Tags: legal thriller
, San Francisco
, cozy mystery
, California - Fiction
, private investigator
, mystery series
, Political Fiction
, Jake Samson
, Bay area
, hard-boiled mystery
going down the drain my neck was strapped to, but the water level in the tub was not sinking. I lay very still and tried to feel what was happening. I thought the level was actually rising slightly. I jerked against the cord wrapped around my neck, choked, and banged my head on the tub. The bad part of my head. I got lost in the pain and in an anesthetic word game about my head swimming, and how it was too bad it couldn’t. I was breathing in gasps, turning my head just enough to avoid the shower’s direct hit and still not submerge. A deep breath, hold it, another deep breath, cough on the water inhaled, breathe shallowly to catch up, aim my face to the side and take another deep breath. Good. I tried to yell again, but it hurt my head and I got another mouthful of water. My throat and nasal passages were raw.
I turned my head to the side away from the wound and jerked at the cord again. Just the movement alone was enough this time to make my head ring, and now my neck hurt too.
I began to pull at the cords binding my dead hands. I held my breath; peering through the cataract, I could see three knobs. My hands were tied to the right— my right— and the center. I made myself stop and think. My right would be the hot water. There was none of that in what was coming down on me. The one in the middle was sure to be the one that controlled the shower. If I turned that one off, the spigot would gush right over my face. I jerked at my right hand, the stronger, trying to pull it loose. Asleep, it was hard to control. I jerked again, with no results, and concentrated on moving my hands and arms in their limited spaces, trying to get the circulation back. I turned my head and took a watery breath and gave a feeble yell. Then I jerked my hand against its rope again, burning my wrist. Again. It felt like I’d drawn blood that time, and when I pulled once more I could feel the rope sawing raw flesh. I tried the left hand, damaging that wrist, finally, too. I pulled cautiously once more against the rope around my neck, took another deep breath, spat out water. I would stay calm. I would study the situation. I looked up through the falling water, squinting.
If I tilted my chin up just a bit, I could see the knobs, the ropes, my hands almost clearly, for a second at a time. What I thought I was seeing didn’t make a lot of sense, but I decided to go along with the joke. Stretching, I raised my still-numb left arm higher, bringing my hand up and over. It flopped down to my chest. The cord had been simply looped over the knob. I shook my hand hard, then reached up and, fumbling, turned off the cold water. The shower shut off immediately. The spigot dribbled for a few seconds, then stopped. I wiped my face, breathing deeply, sucking in all that good dry air. I stretched my right arm, and that hand came away from the knob as easily as the left one had. I rubbed my hands together, rubbed my arms, shook them, woke them up, tingling. Then I brought my hands around the back of my neck, and found the end of the cord that was holding my head down. I reached with two fingers inside the drain. A cross of metal, the rope tied to it. I felt more carefully, and pulled on the end of rope. It was tied in a bow. It came loose in my hand. The water was already receding, but very slowly. I sat up, aiming my damaged head away from the spigot, and untied my feet. I hooked an elbow over the edge of the tub and pulled myself up, getting to my knees. I did some more breathing, then I crawled out of the tub. I was shaky but I could stand. There were two big bath towels hanging on the rack. I dried myself with one, rubbing as hard as I could to try to get warm, dabbing gently at my head. Then I dropped the wet towel on the floor and wrapped myself, shivering, in the dry one. I looked back at the tub. Nearly all the water had run out of my torture chamber. It was a bathtub again.
I stumbled over to the sink to check out the damage in the mirror. I didn’t