Asko had still been at work when Joni had called. That one phone call had put everything else on hold, and though he was terrified, he had to act with reason. He had done everything he could form that distance; He had called Misha; he had called the cops and visited the station. The authorities took it seriously and wasted no time to start the search.
Joni had visited the police station only couple of days before their trip and reported Chris’ harassment. However, Joni hadn’t spoken one word to him about it. Asko guessed that Joni hadn’t wanted to worry him. The officers contacted the Canadian authorities and they promised to check if they could reach Chris.
He had talked with Ivo. The neighbour whose house Joni had tried to make it to safety, had been found shot to death. Joni had been taken. Moments later, the authorities called to confirm that Chris had indeed left the country after he had requested and been granted a week’s unpaid leave by his employer. Chris and his alleged accomplice were then reported wanted.
Asko was sitting in a parked car in front of his house, not really remembering anything about the drive. He had just ended the call with the constable. Aki Kuusisto, another suspect, 32-years-old, previously sat in prison for a drug offence. They had been imprisoned with Chris at the same time.
A man had been killed and his son had been abducted. One of his worst fears had come true. Joni’s alarmed voice rang again and again in his mind. That feeling of helplessness was nauseating.
He remembered how furious he had been when Joni had run away from his brother with Chris. He remembered his distrust with the man, but something had changed. Chris had seemed so… balanced? Responsible? He had seemed like a man who would calm Joni’s longing to go abroad and his sometimes careless and impulsive behaviour.
He remembered the drive to the airport with Joni when he had decided to send his son to his parents.
”This is the last time, Dad.” Joni had said suddenly, interrupting the silence that had lasted the entire initial journey.
“When you can send me to your parents when things go wrong. The Last time.”
Joni hadn’t looked at him. And Asko didn’t immediately know what to say. When Marianna was sick and there was no hope left, she had asked Asko to take Joni to Oulu to stay at his parents. Marianna hadn’t wanted Joni to remember her that way, dying and incoherent… And he himself had barely been able to keep himself together, it had seemed impossible to take care of a small child in the middle of it. However, the support network was far away, his parents and Oulu had felt the best place for the boy.
Joni hadn’t seen it that way and he still bore it with bitterness. Had sometimes said he was not allowed to say a proper goodbye to his mother, but in honesty, he had received a more beautiful memory than what it would have been for a five-year-old in those last moments. …
“When I turn eighteen in the summer I’m going to go traveling. I will come back for the army, but when it’s over I’ll move to London or New York. And you can’t say anything about that.”
Asko had known that he couldn’t and it scared him. He had been horrified at that thought! And he had wanted to seize the hope that Chris would get Joni to settle in and stay put, the selfish need to keep his son close had made him blind.
Katja had also spoken of her doubts. ”Does Joni really want this?” He remembered his wife pondering after Joni announced he was moving in with Chris. “Joni is so… impulsive and so young… And Chris… I have the feeling that Chris is more in love with Joni than Joni is with him… They haven’t known each other for so long…”
He hadn’t wanted to see it, he had wanted to see Chris as a sensible and trustworthy man and that they could keep a balanced and equal relationship. And Joni wouldn’t want to move far. That blindness could now cost Joni’s life and he could not forgive himself for it
Asko stared towards the house and saw his daughter in the window in Katja’s arms. The girl waved excitedly to him. Asko swallowed, his feelings were in turbulent. Hadn’t it been only a moment, just a small moment when Joni had been the age of his daughter? He saw his wife questioning and worried look when he didn’t get out of the car right away. He should travel to Russia, he should be closer if he could do anything, anything for Joni. The idea that his firstborn might die was unbearable. He didn’t think he could withstand that loss.
It was hopeless. They had been driving around for a few hours, but not a trace was found. Nothing. Misha sat silent, this could not be true… He thought of Joni and what he had to experience at that same moment, his chest tightened. He felt anger, immense anger and at the same time… What if Joni could not be found?
Ivo glanced at him as he drove.
”The cops will find them.” He said.
“This is your way of saying it’s time to go back. Misha said in a gloomy tone.
“They can be anywhere already, Misha. But… “ For a moment the man wondered what he would say. ”Joni is smart and… I trust him to get back home.” Misha looked away, towards the window, and remained silent. Ivo thought the emotions were too raw for his little brother to be able to talk.
”God, I just want to shoot those bastards brains out!” Misha exclaimed suddenly. He was frustrated sitting in that car, so useless. ”I should have forced Joni with us!” He was furious and felt tears rising in his eyes. Nothing could be restored. Misha just wanted to go back to the moment when everything had been fine, but nothing would bring them to that point anymore, maybe not for a long time after what happened.
“Misha, this could have happened anywhere else. This is a planned act. ” Ivo managed to stay surprisingly calm, someone had to keep the strings together. Misha knew that Ivo was right and yet he couldn’t help but regret and wonder if acting different this could have been avoided. Joni had wanted to stay in the United States, wanted to tour the country, he should have agreed! Why had he not agreed?
They came back to the house. Their grandmother and Jami were still awake in the living room. Sleep wouldn’t reach any of them that night.
”I want to be alone.” Misha said as he headed upstairs. Jami looked at Ivo with concern and the man gave a heavy sigh before coming closer and sitting on the couch next to him. They said nothing, Jami grabbed Ivo’s hand and squeezed it firmly. This evening, despite its outcome, would change everything irreversibly.
Chris poured the drink down his throat. However, it was not enough to wash away that sour feeling. New drink. There was no room for repentance, not now that it was too late. Still, he felt it squeeze his abdomen, Joni’s tears bothered him. New drink. Aki’s gaze burned on his back. Had to focus on anger.
“I would have imagined you would be more excited. You got exactly what you wanted, didn’t you? ” Aki asked.
Had he got what he wanted? Chris thought and pulled another drink down his throat. ”The cops are after us, how long do you think we can hide?” He growled. ”Hell! We should have gotten out faster without having to shoot that man!”
“Calm down,” Aki sighed. “And stop worrying about that old man, Chris! We got what we were after! We succeeded! So, stop that gloomy act and lets celebrate! That whore cheated on you and sent you to jail, lets make him regret it!” Aki incited. Chris looked at him and sat down. He filled his glass with yet another shot of whiskey, brought the glass to his lips and close his eyes. He felt the health spread in his throat.
” Just think how many men Joni cheated on you with. How he’s fucked with that Russkie behind your back and laughed at you. Think how torn that man is when he realizes you won! When he realizes that you get to dip your cock in that slut of his and he can’t do anything to stop it!”
Aggressive music on the background. Aki cheered him to violence, stirring up the jealousy that grew stronger with each drink he took. Still, it didn’t dampen the hope completely, that Joni would realize his mistake and choose him after all. There was a part of him that understood that he had gone too far to make that dream possible anymore. To be with Joni, they’d have to disappear and he could never really trust that Joni wouldn’t betray his trust once more. And then there was Aki… A part of him wondered if he really had made a mistake in involving him.
Aki wanted his share, urged him to give it, a rightful revenge for a cheater. Joni could enjoy it and then he’d see. Chris felt the inner struggle, the conflict in his mind, it was difficult to make sense of things or find a path that would lead to the situation he truly wanted.
Hate, longing, and obsession twirled in his mind, seeming to tear him in different directions, Joni was his. Chris walked towards the bedroom and when he opened the door, he saw Joni quickly getting up to his feet from the chair he had been sitting on. His gaze fearful and worried, which annoyed Chris, though he couldn’t quite explain to himself why. Chris tilted his head.
” You stopped sobbing already?” He asked spitefully, though he had planned to go softer on him. Joni gazed at him quietly, his eyes glimmered, but he didn’t cry. The gaze, however, was sad, something that touched something within Chris and this too annoyed him. Joni didn’t deserve his empathy!
Joni drew a deep breath. He had been afraid that it would be Aki and now he felt a spark of hope that Chris wouldn’t allow Aki to touch him. It was difficult to remain calm and sensible, every word, no matter how carefully selected, could be wrong. He wondered what Chris wanted… He wanted to see him weak and submissive… It would highlight his own masculinity. That was after all what Chris had often done, treated him almost like a woman in the relationship, wanting to feel stronger. And he hadn’t seen it or understood it at first, though the signs had been there. Now he had to swallow some amount of pride and focus on the thought of getting home.
” Could I have a glass of water?” Joni asked carefully. It seemed like a harmless enough question to approach Chris without angering him further. Chris gave him a harsh look, it was difficult to read him, but it was clear he was drunk. The music from the other room was dark and heavy, Joni felt the tightening in his throat.
Finally, Chris nodded and turned to the door. Joni held his breath. “Come.” Chris said and after a moment of hesitating, Joni followed him out of the room. A passing illusion of freedom and Joni wondered if he should take his chance to act on it. The answer was soon clear. Aki sat in front of the table facing them, twirling the gun in his hands, a grin resting on his face as he looked at him. Joni wasn’t sure what would happen. They walked to the kitchen corner and Chris gave him the glass of water he had asked.
Both men were looking at him, Joni felt the pressure of their stare, Aki’s more than Chris’. His heartbeat rabidly, he brought the glass to his lips and drank. Where were his shoes? He didn’t remember seeing his shoes after Chris had… Joni stopped the trail of his thoughts, not wanting to go back to that moment and at the same time he was painfully aware that it most likely wouldn’t be just that one time. Worse could still be coming. Which brought him back to the question, where were his shoes? If he would even consider escaping outside, shoes were necessary to have any hope on surviving the cold.
He could see the snowy forest from the kitchen window, the sky was clear and filled with stars, such beautiful and almost magical scenery that in any other moment it would have taken your breath away in the good kind of way, but now…. Now it was a painful reminder on how desperate attempt it would be to try and escape. The road was between dark forest, the darkness only revealed a small path of it. Only daylight would grand small possibility, unless he could get the car keys. – Aki must have had them.
” They’ve spotted wolfs around these parts.” Aki said suddenly and smiled when Joni’s gaze met his. “The man we rented this place from told us, he’s an avid hunter. Look.” Aki pointed at the wall of the living room on which was hung a large moose’s head and two skulls of deer. “And that.” There was a bearberry on the floor in front of the fireplace.
“Sit down.” Chris commanded and filled his own glass with whiskey while Aki got up and got a third glass which he placed on the table.
“Do pour one for our guest as well.” He spoke.
Joni still stood there, insecurely holding the now empty water glass while going through the little options he had in his mind. He looked at the trophies of the hunter on the wall, which mostly just creeped him out.
“Is there a bathroom?” He finally asked quietly, it felt humiliating having to ask that. At the same time, he hoped to see more of the cabin to plan his escape. Chris glared at him, took a sip of whiskey before settling his glass on the table. He didn’t say anything when he grasped Joni’s arm, leading him forward.
Chris opened the door; the bathroom was small but held everything necessary. There was a small window, but it really was too small to fit through. Chris closed the door behind them, and Joni glanced at him. “Can’t I do this in private?” He asked anxiously.
“You could think something stupid.” Chris replied and leaned against the door. The answer made no sense since he had been alone in the bedroom too. Perhaps Chris thought he could fit through the window? Joni glanced towards it once more, coming to the sad conclusion that it really would be impossible. “Or do you need to do a number two?” Chris smirked. Joni shook his head without looking at him. The humiliation felt strong. ” Then go for it.” Chris urged him.
Joni swallowed, he felt Chris’ stare on his back. This was only his way to increase the humiliation, a way to highlight his own superiority. The man was drunk, and this Chris was very different from the man he had first met and had feelings for. Perhaps Chris had already drunk that man into damnation. – Joni pondered. And this man that now stood there was cruel and unpleasant, unpredictable. This man was the one who had planned his abduction with Aki.
Joni was able to empty his bladder despite how uncomfortable the situation made him. He didn’t say a word when he turned to wash his hands. The water was cold, and Joni splashed some on his face as well. He looked up and faced Chris’ stare through the mirror. He felt his chest tighten, he hoped to see something familiar and warm in the man’s gaze, he hoped…
“Aki is unpredictable, Chris”, Joni whispered. “You’re making a mistake to trust him.” He continued and turned slowly. His could almost hear his own nervous heartbeat. Chris stared at him quietly.
“And you’re such a reliable source”, Chris smirked.
” I’ve never wanted anything bad for you.” Joni spoke with frustration. ”I know very little of your childhood and your family and perhaps… If I had asked or listened better…” Chris still stared at him and Joni thought he saw a glimmer of softness to grasp on. “Can’t we be alone, just you and me? Let’s talk this through, just the two of us?” Joni swallowed. He took a chance and lowered his hand on Chris’ chest. The man looked at him and Joni saw his willingness to reach out for him, to accept his request.
But then Chris took his wrist and looked down on his hand and the ring on his finger, which immediately melted away the softness in his gaze replacing it with jealousy that darkened his features. “You love that Russkie?” Chris asked and Joni didn’t think there was any reply to give that would lead to a pleasant outcome for him. Chris squeezed his hand now so tightly that it hurt.
”Yes. What did you expect me to answer?” Joni gasped in pain and felt the first tears falling on his cheek.
“That man is pathetic!” Chris sneered and pushed him forward to the door. “Lets go.” Chris dragged him back to the living room.
“Sit down!” Chis rasped and Joni silently obeyed. Chris set a glass of whiskey in front of him and gave him a tight look. Desperation was building up, Joni felt how he was losing his chance to win Chris’ sympathy and kindness, at least now that he was drunk. He had never liked whiskey and he was sure that Chris remembered that.
Both men were up, Chris on his other side and Aki on the other. Joni closed his eyes, he didn’t want to be here, anywhere but here. “That’s a good brand of whiskey, expensive, older than you…” Aki’s spoke. Joni opened his eyes but saw it best to remain silent, nothing good or carefully considered would pass from his lips now. And that all that imprudent… Joni stared at the glass in front of him, he felt slightly nauseated. He remembered now that he had only eaten that vey light snack at noon and this one shot could easily get to his head. “Just relax boy…” Aki whispered to his ear, lowering his hand on his shoulder causing unpleasant shivers to run down in his spine.
Chris lighted up a cigarette. “That Russian of yours called me when you were visiting my friend.” He said suddenly. “Did you know?” Chris blew smoke out from his lips.
Joni was quiet and swallowed. He hadn’t known, but at the same time… he shouldn’t have been surprised knowing Misha, not really. “He threatened me that I should leave you alone.” Chris laughed. “What do you think he planned to do? What do you think he’s doing now?”
Joni felt his insides boiling. He knew that Chris acted this way because the engagement ring had insulted his ego and it brought this urge to bad mouth Misha. Joni stared at the glass in front of him and downed it from his throat in one go. The drink burned in his throat and made him grimace. Aki chuckled and Joni tried to control his nerves. This wasn’t the right moment, not now.
” You could call him, Chris?” Aki suggested with a grin and Joni gave him a malevolent glare.
”Joni doesn’t seem to like that idea, but… Did cat get your tongue?”
Chris smoked his cigarette and observed Joni. “Should we call to your boyfriend, huh? Tell him how it is?” He leaned closer to Joni’s ear. “Should I tell him how I fucked you… How I pushed you down against the table and gave it to you hard. How you moaned like a bitch in heath under me…” Joni’s nerves tightened, something snapped inside of him. He hadn’t really understood what he had done, he acted without a thought. He registered the pained roar that Chris made and the next moment he found himself on the floor. Chis held a hand on his forehead and the glass was broken on the floor, he saw the blood that tripped between Chris’ fingers.
The man grimaced and grasped him, pushing him over the table on his back. It was pure instinct, again without a thought behind it. Joni kicked the man and spat in his face. “You’re not a man!” Joni yelled in rage. ” You’re pathetic!” There was a hard slap against his face that followed and for a moment his vision darkened.
” Apparently you still need a reminder on who you belong to…” Chris’ words echoed in his ear. Joni felt how the man started tearing the ring from his finger, the metallic sound when it hit the floor. It was difficult to make sense of the situation. “Do you know how my father once marked my mother?” The words still had that certain unreal echo in them. Chris dragged him back in front of the table.
A strong grip pinned his wrist against the table. It felt unreal, like a bad dream, but the pain was real. The burning sensation on his finger that seemed to spread through his body. He roared, it didn’t sound like his own voice, but it was. Joni stared at the cigarette pressed against the finger where the ring had been. And finally, the cigarette was lifted leaving a burned, round mark on his skin. The shock at first was louder than the pain that followed soon after. The mark perhaps wasn’t as big as the pain that it left lingering and spreading through him. “A ring is easily removed but that mark is forever,” Chris whispered. You’re mine.”
Joni gasped. After causing the permanent scar, Chris got some ice wrapped inside a towel to ease the pain as if it would amend the act. Joni was quiet and held the towel against his hand, he trembled. This was a painful reminder on how real the situation was. The scar would be forever if he would make it out alive… This might not be the last mark either.
Aki watched him gleefully as Joni looked up for a moment. Joni felt his eyes water. Chris pulled one more drink from his throat and picked up his cell phone. He looked directly into Joni’s eyes as he choose the number and brought the phone to his ear.
“Is something missing from you? ” Chris asked in a vicious tone and Joni knew he was calling Misha. It broke his heart. He sat there, without visible shackles, holding an ice cube bag over his finger and looking at Chris as he enjoyed being able to rub his successful crime on Misha’s face. ”I won, Misha, took mine back and gave it to him good. I fucked your prince properly and hard. Clearly Joni hasn’t gotten a prober fuck since our breakup.” Chris grinned.
Joni lost his nerve and got up, he tried to grab the phone from Chris. ”Misha!” He shouted. Aki tore him further away and held him against his chest. Chris looked at Joni numbly and put on the speaker.
”You can say goodbye to Joni.” He spoke and smiled wickedly at Joni.
”Joni?” Misha’s voice. “Stay calm, we will do our best, we will find you. ”
“Not enough. You are looking in vain. ” Aki laughed and Joni shuddered at the man’s grip.
“Ya… nazad domoy… Ya tebya luyblyu…” He shouted in a crying voice, with his fragile Russian skill. ” Ne do svidaniya!” He added defiantly, staring with determined rage into Chris’s eyes. He could hear Misha starting to say something, but Chris cut off the call, came closer and slapped his cheek hard. Joni looked at the man through his tears in contempt and Chris grabbed his arm as Aki let go.
Chris dragged Joni roughly into the bedroom and pushed him to the floor. ”You belong to me, accept it!” He said and slammed the door shut.
It was hard to breathe. He was on the floor, sitting sideways on his thighs. His knee throbbed, his head ached and his finger… Joni looked at his ring finger; the scar still burned… Misha’s voice, heavy with worry, repeated in his ears. This happened to all of them, and he knew that those who loved him did their best to get him home, and he was not allowed to give up…
He was not allowed to give power to thoughts of surrender. Now was not the time to chew on the scars that this left, had to focus on thoughts of home, thoughts of life. It was necessary to allow anger to accumulate and harness the energy that it would give, energy that would otherwise threaten to burn.
Chris was unpredictable, Aki in turn thought he was smarter than he was.
Looking back when all the possibilities were still ahead. That admiration and all those gazes he had gotten, how invincible he had felt. He could have chosen… He had been given so much and now all of it had been stripped away and taken… And those possibilities … Joni felt the tears rise. Even if he got home… He shivered and shook his head… He mustn’t think on it, not the evil, not the gloomy. He would get home! He had promised Misha!
“There are a lot of handsome men or boys, but you Joni… You’re the one who catches eyes when you step into the room, the one who leaves a lasting impression that isn’t easily forgotten…” A photographer who was fond of him once said and now those words echoed in his mind. “You will go to places, the world is yours and I will make you the brightest star…” Joni smirked bitterly, he had allowed those words rise to his head, believed in them, believed in his possibilities. What would that man think if he saw him now?
The scar would be eternal, Joni looked at his finger. ”Do you know how my father once marked my mother?” Chris’s words repeated in his ears, a past Joni didn’t know much about, past Chris didn’t talk about. He closed his eyes, breathing angrily as he tried to stop crying.
Thoughts twirled in different directions, memories of childhood, those foggy moments when his mom was still alive and everything had felt safe and good. His mother had picked him up from daycare early, they had gone to the lake to see the ducks and she had packed pieces of bread with that they could feed them with. When Dad had come home they had been playing board games. He had been sick with flu and gotten to watch TV in his parents ’bed. Dad had brought a bag of candy and covered him better… It was odd what kind of memories came to mind, things that seemed so simple and trivial to others…
His Dad had done his best. And how many times had Dad annoyed him with silly care? It wasn’t silly… Did he ever remember to thank? It had been hard, but he had been loved… What about Chris? … Chris did not deserve his sympathy! And yet… Still… Understanding… it was perhaps the only way? The only way to get out? When Chris was sober… Then… Maybe he would be able to find the real Chris, the one who knew how to be affectionate too…
Joni wasn’t sure how much time had passed when the steps moved closer and the door opened. Even though he had been prepared for who might step in, he still felt the pressure of horror as the newcomer was confirmed. Aki.
The man smiled, held the gun in his hand, and stepped in, closing the door behind him. “Chris decided to give us a moment alone. Maybe then you will learn? ”
Joni stood up shakily, he felt anger looming in his cut intertwined with fear. Aki saw it, saw the rage behind Joni’s eyes and found the spectrum of emotions intriguing. He stopped, leaving a small distance between them, and tilted his head. ”I’ve been waiting for this.” He spoke. “I think you’re the ten I’ve been looking for, but I haven’t quite gotten into yet. And believe me I’ve had plenty of tries.”
A/N: Please review or vote or both 🙂