An excerpt from my second book:
BRIDGET AWOKE TO FIND herself in a small building in the middle of Lucknow near the River Gomati. She had a searing pain in the back of her head, and the muscles in her neck were stiff and sore, making her groan with dread. Terror engulfed her confused senses; she became wide-awake. Where am I?
She crawled off the bed; the mattress was thin, rough, and smelled of body odour and urine. She felt sick and on the verge of hysteria; involuntary, unintelligible whimpers poured forth from her quivering lips.
Words cannot paint the horror of Bridget’s condition. Alone, in so cheerless a place, her mind overwhelmed with terrible confusion, expecting every moment the entrance of some captor or worse — she was far from peaceful. Dark visions crammed her abstracted mind, and she was set to sink under its dreads.
Her nerves could hardly stand it at all. She inhaled through her nose, willing herself to calm down. She addressed herself to all the saints in heaven and pleaded their help. A picture of Janak flashed through her mind; she remembered his training mantra: Fear hands your opponent the advantage.
Panic welled up inside her again, and her breathing became ragged. C’mon, Bridget, pull yourself together! Her desperation grew as she looked about the room; it was small with bare brick walls with, what seemed to Bridget, Hindu graffiti carved in them. The painted concrete floor was covered in foul-smelling, greasy slime. Bridget examined the only door made of thin sheet steel. No way out of there. Two small high-level windows provided the only light. The hopelessness of escaping weighed down on her.
Bridget moved around, trying to release the stiffness and numbness that had settled into her joints and muscles; she rubbed her wrists and rolled her shoulders. Her mind began to calm. Lucy, Charles, she wondered, what on earth happened? The events of the train crash began emerging through the dense fog that was her screaming, subconscious mind. She remembered the middle of the aisle, then laying on her back, followed by a sharp prick in her neck, then nothing.
Fury surged through her. I must get out! She banged on the door; peeling grey paint drifted to the floor.
Panic consumed her again, and she began yelling, ‘Help! Help!’
A scraping metallic noise, followed by a series of clicks sounded as a flap in the door opened. The bulging, watery eyes of Raza, one of the kidnapper’s guards, peered through. ‘What do you want?’ he said in a deep chest voice.
Bridget looked at the guard’s closed-off face; his drooping expression revealed the face of a man brought up with little to no parental encouragement or warmth. Bridget recognised him as another one of those pathetic people she was getting used to seeing in India. Still, all the passionate anger of the spoilt western teenager rose in her. ‘Why have you brought me here?’ she demanded.
The guard’s life had been one of desperate struggle, no warm nurturing from a loving mother, only the beatings of an abusive, drunken, misanthropic father. He was one of twelve children, of which only seven survived. There was about him the silence of absolute acquiescence. ‘I answer only to Vaiko; he will speak to you soon.’
Bridget met his aged, black eyes, and for the first time, her spirit quailed. ‘I-I must speak to him straight away; there’s been a terrible, terrible mistake.’
Raza rubbed his watery eyes and brushed his ample cheeks with the palms of his hands. ‘You must remain patient.’
Anger surged like madness into her eyes, and all colour drained from her face. ‘My father’s a very important man in the British government, you know! He will crush you!’
Raza looked at her without even mockery in his eyes, only that penetrating, yet distant, inhuman sparkle which was becoming terrifying to her. ‘Boss Vaiko will be here soon. I will bring food and water.’
Bridget whimpered at the chilling sound of the flap closing. A sense of stinging loneliness filled her. She couldn’t breathe, felt dizzy, and black spots began appearing before her eyes. Her pulse was racing. I must keep calm … slow breathing, yes, yes, slow breathing. A sense of calm returned. Then, suddenly, every sensation became exaggerated, from the nauseating noise and feeling in her legs as her trainers stuck to the slimy floor, to the sound of the traffic outside. She looked about the room again for some means of escape.
Later, true to his word, Raza returned with food and water. The rusty hinges creaked as he opened the door, and the room became flooded with early morning light. Behind him stood two other men, Agam and Reet, powerful and impassive. Their firm, muscular legs were naked and dark. They were both bald and wore long white shirts. He put the tray down and grunted, ‘Eat.’
‘Stop!’ pleaded Bridget, tears forming in the corners of her eyes. ‘Can’t you please tell me what’s going on?’
Raza looked through her and snorted, ‘Boss will be here soon.’
Bridget’s anger was once again upon her, and she kicked at the door. ‘Argh!’ she yelled.
She grabbed the bottle of water; not realising how thirsty she was, and took long itchy swallows, drinking half the two-litre bottle in one go. A sudden heaviness overcame her; exhausted, she curled up on the bed and longed for home.
She drifted in and out of sleep; nightmares plagued her mind. She slept and woke and slept in a semi-conscious detachment of heat and exhaustion.
The sound of the door opening shook her out of her dream by; the light pouring onto the floor startled Bridget’s eyes. She saw before her a man with a face of extraordinary intelligence. A river of shiny, black hair streaked with grey cascaded down his back.
‘I’m Vaiko,’ said the man, displaying no emotion, like an actor repeating a tired part.
Bridget looked away, yet when she looked again, she saw his shoulders broad and formidable, the long black lashes of his staring black eyes, the thick moustache above his fleshy lips and jutting chin.
‘What-t-t is it you want of me?’ she stammered.
‘We will exchange you for the one called Janak.’
This man’s eyes were not human to her, and they did not see a beautiful Caucasian girl. He looked at her with a dull, strange look and saw no girl in her at all. It was as if, she, Bridget was some strange, peculiar thing to him, impenetrable, but rebellious.
Again, Bridget quailed.
‘I will not betray my friends.’
‘I only need to speak to him; we will not harm him. I know you have your phone in your backpack.’
Bridget’s mind swirled, and she stared at the man. A warm wind blew in through the door, bringing with it a sudden resurgence of her will and a desire to escape. She made a vain attempt to rush past Vaiko only to run into Raza at the door.
‘Come now, we don’t want to hurt you,’ said Vaiko with only a look, a sweet, almost fatherly look, above which his dark eyes scarcely changed from their perplexing abstraction.
‘I won’t put my friends in any danger.’
‘It won’t hurt to let them know you’re safe.’
Bridget thought about this for a moment and concluded a phone call wouldn’t hurt. ‘Okay, I will make the call, but only to let them know I’m safe.’
He looked into her eyes, and a faint, evasive smile, behind which laid an inexplicable malevolence, came over his face.
Bridget made the call, and Vaiko left Bridget to her gloomy brick prison.