We were out in open country when Makepeace braked and pulled up at the side of the road. He switched on the interior light and flashed me a false smile. “Sorry about this, sweetheart, but it won’t be for long. I can’t keep this knife in my hand while I drive. It makes me too tense.”
Makepeace leaned across me and placed the knife into the glove compartment of the Mercedes as he spoke. He removed a thin nylon rope, turned toward me and pulled my wrists together.
I flinched but did not struggle as he bound me. I watched his fingers and noted, as in a dream, that they were long and fine with well-manicured nails. He was deft and, in the circumstances, surprisingly gentle. He leaned forward again, withdrew a scarf from the glove compartment and folded it into a blindfold.
“Turn your head. Away from me a little. Yes, that’s perfect.” He placed the blindfold over my eyes, checked its position and tied it in a knot behind my head. “Very good, Sarah. Turn back toward me. Excellent. Now we can be comfortable.”
I felt anything but comfortable.
The wheels of the Mercedes spun on loose gravel as Makepeace put his foot down hard. We were off and driving fast into the night.
Locked in a visual prison, I had no hope of recording our route. We turned, and turned again and I became disoriented. Makepeace’s erratic driving threw me from side to side. Fear coursed through my veins. I tried to breathe deeply and slowly. Focusing on breathing brought some relief.
As I grew calmer, I became aware of Makepeace’s physical presence. The aura and magnetism of the man affected me, even when I could not see him. It was as if he knew a way to bind me psychically as well as physically. Now, as well as fear, I was feeling resentful of his hold over me.
Makepeace began to hum softly. Against my will, I strained to identify the melody. I had heard the tune before. Perhaps he had read my mind, for he said, “Recognize it? Would you like to hear the original? One of your favorites, I bet.”
I could hear the cat-and-mouse tone again and I did not want to play.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He mimicked me exactly, then, “I’m talking about the original version of this song, woman. Who sang it? What are the lyrics? Come on, Sarah, you’re not dumb. It was his last record before he left the band.”
I felt him fumbling in a box compartment between our seats, while the car swung from side to side. “Here we are. Just a minute.” Now he was fiddling with the stereo system.
Music filled the car. Yes, I knew both the song and the singer.
The volume was painfully loud. Makepeace bellowed, “Know who it is now, don’t you?”
I wasn’t about to tell him that Bob played me this song the first time I visited his apartment:
Riding through the night
Chasing moonbeams of delight
We will be forever free
Just as long as you’re with me
Riding through the storm
We won’t stop until the dawn
Then the life we’ve left behind
Will be gone and out of mind
“A pleasant enough little ditty. Bob wrote it, not me. Dull, but quite appropriate for our present situation, isn’t it?”
Behind the blindfold I was crying. Hearing Bob’s voice had broken my resistance. I yearned for him to arrive and scoop me up and out of this nightmare. But Bob was in another continent and no knight in shining armor was about to swoop in and rescue me. I would have to rely on myself. I squeezed my eyes together, leaned forward to wipe my nose on the back of my bound hands and set myself to try and think clearly.
Bob had left that band thirty years ago. Makepeace evidently knew of Bob’s past musical career. How well did he know him now?
Bob rarely talked to me about his performing past, for his energy was focused in his present work and promoting other bands. I pressed him once about his reasons for quitting when his career was at its height. Initially he was reticent but, when I persisted in probing for an explanation, he spoke of fights that had begun during an exhausting series of back-to-back international tours. Conflicts developed, cycled and seemed incapable of resolution.
For Bob, once personal relationships in the band were poisoned, the magic went out of making music. He left England, where the band was based, and returned to the United States. He’d made a lot of money during his time with the band and, unlike some of his peers, had managed it wisely. He was under no financial pressure to do anything but, after a year of hanging out with older brothers and childhood friends in his native Los Angeles, he became bored and went into the business side of rock music.
Bob declared himself fortunate among his contemporaries. Many had died. Too few survivors had found fresh and fulfilling outlets for their creativity. Even fewer succeeded. Only a handful of classic rock musicians could still count on performing regularly. Some drifted into lethargic, over-weight retirement, dulled by drink and drugs. Others became caged tigers, pacing the plush carpets of their luxuriously appointed homes, disenchanted with the monotony of their lives.
Sporadically, a need for cash or a yearning for the old adrenalin rush sent some out in search of deals that might get them back on the road. When they got there, many found that the business had changed. Technology had democratized the music scene. More music was being made than ever, but few bands made a good living for long. A corporate gig might earn a fat paycheck, and festivals provided an occasional fillip, but public concert tours were increasingly hard to come by, as well as often hit-and-miss financially.
The glamour of performing had also faded for many middle-aged bodies that complained at late night shows, sandwiched within awkward travel schedules. Business class air tickets on scheduled airlines, a well-sprung tour bus and aging, if loyal fans were a lame substitute for the good old days of private jets, stretch limousines and screaming hordes of excited youth.
At home or on tour, substance abuse still lingered in the rock music air. By now the piper was calling in payment. Barely a month passed without the media reporting on a musician, retired or still performing, whose body had called a halt to its chronic misuse and neglect.
In the current climate, Bob had every reason to count himself among the favored ones. His health was excellent and his reputation solid. He had kicked his own early excesses, and was internationally known as a promoter with original ideas for concerts and festival lineups, together with a talent for judging when and what the market would bear. He knew the business inside out. Colleagues found him dependable and enjoyed working with him.
Makepeace’s voice intruded on my thoughts. “Not bad, but the stuff the band got into after Bob left was the real deal. Don’t you agree?”
I heard his desire to bait and replied as neutrally as I could, “Don’t ask me to judge rock music. I’m no expert. I didn’t even know that band existed before I met Bob.”
“One of the best known British bands of all times and you didn’t know it existed? Were you hiding under a rock during all those years, sweetheart? Or under some other rock star, perhaps? That’s funny. I bet it must have dented Bob’s ego to learn that his English rose didn’t know his band.” Makepeace sounded genuinely amused.
“On the contrary. He finds it refreshing to be with someone who likes him for himself.”
Makepeace’s hoot was disbelieving. The brittle sound made me want to slap him. “Oh, he may have said that, sweetheart. We all do, when we want to get into a woman’s knickers. But I’ll lay a large sum that our Bob felt positively piqued when you told him. Hah! I love it. The great man’s girlfriend didn’t know him when he was strutting his stuff on stage.”
The car lurched again, as Makepeace scrabbled around once more in the box compartment between us. “Oops. Ah, yes, here we are. Now you can hear what that band got into, after the high-and-mighty Bob Howard got out of the way and let it play what it was created for.”
The sound of heavy rock burst and reverberated through the car.
Makepeace knew the CD by heart and was word perfect, if sometimes off-key, when shouting out the lyrics to each track. The Mercedes rocked and bucked like a kangaroo, as his foot slid on and off the gas pedal. He was still driving faster than felt safe to me. Physical jolting and fear that he might crash the car made me nauseous again. I could feel a scream building inside me. Was the man unconscious of his effect or deliberately pushing my buttons?
Without warning, we veered off the main highway. Makepeace made no concessions to road surface as we bounced at high speed over a heavily potholed dirt track, touching bottom often. Ominous grating sounds emanated from the car’s undercarriage and I was jarred as we made contact. Then we turned a sharp bend and the car skidded so violently that I fell against him. Jerking myself upright, I turned toward the passenger door and scrabbled with my tied hands for an armrest or something else to hold on to.
“Having a bumpy ride? Sorry about that. I thought Bob’s woman would be the kind to like it hard and fast.”
I said nothing. Makepeace repeated his comment, his voice developing a rising edge. An instinct for self-preservation told me to react in kind. I twisted in my seat and yelled at him, “Slow down and turn this damned music off!”
To my relief, Makepeace reduced speed and turned off the CD. For some minutes we drove in silence. I listened to the tires reverberate on the dirt road and wondered how far we had come off the beaten track.
“Here we are.” Makepeace braked. The car slithered to a halt. I jerked forward, but the seat belt held me in place. The car engine died and my captor’s manic mood appeared to evaporate with it, for he said conversationally, “We’re home, sweetheart.”
I sat motionless, my body still feeling as if I was flying forward at high velocity. Antony Makepeace breathed in and exhaled loudly. “I love it here. Nobody around for miles. Just you, me and the desert.”
I heard his door open. “Listen, Sarah.”
Disoriented and dizzy, I strained my ears. Nocturnal sounds filled the desert air. Cicada wings vibrated close by. Somewhere in the distance a night bird spoke to its mate and was answered.