Balance of Power, 53

Little by little, Sabrina Corleone floated upward through the pool of darkness that submerged her mind. She was almost sorry that she did. Apparently an entire marching band had somehow taken residence in her skull. The drum section, in particular, was playing with painful enthusiasm.

A momentary lull in the drumming gave Sabrina an opportunity to wonder just why it was that her head hurt so. Her brow furrowed as she struggled to recall whatever circumstances had led her to her current situation.

It all came rushing back as flashes of memory exploded behind Sabrina's eyes. Kidnapped! She had been kidnapped! Sabrina jolted upright. Or at least she attempted to. Some kind of restraints about her hands and feet made it nearly impossible to lever herself into an upright position.

She immediately regretted her instinctive action. The sudden movement left her dizzy and nauseous. Whether it was from the after-effects of the chloroform or the knowledge of her situation, Sabrina could not distinguish. For a time she held herself absolutely still in hope that the world would cease its mad spinning. Gradually, her equilibrium returned and Sabrina could breathe normally.

Cautiously, she took stock of her situation. With her arms and legs bound and the blindfold tied securely over her eyes, Sabrina realized that she would only be able to deduce a few meager facts about her immediate surroundings. Carefully she shifted from one side to the next. From what she could tell, she seemed to be lying on a thin, poorly padded mattress that smelled of mildew. She lay still and listened for anything that might give her a clue to where she was and if she was alone.

Sabrina did not know how long she lay there. It seemed like several hours, but with no way to determine the passage of time, she knew that it just as easily could have been only one or two. To her dismay, she became aware of the urgent press of her bladder, warning her that it was nearing the limit of its capacity.

Panic set in. Sabrina felt more vulnerable than she'd ever been. That was saying quite a lot. As a child of seven, her mother Cassandra had left her alone in the house without warning for a period of fifteen days. Back then she'd had the cold comfort of being on her home turf, so to speak. There was no such solace here.

Sabrina took deep calming breaths and pushed her physical discomfort aside. She had survived back then by keeping her wits about her. She would do the same now. Beside, the fact that she was still alive meant that her captors had a plan for her that did not include death. At least not right away , a little voice taunted her.

Lost in her thoughts, Sabrina jerked when a breath of warm air moistened her face. It had an earthy, yeasty smell… like the freshly baked bread she'd tasted at Claudio's restaurant. The not-unpleasant aroma did nothing to quell the mad pounding of her heart at the realization that she was not alone.

Carefully she tried to move away from the owner of that breath. Strong hands grabbed her and dragged her back the few inches distance she'd managed to achieve. Sabrina froze as fingers curiously traced the outline of her face. They paused tauntingly near the edge of the blindfold before journeying back down to follow the curve of her lips. And despite her initial warning, Sabrina again slowly moved away from the unseen stranger's touch.

Retribution came quickly... and its form was unexpected. Fingertips came to rest on the inside of her thigh, uncomfortably near her crotch. They were not close enough to be considered a violation nor were they far enough to be considered coincidental. Sabrina's breath caught. Without saying a word, her captor had delivered a crystal clear message.

And with that message, everything changed for Sabrina. Up until that point, somewhere deep inside her, she'd suspected Michael Corleone of being the architect of everything that had happened during her supposed departure from Italy and the family. But Sabrina did not believe that even her enigmatic father would approve of his lesson taking such a twisted direction.

This kidnapping was not her father's doing. The fingers rubbing so suggestively along her inner thigh belonged to someone who did not act on the ‘Don's' orders. There was no way that they could. Sabrina was sure of it.

“Someone is coming,” an unfamiliar male voice warned quietly.

The three words were the last thing Sabrina heard before the familiar sickly sweet smell descended upon her again. And with it, the darkness.


Balance of Power, 54

“I need to use the bathroom.”

Sabrina had withheld the request for as long as she could. But her body was exerting an uncomfortable pressure that she could not ignore a moment longer. “Please,” she asked uncertainly into the silence, “I really do need to use the bathroom.”

Her silent breather moved immediately to her side. Sabrina could sense him standing beside the bed while he considered her request. She froze when strong fingers wrapped unexpectedly about her throat, making breathing difficult. Instinctively she began to panic. Her captor shook her slightly and Sabrina forced herself to lie still. As soon as she became motionless, he allowed the pressure about her neck to ease slightly. He was sending her a message - an attempt to escape or kick him would be handled swiftly.

When he was satisfied that his message had been understood, her captor made short work of the bonds that immobilized her legs. They hadn't been bound tightly enough to interfere with circulation, but it had still been quite uncomfortable. A quick tug of the bonds that secured Sabrina's hands brought the young woman to her feet. She swayed awkwardly as she tried to find her sense of balance. It was more difficult than she imagined; her captor didn't seem inclined to wait until Sabrina felt steady enough to walk. He pulled her along, ignoring her stumbling missteps. Twenty-seven shaky steps later, they stopped.

Sabrina tensed. She felt the brush of her captor's clothes against hers. He smelled of soap. Sabrina thought she detected the faintest trace of cigarette smoke and bay rum in his scent as well. Under different circumstances, she would have inhaled deeply and indulged in fond memories. One of her mother's early patrons was a tenured college professor who smoked a pipe and wore bay rum. He was kind to Cassandra and showed Sabrina a fatherly interest that, ironically, caused her mother to abruptly end the relationship. Any time a man became too invested or seemed to want something permanent, Cassandra grew uncomfortable and moved on to someone new.

* snikt* Sabrina heard the unmistakable sound of a knife opening. All the tough guys in her old neighborhood carried knives as back-ups to their guns. As one thug casually schooled her, 'There are times when you just want a guy to know who is offing him.'

The knife blade slid between Sabrina's bound wrists. She felt the cool metal slide back and forth as her captor sawed through the plastic tie that kept her hands bound. Sabrina remembered the earlier warning he'd given, and when her wrists popped free, held them just as they were. The stranger grasped Sabrina's forearm and turned her to the left. He slid up behind her so close that she could feel the press of his body against hers. Sabrina winced when her kidnapper first touched the blindfold about her eyes then tapped five times against her temple. "You want me to count to five before I take off the blindfold. I get it."

She heard a door open directly in front of her. Her captor put his hand on the small of her back and pushed her forward. As soon as the door closed behind her, Sabrina snatched off the blindfold. She was in a small featureless room, lit by a single dim bulb. To call it a bathroom would be misleading. It was more like a closet with a toilet in it – a toilet without a seat or tank lid. As she glanced about the simple room, Sabrina idly wondered if her captor was somewhere peering through a pinhole at her. Her body reminded her that it really didn't care at the moment.

Sabrina resolutely attended to her body's demands. Her skin crawled at the thought that her captor might be watching, but she forced down her disgust. She tried not to look too closely at the roll of toilet paper she retrieved from the floor behind the toilet. Sabrina merely discarded the first foot or so and then carefully used only what she absolutely had to.

There was no sink in which to wash her hands. Sabrina dipped her fingertips inside the tank and then wiped them off on her pants. She whirled about when the room was plunged into darkness. At the same time, the sound of gunfire erupted nearby. "Uncle Sonny?" Sabrina cautiously inched toward the door. Frantically she twisted the knob. It was locked from the outside. " Uncle Sonny, I'm in here !" she cried.

The door opened. Sabrina rushed out into the darkness and crashed straight into someone. She realized that if she was to survive this kidnapping, the moment for an escape attempt was now or never. She began to scratch and claw and strike wildly.

"Am I gonna have to knock you out?"

Sabrina stopped mid-swing. "Uncle Sonny?" Her voice wavered. "Uncle Sonny, is that you?"

"Yeah." Santino Corleone grasped his niece's hand and began to pull her away from the sound of gunfire and chaos. "Now shut the fuck up and come on."