“This place is a paedophile hotel. I'm getting to look a bit old. If no one is interested in you any more, I think they kill you and chuck you in the incinerator. They tell you that you are going to be rewarded, but I followed one girl who was unconscious being carried downstairs like a piece of meat.”
She did a deep sigh. “Sorry, I didn't want to start with the heavy stuff.”
“Let's start again. Hi I'm Sophie.” I held my hand out to shake hers.
“I know. I'm Abby. Abby Faulkner.” She shook my hand.
“Look, I'll tell you what I know. I saw you on the tele, they mentioned that you were previously called Abigail Faulkner. Initially, I presumed you were just someone else with the same name as me, but Marcus, that is the guy in charge of this place, he tries to only grab people with no connections, people nobody would miss. Well, he got a bit agitated, thinking that I had lied to him, then he realised that if I wasn't lying, and there were no other Abigail Faulkners, then, you must be lying to the world. I'm guessing you took my name for yourself, probably thinking that I was missing, presumed dead?”
“Don't stress. I don't mind that you took my name. It's just unfortunate that it ended up with you here.”
“Where is here, by the way?”
“I have no idea. Like you, I was zapped and woke up in a bed here.”
“If you can pick locks, why haven't you escaped?”
“I would have loved to, but I couldn't figure out a way to make it work. I'm not a fantastic lock pick. I can manage a few relatively easy ones. I can't even get into the kitchen. The front door is easy enough to open, but it is alarmed. During the day, it beeps every time someone opens it and that is true for all external doors. At night it sets the alarm off. One girl managed to get that far. They tortured her in front of us, to show us not to try it again. Beccy was the one to show me how to pick locks.”
I moved forwards and hugged her. I could tell by her voice that she was struggling emotionally, and it was hard to imagine what she had been through.
“Besides, if I did get out, I'm in the middle of nowhere, not wearing any clothes.” I gave her a look. I'm not sure she could see it with the amount of light in the room, but probably noticed something. “Alright, more clothes than you, but practically naked.”
“How do I get some clothes?”
“They train us to behave. We are constantly told that we have been naughty, which is why we are here, to be punished. Things like clothes, bed sheets, a little bit of extra food, these are all rewards. They deliberately keep us hungry. Partly I think it is to keep us slim, but also to make us more compliant. That is part of the reason I am creeping about at night.”
“I was wondering about that.”
“When we have new arrivals, I try and visit, tell them that bad people are going to tell them bad things and do bad things but it is not their fault. Mostly all I can do is be a shoulder to cry on. Your case is a bit different. They normally only bring in people who will not be missed. Despite you using my name, you've got a lot of attention from the media, so I am surprised you are here.”
“Well, I don't know why. Anyway, that is not important right now. I need to know what I am facing. How many girls are there?”
“Five, including you.”
“How old are they?”
“I'm eighteen, Sally and Jo are eleven and Sasha is five.”
“Five? Seriously?” I didn't wait for her to answer, that was the same age as Ellie. “They are too young to be of any help. OK, how many guards are there?”
“At night there is only the two Neanderthals and Marcus. During the day it varies. Yesterday, after you came in all drugged up, there was a bit of conflict with another guy. He might still be here. I couldn't see what happened but I heard sounds of violence.”
“Do you know where they sleep and can you pick their locks?”
“Yes I know where they sleep. There is a guest room, so if there is an extra guy, he is probably in there. I've never tried to pick their locks, so I don't know if I can pick them. It might wake them if I try.”
“Are they all in separate rooms?”
“I know I don't look like much. I've studied Aikido for 8 years. I reckon I can take them on, one on one. Do they carry any weapons?”
“I've never seen them use any. I guess they have never needed to. We have had a few girls fight, but they are so much stronger than us, they have never done more than slap us around.”
“Are the rooms close together?”
“Marcus is quite isolated. The two Neanderthals are close together and the guest room is a bit away.”
“OK, I think we can do this, the question is, Abby, do you want to go to your room and lock yourself in, or do you want to give me a hand?”
“I would love to help, but I am scared, I have no idea how to fight. I can try and scratch their eyes out.”
“I don't want you to do any fighting, leave that to me. Mostly, I would like you to pick locks. If they wake up, hopefully they will try and deal with it on their own and I can subdue them. The biggest risk with be the Neanderthals. If they both wake up, I will ask you to run away to distract one of them, but do a circuit to bring them back to me. If they catch you, don't worry, I will come after you.”
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