My jaw hangs open as Praneso picks himself up from the floor. “What was that.” Shaking his head as though to clear his head, he looks around with a wild look in his grey eyes. “Who’s there!” He presses a button, opening the hole that Seo was locked in and looks. A cry of rage billows from him and he picks up the whip from the floor, marches to Ms Pink and lashes her. “Where is your subject!”
“How would I know,” Ms Pink says airily despite the lash that Praneso punishes her with.
“Bitch! No more games.” Praneso whips out a device and speaks into it. “The secretary escaped. Find her and kill her.” He puts the device back in his pocket and breaks into a grin that sends chills down my spine. “My dear Princess, you’ve come to the end of your road.”
“No!” I cry as Praneso pulls a gun out from his jacket. Gleaming matt grey, it exudes a cruel coldness not unlike its owner.
Praneso turns to me, his eyes narrowed. “You.” He walks towards me, stopping in front. “There’s something about you.”
I told you to be quiet, stupid human.
I don’t want you to die.
He won’t kill you. He wants my claim to be slave to him. It’s the only way he can satisfy his perverted need to dominate. But you will be able to overpower him once you understand how you can control your energy.
I just don’t want you to die.
I’ve lived for more than two hundred and seventy years, Taeyeon. Death isn’t scary anymore. But your life is yet to come.
Tiffany Pink, I don’t care what you say. I’m not leaving this place without you.
Then be quiet. We might have a chance as long as he is kept ignorant.
Oh, I get it now. Yes, Ms Pink!
“Why are you smiling.” Praneso grabs my face and shakes it without care. “Why are you smiling!” He looks straight into my eyes, searching for something. A colour perhaps. “What are you.”
“That force was you.” Praneso pushes his nose up against my neck and sniffs. “You are not just a bait.” He turns to Ms Pink. “Where did you get her from.”
“She walked into my office.”
I look away as the whip hurts Ms Pink once more. The pink in her eyes is molten like liquid neon light. How much more can she take from this monster?
“Tell me,” he says, as he points the gun at me, “or I’ll shoot her.”
Ms Pink smiles. “Please shoot her,” my eyes pop wide open, “and end her suffering right now.”
Oh . . . I get it, I get it. You’re calling his bluff.
“Or perhaps the whip will treat her better.”
“Be my guest.”
The whip cracks twice and I whimper and flinch, closing my eyes in fright but nothing hits me.
Praneso laughs. “Whipping this claim will be a lot of fun.” He flicks the whip, catching the side of my arm with the tip and I shriek. “Adorable,” he says. “I see so much potential. I’ll soon have her crawling around like a dog, serving my every need.”
“You’re no better than a dog yourself.”
The laughter that follows is the kind that will wake you up from your darkest nightmare.
“Too bad I couldn’t have you. My brother always gets the best of everything.” Praneso raises his gun to Ms Pink’s heart. “Goodbye, Princess.” I watch, stunned beyond words as he squeezes the trigger. A grey bullet hits Ms Pink with a dull thud. Her eyes fly open wider than I’ve ever seen and the look on her face spells trauma. Her head slumps as blood begins to stain her chemise.
My face feels scratchy as I open my eyes. My neck is sore. My arms are aching. I scrunch my face, breaking up the stiffness of dried tears on my cheeks. A hollowness in my stomach threatens to make an unnatural journey up to my mouth. But nothing compares to how still my blood runs when I see Ms Pink hanging by her wrists, lifeless and bloody.
No. Ms Pink. Ms Pink! Talk to me!
Tiffany Pink! Wake up!
I look around for Praneso, afraid he would appear and take Ms Pink away. My eyes spot him lying on the floor, his back to the cabinet which has cracked where he hit it. From what I can observe, he appears to be unconscious. That galvanizes me into action. I tug on the straps holding my wrists to the contraption. They seem to have loosened somehow. Frantic and desperate, I ignore the pain that shoots through my skin to my bones as I try to squeeze my hand through the strap. My skin is rubbed raw and bleeding but it doesn’t deter me. My knuckles are almost through! With a vicious tug that definitely tore skin, I manage to yank my hand out from the strap.
It takes me a moment to unbuckle the straps on my other wrist and feet but as soon as I am freed, I dash to Ms Pink’s side.
“Tiffany!” Her name falls from my lips in hopes of seeing those pink eyes glaring at me again. “Tiffany, don’t die on me you stupid princess vampire!”
With adrenaline that spikes up from a place I’m not aware of, I manage to free her wrists from the cuffs and carry her weight as she slumps onto my shoulder. Once she’s lowered onto the floor, I set about freeing her ankles from the spreader bar. With tears blurring my vision, I sweep her hair from her pale face and pat her cheeks.
“Wake up, Tiffany. We have to get out of here.”
I try to ignore the fact that my hands are coming away stained crimson red as I look for the bullet wound. The bleed seems to have stopped. Does it mean Ms Pink has bled dry? Or does vampire blood behave differently from human blood. Maybe vampire blood clots faster than human blood. I pull the strap of Ms Pink’s chemise down to investigate. The wound looks clotted to me. Is it a sign of hope that Ms Pink can be saved? Or does it spell death in bold capital letters. I dare not think. My priority is to get us out.
The sight of Ms Pink lying on the floor resembles death a little too much so I drag her to the wall and prop her up against it. Ms Pink is a lot lighter than I last remember. I know this can’t be good but I’m no doctor and I can’t waste time worrying about that. I have to find the exit. The buttons that Praneso pressed. There are six. One of which belongs to the hole Seo was locked in but escaped from. The thought of that brings hope. It means that help is on the way. Feeling a little better about our prospects, I press the button on its right. But nothing happens.
A closer look at the button reveals a pad that looks like a fingerprint reader. Seriously? With a groan, I trudge to Praneso. His eyes are closed, eyeballs unmoving. With no other choice, I drag him to the buttons, huffing and puffing each step of the way. Using my back as the heaving tool, I lift him up with a shout and press his index finger on as many buttons as I can before letting go. He slumps onto the floor with a thud but I don’t stop to check if he’s alright. The sound of doors sliding open surround me taking up my attention. Which door should I go through?
A quick check eliminates half of the doors on the side that Seo was locked in. My goodness, how many victims had Praneso kept in those holes before? It’s not a pleasant thought. The doors on the other side lead to somewhere unknown. As I’m trying to decide which one to take, a thought strikes me. How did Seo escape?
The thought carries me to Seo’s hole. I look in, up down left right. It’s a tiny space with little room to move. A single pipe hole provides the only ventilation. There’s really nowhere Seo could’ve gone. Unless she has some power unknown to me—which probably is the case. At any rate, her method of escape is not open to me. I have to find another way through one of those doors.
I stick my head into one of the passageways to survey the road ahead. Grey is all I have to say. Granite all around, leading to somewhere unknown. Taking a step back into the room, I look at the row of doors. I’ll have to choose a door and choose it fast . . .
Ms Pink is getting heavier and heavier. Each step I take is slower than the last. And my back is killing me.
Did I take the wrong door? Will I end up lost and stuck in this place forever? I should have stayed in that room and waited for Seo to bring help. But I have to get Ms Pink away from that mad man. I’ll keep going. We’ll be alright. We will.
Thankfully, the pseudo-torch lit passageway is bright enough to see. But only just. My hands are leaving blood stains on the walls as I push myself forward but I’m beyond caring. It isn’t until it occurs to me I’m leaving a trail that I stop, sit Ms Pink against the wall and take a good look at my hand. The skin is torn and it needs a bandage but between Ms Pink and me, the situation is rather hopeless. The best I can do is try to stop the bleeding.
I sit beside Ms Pink, applying pressure to my palm, and look at her lifeless form. The urge to burst into tears is strong and the reality I do not want to face is very real but I can’t give up hope. I can’t. There’s nobody left to save her. It has to be me.
Endless minutes later, we’re out of the narrow passageway and out in the open. Of what looks like a library, judging by the rows of ceiling-high shelves of books. I head for a shelf further in the back of the grey, grey room. Ms Pink’s feet are dragging on the floor but I am physically out of juice to lift her any higher. Finally, I lower her as gently as I can and slump onto the grey carpeted floor next to her.
“Ms Pink, what am I to do now?” I ask, not expecting an answer and not getting one either. Sweeping her hair from her face, I study her features carefully. The curl of her lashes. The pert of her nose. The pout of her lips. I press my lips on hers and a tear rolls down my cheek. “Please don’t die.” Helene comes to mind just then and my heart is filled with hope again. Helene will know what to do. She can bring Ms Pink back. I need to get us out of here.
My adrenaline gets a boost and I get to my feet. Checking my palm, I find the bleeding has stopped. This is good. It’s a good sign. Things have hit rock bottom and are getting better. I squat in front of Ms Pink, pull her arms around my shoulders and heave her up once more. My knees almost buckle under the weight but I lock them and with gritted teeth, continue on with the escape.
Leaving the grey shelves and grey books behind, I find an exit that leads into a hallway. Streaks of grey and white in swirls on the floor attempt to distract me from my mission but I keep my eyes looking straight ahead for a possible way out. I pause for a rest at the first door I reach but the faint sound of footsteps has me scrambling into the room to hide. Leaning back as much as I can with Ms Pink behind me, I hold my breath as the footsteps pass by. They stop outside the room. I can only hope whoever it is can’t hear my heart thumping.
The somebody sniffs. Oh no. The smell of my blood! I press my palms into my chemise and hope for the best. Please don’t smell me. Please don’t smell me. After what seems like ages, the footsteps finally hurry down the hallway in the direction I came from. Good. That’ll set them back some time.
The renewed hope gets me strength to haul Ms Pink onto my back and I’m about to go down the hallway when I notice what’s in the room for the first time. Placed at the back of the room and next to a standing log of wood is a curious contraption. All white. Boxy rectangular. A turn wheel on top. Out of curiosity, I put Ms Pink down and investigate it. My instinct wants me to turn the wheel so I grasp it with both hands and turn. It cranks open and the top lifts. A gush of ice cold air hits my legs, making me shiver.
Is this a freezer? Or is it meant to be a torture device? The wooden pole next to it certainly seems to suggest it. There are markings on it that look like they’ve been cut into by something blunt. Chains possibly. I shudder at the thought of the kind of torture that has taken place in here. But even as the vile memory of Praneso whipping Ms Pink angers me all over again, an idea strikes me.
Seo had done it once before—freezing Ms Pink—to save her. Would it work this time? I don’t see myself out running one of Praneso’s minions with Ms Pink on my back. And if we get caught again, all hope will be lost. I don’t have much of a choice.
A few more turns of the wheel lifts the cover higher. I haul Ms Pink to the freezer and lift her, leaning her body over the side. I hug her waist and shift so that her legs edge into the box. Another push and they’re in. Next in is Ms Pink’s body followed by her head. I pull her chemise so that she is covered nicely and stroke her cheek.
“I’ll see you later, Ms Pink,” I whisper before turning the wheel to close the box. “I’ll come back for you. I promise.”
I smile for Ms Pink but it dies a rapid death when I turn around and see a black shaggy creature. A vanguard! I haven’t seen one in a while. It’s growling at me and foaming at its mouth like a mug of beer overflowing.
I’m in so much trouble.