Day 170: 18 Jan 2011
Fear was the first to came back. Cold, directionless, inexplicable terror punched its way through the fog. For a long time -- I don't know how long, but it seemed like weeks -- that was all I was aware of. No sense of self, place, time. Only the fear.
The next sensation to appear wasn't much better: pain. My chest felt like it was full of angry killer bees. Stomach was doing its best to crawl up my esophagus, too. But at least I was aware of my body now.
Then sounds, but not sounds. They were screams, wails inside my head. The slug. He was fighting for his life, and he wasn't winning that battle. Not even close.
Then, today, I opened my eyes. I was in the back of an SUV. The voices and thick haze of cigarette smoke confirmed who had me. The Russians. One of them noticed my eyes were open, and jabbered in that incomprehensible damned language of theirs to his buddies. One of them poked me hard in the ribs, and I tried to raise my arms to stop him. It was way harder than it should have been. Slow. Weak. Apparently the slug wasn't the only one fighting for his life.
We stopped some time later. Minutes? Hours? I couldn't tell. I tried to struggle, but again -- too slow and weak. I wasn't putting up much of a fight.
The Russians kicked me to the ground. I was there on my knees, struggling to look around, when a man in a black suit walked into view. He blocked the sun from my eyes. I could make out his face -- Chinese. Something in my brain tried to recognize him, but the thoughts wouldn't connect. I knew him. I just couldn't place him.
He said something in Russian to my escorts. Money in briefcases changed hands. The Russians took off. The Chinese guy I couldn't recognize knelt down to face me, his face splitting into a wide grin.
"Hello, Mr. Jared," he purred. "You look as if you might die. Please don't do that, at least for a little while. We have much payment to extract from you, you see. And we do want our money's worth -- you weren't cheap."
Two of his men -- I didn't even see them coming -- hauled me to my feet. They hustled me to the backseat of another SUV, but one of them suddenly screamed. His yell only made it halfway out of his throat. A quick gurgling sound, and I heard him hit the ground behind me.
There were more screams. Gunfire. The SUV's windshield broke. Then I was being dragged out of the SUV, back into the light.
It was Cassie and another guy I knew I should recognize but didn't. Small guy, white, crazy hair, covered in tattoos.
"He looks like hammered shit," the white guy said, holstering a large handgun.
"Jared! You still with us?" Cassie asked.
All I could do was nod.