6:47. Lauren Lomax was in her car, driving towards the fancy French restaurant where her husband was waiting for her for a quiet, just-the-two-of-us evening now that the girl had the house for herself and her friends. Lauren was smiling like a teenager all the way, cheerful at the prospect of having a little romantic time, which was very scarce in their daily life, with a fifteen-year-old daughter to take care of. Her joy was kind of darkened by the announcement, on the radio, of the disappearance of a girl called Deborah Parks. She was of Sally's age, Lauren thought. A chill went down her spine at the thought that it could have been her daughter, and she prayed they found her safe and sound. Absorbed in her thoughts, she did not pay attention to the road ahead, and she saw at the last moment the motorcycle speeding insanely on the wrong lane, right in her direction ! She screamed, turned the wheel to the right with all her might to avoid the collision, and felt her front left tire hit the sidewalk as a deafening buzz filled her ears and disappeared, the motorcycle having roared passed her and gone. Lauren braked furiously and stopped the car, panting, her heart beating like it was going to burst out of her chest from that accident closely prevented. "Where did you learn to ride, you crazy motherfucker!" she shouted angrily at the motorcyclist, or rather, at herself, since the guy was far away now. Her hands were shaking. Cool off, she thought. I'm almost there. I could use a glass of wine right now!
Deborah opened her eyes, but all she could see was pitch darkness. What happened? Where was she? Disorientation mixed with a growing anguish, she tried to remember the events of the day. She was hanging out with Mindy, that she remembered. They had to go home for dinner. She had walked Mindy to her home, they said goodbye. Deborah lived further away and had to take the bus. The bus stop was not so far from Mindy's, and she had done it multiple times. There was no reason for this to go wrong! What had happened? She tried to remember, but her last memories were kind of messy. She pictured a large brown car. And a man. She couldn't remember what he looked like. He was fat, she thought, but couldn't know for sure. He spoke to her, now it came back. He told her the car was broken, and asked if she had a phone. She remembered having hesitated. Her parents had told her not to talk to strangers. And why would he ask her for a phone? She thought she remembered having seen a phone booth a few feet away... she should have turned back and run to Mindy's place. Instead, she hesitated, and the next thing she knew, she had some kind of cloth pressed on her nose. It stank, she remembered, a burning smell. She couldn't have recognized the smell of ether, but that's what it was. Nothing afterward. Black out.
She opened her eyes but there was nothing to see. Moving her head, trying to feel what was blinding her, she concluded she had some kind of dark cowl over her head, obstructing her view. She tried to take it off. That's when sensations came back to her limbs, and anguish gave in to utter panic. Her legs were firmly tied together, and her arms were stretched high above her head and tied tight. She thought she was in a standing position but leaning back and tied onto something. As she wiggled with what minute freedom she had left in her movements, she heard a steel-like clatter, like the sound of Dad's ladder when he moved it to do some work around the house on sunny Sundays. She concluded that she was tied up on a ladder, her body outstretched so that she could hardly move at all. Her heart began to pound painfully, her breath go short. That feeling of total vulnerability had turned her on total survival mode. She began to wiggle harder and harder, trying in vain to shake off the bonds, and at the same time shouted for help. She called and kept calling until she felt fingers on the top of her head, grabbing the fabric of the cowl, pulling it off. The first thing she saw in that dimly lit room was the bare, sweaty torso of a man whose eyes, the only part of his face left visible by his balaclava, were glaring at her with the most cruel intentions. She screamed at the top of her lungs.