? I may have a surprises of my own."

Marta carefully put an elbow on the table, resting her chin on an open palm. Her eyes were smiling at Becky's serious facial expression. "My my, no 'How are you Marta dear?' Or 'Can I get you something to drink, Marta?' Or even a simple thank you for the compliment I paid you. Tsk tsk. Such manners, do not worry, I won't hold it against you." She smiled in a condescending fashion.

Becky felt her cheeks redden, but she reigned in her emotions, albeit with some effort, "How," she said coldly, "Do you expect me to say that when you kept me prisoner in your house, and sent untraceable threats in the form of art and notes? We are not friends, this is simply a meeting of two enemies. So be honest, I have-"

"Oh my, I figured you would say something like that." Marta interrupted Becky with an annoying smirk, and Becky responded by giving Marta the evil eye. "You will come to enjoy our interactions through rope and tape. I have to be honest, I am very much looking forward to stuffing my panties past those pretty lips of yours again, and closing that smart aleck mouth. Would you like them clean or dirty?"

Becky whipped a small voice recorder she had resting casually on her lap and clicked it on, "Say that again, will you Marta dear? For the record" Her voice dripped with false sweetness.

Marta's smile widened, "I was just saying, I love your reporting Miss Carter, it is quite something how tenacious you are in investigative journalism. If you'll excuse me I am dying for a shot of coffee." Marta got up and went over to the counter to order. Becky noticed the two businessmen staring at the beautiful Italian lady. She felt frustration building as she considered whether to leave the recorder on or not. Marta would never reveal anything, she was by now used to Becky's bombshell dropped questions, and Becky sure as hell did not have enough evidence to potentially shock Marta into revealing something anyway. She took a sip of her coffee.

Marta waltzed back, a pastry held daintly in one hand, and a small cup of coffee in the other, and slid into her seat.

Becky made a show of switching the recorder off, "Then tell me why you wanted to meet? I want to know what you were doing over in England, and what happened to the witness released on bail that Chief Cooper said vanished suddenly?"

"My my my! So many questions and not enough answers! Did I ever mention I love your hair? And while that outfit is lovely, it could use some better name brands. Those tights are way too cheap, Becky dear. And that skirt, was it from Kohl's? Or Goodwill?" Marta smirked, then took a perfect sized bite out of her pastry.

Becky felt pin pricks of anger building up as she glared, "Answer my damn questions' " She said vehemently. "And no! My skirt did not come from Goodwill."

"Good girl! You answered one of mine, so now I will one answer of yours!" Marta sipped her coffee.

Becky's mind whirled, as she thought of the possibilities, not to mention there was something odd at how simple Marta made it sound. "The England connection, why were you there four years ago?"

"Clever girl! You found the YouTube video. I'll have it removed now that you saw it. Oh that was quite easy. Before we Alfonsis decided to give Manchester another crack, England was a hotbed for criminal activity." She mimed pouting lips, "Sadly, there proved to be far too much competition, in the forms of strange men who wore burlap sacks on their heads and white opera masks. Even one young lady who obsessively loved green, a pretentious snob."

"I don't believe that, you were there for awhile, I checked. What did you do?" Becky countered, then drained the rest of her coffee. She was feeling the fire of journalism in her blood.

"Nah nah!" Marta trilled, "My turn! How skillful of you to tase one of my fine employees, all he would have done is hogtie you and leave you in an alley, a classic warning for the girl reporter, but you tased him? How could you?"

"News flash, I don't want to be your prisoner, Marta. Get a clue. And after these past several experiences I decided to take a few self defense classes," Becky filed away what Marta had said, for later mulling, then glanced around, trying to keep track of her surroundings. It wasn't easy juggling both, but Becky was a hell of a multitasker. "Where's Violet?" She asked suddenly, "I know she's your bodyguard, and most likely following me."

"Oh don't worry about her, she's my driver and also under my employment. She won't hurt you unless I allow it, Becky dear. And I would never want to hurt you." Marta purred.

Becky glanced around the coffee shop, but no one was paying them any mind. "You're lying through your teeth." Becky leaned forward, hands clenched into fists.

"How dare you call me a liar!" Marta said, face aghast, then she smiled and with a light chuckle said, "I think you will make a fine pet for me someday, when you're ready. You are so lovely, especially when you put on cute displays of anger like that."

Becky stared at Marta incredulously, was the woman insane? A damn pet? What the hell? She gritted her teeth, fighting the impulse to pull out her taser for defense. Becky was getting more and more nervous, something felt off, and her intuition was screaming that she should leave.

Marta smiled coyly, tapping her long fingernails on the table, as Becky tensed.


**********************************


"Are we there yet?"

The man known only as Owen, carefully lowered the tiny high definition monocular from his left eye, and glared with fake anger at Amaya.
They both sat at a small table right outside Frankie's Bar & Grill. He was watching Marta and Becky through the monocular, keeping an eye on them, waiting for Marta to make her move. Late last night he'd been spying on Lorenzo Alfonsi through the window in his home office. With his telescoping lens Owen had cleverly read Lorenzo's lips, as the Italian man made a frantic looking phone call. Owen didn't catch all of it, but what he did catch scared him, even more so now that he had followed Marta's limo, to meet with none other then the impatient, short tempered, yet brilliant reporter Miss Carter. He sincerely hoped Miss Carter wouldn't see it as stalking, if all went according to plan she would come to no harm. She still wasn't trusting of Amaya and himself just yet, but he hoped they could work together.

Unfortunately his only current ally was a five feet three inch Japanese girl who was constantly badgering him about 'borrowing' his high dollar monocular.

Yeah right.

Not that he didn't mind the teasing though.

Owen brought the lens up to his eye, clearly things were not going in Miss Carter's favor. She appeared to be more and more upset, and Marta looked happy with the way the conversation was going. They had to be ready to move in. Dressed in dark trousers, black combat boots, dark green tee shirt, a black leather jacket, and a ball cap, Owen carefully watched the scene, blending in fairly well with his surroundings. His rough beard, thick dark hair, and hazel eyes were handsome enough, but no eye catcher.

"Violet still hasn't seen us, right?" Amaya asked from her perch. She was dressed in a light yellow dress, with a blue sweater over her torso, and legs bare in the fifty degree weather. Her feet were in canary yellow heels. Fair skin with short black hair, Amaya was an Asian beauty. She also liked to wear clashing colors.

"Nope, surprisingly. She's on a park bench just across the street from the coffee shop." Owen was relieved, to say the least. It had been a few weeks since he'd taken a bullet through his shoulder, and the wound had healed nicely. Thankfully Amaya had been quite more adept then he was at stitching, and with a clean exit hole there had been no need to go to the hospital.

"So let me take a look see, will ya? Those old man eyes are sure to miss stuff." Amaya giggled.

"What's Japanese for 'pain in the ass'?" Owen asked with a deadpan expression, still keeping an eye on the two women.

"Owen." Amaya laughed.

"Touche." Owen chuckled, he couldn't help it.

"Let me see!" Amaya pouted.

"Heh, you're the daughter of a rich businessman, can have whatever you want, drives an Aston Martin, could have gone to Harvard or Yale, and you won't buy a monocular?"

Amaya mock punched him, "Now who thinks he's funny?"

Owen carefully checked on Violet, who was still sitting, dressed in an old black leather jacket with blue jeans and dark shades. She sat perfectly still.

Owen looked a little closer, and Violet turned her purple haired head, and looked straight at him.

"Oh crap. Amaya, we gotta go now!"

Owen slipped his monocular into his coat pocket, whipped out his black bandanna and tied it tightly over his nose and mouth as he began dashing for the coffee shop.


***********************************


"So what's the real reason you called me here?" Becky blurted out. She was sick of beating around the bush with the Italian woman.

"Simply this, the only reason you are still walking around, breathing free air, or even air at all, is because of me," Marta purred.

Becky glared at what she now realized was her biggest nemesis, forget the other names, Marta Alfonsi was Becky Carter's top priority. "And just how do you figure that? You think you can kidnap me in broad daylight? Or in this cafe? Think again, this is a public place." Becky growled, her normally lovely voice sounding harsh.

"Power and money, Becky dear. It all comes down to power and money. Let me demonstrate." Marta's smile widened, and she casually raised a hand.

Almost instant, electrifying silence commenced. What seemed like as one, every single person in the cafe turned and looked at Becky.

Becky felt icy pangs of fear in her stomach, and her face paled as she looked at each person.

Cold, neutral expressions stared back at her.

Becky looked at Marta. "H-how did you do it? I checked this place out, it was kosher." Her voice trembled a bit, and rose in pitch. She was in deep shit now.

"Money can do a lot of things, my dear, dear Becky." Marta lowered her hand, and her employees went back to talking and eating.

"What about the old couple that owned it?" Becky's hands were trembling, she had to get out of here before Marta did whatever she was planning.

"Oh they were more than happy to go on a weeklong vacation, while my employees ran the shop. Take that former homeless woman there, Becky. She now has a steady income working for my Family. A happy, tight knit family. My dear! Your hands are trembling." It was a statement, not a question, and Marta licked her lips at the girl reporter.

Becky made a show of checking her watch, "Geeeee! Look at the time, I really need to get going!" Her knees were knocking together as she stood. What the hell was wrong with her? Why could she not stop shaking?

"I don't think you're going anywhere." Marta's smile vanished, and an air of menace contorted her facial features, "Not unless I allow it."

Becky got to her feet, then collapsed back onto the chair, her vision began to blur and those unnamed colors one sees when your vision is swimming blinked before her eyes. Weakly, Becky pointed an accusatory finger at Marta, "Whassss, whas you put in my coffsee?" Her speech slurred as her eyelids drooped, "Damn ith." As Becky slowly passed out, Marta's unblinking, suddenly neutral face was right in Becky's own, watching her intently.

Weird.

The girl reporter tried to head butt her, but she was much too weak. Becky's vision slowly faded out, and she heard Marta say the name 'Violet', then darkness overtook her.


***********************************


Owen ran as fast as his booted feet would move. Surprisingly, Amaya kept up in her heels. He saw Violet enter the building, then flip the open sign around to closed, and she drew the long shades in front of the large glass window.

"Fuck!" Owen shouted.

They both reached the door, in time to see two men in business suits carry the unconscious Miss Carter into the back room while Marta shrugged on her coat.

"Stop!" Owen pounded on the door, which was locked, and Marta Alfonsi turned to look at him. It was the first time he had ever seen her this close, and she looked like a woman who could handle herself in a room full of six foot killers. Handle herself very, very well. Not because she was physically imposing, but she had a calculated look about her, one that suggested she was one step ahead of everyone else. Marta winked at him, and Violet smirked, then they exited through the kitchen door. The rest of the patrons watched their boss leave.

"Around back!" Amaya shouted as she took off.

Owen dashed after her, and they entered the alley just as the limo sped out the opposite end of the alley.

"Oh shit." Amaya yelled as Owen dashed for the black limo.

"Damn it." Owen growled.

It was too late, however, and Owen turned to Amaya, "Let's go talk to the 'patrons' of Bean's Cups O' Coffee."


**********************************


The presence of darkness came first.

Becky awoke to the sensation of someone lightly slapping her cheek, and a cloying amount of perfume hung around her face. She opened her eyes. Still darkness. Something was wrapped around her eyes. Becky tried to reach up to yank it off, but couldn't. Her wrists were crossed and tightly bound behind her back with soft, thin rope. She was in a wooden chair, felt like.

"Marta?" Becky called out, beginning to struggle in her bonds. Her ankles were tied to the cross piece of the chair, with more of the thin silky rope digging into her tights, namely around her calves, knees, thighs, waist, above and below her breasts. Her forearms were cinched together, and there was even rope around her biceps, though they weren't touching thankfully. Still, her restraints were tight as hell and no amount of wiggling would get her out.

Previous experience taught her Marta Alfonsi knew how to tie a knot.

"Ahhhh, you're awake." A voice purred.

Speak of the devil.

"Let me go Marta!" Becky demanded, squirming in her chair. "This is ridiculous, drugging me at a cafe, tying me up to a chair. You won't keep getting away with this scott free." She glanced wildly around, unable to see anything with the blindfold on.

"Relax Becky dear, no one knows where you are." Marta must have been right by her ear.

Becky tried to head butt the woman, but she only met empty air.

A light chuckle, "Do you wish to see, princess? Oh do make a wish. Please, please make a wish. I loved wishes as a little girl. Still do."

"I'm not a princess, and one of my wishes is you would take a long run off a short bridge. How's that for fairytale wishes?" Becky tried rubbing the knot behind her head off on the chair, but the silken material was far too tight. "Ugggghhh!" She grunted in frustration.

"Oh dear, but you are my princess, and I am your Queen. I will grant the princess her sight back, but only because I allow it. Remember that Becky dear, and don't get cocky." More purring from Marta.

Becky felt the knot being untied, and her silken red blindfold fell away. She blinked, looking around curiously. In an abandoned house, looked like. Becky had thought it might be the Alfonsi Mansion, and the fact that it was not, that might be bad news for her. They were in an empty living room, the wooden floor looked clean however. Marta sat on a similar wooden chair, leaning forward, hands clasped together in excitement. Her hat was still cocked sassily to one side, but now she wore white gloves. A roomy plus sized bag rested open next to the Italian woman's chair. A small end table was next to Becky, and her slim grey purse was open with the contents spilled out. Hairbrush, makeup mirror, cellphone, voice recorder, small pocket knife, and her handheld pink taser.

All just out of reach.

Marta noticed Becky eyeing her purse's contents. "Forget about your worldly goods." A self satisfied smile played on her red lips, "You're my possession now, princess. I just need you in a dress. Don't worry, that will happen at some point."

Becky tugged again at her wrist bonds, more in mounting frustration then anything. "Marta, you do not 'own' me. No one does. I'm my own person. You and Lorenzo are just two bit criminals who had to leave Italy because they couldn't watch over their territory. And now a journalist is on your trail, and I promise you, I will leave no stone unt-mmmmppp!"

Marta had leapt up and was suddenly leaning over Becky, a tight hand clamped over her mouth. The young reporter glared grey orbs of fury up at her.

"I take defamation very seriously my dear." Marta looked down at Becky meaningfully, who stared back with Marta's hand pressed tightly over her mouth. "Quite a clever deduction, an accurate one, I'll admit. But Lorenzo and I have learned much from our past mistakes."

"Mmmmrrgg!" Becky tried to twist her head away from Marta's hand so she could speak, but the Italian crime boss just pressed harder, her white glove keeping Becky's mouth sealed.

"Huuush," Marta said softly, "Now if you will stop talking so much, I won't gag you."

Becky fumed, breathing heavily through her nose. She debated for a moment on trying to bite Marta's hand, but with the gloves, well, it probably wouldn't work. She nodded reluctantly, or tried, maybe she could at least ask Marta some more questions. Besides, she abhorred getting gagged.

"Ridiculous." Becky murmured as soon as Marta's hand moved away.

Marta laid a finger on Becky's lips. "Shhh. I am just dying to shut you up, but I do love your snide, irritated comments. Don't tempt me, dearest."

Becky felt for once it was best to stay quiet. Instead she pursed her lips and gave Marta a reproving glance.

"Down to business. Who should I kidnap next time out of your merry little band?"

Marta's question was unexpected, and Becky couldn't hide her surprise. "What do you mean? This is between you and me, Marta!" Becky said the last bit with venom in her tone.

"Us? Are we an item?" The Italian lady raised a tentative eyebrow.

Becky's face flushed a little in self-righteous indignation. "Of course not! I meant you and myself, as enemies. What the hell is wrong with you? I'm straight anyway, and would you call this a relationship?" Squirming in her chair, Becky's skirt rode up a little, revealing more of her pantyhose clad legs. She flushed further, and noticed Marta was observing her intently.

"Ooooooooooo lala!" Marta's ecstatic charisma visibly showed on her face as she clapped her hands together.

"What?" Becky asked hotly.

Marta leaned over her, and casually rested a white gloved hand on Becky's knee. "Are we a little overly shy about showing off too much leg?" The Italian woman gazed at Becky's body with.... longing? Becky wasn't sure, but she was uncomfortable to say the least.

"No, no idea what you're talking about." Becky lied, but could tell she hadn't sold it. Marta's behavior appeared to be on a bit of the obsessive side.

"That's exactly what I expected you to say." She purred, "But that is good to know you are so very concerned about how much leg you reveal, darling. Such a good, modest, sweet young woman. And I-"

"Are a very bad one." Becky interrupted. She was still blushing in abject embarrassment that Marta had sussed out how shy she was about showing off a lot of leg, but she would still hold her own.

"What an excellent way to finish a sentence. But dear me, you continue to argue and hurl insults. As I was saying, I love how pure and good you are, it makes me even more fascinated by your continued endeavors to put me in prison. So many angles to explore with you, and so little time."

"Why are you so fascinated by me? I'm a normal girl just doing my job as an investigative reporter." Becky wondered what exactly Marta wanted with her. If she wanted to get rid of her, Becky knew the criminal woman would have done so already. Why continue this charade? Was she obsessed with Becky's determination? Will power? Investigating skills? Or was it deeper then that? Maybe even reasons Becky didn't want to know. She swallowed nervously at the thought.

"Oh you are far from normal." Marta rested both hands on Becky's knees, and used her thumbs to gently push the reporter's pencil skirt farther up.

Almost to my control tops, Becky thought, worried at what the Italian woman might have in store for her. It was clear to Becky's mind that Marta was obsessed with her, though in exactly what context was yet to be determined. It was everything combined, sending thugs after her, paintings to her house, Violet stalking her, the meeting at the coffee shop, and now her current predicament bound to a chair. Most criminals would have some elaborate death traps by now.

"You are an extraordinary girl, seemingly not put out by your constant imprisonment and kidnappings." Marta smiled, only several inches from Becky's face. "A most special young woman, and I want to know why do you do it? Why are you so eager to put criminals behind bars? Why your campaign for justice through this flawed system? Why-"

"The system is not flaw-mmmrrrggh!" Marta clapped a hand over Becky's mouth.

"I. Am. Not. Finished." Marta held her gloved palm firmly over Becky's mouth, as her brown eyes stared meaningfully into the reporter's grey ones. "You and I have a lot in common, you are just not aware of it. Very much in common. It puzzles and concerns me that you did not take the same path I did. Why is this? And yes, I know all about your father's death and his closed casket funeral. What a glorious government. We've had similar experiences. Please, I hope you investigate further. See what you can uncover." Marta released her palm from Becky's mouth, who was almost bursting with questions.

"What are you talking about? You know nothing about my father!" Becky shouted. "Keep your mouth shut Marta! He died for his country."

Marta turned her back to Becky and picked up the large bag on the floor, placing it on her chair. She began rummaging through it.

"Don't you dare turn your back to me!" Becky roared, she was seeing red, she was positive of it. "I demand an answer!"

"Becky dear, oh dear Rebecca Lillian Carter. How old do you think I am?" Marta kept her back to Becky, and the girl reporter noticed her pulling out two packages, was it... pantyhose and underwear? "And how much experience do you think I have?''

"You gotta be freakin' kidding." Becky knew where this was going. "I thought you said you wouldn't gag me?!" Becky's grew eyes narrowed at her captor.

Marta Alfonsi finally turned around, a large, predatory smirk on her face. "Here's the thing about criminals. We lie. Shutting your smart aleck mouth is a highlight for me. I so enjoyed it last time."

Becky was angry, sore from the ropes, and above all burning with so many questions. "I want to know what you meant by 'we're alike'. We are nothing alike, you and I."

"The best always are." Marta said simply. She sat on Becky's lap, and held up a pair of lacy woman's underwear. "Open wide! God that brings back so many wonderful memories."

Becky squirmed with the weight on her lap, wishing she could jerk her wrists free and give Marta a solid knuckle sandwich. As it was she could not move an inch. A very thorough job had been done trussing her up. Her face reddened as it was veeeery uncomfortable having Marta this close and in her personal space. A woman she was beginning to loathe at that. If it was Ethan- her face became even more scarlet at the diversionary thought from her predicament.

Focus, focus on keeping her talking.

She gritted her teeth, an unfortunately by now familiar exercise, "Memories? All mine are bad. You seem to enjoy portraying yourself as a lunatic, reading stories? Really? Never had the motherhood experience huh? So you tie up two young women as a substitute?"

Marta smiled dangerously, "Ahhh, just open that pretty mouth of yours."

Just do it, Beck, you know it's gonna happen anyway, a voice told her.

She started to but stopped. She never did before, why make Marta's job any easier? Becky shook her head. Marta got off her lap, much to Becky's relief, then went over to her bag, pulling out some strong ointment in a glass bottle. She unscrewed it and settled back down on the girl reporter's lap, "Smell this, Becky dear." She purred.

The strong peppermint scent invaded her nostrils, causing Becky to open her mouth, coughing.

Wasting no time, Marta grabbed her chin, and forced the floral patterned panties into Becky's mouth, dropping the bottle in the process. It fell to the floor, spilling its contents.

"Mmmmrrggfffkkkk!" The blonde haired reporter yelled, trying to spit them out.

It was not to be done, as Marta crammed them all the way in, she gently closed Becky's mouth partially over the wad. "My but you have a big mouth, I would love to get more in there, but I want to try something, shall we say, artistic." She wrapped a silky pair of tights around Becky's protesting mouth, effectively cleave gagging her. Yes she knew gag names by now, much to her annoyance. Becky shook her head, fighting it, but the pantyhose was wrapped and tied off without incident. Then a second pair was used to wrap tightly over the whole mess, an OTM gag to be exact. It was cinched expertly, underneath her French bun, the silky triple knot digging softly into her skin. A damn shame a girl reporter knows all these gag names so early in her career. Marta next pulled out a roll of red duct tape, tearing two strips, and using them to form an 'X' shape over Becky's mouth.

"Just to ensure things stay where they should, dear." Marta breathed.

Becky snorted indignantly, What a joke.

Marta laughed genuinely as she patted Becky's red freckled cheeks that almost matched the gag. "There there Becky dear, you look so cute all trundled up and silenced. An excellent pet."

"Ffrckkk mmmffpp!"

"Lions and tigers and girl reporters, oh my."

Becky cursed muffled grunts, but was very well silenced.

Marta dramatically threw her hat off and did a curtsy.

Becky stared, unimpressed, then tried rubbing her gag off on the chair. Too tight. She watched as Marta grabbed her phone, and sat down next to her, of all things.

"Picture time!" Marta sang out as she held up her phone, taking a selfie of her and Becky, "Smile Becky dear!"

She yelled instead, hoping Marta would get the hint and take her gag off.

"Happy bondage day!" Marta cheered, then took several pics.

"Grrggrrmmmppp!"

"Such a grump."

Marta stood up and twirled around Becky, singing out, "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!" She began undoing the barrettes clipped into Becky's hair.

You gotta be kidding, Becky thought.

She shook her head, trying to fight Marta's nimble fingers, but all it did was cause her hair to spill loose, flowing around her shoulders.

She could feel Marta fingering her hair behind her, then Marta leaned in and held a strand close to Becky's face. "My such loooong, lovely hair you have. I think you should let it down more often, my dear."

"Rrgmmfff! Ffrmgg mmmppphhh!" Becky tried to make coherent speech, but just ended up losing patience and yelled into her gag instead.

"Oh I get it." Marta purred, "You're a no nonsense reporter who likes to keep her hair out of the way. Well you're with me today." She chuckled lightly, "So just relax."

I'll show you how to relax Marta, as soon as I'm out of this. 

Marta settled down next to her, and casually traced a finger along Becky's leg. "Settle down dearest, it's going to be awhile.''

*********************

It was absolutely ridiculous. Dakota Carter stared at her phone like it was the mushrooms she picked off her pizza and threw away. It was ringing a shrill alarm clock sound, with a memo to call her older sis. She remembered Beck's words this morning, 'If that alarm goes off and I haven't checked in with you, call Lieutenant Cooper and Cass.'

Dakota called Cass.

"Uuhhhh."

"Cass? Are you ok?"

"Gaaaaaaaaaaawd."

"Lemme guess, you like, just woke up."

"Uh-huh."

"Ok. Totally Becky is in, like deep shit. She wouldn't say who she was investigating, but said to call you and Cooper."

"Whadddya mean Beck's in trouble? I didn't know she was checking somebody out!" Cass's slur changed to more coherent speech and she sounded concerned.

"Really don't know. Beck's been secretive lately. She has a tracking app on her phone, let me track her. Get over here now."

"On it." Cass hung up.

Dakota decided to dial her sis, just to double check, more of an afterthought. Maybe Beck had forgotten, though knowing her sister that was highly unlikely. She waited patiently as her phone dialed.


***********************************


Becky's phone rang, and Marta glanced at it from where she was nestled against Becky's legs, still clicking away with her phone, "Helllloooooo," Marta got and looked, "A phone call from baby sis! Oh soon we'll have the whole family involved, princess." Marta gave a long wink, and hit talk.

"Nnnnmmmnnnnn!" Becky shouted, trying to jar the chair and pull at her bonds with all her strength. Her wrists remained tightly bound in their crossways position.

"Becky's office, this is her secretary Marta speaking, how may I direct your call?" Marta rattled it off like she was really was Becky's faithful secretary.

Becky tried hopping her chair over, but Marta casually rested a long leg against Becky's thigh, easily preventing her from moving. Marta's sharp heel prodded into her thigh, and Becky frowned in extreme annoyance.


***********************************


"Uh, Beck? This isn't Beck. Who is this?" Dakota demanded. She could hear a ruckus over this 'Marta' lady's introduction.

"Marta?" Dakota asked, "WHERE IS MY SISTER?"

"Ohhhhhhhh sweet, sweet child. Do not worry! Princess Becky is all snugly tied up right now, with your sister it is always literal, as I'm sure you're aware." The voice, this Marta, purred.

"Let her go! Becky, can you hear me?" Dakota yelled.

"Child child child. My, you certainly hurt my ears, how impolite of you. Always speak in calm tones. And of course she can't hear, and she cannot talk since she is even more of a loudmouth than you. What is it with these Carters? Hmm?"

"We're going to find you, don't worry. I-"

"Oh you will when I say. This phone is being disposed of. Just wait for a call on us. A pleasure Dakota honey, I simply cannot wait to meet you. How rude of 'Beck' to not introduce us. I may have to punish her." Marta's voice was unlike anything Dakota had heard, she sounded, like so in control. And something else Dakota couldn't quite place.

"Wait! At least let me talk to Beck!" Dakota hollered desperately, but the line was dead. "Shit."


***********************************


Becky had been forced to watch Marta enjoy talking to her little sis, and she was livid it had happened at all. She grunted and squirmed, but the ropes simply dug softly into her skin, making sure she went nowhere. Becky felt her chin being gently grabbed by Marta, and looked at the woman with roomy, furious eyes.

"I will love to meet her someday. But you are the real catch. Don't ever forget it." Marta leaned in, lips parted, to kiss her? Becky never found out as Lorenzo Alfonsi of all people strode into the room.

Hope surged through her, Lorenzo had been more kind than Marta at their mansion, maybe he would let her go.

However he never looked at her as he grabbed his wife's arm. "Let's go Marta dear. Someone is coming to take care of this problem. The Carter girl will no longer be a threat. She's being taken out of the equasion as it should have been done with her grandma long ago."

Marta's face paled as she stared at her husband, Becky felt panic at the look that passed between them. Holy crap was she in hot water, her intuition was screaming at her to get out, do something, but Marta's foot was still pressed against her chair.

Becky grunted, hoping they would look at her, Not looking good, girl.

"Lorenzo what the hell? You're ruining my fun. Becky is my pet project, you know this." Marta appeared very angry.

"Lllmmmmm gmmm!" Becky tried to get their attention, but they ignored her. Taken out of the equasion? What the frick could that mean?

"Come my dear." He said, then began speaking rapidly in Italian. Marta switched off too and Becky was forced to watch her fate being decided in another language, at least that's what she imagined they were doing. Marta looked more and more upset and agitated as Lorenzo argued with her.

"Mmmppphhh!"

Finally Marta glanced at her, Lorenzo still wouldn't look her in the eye. "I'm sorry Becky, but I must leave. You have proven to be too big of a problem and a distraction for me."

Becky's heart hammered violently against her chest as she observed both facial expressions. This doesn't look good.

Lorenzo nodded approvingly as his phone rang.

Marta leaned in and gave Becky a soft kiss on her gagged mouth, murmuring "Mhmm, I should have done this before the gag. We'll have to do it again sometime."

"That won't be happening Marta and you know it," Lorenzo finally looked Becky in the eyes, and she waited expectantly, her breath coming fast through her nostrils.

"You have distracted Marta from the business, Miss Carter, and between that and your constant nosing about in our business has led me to this horrible conclusion." Lorenzo took a deep breath, "I hired a contract killer to come and take care of you. Do not worry, it will be over quickly. Let's go Marta." Lorenzo turned and left.

"SSSTTMMMMMMMMPPPPPPP!" Becky screamed, desperate to talk, to reason with him. There had to be a way! She squirmed furiously, frighteningly even as she yelled into her panty stuffed mouth.

Marta stared down at her, and a small smile played on the Italian woman's lips. "Oh don't worry princess, you will not die today. I promise. Or will you?" She turned and began walking away, but stopped and gave one last, longing glance at Becky, then winked.

"Nnnnmmmmmmmmmm!" Becky attempted to call after her, but Marta kept walking.

She was alone.

Immediately Becky began trying to wiggle her chair over, wanting the small pocket knife laying so openly on the table. With her wrists affixed to the chair itself, it would be well nigh impossible to grab it, but Becky would be damned if she didn't try. She swore into her gag as she wrestled in her bonds, trying to smoothly move over.


**********************************


"I'm telling you." The man smiled through bloody teeth, "I have no idea where they went. Even if I did I would never tell you." He coughed.

Owen punched him again, desperate to get something useful. He and Amaya were inside Bean's Cups O' Coffee, interrogating the stand ins Marta had hired. These were crooks in the making, novices. They were all tied up, with the exception of the mom and baby. Amaya sat on the counter, sipping an espresso while Owen unashamedly beat one of the businessmen to a pulp.

"Owen I don't think he's going to tell you anything." Amaya swallowed some coffee.

Owen let go of the guy, who fell back against a table. "I'm fresh out of ideas. You have any?" He panted, his shoulder ached a bit.

The Japanese girl opened her mouth just as the telephone rang.

"That'd be her." The man Owen had beat smirked, "Best not keep her waiting."

Owen dashed over to the phone. "Marta?"

"Oooooooo a handsome man, or are you under that bandanna?" Marta's smooth voice intoned.

"What did you do with Miss Carter?"

"Is that any way to talk to a lady? Here I thought you were a gentleman."

Owen took a deep breath, keeping calm, but he felt responsible because he had had an eye on the situation, and it all spiraled out of control.
Like it usually did with him. Berate yourself later, he thought, focus. "Enough games Marta. Tell me where she is or I will storm your mansion." Owen motioned to Amaya to get her car around.

Choked laughter met his threat.

"I'm serious."

"I know. That's what's so funny. Hear hear! I will give you the address where her sweet blonde head is resting. I want to see her live as much as you. I feel a great need for the serious young woman."

"What are you talking about?" Owen gripped the phone so tight his leather gloves squeaked in protest.

"Oh, my beautiful hubby hired someone to take her out. I don't like that at all. So here's my solution. Go rescue her so she can report another day. The address is ten fourteen Moron Avenue. Oh, I meant Morgan."

"Who did he hire?" Owen's pulse spiked.

"Only the best. Now go so I can plan our next meeting. It will be grand I'm sure." Marta hung up.

Owen dashed out of the coffee shop, and jumped in the passenger side of Amaya's Aston Martin.

"Go!"

Amaya grinned as she floored it.


***********************************


"Hang a ricky here." Cass commanded calmly, holding Dakota's phone in her hand.

"Why didn't you say that sooner?" Lieutenant Cooper yelled as he spun his steering wheel.

Cass and Dakota had called Lieutenant Cooper, who had immediately come when he heard what had transpired.

Cass relaxed in the front seat, careful not to show her worry in front of Dakota, who was talking non stop in the back. Her blue hair still messy from just waking up, Cass had slid into some tight ass torn black jeans, a blue tee, and a black hoodie. She shivered, it was a little cold in the car, and Cass could not stop thinking about her friend who according to Dakota was in some deep shit. Why Beck? Why didn't you tell me? Cass planned on asking her that, and a lot more. Hopefully her bff was ok.

Lieutenant Cooper grunted as he made the turn, and put the pedal to the metal. He seemed uneasy, which was unusual considering how laid back the bull dog like guy tended to be. His heavy gut threatened to pop his shirt buttons open. Cooper's fleshy face was shiny with perspiration, and he clutched the steering wheel with both hands.

"Alright, when we get there you ladies stay in the car." He groveled.

Like hell, Cass thought.

They flew down the road getting closer to their destination.


***********************************


Becky finally had her back to the table, and reached, searching with her fingers.

The table was too damn high.

Becky let out a howl of muffled frustration. She had worked her ass off getting positioned just right, and now she couldn't even grab it! Her impatience was at an all time high, and terror clutched at her chest as she realized the ramifications. In all likelihood Becky would probably die with the next twenty minutes, maybe less. She wouldn't give up though, as her mind sought for alternatives. Knocking the table over and then her chair would be in order. A door slammed up ahead somewhere, shaking the house. Becky jumped, or tried, as it is hard when one is tied to a chair.
Her palms slick with sweat, and beads of water pooled at the small of her back, her limbs hurt from the unnatural position of being wrapped around a chair, and her stuffed mouth was aching from the bulging cloth in it.

Somehow though she shivered in spite of her flushed cheeks and sweaty palms.

A man entered the living room, no not entered, more like filled the entire hallway. He was six feet six inches, three hundred fifty pounds of mostly muscle. His clenched fists were the size of hams, and what Becky guessed were sized sixteen boots looked solidly rooted to the floor. His big brown coat with dirty blue jeans showed he meant business, and a crowbar was in a meaty fist, "So you're the troublemaker I'm supposed to off?" The man raised a thick eyebrow, "Name's Slatery. Crowbar or gun?"

Becky's grey eyes widened in shock as her mind registered what he was saying.

Off.

As in kill.

"Nnrrggmm!" Becky thrashed in her chair, the supple ropes holding as good as ever. She tried her best to rub the gag off and spit those damn panties out, but Marta had done her job well. Becky shook her head, a silent pleading to at least let her talk.

"Neither? I can snap your neck." Slatery offered.

Becky had never heard anyone speak so coldly about killing someone, and she was more terrified then she had ever been in her reporting career, "Lmmggerrmff!"

"Neck it is." Slatery came forward, reaching out with his hands like Frankenstein's monster, and Becky threw all her weight into throwing her chair over backwards.


***********************************


The fancy car screeched to a halt. Owen dashed out, his bandana clad face hiding his anxiety. An old Ford pick-up sat parked in front of the house with the address Marta had given. The killer, whoever they were, had already arrived. Amaya was right behind him as Owen sprinted into the house.

A crashing sound made them put on speed and as Owen and Amaya came into the living room, Owen slid to a stop at the sight before him. A six and a half feet tall giant towered over Miss Carter, as she attempted to knock her own chair over. The large man had caught it, however, and had just set it straight again. He turned at the noise behind him, and Owen recognized him.

"Slatery?"

Slatery responded by kicking him in the chest, surprisingly quick, and sending him flying several feet back, landing stretched out. A second later Amaya was thrown on top of him, but she landed with more grace, her hand splayed across his masked face.

"Uggg. Elf needs food badly." Owen wheezed.

"Ok Mr. Pac-Man." Amaya yelled.

"You gotta come up with something more obscure then that!" Owen yelled from the floor.

"MOTHER CREATURE!" Amaya screamed obnoxiously. Slatery turned towards them with a crowbar. He looked confused by their banter.

Owen grinned, nothing like little known phrases and trivia from two gaming nerds who liked 80s culture to confuse someone. He rolled out of the way and came up in a crouch, while Amaya kicked at Slatery's leg. Without looking Slatery backhanded Amaya and came straight for Owen. Owen tried a Jack Dempsey style punch for the big guy's jaw, but he only dusted his chin. In response Slatery grabbed the lapels of Owen's jacket and slammed him into the drywall.

"Owen. Old friend." Slatery grinned, a golden tooth gleaming.

"Nice to see you too." Owen gasped, his ribcage and back hurt like hell, "What say we talk this out over coffee? I know a place, little messy though." He tried to break the hold with an elegant jiu jitsu move Violet had taught him long ago, but he could not break Slatery's grip.

"We have a lot of catching up to do." He raised the wrench, and Owen kicked him in the crotch as Slatery swung, resulting in a mere graze on his head for what would have been a bone crushing blow. Amaya appeared out of nowhere on Slatery's back with her belt from her dress wrapped around his neck, digging her heels into his sides.

"Let go of him!" Amaya screeched right in his ear.

Slatery let go to claw at Amaya, who was barely holding on while keeping out of reach. They whirled about the room while Owen dazedly got his bearings. Miss Carter looked ok, thankfully, though still trussed to the chair. He felt a lot better. No one was dead yet.

"Owen!" Amaya yelled, "A little help here with this space invader?"


***********************************


Becky Carter watched the scene unfold, unbelief all over her face that she was still alive, only to see Owen and Amaya of all people, rescuing her.

I cannot believe I'm alive.

She had questions for them, for sure. A diversion, she realized. True she always had questions, but Becky had almost died, and the danger still wasn't over as she watched them fight off the killer. Becky gave yet another tug on her bindings, letting out a strangled sob before getting ahold of her emotions. She has always been very strong emotionally, but she had just almost died.

Fight it girl, you can make it.

She determined that she would, somehow.


***********************************


Cass, Lieutenant Cooper, and Dakota all crawled out of the copper car and dashed into ten fourteen Morgan Avenue. Cass is as fiercely protective of Beck as her blonde haired friend is of her, so upon entering the living room and seeing her best friend in the whole world bound and gagged to a chair, Cass got more than a little pissed. She quickly assessed the situation, the two peeps fighting the hulking wannabe killer, and her squirming friend who was trying to talk to her.

"Dakota! Untie Beck!" Cass scooped up the pink taser off the table as Lieutenant Cooper drew his own taser.

"I can't get a shot." He explained, his gun still holstered.

Cass nodded and they both fired at the big guy. He shuddered and fell to his knees, but did not go down.

Holy shit. He started to back to his feet.


***********************************


"Ddkkkkkkktttmm!" Becky screamed in delight at her sister. "Nnnffffff!" She nodded vigorously at the table.

Dakota snatched it up and began cutting her restraints. Within a minute Dakota had sliced away the ropes, and Becky got to her feet just as Cass and Lieutenant Cooper fired their taser guns at Slatery. She was just as surprised when he did not go down, and fueled by pure adrenaline, Becky yanked the chair she had spent the last hour tied to, and darted forward, smashing it over Slatery's head with all her strength. It didn't break like she hoped, but it did knock him out. Slatery fell face forward, and an immensely satisfied feeling washed over Becky as she shouted triumphantly into her gag.

Justice had been served to this bastard. Two more to go.


***********************************


During bouts of simultaneously laughing and crying, Becky had explained the whole story to the gang. Slatery lay where he had fallen, hands cuffed behind him while backup patrol cars were on their way.

"I want you two to identify yourselves." Lieutenant Cooper announced, nodding at Owen and Amaya. They stood several feet off from the group, but contributed to the overall story, helping piecing the events together. Becky still wasn't sure of them, but after Owen explained how it had come about that they were even there, she softened her approach, but only a little. She was very grateful for the rescue, and had told them as much. Owen however still wouldn't reveal his face, which was probably why Lieutenant Cooper had made his request.

"Sorry Officer, can't do that. I operate anonymously," Owen said.

Lieutenant Cooper's hand rested casually on his gun, "It's Lieutenant, and I'm asking nicely."

Becky quickly analyzed the situation, "Ok guys, just take it easy. Lieutenant, they didn't do anything, like I said, I wouldn't be here if not for these two." She certainly didn't want any fighting breaking out again. Although her curiosity was piqued as to why Owen would never take off the bandana.

"Who cares? He just helped save Beck?" Cass growled.

Someone gave a strangled yelp, and Becky whirled to see Slatery on his feet, cuff dangling off one wrist, and a meaty hand clamped over Dakota's mouth, who had apparently wandered off a bit.

"Dakota!" Becky screamed.

Her sis looked terrified, and Lieutenant Cooper trained his gun on the killer.

"Don't try anything copper, or I'll snap her neck." Slatery's face was dead cold.

"Backup is on their way." Lieutenant Cooper announced calmly.

"Lower your weapon to the floor." Slatery commanded.

Lieutenant Cooper obliged, and Slatery made his way to the exit, edging easily over. Becky followed, at a short distance, nervously keeping an eye on her sister. Dakota whimpered as her eyes fastened on Becky, who felt more raw terror then when her own life had been on the line.

Slatery suddenly threw Dakota into Becky's arms, and dashed out the front door. 

"Get him!" Becky shouted.

Immediately Lieutenant Cooper scooped up his gun and followed, but he was much slower than Slatery.

Becky held her sister close, who was sobbing at her own close brush with death. Dakota buried her head into Becky's chest.

Suddenly the sound of tires squealing could be heard, and then a gunshot. Everyone dashed outside.

Lieutenant Cooper was on his knees, clutching his head with one hand, service revolver in the other. Slatery's truck was speeding away, while Becky checked out the lump on the police chief's head. It was bleeding a little. Nothing too serious though, Cooper would be fine.

"He was waiting right beside the door, shoulda seen him," Lieutenant Cooper grunted, "Tried to shoot out his tire."

"It's ok, everyone's fine," Cass said calmly.

Becky sure didn't feel calm. In the past two hours she had been drugged, tied up, and nearly killed. And now Dakota was getting dragged into this? Not on her watch, "Lieutenant. Please bring Marta Alfonsi in for questioning. This is getting ridiculous, I don't care if she didn't leave any fingerprints, or if it's my word against hers. I was almost killed today." Becky was almost at the end of her proverbial rope. Truth be told she hated that saying now.

"I'll do what I can. Although I'll warn you, the Alfonsis have a really good lawyer." His face was pale.

"I don't care if they have the best damn lawyer in America. Bring her in." Becky snapped.

Dakota leaned on Becky for support, and Cass squatted down next to Cooper.

"I'm so glad you're safe, Beck." Cass said from where she glanced over Cooper's wound. She gave Becky an odd glance, "What were you doing anyway, meeting with Marta alone?" Cass sounded upset, and a little hurt.

"I'm glad everyone's safe." Dakota sniffled, from where her head rested against Becky's shoulder. It reminded Becky of the time when Dad died.

Becky steeled her emotions. "And I am sooo happy you're safe, little sis. When he had you in his clutches I thought, well, I was worried." Becky didn't say the mental image that had come to mind. She pointedly ignored Cass's question, instead focusing on her sister.

Suddenly another engine roared to life, and everyone looked to see Owen and Amaya jump into a fancy Aston Martin, and accelerate out the lane.

"Damn it! Stop!" Cooper yelled, his face growing red again, more of his usual color. "You need to identify yourselves!"

Becky was pretty sure she could find out who Amaya was. There couldn't be that many wealthy Japanese girls riding around in Aston Martins in her city, but she refrained from saying anything, instead filing it away for later. After all, they both hadn't done anything wrong, and they saved her, something she was immensely grateful for. Who wouldn't be grateful to be alive?

More police arrived five minutes later, and Becky felt herself relax a bit, they were safe.

For now.


***********************************


"Ackk. I'm telling you the truth Slatery! No one else knew! I swear!" Lorenzo Alfonsi gasped.

Slatery, the assassin Lorenzo had hired, held the Italian man by his throat, feet dangling. Lorenzo's panicked expression became more visible at the look on Slatery's face.

The psycho was clearly enjoying choking him.

"Let him go!" Marta Alfonsi screamed, tugging incessantly at Slatery's arm.

Lorenzo and Marta had been in their mansion, just walking up the long, winding staircase when Slatery appeared, attacking them on the second story landing. The big man had easily overpowered the much smaller Lorenzo and now he was choking him half to death. Lorenzo had no idea what happened, as it's hard to grasp concepts when the air is getting squeezed from your lungs, but Slatery began yelling about 'being set-up'.

"I. Have. No idea what you're talking about!" Lorenzo just managed to get the words out.

"I'm done playing games." Slatery's eyes narrowed, "Why the fuck were there people there? Tell me. You see how they fucking roughed me up? You said this was a goddamn simple hit." He roared, spittle flying. His grip tightened around Lorenzo's throat.

"Aah. Ahh." Lorenzo felt himself starting to lose consciousness, and then he faintly heard his wife screaming something, then he was roughly lowered to the ground.

When he finally came to on the steps, Slatery was gone, and Marta came trudging softly up the stairs, casually holding her long lily white dress high as she ascended. "Marta," Lorenzo croaked, "What the hell just happened?"

"There there my darling husband." Marta's long, dark hair fell past her shoulders and draped on his chest as she leaned into him right on the steps. She began to kiss him directly on the lips, and he returned her embrace, hungry for more. Marta's lips tasted sweet, almost like sugar melting on his tongue, and there was a peppermint flavor to her kiss. It was a nice distraction from his sore throat.

Then she bit him.

Not hard enough to draw blood, but it hurt all the same, and Lorenzo drew back in shock, feeling confused. "Marta what are you-"

Marta pulled back and laid a finger on his lips, she had a dangerous look about her, a tigress, ready to pounce. "Why did you try to have Becky Carter killed?" She snarled, her grimace revealing her perfect teeth.

"Marta we've been through this, you are far too obsessed, you seemed to take it well earlier when we talked in front of her. The business is suffering and you keep toying with her, soon you will make a mistake." Lorenzo felt something he had never felt about his wife before.

Fear. It washed over him in waves.

"Let me tell you something, Lorenzo." Out of the folds of her white dress Marta flicked open a butterfly knife, twirling it expertly. "No one. And I mean no one. Messes with my Becky. She is my prey, my pet. I am in the process of breaking her. I am her Queen, and she is my princess."

Lorenzo's breath quickened as his wife grinned maliciously and leaned over him again, tracing the cold, unyielding blade along his cheek, "You goddamn fool. Do not ever touch her again." She put her mouth next to his ear, "Or I'll kill you."

Lorenzo was stunned. Finally he said, "Honey I had no idea you were that much into this. Of course you can do whatever you want with her." He struggled to calm his breathing, "As long as the family business doesn't suffer. I assume you paid Slatery for his trouble?"

"Yes darling." Marta purred, unnervingly, "And you know full well the business has prospered since I took a more active interest in our matters. I have never felt more alive then I have since Becky dear visited several moons back." Marta stood up, folding the knife then began tracing her finger theatrically along a painting mounted to the wall. Lorenzo noticed it was a picture of Hell, which matched his mood.

He shivered.

"And yes, I did pay Slatery in full. He will not mess with her again. Just admit it," Marta laughed playfully, "You are simply jealous of how much time I spend devising misery for my sweet Becky. Today was most fruitful, let me tell you. I learned several interesting facts about our intrepid reporter of this lovely town. The do gooder who attempts to bring justice to criminals!" Marta sang out, and Lorenzo realized she was a bit tipsy, "And we shall discover together just how bad of an idea that is!"

Marta began descending the steps, with Lorenzo following. At the bottom he stopped, and stared.

Violet, Marta's new lieutenant, stood stiffly. She was holding a body bag.

Lorenzo shuddered as he followed his wife into the kitchen.

Had that been meant for him? Had she planned on doing something bad to him if he answered wrong? He would need to watch his back, because his wife probably could not be trusted. Not after this.

Definitely not after this.


***********************************


Becky Carter strode purposefully into the police station, right back to Lieutenant Cooper's office. It was a total mess like usual, but for once she didn't care. Cooper sat at his desk, frowning at his computer. Today it was Doritos Jacked, with his black as night coffee. Crumbs sprayed as his jowls took in a huge mouthful. Becky marched right up to his desk, her hair still down and her clothes a tad roughed up and definitely not ironed from her afternoon abduction. Red hot anger danced around her freckled cheeks. She pointed to her wristwatch, "It's SEVEN P.M. and could you please tell me why Marta Alfonsi is not in here for questioning? I almost died today, if it wasn't for some citizens who aren't cops, and my baby sister almost died under your watchful eye. Explain to me why she isn't in here," Becky paused to take a breath. Her hair flew about and her purse settled as she folded her arms across her slim chest.

"Becky," Lieutenant Cooper began.

"I don't want to hear, 'Becky' I want to hear the name Marta Alfonsi, and I want her in handcuffs in an interrogation room under a red hot light, and I'll be there with my taser." Becky's pulse was pounding as her voice rose in pitch and her anger became even more evident.

"Becky," Cooper tried again.

"I want you there with your own mace and taser, and you will throw away any keys to her cell," she felt like exploding with frustration.

"BECKY!" Lieutenant Cooper shouted.

"WHAT!" Becky roared back, "GIVE ME A DAMN ANSWER!"

Lieutenant Cooper looked deflated, "I've been reassigned."

Becky stared at him, feeling at a loss for words, which was an unusual feeling for her.

"Close the door," Cooper motioned.

Becky obliged, using her foot to kick it viciously shut. "What," she said coldly, "Do you FREAKING mean?"

Lieutenant Cooper winced, "As soon as I mentioned bringing Marta in I got a call from my superiors. They said due to the lack of evidence they wanted me to focus on a Grant Street robbery, and file this one away as a cold case." He looked apologetic, then he appeared, wary almost. "Something's off about this, it went down the chain of command way too quick."

Becky closed her eyes. She opened them, then without a word opened the door, then slammed it shut with such force she heard all the crap Cooper kept in piles around his office fall to the ground.

"Becky come back! It doesn't mean the end!"

She ignored him, and almost ran out of the police station, wondering who all was in the Alfonsis' pocket. Rage and disappointment formed a lump in her throat at the thought of how hard this was, plus the big argument she got into with Cass upon her arrival home made her want to break down and cry. She wouldn't even allow herself to think about what she said to Cass, her best friend.

And now this. She knew Cooper wasn't on the take, but someone higher up than him certainly was. Becky felt so frustrated, everytime she even tried to make half a move, Marta countered. It was like a game of cards, but Becky felt all her aces had been taken away, and she had a few measly joker cards. Not an exact comparison, but Becky wasn't thinking too clearly at the moment.

Her phone began ringing in her purse.

She knew without a doubt who it was. Becky fished it out and hit the answer button, filled to the brim with anger at the turn of events.

"You won't keep winning, bitch." Becky spat venomously.

"Oh Becky dear, precious girl, did stuffing panties in your foul mouth not teach you anything?" The voice of Marta Alfonsi purred, "This is a courtesy call, to tell you no one else from my organization will be making attempts on your life. You are my pet project, and I look forward to your next move. Just remember that the only reason you walk free is because I allow it. Remember that, and don't get cocky, Rapunzel," A small laugh.

"Let me tell you a few things!" Becky shouted, then realized Marta had hung up. She immediately dialed the number but was met with a disconnection message. Becky jammed her phone back into her purse, then ran for her car. She would go home, change into running gear, get a few beers, then go jogging. Or in some such order. Her mind was a chaotic flurry of thoughts at the moment.

Run and run until she was too spent to do anything else. Becky wasn't like Maggie, who screamed and swore when she was upset, or lay around eating junk food and playing video games like Cass, and she sure as hell could not calmly do yoga poses. like Isabella. She was Becky, and she would deal with it in her own way. One thing was certain, Becky had to stop Marta, at all costs. The woman was too dangerous. She was obviously obsessed with her, and Becky didn't know why. Well, she had a few ideas.

Becky floored her car, flying out of the parking lot, and speeding off into the night.

 


Submitted: May 21, 2020

© Copyright 2021 ScottGrisham. All rights reserved.

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