My phone vibrates. I check it, expecting a reply from Alison, but it just flashes a low battery sign at me. Great. That’s just what I need.
I’m beginning to get a little freaked out by this road of shifting shadows and flickering street lights that occasionally blink out completely. I take my pointe shoe out of my bag and wrap the ribbons around my hand, before putting them both in my pocket so that I look casual and unarmed. I know the shoe won’t be hugely effective as a weapon, but it is better than anything else I’ve got in my bag. If someone attacks me, it’ll be my best bet to clobber them repeatedly with this until they’re unconscious and then run for it.
I don’t fancy my chances and it would ruin the shoe, so I hope I never need to use it.
The music is loud, almost too loud for me to comfortably listen to. I don’t hear the footsteps that must have been creeping up behind me, but I feel the hand on my shoulder and I whirl around, pointe shoe raised. I manage to hit the guy once before someone else wrenches it out of my hand: the ribbons, which are frayed and old, have torn.
I try to remember how to scream but I am so afraid that it sticks in my throat and no sound comes out. I kick at them with strong legs, toned by years of dance, and one of them grunts and lets go, but the other just tightens his grip and wrestles me to the ground.
I’m face down against the pavement and he’s on top of me, his weight crushing me so that I’m suffocating. My ribs are going to break. Is this how it ends? I’m terrified. I don’t know what they want with me but I’ve watched enough news stories in the past to be able to guess. I’m inside someone’s horror story.
Only, he doesn’t try anything. My arms are behind my back – he ties my wrists loosely together so I can’t move, and his hand is over my mouth. He lifts me up. I struggle, but the other guy has recovered by now and he takes my legs. There’s a van by the post box and the doors are open.
They throw me in the back.
I feel a sudden burst of pain and I’m sure that I should have been knocked unconscious, but I’ve never been one for fainting, and that’s worse. I’m wide awake, if blinded by the headache that’s been triggered by my collision with the metal floor, so I can feel the grazes on my face and arms begin to sting. I’m also completely aware of the engine starting and the jolt as we set off, but I don’t have the strength to bang on the walls in case someone hears me. I don’t even have the strength to sit up.
I lie with my face squashed against the floor and a small trickle of what I assume is blood trickles down my forehead. I must have been scraped worse than I thought on the pavement. The rope around my wrists isn’t tight: they don’t intend to hold me for long, or so I guess. I shuffle my wrists until they slide free, and although I know I’ve got slight rope burns it’s better to be able to move.
My bag is still caught on my arm. I shift slightly to bring it closer and undo the zip with one hand, trying not to move my torso. It jams half way but I yank it harder. Typically, my phone has managed to wedge itself somewhere inside my leg warmers, and it takes several seconds to locate and retrieve it. By the time I do, my bruised body is complaining. I just drop my phone next to me and wait until I have the energy to dial.
But just as I reach out to unlock it, it flashes up a notice: Battery, 0%. And it goes black. My link to the outside world, severed.
I can’t bring myself to put it back in my bag so I leave it there. It’s a marker. When we start going slightly uphill, it slides along the floor before coming to rest near my feet.
I’m not sure how long we travel for before we stop, because my watch is in my bag and I’m aching all over, but as the van slows to a halt I push myself up on my elbows and draw my knees under me so that I’m sort of upright, though the dizziness threatens to overwhelm me. My front is horribly painful – the guy who held me down was heavy, and I’ve been lying on my front ever since.
The van door opens. It’s dark outside but that tells me nothing, since it got dark at half four. One of the guys driving the van, or so I assume, says, “Are you okay?”
Northern accent. Kind face, from what I can see. “You kidnapped me,” I say. He doesn’t deny it. “Where are you taking me? What do you want?”