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skin now ripped ragged and raw, chewed, oozing a pinkish sap.

After that first painful struggle, a fight of hope, and of despair, but a fight as hopeless as death itself, she closed her eyes. The trickle of tears swelled.

Through her sobs and the gripping despair that clouded her head she heard the radio DJ announce that there was only twenty months left on Elvis’s two year hitch. A part of her mind made note of the fact that she would never see the King’s discharge.

When the tears finally stopped, she opened her eyes and for the first time took in the room, searching for recognition, for something close to sanity. It was a corner room with long narrow windows centered in each of the two exterior walls. The windows were closed tight with tattered shades the color of crab fat pulled down to the sills. Dust floated lazily through the dull, filtered light. The room was as hot as a closed car in the middle of the afternoon. Sweat swelled from every pore on her body, running into her eyes like weak acid, over her lips and across her tongue. The heavy taste of salt and fear started her stomach rolling.

The walls were wallpapered, once. What remained of the covering was ragged and peeling, water-stained, and faded to various shades of dirt. A battered wooden dresser with one drawer missing stood like a memory along the wall to the left side of the bed. In the ceiling, a fixture dangled from a wire, its glass cover lost with the rest of the room’s utility.

Now that same bare bulb burned a harsh white light, accentuating the splatters of red that dotted the wall above the bed, droplets that had first let her dismiss the pain and wrestle in earnest to free her tethered hands. Spots that had sent a wave of bone-rattling terror through her body and planted images of their cause in her head.

She clenched her eyes, grabbed the wire with her hands, stiffened her back and pulled at the bindings on her ankles. The steel dug deeper into raw, searing flesh, but her mind managed to block out most of the pain. She tugged harder, tightening the muscles in her legs, dully aware of what was happening at the site of the wounds.

Russell turned from the window, still wary but convinced that the noise had not been of any threat.

Angela heard his footsteps and opened her eyes.

He stood over her, the manic smile of earlier, gone. His eyes now held his emotions. There was a distance behind the glassy stare, the wide, black pupils. Wherever he thought he was, whatever was happening behind that crazed look, was not of here and now. He reached down, took a handful of cotton dress at the neckline and gave a savage pull.

Angela tried another scream, but as before the sound got no further than the rags at the back of her mouth, and what little escaped through her nose. She started breathing in short, heavy snorts, and twisting furiously in a useless attempt to escape the nightmare that she knew had begun in earnest.

The thin fabric resisted for only a fraction of a moment, until the bindings at her wrist found purchase in the bone beneath swelling flesh, then tore down the front of the dress in a wide strip. The sides fell away; leaving her body bare down to the blue nylon panties she had chosen that morning to compliment the easy mood that had started her day.

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