Chapter 1

She’d been awake for six hours now and for nearly all of that time, she’d either screamed or cried or looked into the various security cameras demanding to know why. The First One had done the same thing. She refused to accept her fate and wouldn’t cooperate. After just five days, The Voice demanded she be removed.

Pete Coleman had to ensure the transition went quickly and smoothly this time. There was too much at stake to let the new girl fight so hard for so long. And yet he felt the need to warn her. As with The First One, he was mentally torn. But unlike the last time, he was going to risk everything to make sure she knew why compliance was so important.

He was keeping a careful eye on his watch and noted it was one minute to midnight. At exactly 12am, he jumped up from his chair, ran to the outer door and stood next to it. As quickly as he could, he entered the six-digit code of 757573, swung the door open, shut it, then moved to the inner door, and did the same thing using 384176. He needed to get to her, explain as much as he could, then get back through both doors in under three minutes. It was a huge risk, but one he had to take. The basement was essentially a replica of a large, three-bedroom ranch-style house with an attached storage room. He ran down the hall to the bedroom where she lay curled up in a ball.

As he entered the room she sat up and started screaming. “Get away from me! Leave me alone! Who are you? Why am I here???”

He put his finger to his mouth and hollered, “Be quiet! Please just listen to me! I have less than two minutes to say this so please—please be quiet and hear me out.”

She’d backed up against the headboard and was still crying loudly but she had stopped screaming. “Tell me what?” she said as she recoiled in fear.

“You’re being held here…”

“Held? Why?! WHY am I being held here?”

He moved to her end of the bed and pointed to the security camera. “The cameras reset at midnight each day. That’s the only time he can’t see us.

“He? Who is he? Why am I here? I just want…”

Coleman reached out and grabbed her. She fought but he got one hand behind her head and the other over her mouth. Her eyes were wide with fear as he shook and said, “LISTEN TO ME! You’re being held here and so am I. He knows where our families are and if we don’t cooperate, they get hurt. You and I, too, but especially THEM. And he’ll make you watch when he hurts them. So do what you’re told or the people you love will pay the price. That’s all I can tell you because if he sees me here, someone I care about will suffer for it. Don’t fight him.” He let go of her and said, “Don’t fight…this. If you cooperate, he will let you go one day. If not, he’ll kill them and you.”

Coleman turned and ran out of the room. He could hear her screaming, “No! Wait! Tell me who HE is! Tell me why I’m here! Please! Come back Please!!” The last sounds he heard before he secured the inner door were her screams and cries for help.

He shut the outer door and checked his watch. He had less than ten seconds. He ran to the primary monitoring station, sat in the chair, and looked again at his watch. Three seconds left. He slouched down and put his feet up on the panel; the exact position he was in before he left. Maybe this time he could get the new girl to cooperate sooner. If not, the results could be as catastrophic as they were with The First One.

A minute later, he nonchalantly got up and went to the air lock as though he’d been at his post the entire time. The Voice allowed him to care for them—to a point. Were he to exceed the limit, the siren would sound; a painful reminder of who was in control. He put an Ambien and a Dixie cup with water in it inside the chute along with a handwritten note and hit the ‘down’ button. He heard the gentle ding of the alarm on the monitor and watched as Holly got up to investigate. She moved cautiously toward the kitchen. As she did the monitoring system tracked her movements and automatically switched cameras.

When she peered around the corner of the hallway into the kitchen she noticed the soft green light illuminating the kitchen air lock. Slowly, she walked toward it then stopped to see what it was. She was able to see into it through a large, Plexiglass window. Inside, she saw the contents sitting there with a note that read, “Take this. It will help you sleep.”

Pete watched her as she looked around to see who was watching her. The only thing she noticed was the security camera with a blinking red light mounted in the corner. Finally, she pressed the ‘open’ button and there was a soft ‘whoosh’ as the glass window opened. She reached inside and picked up the pill and the cup along with the yellow sticky note.

“Take it. Be a good girl and take it,” Coleman said out loud to himself. He couldn’t help but root for her, as it were. She looked so much like her. How could he not feel protective? After all, she hadn’t asked for this anymore than he had.

She stood there for several minutes just casino siteleri staring at the air lock before she turned around and looked at the security camera again. After another minute or so, she turned her upper body, picked up the pill and the water, and popped the tablet in her mouth and downed it with the water so that whoever was watching could see she’d taken the pill.

“There. I cooperated. I hope you’re happy,” she said. She crumpled the cup and threw it on the floor. Immediately, a very loud siren went off causing Holly to put her hands over her ears. When it shut off, she started crying and screaming at the camera. “I did what you said! What more do you want? What kind of sick game is this!?!” She took a step away from the air lock and the siren sounded again. This time, it went on twice as long. When it ended, Holly looked down and saw the Dixie cup on the floor. She glared at the camera then bent down and picked it up. “Is this what you want? Am I supposed to be your housekeeper, too? Okay, fine,” she said as she tossed it in the trash. “Are you happy now?”

She returned to the bedroom where she’d been and lay on the bed. Her thoughts turned to her family members. Just that thought alone would have caused her to cry four months ago, but she was a lot tougher now. She was harder. Even so, when she thought of any of them being harmed, her blood ran cold. She pulled a blanket over herself and fought off the tears that used to come so easily, until she finally fell asleep. Some ten hours later, she awoke unsure what time it was, but she was reasonably sure it must be morning as there was light streaming into the room behind the drawn curtains.

Suddenly, she remembered where she was. Her first emotion was fear while her first thought was how desperately she needed to pee. She left the bedroom and headed the opposite direction down the hall. She saw two other bedrooms and went into the larger one and kept walking until she saw the door to the bathroom. “This must be the master suite,” she thought. She unzipped the orange jumpsuit and pulled down the plain white panties then squatted over the toilet. It looked very clean and sanitary so she allowed herself to sit all the way down. Nearly 24 hours worth of urine poured out of her body. She peed for over a minute before the stream turned into a trickle and finally stopped. She grabbed a wad of toilet paper and dried herself off.

As she stood up, the toilet flushed automatically. A moment later, she heard the water in the shower turn on. As much as she needed a hot shower, it could wait. She had to find out where she was first. So while holding the top of the jumpsuit with one hand, she reached in to shut off the water. The handles turned but they didn’t do anything. “Fuck this,” she said as she turned around and pulled up her panties. As she did so, the piercing sound of the siren went off again. It was louder than anything she’d ever heard and that included the fire alarms where she was a high school teacher. Or rather, where she’d once taught high school in another life. Before the arrest. For the last three years, Holly had taught social studies and served as the coach of the school’s cheerleading team.

She dropped the material she was holding and covered her ears until it became quiet. “Okay, I get it,” she said to the monitor in the corner of the bathroom. “You want me to take a shower. Fine.”

She stepped out of the jumpsuit, pulled off her panties, then unhooked the plain, white bra, and stepped into the shower. She had to admit the hot water felt amazing. Holly couldn’t remember the last time she’d taken a real, hot shower in privacy. How long had it been? At least four months. That’s how long she’d been in custody since the judge denied her bail. Every shower since was taken on command and in the company of other female inmates as well as the female police officers who served in the King County correctional system.

Holly looked around and saw she had a choice of several different soaps as well as various shampoos. She picked them up and smelled them and was pleased to see they each had a lovely, aromatic scent to them. Green apple, strawberry, vanilla, and several others. She chose a bar of Irish Spring soap and the strawberry-scented shampoo. When she was finished, she opened the glass shower door and grabbed a large, very luxurious bath towel and dried herself off. There were several others hanging there so she used one of them to twist up her hair.

Once she was dry, she looked down for the things she’d been wearing, but they weren’t on the floor where she’d left them. Instead, there was a very soft, very fluffy, white robe neatly folded in between the two sinks on the large granite countertop. It was then she noticed the blinking red light from yet another security camera. She looked up at it and said, “I suppose this means you want me to wear the robe?” She would have normally let her towel fall to the floor, but this time she carefully hung it on the brushed nickel bar from which she’d taken it. She put on the slot oyna robe then tied it snugly around her waist. She looked back up at the security camera and said, “Now what? What do I do next?”

She wandered through the house until she got to what looked to be some sort of vault. There was a blinking green light over it. “Okay. Green light equals go. Got it. You want me to look inside,” she said quietly out loud. She turned the heavy steel handle until it unlocked then pulled it open. A row of fluorescent lights came on automatically. Inside, there were foodstuffs of every kind. Boxes and cans full of cereal, macaroni, soups, spices, beans, and coffee. There was a cold storage area stocked with milk, juice, butter, eggs, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Lastly, there was a freezer stuffed with ice cream, frozen fish, steaks, and other foods. “Looks like I’m the cook here as well, so…”

Holly grabbed everything she needed to make herself a breakfast of bacon and eggs as well as two slices of buttered toast. As hungry as she was, the best part of the meal was the hot, steaming cup of coffee was allowed to make. She hadn’t had coffee that was anything more than flavored water since her arrest. “My God that tastes good!” she said as she sipped the dark, full-bodied liquid from the large white mug.

As she ate, she tried to recall the last thing she remembered before waking up in this…place. The trial ended at around 6pm with a guilty verdict on all four counts coming back in less than two hours. Holly Marie Prescott had been convicted of inappropriate conduct with four different students over a two-year period. All of them had been seniors and in one of her classes either this year or last, and all of them were members of the football team.

One morning, right after Labor Day, two police officers, accompanied by her principal, had showed up without warning. The officers stood outside while the principal told her he would be taking over her class while she spoke to the men in uniform. She stepped out into the hall with them when the taller of the two asked if she was Holly Marie Prescott. “Yes, that’s me,” she said. “Why do you ask? Is something wrong?” She was arrested and read her rights while being handcuffed. At the station, she was fingerprinted, photographed, and sent to a holding cell. The next day, the judge who presided over her bond hearing, denied bail. She’d spent the last four months in jail awaiting trial which lasted just two days. Jury deliberations took less than two hours with all 12 jurors voting guilty on every count. She was to spend a final night in jail then be transported to The Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor sometime the next day. She’d been herded through a short out-processing at the jail and loaded into the back of a prison van the following evening. It was winter and already dark and very cold. The trial concluded two days before Christmas making this the 25th of December. “Merry Christmas to me,” Holly said to herself.

Her hands were cuffed and her feet were shackled to the floor. She remembered the guard banging the back of the van twice once Preston was inside and the door had been shut. She felt the van surge and move forward followed by what seemed like maybe a 30-minute drive when, without warning, the van came to a very sudden stop and Preston heard some muffled sounds near the front and what sounded like a door opening then slamming shut before the van took off again. Just moments later, she remembered the smelling a strange odor and being unable to keep her eyes open. The next thing she remembered, she woke up here. In this…place.

Once she finished breakfast, Holly carefully put the dishes into the dishwasher then looked up and asked, “Okay? Now what?”

Holly wandered through the rest of the house until she ended up back in the bathroom where she’d been. She looked around and noticed there was a green blinking light above the electric toothbrush on the counter. She picked it up, put some toothpaste on it, then brushed her teeth. It was obvious from what the man had told her this wasn’t prison and yet, if she was being held, what was the difference? She wasn’t even sure she’d seen him. Had she only dreamed it? He told her she was being ‘held’ but offered no other information as to where or why. Somehow, she felt certain this had to be connected with her trial and conviction, but exactly how was as yet undetermined.

“I was a good girl,” she said to the monitor in the corner of the bathroom. “I brushed my teeth. So what’s next?”

Holly stepped into the bedroom and saw the unmistakable glow of a green light coming from just above the large walk-in closet. As she pulled open the French doors, she saw an amazingly large wardrobe of clothes, shoes, purses, and jewelry. She was looking through some of the dresses and noticed everything was a designer label. “Jesus,” she said to herself. “These things are really expensive. I guess I’m supposed to wear this stuff.” The only thing she wasn’t sure of was what she was supposed to wear. There canlı casino siteleri were no blinking lights so maybe she would be permitted to choose.

All she wanted was a pair of jeans or even some sweats but everything in the closet was…beautiful. Formal gowns, cocktail dresses, silk blouses, skirts of every color and length, and an entire set of shelves filled with the most expensive cashmere sweaters she’d ever seen. There were no less than 50 pairs of shoes and all but two had heels ranging from 3 to 6 inches. There was one pair of flat sandals and one pair of comfortable tennis shoes. And gee, everything was in her size. All of the dresses were size 4. So was every skirt and every blouse. All of the sweaters were smalls and the shoes were all women’s size 6 1/2. “Jesus Christ. This is fucking scary,” she said to herself. Holly rarely cursed before her time in lockup, but it didn’t take long to learn the way of the world in the jungle know as jail. In just four months, she gone from being a quiet, polite, high school social studies teacher to an often foul-mouthed woman who could stand up for herself.

“No sweats. Okay. I’ll play along,” she said. A light above the drawer filled with sweaters was blinking. She chose a dark gray color then selected a black skirt. She instinctively knew the flats were out of the question,so she selected a pair with the shortest heel she could find in black and got ready to get dressed. That’s when she noticed the green light above the dresser. It was filled with bras, panties, garter belts, and stockings of ever color and of course, all were in her size. Holly wore a 34C bra and guess what? Yep. Every one of them was that size. She chose one that was lacy and black along with black panties, a pair of barely-black stockings with a black garter belt and set about getting dressed. Just when she thought she was ready, she noticed yet another blinking light in the closet. It was just above a hanger with a beautiful, black matching cardigan sweater. As she slipped it on, she asked herself, “What the hell is this? Am I being turned into a Stepford Wife or something?”

Once she was finished, she was ‘directed’ back to the bathroom where the cosmetics were all neatly lined up. “Oh, my. What a surprise. The light’s blinking. Okay. Time to get pretty.” She was only half joking as Holly was a very attractive young woman, but like so many other things, that was hard to remember. She’d only seen herself in civilian clothes during the two days of trial and her attorney made sure she wore a very plain dress that fell to just above her knees. He advised her to wear very little makeup to make her appear as modest as possible.

By the time she was finished, she was pleasantly surprised with the reflection in the mirror. Her hair was still wet so what wasn’t a surprise was when the light next to the hair dryer came on. Once her chin-length hair was blown dry, Holly Preston looked like she was ready for a night on the town. But she clearly wasn’t in town and it was also clear wouldn’t be going anywhere. She had to figure out where the hell she was and more importantly, how to get out of this place.

She spent the next several hours examining what was, for all practical purposes, her new holding cell, albeit one with all the creature comforts a woman could want. She found the door with the keypad within the first few minutes but was afraid to touch it knowing it would set off the alarm. There were windows in every room, but they had some different kind of glass in them than Holly had ever seen. There were no bars so she was pretty sure they must be shatterproof. What was really interesting was that there was scenery of some kind outside of each window. But it obviously wasn’t real. It was more like an image of the outdoors. A beautiful meadow, a view of Mount Rainier, and even a gorgeous waterfall appeared to be right outside. “What an elaborate ruse,” she thought to herself. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to make sure this prison was as comfortable as possible. Even so, that’s all it was to her—a prison. That said, Holly was grateful not to have to watch her back or fear being beaten—or worse—for the smallest slight. “Merry Christmas to me,” she said again bitterly.

Holly walked back to the keypad and stared at it. She remembered watching movies where something like oil from human fingers gave away the combination. She couldn’t tell anything from just looking no matter the angle. In spite of knowing what would happen, Holly couldn’t stand there and do nothing. She chose several numbers at random, punched them in, then hit ‘Enter.’ Even knowing what was coming, the sound still took her by surprise. She covered her ears but even then the noise was nearly unbearable. It went on for what seemed like an eternity before it suddenly (and mercifully) stopped.

“Note to self. Hands off the goddamned keypad,” she said quietly. As the ringing in her ears subsided, Holly went to the living room and looked straight into one of the security cameras and said, “Okay. I give up. Just tell me what you want me to do. There’s no way out. I get that. You’ve made your point. You win. I’ll play along. Just please don’t hurt anyone else. Okay? I’ll do whatever you want, but I’m begging you, don’t hurt my family.”

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