Flanigan awoke with a start, tried to stand up, and tumbled face forward along with the metal chair to which he was tied. Fortunately for him, he fell on some sort of rubber mat that mitigated the force of the fall.
The American surveyed the room around him, trying to make out where he was. His hands were firmly tied to the chair behind his back, his ankles—he saw—bound with silver duct tape.
Most of the room was dark, the only light filtering under the lower edge of what seemed to be a large rectangular door. It smelled of oil and gas, and although it was not hot, it felt muggy. He could see the faint outline of several cabinets on one side of the room, as well as some objects—two bikes?—hanging from a wall.
He was obviously in a garage, he concluded. Left there for the moment, until his kidnappers decided to use him, for whatever unknown reason that he had been taken.
He tried to free his hands, but they were securely bound, probably with duct tape as well. If only there was something that he could use to saw through his constraints.
Flanigan examined the cabinets that covered an entire side of the room. Usually, in a garage, people would keep some of their tools on hand. Maybe a handsaw or a buzzsaw, maybe even some sort of knife.
But he was too low--and in the wrong position--to see what was on top of the cabinets. Somehow, he would have to get himself upright, and see if there was something that he could use.
Lying sideways on the mat, the security man tried to roll his body to a kneeling position. It proved harder than he thought.
His thighs had been taped to the bottom of the chair, so that he could not extend his legs. And with his hands bound in the back, his broad shoulders made it extremely difficult to get on his knees.
He began to rock back and forth, placing his forehead on the mat and using it as a fulcrum to raise his chest and groin, and on his fifth attempt managed to swing himself into a prone posture, his nose and forehead pressed painfully against the floor.
“What now?” he grunted softly to himself.
Flanigan tried to raise his head, but it proved impossible, banging his forehead several—and more painfully, his nose—on the rubber mat.
Fighting his feelings of despair, he tried to reassess his strategy. He saw that the lower cabinet doors protruded about an inch from their lower frame. If only he could lie on his back and wedge the tip of his shoes under one of the edges, he could, maybe, pull himself into a semi-sitting position, and at least see what was on top of the cabinets' counters.
Flexing his knees and then sliding his forehead, he began to turn and inch his way toward the cabinets, like a giant caterpillar crawling backwards. Despite the rubberized surface of the mat, his nose and forehead soon became scraped and sore. However, he continued to move toward the cabinets, feeling that his own survival depended on it.
It took him more than ten minutes to cover a distance that he judged adequate to stop. Twice he paused, when he heard noises outside, staring anxiously at the closed door, but nobody walked in.
Now, he had to flip over, so that from his face-down, prone position, he would end up on his back, facing the ceiling. It would be tricky, since if he managed to turn and only land on his side, he would have a hard time swiveling onto his back. It would be better if he rolled with sufficient force to rotate one hundred and eighty degrees in a single turn, and land face upwards.
Again, he began to sway back and forth to gain momentum, feeling excruciating pain on his forehead. Then, taking a deep breath, he attempted the flip.
This time he did it easily, even though the backrest of the chair ended up pressing painfully against his hands. But he was looking straight up, and now all he had to do was wedge his feet under one of the cabinet’s doors.
He had miscalculated slightly, but his long legs were enough for the tip of his shoes to fit under one of the edges. Leaning forward, he managed to raise the back of the chair briefly to a forty five degree angle, and gain a partial view of the cabinet’s surface.
He saw some oil cans, several rags, a toolbox, and about three feet away, what looked like an electric saw, its blade sticking vertically upwards. Then, with a sharp “cra-a-a-ck”, the cabinet door holding his feet gave way to his weight, separating from its hinges, and he crashed back onto the floor.
He grunted with pain, as the full weight of his body and the back of the chair slammed into his hands. He paused for a moment, to recover his breath, but then began to push himself sideways, arching his body between the back of his head and his feet, and swinging himself sideways.
Each time he landed on his hands, which became numb with pain, but he continued to make sluggish progress until he had half-slid, half-carried himself to a spot where he considered the electric saw was located.
After inching himself forward toward the cabinets, he rested on his back, panting from the exertion. He raised his bound legs until they reached the top of the cabinet's counter, and very slowly began to sweep his bound feet sideways over its surface, careful not to accidentally hit the electric saw and drive it out of reach.
He was very fortunate. Almost immediately, his right foot felt a heavy object, and gingerly he began to slide his legs in an arch, moving the object at a snail’s pace towards the top’s edge.
His heart began to pound, as he spotted a portion of what seemed to be the electric saw appear over the cabinet’s border. Then the heavy metallic tool tilted and thudded to the floor, next to Flanigan.
The serrated blade of the saw hit the ground first and bent partially, but upon inspection, it still seemed adequate enough to cut through the duct tape or ropes binding his wrists.
With his feet, Flanigan dragged the fallen tool toward the cabinet, and slowly turned it until its damaged blade was pointing to his feet, partially wedging the saw’s bottom between the vertical frames of two of the cabinet’s doors. Then, with great, deliberate care, he began to slide his taped ankles over the blade’s serrated edge.
It was a clumsy and difficult procedure, where the saw several times shifted or swiveled, and he had maneuver the electric tool back into position. But finally, the tape between and behind his two ankles began to give.
Suddenly, the garage door slid noisily upwards, and two guards, chatting loudly between themselves, walked in. Flanigan quickly shifted his feet sideways, a couple of feet away from the electric saw.
The two men stopped their chatter, watched the fallen American with surprise, and then burst out laughing.
“How did you get there?” asked a thin man with wild black hair spreading outward, a scarred, half-missing nose, and a goatee.
“Were you trying to escape?” the other man, both taller, broader bodied, and with a full beard added, in a mocking tone. “Look, Fillo! He knocked down the electric saw! Can you believe that?”
Fillo picked up the saw, and placed it on a high shelf on the wall. Then he leaned and eyed the fallen American.
“You’re not getting out of here. Not alive, anyway,” he whispered in a thick, Latin accent.
Flanigan noticed that Fillo’s neck bore the tattoo of a spiderweb on one side, and of Jesus Christ on the other. A Salvadoran or Honduran gang member, he thought to himself.
He said nothing.
“So tell me, gringo, where were you heading? Looking for a way to crawl out of here?” the other man asked from somewhere behind him. “Shall we kill him?” he asked his partner with a sly grin.
Fillo smiled. He looked at his captive.
“You’re lucky we were told not to kill you…yet. The boss, he wants to use you for something before you die.”
Trying to hide his bitter disappointment at being discovered, Flanigan remained silent.
He turned his head away from his captor.
“What’s the matter, big boy? You’re scared of me?”
Flanigan shook his head slightly.
“You have bad breath.”
Fillo’s smile soured, and he stood up, hovering angrily over his tied up prisoner.
“We were told not to kill you, gringo. But that doesn’t mean we can’t hurt you.”
Flanigan grunted, as the man behind him kicked him hard in the kidneys. That was followed by continuous savage kicks from both men to all parts of his body, until the American passed out.
* * *
Francisco saw the lock of the door in his room turn, and quickly walked back to his bed. He was not feeling very well, having awakened with a dull headache.
Nour stared out from behind the door, and smiled sweetly.
“Can I come in?”
“How are you, my darling?” the female Egyptian asked in a caring tone. She walked into the room carrying a tray of food, and approached Francisco.
“I…I don’t feel very good. My head aches.”
The Egyptian placed the tray on the room’s small desk, and walked back to him, sitting on his bed. She placed a hand on his forehead.
“You feel a little hot,” she told him, barely concealing her delight. “Eat your food. It will make you feel better. I will bring you some aspirin.”
“I want to go home,” the young boy said, almost crying.
“Soon. Soon you will go home, my precious. I promise.”
She stood up, and walked toward the door.
“Now eat your food.”
Nour left the room and sashayed down the corridor, to where Enrique and José Ramón were waiting.
“I think he’s infected,” she said gleefully.
“Excellent!” Enrique replied, rubbing his hands in anticipation. “It’s time to contact the Governor, then.”
(Chapter XXII of "And Then They Came..." will be posted on Monday, July 6)