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CHAPTER 1

Consciousness found her, and pain followed—a twisting, torqueing, unnatural pain that ripped through both shoulders. Molly pushed through the fog, coaxing her eyes open to dim surroundings, and found she stared at darkish carpet she’d never seen before.

        Her chin lay against her chest and her blonde hair fell long about her face, and a string of drool slung from her lower lip. Her first thought was for her dress, the little black number she wore for special occasions. She took care with all her things, but especially this one. She didn’t want to soil it, being her favorite. She moved to spit the drool, but the shift brought agony on an unprecedented scale. Her mind spinning, she worked to quiet the agony surging through her, rolling her head with care to recover what senses she could while avoiding the fire of additional pain. This was far worse than any nightmare that ever woke her. 

Had she been working out? Maybe that was it. Sometimes people overdo it, don’t they? Maybe she overdid it and lost consciousness. Maybe she hurt herself when she fell and was just coming to. That would explain the pain, but why was she in her evening attire? And her exercises didn’t include suspending from anything, so why was she hanging by her wrists? 

She managed to look up, gritting her teeth and bearing the pain. Chains? She couldn’t attach chains in her apartment. Her ceilings were plaster, and as near as she could tell in the dim light, the one above her was concrete. 

Concrete, she thought. The word carried troubling significance. Where was she?

The confusion and discontinuity of thought began to lift, one layer, then another. Her other senses began to turn on. It was chilly on her skin, and the air smelled of an old basement. She heard no sound, other than the dull clank of metal, occasionally interrupting a silence she almost felt.

Then the fractured pieces of an image began to slide together. She remembered a bar and music, and there were people laughing, having fun. She waited for someone. Her boyfriend. But there was a man, and there was an accident. He spilled something on her. A drink. Diet soda. Her diet soda. Mustn’t drink alcohol because of the baby. He apologized and bought her another.

Her eyes focused now, but she saw little. Water. She wanted water. She tried to free herself, endure the pain, but only turned in a slow circle. She called out, and when no one answered, tried to free herself again.

Minutes passed, at least she thought it was minutes. Then a screeching noise damaged the silence, metal against metal like the wrecked driver’s door of her old Nova, only heavier. Lights came up. They hurt her eyes. Footsteps echoed around her. They belonged to a man, but her new hope was short lived. She remembered him.


***

Daemon didn’t speak to Molly at first. A creature of habit, he stepped to a wooden workbench and walked through a series of tasks to prepare for his evening with her. He made ready his tools: the monitor, the video camera, the automotive battery and jumper cables, and the straight razors. Satisfied all was ready, he turned to her. 

“I’d ask if you are comfortable, Molly,” he said, his voice soft, almost pleasant. “But I know you are not. I’m sorry to say, this is as comfortable as you are apt to feel in the time you are with me.” 

She lifted her head as high as pain allowed. “Who are you?” she asked. “Where am I? Why am I here?”

“You are not allowed to ask questions, Molly. You will do as I tell you or you will be punished. Do you understand?”

“You’ll go to prison for this. My boyfriend will—”

His fist came across her jaw before she spoke another word. Blood sprayed from her mouth into the blackness beyond the light filling the space they occupied. The grunt that came from her was like that from a terrible fall. 

“No questions or threats, Molly.”

Molly glared at Daemon as she licked the blood from her lip. “My boyfriend will find me,” she warned. “You will go to prison.”

“Did you really think he would leave his wife, jeopardize his position, for the likes of you?”

The defiance she felt moments ago drained as she paled.

“Why…. Why would.… What?”

He delivered another blow to Molly’s face, this one just below her cheekbone. The swelling was immediate.

“I told you. No questions.”

Daemon began unbuttoning his shirt. 

“I am wondering how you justify your behavior, considering the teachings of your faith,” he continued, shedding his shirt from his shoulders. “You are a religious girl, and yet you are a whore. How do you rectify the disparity?”

“I am not a whore.”

“You slept with a married man.”

“I made a mistake. That’s not a sin. How do you know all this? Who the hell are you?”

His open hand to her face rang though the emptiness. 

“Really? Adultery is not a sin?”

Molly said nothing.

“You are to answer when I ask you a question.”

“I am not married.”

“You’re splitting hairs. He is, and you knew it. You slept with a man out of wedlock. That’s a sin in your Catholic faith, is it not?”

Molly did not answer. Daemon hit her again, harder than before, knocking loose a tooth. Molly spit blood.

“Answer me.”

Defiance shown in Molly’s eyes and she said nothing.

“That was a question, Molly.”

Daemon raised his open hand again, slowly this time.

YES! Yes ... it’s a sin.”

“Yes, it is. And that makes you a whore, does it not?”

Molly glared and held her tongue until Daemon balled a fist and hit her again, driving her face into her chest. Dazed, her lip split and bleeding, she whispered, “Yes … I am a whore.”

“There, is it not better to admit the truth about one’s self? They say confession is good for the soul. Perhaps now your God will accept you when we are finished here.”

With those words, what was once surreal was no longer so. She began to understand that he was not some freak using her as a play toy, or someone who would have his fun and then release her.

“Would you care for some water?”

Molly nodded, instinct telling her that water meant survival. Daemon held a bottle of water to her lips and she drank, the pain in her face of lesser importance than her thirst. Daemon unbuckled his belt and and finished undressing. He was aroused and Molly turned away, her disgust overriding her pain. Daemon smirked as he reached behind him to the workbench and powered his equipment. The monitor blinked to life and the Record light on the camcorder burned red. 

Molly saw on the monitor that she was in some sort of three-walled chamber strung up by her wrists, and as the dire nature of her circumstances hit with full force, her heart began to race as adrenalin poured into her system. Her eyes flittered about, fixing on nothing but seeing everything as she searched for an escape. Screaming to be released, she thrashed against her bonds as the horrors of things to come seized her. 

Daemon retrieved something from the workbench, turned, and showed it to Molly. It shone with a mirror-like finish, reflecting the dim light.

“Be quiet, Molly.”

Her eyes widened at the sight of the straight razor, and she forced herself to remain calm—but it lasted only a moment. Every fiber of every muscle quivered and she fought to contain the surge welling up from her gut. Her cheeks inflated like balloons as she pressed split lips together to mute her whimpers, yet tiny sobs escaped with each excited breath. Her twisting and writhing threatened to rip her arms from their sockets as she summoned every ounce of strength to get away.

An iron grip anchored her before the straight razor sliced through her little black dress, opening a shallow wound in her abdomen. A heartbeat passed before a thin red line appeared. Molly saw her own blood and her eyes grew wider still as she teetered at the edge of consciousness.

“I do not tolerate disobedience, Molly. You will obey me.” Daemon took himself in hand and began stroking. “Remain quiet and do not look away,” he said, “or I will punish you again.”

Tears streamed down Molly’s face and deep sobs signaled her submission.

“Please,” she begged. “My baby.”

Daemon paused his pleasuring and cradled her abdomen with both hands. 

“Just so you know, Molly—your little bastard is what brought you here.”
A Sneak Peek at the New Book: 

the lesser sin
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