The shock of a bucket of ice water brought me to my senses. That was a rude way of getting woken up. I would have to talk to management. Oh, wait, it was coming back to me. Slowly. If you’ve ever experienced what is called sleep inertia,—when you are suddenly awoken and can’t process shit properly for a while—that’s what I had. Multiplied by two or three. It couldn’t be natural.

My body started to shiver uncontrollably. The only warm parts of me were my bare feet on a heated floor. I sputtered and coughed, lungs burning as they tried to expel the unwanted water. No matter how many times I blinked, I couldn’t clear my eyes. 

I’d been in Iceland only two days, and already I was getting the itch to head back to the States. I missed my bed. I missed my home. Well, the warehouse which served as my home. My rattler would be wondering where I was. Actually, that wasn’t true. He didn’t give a damn where I was. I’d fed him before I left, and he wouldn’t need me for another dozen days or so. 

When I say I was ready to go home, it had nothing to do with the country. Mostly, everything had been outstanding. Except for the part where I’d been abducted. That’s the part that sucked.

“Told you that would work.” The cheerful voice came from my right.

I couldn’t muster the effort to make my head turn. The throbbing in my skull could have kept beat with some of Nadia’s favorite metal bands. I was sitting in a folding chair in nothing but my gitch. My left palm was pressed to my chest, brand to brand, held there by at least a roll of duct tape. Wet duct tape now, idiots. Even my addled wits saw that as a bad move on their part. My right forearm and both shins were taped to the chair.

Other than the delicate situation which I found myself in, I didn’t appear to have other injuries. Yet. 

The room came into focus as I cleared the last of the tears from my eyes. There was a heavy wooden table in front of me. A large man with no neck was sitting across from me. His tatted up bald head, deep-set beady eyes, flat crooked nose, and ugly smirk made me dislike him instantly.

I let my head loll, sending a jolt of lightning down my spine, and tried to see as much as I could. By the short windows set high in the walls I was in a basement. It was a bare, unfinished concrete rectangle of a room. Metal posts supported the exposed beams. By the right wall a steady drip came from a beat up utility sink. It sat next to a couple of metal boxes the size of small refrigerators. A mass of pipes, tubes, and valves extended up and down from these. There was a drain in the floor not far from me. How convenient. At least my feet were warm. Bless these Icelanders and the practically free hot water in-floor heating.

“Hey, wherm I cloz,” I stammered, hamming it up. I channeled a trickle of power to the heart rune on my chest, just enough to fast track these tranquilizers out of my system.

No-neck laughed at me, a mean, evil-sounding promise hidden in it. The other guy joined in, but he was still out of my sight. The voice behind me said, “Are you cold? Need your jacket? Well too bad, we left that, and the little toy in it, at the other house.” They laughed some more.

I met no-neck’s eyes. “But my jeans, my shirt? Is it because you like looking at naked men?”

He didn’t like that comment, not at all. His face, chest, and shoulders—what I could see around his black wife-beater—turned beet red, and little veins throbbed on his forehead and temples. The snort from behind me didn’t improve his mood.

No-neck curled his sausage fingers in a great big meaty fist, distorting the tattoos on his knuckles, and slammed it on the table. Impressively hard. “Shut. The hell. Up.” 

His voice was surprisingly high pitched for such a big guy, and he didn’t have an Icelandic accent. Funny what you pick up at the weirdest times. “Whoa, hang on. You’re the dumb arsewipe who gave me the truth serum. I cannot tell a lie. So tell me. Was your mom raped by an ugly gorilla, or was it your dad that did it to the gorilla. ‘Cause man, you are one ugly piece of wo-“

I didn’t get to finish. His fist came across the table incredibly fast—for my current state of mind, anyway—and caught me on the left cheekbone. I tried to turn with it but there was too much mustard on it. It got me solid, hurt like a bitch, and tipped the chair over so that I fell on my side and smacked my head into the ground. I lay there panting, literal stars floating in my eyes, and wondered if the pulsing heat on the side of my face meant that something was broken. Pulverized might be a better description. I rasped a couple of deep breaths, partially masking the sound of footsteps approaching me.