Opening her eyes, she groaned and squinted against the harsh florescent light that seared into her brain like alcohol on an open wound. A thin metal shackle encircled her wrist, and she slowly lifted her head from the table to turn and see the other bound as well. The movement sent fresh pangs through her head and face and she squeezed her eyes shut and fists closed as she focused on breathing until the sharpness had passed.
A door opened, and she reluctantly peeked through her lashes at the man who entered the room. He let the door slam shut behind him and she jumped at another wave of agony drilling through her skull. The man who’d hit her must have been a damn tank, she thought as a metal chair screeching across the bare floor made her teeth grind together.
“I’m glad you’re finally awake,” the man said, sounding entirely too chipper for someone in his line of work. “This will be simple, though as you’ve already realized, not entirely painless. I ask questions, you answer them, we all go home. Nothing to it. So let’s get started. How did you end up with the flash drive you were looking at in your cafe?”
The man must have been a frickin’ chipmunk in a former life, Karen thought as her fuzzy brain scrambled to catch up. She’d been interrogated before, but usually by the stare-em-into-talking types. Maybe those guys should give this chatter-box technique a try. It seemed like an effective way to drive people insane.
She licked her lips and spoke slowly to enunciate past her half-swollen cheek.
“Someone gave it to me.”
“I don’t know.”
“Male or female? Tall or short? Skinny or fat? Pretty or ugly? I can play this game as long as you can, Ms. Winters. The problem is, I get bored easily. And when I get bored, I can’t always control my actions. I know your brain is a bit addled right now – Clark throws a mean jab, doesn’t he? Man’s built like a bulldozer. Personally, I don’t like to get my hands dirty. I’m a psych guy myself. I want to mess with your mind, but you probably guessed that. So I’ll give you one more chance to tell me who gave you that drive, and then things are gonna start getting serious. Who gave you the disk?”
Meeting his expectant stare with her one good eye, Karen swallowed, a faint metallic tang coating her tongue.
“Go. To. Hell.”
The man smiled, the expression an ugly caricature of surprised delight. He pushed back his chair slowly enough to draw out that horrid squeal that vibrated through her skull before he stood and flipped a switch on the wall behind him.
The mirror effect on the large window faded and a light came on in the room beyond. The lights in her room were dimmed, for which she was profoundly grateful until she really looked at the scene playing out in the other room.
A woman sat on the other side of the glass from Karen, behind an identical table. A very large man stood beside the table holding one of the woman’s arms stretched out the width of the surface. In his other hand he held a long blade, and as she watched, he lowered it to slide across the woman’s arm, leaving behind a thin, dark line.
Karen pulled at her chains, anger and adrenaline racing through her body.
“What the hell is he doing to her? And why isn’t she screaming? Is she dead?”
Her interrogator clicked his tongue at her, coming to sit down across from her again.
“You disappoint me, Ms. Winters. If she was dead, she wouldn’t bleed. And I think you’re smart enough to figure out that Clark and our other…um…guest are here to demonstrate what will happen should you choose not to cooperate. So…let’s start over, shall we? Who gave you the disk?”
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