Pins and needles shot through his body as circulation returned to his extremities. Chef wrestled his legs beneath him. Accomplishing just that was a feat, in itself, his hands tied securely behind them, as they were. He settled back on his heels, looking around, finding nothing he could use to cut the vinyl rope that held him. Fingers feeling useless and clammy, he felt at his bonds and jerked his arms to try and loosen the knot, to no avail. Half-standing, Chef threw his shoulder into the wall a few inches to the side of the stud. Dust and small bits of drywall fell, but not enough. He couldn’t put enough force into the blows to the wall to break more away. Swearing, he knelt back on his feet.
Where was Ethan? Chef had been making a whole lot of noise, but the man hadn’t appeared. He dared to hope that Ethan wouldn’t be back for a few more hours and started throwing himself away from the wall.
Flaming knives stabbed at his shoulders every time he pulled forward but they were ignored. Chef grunted with effort, throwing himself first forward, then left and right, then simply pulling at the bottom of the beam. With every jerk and pull, pain flared up, bringing out screams that echoed through the hall.
Having taken a beating, his body resisted every movement, wanting only to lie down and recover but there was no time. It seemed like for hours that he threw his weight this way or that, but in truth it wasn’t more than fifteen minutes before he’d expended everything in him. He leaned back against the stud, gasping, hoping he’d, at the very least, loosened the bonds on his wrists.
Taking hold of the beam, which seemed to be thoroughly coated with a warm, sticky liquid, Chef twisted back and forth, hoping for some give but finding none. Testing his bonds gave the same amount of hope for escape.
“No,” It was little more than a whisper. Still breathless, Chef sat back and closed his eyes. “You stupid asshole,” he said to himself, knowing them to be the exact words Liam would say to him, if he were there. You couldn’t wait for help; had to just run off and get yourself killed.” Chef’s chin found his chest. This time, though, he had no plan.
“Instead of just losing one daughter, you’re losing everything because you couldn’t be patient. Good going.” The sound of a voice comforted him, even if it was critical of him. If he closed his eyes, he could almost convince himself it was someone talking to him, saying the words.
“Screw that guy! I’m not going to just sit here and wait for him to kill me. I can get out of this. I just have to be smarter.” As if he’d gotten a full night’s sleep, Chef suddenly felt full of energy. He pulled his feet under him, gripped the beam with both hands and hauled away from the wall, pulling away from the very bottom of it. In precise jerks and long hauls he worked, convincing himself that he was hearing the groan of old nails being pulled from where they’d been pounded in.
After each series of pulls, Chef knelt and breathed, calmed himself. As much as he could, he rolled his shoulders, knowing he’d be sore if he lived through the night. The realization that he might not was strangely liberating. It made him stop his work outright.
With renewed vigor, he hauled on the beam, feeling his muscles straining and the rope digging into his wrists, but he didn’t care. “Escape or die.” Veins in his forearms bulged. Everything in the room, the room itself, turned red, as his effort increased. “Escape or die.” Blood flowed freely from his wrists. Muscles in his arms, shoulders and back were becoming overexerted. The room was growing dark, and not just because of the quickly setting sun. “Escape … or … .”
Chef collapsed, his body giving out.
“I’ve got more,” He pulled at the beam, feeling no give. “I’ve …” He stopped and realized that he didn’t. He had given everything he could muster but had to admit that he had nothing left in him.
Chef sat down, spreading his legs out in front of him, making himself as comfortable as his aching body would allow him to be. He leaned his head back, closed his eyes and decided he would get some sleep before Ethan Hatcher returned to kill him. Defeat, he concluded, felt better than helplessness.
“You stupid asshole.”