A/N: With thanks to rubykate for beta reading, and Angeleyez for consulting on a beta issue.

23.

Dazed, Rory got up from the bed. She bumped into Maurice Emmell and in her distraction murmured, "Oh, excuse me."

"Where do you think you're going?"

She tripped over Jess's feet. "Sorry," she said, her own voice distant in her ears.

"Hey," Jess said. "Where-?"

Maurice Emmell caught her upper arm. "I want to hear more about your father."

"Let go." Rory pulled away. She wandered toward the front of the room, rubbing her chin. "This is so, so crazy," she mumbled. "God. I knew it."

"Where the hell do you think you're going?" Maurice Emmell snapped.

"Come back here," Jess said.

Rory took a deep, fortifying breath, and turned to confront the two men. Her boyfriend was staring at her from the foot of the bed, his torso oddly tapered with his arms locked behind his back. Maurice Emmell stood stiffly, hulking over Jess.

"Huh." Rory scratched her head. "Well—this is silly. Look, we can settle this with one phone call."

"Settle what?" said Maurice Emmell.

"Let's call, okay?" She glanced at the motel phone, remembering what Jess had explained. For some reason, they couldn't call out. She held out her hand, expecting Maurice Emmell to give her his cell phone. "What's the number?"

"What's this?" He took a step toward her, and Jess shot the detective a nervous glance.

Rory frowned. "Look, I can't believe you could make such a stupid mistake, but you did. You've got the wrong girl."

Jess's eyes widened. "Give it up."

She looked at him in surprise. "What?"

"It's not going to work." He inched forward on the bed, resting his weight on his legs in preparation to stand. "And I really don't want you to get hurt. Come sit down."

"But-but-" Rory looked from Jess to the detective and back again. She was somewhat amazed that the nature of the dilemma hadn't become immediately apparent to them as well. Stone-faced and shadowy in the dim, yellow light, the men seemed inflexible, and kind of obtuse. Rory felt an intense wave of fatigue. She pointed at Maurice Emmell. "He-"

"Why are you keeping this up?" he interrupted.

"But I'm right!" Rory insisted. "Both of you are wrong."

"I told you," Jess said to Maurice Emmell. "She's so fragile. Let me handle this."

"No!" Rory groaned. "I'm not being crazy! I know sometimes I kind of am, but I'm not now!"

"What is this?" Maurice Emmell asked Jess.

"I don't know," Jess said. "She sort of fades in and out."

Maurice Emmell rubbed his temples. "Gah-this is irritating."

"Cut her some slack," Jess said. "She's sick, that's all."

"I am not sick," said Rory.

"Baby, it's okay. It's not your fault."

Maybe it was because Rory didn't seem to be set on leaving, but the detective relaxed, putting his hands in his pockets. "They just said she was acting up."

"Acting up?" Jess seemed taken aback.

Rory wasn't at all happy with the way they were talking over her, or with the fact that her boyfriend was having a discussion about her behavior with the man who was holding them prisoner. She put her hands in her hair, pulling in frustration. "God! It's like I turned a corner and ended up in Oz!" She pointed at Maurice Emmell. "And you were there." She then pointed to Jess. "And you were there-" She let her voice trail off, seeing that they weren't receptive to her film reference, and she wasn't helping her case any.

"You have to calm down now," Jess said firmly.

Rory blinked at her boyfriend, feeling an upsurge of panic. Why wouldn't he listen? She focused on the detective, holding her hands up carefully, as if she were a police negotiator trying to talk to someone unpredictable—like a jumper on a ledge. "You have made a mistake," she said, enunciating very clearly. "You have let us go now."

Maurice Emmell snorted. "Fat chance."

"Actually, this is our room," Rory reminded him. "You should be the one to go."

"I've made a mistake?" Maurice Emmell pushed past her, heading for the books on the table. He discarded The Horse's Mouth, but opened Poems Penyeach, and showed her the name written inside the front cover. Tanya Kilpatrick. He opened Winesburg, Ohio, and thrust it in her face. Tanya Kilpatrick. "You can knock this shit off. Don't be pretending you're not who you are."

"Heavens to Murgatroid." Rory's voice was small. "Did-did you ever look in the front covers?" she asked Jess.

"No," he said. "Why?"

Maurice Emmell shook a finger in her face. "I know who you are. You know who you are. Don't think you can pull this multiple personality shit and confuse me."

"Multiple-? I-I'm not trying to confuse you," she said. "I'm just trying to explain-"

"Show me your ID. Where is it?"

Rory's stomach lurched. "Oh! I don't even have any." Anxiously, she looked for Jess. "I-I was driving. I don't even have my license with me!"

"Baby, can we worry about that later?"

"Oh, please," Rory said to Maurice Emmell. "Can't we just make the call?" She stared at him, and her already nervous stomach tightened a little more. "Why-why don't you want to call?"

He didn't answer.

"Wha-what's-" Rory stuttered. "What's with . . . you said it was going to be an indirect communication. Why? Why is that?"

The detective was impassive, dwarfing her. He made her feel like she was six. "Your heart murmur seems better," he observed. "But you're a little space-case. And you won't sit still. I think I am going to tie you now." He took her by the shoulder.

"Wait!" Jess said sharply.

Maurice Emmell shoved Rory to the chest of drawers, bending her over with a heavy hand. He caught her wrists and pulled them behind her back. Panicking, she cried out, "No!"

"Wait," Jess said. "Wait! Jesus! Let her . . . let her go to the bathroom first!"

"Bathroom?" said Maurice Emmell.

"Buh-bathroom?" Rory lifted her head.

"It will be unpleasant for us all if she pisses herself," Jess said crudely, and Rory cringed. She was completely appalled.

"Make it snappy," Maurice Emmell said, swatting her on the ass. Rory jumped, yelping, and scuttled into the john. She shut the door and locked it, dropping to her knees on the cool tile.

Alternately hot and cold, Rory struggled to pull herself together. She was shaking so hard she nearly bit her tongue. Bathroom. Okay. She pulled in a breath through both nostrils, trying to imitate a sound she once heard Madonna make on a talk show. Madonna had been demonstrating Ujjayi breathing. Rory snorted, sputtering. Madonna was such a poser. Bathroom. Okay. Jess had sent her to the bathroom. He could have accomplished it with more finesse, but he must have had a reason. What was it? Had he intended it to be a refuge? Was she supposed to refuse to come out?

Rory knew from recent events that really, bathrooms weren't all that secure. Locking herself in one simply meant that the bad guy knew precisely where she was. In any event, there was no way she could barricade herself in this bathroom for long. There was no window to climb out of, nothing to shove in front of the door. Facing the toilet, the tub was to her right, the counter to the left. The toilet itself was opposite the door. There was nothing remarkable about the bathroom. Maurice Emmell had broken into their room. He could certainly find his way into the bathroom. Jess had done it in less time than it took to sing a Buddy Holly song.

She experienced a dizzying flash of emotion. It was one thing to have Maurice Emmell dismiss her, but to have Jess behave as if it were impossible that she could have something of value to say . . . it left her feeling very upset and helpless. I guess this is what happens when people think you're crazy, she thought. It's so unfair!

She shook it off. She didn't have time to be angry at Jess right now.

What did Jess want her to do in the bathroom? Was she supposed to get something? Was there anything to get? Rory tucked her hair behind her ear, considering her options. If she threw shampoo at Maurice Emmell she could temporarily blind him, and steal his handcuff keys. If Maurice Emmell was really, really obliging, and stood still to let her do it, she could stuff a towel down his throat. While he was trying to pull it out, then she could steal his handcuff keys.

She could . . . slowly, Rory got to her feet. The disposable razor was on the counter, lying in a smudge of dried stubble. Could she cut him? Rory shivered. She couldn't do that!

Rory ran her finger around the lip of the sink. There were tiny hairs, Jess's hair. Maid, please make up our room, she thought. Apart from the weasel-guy at the front desk, whom Rory imagined as perpetually watching TV, did nobody work in this motel? Where was the cleaning staff? How could Maurice Emmell move into their room—and nobody notice? She had a stab of stomach pain as she thought of all the people who worked for her mother at the Independence Inn. Wasn't there a single person at the Sea View Motel who might perchance notice that her boyfriend was in handcuffs?

Rory clutched the edge of the sink. She found it hard to believe that Jess wanted her to attack Maurice Emmell. Jess would never entertain the notion that she was capable of attacking Maurice Emmell. As Rory best understood it, the encyclopedia entry in Jess's mind that was labeled "Rory" featured an exotic but rather wilted hothouse flower. Nevertheless, she put the razor in the pocket of her jumper. It was something.

Rory crouched to look under the sink, hoping Jess had stashed something useful there—a cell phone programmed with 911 would be right up her alley—but there was nothing, just the exposed sink pipes. On either side of the pipes there were the faux cupboards, one of which had an inset metal Kleenex dispenser. She put her fingers in the slot of the dispenser, but there wasn't even a box of Kleenex. At a loss, she rubbed her eyes. Maybe Jess had merely wanted to give her the opportunity to use the facilities. She decided to brush her teeth.

She was bent over the sink when she heard the men talking. Her mouth full of toothpaste froth, the toothbrush dangling from her lower lip like a cigarillo, she pressed her ear to the door. She heard Jess say, "Mayo Clinic," and suppressed a smile; evidently he was running his heart murmur shtick again.

Maurice Emmell responded with "bullshit, bullshit, bullshit," and anxiously, Rory backed away. She rinsed out her mouth, giving the door a nervous glance. She helped herself to a long drink of water. She wanted to use the toilet, but didn't feel comfortable with Maurice Emmell on the other side of the door. Then she decided she'd better, just in case. She pulled up her skirt and rolled down her tights.

She sat, heels up and angling out, her pale thighs tense and squished together. She closed her eyes, muttering, "Come away O human child to the waters and the wild with a faery hand in hand for the world's more full of weeping than you can understand," and after that, she was able to go. She washed her hands, and filled the glass again. She opened the door. Tentatively, she stuck out her head.

Maurice Emmell was leaning against the chest of drawers, strips of her blouse dangling from his fist. Rory swallowed. She found Jess with her eyes, and he nodded encouragingly. She hesitated in the doorway. "I-I'm going to give him a drink," she stated, and didn't wait for permission. She carried the glass to the bed. Jess indicated with his chin that he wanted her to sit on his other side, near the door. She offered him the water.

He drank it all, and when he was finished she wiped his mouth with her sleeve. "Thanks," he said, sounding a little surprised.

Rory put the glass on the floor. Jess leaned into her, and she cupped his check. He turned his face into her hand, and kissed her palm. "All she needed was a little time-out," he said quietly. "She's calm. I'm calm. We can all be calm."

"I want to have a look at your car before I do anything." Maurice Emmell came forward, and Rory ducked back on the bed.

"Wait!" Jess said urgently. "Wait—I want to know something."

"I don't care," Maurice Emmell said.

"Her family is a class operation, all the way. No offense, man. But how did they end up hiring you?"

"They didn't," Rory said softly.

The detective made a sound. "You think I'm not worthy? You?" He shook his head. "Amazing. You're a low class low life—and you think I'm not worthy. You stole their daughter. And it looks to me like you pretty much raped her. I mean, what the fuck is all this?" He indicated Rory with a broad sweep of his arm. "She's battered, and you've obviously been holding her prisoner. We both know you've been keeping her tied up."

"I have not!" Jess snapped.

Rory pulled her sleeves over her hands. "I-I want to be with him."

"So she has Stockholm Syndrome. She's a total nut-job. I don't know what this girl was like before, but she's sure ruined now. Doctor Superglue couldn't put the pieces back together."

Shaking, Rory put her head on Jess's shoulder. She wanted to crawl inside her boyfriend and pull him around her like a protective bearskin rug. With each weighty new label—rape victim, nut-job, ruined—Maurice Emmell was crushing her. She couldn't breathe. Jess rested his chin on the top of her head. "Answer the question," he said grimly.

Maurice Emmell let out a hard breath and abruptly changed course. He headed back to the chair in front of the window. He sat, putting his hands on his knees.

"Littlejohn and Longo contracted it out to me," he admitted finally. "There. Are you happy? Her family did not hire me. They hired Littlejohn and Longo, Private Investigators and Security Consultants."

"And?" Jess prompted.

"And Littlejohn and Longo are so high-faulting." He waved his hands around his head. "Littlejohn and Longo are so in demand and have so much casework. They said, 'Oh, a runaway.' And they shot the file over to me." He made a face, scratching under his jaw. "They had better things to do with their time."

"It's nice you're not bitter," Jess observed.

"Shut up," said Maurice Emmell.

Jess sneered. "Perfect." He kissed Rory, and nudged her until she sat up on her own. He slid sideways on the bed until he was facing the detective.

"Where-where is this file?" Rory asked, with a half-glance at Maurice Emmell. When Jess had redirected her to the bed, she had ended up between the two men. She was uneasy sitting so close to Maurice Emmell—she wanted to change places with Jess. She hunched over, folding her arms across her breasts. She clamped her knees tightly together, the toes of her Mary-Janes barely sweeping the floor.

"Okay-" Jess sat up straight. "You picked up our trail at the diner-"

"No," Rory whispered, wiping her nose on the sleeve of Jess's jean jacket. "He did not pick up our trail at the diner."

"I already had your plates," Maurice Emmell explained to Jess.

"Ah—right," Jess said. One of his shoulders dipped sharply, and Rory narrowed her eyes.

"I was on the road and my girlfriend-" Maurice Emmell coughed into his hand and corrected himself, "My secretary called me."

"You've never even seen the file," Rory accused, belatedly recalling her mission to distract Maurice Emmell. Cautiously, she watched Jess out of the corner of her eye. Did she still have a mission to distract Maurice Emmell?

"Frannie gave me all the info," the detective said defensively. "Description of the missing girl, the plates-"

"And yet strangely, you don't want to call," Rory commented. She glanced at Jess. He had tilted his head to the side, as if he were listening to something very, very quiet.

Nervously, Rory looked at the detective, and her heart skipped a beat. Her thoughts were tumbling in her head like laundry. Maurice Emmell thought she was someone that she wasn't. Fine. That was one thing. He'd discover the truth, sooner or later. But all he had to do was call Tanya Kilpatrick's family, and the question of her identity would be resolved. Why wouldn't he do it?

Was it only that he wanted to be sure? Was it that he didn't want to look like the big goof that he was? Or . . . was he working some sort of angle? Rory stared at the big man intently.

Behind her, Jess let out a slow breath, and Rory glanced back in time to see him jiggle his right shoulder. He lifted his head. "They had reported the car stolen . . . Wait. That doesn't make sense."

"Please be quiet," Rory hissed, wishing that there was some way to get her boyfriend to draw the same conclusion she had. She could tell Jess wasn't even paying attention to what he was saying.

Jess's eyes were unfocused and faraway. "We-the plates . . ."

"Shut up, Jess."

"I changed the plates." Jess fell silent.

"Please," she whispered.

Maurice Emmell stood.

"Get down!"

Rory collapsed on the bed. Jess had his hands free—the cuffs were dangling from his right wrist. He intercepted the detective as he was reaching for Rory. The two men grappled over her. Jess jabbed the bigger man and Maurice Emmell rocked unsteadily. They were men and fighting and almost falling on top of her; Rory couldn't help squealing and closing her eyes.

Jess flipped her onto her stomach, and with his hands on her hips got her up and crawling to the head of the bed. He surged forward, and so did Maurice Emmell. They reengaged at the corner of the bed.

Rory knelt in the pillows, not sure what to do next. They were between her and the door. Was she supposed to wait and see who won, or was she supposed to try to squeeze past? She didn't want to leave Jess by himself.

The men grunted, shoving each other and knocking things over—just when Maurice Emmell had gone and tidied the room. One of them kicked the water glass; Rory heard it roll across the carpet and clunk into the dresser. It was hard to predict which way the scuffle would carry them, but then Maurice Emmell was the one who was shoving, and Jess was at the foot of the bed, closer to the bathroom than the outside, and steadily losing ground.

Rory had a flash of inspiration, and slid down from her perch. Without weighing the relative merits of her idea—no time for pro/con lists—she picked up the chair and whacked Maurice Emmell across the back. He lurched forward, and Jess sidestepped out of reach. Rory dropped the chair with a crash, backing away.

"Come on!" she cried, and held out her hand.

Jess avoided the detective by skittering diagonally across the bed. He met her on the far side of the table, and grabbed her hand. They barreled at the door like a couple of Midwestern tourists charging a Las Vegas buffet.

"No!" Jess gasped suddenly, and lost his grip on her hand.

"No!" Rory cried, because Maurice Emmell was on his feet, and with a short turn and a lunge had caught Jess by the belt. He yanked Jess back and got a shoulder under him. Pivoting sharply, he took a few steps and threw Jess across the room. Rory watched in horror as her boyfriend crashed into the far wall and was still.

The detective descended on Rory. She recoiled, mewling pitifully. After all, she had just hit this man with a chair! He grabbed her by the collar and spun her to the dresser. He pressed in behind.

Rory could feel his whole body at her back, his chest, his knees, his groin, and she gagged against a sour taste, shuddering hard. If he touched her below the waist, if he touched her skirt, or her hips, or . . . anything else, she was going to check out. She was going to depart, and she wouldn't be coming back.

Maurice Emmell picked up her left hand, and placed it flat on the glossy surface of the dresser. He circled her with his right arm, and secured her wrist in an iron grip. With his other hand, he took hold of her baby finger. "Ow," she protested, but only faintly.

They were both breathing hard, but every time Rory filled her lungs, her ribcage expanded against the detective's stomach, and she couldn't bear to touch him anymore than she already was. She cut her breaths into halves, and then into quarters, until she was gasping futilely, like a stranded fish. Her eyes fuzzed over and her head started to droop. Once again, she heard the rush of the waves.

Jess stirred. He sat up, his expression blank and soft-edged. He leaned on one arm, looking around. His face resolved into sharp planes when he saw Rory wedged up against the dresser in the tight embrace of Maurice Emmell.

Carefully, Jess got to his feet.

"Here's what's going to happen," the detective said. "You're going to give me whatever you used to open the cuffs."

"All right," Jess said.

"Then you're going to go into the bathroom, and lock yourself to the U-Bend."

"The-the what?" Rory panted.

"The pipe under the sink," Jess clarified.

"No!"

Maurice Emmell continued calmly. "If you decline to do this, I'm going to break her finger." He bent Rory's finger, and she gasped.

"That won't be necessary," Jess said quickly.

"Then I'll ask you again, and if you still refuse—I'll break another one."

"I'll do it," Jess said.

"No! Don't do it!" Rory's knees buckled, and the detective pressed closer to hold her up.

"Give it to me," Maurice Emmell said, and Jess came forward to place a very small wire on the dresser. He reached into his back pocket, producing a mangled piece of plastic. He put that on the dresser too, leaving a smeary, black thumbprint.

"Jess." Rory struggled to make herself heard over the sound of the ocean. "Jess, please-"

"Go into the bathroom and lock yourself up. Hands behind your back, of course."

"Of course," Jess said.

"I'll be checking."

Rory's eyelids fluttered. If Maurice Emmell hadn't been supporting her, she would have fallen. "Please-please don't leave me alone with him," she begged Jess.

Jess ran a hand over his head. "You are not going to hurt her."

"Go," said Maurice Emmell.

"I don't care!" Rory said shrilly. "I don't care if he breaks my fingers!"

Jess winced. "I'm going," he said, his voice gruff. He disappeared into the bathroom.

-

"Turn on the light." Jess's voice was quiet in the dark. Rory wiped her eyes, and felt above her head. After a moment she found the switch. She was the one who had turned it off.

Blinking at the sudden brightness, Jess asked, "Are you all right?"

"Yes." She folded her arms on her knees, and rested her head on them. Maurice Emmell hadn't hurt her—he hadn't done anything to her at all. After Jess had locked himself to the pipe under the sink, the detective had escorted her to the bathroom and made her sit on the floor beneath the towel bar.

Maurice Emmell had checked the cuffs, and informed them that they would be on their own for a while. "Scream all you want," he'd said. "I rented the room next door, so there's nobody to hear you. And I had my boom box in here—I turned it up all the way, and went out front. Couldn't hear a thing."

"On the off chance you might need to keep somebody prisoner?" Jess asked. Rory had been unable to look at the detective, and had kept her face turned away.

Maurice Emmell paused with one foot out the door. "Not everybody is that understanding when it comes to young girls. For instance, there's child pornography. It makes them all hot and bothered."

"Stop needling him," Rory had said sharply, with a glance at Jess, but the comment had caused her to feel as though she had a big chip of ice lodged high in her throat. Maurice Emmell was an insufferable bastard for talking about those pictures.

As soon as the detective left, she had gotten up and tried the door. She had pulled on it, and kicked it and fiddled with it—she had even picked at the hinges with her fingernails. In the end they decided Maurice Emmell had used her old tights to tie off the doorknob. "You think he has a line running to the dresser?" she'd asked.

"Or to the bed," Jess had said. "I don't think you're going to be able to get at it." Then he had changed position for the fourth time in as many minutes, because his arms were pulled back at an awkward angle and already paining him.

"I'm glad he lost the urge to tie you too," Jess said now, and Rory, who had been feeling hopeless and weepy, almost had to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

"It's like it just slipped his mind."

"He's not the best and brightest," Jess said with a sneer.

"I seriously doubt he graduated mail order detective school at the top of his class."

"He probably read about it on a matchbook cover. 'Have a hat? Dark glasses? You too can be a private investigator.'"

"That is entirely possible." Rory got to her feet and put her hands on the small of her back, stretching. She was tired, and starting to feel headachy between her eyes. She realized that it was unfair for her to be stretching all over the place, but there wasn't much she could do about Jess's situation.

She had tried. Together they had pulled on the pipe, with Rory squeezing in beside him, taking hold of it, and bracing her foot against the wall. They had pulled and pulled and only succeeded in hurting Jess's wrists.

After that, Jess had debated dislocating his thumb. He tried to do it, but in the end it had turned out that dislocating his own thumb was easier in theory than in practice, and there would have been no guarantee that the cuffs would have slipped over his mangled hand.

According to Jess, Maurice Emmell had done something wrong with the cuffs, and as a result they were too tight. He had explained why, but Rory hadn't been able to follow; she really didn't care for handcuffs. The thought of Jess's hand being broken and useless had filled her with grief—finally, she had insisted he leave it alone. The subject matter, especially in the light of recent events, had been making her stomach do flip-flops. She hadn't thought Jess would appreciate sitting so near the toilet while she puked again.

"What the hell is this guy's deal?" Jess sat back against the sink. There was no way for him to get comfortable, and tiny beads of perspiration were forming on his upper lip. He began to rotate his shoulders. "Nothing makes sense!"

"Oh," Rory said sarcastically. "You noticed that too?"

He flexed, hissing in pain. "I'm sure your mom is going to want to roast me over a slow fire, but I think even she would stop sort of actually handcuffing me to a motel sink."

"Jess, come on. My mom had nothing to do with this." Rory tilted her head to the side, wondering if there was something she could do to make him more comfortable. She put her hand in the pocket of the jean jacket, touching the condom with her fingertips. When she realized what she was doing, she shrugged out of the jacket. "Let's at least put this under your knees, okay?"

She folded the jacket, crouching next to him. He shifted from side to side, scraping the handcuff chain on the pipe. His breath was moist and heavy on the back of her neck as she poked the jacket into place under his knees.

Jess settled down with a harsh sigh. "Rory, what the fuck is going on?"

She slid away from him, getting to her feet. "Now he asks questions." She slouched against the wall, leaning into the towel bar by accident. She stood up straight. "He thinks I'm someone that I'm not. He thinks I'm this girl called Tanya Kilpatrick."

"Who?"

"Didn't you hear him? No—I guess you . . . you thought you understood what was going on, but he-it was something different-"

Jess fidgeted in discomfort. "Just lay it out for me. Please. Rory and Jess's latest predicament for dummies."

"He thinks I'm the book girl. The girl you stole money from at the diner." She sat on the edge of the tub. "Remember? You took all this stuff from her car, including the license plates?" Rory crossed her legs, absently bobbing her foot. "You know—I think I actually might have seen her. She was with her boyfriend. I mean, I guess he's her boyfriend, and now that's who Maurice Emmell thinks you are. They were in that stinky old diner, back in Connecticut."

Rory stared at the bathroom wall, her eyes unfocused. "I mean, I don't know, I was so . . . upset, I guess. After everything that had happened with-with Dean."

She met his eyes, and he looked away. Frowning, Rory wondered if she was supposed to apologize to him just for mentioning Dean's name. She coughed into her hand and noticed for the first time that she had a big, black Jess fingerprint on her wrist. She held her arm up to examine the mark. "I-I didn't think anything of it at the time. But I think I'm remembering that they were there."

"Christ! Are you kidding me?"

"Yeah, Jess. I'm making it all up." Squinting, she compared her own thumb to Jess's print.

"Did she look like you?"

"No. I don't know." She looked at him. "Do you want a drink or something?"

"No."

"Do you . . . do you want to brush your teeth? I did."

"I know."

"I could hold the toothbrush for you-"

"No."

"Really, Jess—I wouldn't mind one bit-"

"No," he said shortly.

"Well, just tell me. If you do want me to do . . . something." She got up and stood straddling his legs so that she could get at the sink. His face was mashed into her crotch. "Sorry," she apologized, although he didn't seem all that bothered.

"Anyway," she continued. "It doesn't matter, because he doesn't know what Tanya looks like, not really." She ran the water, soaping up her hands. "He's never seen the file. He has a general description: girl, boy. License plate number."

She rinsed her hands, sticking her bum out a little. She didn't want to smother him. "It's really quite stupid. But I can see where he jumped to the conclusion. And with us carrying around her books, her books with her name written in them-"

"Aw, jeez," Jess groaned. "So we pick him up, and those two get a free pass."

Rory dried her hands on her bottom. "Maybe it was for the best. It sort of sounds like poor Tanya is in a heap load of trouble."

Jess appeared to be having a headache. "We can't carry anybody else's weight, Rory."

"We do seem to have more than our fair share of bad luck." She gave him a wry smile. "I guess we shouldn't have robbed her."

"I did it." He squirmed, and Rory heard the handcuffs grate against the pipe. "You had nothing to do with that."

"I benefited from it. I didn't make you turn around and give it all back." She sat on the edge of the tub again. "Hey, why wouldn't you give him any money?"

"If he threatens to break your fingers, he can have the money."

Feeling cold, Rory tucked her hands in her armpits. "You should have let him," she said in a low voice. "I bet he wouldn't have." She decided not to tell him that Maurice Emmell wasn't the first man to threaten to break her fingers.

"I didn't know what to do," he confessed. "I couldn't think."

Tentatively she said, "It was kind of a bad call."

He turned his face away. "At least I'm consistent."

"That you are," she whispered. She got up and crossed the small space to kneel beside him on the bathroom floor. He lifted his head and she brushed the hair from his forehead, pressing a soft, dry kiss to his temple. "But Jess, something here is off. Way off. It's so far off—it's someplace the concept of "on" hasn't been invented yet. He should just call, and Tanya's family would tell him. Why won't he call?"

"It's the cash," Jess suggested. "He's super pissed that I robbed him."

"And about his tires," Rory added.

"He wants to shake us down. That's what's going to happen." Jess grimaced. "Right now, he probably just took a break. He went out for a pork roll and cheese, or something."

"Pork roll and cheese," Rory said thoughtfully,

Jess snickered. "I'll get you one as soon as we say farewell to Philip Marlowe."

"Jess," Rory admonished. "You don't seem to be taking this seriously."

"I'm taking this pretty fucking serious, Rory! I was stupid enough to lock myself to a goddamn sink, and now I can't lift a fucking finger to protect you!"

Rory sat back on her heels, looking at her hands.

"I'm sorry," he said after a moment. "I know you . . . I didn't mean to swear at you."

"It doesn't matter," she said.

"Rory, I-" Jess blew out a hard breath, rolling his head on his neck. "Anyway. He said he was going to check our car. Either he'll find the cash, or he won't. I'm hoping he doesn't, but-"

She looked up at him. "Where is the money? I thought you-the last thing I knew, it was in your pocket. I thought he was going to take it all."

"Inside my seat. I stashed it."

"Why didn't you bring it in?"

He shrugged, as much as he was able. "I was going to get you settled and make a quick run for supplies. So we wouldn't have to go out again." His jaw got tight, and he looked away.

"Oh." She sat back. She couldn't allow herself to think about the night they were missing. Not now. She got to her feet and said, "Look, I wanted to tell you this before, but I couldn't find a way. I don't think-okay, maybe he just wants you to pay him back. But I'm not sure. I think he's up to something."

"Up to what? Eventually he's got to call these Kilpatrick people, and then he'll know he screwed up."

"I think it's something else."

"But what?"

"I don't know!" She stamped her foot. Turning away, she paced the few steps she had between Jess and the bathtub. "The way he's been messing with you, and talking, all that stuff about you being a sexual predator." Behind her, Jess made a sound, and she turned. "I'm sorry," she said. "I know how much that hurts you."

Jess changed position again, his face strained. "He's so stupid, I don't think-"

She interrupted. "Listen, what if we played along? Let him think we're Tanya and whomever. Just until we get a better handle on things."

His head shot up. "This is not the African Ladies' Detective League!"

Rory's brow wrinkled. "You mean The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency?"

"Whatever. Do not play Nancy Drew. If you get a chance to run, you go. Don't pull this 'I'm not leaving you shit.'"

"But it's not shit."

"Baby, you see your chance, you take it."

"But I-I can't. I can't leave you here all alone! Anything could happen!"

"You'll do what I'm asking!"

"Request denied," she said briskly. "You're handcuffed! To a bathroom sink!"

He swore. "Don't you get it? By now, don't you get it?" He looked away, a muscle jumping in his jaw. When he looked back at her, his eyes were glittering with anger. "I keep taking these beatings because of you. If only I knew you were gone, safe—I'd be Speedy Gonzales. I would freaking run." He shook his head in disgust. "Do you think I like facing off against bigger guys?"

Woozily, she put her hand to her mouth. Maybe she was going to throw up after all. "Oh."

"You go," he said. "You're Babe Didrikson Zaharias. You're Lyn St. James."

"Wh-who?" she asked, bewildered.

"People that are fast. You get out of the situation, so I don't have to worry about you!" He yanked on the cuffs so hard that Rory was afraid he was going to hurt himself.

She sat heavily on the floor, her back against the bathtub. She didn't bother to put her knees together. Let him look up her skirt, he'd seen it all anyhow. "I-I didn't understand," she said faintly.

"You're small, you're female, and the last time I checked, you weren't Eliza Dushku." He rattled the cuffs, sounding very frustrated.

"You-you were the one who kept telling me to come into the room."

"I was mistaken. You get a chance to run—you take it." He settled on his knees, and bent his head.

"Oh," she said.

"And we're signing you up for self-defense at the Y."

"All right." She was crying a little. She felt terrible. "But I still think we shouldn't tell him that I'm not Tanya Kilpatrick." She pulled the long sleeve of her T-shirt over hand, and used it to wipe her eyes. "I mean, I already did tell him. But maybe he didn't, you know, hear me." She sniffed, watching Jess as he wriggled and changed position. "These awful men. They have a tendency to devalue my input. It like when I talk, it's pitched at a frequency they can't even perceive."

"Huh?" Jess said, blinking. "I wasn't paying attention."

"Never mind," she sighed. She heard a noise. "Oh, crap. He's coming back." She bounced to her feet. "This guy is getting on my nerves."

"Rory-" Jess groaned.

She snatched up the lid from the toilet tank and set it down on the sink. Turning, she got her ass on the counter. She drew up her legs, and got into a crouch. With a little grunt, she picked up the lid.

"Rory," he said warningly.

"Shh! I'm going to clobber him."

"Swell," Jess said sourly.

"Quiet!" She raised the lid of the toilet tank, and Jess cringed. Maybe he was praying she wouldn't drop it on his head. Rory was just hoping she wouldn't have to hold it for long.

The door opened, and Maurice Emmell paused on the threshold. Rory saw him glance at Jess, and so did she. Jess indicated her with his chin. Rory gasped in betrayal. Maurice Emmell took the lid away from her, setting it outside the bathroom. He gave her his hand, and helped her down from the counter.

"Where are you taking her?" called Jess.

Maurice Emmell led Rory to the table, and Rory noticed in passing that he had once again picked up the knocked-over furniture. He pulled the chair out like a maître d and had her sit. He sat on the side of the bed, fishing in his pocket, and came up with a Sony microcassette recorder. "This is what you're going to say," he explained. "'Dad, I'm ok. Do what he tells you, and he will release me unharmed.'"

Rory's mouth fell open. "Are you serious?"

"Start with 'Dad, I'm okay.' Do you need me to write it down?"

"No," she said, offended. "I do not need you to write it down."

"What's going on?" called Jess.

"He's kidnapping me."

"What?"

"I am not kidnapping you." Maurice Emmell nodded at the bathroom. "He is."

She gasped. "You really are pulling a scam. A big one."

Maurice Emmell turned on the recorder, and pushed it in her face. Rory leaned back in her chair. "Talk," he hissed. "Oh, shit." He turned off the recorder, and rewound the tape. "This time, talk when I tell you." He turned the recorder back on.

"Wait," Rory said slowly. "Her parents hired you—well they hired that other firm, but-" Maurice Emmell slapped her across the face. "Hey!" Rory's eyes welled up in pain. She put a hand to her cheek. "Wh-why did you do that?"

"That's not what I told you to say."

"What the hell is going on?" yelled Jess.

"Nuh-nothing!" she said hastily.

"I am disciplining your crazy girlfriend," Maurice Emmell said. "I'm employing the Skinner model of behavior modification."

"Oh, fuck," Jess moaned.

Maurice Emmell held up a finger. "We're gonna try this one more time." He turned the recorder on.

"Uh," said Rory. "Hello, dad. How are you?" Maurice Emmell slapped her again, and she cried out.

"Don't fuck with me," he snapped.

She started to shake. "I forgot! I-I forgot what you wanted me to say!"

Jess swore an intricate swear—it had compound adjectives and clauses and subordinate clauses and in the end was quite impressive. Rory could hear him struggling against the handcuffs. "Shut up in there," Maurice Emmell warned, beginning to rise.

"Wait! Wait!" Rory held up her hands. She was frightened of Maurice Emmell, but she didn't want him to start in on Jess, especially not when Jess was handcuffed to the bathroom sink. "Wait. Just wait. I don't understand. Her parents hired you to look for her, and now you think-"

Maurice Emmell looked down at her. "Do you always talk about yourself in the third person?"

"My parents," she said quickly. "I don't understand how you think you can just tell them she-I've been kidnapped, and they'll react the way you want them to. Wouldn't they call the police? Or the FBI?"

"Not if I tell them your kidnapper said not to," Maurice Emmell told her. "Kidnappers frequently say that. In their demands."

"Is this something you learned from watching TV?" Rory asked.

"You have the wrong girl!" Jess screamed in frustration. "You're the stupidest detective ever!"

"Oh, he really is," Rory agreed fervently.

"I am a legitimate detective!" spat Maurice Emmell. "I have a listing on the PI Mall!"

Rory raised her voice, talking to Jess. "He's just some fly by night detective-type guy, and he got this job, and he thought he'd squeeze her family for a little extra cash."

Jess swore again. Even though he was just in the next room, to Rory it seemed like he was very far away. Gripping the chair arms with white fingers, she looked up at Maurice Emmell. He appeared to be furious. "That's what you thought right? You'd find this girl, and pretend kidnap her?"

"Fuck," said Jess, from the bathroom. "And pin it on me. Or on him—the boyfriend. Who you think I am. Dammit!"

Rory frowned. "So you tell her parents you found her, but she was kidnapped, and you made contact with the kidnappers, and what? They made you the-the intermediary?" Her stomach dropped and she got very cold. "And-and then what? What are you going to do? Kidnap her and then what?" She stared up at the detective, her eyes wide. "This is a very bad plan," she whispered.

"What do you care if I work a side deal? You don't give a shit for your parents—everybody knows it. I would have let you go." Maurice Emmell rubbed his nose with the back of his hand. "I'd have said he took the cash and didn't hand you over. It happens all the time."

Rory put her hand to her heart. "Mister, I promise you—you have the wrong girl."

Maurice Emmell gestured for her to stand. "You better hope that's not true."

"It's her!" Jess said suddenly. "It is her! You were right!"

The detective made Rory turn, and started to tie her wrists with the strips of fabric he had torn from her blouse. He wrapped the material around her wrists a few times, cinching it in the middle. Rory had to bite her lip as he pulled it tight—her wrists hadn't healed from the last time, and they felt bone-thin and raw. He shoved her forward on the bed. "Jess!" she screamed. "Jess!"

"Listen, asshole," Jess said frantically. "If you want her to make a tape, she'll do it. I'll do it! Just tape the sound of her crying like that, and come in here. I'll say whatever shit you want!"

"It's hard to talk with a broken jaw," Maurice Emmell warned Jess.

"I'll do it, I'll do it!" Hiccoughing, Rory rolled over on her side. She tried to sit up. Maurice Emmell stuck the recorder by her mouth, and stumbling, she said the hateful words. The detective put the recorder in his pocket. He shoved her back on the bed and she stared at the ceiling, her eyes wide and unblinking, as he tied her ankles. He picked her up. "Oh, God," she moaned. "Please!"

He carried her into the bathroom and set her on her side on the floor, facing the tub. "Jesus," breathed Jess.

Rory heard Maurice Emmell rooting around in his pockets. He said, "Who is Jess Mariano?"

Rory stiffened, and rolled first onto her back, then laboriously onto her other side. She saw that he was holding Jess's wallet in his hand. "It's-it's a fake," she said, exchanging a frightened glance with her boyfriend.

"It looks real."

"Well, we've established you're not a very good detective."

"Why would anybody carry ID that doesn't make them old enough to buy beer?"

She opened her mouth, but Jess spoke first. "In my line of work I need a spare."

The detective raised an eyebrow. "I see." He leaned against the doorframe. "There's a thing I've been curious about. What kind of name is Fleck?"

"Excuse me?" said Jess.

"Fleck," Maurice Emmell repeated. "The boy Tanya ran away with was named Nicholas Fleck."

"Fuck," said Jess, and a tear dripped sideways down Rory's face.

"You both could just be really good liars," said Maurice Emmell. "Pretending to not be who you are. Or, pretending to be pretending you're not who you are. Trying to confuse the issue with all this 'her, she, wrong girl' shit. And maybe this license is a fake." He pointed at Jess. "I know for sure there's something hinky about you. But the tape is still worth a shot, right?"

"Right," said Jess sullenly.

"I'll give 'em call, see what they have to say. And in the meanwhile, I'm going to get my girlfriend to fax me the file." He held up a hand, to forestall further comment. "Which I should have done in the first place, you're right."

He nodded at his captives. "Houdini, Mrs. Houdini. There's no way out, so why don't you both just relax."

"Bess," Jess said bitterly. "Houdini's wife was named Bess."

"Whatever," said Maurice Emmell, and shut the door on them.

-

Jess was watching her, his face tight and pale. "Are you going to be okay?"

"Were-were you into Houdini?" she asked. "When you were a little kid?"

"Yeah," he said. "Rory—are you all right?"

"He-he touched me too much. I didn't appreciate it." She squirmed, and was met with immediate pain from her wrists. She moaned, her whole body throbbing. It was like she could feel all the pulses beating beneath her skin.

"Try to stay really still," Jess advised. He wasn't taking his own advice—he had resumed his struggles, and was pulling on the handcuffs and the sink pipe. The noise alone was enough to freak Rory out; she could only imagine what the pain had to be like for him. He paused. "Rory, I want you to stay quiet and conserve-"

"I can't! It hurts too much." She felt so trapped. She wriggled and got her feet braced against the base of the toilet. "I'm going to try . . . to sit up . . ." She let out a hard breath. "No, I think maybe I will just lie here."

Jess let out an explosive breath. "Christ," he said to himself. "I fucked up."

Rory sighed. There wasn't anything much she could say to that. She stared at the ceiling, wishing she'd left the bathroom light off. The room was hot and washed out, like the white light people were always urged to go into when they died in the movies. Jess was sweating, and the odor he was discharging was very acrid. She wondered if she too was giving off a powerful scent, because what Jess smelled like was fear. She regarded the toilet. She had a thought, decided not to share it, then went ahead and said it anyway. "Do you think Maurice Emmell has been, er, using our bathroom?"

"Do not think about it," Jess said sharply.

"Oh, how can I not? I'm lying on the floor."

Jess rolled his shoulders, grimacing in discomfort. "I can't believe it," he said. "That guy, any of it. Jeez."

"Well," she said. "The upside is that at least it's unequivocal proof that just because you believe something, doesn't make it true."

He lifted his head. "How do you figure?"

"Never mind." She thought about her nose. It was just sitting there in the middle of her face. She couldn't touch it, and she wanted to. As soon as she'd thought about it, it had started to feel itchy. "God, Jess! Why didn't you just let me bash him?"

He pulled on his wrists and made another face. "Bashing a guy on the head is way too hard-core for you. And the worst part of it is if you hadn't hit him hard enough, it might just have made him mad."

She sniffed and blinked back tears. "Oh, God. I-I'm so-" She wanted to say that she was scared. Instead, she swallowed and changed the subject. "Len Hartzke told me he was going to sell me to a Mexican whorehouse."

"What?"

"It was just a thing he said. But I thought it was funny. Now, I mean. I didn't at the time. But then I find out you went and registered us as Jurgis and Ona Rudkus-"

"Oh, God," he groaned. "Ona wasn't a whore."

"I'm just saying," she sighed. "Never mind the-the other stuff. People could say I'm a whore just for canoodling with you."

"Nobody would be stupid enough to call you a whore. And if they were that stupid—they'd have to answer to me. After I fucking stomped the shit out of them." He shifted his weight to one side of his ass, sighing. "People are idiots. Reason number one why I hate them all." He rolled back to the other side of his ass. "Maybe you should think about something else right now."

"Like what?" she snapped. "Kittens and birthday cake?"

"Rory . . . Rory, listen to me. You have to—it is very important that you don't let yourself get too freaked, okay? I know if ever you were going to freak, this seems like the time. But if you just let go, there might be a chance and you could miss it."

"I asked him, you know. Buddy Hartzke. Eugene. I asked if he took pictures." Rory was aware that she was drifting, but there didn't seem any point in trying to stay. It was so very unpleasant to be tied up in the bathroom. "He leaned into my window—I had rolled it down just a little bit, and he had his big sausage fingers all stuffed in there—and he said, "I had to immortalize the moment . . .'"

"Rory-"

"He made me scrambled eggs. He acted like he liked me. Why-why-?" Her hands were nestled at the base of her spine. Without meaning to she moved them, and her wrists burned. She made a sound deep in the back of her throat.

"Rory!"

The room tilted, and she had to shut her eyes. Behind her eyelids she found herself tumbling down a dark hole thick with vines and thorns. Polaroid pictures blossomed from the walls like malformed flowers. After a while, the walls began to close in on her, and Rory was forced to dig. The earth was wet and she pushed it out of her way with both hands.

She saw light jittering in the darkness, diamond white concentric circles with all the colors of the rainbow hidden in it, and she was frightened. She didn't want to go anywhere near it—but then she just decided, What the hey? And she was in the light, panting and gasping and spitting out dirt. She was unsurprised to discover that she was crouched under a table. She spread her hands and looked down at them; they were filthy. She caught something in the corner of her eye. Hey. Her thought echoed in the great hall. That's my backpack.

But instead she crawled forward, toward a pair of fuzzy slippers. She could see dimpled knees over a pair of tall knee socks. It was a person. The person bent to look under the table, and her shiny blonde hair swept the floor. "Oh," she moaned. "Paris?"

"No, baby. We're still in New Jersey." Rory opened her eyes, and there was Jess. With effort, she focused on her boyfriend, and slowly the bathroom fell into place around him. "Hi," he said softly, his eyes moist and bright. He tried to rub his cheek on his shoulder.

"Hi," she said, blinking.

"Hi," he said again.

"Wha-?"

"Keep trying to fight it. You did fight it. I saw you."

She frowned. "What?"

"Name a Dead Kennedys song that Black Flag covered."

She was confused. "What? Uh . . . Too Drunk to Fuck?"

"Can you name a Black Flag cover by the Descendents?"

She searched for it, and came up with, "Alex, what is Jealous Again?"

"That's my girl," Jess said, and gave her a small smile.

"I'm okay," she said. "I think-I think I'm okay." She shoved until her shoulders were up against the wall. Bracing her toes against the base of the toilet, she slowly got herself upright. She stopped for a breather, her chest heaving under the denim jumper. Then she pulled up her legs and groped around, trying to locate the buckles on her shoes.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"Uh, just a sec." She got her shoes undone. Dragging her heels against the floor, she managed to slide her feet out of them. She had to stop for a rest; it was hard work lifting her feet with her ankles lashed together. She pushed the shoes away with the tips of her toes. "I'm going to . . . wait a minute-" She took a breath, and flopped over on her side.

"Careful!"

She looked up at him. "Sweetheart, this is going to hurt me. A lot. Probably, that is going to make you feel upset. There is nothing you can do. Please—please try to hang on, okay? Be as quiet as you can and let me concentrate."

"Okay," he said tightly. Rory heard the cuffs rattling against the pipe.

She made the decision at the outset that it wouldn't be useful to take notice of the pain. She closed her eyes and put herself someplace else—but somewhere close, where she would be able to find herself again. She shimmied her hands past her butt, and drew her knees up to her chin. She pulled her stocking feet through her bound wrists. "Ta-dah," she said weakly, showing him her hands. Even holding them up hurt.

"Pretty fancy," he said.

"I've had the opportunity to work on my technique." She sighed in fatigue, and pushed herself into a sitting position. She could hardly hold up her head, she was so tired. "Plus I think my ass is less fat."

"Your ass was never fat," he assured her, and she shot him a smile.

"Thanks for that. But you can't be sedentary twenty-four-seven, and not have a generously padded posterior." She examined her hands. The skinny strips of cloth were frayed, and the knots weren't promising. They were in the middle, but away from her fingers; she could only see them if she held her hands down.

"I've spent a lot of time looking at your ass-"

Rory raised her head. "Really? Me too. Yours, I mean."

"Yeah? How is it?"

"Hah! You so know."

"No, really," he said.

"Firm," she told him. "Very firm."

"Good," he said. "That's exactly the look I was going for."

Rory's smile vanished as she tried to rotate her hands to get at the knots. Her wrists were burning. Shuddering, she swallowed a couple of times, willing herself not to throw up. "I don't know if-"

"Try the door."

She slid around, and reached up to grasp the doorknob with both hands. She gave it a tug. "Nope. He's rigged it again." Her two hands clumsy together, she pawed at the pocket of her jumper, and retrieved the disposable razor. She held it awkwardly. "I don't know if this is going to work, either." She couldn't really angle it so that she could get at her wrists. She tried to use it to free her feet, but it didn't seem to be cutting the cloth.

"No luck?"

"I-I don't think so," she said doubtfully. "This little blade is useless. It's just sort of shaving the cloth." She put it in her pocket, and pulled her skirt down. "You wouldn't happen to still have my other razor blade?"

"You were being kind of weird about it. I don't know. I think I left it at Cameron's."

"So now what?" She turned to Jess. He was using his shoulder to rub his nose. "Oh, do you want me to scratch you?" She held up her tied hands and scratched his nose. "How was I being weird? I wasn't being weird."

"Okay, you weren't being weird. Scoot in here. Maybe I can undo you."

She wedged herself in beside him, the false cupboard digging into her ribs. She tried to align her hands with his hands. The problem was that with the pipe in the way, not only was he working backwards, he couldn't use both hands at the same time. The handcuff chain wasn't long enough. He could reach her with one hand, but when he moved to use the other hand, the first hand was tugged away.

He did try, hard. He closed his eyes and let out three breaths to relax and get in the zone. Then he had to do it againafter she made the mistake of asking what the zone felt like, because she wanted to know if she'd ever inadvertently experienced it (she had a theory that she had).

Finally, he gave up. He pressed his forehead to hers. "Rory."

"Yeah?"

Quietly, he said, "I would have left you here."

She sat back, feeling upset. "Well, you didn't."

Jess tried to reach for her—she saw his arms move. "That's what I wanted to do. I was prepared to use any method of persuasion."

Rory drew in a sharp breath. She glanced at the towel bar, her chest tight.

He continued, "And in the end I didn't—because I wanted to keep you with me." His voice dropped to a whisper. "But I thought about it." He looked away, blinking. "Jesus, Rory. You would have been here all alone."

Her stomach twisted, but she said, "Please, Jess. You can't go to pieces on me now."

"You were right and I was wrong. About everything. I am such a fucking asshole!"

"No!"

Jess nodded at the door. "You were right about him. Your parents didn't hire him. You knew that, and you said it, and I wouldn't listen."

"Please-"

"And the Hartzkes . . . all that crap I said to you in the woods. About how it was your fault. And even coming back in the car, I was still letting you take the blame. Like none of it would have happened if you'd just stayed put in Asbury Park. But Len was ready to beat the shit out of me right in front of the Palace."

He leaned back, staring at the ceiling. "It was never about the damn snake. I don't know whether it was because I took that girl away from him, or because my cousin left him, but he'd already made up his mind."

Rory looked at her bound hands, pressing her lips together. "Yes," she said finally. "I think that . . . yes."

"He tied me up . . . just like this-" His voice broke. "He left me in that shed. He just left me there-"

"Yes," she whispered.

"And now we're trapped in a bathroom-"

"We are not trapped!" she said tearfully. "We just haven't found a way to escape yet!"

He made a ragged, despairing sound. Rory leaned into him. She held up her joined wrists, so she could stroke his cheek with the back of her hand. "You're all right," she whispered. "I'm here, you're all right-"

"Rory," Jess breathed. Rory lifted her chin and pressed her lips to his, opening his mouth. He angled his head and kissed her back hungrily, offering his tongue. That was when Rory heard Maurice Emmell return. Jess swore.

The two of them sat stiffly as the detective made small noises on the other side of the door, untying the tights he had used to hold the door shut.

Maurice Emmell threw open the bathroom door. He crouched. "So," he said to Rory. "Funny thing. I played the tape for your dad, and he said, 'Who the fuck is that?'"

"So sorry about your ransom," Rory said defiantly.

"It's looking more and more like I am well and truly fucked, here." Maurice Emmell grabbed a handful of Rory's hair and she gasped. Her ass bounced on the floor as he pulled her away from Jess.

"No, don't-!" Jess begged.

The detective pinned Rory between his thighs. He held out one leg of her old tights. Maurice Emmell had hurt Rory's hair, and little lights danced back and forth across her eyes as she watched him tie a big knot. "No!" she gasped, and that was the last clear sound she made before he forced the knot between her teeth. He pulled sharply, wedging the knot deep in her mouth. He crossed the stocking, wound it over her mouth again, and tied the gag at the nape of her neck.

Rory choked, scrabbling at her mouth with her hands. The detective shoved her arms down, winding the other leg of the tights around her wrists and then around her waist, tying it at the small of her back. Her eyes were wild. She looked at Jess imploringly, but there was nothing he could do to help her.

Maurice Emmell scooped Rory up.

"Where are you taking her?" Jess yelled. "Where the fuck are you taking her?"

-

Rory felt she knew why gags were called gags and not something else, like mouth-blockers, or scream-catchers—it was because they provoked the gagging reflex. As she drooled around the knot, she imagined that black dye was running down her chin. The tights tasted foul. They were her tights, and she knew that they were clean. She had washed them herself. She had that to be grateful for, but that was about all. Everything else was looking pretty bleak to Rory.

Maurice Emmell had carried her out to the parking lot, and she didn't recall exactly when she had started to scream, but her guttural, animal noises had intensified when it became clear to her that he was going to put her in his trunk. She had struggled, desperately hoping that someone would intervene, but the lot behind the motel was a dark, deserted wasteland. Even the space in front of the last unit had been empty.

Now she was wedged half on her hip in darkness, with something pressed against her back and something pressed against her front, unable to bend at the waist to get at her gag, or to move her stocking feet enough to kick effectively. She howled—and every time the car came to a stop she tried to howl louder. No one had taken notice and her voice wasn't going to hold out forever.

The car came to a full stop. She fell silent, listening, but the main thing she heard was her own terrified heart throbbing in her chest. She screamed again, her scream ending in a sharp yelp of surprise when the car restarted. She began to cry.

The car rolled along for what seemed a very long time. It stopped, and she lifted her head. The trunk opened. Maurice Emmell shone a flashlight in her face. At first Rory couldn't see. Gradually, his outline took shape. She blinked and saw that he was holding a thin sheet of fax paper, and comparing the fax to her face.

"Well, shit." Maurice Emmell stuffed the fax in the pocket of his leather jacket. He pulled out a Marlboro flip-top and lit a cigarette off a Zippo lighter. He exhaled a stream of smoke from his nose and coughed. "Are your parents rich?"

Rory stopped breathing. She stared up at Maurice Emmell, not knowing whether to nod or shake her head. Before she could decide, he slammed the trunk. She moaned, once again alone in the dark. She heard the engine turn over. After that, there wasn't anything for her to do but sob out her terror and dismay. She'd had a chance, sort of, but she'd had no clue which answer would have been the right answer. So she hadn't answered anything.

-

So tedious is this day . . .

. . . so tedious. For-for thou wilt lie upon the wings of night . . .

. . . whiter than new snow upon a . . . upon a raven's back . . .

. . . he's taking me back to the motel . . .

Come, gentle night . . . Come . . .

Come . . .

Come, gentle night; come, loving, black-browed night, give me my Romeo; and, when he shall—what's the point in keeping me? What's the point?

Take him and cut him out in little stars, and he will make the face of heaven so fun-

I mean fine, he will make the face of heaven so fine, that-that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun, and he's taking me back to the motel.

Give me my-my Romeo; and, when he shall-

Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall—he's taking me back to Jess.

Take-take him and cut him out in little stars, and he will make the face of heaven so fine, that all the world will be in love with night, and pay no worship to the garish sun.

O, I have bought the mansion of a love, but not possessed it; and though I am sold, not yet enjoyed. So tedious is this day-

He's taking me back to the motel.

-

The next time Maurice Emmell opened the trunk he lifted her out. Rory lay limp in his arms, exhausted. It was dark, and she could hear traffic not too far away. She heard a solitary bird honk, and blinked, startled. Was that a swan? She hadn't known there were swans at the Sea View motel. Maybe there was a pond, and she just hadn't noticed. They should call it the Pond View Motel. Wasn't it too late for swans? What day is it anyhow? she wondered distantly. I think it's-

She lifted her head, having the impression that there was water. It didn't sound like the ocean. The ocean was nearby, but this wasn't it—it was something else. Maurice Emmell crossed onto a different surface. She heard the sound of his heels thudding hollowly.

Rory saw mist rising off a black lake. The surface crinkled like cellophane skin, reflecting the lovely pale moon. She moaned behind her gag, horrified. Oh, please oh please oh please . . .

She realized they were on a footbridge, and began to thrash, jackknifing. Oh, please oh please oh please . . .

Maurice Emmell hoisted her, and held her out over the railing. She shook her head wildly.

oh, please oh please . . .

"Sorry, kid," he said. "But you and your boyfriend are just too complicated."

. . . oh please oh-

He let go.

-

To be continued