Blankenship had been transferred to a federal prison awaiting his indictment. Ironically, it was the same prison from which Zakharov had only recently escaped. Every day his lawyers would arrive to look for something, anything, which could get the case kicked out of court but their client refused to cooperate. He felt safer from Chaney/Zakharov within the walls of the prison than he would without. Frustrated, the case was repeatedly handed off to other lawyers within the firm Omni had on retainer. This visit was no different. When Blankenship was brought into the consultation room, there was yet another new face behind the briefcase.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Blankenship. I’m Matt Findley, your new lawyer. Mr. Whitman was called away with a family emergency and…”
“Cut the bullshit, Findley.” Blankenship interrupted with a bored wave of his hand. “I know and you know why Whitman pawned the case off on you. My question is what did you do to piss him off so badly that he made you take it?”
“I assure you, Mr. Blankenship, that is not what happened. As a matter of fact, I requested this case.”
“Stupid son of a bitch,” the prisoner chuckled dryly, “what do you hope to prove, hmm? I’m guilty. The evidence is irrefutable even if Chaney got to Carla already. Yes, I’ve heard that she’s gone missing, suspected of flying to a non-extradition country, but we both know that’s not what happened. Chaney or one of his associates has her and I’m sure she wishes she was in this prison right now rather than wherever she is. The prosecution won’t offer a deal since they have too much evidence for a full conviction so I’m not really sure why you’re here.”
“Well, Mr. Blankenship, it is my solemn duty as a member of the judicial system to ensure that you get a fair trial.” The rotund lawyer paced around the room as he spoke. Blankenship simply looked bored. “Because you know as well as I that my associates want to ensure you get the very best representation so that you get nothing more than what you deserve.” A pudgy hand landed on the prisoner’s shoulder and he jumped at a sharp pain. Turning to gaze at the lawyer, Blankenship’s eyes were caught by the needle that protruded from the signet ring.
“You’re…You work for him!” The fat man waddled back to his briefcase and picked it up before rapping on the door for a guard.
“You knew it was coming, Blankenship. We could have never let this case go to trial. Be glad that you’re not in your compatriot’s predicament; she is quickly learning her new role in life, or so I’m told.”
The guard escorted the lawyer from the secured cells before returning for the prisoner. Blankenship accompanied him without protest. What would be the use? He knew he’d be dead by morning. Entering his cell, he immediately lay on his cot and began trying to make his peace with God.
The sound of the whip snapping behind her was still terrifying, even after nearly a week of similar torture. Carla trembled in the manacles of the cold, metal fetish contraption that held her naked body spread-eagled and on view for all in the room. She wore six inch heels and fishnet hose with garters. Large metal clamps had been attached to her abused nipples which were nearly numb from the intense pain and pressure. During the course of the night, she’d been pinched, fondled, and fucked by nearly everyone at Vlascenko’s party. As it descended even further into drugged hedonistic decadence, the whips and plugs and clamps had been introduced to her already sore, used body. She could feel blood, and other fluids, running down her thighs and couldn’t stop the tears that streaked her makeup.
“My dear,” a large, hairy man clad in nothing but a bow tie and slippers noticed her crying and approached, “have we been neglecting you? We’d not want our favorite entertainment to be sad and lonely.” He laughed and flipped a switch, sending short bursts of electric volts through the metal clamps that so painfully pinched Carla’s nipples. Her body stiffened against the pain and two more fat tears rolled down her cheeks. A few more jolts and she was openly sobbing, hanging limply in the restraints. Even in her misery, she could see the man stroking his hardening manhood as her pain stoked his pleasure. “You are a lovely creature, did you know that? Yes, so very lovely.” Throwing a separate switch, the frame pivoted and lowered so that she was facing the floor, the rush of blood causing her swollen nipples to throb painfully. She barely managed to hold back a cry when she felt him plunge harshly into her sore, raw body. She knew that, should she make a sound, they would assume she was enjoying their torment and fall on her like a pack of rabid wolves. Unfortunately, the man’s grunts of pleasure still drew an audience and soon she was the center of the entertainment once more. For the millionth time since she’d entered that taxi Carla prayed for death to take her and soon.
Long hours later and her limp, aching body was tossed carelessly onto the bed into her cell-like room. The click of the lock barely penetrated her tormented mind; neither did the sound that could only be a zipper. She didn’t have to perform for the guard so she simply lay there and let him have his way with her. When he was finished, which was rather quickly, he slapped her ass and told her to clean up because Vlascenko would call for her in an hour. She would be needed at dinner. The door closed and locked behind him and she was left alone at last. Carla thought of the shower. Clean up? All the water in the oceans couldn’t clean the dirt and filth that had become her life.
As she struggled to sit up, she realized one important thing: she still wore her stockings. Usually the guard removed those before he left but had forgotten them while slaking his lust with her body. Carefully and with shaking hands, Carla unclasped the garters and slid the stockings down her legs. They were caked with blood and semen and Lord knows what else, but they were sturdy and strong and perfect for her use. She pulled over a footstool which was just tall enough for her to reach the ceiling. Standing on her toes, she pushed the ceiling tile aside to reveal the thick wooden joist. Tying the stockings securely to the joist, she looped the rest around her neck several times to shorten it before tying it off. For a moment, Carla hesitated. She was still fairly young and had lived a decent life. Was she ready to die? Then, the clock struck the half hour and she knew that it was the only way to escape another meal spent at the mercy of the sick, perverted bastard who kept her captive. Without a second thought, she kicked the footstool away. For once, fate was kind to Carla Goldman and the fall snapped her neck before she could suffer a lengthy death by strangulation.
The trip from Kirov to the northern coast was uneventful after the neutralization of Zakharov which pleased both Erik and Alex quite well. The ship took them into Sweden where they disembarked with only the normal hassle of clearing customs from an Eastern Bloc country. They made contact with an Agent in Stockholm who secured their passage back to the United States without further incident. Their plane was to leave at 6:00pm and would fly straight into JFK Airport. With several hours to kill, they took advantage of Agency funds to replace their clothing and go to a restaurant for a relaxed lunch.
“Erik, will your opera be delayed because of all this?” Alex was genuinely worried for she felt responsible for his not being there to oversee rehearsal. His smile as he took her hand had her heart turning over in her chest; he was incredibly, achingly beautiful.
“No, petite. I haven’t been gone that long and the managers are actually a bit more competent than I make them out to be. When we return, I’ll have them run through the performance so I can make any changes that I feel are needed. We have nearly three weeks until opening night; they will be ready.” He raised her hand to his lips to brush a light kiss across her knuckles. “How are you holding up, Alexandra? You look tired, my love.”
“I’m…okay, I guess,” her smile tumbled from lips that trembled. “I’m still having nightmares, as you know, but having you by my side helps immensely. It’s hard to be afraid when you’re holding me.”
“When we get back, would you do me a favor, petite? Talk to someone. The Agency has people trained to help this exact situation…” Erik’s voice trailed into nothing as tears welled up in her pale green eyes.
“They haunt me, Erik,” Alex whispered brokenly. “Every time I close my eyes I can see them lying there in the snow as it’s stained red with their blood. It steamed. Did you know that? In the snow, their blood was so warm it caused the snow to steam…” Erik quickly moved from his chair to pull her up into his arms.
“Shhh, forgive me for bringing it up, petite. It’s over now. Completely over.” Keeping her cradled in the shelter of his arm, Erik handed the waitress far more krona than were needed for their meal and escorted Alexandra back to their hotel. Once there, he pampered her like a princess. He drew a warm bubble bath for her and joined her there to rub the tension from her shoulders and neck. Afterwards, he gently toweled her dry and combed her hair delighting in how long it had gotten. Lying with her on the bed, he told her of his plans for their wedding and honeymoon, all the places he wished to take her, and all the things he wished her to see. As Erik wove his spell around her, he eased in a few suggestions to help her move beyond the trauma she’d gone through.
They left for the airport at 3:00pm, checked in, and waited for the calls to board. They shopped and laughed like tourists; even going so far as to pick up a few souvenirs for the Girys and Da’ud at the airport souvenir shop. As their packages were being wrapped, Alexandra began to suspect her lover of using his persuasive powers to ease her inner turmoil. Even if that were so, she had no reprimand for him. She knew he’d only do so if he felt it was absolutely necessary and beneficial and she appreciated his concern. Once boarding was announced for their flight, they gathered their items and took their seats. When drinks were offered, Alex got some water to wash down a sleeping pill, leaned against Erik’s shoulder, and fell into her first untroubled sleep since she’d been kidnapped.
Their arrival at the Metropolitan was filled with hugs and tears and laughter as the Girys and Da’ud welcomed them home safe and sound. Erik asked Angelique about the progress on his opera while Meg told Alex the silly sort of gossip that always runs rampant throughout a performing troupe. Pleading exhaustion, which wasn’t a lie by any stretch, the couple headed for their apartment trailed by Da’ud. Upon entering the front room and being assaulted by so many happy memories of times that had very nearly ended forever, Alex promptly burst into tears. Erik guided her to the sofa while the former detective hovered uncertainly in the doorway and wondered if perhaps there was a better time for what he had to say. Holding her gently on his lap, he kissed the top of her head lightly before motioning for Da’ud to enter and close the door.
“I knew you would have information for me that you didn’t want to reveal in front of the others; I have some for you as well.”
“Should I return?” The Persian motioned to the still weeping woman curled up on Erik’s lap. “I wouldn’t want to further upset her, my friend.” At this, Alex raised her head and sent him a watery smile.
“I’ll be alright, Da’ud. Please, go ahead. I’d like to get all of this over quickly so it can be put behind us.”
“Very well. As you know, Erik, Carla wore a wire to Blankenship’s office and persuaded him to reveal his involvement in Alex’s kidnapping. It was his footage and employee who spliced the tape. He rewarded the man with a pair of cement shoes.” Da’ud glanced at Alex before continuing. “We also found out he had recorded more than just Alex. There were over a hundred tapes of himself and a variety of women. That, while despicable, wouldn’t have been illegal except not all the women consented to the taping or the sex nor were they all of legal age.”
“So, he’s in jail now?” She couldn’t help the note of hope in her voice. She’d be happy never to see him again.
“Well, not at this exact time, no. At 4:45 yesterday, Michael Blankenship was found in his cell dead from an apparent heart attack. A toxicology report showed no poisons in his system and so his death was declared accidental.” The detective stared at the floor, less enthusiastic about revealing the rest. “Carla Goldman, who was released as a result of an agreement made with the District Attorney’s office, was last seen entering a cab outside the station on January 29. Her body was found this morning at an abandoned factory, an apparent suicide by hanging. She had lacerations and contusions that show she’d been whipped and beaten before her death. There is also evidence of electrical burns in places that suggest she’d been in the company of a fetishist. Test results also confirmed that she’d been raped, multiple times and by multiple people; none of the DNA we found was on file.”
“European Electronics cleaning up after the Zakharov fiasco?” His eyes remained unchanged but Erik felt a twinge of remorse for what had happened to Carla; but only a twinge. She chose to associate with animals and so was at the mercy of those of higher status in the pack.
“That’s my guess.” Da’ud ran a hand over his face and through his hair. “Blankenship knew what would happen but I think Carla was simply in over her head.”
The spoke for another hour or so before the former detective took his leave. Erik told him that Zakharov had been neutralized and asked him to arrange for a debriefing with the Agency. He also gave him the information concerning Agent Wallace and asked him to pass it along to the CIA which, he knew, would deny any presence in Kirov. Alone at last, he carried his Alexandra to bed and made sweet, gentle love to her before falling asleep with her wrapped securely in his embrace.