Lies That Bind Us

Lies That Bind Us

Andrew Hart



. . . wandering in the labyrinth, and finding no possible means of getting out, they miserably ended their lives there: or were destroyed by the Minotaur which was (as Euripides hath it) A mingled form where two strange shapes combined,

And different natures, bull and man, were joined.


Chapter One It’s dark when I open my eyes. Utterly dark. I blink but it makes no difference, and for a moment I wonder if I have gone blind. I move my right hand up to my face and think the darkness thickens slightly, graying again as I take my hand away.

The back of my head throbs, and I feel for it, finding a lump at the base of my skull that sings out with tenderness when I touch it.

Where am I?

How did I get here?

What happened to me?

The questions crowd around me in the darkness like things I might reach out and touch. I cannot answer them. My memory is blank, the past a hole or a tunnel, deep and lightless, showing no more than the overturned car I am now in.

Except that it’s not a car, and as soon as the idea comes, it goes again, and I have no idea where it came from. I’m not in a car. I’m somewhere else entirely.

A room.

The word flutters and alights in my head, then takes hold and becomes something firmer. I am not outside. The air feels still and close. I am lying on my back on something soft—but not very—and when I shift it gives a little beneath me. My right hand strays beneath it, finds the plasticky fabric edge and then the hard, gritty surface of stone or concrete. I turn my head, and the darkness softens fractionally: a pale, thin mattress smelling of mildew and age. I sniff cautiously and catch something else, a scent I almost recognize but don’t want to. Part of me noted it as I woke but pushed it away from my brain. It was stronger then. On impulse, I move my right hand back to my face and inhale.

There it is. Sharp and edged with metal.

Rust, perhaps.

Or blood. Lots of it.

I snatch my hand away and make to sit up, only to be yanked back by something hard around my left wrist. I reach over with my right and feel the cold metal just below the heel of my left hand. I move it cautiously, testingly, bewilderment and curiosity drowning out all other feelings as I struggle to learn where I am and what is going on. I can move my left arm only a few inches before the resistance tightens. I roll onto my side and probe with the fingers of my right hand. The metal around my wrist is rough, its surface pocked and irregular but its core substantial, a good half inch thick. When it moves, it drags another weight, which I can hear: a heavy, purposeful chain. Sightless and fighting back the dull swell of alarm, I follow it with my fingers, a dozen or so coarse links that reach up, then loop through a heavy ring set into the wall beside the bed.

I don’t know how I got here, but I know now where I am. I hear the flat echo of my breathing in the hard, confined space. I’m in a cell. Not the cell of a police station; the darkness and the manacle tell me that. I’m somewhere far worse. And now the panic spikes, my skin tightens all over my body, and I hear myself start to scream.

Chapter Two

One week ago

“Congratulations, Jan,” said Camille, offering me her slim, dark hand and beaming. “Welcome to the land of the salaried.”

I shook her hand, feeling the color rise in my face as a smile of joy, triumph, and relief broke out like a hot sun burning through clouds.

“Thank you,” I said. “You won’t regret it.”

“I know,” said Camille with an arch grin. “Else you wouldn’t be getting it.”

I laughed to show I knew she was joking, but it sounded too loud in my ears, so I bit the sound off quickly and reminded myself to let go of her hand. My own had started to sweat.

“Do you know how you are going to celebrate?” she asked.

“Actually,” I said, “I do. I’m going on a trip.”

“Good for you! Anywhere nice?”

“Greece,” I said. “Well, Crete, actually.”

“Wow,” said Camille, looking more impressed by this than she had by my interview. “That’s fantastic. Just don’t forget us. Your first executive team–leader meeting is on the twenty-fifth.”

“Got it,” I said, grinning, and hoping she couldn’t see the tears in my eyes.

The trip was an extravagance. Even on the roughly $70,000 a year I’d be making before bonuses—a significant step up from the hourly rate at which I’d been working for the last seven years—I would have thought twice about it if it hadn’t been for Melissa and Simon, who had insisted on footing the bill for everything except airfare. They might have covered that too if the promotion hadn’t gone through, but I was looking forward to telling them I wouldn’t need their help on that front.

Simon and Melissa were loaded. I wasn’t absolutely sure what he did—finance of some sort, the kind that got him apartments in London and New York—and she was an interior designer. I imagined she was good at it but figured she also moved in the right circles, where being glamorous and put together was worth as much as whatever actual talent she had.

Maybe that wasn’t fair.

And I should say I didn’t really know them that well, which made their generosity so remarkable, as if they were driven to share their good fortune. I had met them five years before, when I was still with Marcus and we were vacationing in Crete, and had seen them only twice since, both times when Simon was in Charlotte for work and Melissa was visiting her folks in Raleigh. Their connection to North Carolina had been part of our very first conversation, a welcome coincidence that bonded us over some terrible retsina and initiated the friendship that followed. I confess—and I know how dumb this sounds—that I had rarely been happier to be a Carolinian. The present trip was to be a sort of reunion, three couples getting together again to relive a glorious, boozy week from the finale of our twenties.

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