A strange chuffing sound emerged from Camille's lips. She suspected it would've been a laugh, if she could get enough strength in her lungs to take a decent breath. She allowed her tongue to explore the sides of her mouth, she felt particles of a crusty substance; dried blood. Her ribs felt like someone was trying to pull them from her body, through her skin, ever so slowly, with a crowbar and without the benefit of an anesthetic. She must have dislodged something, because a strange burbling sound came up from her lungs, she felt liquid race up the back of her throat and finally pour out of her mouth. As she looked down and saw her useless arms make the equally useless attempt to try to brace her torso against the pain. She had come to about thirty minutes ago, and things weren't looking too good.

      Camille knew she was dying.

       What made it rather funny was that she had played the dumb card to the hilt. While laying there, trying to physically keep her insides from falling out of her body, she mentally when through a checklist of her stupidity.

Forgot you were on the job. Check.

Forgot you were working for dangerous criminals. Check.

Got caught up in extraneous male attention. Check

Forgot to cut your losses and run like hell. Check.

Got your ass kicked. Check.

     She was supposed to be way smarter than this. She was one of the highest paid escorts in the country. You didn't get that designation, and stay alive in the business, by making rookie mistakes. She was supposed to be a badass bitch. But here she was, hiding in a corner, sucking in blood with breath, while tucking in her tail like a dog that had just got kicked by her master. The blossoming pain, pouring over every inch of her body, forced Camille to concentrate and make silent inventory of her broken and bruised parts. Still, she could not help but to listen, pointlessly, intently, for any signs that Benny might come back to the room. Life was fucking hilarious. Its one consistency was that the joke was always on her.

       Against her will, her body instinctively attempted to draw a deep breath. Tears pooled in her eyes. It all hurt.Everything. Camille couldn't actually see any of the damage because the room was dark, but her other senses overcompensated.She could smell the sweet, faintly copper smell of her own blood permeating the room. The bits of cloth that remained on her body seemed to be attached by super glue. Her face felt so heavy with pain and she could only guess that at least one of her arms were broken. The arm was thoroughly ineffectual when she tried to use it to drag herself from the bed to the nook behind the door. Instead of using her arms for leverage, she had to do a modified worm and wiggle herself toward her hiding place. A part of her knew that she needed to find some type of protection within the room, but she also could concede that any effort was so utterly futile. Camille quietly chuckled to herself. She supposed she could try to pull a "MacGyver" and fashion a gun out of a bobby pin and a tampon, but she had used all her reserves of energy in moving to her little hidey hole. The room was sound proofed, the door was looked, and she was broken. Clearly Benny had all the cooperation that was necessary to continue to exact his ultimate brand of punishment.

       Benny it seemed was a multi-talented individual. The promise of cruelty that Camille has always seen in his eyes had nothing on his ability to deliver.Somehow, there was something in the delivery of violence that created its own sense of strange intimacy. While he beat her, somberly, exactingly, purposefully, they were immersed in their own bubble. The bubble was intricate in its intensity and because of silence in which he delivered the blows and the blindfold that he kept on her. It seemed to excite him more when she fought back, that was how she broke at least one of her arms. He did something to her legs as well.They may not have been broken, but something about them was just… wrong.

      Benny only broke his silence to repeatedly ask her to tell him the truth about her relationship Carrick and Malcolm.He promised a quick death, but to complete the perfect arc of her idiocy, Camille wouldn't answer. She could tell he was glad that she did not take him up on is offer. He enjoyed his job. There was a certain amount of satisfaction in his countenance when the force of his blows resulted in a fresh spray of blood...She was torn between seeking him, and protecting herself, as she used the direction of his assault to orient herself to his position. Camille could only guess that he took particular pride in delivering his blows till she passed out, then he could patiently wait for her to come to and he could begin the process again.

       She didn't know what saved her from certain death at Benny's hands. All she could recall was that before she blacked-out, the last time, she remembered him taking off his shirt and looking at her with something that mimicked desire. Her last thought before the deep, dark wave overwhelmed her was to thank God for small mercies. At least she wouldn't be conscious while he raped her.

      Now, she looked into the dark abyss of the room, the quiet was comforting and frightening, as she tried to fight the waves of faintness and nausea that drained her.If she passed out now, she was as good as dead.At least conscious, she had a chance of figuring out something that would get her off this damn boat. But even in the dark, she knew she was losing blood at an alarming rate.She could only guess at her internal injuries.

      Malcolm and Carrick. As their forms materialized in her mind, somehow her head shook with the irony, a string of coughs and a fresh profusion of blood racked her body.In her current weakened state, Camille laid all aspects of her present predicament, and all the previous few weeks, at their feet. She was a clear thinking, half-way sane individual, before she got all tangled up in their high drama version of the dating game. Now there was a price to be paid for allowing their distraction. The price seemed a little high, a bit unfair, but Camille knew that equity was a concept that had given up on her a long time ago.

     Suddenly Camille's mind abruptly stopped its wanderings and by her sheer force of will she quieted her bodies' incessant shaking. She heard something. Part of her knew it was impossible; sound was not a friend to this room, her earlier screams followed by present unnatural quiet was proof of that. Still, she strained hear the whisper of something caught in the dense dark. Camille's eyes widened as she recognized the sound. It was impossible, the last time she had heard anything like it was another lifetime ago. Using the last of her energy, Camille pushed herself against the wall to try to hear it more clearly. The tendrils of the cloying, clinging, pit of nothingness began to steal over her. Camille did not have the strength to fight it anymore and drifted off mumbling, "Mama, Rachmaninoff's…."


      Carrick and Malcolm spent the last hours of the evening watching the stars, and later, gazing as the sun stuttered its arrival across the furthest edge of the undulating ocean. Once the boat docked they quickly changed and went to look for Camille. Luckily, it was obscenely early in the morning, so there were a limited amount of places that she could be. Should they run in to Michel or any of his minions, Mal and Carr agreed during their quiet trip to the secluded island, that they would keep the reason why they needed to talk to Camille circumspect. They were clear on their purpose. The mission was to find Camille, make sure she was okay, offer her their most sincere apologies and get the hell out of there. Hopefully, in a matter of hours they would be able to put the events of the last twenty-four hours behind them and go back to being, again, the couple they recognized.

      It was easy locating Lucien's ship, big, ostentatious, and dripping wealth-so stereotypically nouveaux riche. As they came abreast the craft in their motor boat, it was clear that, character, subtlety, and understatement, meant nothing to Michel. The frown puckering his brow, made Carrick's obvious distaste clear. As he boarded Lucien's bordello themed ship, he cast a sidelong glance at Mal and they were recaptured an understanding that they had played out a hundred times before, his lover knew exactly what he was thinking. As Mal passed by him, after also boarding the craft, he whispered one word, "snob". Carrick could only chuckle to himself, as he walked to the windows with his hand tucked securely in his pockets.Malcolm, once again, had him dead to rights.

While checking their surroundings they both looked at each other as if for confirmation. Something didn't seem quite right.Usually, on a craft over 160ft long, there would be staff, unobtrusively, buzzing around readying everything for coming day. At least that was how it worked in Carrick's domain.Standing on Lucien's boat, looking over the pricey "knick knacks" and waiting for someone to acknowledge their presence, everything seemed too quiet. The damn place had the feel of being deserted.

"Maybe we missed her? It looks like we might have to go to the main residence after all."A Wide-eyed Malcolm whispered while he braced his hand against a pillar to look across the room to dining room beyond. True to form, Lucien's bad taste permeated the enclosed space giving it a late "Versace Gone Wild" feel. If every surface or object wasn't gilded, it was patterned to death. Malcolm then realized that he was whispering and straightened to his full height. What the hell was he whispering for? The wonder he had for this monument of bad taste was beginning to wear off and now he was a bit perplexed, he couldn't completely erase an uneasy feeling that urged him to be prepared to protect himself. They were in the early dawn of morning, but the boat felt…creepy.

"Fine, we can go try to catch her at the house, but I just want to make sure that she is not ducking from us. Let's make sure she is definitely not here. I don't relish the thought of running around this island, playing hide-n-seek with Camille." Carrick looked at Mal and noted his tenseness; he assumed that Malcolm did not relish the idea of another confrontation with Camille. "Mal let me take the blame. I handled everything so badly-maybe you and she could still salvage something of your friendship." Carrick walked toward Mal and uncharacteristically, since public displays of their intimacy were not very popular with them, caressed Mal's face by brushing his thumb lightly across his cheek bone.

"Carr…" Mal began before they both saw a flash of movement at the corner of the room. Both Carrick and Malcolm moved toward it. Quickly, they discovered a small space allowing for a spiral staircase that led, down, towards the bowels of the ship. It was clear that someone had saw them first and beat a hasty retreat.

Both Carrick and Malcolm came to the same conclusion at the same time, Camille must have seen them and ducked out of the way. They flashed each other a look of agreement, She was going to at least hear their apology, whether she wanted to, or not. Neither man hesitated as they moved quickly down the circular stairs.

At the bottom they were shocked, the woman they were following was not Camille, and she was very obviously one of the help. At least they now knew the place was not deserted and they would be able to get some information regarding where Camille was.

"Wait! Ma'am! Mal called to the woman dressed in a pristine white uniform.

The woman was a few feet ahead of him seemed like she was seriously considering taking flight, again. As soon as she saw that they intended to move closer to her she started twisting a piece of material in her hands and crying, while, step by step, moving further away from Carrick and Malcolm. "Messieurs, messieurs ... Je n'ai rien fait de mal. Je le jure. Il a juste jeté ce à moi avant son départ et me dit de m'en débarrasser. S'il vous plaît, j'ai rien fait de mal."

Mal knew they had to calm her down quickly, but during his fancy, private, educational career he took Mandarin Chinese. His French was passable, but Carrick was really the master of the romance languages. To his ears she seemed to be babbling something about the piece of cloth in her hands and it seemed like she thought she would be arrested for it. For some reason, she thought they were the police.

As soon as Carrick heard her speak French, he knew he was going to be on hysterical Frenchwoman duty. Malcolm's command of the language was shit. Carrick in his typical, brusque manner couldn't be bothered with nonsensical women and came straight to the point. "Où est Camille?" Carrick had been behind Mal, but he pushed pass his mate as he asked about Camille's whereabouts.

The maid seemed even more panic stricken by the question. Malcolm couldn't help but to grab Carrick's arm as if to will into Carrick some patience, her response to a seemingly simple question was making him increasingly uneasy.

"Good Lord" Carrick swore pointedly, as he looked at Malcolm, silent requesting Mal's trust, before grab the overwrought woman by the arms. "Merde, c'est cool avec la crise de nerfs, où est Camille?" His actions made the woman drop the cloth. As both men bent to pick it up, then froze as they saw what was on it.

Both men gave each other the "eye" and Malcolm instantly knew what had to be done. He quickly moved to the farthest end of the hall and began to open each door and look into every cabin.

Carrick stood up and began to stalk the now crying and trembling woman. As she backed up a step for every step that he took forward, it seemed like his intense stare had her magnetized. "Où est Camille et dont le sang est sur cette chemise?" Where is Camille and whose blood is on that shirt.

The woman almost vibrated with fear. "Il faut que j'aille, ils me tuent! S'il vous plaît, S'il vous plaît laissez-moi!" Let me go! They will kill me.Please, Please let me go!

Quietly and efficiently Malcolm opened the door to each cabin, quickly making his way toward Carrick and the wailing woman. With one eye he checked the room and with the other he tried to gauge Carrick progress with the maid.Finally, he came to a door that wouldn't open. One look at the maid and Malcolm knew she wasn't going to be any help, and somehow, he would be willing to bet his own limited fortune, he needed to get into that room.

"Carrick! In here" Malcolm called as he stood back and braced himself so that he could force the door open.

In a moment Carrick was beside him and they quickly counted before they planted one foot so that they could kick out with the other.The door crashed open with a resounding crack and they blindly rushed into the room. The blood on the shirt did nothing to prepare them for what they saw inside the room. Malcolm and Carrick turned in a tight circle as they tried to follow the sprays of blood that decorated the walls, soaked the bed, and were smeared along the carpet.They looked at each other, trying to gain some hope, but their eyes told the story that mouths couldn't even form, no one could survive the loss of that much blood. Their only hope was that someone else, not Camille, went through hell in that room. Both men turned to continue the search of the other cabins. There was no way they were going to leave Camille to these people.

Carrick was almost through the door when something on the floor caught Malcolm's eye. The smears on the carpet looked as if someone has been drug. The blood was still wet.There seemed to be a pattern.

"Carrick." Malcolm ground out.

"Mal, let's go-we will find her."

"Carrick, the rug"

"I know, that's a lot of blood.Once we find her I will put in a call to the authorities. Let them sort this shit out."

"Carrick, those are drag marks. I think someone is behind the door."

Carrick stopped short and it seemed an eternity passed as their minds tried to quickly sort through what could possibly be behind the door.

"This is bullshit, let deal with this so we can find her and get off this hell hole."

Carrick words seemed to release Malcolm from his trance. He moved forward and swung the door away from the wall. The body that fell to their feet was unrecognizable. All they saw was a mass of hair and blood.Carrick would never know what it was about the figure that allowed Malcolm to recognize it, but he simply knew.

"Baby, baby-Jesus Christ, what did that bastard do to you." Malcolm rushed to her and kneeled while pulling her body in his arms.Carrick would remember Mal's eyes, at that moment, probably for the rest of his life. Mal looked haunted, but what was so very different about his lover were the emotions that Carrick didn't think Mal could emote. There, he saw the promise of vengeance and retribution deep in those brown orbs.In those few seconds, Mal made a transformation that had Carrick at a loss. His compassionate, scrupulous, honorable partner found out that the "boogie man" did indeed exist. Carrick quietly promised himself to make someone pay for that.

It seemed that someone had quite a tab to settle. He could, in three tries, hazard a guess regarding who was responsible for this sick scene, and the first two didn't count. Lucien Michel had a lot to answer for. Sometime between before and now, Camille became theirs. It didn't matter that only a few moments before they were willing to walk out of her life, because the game had changed critically. Maybe it had changed last night when both had wanted so badly to make love to her. Maybe the conversion occurred when she challenged him in a way that no one had dared before. It didn't matter. She was theirs and if anyone had the temerity to take or brake anything that belonged to a Caudwell, they would live to regret it. Carrick dropped to his knees and looked closely at bloodied figure in front of him, cataloging all the obvious injuries. The person who did this might live, just long enough, to regret it.

Carrick moved closer to try to take Camille's weight from Mal, so that Malcolm could stand up.

Mal violently shoved him away, while still holding Camille close. The limp form in his arms did not as much as twitch. "All we ever do is hurt her. Why can't we stop hurting her?" Malcolm mumbled to anyone and no one. Malcolm couldn't seem to get her close enough to him, he kissed her brown and rubbed his cheek against her raw one, as if, somehow, he could fuse her onto his body and then he could properly protect her. Mal's grief was palatable as he brushed her hair away from her face. It looked like someone had tried to chew her face off, nothing of the beautiful woman they new remained, but as he touched her skin, Mal realized that she still felt somewhat warm. Mal's fingers touched her pulse point. He looked directly at Carrick, with a flare of hope within them.

"Carrick, I think she is still alive."