I grabbed my head and groaned. The ringing and pounding sounded like a marching band, out of sync. Every inch of my body shivered, including my bones. I was on a hard, cold surface. Cement. It smelled and felt damp, musty, and old.
Images came flooding back to me: sitting in the man cave, finding the sex video, getting whacked on the head. I rolled onto my side, and another groan leaked from my mouth.
I opened one eye first then the other taking in my surroundings. It was dark but a dim source of light emitted from behind me—a casement window.
It illuminated the center of the room. The corners remained dark, but I still made out a large object draped with a sheet, an old sewing machine, and some boxes. Definitely a basement, but not where I'd waited earlier today. If this even was the same day. There were no stairs, but I noticed a door with a shiny gold knob.
It called to me like a beacon.
Palms on ground, I pushed up into a sitting position. The room swam, gentle ripples of concrete and moonlight. I wanted to lie back down, close my eyes, and fall into a blissful sleep.
Instead, I rose onto my knees and moaned. My knee still felt sore. In fact, all of my bones felt achy, as if I'd rolled down a flight of stairs.
On unsteady feet, the room swayed again, like a leaning ship. I put out my hands and wobbled into the wall beneath the window. Back and palms pressed against it, I shut my eyes and gulped deep breaths of air.
Nausea rose from the pit of my stomach into my chest. I didn't know a lot about concussions, but I vaguely recalled these were the signs. I took a couple of deep breaths before I ventured off the wall and headed to the door.
Put one foot in front of the other, Jamie. You can do this. It's like riding a bike.
Except that I sucked at bike riding. Oh, I knew how, and coordination was never an issue. For some reason though, I never enjoyed it. All gangly legs and arms, it always felt unnatural, like crawling after you learned to walk.
I reached the door, grabbed the knob, its metal cold, and twisted.
It was locked.
My first instinct was to bang my fists on the door and cry for help. But I had no idea who had hit me, or if they were still nearby. As much as I'd love a swift rescue, I needed the element of surprise.
I pressed my ear to the door, listened for footsteps or any sounds. There weren't any. Just complete silence. Then I turned and headed back to the window.
There weren't any sounds from outside either.
No traffic, no animals, nothing.
On tippytoe, I peeked out the window. All I could make out was grass and the bottom of a bush.
So where was I? And more importantly, who had put me there?
I strained through my aching brain. It would have had to have been someone with access to the Waterston estate. The maid? Why would she knock me out, though? Call the cops and have me arrested? Yes. But resort to violence and then lock me up? Doubtful.
Was this the work of Dakota and her partner?
Sweat broke out along my back, despite the chill. No. Danny may have set me up, but he wouldn't hurt me. I knew this. Dakota…her I wasn't so sure about.
I pushed on the glass window, trying to pop it out, but it didn't budge. I briefly contemplated trying to break it and climb out, but it could have been loud, and I didn't know how far away my captor was. If they heard it shatter, there was no telling how quickly they'd come running.
Instead, I surveyed my surroundings for anything I could use as a weapon when they came back. I walked to the item with the sheet and ripped off the cloth. It was a full-length mirror on a wooden swivel stand. I tried not to gasp at my reflection, hair matted at the sides and sticking up on top, complexion the color of ash, sunken eyes with dark rings, as if I'd been in a boxing ring. Not pretty. I moved on.
The sewing machine was too heavy to be of much use, especially in my condition. The boxes were partially empty with only old fabric and spools of thread inside. Nothing sharp, dangerous, or menacing.
Okay, if I couldn't fight my captor, I had to outsmart them. I looked from the window to the pile of junk again. I could break the glass in the window, then hide. Behind the mirror. Then when my captor ran out to look for me, I'd sneak out the door.
It was flimsy as plans went, but it was the best I had.
I pulled off one of my stilettos and wobbled to the window. With my left hand covering my eyes, I used all my might and swung. The pointy heel made contact with the glass but only left a nick.
Great, I'd be doing this all night. The aim was difficult too. I had to balance on my toes. Too bad I hadn't taken ballet lessons. And with one shoe off and the state of my head, it made balancing almost impossible.
I struck out again and again. Sometimes I'd hit the sill, or scrape my knuckles on the cement. Finally, the heel cracked the glass. Hope jumped into my throat. One more whack, and I'd have it. I cocked my arm back.
And the door swung open, hitting the back wall with a thud.
I jumped and twisted, nearly stumbling forward.
The doorway was dark, but a figure took a step toward the moonlight. The scent of perfume and cigarette smoke trickled in.
Another step, and I spotted brown slippers, thick calves, and the hem of a skirt.
"What do you want?" I asked, squinting to make out a face in the darkness.
She took another step, and my breath hitched, making my chest burn.
"You annoying twit," she said.
Bathed in a whitish glow, Veronica Waterston pointed a gun at me.