Usually on a Sunday night Sebastian had a bath, read a book and went to bed early. But as he walked into his living room, he realised today was different.

Three men sat there quite comfortably with glasses of his best malt in their hands. They shouldn't have been there, of course, in his house, drinking his whiskey without his invitation. He didn't even know them, but although he didn't like what he saw, Sebastian didn't make a single indignant comment.

Instead, he froze.

The two apes in his chairs were enormous, muscular men obviously hired for their brawn rather than their brain, but the man on the sofa, a sleek young hood of dubious integrity with dark, Italian eyes, and neatly parted black hair tied back into a pony-tail, was pointing a silenced gun directly at Sebastian's middle. He stared at the gun in patent disbelief.

The three men stared back with cold, emotionless eyes.

"Sebastian Jackson," the Hood said finally, in a faintly foreign accent.

It wasn't a question, Sebastian realised. It sounded more like an insult. He wondered how they had found him. Legally he was still Brian Smith, but he didn't deny the name. As the olive-skinned man had no doubts at all about his identity, so he had no doubts that they had come for the repayment of his outstanding loan. He swallowed hard. "Just," he coughed to clear something that was wedged in his throat. "Just give me a few days, and ..."

"Shut up." Again it was quietly said; but the sheer force of the guy's aura shut Sebastian's mouth with a snap. The gun beckoned. "Come and sit down. We've got a few things to sort out here before we leave."

"I told you, I ..."

"Quiet! I'll tell you when I want you to speak."

Sebastian felt the need to pee, but walked woodenly over to the little table. The working end of the gun followed him without the slightest hint of a waver. To his surprise, some papers and his own pen had been laid out. Hope filled him. Perhaps they were going to sort this out in a civilised manner after all. He sat slowly in the upright chair, and left his hands flat on the table in front of him.

The youth's sensuous mouth curved into a faint smile at Sebastian's terrified compliance. "Good boy," he drawled. "Now, you're not going to make any trouble, are you?"


"I can put this away then?"

"Yes. Please."

"I'm glad you're a reasonable man, Sebastian."

The Hood unravelled himself from the sofa and the gun disappeared into the folds of his fashionable, broad shouldered jacket. He was taller than Sebastian had at first supposed and was exceedingly beautiful; not that one would dare to say so to his face. It was not an effeminate beauty, but the dangerous carnal beauty of a panther, a beast who would kill without thought.

The beast now padded over to Sebastian's side, dwarfing him with his powerful presence.

"This," he told Sebastian, pulling forward a professionally typed sheet of paper and slipping it from a case, "Is a document giving me power of attorney over your affairs."

Sebastian stared, bemused, "But ..." There was a ripple of movement and a strong, manicured hand ripped violently backwards along his cheek sending both him and his chair flying backwards from the table. He crashed into the corner, pulverising his own telephone table and lay stunned for a second amongst the debris. Then he rolled over and rose warily to his feet, putting a hand to his nose as he stood. It came away covered in blood. One of the gorillas incongruously handed him a hanky.

The Hood continued to calmly lay the papers out in order. "These," he said with cool deliberation, "are your instructions to me, in my capacity as your solicitor, financial advisor, and attorney, to dispose of your assets; respectively, your car, your flat, and your personal effects."

Sebastian's eyes widened with fear.

"Are you going to ask me why?"


A single step, a punch like a sledgehammer in his middle and Sebastian puked all over his own carpet. He convulsed into a ball on the floor, retching and gasping for breath. "Silly question," the Hood said, examining his hand carefully for damage. "The answer should have been 'No, Sir. I will not ask any stupid questions to which I already know the answers, I will just sign your papers so you don't - cut - off - my - dick - and stick it in my stupid - fucking - mouth. Now do you understand? Do you?" 'Do' was punctuated by a kick in the kidneys as he didn't respond fast enough.

Sebastian arched back in an involuntary spasm at the excruciating pain. "Yes, Sir," he gasped quickly, tears streaming from his eyes.

"When you have finished mucking around on the floor ..." There was menace in the tone.

Sebastian rolled painfully onto his knees and climbed to his feet as quickly as was humanly possible, drawing shallow breaths to ease the knifing pain which drove through his back at the movement. "You will sign all of these papers. In your real name."

There was a kind of pause at the end, and Sebastian reached forward slowly and took the pen. He didn't doubt they would persuade him to change his mind if he argued, so without further demur he signed away his worldly goods.

The Hood picked up each paper, checked the authenticity of his signature carefully against a photocopy of the Bank's own signature card (how the hell did he get that?), and then tidied the papers away into a waiting briefcase.

"And, finally, this one," the Hood positively purred, "which is a letter of resignation to your employers. You have decided to leave the bank to go into another form of employment and are prepared to forfeit your last month's wages in lieu of notice."

Sebastian's heart and hopes fell into his boots with a thud.

"Are you going to ask me why?"

"No, Sir."

"Well, I'll tell you anyway. The pitiful amount of capital generated by the sale of your assets leaves a deficit of some several hundred thousand pounds. Tell me, is there any way which you can think of to settle your debt to Victor Miliano?" His brows lifted with concern.

"No," Sebastian whispered, not liking to contemplate any of the horrible things which leapt unbidden into mind at that moment.

"It's obvious the debt cannot be settled in the traditional manner; rather than just leave you to be fitted with a pair of concrete boots, my employer is offering an alternative." His lips curled in a smile of unholy pleasure at some inner thought.

"Please, I can't ..."

The Hood raised a hand.

Sebastian winced.


He did.

The Hood then glanced at his watch. "I'm going to put these papers into the right hands," he said to his waiting muscle. "There're too many people around to leave now, I'll be back later with the car."

As the Hood exited, Sebastian's confidence grew fractionally. He had several hours to think of a way from escaping from these two gorillas.

"Getcher clothes orf," said one in a thick cockney accent.

"Now." said the other.

"What the fuck for?" Sebastian said indignantly.

"'Cos if you don't, we will." They flexed forearms thicker than his thighs.

Sebastian took his clothes off, with somewhat less than the satisfaction that action would normally generate, finally standing naked before them, feeling humiliated and vaguely silly.

Thick they might be, but efficient they were also, he soon realised. His wrists were pulled together and secured firmly behind his back. The loose ends of that rope were brought round his middle and tied tightly, pulling his wrists up and his elbows out at a strange angle. He was then pushed to his knees and his ankles were crossed and tightly bound, forcing his knees to spread, exposing his most private parts to a cold draft.

"Jesus, you don't have to stop the circulation," he complained angrily, shuffling his bum on his ankles trying to find a more comfortable position.

A few moments later he wished he'd kept his big mouth shut as his boxer shorts were stuffed in it. In spite of his revolted, muffled attempts to reason with them, this makeshift gag was firmly held in place with another piece of rope which stretched his lips to his back teeth; but that wasn't the end of his problems. To forestall any movement at all on his part this same rope was then stretched over his back, secured to his ankles and pulled tight, arching his back and pelvis into a thrust that in different circumstances he might have been proud of.

"Mmmmph!" he yelled furiously, nearly choking on his own underwear, but they merely pushed him into the corner like a redundant piece of furniture and turned on the television. He heard more of his best whiskey sloshed unceremoniously into the tumblers, which exacerbated both the dryness in his mouth caused by the gag and the burning sensation of remnants of bile in his throat.

He struggled like mad to reach the knots about his ankles with his bound hands, but with his wrists glued firmly into the small of his back there was no chance. He began to wish the Hood would come back sooner rather than later, for anything had to be better than this.

The two thugs gave their host no more than a cursory glance now and again and sat back to enjoy a couple of hours of entertainment while they waited. Sebastian had no choice but to remain trussed up like a plucked turkey at Christmas, awaiting the arrival of the Hood and whatever dreadful fate Victor had planned for him.

Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, the door opened to admit the man himself. Sebastian painfully swivelled his eyes and caught a fleeting look of amusement and something slightly more sinister - lust? - on the fellow's face before he passed from view.

There was a sudden burst of activity. Drawers were rifled, cupboards were opened and closed and from his odd sidelong gaze Sebastian could see everything which could connect him to this house, in fact, to this life, was being systematically loaded into a case. He knew when they'd finished, because the Hood came and crouched down beside him, a knife gleaming wickedly in one hand. Sebastian went boss-eyed and made faint pleading noises in the back of his throat.

"We're leaving now," the Hood said. "You're not going to make a fuss, are you?"

A minuscule head shake was all Sebastian achieved, but it was enough. The cord which tortured him was severed with a sudden flick of the wrist and had he not been gagged he would have screamed as his back unbent. Then the cord around his ankles was cut, but he didn't attempt to move until the Hood poked his butt with a pointed toe-cap. "On your feet, dick," he said.

They gave him no help, but watched patiently while he struggled and finally attained his feet, exposing a large wet area in the corner. The Hood tut-tutted, and shook his head. "Naughty boy wet himself, then," he said softly.

What else was I supposed to do, burst? Sebastian wanted to say, but remained quiet and looked around at the havoc they had created in his orderly room. It looked and smelled like a doss house.

By the door stood two suitcases. One contained his paperwork and the other was the one he took on weekend forays, the one full of leather restraints, battery gismos, whips and gags which he had accumulated over the past few years. His eyes flew towards the Hood, who grinned. "Thought the naughty little boy would like to take his toys on holiday," he said.

Sebastian knew this was going to be no holiday. One thug then removed the rope from Sebastian's mouth, but to his annoyance, not the boxer shorts. He then took a roll of wide brown parcel tape and, ignoring Sebastian's muffled plea, pulled his lips together then began to wind more tape round and round his face, first ensuring virtual silence from the strangled grumbles, then working upward, binding Sebastian finally into total darkness.

He stood there naked, bound, and scared as hell, listening to further sounds of things happening around him, but it was a while later that a rope restraint was tied loosely into a collar around his neck and he was led from his house like a puppy on a lead.

Thrust into the boot of a car, with a variety of unknown objects sticking into his naked body, his sense of time disappeared completely.