Tangled In the Web
by Dyna Dee
Duo stood in the frame of the bathroom door noting the changes Frank had made to the room. The towel racks and mirror were gone and many of the bottles that held shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, etc. were also missing. In their place were small foil packets. There was a towel and a wash cloth, a toothbrush and toothpaste as well as small mountain of shaving cream set on a napkin as well as a disposal shaver.
"I want the razor returned to me when you leave the room," Frank said. "You have fifteen minutes to clean yourself. I'll knock on the door to signal three minutes remaining."
Duo turned his head to glare at the man standing a cautious ten feet away from him, holding up the remote control in his right hand that held Heero's life in the balance as an incentive for his good behavior. He gave Frank a curt nod of his head, entered the bathroom and shut the door behind him. The sound of a lock bolt sliding in place told him there was yet another change to the bathroom and that he'd been locked in. He immediately went to the high-set window and tried to open it. It was nailed shut and he could see that there was now a set of metal bars that had been placed over the outside window frame. He gazed into the darkness outside and wondered what time it was. He'd lost track of time after being in the basement without a timepiece or a view to the world outside. His only sense of it passing had been the light in the basement shining at varying intervals. He had no idea whether or not Frank correlated turning it on or off with the normal cycles of day and night.
Knowing the clock was ticking, he turned on the shower, undressed and got into the hot spray of water. Despite the situation, he moaned with pleasure as he washed away the grime that had collected on his body during the indeterminate time he'd been kept in the basement. He opened one of the soap packets and began to spread it over his skin, grateful for the opportunity to be getting clean once again. It took five packets of shampoo to lather his hair sufficiently and another five conditioner packets to take out some of the tangles.
He left the shower earlier than he normally would have, wanting to get rid of the growth of beard he'd acquired over the long days he'd spent in the basement. The expected knock on the door came and he hurried to move the disposable razor over his foam-covered face. He dressed in record time into the clothes Frank provided him: a long-sleeved t-shirt and flannel sleeping pants. He then hastily finger combed his hair before braiding it and fastening the end with the elastic band he'd worn for days. He waited until the bathroom door opened and watched as the older man immediately jumped back from it, out of his reach.
"Good. Just in time," Frank commended his prisoner with a pleased smile on his aging face.
"I want to see Heero," Duo demanded. He needed proof that his lover was alive and that Frank wasn't just giving him a cockamamie story in order to keep him prisoner.
"Alright, but just remember that I'm watching you." Again the older man held up the remote, now strapped to his wrist, his thumb poised over the red button.
Slowly nodding, showing that he understood the threat, Duo went ahead of Frank to the room where Heero had previously stayed. He opened the door and his breath caught in his throat in seeing that Frank had spoken the truth. His lover lay on his back with the blankets drawn over his body, ending half-way up his t-shirt covered chest. Heero's arms remained out of the covers, lying limp at his sides. Each one had an I.V. needle in it, attached to his skin with white tape. Each needle had a tube leading to a bag that hung above the headboard and on either side of the bed, just as Frank had described. Duo approached the bed, ignoring his observer a few feet behind him. He sat on the edge of the mattress and gently combed his fingers through Heero's unruly hair, brushing it away from his pale forehead. He noted his lover's breathing was slow and his complexion blanched. Leaning over, he gently kissed the lips he knew so well.
"We'll have none of that," Frank said sharply from behind him. "Just think of what your mother would say."
Duo sighed, exasperated, then replied acidly. "I don't have a mother. She either died or abandoned me on the streets of L-2."
"Don't you dare speak of your mother that way!" The unusual vehemence in Frank's voice startled Duo and he turned to see the other man was livid and visibly shaking. "Get up. You're going back to your room." He showed Duo his thumb, threatening to press the red button.
Obediently standing, the young man reluctantly left his drugged lover, feeling a sense of helplessness in dealing with the delusional and dangerous old man who was quite successfully manipulating them. As he passed near the red-faced man, he turned sorrowful eyes to him and gentled his voice. "This is wrong, Frank. Robbie would never have wanted you do try and replace him with me or to hold us here against our will."
"Shut up!" Frank snapped. "Don't you dare talk to me about something you know nothing about. Now go!"
Duo obeyed and left the guest bedroom. He'd hoped to confuse the muddled man by turning into Robbie's bedroom, but the older man quickly showed he wasn't that far gone and directed him back down the stairs, to the basement and into the cold storage room. It was easy to see that Frank had been busy while he'd been in the shower. The bucket had been cleaned and there was additional food and drink left in the short box. No sooner had the door shut behind him, but the lock on the outside of the door slid home and a moment later the light above went out, a clear display of Frank's displeasure at his actions upstairs.
He felt his way in the dark to the mattress and climbed into the sleeping bag, pulling it up to his chin to ward off the chill from the cold room and damp hair. Then, as he'd done for the last several nights, he squeezed his eyes tight and begged any deity that might exist for help. He also tried to send a mental message to Quatre, hoping his sensitive friend would pick up on his distress and somehow lead their friends to find and deliver them from the mad man who held them against their will. Refusing to shed the unbidden tears welling in his eyes from his mounting anger and frustration at the situation, he hugged his pillow tightly and tried to think of a way to free himself and Heero without Frank hitting the red button. Hours seemed to pass in the unyielding dark before he eventually calmed down and drifted off to sleep.
From that first shower Duo counted the passing of three more days by the light above going on and off before Frank came to clean his bucket and give him more food. The older man seemed to be past his anger and wanted to play a game of cribbage. With the remote to Heero's IV taped to Frank's wrist, Duo didn't feel it was wise to refuse the unbalanced older man. They sat at the kitchen table with the curtains and blinds in all the lower rooms were tightly closed while they quietly played the game Frank obviously enjoyed.
Duo glanced up through his uncombed bangs at his captor, studying him for a moment before deciding to try and get some answers to the questions that had plagued him during the long hours he'd spent by himself. "Were you the person responsible for all that's happened to us?" he asked in a voice that was raspy from not being used. He moved his red peg four holes up on the cribbage board and waited for an answer.
"No," the older man answered, studying his cards. "I didn't kill the cat - though whoever did was unintentionally helping me out." Frank then looked up to catch the questioning look on the braided man's face. "It frightened you into trusting me," he explained. And no, I didn't kill the cat nor leave its blood on your doorstep," he repeated, shaking his head. He then gave Duo a curious little smile and lifted his eyebrows as he canted his head to the left and added with obvious pride, "But I did cut the brake line while you were visiting with Mrs. Lunderson." The way Frank spoke the elderly woman's name with disdain as he confessed to his crime had Duo's feeling sick in both his stomach and heart.
"Why, Frank? Heero has been nothing but kind to you, and Mrs. L. was like a grandmother to us."
"Because both of them stood in my way."
Duo found it hard to catch his breath as his heart beat rapidly in his chest. "In your way? What could you possibly gain by trying to kill them?" he asked, hoping the man would keep talking.
"To get you back home, of course. Once they were out of the way, I could protect you from yourself as well as from any others who would lead you astray or harm you."
Duo's mind was reeling from what he was hearing. "Did you wreck our home?" he asked as his anger grew along with his need to know the full extent of Frank's malicious machinations.
"No. That was again an unexpected but fortuitous move by someone else, further aiding my cause."
"And Sinjin and Mrs. L?" Duo held his breath, almost afraid to hear the answer.
"I don't know what happened to your dog," Frank answered, placing two cards down and making a move with the blue peg on the board. "I did let him out the back gate because I needed an alibi, you see. With him missing, my absence could be explained by my saying I was searching for him."
Duo stood abruptly, staring at the evil, heartless man in the guise of a kindly neighbor. His abrupt movement caused Frank to lift his hand, reminding him of the remote secured to it.
"You're insane," Duo gasped, tears coming to his eyes as he realized Mrs. L was dead because of him. "You killed one of the kindest people on the earth and the colonies, and yet you sit there calmly talking about it as if it's a weather report."
Frank's face was serious as he looked Duo in the eyes and answered the charge. "I did what I had to do, Robbie. I was losing you to her. You were going to stay with her and I couldn't let that happen. Now sit down and we'll finish the game."
Duo's eyes widened with horrified disbelief. "To hell with your game," he shouted. "You're a murderer, Frank. And if you think I'm going to play along with your psychotic belief that I'm your son, you're sadly mistaken. I loathe and despise you," he spat. "And I thank the stars above that I'm not related to you in any way. I'm Duo Maxwell, not Robbie McAdams, your DEAD son! Get that through your thick, twisted brain, old man. I'm not playing this game of yours any more."
The kitchen now had an eerie, deadly atmosphere that settled over its two occupants. Frank slowly rose from his chair and it scraped loudly against the linoleum as it was pushed away from the kitchen table. Anger sparked from the aged eyes, mirroring that same emotion coming from the young man before him. With narrowed eyes, the older man spoke in a low, steely voice to the visibly trembling young man. "Go to the basement now, or your friend upstairs dies. You've got thirty seconds to be in your room with the door shut before I push this button." He held out the remote, his thumb once again hovering over the red button.
Angrily picking up his chair, Duo violently threw it across the room where it hit the cabinet below the kitchen sink and crashed to the floor, breaking one leg. Breathing harshly through clenched teeth, barely restraining his anger and the urge attack the older man, Duo walked quickly to the basement door and fled down the stairs from the man he couldn't stand to be in the presence of any longer. Tears of burning rage, frustration and grief blurred his vision as he entered his prison. But just before he slammed the door behind him, he shouted up the stairs to where Frank was silhouetted in the doorframe above; "I hate you, you murdering bastard! And one way or another, I'll see that you pay for what you've done."
Hearing the door's lock engage once again, Duo waited for the overhead lights to turn off before he made his way to his bed, crawled into his sleeping bag, pulled it up over his head and let the tears come. Once again he found himself grieving for Mrs. L., whose life had been cut short by the insane man fixated on him. But tears were also shed for himself and Heero, for whatever was in store for them under that lunatic's control.
Duo was sure that he'd pushed Frank too far when he'd reacted as strongly as he had to the man's confession. The lights above did not come on after he woke up and he was sure he was being punished once again. He found himself talking to himself and to people from his past: to Solo, Sister Helen, Father Maxwell, and then to the God they'd tried to teach him about. He prayed for forgiveness for allowing his barriers down and Frank into their lives. He prayed for Heero, laying comatose and at Frank's mercy, for his friends, probably sick with worry by now and for Mrs. L.'s sweet soul and that she would forgive him for being the reason she'd been killed. He even added a word for his dog, hoping he was safe somewhere, even if it was with a new family.
As the hours stretched on, he began to think he was seeing psychedelic lights behind his eyelids. Purples, blues and a yellow center light swirled before fading. He had to wonder if he was going insane from sensory deprivation. Would he know if he was going insane or did that thought prove that he retained his sanity? He sought sleep again as it had become his only true escape.
"Hey there," Trowa said as he entered the unobtrusive-looking car they'd rented from a local car rental agency, then leaned over to give a warm kiss to the blond man sitting behind the steering wheel. He then lifted the paper bag he carried. "I brought dinner for two, care to stay and share it with me?"
Quatre smiled warmly at his lover. "Sounds good. What did you bring?"
"Deli sandwiches, pasta salad, chips, and two double-chocolate brownies."
"Sounds like a dinner Duo would pick out," Quatre said without thinking, and suddenly the car got very quiet.
Setting the bag between them, Trowa opened it and began to empty its contents, handing Quatre his sandwich of turkey and provolone, extra lettuce and tomato, no onions and double the Dijon mustard on a soft-roll. Following that came his own sandwich and the other containers that were set on the dash board along with the plastic spoons.
After opening his white, paper-wrapped sandwich, Trowa casually asked, "So you detected nothing suspicious?"
"I saw one car drive by slowly and got the license number. Wufei is running the plates. But other than that, it's a quiet neighborhood."
"And Frank?" Trowa asked, then took a bite of his sandwich, immediately appreciating the thick Dijon mustard as it complimented the ham and cheese so expertly layered within the sourdough roll.
Quatre finished his mouthful and set his sandwich down on the paper spread out on his lap in order to answer the question properly. "Wufei said he came out early this morning and took off in his car. He carried two bags of groceries into the house on his return about an hour later. He also reported that Frank came out and watered his plants and met the mailman at the end of the sidewalk around noon. Neither he nor I have seen him since. I've observed the lights go on both upstairs and down. He seems to be using three rooms upstairs: a bedroom, bath and perhaps an office. He's kept the coverings on the upstairs windows closed all day and the downstairs windows close beginning at five in the evening."
Trowa nodded, chewing thoughtfully. "He doesn't seem to be anything other than a retired old man," he said after swallowing. "I can only hope that whoever has been threatening Duo and Heero will leave him alone. No movement at their house?" He nodded towards the dark house that belonged to their friends.
"No, just a pile of mail collecting."
They ate their meal, chatting easily as they usually did. It was completely dark out when the last of the brownie had been washed down by the bottles of water, the two shared a lingering chocolate kiss before Quatre slid unnoticed out the car door and shut it silently behind him. They parted with each man hoping that their friends would show up soon so that they could end their fragmented schedule and surveillance and go back to falling asleep, curled around each other in their own bed.
It was about two a.m. when something caught Trowa's eye. He narrowed his gaze, thinking he'd seen a movement in the dark space between Frank's house and his friends'. But with the night being moonless, it was hard to tell. He strained his eyes, peering through the darkness, but nothing seemed to budge from its natural position. He sat back in his seat, his eyes still fixed on the dark space between the two houses, almost praying that something would happen just to alleviate the tedium that accompanied his nighttime surveillance. He lowered the window next to him several inches, hoping the cool air would help him stay alert.
The light above the cold storage room clicked on, waking Duo who immediately covered his eyes to shield them. Anticipating Frank coming with food and to clean his bucket, he sat up and waited. The lock was released from the other side and then the door opened slowly. Catching sight of the man standing in doorway, Duo's eyes widened in horror and he almost choked as his heart and stomach both seemed to jump into his throat as he look up into one of his worst nightmares.
"Well look what's all locked up, like a present just waiting for me to open." The man large, imposing man laughed at the expression of terror on the smaller man's face. "So you do remember me," he said, still chuckling darkly. Then abruptly his insidious smile disappeared only to be replaced by a look of hate and anger as the former penal colony inmate brought up his stumped left arm. "It's pay back time."
As the man moved forward, Duo instinctively jumped to his feet, hoping to somehow defend himself from the man he'd immediately recognized as one of his rapists from the hated penal colony. He gained his feet, but found himself frozen in place as his memories of the man, his cronies and his time in the penal colony came flooding back. With his eyes unable to look away, he stood immobile, frozen in place at the sight of someone he'd hoped never to see again. As the man's large hands reached for him, his fears resurfaced and he moved instinctively again, diving between the big man's legs and scrambled for the door. His overwhelming panic and fright gave him the adrenaline rush he needed to move faster than he had in a long time.
The former prison inmate that he vaguely remembered being called Harley, proved that he was no dolt or that his missing left arm was much of a handicap. Duo made it through the man's thick legs and to the storage room door only to be caught as he scrambled to his feet. Grabbed by the back of his shirt in the man's one nightmarishly-large hand, he was thrown forward and crashed face first into the wood stairs that led up and out of the basement.
He saw stars and his head throbbed from where it met the edge of the third stair. Yet again, instinct rather than any formed plan propelled him into action. He ignored the pain in his head, the blood trickling down his face and a feeling of disorientation as he began clambering up the stairs on his hands and feet, hearing his attacker's footsteps following closely behind.
He realized after he made the kitchen door that the vengeful man behind him was only toying with him by allowing him to get as far as he had, because after stumbling through the open door to the kitchen, he fell over a body, splayed across the kitchen floor and bathed in a widening pool of blood. Duo didn't have a moment to wonder whether or not Frank was dead or feel any pity for the insane man who'd killed Mrs. L, for he was grabbed again, this time at the base of his braid, and the cruel fingers twined into his hair and curled to form a fist at the back of his neck. He tried to kick back with his right foot, attempting to break the man's kneecaps, but he missed his mark as the man's arms were long enough to keep him at a safe distance.
"Good try, kid, but I remember real well how feisty you were when we first caught you. I underestimated you once and lost my arm for it; I won't be stupid again." The man's foot forcefully impacted on his right buttock and would have knocked him down but for the painful grasp of his hair. Another kick followed, and Duo was grateful that the man only had one hand, otherwise he was sure he'd be getting painful blows in his kidneys or being strangled. With his hands up, prying at the hand inflicting pain on his scalp and keeping him from turning and fighting back, he clawed at the arm and wrist only to be thrown against the kitchen wall, the clock above came crashing down, hitting him on the head before smashing onto the linoleum floor.
Darkness gathered at the edge of his vision and the kitchen spun around causing a wave of nausea to fill his chest. "Not yet, little man. You're not passing out on me yet. You and me are going to have some fun before I begin cutting off your fingers and then your left hand. An eye for an eye, right?"
Duo knew he had to fight, he couldn't let this man do what he was planning. He was pulled away from the wall by the same painful grip on his head and forced into the living room. "I'm sure there's a nice bed upstairs that we can make use of and some cord I can use to strap you down." The man chuckled then, an evil sound that filled Duo with fear as his horror-filled past rushed up to meet the present and the very real danger he was facing.
He was pushed forward, at arm's length from the man driving him. He tried to reach out for anything he could get his hands on, anything he could use as a weapon. There was a light on the narrow table that was set against the wall, next to the staircase, and he just barely managed to grab hold of it with the tips of his fingers as they passed by. He immediately flung it back at the arm that held his head. The man's left foot hit his thigh this time and that leg buckled even as he continued to strike at the arm still holding him at bay. The light from the lamp sent wild shadows dancing about the room as he swung it around, the shade, having come off, exposed the bulb which shattered on the bare arm. Duo felt himself being thrown once again against the wall, hitting the edge of the small table with his hip. This time his sagging body was grabbed around his waist and hauled up against the unbelievably strong man's side. He was having a hard time focusing and his head throbbed painfully from the blows to it, but he dimly realized that he was being carried up the stairs. In a desperate move, he reached out once again and grabbed hold of one of the oak spindles of the staircase and held on, knowing the man couldn't do much with his one good arm holding him. But the man proved his strength once again. By applying the weight of his body and the muscles of his arm, he wrenched Duo's hands from off the polished wood without too much effort.
"No!" Duo screamed, panicking, and frantically twisted his body to try and get free from the punishing hold around his waist. His state of panic rose further as the man holding him kicked open the bedroom door that had been his room when he'd first come to Frank's house - Robbie's room. The bang, caused by the door hitting the desk behind it, was loud, but it didn't seem to disturb the man as he stood in the doorway and surveyed the unoccupied room as the light from the hallway brightened the dark space.
"Bed's too small. Let's check the next one."
Heero, Duo's mind screamed. His helpless partner lay unaware of the danger he was in, and in his comatose state, he was helpless to fight back. He silently prayed that the man would go to Frank's room next and find it acceptable, hoping he wouldn't discover Heero in the other room. But as usual, his prayer seemed unanswered when the door to Heero's room was kicked open and the hallway light spilled over the sleeping form in the bed. Harley stood there for a moment, probably taking in the machines and that the person in the bed didn't move.
"What's going on here?" the man growled.
"H... he was in an accident and w..w...went into a coma," Duo stammer his reply, frantically trying to come up with some way to protect his lover. "F...frank's a doctor and was taking c...care of him."
The man tightened his hold on his prisoner's body then carried him, feet dangling and just off the ground, as he walked closer to the bed where he paused a moment to look down at the comatose young man. Then suddenly he lashed out and kicked over the stand carrying the I.V. He then moved quickly to the other side of the room and did the same to the other one. Without explanation, the large man grunted with satisfaction then turned and went back to the door and strode across the hall to the last room, the master bedroom. Duo struggled anew as the queen-size bed came into sight. Dropped suddenly to the floor, his hair was again seized and used as a means to control his movements. He was roughly pulled to his feet even as he lashed out at his attacker.
"Still feisty, I see," the man chuckled darkly. "Normally I like that. But I'm a bit pressed for time, kid. Let's get straight down to business, alright?" Pushed forward by the hold on his hair at the nape of his neck, Duo was forced to lie face down, perpendicular to the bed, where he twisted his body, trying to escape the large-framed body that immediately came crashing down on him, knocking the air from his lungs. "Tell you what, kid. You cooperate with me and I won't hurt the guy in the other room before I leave here."
Duo didn't think the man really expected an answer from him as his face was firmly pressed down into the comforter. The weight on his back lifted slightly, but only enough so that the man could push him further up onto the bed. Something solid, a knee he guessed, was put firmly set into the middle of his back and effectively held him in place. The hand that had been in his hair suddenly disappeared and went to the neck of his shirt. With a strong downward pull, his tee-shirt was forcefully ripped from off his back, leaving only the long sleeves and crew-neck collar in place around his neck as well as a welt from where it had pulled violently against his skin.
Coughing from the constriction at his throat caused by that action, his panic returned in full measure and Duo fought instinctively to free himself. But the large knee pressed even more painfully into his back, pinning him in place like a rare bug on a cork board. "No!" he screamed, denying what was about to happen and praying someone would hear him and come to his aid.
Since he was wearing loose pajama bottoms, it took the man only a few moments to pull them off of him. Vulgar obscenities describing what was about to happen tumbled from the vile man's lips, but all Duo could hear was the sound of a zipper being pulled down.
Suddenly every fear he'd tried to cope with during the past year and a half, the nightmares he'd dealt with and suppressed, all came rushing back in full force. Then as the knee left his back and the man's body fell on top of his own once again, a primal scream, coming from deep within him, rent the night's air, carrying with it the fear and rage he felt at being held down and about to be raped. He screamed like he'd never screamed before, and kept it up until a large piece of fabric, his ripped t-shirt, was forced into his mouth to muffle his terror.
The body above his again rested heavily on him and it felt as if he was suffocating. The pressure of the man's evident arousal pressed against the crevice of his bottom and filled him with terror. His heart was beating fast and furious, and he couldn't seem to catch his breath. He didn't want this to happen but, caught in the nightmare, he couldn't think, couldn't move, and he realized he was helpless to save himself. Then, as the man forced his legs apart with his own, he was suddenly back in the alleyway of the cold and friendless prison colony, half-starved, weak and having been caught once again. In his nostrils was the same smell of cigarettes and sweat that he remembered from that dark time. His body was chilled from having his clothes ripped off and the hands of several men were on his weakly flailing body. He struggled to breathe as stark terror overwhelmed him at what was about to happen. And like an incoming fog bank that creeps steadily over a hillside to cover the land, he felt a welcoming darkness drawing over him. He desperately reached for that darkness, his frantic mind searching for an escape from the nightmare and reality he could no longer endure.