His head had still been spinning from the hashish when they had grabbed him. A gag stuffed into his mouth and a hood secured over his head had disorientated him even more; before they tied his hands tightly behind his back, rope cutting into the flesh at his wrists.
Fists began to beat him then, coming at him from all directions out of the dark. Hitting him in the face, in the back and hard in the belly, until he finally sunk to his knees under the weight of their blows. A foot connected with his jaw and he heard the bone crack as they began kicking and stamping on him, over and over, until he lost consciousness.

photo credit: Sahara Sunrise via photopin (license)
photo credit: Sahara Sunrise via photopin (license)

The unmistakeable rhythmic gait of a camel’s movement woke him. He was slung over its back like cargo and the merciless heat of the desert sun heated his skin. They had stripped him naked, apart from the hood still over his head. He could smell his flesh as it charred. He feared it was the delicate flesh of his buttocks that burned, unused as they were to the desert sun. But he knew the pain would pass it was not in his attackers’ interest to permanently damage him.
He had kidnapped enough rich merchants in his own time and could proudly boast that there was not a noble family in the city that he had not obtained payment off of. So, the pain was only temporary and he even harboured some admiration for the work of fellow professionals.
It was not long after this that the camel stopped, and he found himself roughly hauled from the beast’s back and allowed to fall on the rough stones and sands that made up the scrubland that surrounded the city.
He did not need to see where he was to be able to imagine the scene, there were plenty of farmsteads, abandoned as the desert encroached, little more than tumbledown shacks now but close enough to the city for a kidnapper. Yes, close enough to bankers to negotiate but far enough away from the city and its patrols.
He felt himself picked up by the arms, sharp stones cutting into his feet and legs as he was dragged. At least he knew now it would soon be sorted, he would speak to their leader negotiate his ransom. No waiting for messages carried through intermediaries to arrive, there was always a risk something could go wrong if you had a hostage with a weak heart or like that merchant’s son that had died as a result of the heat a month previously. No, there was no profit if your hostage died.
But there was no chance of him dying he was young and fit, and would negotiate a fair price for his release as soon as they took the gag from his mouth.
Cool stone felt soothing against his sunburnt back as his captors rested him up against a wall. He heard the jangling of keys and the snick of a lock. A door creaked and arms were suddenly all over him, arms lifting him, while others undid the rope at his wrists, while others still removed the hood from his head and the gag from his mouth.
One of his captors gave a whistle.
He had a brief impression, just shadows against the white of the sky as his eyes struggled to focus after so long in the dark. Then the door slammed closed, he heard a bolt drawn and he found himself in total darkness again.
“When are we going to negotiate my ransom?” he shouted at the locked door, a sound like laughter answered him from the other side.
While closer to him something growled. Then it growled again close enough now that he could feel the hot wet heat of its fetid breath.
He realised then there was to be no ransom only execution.

© 2015 | Frank Regan, All rights reserved.


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