She sat in the love seat near the fireplace as the bad man fired up the radio. Lydia couldn’t take her eyes away from the dried up blood splattered on the hearth. She’d almost died right there when he’d removed her thumb. Her hand began to throb again now that the morphine was wearing off. She already knew that he wouldn’t give her any more until after the broadcast.

The bad man seemed much more anxious now. Something was wrong.

He finished adjusting the CB radio and handed Lydia the crumbled up paper with new blood stains on it.

“Read it,” he ordered, holding the microphone near her mouth. He keyed the receiver.

Lydia’s one good hand shook as she looked over the words, trying to gather the nerve to do what came next.

“Read it… now.” His tone was calm but firm, and did little to mask the hurricane which was barely contained beneath.

Lydia took a deep breath and surprised herself. “No.”

The bad man lowered the microphone and studied her from behind his thick shades as if trying to decide if he really heard her refusal. He raised the microphone again. “Read it.”

She shook her head this time. The ‘no’ was undeniable.

The bad man calmly placed the microphone back on the cradle. He retrieved the knife, growled and slit the side of her right cheek faster than she had time to register what happened.

Lydia’s face felt wet. She reached up and touched her cheek with her bad hand. She looked at the bloody hand and then back at the dripping knife in the bad man’s hand. She placed both hands over the deep vertical slit to try to stop the bleeding. She was too much in shock to scream out at the pain which had finally caught up.

“You read or you bleed out,” he said. “No more morphine.”

“I… said… no!” she managed to say through gritting teeth. The intense pain in her cheek acted as fuel for her resolve to blaze up into anger. “Fuck you and your lies… I won’t help you hurt anyone else!”

The bad man just stared at her, as if trying to figure out what new species of animal this was. After a moment, he understood. “I should go down and cut his balls off. Then, come back and slice your ears off for listening to him. How does that sound?”

She started laughing uncontrollably, the pain pushing her to the brink. “Just kill me already. I don’t care if you cut the rest of my fingers off, my face, or anything else… I’m not reading another fucking thing!”

He stopped himself from ripping her tongue out. She still needed that to read the messages. He tried something else, remembering how he found her earlier. “The rest of that cake is still in the fridge. It’s yours if you cooperate. If you don’t, I’ll hurt you in ways you can’t imagine… and I’ll make sure you don’t die.”

Lydia’s mouth watered at the prospect of the cake. She was so damn hungry. All she had to do was read the message…

You’re fucking disgusting! she scolded herself. Why don’t you just sell your soul for pastries and help him kill some more people!

She caught a glimpse of the moldy slice of cake from just beyond the bad man’s right shoulder. It was still lying on the floor beside the broken china plate.

Then she had a desperate idea.

“I’ll… I’ll have a piece of cake now… please,” she said. “I’m just… so damn hungry that I can’t think straight. If I could have just a piece… then I could read the message… and do it right this time.”

The bad man considered her a moment longer. He clapped his hands together once and said, “Why not? I’m hungry anyway.” He got up to head for the kitchen. “I’ll get something for your face.”

After he was out of sight, Lydia headed for the broken plate. She scooped up the moldy slice of cake and devoured it in two quick bites. She then grabbed the largest shard from the plate pieces and placed it in the crack of the loveseat, closest to her good hand.

She could still hear him in the kitchen. He was whistling that God-awful song again… the one she didn’t remember. Lydia was about to sit back down but had a grim thought:

If I fail, he’s still not going to kill me. He’ll just keep taking pieces of me until I finally die of blood loss… and he will eventually find someone else to take my place.

She considered using the shard to slit her own wrists, but as much as she wanted to die she was too much of a coward to do it herself. There was only one thing left to do to insure her death. Something that would diminish her value permanently as well as saving the next poor soul that would suffer in her position.

Lydia walked over to the CB radio and noticed how the various components were stacked on top of each other. She lifted her foot and kicked the entire radio system off the table. Several pieces shattered instantly. It was enough damage to make the lights go out on the front. The steady hum of the radio went silent.

The bad man stormed out of the kitchen just as Lydia made it back to the loveseat.

He entered the room, noticed the fallen radio, and then ran to it as though she had just slain his child. “What have you done?!” He bent down to pick up the radio parts.

She lunged toward his back with the shard up over her head, screaming like the mad woman from upstairs.


Tony dropped the key ring when he heard Lydia screaming. This was followed by a few more loud sounds reminding him of a bar room brawl. She was in trouble.

“Get it together, Marcuchi,” he scolded himself and picked up the key ring. He’d have to start over since he couldn’t see the keys in the dark. If he could only keep his hands from shaking he’d be free by now. He’d already removed the leg shackles.

Tony methodically went through the keys until finding the one for the left wrist. He unlocked it.

One more. Hurry the fuck up!

There were more sounds from upstairs. Someone crossed directly over his head, followed by another set of heavier steps as the floorboards creaked with urgency toward the second floor landing.

Lydia’s free! She couldn’t make it outside so now he’s forcing her up.

“Come on! Come on!” Tony continued through the keys as fast as he could, being mindful not to lose his place along the ring.

There were more erratic sounds now. It sounded like something or someone had fallen down the stairs.

He tried not to think the worst, focusing on the keys which started to slip from his sweaty hands.


The last lock fell to the concrete. Tony almost thought he’d imagined it. He checked his bare wrists. He was free.

Tony struggled to get to his feet and immediately felt dizzy. This was the first time he’d been able to stand up for days. His legs began to shake from the effort as he pushed his feet forward until he struck a wall. He used the wall to orient himself in the darkness and then aimed for where he thought the staircase was. He found the railing and used it to keep himself upright. Then he found the first step. His emotions were about to burst as he picked up his feet and started up the staircase.

One at a time, Tony. And don’t you dare fall. Don’t you dare!

He was trying not to think about the unnerving silence from above his head.

What if he’s just waiting by the door? What if he heard you down here and he’s toying with you? What if the door’s locked and you don’t have the key? What if there’s more than one of them…

He immediately thought of the mad woman, shuddered, and then forced himself to the top of the landing. He took a deep breath before the large door, found the doorknob and turned it.

The door opened outward, letting in a crack of dull light.

Tony waited for his heart to stop pounding in his ears. He couldn’t see anyone through the small crack and decided to chance it. He opened the door wide enough to slip through and entered a dimly-lit small hallway. He crouched down and let his eyes adjust to the light. To his left were two closed doors. To his right the hallway opened up into a larger room.

Tony was breathing rapidly. He was sweating profusely and felt faint from the exertion of climbing the stairs.

Don’t give up on me yet. I need just a little more!

His malnourished body made every step a challenge. He was extremely thirsty and famished. If not for the dread which shook him to the core—the fear of being caught and thrown back into that hellish nightmare below—Tony would’ve passed out. The fear-prompted adrenaline coursing through his system kept him moving. He got back up, using the wall for support, and entered the larger room.

More silence greeted him in what appeared to be a living room. Furniture had been tipped over. He found the CB radio on the floor in pieces near a fireplace. There were bloody hand prints on the walls, on the backside of a couch, and a pool of it near the radio.

He stepped further into the living room, feeling completely exposed, and noticed a syrupy trail of blood which wound its way from the living room and off to his left past what looked like a kitchen.

Tony felt ill. There was so much blood.

He forced himself toward the kitchen, trying not to step in the blood. He could hear the faint sound of a generator outside. The kitchen was empty. There was half a cake and a glass of water sitting on a counter, along with a large kitchen knife. Tony took the knife and then scooped up a handful of the cake and devoured it. He then sucked down the glass of water.

He turned and looked directly across the kitchen and saw a small dining room. Beyond that—the door with the large bar placed across it, just as Lydia had described.

That’s it, Tony. Run. Don’t look back. Just… run. She’s probably dead—hell, that’s what she wanted!

Tony started for the door and then crouched down when he caught movement off to his left from down the hall. He saw a horrid looking man in filthy jeans and a ripped black t-shirt, which once fit snugly, hanging on a thinner version of himself. The hallway mirror revealed a man he almost didn’t recognize. His face was covered in blood, hair stubble and bruises. His black short-cropped hair was a tangled mess. But what disturbed him most was seeing his own desperation reflected in sunken eyes; dark rings surrounded them and spoke of his haunted sleep. His skin was too pale. Tony was looking at a man who had courted Death, and up until now, he hadn’t quite realized just how far that relationship had taken him. He had the look of a victim—a frightened little boy kept in the cellar for being bad, and then left there with no supper until he learned the bad man’s rules. He could see the fresh cake crumbs on his chin and around his collar.

Tony frowned at the savage who looked back at him.

He looked away from the mirror in disgust only to find a second mirror in the form of an exit door with a bar across it. That one revealed his cowardice.

You can’t leave her here. Better to die trying to save her than die of shame out there.

Tony looked away from the door and proceeded down the hall toward the second floor landing. The blood trail curved at the stairs and continued up to the second floor.

He waited by the stairs for what felt like hours, trying to hear anything that would clue him in on what to expect. Again, more silence.

Tony took a final deep breath, held the kitchen knife out front, and then started up the blood-stained carpeted steps.

Dear, God, he silently prayed, just let me get one good crack at this maniac before he jumps out of the shadows and finishes me off… just one.

He started up the stairs.


Next Episode 16-4

Previous Episode 16-2


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“Chapter 16-3: Prisoners” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book One: Southbound Nightmares”.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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