My heart stopped as a strong hand clamped over my mouth, muffling my scream. Something cold and round was pressed against my cheek. I didn’t have to see it to instinctively know what it was: a gun. To make up for its brief silence, my heart was suddenly pumping in double-time, my pulse racing in my veins as terror spiked through me.
“Are you a doctor?” A deep voice asked from the backseat of my car where the man had been hiding. His tone was rough, with a curiously ragged edge to it. Was that desperation in his voice?
His hand left my mouth so that I could answer. I considered screaming for help, but the gun that was pressed against my face stopped me. Instead, I swallowed hard against the lump in my throat.
“Y-yes,” my voice was unusually high and shaky.
The muzzle of the gun shifted to my ribs, pressing hard into my flesh. “You’re going to drive exactly where I say. If you don’t, I won’t hesitate to kill you. Understand, doc?”
My heart was in my throat now, cutting off my ability to speak. So I just nodded to communicate my understanding.
“Start the car and head for the City,” the voice commanded. “We’re going to Brooklyn.”
My hands were trembling, so I gripped the steering wheel hard to ensure that I didn’t swerve all over the road. I didn’t dare betray the fact that there was something wrong; if I was stopped by the cops for reckless driving, god knows what this man would do to me before I could even yell for help.
I struggled to keep from hyperventilating, worried that even the tiniest movement would jar the gun against my ribs, sending a bullet searing through my lungs and up into my heart. My mind had been frozen in shock for long minutes, but it suddenly came whirring to life again as all of the gruesome possibilities of what might happen to me ran across it. Gathering up my courage, I forced the words out of my mouth.
“Where are we going? What do you want from me?” I struggled to keep my voice steady, desperate not to betray my terror to the man who held my life in his hands.
It was a mistake to speak. The unyielding metal was only pressed harder into my ribs, making me wince in pain.
“I didn’t say you could talk,” the voice said sharply. “Just keep driving. Turn right here.”
My mouth snapped closed, and I pursed my lips together to hold in my questions. I followed his directions, his voice the only sound breaking through the tense silence.
“Pull into the garage here,” he ordered after what seemed to be both the longest and shortest drive of my life. My stomach was in knots as I drove up the ramp into the dimly-lit parking garage. It was deserted; there was no hope for help here.
“Park here, and then get out of the car. Don’t you dare make a sound,” his voice was a threatening growl.
As soon as my hands left the steering wheel, they started shaking hard, making up for the forced stillness from their grip on the wheel. The pressure of the gun left my side, and I breathed a sigh of relief. But my reprieve from my fear didn’t last long. I knew that I was still in easy range, and I didn’t dare try anything stupid. Like running away as fast as I could, as my mind was screaming at me to do.
I heard the car door slam, and then the muzzle of the gun was at my lower back.
“Walk,” he prodded me along with it, and I didn’t hesitate. I moved carefully, trying to walk at a slow, even pace, avoiding sudden movements that might make it look as though I was trying to run.
We arrived at a heavy door with a keypad set into the wall beside it. “Press nine-three-two-eight,” he said in a clipped voice. There was that curious strain in his tone again, and I couldn’t help but wonder at it. Was he uneasy about what he was doing to me? His steady grip on the gun told me that that probably wasn’t the case.
I punched in the code, nearly pressing the wrong keys with my trembling fingers.
“You’re going to have to have steadier hands than that, doc,” he said cryptically. The door buzzed and there was a clicking sound as it unlocked. “Inside.” He pressed the gun into my back for emphasis.
We entered the building and walked down a short corridor to an elevator. With his free hand, the man reached around me and punched the call button. The doors pinged open, and I meekly walked into the small compartment that would take me god knew where. The walls of the elevator were mirrored, and I could see my captor for the first time.
He was young, maybe in his mid-twenties, with closely-cropped dark hair and a hard-edged jaw. His mouth was set in a grim line, but his brown eyes betrayed the same strain that I had detected in his voice. The man was tense, upset. And that scared me more than anything. A man on the edge could be more dangerous than a cold-blooded criminal.
I caught my own reflection as he punched the button for the ninth floor. My grey eyes were wide, the fear that was making my heart hammer in my chest evident in every strained line of my pale face. But other than that, I looked completely normal: light brown hair pulled back into a tight bun and my collared shirt and slacks perfectly straight and wrinkle-free. The contrast with my wild expression was jarring.
All too soon, the doors opened, and I was being ushered down another hallway. We stopped at a door to what I could now tell was an apartment. He fumbled with his keys, reaching around me to unlock the door. He kicked it open and gave me a particularly hard shove. I stumbled across the threshold.
The door closed behind me with a sound of finality.
“Sean!” The man called out. There was no answer. “Sean!” He said again, fear lacing his tone this time. He pushed me forward, guiding me towards a bedroom. When I saw what was inside, I stopped in my tracks for a moment. But my captor wasn’t having it, and he shoved me into the room.
There was a man lying on the bed. His face was pale, contrasting shockingly with his dark auburn hair. His eyes were closed, and, most alarmingly of all, there was a dark stain on the front of his shirt and a crimson pool soaked the white sheets beneath his left shoulder.
My instincts as a doctor kicked in, and I momentarily forgot my dire situation. I rushed toward the man who was lying prone on the bed, immediately grasping at the tear in his t-shirt and ripping it open to reveal the small, round bullet hole. I rounded on the dark-haired man.
“What happened?” I demanded.
“He was shot,” my captor answered simply.
I glared at him. “That’s obvious. Why isn’t he at a hospital?”
The man glared back. “I can’t take him to a hospital. You’ll have to fix him.”
“What?” I half-shrieked. “He needs medical attention. Urgent medical attention. What do you expect me to do? I’m a pediatrician, for god’s sake!”
“Fuck!” He cursed, his brow furrowing as he ran a hand through his hair in agitation. Then his eyes narrowed, and he leveled the gun at me. “You went to med school, so you’ll have to do. Besides, I don’t have time to snatch another doc. Fix him.”
I blanched as I was once again in the line of fire, but I plowed on. “I can’t,” I insisted. “I don’t even have any medical tools. You have to take him to a hospital, or he’s going to die. He’s losing too much blood.”The man’s face twisted into a snarl, and he cocked the gun with an ominous click. “We’re not going to a hospital. If you tell me you can’t save him, I’ll kill you now.”
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