Saturday, 7 March 2015

Guest Author Maggie James of Bristol, United Kingdom.

This is Maggie's third appearance on The Scribbler. In December, 2014 you read the Prologue to her captivating novel, The Second Captive. In January, you read Chapter 1 and today you can read Chapter 2. (You can access the previous posts from the archives on the bottom left side bar) .

Stockholm syndrome: the psychological tendency of a hostage to bond with, identify with, or sympathize with his or her captor.

What happens when you love the man you should hate?

Beth Sutton is eighteen years old when Dominic Perdue abducts her. Held prisoner in a basement, she’s dependent upon him for food, clothes, her very existence. As the months pass, her hatred towards him changes to compassion. Beth never allows herself to forget, however, that her captor has killed another woman. She has evidence to prove it, not to mention Dominic’s own admission of murder.

Then Beth escapes…

And discovers Dominic Perdue is not a man who lets go easily. Meanwhile, despite being reunited with her family, she spirals into self-destructive behaviour. Release from her prison isn’t enough, it seems. Can Beth also break free from the clutches of Stockholm syndrome?

A study of emotional dependency, The Second Captive examines how love can assume strange guises.

Copyright is held by the author. Used by permissions

CHAPTER 2 - Dominic

When the idea to kidnap a woman first comes to me, I’m not too fussy about whom to take. Someone young, pliable, whom I can mould into the perfect companion, but other than that, I’ve few criteria. I search, but somehow no woman strikes the right note with me. One day, driven by an impulse I don’t understand, I retrieve from my junk room an old photo, one I’ve not looked at since my father died. As I stare at it, I realise what’s missing from my plan. Restitution.

Beth Sutton’s the one who’ll help me achieve it. At eighteen, she barely qualifies as a woman. She fits the bill, though; her resemblance to her predecessor is striking, given they’re not related. I’ve chosen well. I’ve discerned from our conversations that there’s tension at home. Issues with her father, apparently. She yearns to cut loose, without knowing what she wants from life. It’ll be my pleasure to teach her. If I break her in right, all she’ll want will be me.

I dress with care for our dinner date tonight, taking pains to preserve the image she’s formed of me. The successful financial risk-taker with the flash BMW, the man who’ll wine her, dine her, show her a good time. Such foolish, schoolgirl fantasies. What I have to offer Beth Sutton is more solid, more real, a permanence that’ll force her to grow up. In time, she’ll come to love me, accept the security I’ve given her, thank me for it. Sex isn’t the reason I chose her. Rutting like animals holds no appeal for me. What I want is more complex. A companion, yes, but a mother figure as well, and for that her age is an obvious disadvantage. I’m prepared to wait, though. In my head, she’s my companion first, and then, when she’s earned a few privileges, she can take care of me. Beth being so young is good, really.
With her glowing skin, her shiny hair, she’s clearly healthy. Not destined for an early grave like Mum. Dead at fifty, a mere seven years after my birth. A miracle she ever conceived, given the thirty kilos of surplus flesh she carried, not to mention her stratospheric blood pressure. She did, though, and refused to contemplate abortion.

‘Told her to get shot of you, but the bitch wouldn’t have it.’ Oh, blunt was my father’s middle name. I was seven years old when he laid that one on me, right after his hand cracked against my face, knocking me backwards. We’d just returned from Mum’s funeral. She’d been my shield against this man. Always there, protecting me when he lashed out at either of us. Now my safeguard was gone.

Her voice echoes in my head, a memory from long ago.

‘I’m going upstairs for a bit of a sleep.’ My seven-year-old self, absorbed with my Lego, doesn’t respond. Something for which I’ve always blamed myself. I never get to hear her voice again. I carry on playing, grateful for the fact it’s a weekend and my father’s at a football match. He won’t come home for hours yet. When he does, he’ll stink of booze.

At six o’clock, I realise I’m hungry. The house is silent. Normally at this time, Mum’s in the kitchen, cooking our evening meal, plating up my father’s food for whenever he decides he’s had enough alcohol. I run upstairs, intending to ask her to cook fish fingers tonight, unaware of what awaits me.

Her door is open. Mum’s on top of the duvet, fully clothed, her head turned towards the window. A tiny flash of awareness sparks in my brain that something’s very wrong here, but at seven I lack the ability to process the thought. I stand by the side of her bed.

‘Mum? Mum, I’m hungry.’ When she doesn’t respond, I shake her shoulder, wobbling the flesh on her arm. I walk to the other side of the bed.

Realisation hits me the minute I see her face. Her mouth hangs slack, a line of spittle running from one corner. Eyes wide and staring. At seven years of age, her death strikes me hard with a cruel reality check. A brain aneurysm, swift and lethal, has snatched my mother from me.

I crawl onto the bed beside her, pushing myself into her arms one last time. When my father storms upstairs, hours later, demanding food, that’s how he finds us.

 Memories that over two decades later are fuzzy around the edges. Her face has faded to a blur in my head. All I have is the memory of her voice, the squeeze of her arms around me, her scent in my nostrils. Dad slung all her possessions in the bin after her death. Her clothes, all the photos of her, everything destroyed. Just the memory of her warm arms, along with the scent of Samsara, remains. An evocation that fades over the years, as any perfume will, leaving only a faint trace at the back of my skull. When I go into department stores, I head for the fragrance counters and breathe in my mother. A bottle of Samsara sits in my bedside cabinet, a constant reminder of her.

So Beth Sutton has big shoes to fill. It’ll take time for her to grow into them, adapt to what I’m asking of her, but she will. I’ve been waiting twenty-one years for her to keep me company. Tonight her new life will begin. 


I’m supposed to be cooking for Beth, but the kitchen is cold, unused. My stomach, knotted at what I’m intending, rebels at the idea of food. I’ll eat later, when Beth’s safely stowed in the basement. I’ve picked well, choosing a girl so confused, so mixed-up. When I first approach her in The Busy Bean, something about her calls to me. Is it her air of vulnerability, the way her shoulders speak of unhappiness as she drinks her coffee, unaware of me watching through the window? Oblivious of the fact I already know her name and where she lives?

Not a soul knows she’s coming here tonight. ‘You’re my guilty secret,’ she tells me when we’re at the Harbourside. When I probe, veiled questions designed to dig out who, if anyone, she’s told about us, I’m reassured.

‘Easier that way.’ She shrugs. ‘Otherwise I’ll get the ‘whilst you’re under my roof’ lecture from Dad.’ A smile. ‘Nobody knows about you, Dominic.’

That’s good. Very good. So far, Beth Sutton has proved an easy catch. I smile back, reeling her in further. Oh, I’m adept at the gestures that crack open a female’s defences, my teachers the DVDs I watch. I take my cues from the masters of the art: Brad Pitt, Colin Firth, Johnny Depp. In real life, I’ve never had a girlfriend, never wined and dined a female apart from at Troopers Hill. It’s been a good many years since any woman set foot in this cottage.

A memory stirs within me, deep and primeval. I clamp down on it, hard. Tonight’s not the time to remember such things. This evening is about Beth. What I can offer her. And what she’ll give me in return, once I’ve broken her in. The relationship we’ll forge will be good. Strong.

Not like my parents’ marriage, its pendulum swinging between bitter rows and angry silences. They married late in life. Past forty, my mother’s health not good, keen to produce a child before the menopause claimed her, she settled for Lincoln Perdue as her best bet. As for him, I’m guessing he wanted a live-in maid service, his meals cooked and his laundry done, with sex on tap to boot. He must have figured a wife to be cheaper than a combination of housekeepers and whores. Being a father didn’t come as part of the package, though. Small wonder he loathed me from my birth. Especially my eyes, which entrance some people and repulse others. One a soft brown, warm, with faint gold flecks, inherited from my mother. The other blue, chilly, with hints of green, straight from his genes. People’s eyes can change colour during childhood, from what I’ve read. Had my mother lived, I believe my blue iris might have darkened under her influence to match its sibling. I’d have ended up with her eyes. Instead, I’m a weird hybrid.

‘The child’s a damn freak,’ I hear Dad shout at Mum once, when I’m supposed to be asleep. Instead, I’m crouched on the landing outside my bedroom, listening to yet another argument, my mother’s words ricocheting off the walls like bullets.

‘I’ll take Dominic and leave you, Lincoln. If you don’t shape up. Quit the drinking. The other women.’ My father merely snorts in reply.

My life would have been different had she followed through with her threat. Instead, the aneurysm claimed her three months later. At seven years old, life abandoned me to Lincoln Perdue, the rest of my childhood spent tiptoeing around the cottage, in constant fear of his rages. Mostly he ignored me. After Mum’s death, my father, wealthy from his building business, hired a local woman to clean, do the laundry and prepare our meals. To the outside world, I presented an acceptable face: smart clothes, enough food to eat, nothing to spark alarm from the teachers at school. Inside, I withered, starving emotionally. The pendulum swung in favour of my blue eye, and the gradual warping of whatever genes my mother gave me commenced. Her influence still lingers a little, though.  Despite my plans for Beth Sutton, I’m a better man than my father was. He was a cruel man. I’m not.


When I’m ten years old, I discover his porn stash. Dad’s downstairs, watching sport. The muted voice of the television commentator reaches me as I lie on my bed, together with my father’s shouts of derision. Bored, I wander across the landing into his room, careful to avoid squeaky boards. The cottage where we live consists of two old miners’ residences, converted years before into one, its eighteenth-century floors prone to creaking. If he catches me in his room, it’ll mean the back of his hand cracking across my face, but I sometimes steal in here anyway. The room always has a stale odour from his frequent belching and farting.

I slump against the wardrobe, hugging my knees, my cheek resting on my arm. My gaze travels across the floor, spotting something under the bed. I unravel, going over to peer underneath. A pile of magazines sits, pushed against the skirting board over the far side of the bed; the one I’ve seen has slipped from the top. My fingers reach in, pulling the magazine towards me.

After so many years, my memory of the woman on the cover is still sharp. She’s naked, on her hands and knees, facing the camera. My eyes skim over the curves of her waist, her heavy breasts, towards her mouth. In it is a large red ball, the woman’s lips stretched around the plastic, leather straps securing it in place. I’m repulsed, the image being beyond my ten years of age. My fingers reach out to trace the O-shape of the woman’s mouth as it embraces the sphere that’s gagging her. Later on, I do understand. Whilst it’s not a path I’ll ever follow, the photo calls to something buried deep in my psyche. The need to control, inherited from my father. 


I don’t know much about Dad’s other women, of course. He never brings any of them to the cottage, but sometimes he arrives home, belching alcohol, his shirt buttoned up in the wrong holes. When he does, the perfume of his latest whore mixes with the whisky on his breath. I wish he’d do it more often; he’s mellow afterwards, his urges slaked, meaning I get shouted at less. Over time, as I transition into a teenager, the visits to the whores decline, along with Dad’s health. Years of booze and burgers take their toll. His waist balloons, stretching his trousers around his belly like the woman’s mouth around the ball-gag. Red veins scribble themselves across his nose and through the whites of his eyes. Sometimes, he clutches at his chest, pain slashing deep lines into his forehead, beads of sweat dotting his skin.

One time, his right leg swells, turning as red as his cheeks. He phones the doctor, fear in his voice, as I escape to the sanctuary of my bedroom. My father isn’t a man who bears pain well. A day or so later, I check the prescriptions that have arrived in the bathroom cabinet. One for angina, the other for cellulitis. I prise off the lids, the child caps no match for a thirteen-year-old, and I tip the contents into my palm; some tablets are round and red, like my father, others are small and white.
I Google both conditions. After that day, I play more sport and avoid burgers in the school cafeteria, keen to avoid ending up like Lincoln Perdue. That’s when I realise I possess a degree of self-awareness my father lacks.

The year after, I turn fourteen, and my father starts to wheeze, his breath sounding like air dribbling from a balloon. An inhaler joins the prescription bottles in the bathroom cabinet. As his asthma worsens, it’s never far from his side, either in his pocket or next to the television remote as he slumps in front of the weekend football. The visits to the whores are rare these days, declining in inverse proportion to the height of the stack of magazines under his bed.  


I’m sixteen when I first contemplate suicide. The idea comes to me as I lie on my bed, listening to my father curse at the television downstairs. Earlier on, he hit me. His cellulitis has flared up again, and his mood’s foul as we eat dinner. As a result, I’m nervous, my fingers clumsy, knocking my glass of water across the table. My father hauls himself to his feet, his face ruddy with rage.

‘Stupid bastard!’ His right hand swipes my cheek, knocking me from my chair. I grasp the table to prevent myself falling further, the jolt as I do so spilling his beer. I don’t wait around, heading straight for the door, but even with his bulk, he manages to grab me. His arm lashes out, once, twice, fiery pain spreading though my face. My father is panting, sweating, and utterly repulsive. As soon as I recover, I’m up the stairs and out of his reach, his curses following me to my room.

As I lie on my bed, I realise my existence is pointless, meaningless from the moment Mum died. The world would be better off without me, and vice versa. What stops me is the inability to decide how best to kill myself. I’ve no access to sleeping tablets, and I’m too much of a coward to slash my wrists. Drowning holds no appeal either. Too likely to be ruled an accident; if I’m to commit suicide, then I want the world to know I chose to end my own life. With a note, explaining why.

The solution comes to me. The basement. I’ll hammer a hook into the wooden rafter that runs across the ceiling, and I’ll hang myself. Release from the hell I live every day is possible; I savour the thought, knowing it’s available if my father gets truly unbearable. Instead of a noose, I slide into my first episode of depression. A dark beast that’s stalked me ever since, eager to sink its fangs into my flesh.

Beth will rescue me from its bite.  


As I head downstairs, ready to collect my girl, the twin smells of disinfectant and air freshener assault my nostrils. Such odours were banned when my father was alive; he claimed they triggered his asthma. Since his death, I’ve kept the cottage as clean, as neat, as Mum always did. It’ll impress Beth, of course, when I bring her through the front door, when she realises this is no squalid bachelor pad, stale with old pizza and cigarettes. The pine freshness will also prevent her from realising there’s no food cooking in the kitchen.

The keys to the BMW are where they always are, together with my house keys, on a hook behind the front door. I’m nothing if not neat. My fingers reach up to grab them, this morning’s threatening letter from the bank shoved to the back of my mind. OK, so I’ve been on a losing streak. A few lucky deals and I’ll be on top again. I’m Dominic Perdue. The markets never beat me for long.

As my hand takes the keys from the hook, an urge to check the basement stops me. One last look, to ensure everything’s ready for my guest.

I replace the keys and backtrack to a door on the right, opposite the staircase. My hands reach out and pull it outward, revealing steps leading downward. The basement isn’t large, occupying the space under one cottage out of the pair, before some previous owner knocked both houses into one. For some reason, he or she didn’t do the same with the basements, keeping them as two separate rooms accessible from opposite sides of the cottage. It was my father who blocked off one of them, its entrance now walled up and papered over. Across the ceiling of the remaining one is the wooden rafter from my suicidal fantasies. A tiny window sits high up on one wall. I guess Beth’s new home is about twelve feet each way, giving plenty of room for her needs. Three things are in the basement, the bare minimum she’ll require. My father would say I’ve been generous in what I’ve provided. Beth Sutton will have to earn whatever privileges I choose to grant her. Her first few months in here will teach her that.

I remind myself I’m granting her the most precious privilege of all. The right to life. The last occupant of the basement didn’t enjoy such a luxury.

Enough. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. Time to collect Beth Sutton and introduce her to her new life.

Maggie James' novel will keep you spellbound until the very end. Buy it here.

Please drop by midweek to read an excerpt from Katrina Cope's novel Scarlet's Escape. Katrina has been a guest on the Scribbler and I am pleased to welcome her back. She lives on the Gold Coast of Australia.


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