The man came down the basement steps, unlocked the door at the bottom, then came through it and turned on the lights. He looked purposefully around the room--first at the girl on the bed--then at everything else. His gaze missed nothing. Seemingly satisfied, he then crossed to the double bed, checked each of the leather straps binding the girl's wrists and ankles and the white kite- strings leading from each to the four bedposts, then lastly, removed the thermometer from her anus and held it up to the light: 98.6 degrees.
"Good girl," the man said.
The young girl only whimpered.
Two months past her eighteenth birthday, Jaimee Pike had been the man's captive now for seven days. He'd snatched her right out of school practically, waiting for the bus to drop her off from the Montclair School, where she attended twelfth grade, then bringing her here to this basement room. But he hadn't raped her. At lease not yet.
"You need to go pee?" the man asked.
Jaimee nodded energetically.
"Go then," the man said. "And leave the bathroom door open."
Jaimee scrambled off the bed, breaking the thin white strings and looking at the man fearfully as she did so. Then she darted off for the bathroom opposite the stairs. Only it wasn't a bathroom really... there was no bath, no tub, not even a shower stall. All there was was the commode on which she plunked herself down and a sink installed against the cinder block wall. The walls consisted of a studded-out layout of three walls and a door frame and nothing more. The man's instructions not to shut the door where therefore, a joke.
Sitting on the white plastic seat and releasing her bladder, Jaimee felt the man's eyes.
Why hasn't he raped me? she wondered for perhaps the thousandth time.Why hadn't he done anything to her in seven days but tie her down spread-eagled to the bed every day--face down mostly, but sometimes up--and that was all. Well, not quite all. He had shaved her crotch that very first night, then he had done her anus and hadn't that been a treat. Chest down on the mattress, her tail in the air, holding herself apart...
As a youngster Jaimee had imagined being shaven just like that, had whispered about it with her friends, especially Jenny Bryce whose older sister actually did it Jenny said; but she had never experienced it herself. The drag of the razor across her exposed anus had just scared her to death.
No... being here scared her to death.
"You're hungry, I expect," the man said.
Jaimee nodded. Surprisingly, he had fed her pretty well. Cheeseburgers and French fries from McDonald's every night and sometimes a vanilla shake. The rest of the time she dined on Healthy Choice frozen dinners, bologna and cheese sandwiches, Cheerios with two-percent milk (just like her mother for gosh sake), a variety of canned soups and ice cream in the evenings.
"I got Burger King tonight. You like Burger King, Jaimee?"
"Yes, sir," she said. "Very much." She had to call him sir.
Wiping herself -- God, how her bladder ached! -- Jaimee wondered how long long it had been today. Six hours, maybe? Maybe eight? She had no sense of time in the basement.
The man answered the question for her.
"It's six fifty-two, now. I left at eight oh-five this morning. That's ten hours and forty-seven minutes."
Eleven... almost eleven goddamned hours! No wonder she ached!
He'd shown her the layout the very first night, very first thing. No windows anymore, just blocked over rectangles where windows had been. No doors other than the one at the bottom of the steps, and the one at the top. The door at the top was a regular wooden door, with a regular lock, and wouldn't keep out a toddler.
The one downstairs though... it could keep out an elephant. Made of steel and set in a steel frame, the thing looked more like a bank vault than a entrance. And the stairway itself? Cinder-blocked all the way around and right up to the ceiling. She had never seen anything like it before in her life. He had built it, he'd said, just for her. Or for girls like her.
"Why me?" she had blubbered when he told her that. "And what are you going to do to me?"
This was just after she had removed her clothing with the man watching her with terrifying eyes (she had remained nude ever since) and just before her nightly bath. Her nightly bath, complete with bubbles, shampoo and cream rinse and even a razor to shave her legs.
"Why?" He had looked past her for a time, his forehead crinkled in thought. Maybe he'd never been asked the question before, Jaimee thought -- or as well as she could think with her brain frozen slush and her bowels bubbling lava. And then he had answered: "I'll show you why."
Taking her by the hand, he had lead Jaimee up the basement stairs and up another flight of stairs to his bedroom on the second floor. Jaimee clung to his promise not to rape her -- that night, at least -- like a treed cat clinging upside down on a limb by its claws. But she hadn't stopped crying.
"Sit down," the man had said.
Jaimee sat down at the computer.
"Turn it on," the man had said.
Jaimee turned it on. When it was warmed up and showing her the desktop -- Window's XP, just like her brother's - - he guided her through a series of folders.
"That one there," he said, pointing to the folder named: "Jessica Ann."
Inside she found an even dozen icons.
"What are those?" she asked, knowing exactly what they were.
The man had her change the view to list. Sequentially, the files were named: 03.jpg, 04.jpg, 05.jpg, 06.jpg, 08.jpg, 10.jpg, 11.jpg, 12.jpg, 13.jpg, 14.jpg, 18.jpg, 19.jpg. She didn't ask what had happened to the ones in between.
Double-clicking on the file named "03.jpg," Jaimee was startled to see another young girl, blonde like herself, with the same green eyes and length of hair and the even same smile. She damned near could have been her double.
"I found these on the Internet a while back," the man said. "And thought immediately of you."
Jaimee unknowingly looked up. "I know you?" she peeped.
"I know you. Now, click the Next button."
Jaimee dutifully clicked the right-arrow at the bottom of the window and switched from the young girl lying stomach down in the water (was that the bank of a stream?) on a clear plastic float, to the same young girl kneeling in the water with her forearms on the plastic float. Her hands were now clasped loosely together and she looked back over her shoulder at the camera with a selfless grin.
I don't want to see any more, Jaimee thought. Please don't show me any more. Then the man told her to proceed to the next picture and Jaimee nearly freaked.
"Oh, my God," she whispered.
In the picture, the young girl was still on her hands and knees in the water, smiling back at the camera, but now her bottom jutted out so that everything was plainly exposed. No, Jaimee thought, displayed, just like those women in her brother's Hustler magazines.
The man took her through the remainder of the shots, each worse than the one before and, by the time she finally was allowed to close up the folder, Jaimee was completely aghast.
"Now do you know why you're here?"
Jaimee didn't understand then, and she didn't understand now.
"Come on," the man said as she stood up from the commode and washed her hands. "Time for your picture."
Now this was truly weird. Every night at seven p.m., the man took her upstairs to his bedroom, sat her down in a chair before a white sheet strung between the walls of his bedroom and handed her that day's edition of the Washington Post. Then he photographed her with it, nude but with her legs tightly clamped, the paper clutched beside her grinning face. Either that or showing her freshly spanked bottom if that's what she had. Then she e-mailed it to her brother, Allen, which Jaimee just loved, and then to four of her closest male classmates, which Jaimee really loved.
"Why are you doing that?" she had wailed the first time.
'"To show them you're alive."
"To my brother?" she cried shrilly, "and to my friends?" for which she was roundly spanked.
"Don't do that again," the man had warned her as she sat bawling on the floor. "You understand?"
"Yes, sir," she hiccuped, tears pouring down her face. It wasn't the spanking so much that hurt--she'd been spanked before, bare-bottomed before, but not since she was eleven years old and not by a stranger and certainly not in a situation like this--but the damage to her sense of pride. But she had not done it again and she had not been spanked for it again. Not for that, anyway.
Now, preceding him up the stairs for her nightly humiliation before the camera, she tried pleading with him again: "Please don't send it out to any more boys, okay... please? Please?"
"You know the agreement."
The man stopped her on the steps and turned her around. Jaimee shivered but kept her eyes level with his. "I'm not being disrespectful," she said. "I'm just asking you not to do it, that's all. If you want me to, I'll apologize for it."
The man didn't spank her for it, but neither she get her wish. Instead, she was lead upstairs and into the man's bedroom, sat down in the chair and given her paper. She sighed and then grinned for the camera. Then she loaded the picture onto the computer and sent it away to this evening's recipients. As always, she wondered how, if she ever got out of this alive, she would ever live this down.
"I'm an expert in Internet traffic," he had told her the first night. He'd tried to explain about bootleg servers in Kazakstan and Ethiopia and some country in the Baltic's called Herzogovena. It sounded like gobbledygook to her but evidently it worked--they could not trace the pictures back to him... not even two miles from her house. That was the the worst of it--two miles from her house.
"Are you ever going to let me go?" she suddenly asked. They were on their way down to the kitchen for dinner.
"When I'm done with you, yes."
"What are you doing with me?" she asked with eighteen year old stupidity and innocence.
He stopped her on the stairs. "You honestly don't know?"
She shook her head no, then added: "No, sir."
"Well, you should know," he said and marched her back upstairs again and spanked her the hardest he'd spanked her yet.
It was three weeks later and Jaimee was resigning herself to her lot. The man no longer tied her to the bed when he left in the morning--unless she was very bad the evening before, or his idea of being very bad--and she was grateful for that. Instead, she spent her days doing schoolwork assignments--yes, schoolwork assignments-- equivalent to, if not exactly the same, as what her classmates were doing in school.
The man had set up a small card table against the wall opposite her bed and piled neatly atop it were her textbooks, ring-binders and spiral notebooks. He allowed her the use of an Apple iBook computer with the Webster's Electronic Dictionary, Roget's Thesaurus and the Encyclopedia Britannica loaded on the hard drive. She could even access the web in the evening--under strict supervision--to further her research. Seven a.m. to three p.m., with an hour out for lunch--she was becoming addicted to All My Children on ABC--and three hours in the evening spent on homework had her feeling almost at home.
"You hungry?" the man asked.
"Yes, sir," she muttered. She was on the pot and it was her third time this week going poop. She hated going poop, especially wiping herself afterwards, at which the man always grinned.
"Embarrasses you, doesn't it," he had said her very first time.
What do you think, you asshole? she didn't reply. "Yes, sir."
"Well, imagine how getting an enema would feel," he had warned her.
She hoped--prayed--that the man was only joking. She had kept her habits regular ever since.
"I brought pizza tonight," he said. "Pepperoni and bacon, you're favorite."
How does he do that? she wondered. He knows my favorite foods, my favorite movie stars, even my favorite boys at school.
Yes, she added, wryly. All off which have now seen you nude. And spanked, let's not forget being spanked.
Sitting cross-legged on the bed and removing her first slice of pizza, Jaimee stopped momentarily to consider her situation. God, she thought. I don't even realize it anymore, but I'm sitting here nude. Just like she didn't realize -- or much care -- when he watched her go pee. In fact, pooping while he watched no longer freaked her out the way it had before and it was almost like... no, it was like... yes, she was growing used to it.
She didn't have to be told when to wash the dishes or scrub the toilet anymore. She washed clothes on Tuesday and Thursday nights, cleaned the kitchen on Sundays, wrote out the grocery list for him on Wednesday afternoon and vacuumed the entire house every other night. I'm being domesticated, she thought disgustedly. I could be his wife.
Halfway to her mouth, the slice of pizza stopped.
The man said, "What?"
Jaimee said, "Why are you keeping me here?"
"You asked me that before," the man said, looking disappointed.
"Yes," Jaimee said, seeing his disappointment and not caring about it. "And you didn't answer me. You spanked me for not knowing."
"That's right," the man said. "Just like I'll spank you again. Only worse."
Jaimee put the slice of pizza down. "I don't care," she said softly. There was something -- wonder maybe? -- in her voice. She looked at the man with her head inclined. The man looked back, eyes beginning to narrow.
"I think maybe you know," he said slowly.
"I think I do too."
"Tell me," the man said.
Jaimee shook her head. "I want your promise first."
"Yes," Jaimee said. "Your promise that it won't happen again."
The man lowered his slice of pizza into the box and slowly wiped his fingers on a Pizza Hut napkin. His eyes, locked on hers and saying more than his words ever would, never blinked.
But neither did Jaimee's.
"Promise me," Jaimee said again.
The man shook his head.
"Why not?" she demanded.
"You know I can't."
Jaimee shuddered in frustration. "It's not fair," she said, poking herself against the chest hard enough to break a fingernail. "We're only human beings for God's sake. We make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes."
"It's been a month," he said. "You've saved lives. Be happy with that."
The man sat very still. Jaimee sat very still. Then the man said: "I like you, Jaimee. You're a caring girl and a very smart girl. Don't fuck this up."
Jaimee breathed slowly in and out. Her eyes burned and so did the back of her throat. She felt tremendously sick to her stomach. She didn't want to "fuck up" but neither did she want another young girl to die.
"What if I just stay?" she asked. "Of my own free will for as long as you want me to."
The man's eyes narrowed again. "Do you know what you're saying?"
"This isn't a game, Jaimee. I'm not looking for a housekeeper here."
"I know that."
The man blew air out between compressed lips. "Either you're crazy... or you're really crazy."
For the first time in a month, a smile spread across Jaimee's lips. It had nothing to do with pleasure. "Then it's a deal?" she asked.
The man put out his hand and they shook on it.
"So," the man with the laptop computer and voice recorder said. "The house was burning down and he let you go."
"Yes," Jaimee said. She was twenty-nine years old and giving her first interview in seven years. It was her first real interview, ever.
"And you weren't injured?"
Jaimee shook her head.
"You were very lucky, all that lead flying around."
Jaimee nodded again.
"About those photo's that were bandied about. Did they really exist?"
Jaimee said yes, there were photos. The police and FBI had confiscated most of them but some, she was certain, were still about. She was not talking about the photos she had sent out to her classmates. These were something else.
"Look," she said, leaning forward and clasping her hands between her knees. "That was a long time ago, okay? I'm in a different state now, I'm married and I have two wonderful kids. I know what he did and I know what he didn't do after he took me. I could have left any time after the first month and believe me--" she laughed bitterly. "--there were a lot of times I wished I had. He wasn't quite the monster the press made him out to be, but he wasn't a nice guy, either."
She unconsciously fingered a scar running the length of her jaw where the man had cut her with a knife. She bore scars in numerous other places as well, and a puncture wound or two, but everything vital still worked. And she had left a few scars of her own.
"I won't apologize for what I did," she stated.
"I think the apologies are owed you, Ms. Poley, not the other way around."
"Tell that to some of the families," she said, looking at the floor. "The ones I couldn't save. The ones that didn't have someone running interference for them. They don't necessarily share your point of view... nor your sympathetic tone."
"No," the man said. "I imagine they don't. I've talked to most of them, you know?"
The ones you know about, she didn't say. "Interview's over. I said an hour, and an hour's up."
The man nodded and packed up his things. He wasn't happy about it, but he did.
"One last thing," he said as Jaimee started to rise.
"I told you--"
"This is for me," the man interrupted. "Off the record."
He stared at Jaimee's breasts for a moment -- only Jaimee realized it wasn't her breasts he was seeing -- and then he said: "My niece was the forth girl David Favrill took. Amy Morgan."
Jaimee sat back down again. Her legs were gone. Her breath was gone.
"Two young girl's before her died and one more after--"
"I'm sorry," Jaimee muttered softly. "I didn't know."
"--and then he took you. What I wanted to ask was ... do you ever regret not going to the police?"
Jaimee slowly shook her head. Tears filled her eyes. Finally, she whispered: "I got what I could, okay? I got the only thing he was willing to give. I also gave my word." She breathed in deeply and exhaled. "And he kept his to the very end. He never took another..." Her words trailed off and she began to cry softly.
The man said: "No one can help my niece and the five other girls David Favrill took. But I believe a lot of nieces and daughters and grandchildren are out there walking around today because of what you did. And for that, we all should be grateful."
"Should we?" Jaimee asked, wiping her eyes. "I hope so."
Because the truth of the matter was... the truth was...
The truth was that only God knew.