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Terror held thirteen-year-old Harlow Anastasia Grail in a death grip. She huddled in the corner of the dimly lit, windowless room, Timmy cowering beside her, weeping.
The matted carpet smelled faintly of urine, as did the mattress she and Timmy had awakened on hours before. Or had it been days? Harlow didn't know. She had lost all sense of whether it was day or night and of the hours passing. Time had ceased to exist the moment Monica, her father's trusted nurse, had coaxed her and Timmy into a car Harlow hadn't recognized.
He had been waiting inside it. The man Monica called Kurt.
Harlow shuddered, remembering the cold way he had smiled at her. She had known instantly that he meant her and Timmy harm; she had screamed and lunged for the door handle. He had stopped her, holding her fast while Monica injected her with something that had turned her world black.
"I want to go home," Timmy whimpered. "I want my mom."
Harlow drew the boy closer to her side, protectiveness surging through her. It was her fault he was here. She had to take care of him; he was her responsibility. "It's going to be all right. I won't let them hurt you."
From the adjoining room came the sound of a TV news report in progress:
"yet in the kidnapping of little Harlow Grail and her friend, Timmy Price. Harlow Grail, daughter of actress Savannah North Grail and Hollywood plastic surgeon Cornelius Grail, was abducted from the stables on the family's estate. The housekeeper's six-year-old son had apparently followed Grail to the stables and was also abducted. Authorities do not believe he was part of the original plot and FBI officials
A crash rent the air, followed by the sound of splintering wood. "Son-of-a-bitch!"
"Kurt, calm dow"
"I told them what would happen if they went to the cops! Stupid Hollywood assholes! I told them"
"Kurt, for God's sake, don't"
The door flew open with such force it crashed against the wall behind it. Kurt stood in the doorway, breathing hard, face white with rage. Monica and the other woman, the one called Sis, hovered behind him. They looked terrified.
"Your parents didn't listen," he said softly, voice vibrating with hatred. "Too bad for you."
"Let us go!" Harlow cried, pulling Timmy closer. The boy clung to her, sobbing, hysterical.
He laughed, the sound cruel. "Spoiled little bitch. If I let you go, how will I get what I want?"
He crossed the room and grabbed Timmy, wrenching him from her.
"Ha'low!" the boy screamed, terrified.
"Leave him alone!" As she scrambled to her feet to help him, Monica and Sis sprang forward, stopping her. Harlow fought them, but they were too strong. Their hands circled her arms, their nails dug into her flesh, holding her fast.
Kurt tossed Timmy onto the dirty cot and held the struggling six-year-old down. "Watch carefully, little princess," he said to her. "See what your parents caused. They didn't listen to me. I warned them not to go to the authorities. I told them what the consequences would be. They did this. Stupid Hollywood assholes."
Laughing, Kurt grabbed a pillow and pressed it over Timmy's face.
"No!" The word, her scream, flew out of her, reverberating off the walls and back. "No!"
Timmy struggled. He clawed at Kurt's hands, his legs flailed wildly at first, then with less force. Harlow watched in horror, a litany of pleas slipping from her lips, tears streaming down her face.
Timmy went still. "No!" Harlow screamed. "Timmy!"
Kurt straightened. He turned and faced her, an evil smile twisting his lips. "Your turn, little princess."
He and Monica dragged her to the kitchen. Harlow told herself to fight, but terror had leeched her of her ability to do more than beg. Monica forced her right hand out over the white porcelain of the chipped and stained sink.
"Ready or not, here I come."
Harlow caught the glint of metal. Some sort of cutters or clippers, she realized, a scream rising in her throat.
He found her hand, closed the cutters over her right pinkie. First came the pain, hot, blinding. Then the pop of bone being snapped in two. The white sink turned red.
Harlow's vision blurred, then faded to black.
Pain emanated from Harlow's bandaged hand and up her arm in fiery waves. With each crest, a bitter, steely taste filled her mouth, all but choking her. She bit down hard on her bottom lip to keep from crying aloud. She had to be quiet. Absolutely still. Kurt and the others thought she was asleep, knocked out by the pain medication Monica had given her. The medicine Harlow had only pretended to take.
The wave passed and Harlow experienced a moment's respite from the agony. Tears flooded her eyes, tears of horror. Of hopelessness. With the emotion came another wave of pain. Light-headed, on the verge of passing out, Harlow struggled to breathe. She couldn't pass out now. She couldn't give in to the pain. Or the fear. Not if she wanted to live. Her parents were making the drop tonight. She had heard Kurt talking. He'd told the other two he would let her go when he got the money.
He was a liar. A filthy bastard liar. He'd killed Timmy even though the boy hadn't caused any trouble. Sweet little Timmy. All he had wanted was to go home.
Dirty bastard was going to kill her, too. No matter what he promised. She might be only thirteen, but she wasn't stupidshe had seen all three of their faces.
Harlow eased herself off the cot, careful not to cause the springs to squeak, and crept across the matted carpet to the door. She pressed her ear to it. Kurt was speaking, though Harlow couldn't make out exactly what he was saying. It involved her. And the pickup.
It was happening tonight.
Harlow hurried back to the cot, lay down and closed her eyes. She heard the click of the doorknob being twisted then the soft whoosh of the door opening, of someone crossing to stand beside her.
Once again the door hadn't been locked. Why would they lock it? They thought she was in a deep, drug-induced sleep.
Her visitor bent over the bed and Harlow realized it was the old woman, Sis. Harlow could tell it was her by the way she smelledof roses and baby powder, sweet scents that only partially masked the gross smell of cigarettes.
Sis leaned closer. Harlow felt the woman's breath on her face and fought to lie perfectly still, to not recoil.
"Sweet lamb," the woman whispered. "It's almost over now. Once Kurt has the money, everything will be all right."
He had left to make the pickup. Time was running out.
"I couldn't stop him before. He was angry ... he ... Your parents shouldn't have defied him. It's their fault. They're the ones" Her voice thickened. "I did the best I could. You have to understand, he ..."
You didn't do the best you could. You could have saved Timmy, you old witch. You made such a fuss over him but you didn't do a thing to save him. I hate you.
"I'll be back." The woman pressed a kiss to Harlow's forehead; it was all Harlow could do to keep from screaming. "Sleep sound, little princess. It'll be over soon. I promise."
The woman exited the room, closing the door behind her. Harlow listened intently for the telltale click of the lock mining over.
It didn't come.
She cracked open her eyes. She was alone. Carefully, heart thundering, terrified of making a sound that would alert the old woman, she sat up. Too quickly. Dizziness assailed her and she grabbed the edge of the cot for support. She held herself perfectly still, breathing deeply through her nose, fighting to clear her head.
The dizziness passed, but still she remained motionless. She collected her thoughts. From what she had been able to ascertain over the past few days, she was being kept in a small, relatively isolated house. She hadn't heard sounds of traffic or passersby; nobody had rung the doorbell. In the morning she had heard the twittering of birds and twice at night the lonely howl of a coyote.
What if she couldn't find anyone to help her?
Excerpted from BONE COLD by ERICA SPINDLER. Copyright © 2001 by Erica Spindler. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.