At least some part of Ted Hinson knew the difference between right and wrong, though how large that part was couldn’t be determined. Two things were growing in him simultaneously: fear and confidence—neither had anything to do with right or wrong, but rather rationality and delusion. He felt fear because he was too intelligent to think this could go on forever. Sooner or later, he would get caught.
Warring with the fear was an increasing sense of confidence (Ted Hinson’s rational mind would call it delusion), because he hadn’t been caught yet.
Ted was thirty-eight years old and his reign of terror began two years ago.
Though no single law enforcement entity knew it, five women had gone missing during this period at a precise clip of one every four months. It was now the twenty-fourth month in his reign, and time for another to disappear.
Ted decided on one woman every four months because of the acclimation process. It took four months to tame his lovers (or break them in, as one might a wild horse).
Sarah had been especially difficult and Ted was still trying to understand if it was her age, or simply her personality. She was pushing the limits of his patience (not to mention love), as well as his self-imposed four month deadline. He thought, though, that last night had been a major milestone in their relationship.
“You want to go to lunch with us?”
Ted looked up from his desk. Georgia Shingleton was at his office door. How long had she been standing there? His face showed no surprise—but he didn’t like not knowing how long she’d been watching him.
“Not today. Have to catch up on some edits,” he said.“Okay. Want me to bring you anything back? We’re heading to Raw Sushi.”
“Mind bringing me a California Roll?
“No, not at all,” Georgia said. “See ya in a few.”
“Thanks,” Ted said and watched her leave. The California Roll wasn’t for him, but for Sarah. He’d bring it to her as a ‘thank you’, perhaps even as a peace offering.
Ted looked at his open office door. Had she been there long? And if so, what had she seen? Him staring mindlessly at his desk? He needed to stop concentrating so hard, especially at work. Or rather, he needed to concentrate on his work while here—leave his lovers for home.
Ted turned to his computer screen and moved his mouse, causing the light to flare on.
He would deal with Sarah tonight, and hopefully she would take the sushi with a bit of grace. If not, he might need do something harsh—something he never wanted for any of his lovers—but her four month acclimation period was at an end, and it was time to bring another into the stable. He didn’t have any more time for Sarah’s antics.
The trip was already planned for this weekend. Come Monday, Sarah would need to obey. Ted took the oath of marriage very seriously, and there would be no divorce. Not for him or any of his wives. If they chose to not love him, then …
Till death do us part.
* * *
Sarah Yields was twenty-nine years old when her abduction occurred. Since then, she’d turned thirty, though she didn’t know it. Not for sure, anyway. In the beginning of her abduction, she had tried counting the days by counting her sleep cycles, but that was quickly lost.
Sarah spent a long time thinking about how it happened. She had been so stupid, and if she ever got out of here, she would scream it to the high heavens. She didn’t care about victim shaming or any other terms she had been taught to despise in college.
Sarah had been foolish, and while that wasn’t the only reason she was here, it was at least one of them. The other reason (and most important) was that ‘Ted’ was fucking insane.
Sarah thought these things to herself, but she was learning—in perhaps the slowest and most painful way possible—that she couldn’t say them aloud. Not if she wanted to avoid pain.
She’d been at a club—drinking entirely too much—and she had thought the man older, but intensely sexy. She quit listening to her friends’ requests to come dance, and paid no attention to their protests about going home with the man she just met at the bar. Alcohol and horny were a bad combination under normal circumstances, but when you combined those with a man named Ted, it turned in to outright horror. Sarah didn’t remember much after leaving with Ted; she figured he must have given her a pill of some sort, and when she woke, she was ‘at home’ … as Ted called it.
She sat in darkness now. The other women here didn’t talk, though Sarah had spent many days trying to get them to. Ted’s terror held them firm, though. They were all broken, just like he wanted. Sarah couldn’t see the others in the darkness around her, though she heard them from time to time. Someone might let out a cry or a snore, depending on what they were doing. Sometimes a chain would rattle, the metal scraping across the concrete floor.
Sarah wasn’t good with time anymore, but the women in this room seemed to share a sixth sense about when Ted returned. Their chains rattled more and Sarah found herself looking in the direction of the stairs. Light would shine down, and then a long shadow would cast from the very top to where Sarah sat. Ted’s shadow. Her husband.
Last night had been bad. Sarah’s tongue continually went to holes in her gums. They hurt like hell, though the blood flow had finally stopped at some point during the night. Sarah knew it was crazy, but when she spit her teeth out, she had placed them neatly to her side. Three of them. She couldn’t see them, but knew they were there, and if she ever left here, she’d still have them.
It was hard to hear much of what went on upstairs, and sometimes Sarah thought she only hallucinated the things she did hear. Sitting in the mostly silent darkness caused the mind to play tricks. Something else she had learned since meeting Ted.
The door at the top of the stairs swung open. Sarah squinted, trying to close her eyes against the pain the light caused, but not wanting to miss anything that came next. If she were to have any chance of escape, she had to be alert. She had to see everything she possibly could.
The shadow grew in size as Ted walked down the stairs. They never squeaked under his weight. The entire basement was basically a huge slab of concrete, which also muffled any noise his harem might make.
“Here, love,” he said.
Ted stood in front of her. Sarah knew better than to try and stand, plus her muscles couldn’t take it today. Last night’s beating hadn’t knocked her out, but it had been the roughest yet.
Ted squatted and placed a small styrofoam box down in front of her, opening it so that she could see inside.
“A California Roll. I wasn’t sure what type of sushi you liked.”
I’m going to kill you. I’m going to kill you and if I ever look at another sushi roll again, I’ll kill whoever brings it to me, Sarah thought. She didn’t say anything out loud, though. Her hand simply went forward and pulled the styrofoam box back to her.
“Do you have anything to say?” Ted asked.
“Yyank you,” Sarah forced out, her swollen mouth not allowing her to form ‘th’ sounds.
“You’re welcome. I’m going away this weekend. Monday we’ll have a new member of our family and I hope you’ll treat her well, Sarah. I really do. I know how jealous you can be, and I know how mean that makes you, too. I hope you take some time this weekend to think about what you want out of our marriage.”
I’m going to kill you. I’m going to kill you. I’m going to fucking kill you.
Sarah looked at the sushi, careful not to make eye contact but still able to see much of what was around her. It was always the same, though—nothing she could use to escape.
“Okay, then,” Ted said.
He went through his ritual next. A disgusting thing that Sarah had learned well. He went from woman to woman, talking with each about his day (though they never said anything). He always kissed them and sometimes straight up made out, but so far hadn’t performed any hardcore sexual acts during this ritual. That came later—or at least Sarah assumed it did, though she hadn’t yet been forced to take part.
Sarah listened to the psychopath talk to the other four women, speaking as if they were long-term lovers. He giggled, grew serious, petted them, and just kept talking. Finally, when he finished his rounds, he climbed those concrete stairs again and went to make dinner.
Sarah was lucky, though. He had brought her dinner early.