Originally Posted by Phoenix Lazarus
The car passed the sign for Denby and the country road became winding. The brief section of short bends straightened soon, and the Rolls Royce found itself on a straight bit of road with Durdon Woods to the left and grassy field to the right. Ahead, loomed a crossroads. As they drew to a halt, the Combine Harvester was visible on the left, across the road. The sun was now nearly wholly set.
They headed straight through the crossroads, leaving the edge of the woods behind on the left to the rest, then passing the Combine Harvester on the left, before continuing along a winding road which was mainly fields and meadows, with the odd isolated tree or country house on either side.
'Here we are,' said Eliot, suddenly. As they founded a rightward bend, the car headlights lit a solitary telegraph pole to the left of the road, then a brick wall to the right, with a metal bar gate in its right. The brick wall continued at right angles from either edge, to run lengthways along the sides of what could be seen through the staves of the front gate to be the large front garden of the large mansion, distantly visible behind.
The car stopped. Kevin got out of the car and unlocked the gate. As Liam watched, Eliot's chauffeur and assistant took something from a pocket that looked like a television remote control. He pointed it at the gate, pressed a button on the remote-like device, You gotta omit needless words, man. then opened the gate.
'Electronic lock that needs to be disengaged, as well as normal key one,' explained Eliot. 'I take security seriously.'. Kevin got back in the car and drove at the now-open gateway. As he did so, Liam saw an oval plaque mounted on the wall just to the gate's left. The house-name displayed was BROWNING VILLA.
The car drove through the gate, then stopped. Just ahead, parked in the drive, Liam saw a small car.
'Right then, thank you as always for a journey safely and expedited,' said Eliot, to Kevin. 'You will of course let yourself in tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday-I shall be absent on Saturday until the early evening, arriving back in time for our party here in celebration of Pearson's demise. On those days, I will be largely absent at a distance on business, during which time you will continue to superintend arrangements for my impending removal from this residence.'
'Okay. See you then.'. With this, Kevin got out of the large car and went to the small one parked just ahead, into which he got. As he did so, Eliot got out of the Rolls' passenger seat and into the driver's one. The drive allowed just enough room for Kevin to turn the car round then drive past the left of the Rolls Royce. As the outgoing car passed, its driver and Eliot raised hands to each other.
'You're going away?' asked Liam.
'I cease residence at this property on Saturday. The party on Saturday, is my valedictory to this house as well as a Pearson-related revel. The Removal van calls first thing Sunday-ah, but I just realise you meant my alluded journies on business. Several, to be made tomorrow, Friday and Saturday, in between brief daily visits to Benton Morris to keep an eye on things. Many irons in the fire, most remain secret.'. With this brisk explanation, Liam rested content.
It's really hard for me to focus here. I'm eighteen chapters in and there are so many characters. None of them are really fleshed out and I don't have an idea who's talking ...
'Must just secure the gate.'. Eliot got out of the car and headed to the still-open entrance.
Liam sat, casually waiting, as Eliot closed the metal portal. Suddenly a cry of surprise from Eliot combined with the sound of a dog barking. As Liam looked round, he saw a smallish dog running barking at Kevin from inside the now-closed gate. A running middle-aged woman came into sight on the gate's other side.
'Catch him, will you!?' Liam heard the lady cry. As she did so, the dog began to run across the lawn, in the car's direction. There was a jingling and glint of metal from the metal clasp on the dog's collar, from which an attached lead could be trailing. Liam opened his car door, jumped out and grabbed the lead. He dragged the animal over to where Eliot and the lady stood facing each other across the gate.
'Thank you!' said the woman. 'He got away from me, down the road!'. As she spoke, Eliot had stuck the metal key in the lock. After turning it, he pressed a switch set into the wall, right of the gate. There was a buzz, whirr, then click. Eliot opened the gate and Liam presented the woman with the dog.
'Got in without us seeing! Sorry' explained Eliot, with an apologetic smile and laugh to the lady.
'That's okay! Thank you!' said the woman, smiling or laughing in response, before starting to chastise the dog.
'Presence of mind and fast reactions. Impressive, as always,' said Eliot to Liam, as they returned to the car.
'Should have kept the dog!' said Steph, petulantly. 'Know what we could have done with it, to it...!?'with it, to it?
'I find it more tactful to be on good terms with neighbours, unless there is very good reason to the contrary,' said Eliot, as they drove down the drive, at the base of which was a garage. Eliot bade his two passengers get out as he put the car away.
Liam got out and now, for the first time, got a good look at Eliot's home. The three-storey mansion was decorated in mock-Tudor style, with black beams criss-crossing across a white background. Liam noted that the window frames were still black-painted wood, in an era where PVC was increasingly the material of preference.
'Nice lawn, eh?' Liam commented, gesturing at the neatly maniquered green interspersed with colourful beds of blooms, artistically arranged and lit by the large full moon above in the dark sky. Steph made no reply, but stood, arms folded, looking away from Liam.
'Oh, I forgot,' said Liam. 'You don't do polite.'
Eliot finished locking the garage. He came back to Liam and Steph and led the way left along a path skirting the lawn, that took them past a tall, wrought-iron gate to the house's side between the garage to its right and the wall of the house to the left. Through this gate, Liam saw a wooden trellis with climbing plants growing.
They arrived at the centrally-positioned front door, a massive double-door of wood, painted black, and reached by a tier of long steps. Central to the door's right section was a door knocker consisting of a giant golden lion's head with the knocker ring clutched in its mouth.
Eliot opened the door using the largest of four gold keys on a key ring containing several other keys, and attached to his jacket by a gold chain.
The two guests followed Eliot into the house.
As Eliot slammed the door, Liam found himself in a huge hallway. Just opposite, a massively broad flight of densely carpeted stairs extended to a first floor landing from which, it could be seen through the thick bannister rail, another flight proceeded at an angle to a new level. The bannisters were of the same grainy, polished, deep-coloured, strong wood as Eliot's office desk and a huge grandfather clock which sat to the hall's left. Other items included an antique table and wall-length mirror with gilt frame. The floor was a mosaic of large, geometric, black-and-white tiles. Two or three large boxes, which looked full of something unseen sat, at one point
'Needn't bother with the hall lights,' said Eliot. 'Moonlight is good.'. He pointed to light streaming in, via a small window beside the door, as well as from side doors, leading from each side into rooms whose curtains were clearly open. The two followed Eliot into a room to the left. Liam dimly made out a large room with a lot of furniture. Eliot stooped and opened the top draw of a small chest-of-draws. Liam saw him remove a small square plastic wallet with some green tape on one side, then slip it into his blazer's inside pocket.
'Do mind the boxes. Things packed in anticipation of Saturday's move,' said Eliot, as they followed him out into the hall and to a doorway at the base of the stairs. Eliot opened the door and revealed a stone fight of stairs, leading past brick walls either side to another doorway. Reaching just inside the open door, Eliot pressed a switch. A bulb dangling from a frayed cable came on at the step's base.
The two followed Eliot down. Liam, to the rear, closed the door behind them. Their steps echoed in the stoney confines. As they descended, Liam felt his anticipation growing. He'd waited for months for this, since Eliot had first hinted to him there could be a bigger thrill even than hunting people; making those first hints, about he and Steph's mysterious Gala Nights...
The doorway at the base was an old wooden door. Eliot opened the unlocked door inward and pushed another light switch. The room he led the way into became illuminated. Liam found himself in a large, empty cellar, with walls of worn brick and stone floor.
'Not seen it this vacant since I moved in,' said Eliot, gesturing around the room. 'Was full of bric-a-brac for most of my tenure. Cleared out ready for my departure hence. Run your fingers along the wall, here-no, slightly lower down.' This last request was directed at Liam, who placed his hand where Eliot pointed and moved it in the direction indicated.
'Oh!' exclaimed Liam. 'This brick here is just painted card! It looked just like the others!'
'Press through it,' commanded Eliot. The card 'brick' split as Liam pushed. His fingers found metal.
'Feels like a handle beneath!'
'Concealed door!' said Eliot. Loam pushed the handle down and pushed against the door then pulled. No response.
'Locked,' said Liam. Eliot already had his key ring out, its gold chain glinting in the darkness. He used the second largest of the four gold keys to undo the lock. He took the handle and next moment, the whole section of wall, in the shape of a door, was opening inward.
'It all looked seamless, the brickwork, did it not?' observed Eliot. 'No apparent trace of a door frame-not if you can give a filler of plasticine in the frame the appearance of dried mortar.'. The doorway was fully open, now. Liam noticed the thickness of the metal-framed door. It was several inches deep. Despite the light in the cellar, Liam could make out little in the darkness behind the open doorway.
'In you go!'. Liam and Steph obeyed Eliot's peremptory demand, despite the absence of light. Liam felt his leg bump something. Eliot followed them in. Liam felt a momentary dismay as Eliot slammed the door. No light was in the new room. None issued from any gap from the little cellar behind. Liam felt relieved as he heard the click of a light-switch in the pitch blackness.
As a reader, I just wanted them in the house already. was all the necessary?
Light came on. Liam found they were in neatly plastered room painted in a very pale shade. The lights above were not bulbs on a cable, but big white hemispheres, spaced evenly across the ceiling. The door just passed through was ar the right edge of one of the two longer walls of the rectangular room, along which wall was placed a long and expensive-looking sofa. From the wall facing the settee, a floor-length velvety dark drape hung from a rail at the wall's top. Virtually the whole wall was covered by the hanging cloth. Braided cords hung from the ends of each side of the rail and drape.
'Make yourself cosy.'. Liam and Steph sat down. Eliot locked the door behind them. The sofa was luxuriantly soft and cosy, Liam found, as he sat at the right edge. Steph-rather pointedly, it seemed to Liam-sat at the far opposite end to him. Eliot remained standing. Just in front of them was a long, low table. Upon it, sat a small buffet of snacks in paper plates and bowls: crisps, peanuts, mini-Swiss rolls and the like. Leaning on the table were stacks of spare vessels of a similar kind, still wrapped in transparent plastic. At one end of the table, three wine glasses sat on a silver salver. There was a shorter, narrower table positioned just behind, with some sort of black box on top, partly obscured by the larger table in front.
Glancing rightward, from his position on the settee's right, Neil suddenly saw that a large flatscreen television sat against the shorter wall nearest and right-angled to the entrance.
'Wine is in the fridge,' said Eliot, indicating the tray and glasses, then a small white refrigerator sat by the wall to Steph's side. 'There are other refreshments in that and the cabinet.'. The latter, slightly smaller than the fridge, sat to its right.
'Should anyone require warm refreshments, we can of course, break while I, or we, adjourn to the kitchen,' added Eliot.
'Oh, do try and look a bit more enthusiastic, Stephanie!' cried Eliot, suddenly. 'You're normally slavering with anticipation by this stage!'. Steph forced a thin smile.
'I know you're not over-keen on guests to these events,' Eliot continued, 'but since I have said there is no question of Liam not attending, tonight, you could at least be graceful to him. How else are we to weed out those who are on a par with us in fortitude?'
'Fair enough,' said Steph, looking and sounding not-very-convinced. Eliot looked at Liam, who was red-faced and breathing heavily.
'Is that a certain anticipation I see there?' said Eliot, looking at Liam with a knowing smile.
'Yes it is!' said Liam, nodding eagerly. He was indeed very excited.
'Without more ado, then!'. Liam pulled one of the cords by the drapes, the two halves of which parted either way to bunch at the sides of a very large tinted window, taking up nearly all the wall.
Before them, through the glass, was a large, white-walled room. A solitary figure sat, in an easy chair to the right, reading a magazine. Beside him, on a low table by his chair, sat other books and magazines.
'Thought a bit of comfort would relax, prevent him protesting, fretting and exhausting himself, to the detriment of the show we are to receive,' said Eliot, as he pointed at the red-headed figure of Mick Graham. He sat, apparently oblivious to the spectators discussing him. He still wore the trousers and shirt he had attended his work at the council in, that morning, prior to Eliot's summons and impromptu imprisonment. His shirt neck was now open and tie and jacket alike had been removed and placed on the back of the chair.
'Sound-proofed. Mirrored glass he can't see past,' came Eliot's concise explanation. 'He won't hear us, till I press the intercom.'. He pointed to a metal grill in the wall, to the right of the drapes. It looked indeed like a larger version of the intercom for flats or offices, enabling a caller at the door to be spoken to without the occupant opening the entrance.
As Liam watched, Mick put down the magazine and stared into space, gnawing one of his fingers. His face wore a look of intense anxiety.
'Well,' said Eliot. 'Thoughts on seeing our candidate for the evening's entertainment?'
'I'm fucking glad it's going to be him!' exclaimed Steph, with feeling. 'Thinking he can talk to me on the phone like some sort of smutty little sex worker, there for his dirty little pleasure! Saying things he wouldn't have the balls to say to any woman face-to-face, in case they punched him out on the spot! I'm going to enjoy my revenge!'
Eliot nodded and smiled faintly, then looked at Liam, to hear his response.
'Well, it's not revenge, in my case,' began Liam. 'He's never actually done anything to me. But I despise him. Always have, since we were at school together. He's the most mean, sly, sneaky, creepy little weasel of a person you can imagine. He wouldn't know what it was to pick a real fight, one-to-one, fair and square. Instead, he'd go snitching to teachers, get bigger kids to do his dirty work, or just make those nasty little sarcastic digs of his. I only ever once knew him have the nerve to hit anyone-and that was a disabled girl, believe it or notl! I'm not joking! He actually did that!'. Liam looked at both Eliot and Steph to assure them of his veracity. 'This was at school. He thought no one else was there to see. But I did. I got him and told him, 'You've got a choice, I give you a kicking now, or you do me a favour that might get you in big trouble but might not if you get away.'. A lad at school, Matt Ely-smug git who I hated-had trashed a teacher's office with some friends. I knew Ely and three that helped him had something from the office in each of their lockers. I made Mick grass them to the teachers, knowing Ely and friends would batter him if they found out. Lucky for him they didn't, but he was shittin' in fear, which was great to see-but that'll be nothin' to tonight!' he added, with a pleased laugh.
This bit is long. even if it comes into play, is it worth it?
'So, happiness all round, then?' said Eliot, nodding approvingly.
'Time to speak to our guest, methinks.'. He turned and pressed a button on the intercom.
'Hello? Mr Graham?' called Eliot. Mick's head jerked up and around, suddenly.
'Mr Browning!' cried Mick. He began to speak in a sudden rush. 'Look, why have I been through here-!?'
'Told you before! Speak when spoken to, only!' said Eliot, raising a hand. 'So hard to talk to someone who will not be quiet. I shall have to call Andy to enforce silent listening, if you cannot voluntarily supply it.'
It seemed Mick was acquainted with Andy, whoever he was, from the way the threat of him silenced him.
'Will just inform you that your unseen audience of tonight includes Stephanie-and Liam.'. Mick looked taken aback at the last name.
'Tricked you! Tricked you! Ha-ha, we tricked you!' sang Liam in a childish, taunting voice. 'Well, that's what you sang to John, over the sherbet that was salt, all those years ago!'. Mick's mouth fell open. He looked a little angry, for a moment.
'Hello Mick, you little worm! Something tells me you won't be so quick to make innuendos and smutty suggestions this time!'. Eliot laughed, as did Liam, at Steph's sudden outburst. Mick now looked dismayed and embarrassed.
'Thank you for that, Stephanie! Just airing her feelings there, Mick. Not unjustified, I feel. I do not like to learn of my personal friends being subjected to harassing and unpleasant phone calls by people I am employing to render me services.'. Eliot's voice was full of solemn gravity.
'I'm sorry...!' began Mick, desperately. Eliot raised a hand, though Mick could not see him through the glass.
'Please! Say nothing as of yet! I shall let you have your say in a moment. Until then, please, silence. So, offences against a lady's dignity constitute count one. Then, there is the matter of that phone call you received, indicating knowledge of your services to us-a knowledge indicated also by the insinuations of one Neil Cooper, who visited you the following morning. Are you aware, by the way, that Mr Cooper followed you to this establishment in his car, after my summons?'. Mick's head jerked. He looked shocked.
'Seen near the top of the main entrance drive by Mr Liam Calloway, here, about the time you arrived at Benton Morris, he claimed to have been interviewed for a labouring job. Having heard of your encounter with him, at the council offices, Liam mentioned this. Checks show Mr Cooper has not applied, let alone been interviewed for, any vacancy there. Hence the conclusion is this was a lie to screen his following you out of suspicion. The cumulative picture is that you have been less than sufficiently careful at some stage, or stages. That constitutes inefficiency. I do not tolerate inefficiency. I pay very generously. I expect efficient service in return. You have done good work in supplying us with young men, particularly your latest offering, Mr John Philips, who is proving so eligible, as assassin, not victim!'. Liam gave Eliot a startled look. Absent from contact with the others as he had been since Saturday, he had heard nothing of John.
'That does not mitigate your offences to the point of exemption, though,' said Eliot. 'You have been a good asset, but not irreplaceable. That is all! Yes, I know I said you could have your say afterwards. A mere ploy to ensure your silence. Sorry about that. Andy! Please!'. The last two words were shouted, seemingly a command to someone unseen.
'What was that about John!?' said Liam.
'Alive and very well, and to continue so!' Liam assured him. 'I shall explain all in due course, on that score.' As he said this, Liam saw a door to the left open. A man entered, dragging with him a young woman of about Mick and Liam's age. Slim, with dark curly hair, she wore jeans and a sweatshirt. She appeared to have been weeping.
'Who's she!?' exclaimed Liam.
'Yeah-who is this!?' added Steph, as surprised as Liam.
'All in due course,' said Eliot, raising a hand.
'He's as huge as the man guarding your car at Benton Morris!' exclaimed Steph, impressed.
'Andy and he were friends on the doors of local clubs- though Andy now has employment in a local factory. I contract his services on occasions like this. To the lady who has just been brought in-do us the courtesy of identifying yourself. Name; address; age; employment!'. She hesitated.
'Rude refusals will do your cause here no good, my dear. Do be warned of that. Hysterical outbursts and obscene or insulting verbal abuse will do it still more harm. Name, address, age, job in as few words as needed-now!'. Eliot's voice had a threatening edge.
'Jacket Wright...from Duxton...Twenty years old...Hairdresser...'. Her voice shook as he spoke hesitantly, seemingly on the verge of tears and shaking visibly.
'Thank you!' said Eliot. 'Picked up yesterday,' he added to Steph and Liam, who both still looked a little puzzled.. He turned back to the intercom.
'Okay, Jackie Wright and Mick Graham, you are our two candidates to entertain us tonight. You see the central one of the three doors?'. Both looked in that direction.
'It is unlocked, at this moment in time,' said Eliot. He paused.
'First one of you through it gets your freedom!'. As he finished this, he hit the intercom button again.
Liam watched, as, silently, Mick leapt up from the seat. Jackie was nearer the door and already upright, but Mick was almost there just after she reached it. His attempt to push or throw her to one side failed, and she flung the door open and ran through it, as big Andy seized Mick. Liam glimpsed a chain dangling from a central point inside the doorway, and then saw a trapdoor open under Jackie's feet. She plummeted- then suddenly stopped as she managed to grab the chain. Liam could see that her legs seemed to have caught in some sort of metal hoop, connected to the edges of the hole by thinner chains than the one dangling from above. Eliot pressed the intercom.
'Andy-take him back to the cell!' ordered Eliot. Liam saw Mick dragged through the single doorway in the left wall by the big man. Through the intercom, the gasping sobs of the struggling girl could be heard, before Eliot turned off the intercom again.
'Mick's won a reprieve-until Saturday', said Eliot, the last two words quietening Steph, who had begun to protest. 'I was thinking that, after our intimate little farewell get-together on Saturday, to mark my impending removal from here, we could finish Mr Graham off, then. Of course, the removal men arrive first thing the following morning, but Kevin can deal with them. They will have no means of knowing you and I are still down here in this soundproofed bunker. We can spend as long as we want. When we grow tired and in need of rest, I call some loyally secretive and unscrupulous fellows here, to remove all traces of Mr Graham, and then all traces of the bunker itself, while you and I retire to a top class hotel, while Kevin oversees the induction of my chattels into my new estate.'
That's great!' said Steph. 'We could spend up to twelve hours with him! First thing tomorrow, we're back at the hospital, so we couldn't do nearly so long tonight. So that's good!'.
'It seems a waste, in a way, given the time, effort and money expended in creating this little extension, to have to be rid of it. It will not be long before a similar facility is established at my new residence, though,' said Eliot assuredly.
Steph looked at the girl in the trap, red-faced, wriggling and tearful, her mouth silently shouting, without the intercom's amplification, and experienced a sudden regret of her own.
'Seems a shame we can't spend longer with her, though,' Steph said with sudden regret. 'Females turn me on, more! I can imagine they're my mother!'
Is this the girl from that thing you wrote? About the girl who's brother just got out of jail? I really liked that one. Why would you have this girl in this if you were only gonna use her sparingly for eighteen chapters? Unless I'm wrong.
'She lost the competition! My place, my rules!' said Eliot, decisively. 'And I'm sure you're going to relish really getting time to get even with Mick, for his insults!' he added, with a smile. Steph beamed.
'Oh yes!' she said fervently. Eliot flicked the intercom switch.
'I can't hold on!' a sobbing voice protested. 'This hoop below me's coming loose! Chains're pulling away from the side! I can see it-feel it!'
'The end of the chain has an open bracelet,' said Eliot. 'Snap it close round one wrist, and it automatically locks! Then you're safe! Fall and the shaft's deep! You don't want to know what's down there, either, trust me! I'm afraid Andy won't help you,' added Eliot, as the large man who took Mick away returned, with a long wooden pole in one hand. He shut off the intercom, and events in the other room took place in seeming silence to the watchers.
Liam watched, thoughtfully. He was not used to being thoughtful, and was not used to how he was starting to feel now. He was, in truth, not quite sure what he was feeling. Before seeing the young woman, he had been full of excitement and anticipation about Mick, and the hinted possibility of seeing a certain personally-made video by Eliot. Seeing the distress of the girl, face-to-face, he began to feel a certain unease. It brought to mind the feeling when he saw the disabled girl at school, sobbing after Mick's sneaky punch. He had rarely felt pity for others in his life and yet...
The young woman managed to pull the chain's end up with one hand, while holding it with the other. After a few moments, she closed the bracelet on her wrist.
'Good! Safe now!' said Eliot over the intercom. Andy stepped forward. Liam suddenly saw the pole he held had a small hook on the end. He stood and waited a moment. Then, the clasps connecting chains to hole edge and her legs fell. She hung by one arm. Reaching down with the pole, Andy slotted the hook into a small eye on the edge of the hoop trapping her legs. Using this, he hauled her legs upward and onto the side, trailing the loose chains from the hoop. In a series of quick, expertly dextrous manoeuvres, he secured her ankles with the chains and a padlock, disengaged the chains from the hoop, then pulled it opened into a flattened band which he casually cast aside. This done, he closed and somehow secured the trapdoor, then pushed Jackie back to stand on it. This time, It did not open, but supported her weight. The chains at her legs let her spread her feet to stand. The chain on her arm hung low enough for her to lower the attached limb. She leant back against the rear of the doorway, then sank into a sitting position. Andy opened the door to her left, and wheeled out a metal trolley.
'The door on the far left,' said Steph, 'is a cupboard containing my mother's old tool set-yes, my mother's, not my father's. A strong woman, who no man was strong enough for after my wimp of a father left her-and by God, how she hated me for reminding her of him! And I hated her back, more than most people can even start to conceive! But I inherited her tools and a large house with a big cellar from her, though. Tools and venue alike less refined than these facilities but did, for practice-for my first two!'. Liam looked at her, startled.
'First two what!?' he exclaimed.
'Claire North and Julie King! Those names mean anything!?' said Steph, with a slight grin. Liam's lips moved silently as he repeated the names in his mind and searched it.
Then, he got it! He stared at Steph, wide-eyed. Her smile broadened, as she nodded slightly. Andy, meanwhile, had opened the right door and wheeled out a metal trolley containing a variety of metal implements, bright and gleaming like new, unlike the dulled metal of the household. Many of them looked wickedly sharp.
'The door on the right is a cabinet containing surgical instruments,' continued Steph. 'Courtesy of Eliot's new private hospital in Duxton. Allow a little more finesse than blunt garden tools, for the work we have in hand tonight.'
'But not yet!' said Eliot. He pulled a cord and the drapes closed. He picked up the flatscreen television television sitting below the window and put it on the lower table, over the black box.
'Before that,' said Eliot. 'A little hors d'oeuvres. I hinted to you of a certain personally-made DVD of mine when inviting you here tonight, did I not? This is something you seemed to have knowledge of?'
'I've heard the rumours,' said Liam, with a confused excited nervousness. 'I've heard different stories, so I don't know what...'
'You are about to find out!' pronounced Eliot solemnly. 'Television...DVD player...all ready and connected.' He took from his blazer's inner pocket the square plastic wallet with the green tape on, that Liam had seen him take from that chest of draws. From it, he took out the round, silver disc and inserted it into the player.
Picking up two remote controls from the low table, he stood up and went to the fridge.
'Pass Liam a glass, please.' Steph passed him a glass from the salver Liam had observed, then took three paper bowls from the nearby stack, and three paper plates from the other, and distributed them along the table.
'Help yourself,' said Steph, pointing at then food in front. Liam stood up from the fridge, holding wine. Steph made way for him to sit between she and Liam. As he did so, he put the wine on the table.
'Thank you!' said Eliot, leaning back and luxuriating in the sofa's softness. 'Always like to have pride of place!'. Using one remote control, he dimmed the lights. Using the second, he turned on the television, them switched on the DVD.
Seemingly distantly, Liam heard the sound of the bottle being opened and red wine being poured. Liam found his thoughts bouncing back and forth between wondering what was to unfold onscreen, and the sobbing, frightened figure he knew hung , chained just behind the drapes, her distress obscured and rendered inaudible now, like a temporarily abandoned film...
'I like the Saw series, and the Hostel ones,' said Liam, uncertainly. 'And the southeast Asian ones are...'
'Doesn't prepare you for the real thing!' said Steph, looking past Eliot at him. She sipped her wine. On the screen, a night-time image of a van, driving bumpily over rain-soaked grass towards the camera, became visible.
'No,' she added, quietly. 'Nothing can prepare you for the real thing!'. She sipped more wine then grinned, teeth now red, like her lips.