She turned heads back in America, but in Hong Kong she was something of an Event.
With her tousled mane of golden-blonde hair, her pouting lips and smouldering eyes, Vallery Irons was well aware of her aura; she sizzled. She was pure sex. When she stepped out of her hotel into the heat and humidity and smells of the Asian city, there were stares from the roadsides, the buses and taxis, the street stalls and shop fronts. A pink baby-doll dress that bared more flesh than it covered – shoestring straps, thigh-high hem – matched with strappy pink stilettos, a pink handbag. She was armed to shop.
A quick cab ride delivered the goddess to a mall that had her eyes shining, her pouting larger-than-life lips curling into a lascivious smile. The welcome of a vast, football-field sized atrium hung with paper dragons and lanterns, five floors of fashion and shoes and jewellery and cellphones and coffee at laughably cheap prices. Like a princess, Vallery strode into action, leaving a wake of enthralled shoppers.
She had been shopping for almost an hour when she first noticed the two girls following her. Age impossible to gauge, they were pretty, to her, in a typically nondescript Asian way; the straight black hair, almond-shaped eyes, slender, boyish figures. Well-dressed, in cargo pants and strappy tops. They were giggling behind their hands, glancing when they thought Vallery wasn't looking. One talked into her cellphone excitedly in Chinese.
It had been a tough few months in Beverly Hills, and Vallery was enjoying her vacation. She had been in Hong Kong a week and was well on the way to maxing out her credit card.
The two girls followed her into another clothes boutique, dark eyes watching her from between the racks. Vallery tried on a halter top that had been made for Asian busts; on her it was obscenely tight, barely containing her pouting breasts, and threatening to tear open. So she bought it.
The two girls eventually disappeared, but there were always more curious mall-shoppers to provide an audience, and Vallery sashayed with delight at their admiration. At length, though, burdened with bags, she headed for the escalator down to the atrium level exit.
One of the Chinese girls she had seen earlier stepped onto the escalator, and quickly descended to stand less than a metre behind her. In a quiet voice she said, “I have a gun. Do as I say.”
Vallery's heart quickened, but she had been in tight situations before, and kept her head. “What do you want with me?”
“We must talk.”
“Hell, you could've just asked,” Vallery said resentfully.
“You would not come,” was the calm response. As they reached the bottom of the escalator, “go straight, out the door … into taxi. You understand?”
“Okay.” As sweat prickled down her spine, Vallery assessed her situation carefully. She could drop her bags and run; and if the girl was unarmed, it would be an easy getaway. But if the girl did have a gun, Vallery's chances of ending up dead on the sidewalk were uncomfortably high.
The automatic doors slid open on the wall of muggy heat outside. There was a taxi directly ahead, and the driver was holding the door open. Inside, Vallery saw the second Chinese girl already sitting.
Vallery joined her kidnapper in the back seat with a pout. “I hope you know who you're messing with.”
“You name Vallery Irons,” the second girl said clearly. “I am Huang Lao Ling.”
“Huang is family name.” The girl from the escalator dropped into the seat beside Vallery. “I am her sister, Li Mae.”
“Do I know you?”
“Not yet.” As the taxi pulled away into the traffic, Lao Ling shucked off the jacket over her arm; she was holding a heavy-grade plastic zip tie, and nodded at Vallery. “Hand behind back.”
“No thanks, I bruise easily.”
The cold muzzle of an automatic pistol was suddenly pushed to Vallery's left temple. “We won't ask you again,” Li Mae said grimly.
With the gun to her head, Vallery leaned forward in the seat, placing her hands behind her back. Lao Ling pulled off Vallery's collection of bracelets roughly, then put the thick plastic band around Vallery's wrists, tugging the free end until it was snugly tight. “Ow,” said Vallery.
“Now this.” Lao Ling had a strip of black fabric.
“Oh, come on,” Vallery protested. But the gun's muzzle was pressed harder to her temple, and she reluctantly offered her head for the silk blindfold to be placed over her eyes. It was tied tightly in place. Finally, the gun was lowered and Vallery sensed the two girls relaxing.
“So where are you taking me?” she asked carefully, leaning back on her bound hands as best she could.
“You ask too much question.” Li Mae was lighting a cigarette.
“Many,” Vallery corrected. “I ask too many questions.”
“So.” Li Mae blew smoke casually, making Vallery wrinkle her nose.
Now blindfolded as well as bound, Vallery didn't like her short-term chances of escape. Neither girl was particularly tall; both around five-foot-four, and both very slender, probably less than a hundred pounds. In a fair fight, she could probably take them both down … unless they knew kung-fu like these damn Orientals always seemed to.
The taxi evidently turned off the main roads after a time; Vallery felt it bouncing on rough seal. From outside, there were still the sounds of the city; street vendors, bicycles, motorbikes and passenger jeeps, but in the air conditioned taxi, behind its dark-tinted windows, Vallery knew she was hidden from their view.
After twenty minutes, the car slowed and made a sharp turn; then its engine was echoing off walls. They had driven into some kind of enclosure, perhaps a warehouse. The girls had a brief exchange in Chinese, and Vallery bit her lip, racking her brain for an escape plan.
Her cellphone? It was in her bag, on the floor between their feet, with the rest of her shopping. For now it was out of reach. She just had to stay alert, listen for clues, wait for her chance.
The taxi stopped, the doors opened either side of her.
“You get out now.”
With difficulty, her arms still behind her back, Vallery clambered from the taxi into the sweltering air. Wherever they were, it didn't have air conditioning. One of the girls grasped her arm firmly and urged her forward; she stumbled reluctantly along with her captor
After a few metres, they stopped. “Stand here. Turn around.”
Vallery did as she was told. She felt somebody cutting through the plastic that bound her hands behind her back, and a moment later, her wrists were freed. “Put hands over your head.”
Warily, Vallery obeyed. This could be her chance – a quick dodge to one side, shuck off the blindfold and – Vallery's right arm was seized, wrenched backwards-and-up. “Hey!” Cool metal suddenly came around her wrist, clinked shut. She stumbled back, her shoulders bumping a convex wooden surface. She tried to pull her hand away, but it was secured. “What are you doing?”
“Other hand,” one of the girls said. Before Vallery could react, her left arm was pulled up-and-back, and a second shackle was closed around her wrist. For a moment she stood, her arms uncomfortably raised and pulled backwards.
Then came a sound like the creaking of an old ship, and the shackles on her wrists began to pull upwards and away, pulling her back against the curved surface. She briefly tried to resist, but the pull was too strong. Vallery had no choice but to arch backwards, as her arms were pulled higher.
In growing desperation, she called out. “Please – maybe we can talk about this?”
There was a response – of sorts. In Chinese, from her left. The girls were talking to each other. Vallery saw hope. “Come on – you can stop now, ok? I won't try to escape!”
But the chains pulled higher. Vallery realised she was somehow shackled to the side of a large barrel or similar, and as it turned, she was being bowed backwards over it. With the sound of creaking wood and grating metal, Vallery's arms were gradually pulled taut. She felt the manacles lodge against the heels of her hands; still pulling her upwards, until her arms locked tight and the strain spread down her entire body.
“Hey!” By her shackled wrists, Vallery felt her whole arched body being lifted – her heels rising off the concrete floor. “Hey!!”
The turning stopped. Vallery was all but hanging over the curve of the oversized barrel, only the tip-toes of her stiletto shoes still on the floor. The weight on her wrists was painful, she felt horribly exposed and vulnerable, still dressed in the briefest of baby-doll dresses; its hem had ridden well up her tanned thighs.
“This is too far! Let me down a bit, ok?”
“You no talk,” one of the girls snapped at her.
“Oh, me talk,” Vallery snapped in response, turning her blindfolded face towards the voice. “Me fucking scream! Let me go now! I've had enough!” She tried to struggle, but was already balanced too precariously on her toes. There was no reply, and her anger rose. “Hey! You dumb Asian whores, come on! I'm talking to you! Answer me!”
For the next quarter hour, Vallery shouted and screamed, first challenging her captors, then calling for help; but it was all futile. The heat, and the restraint drained her energy, and, finally, she half-hung silently, her hair limp about her face, sweat already polishing her body and soaking through her dress.
It was then, at last, that she heard movement. Footsteps nearby. She tensed. “Hello?”
“Shh.” The girl put her small hands behind Vallery's head and untied the blindfold. As the silk was pulled away, Vallery blinked to focus her eyes. She was in a warehouse – a high iron roof, no windows or ventilation that she could see, just wooden boxes stacked high. They were in a cleared space, lit by halogen floodlights; bare concrete floor, a couple of chairs and a table nearby, nothing else. The taxi had gone, presumably down the narrow aisle back towards the roller-door at the warehouse's far end.
Slowly, Vallery looked up. She was fixed to the circumference of a huge wooden wheel, easily eight feet in diameter; like a giant exercise wheel from a mouse cage. Her own arms stretched up to where the manacles bit cruelly into her wrists; the manacles themselves bolted on short chains to the rim of the wheel. Restrained as she was, Vallery couldn't see to either side of the wheel, but she guessed it was mounted on some kind of axle. Looking down, beyond the fullness of her own breasts, she saw the wheel was mounted on a solid wooden base. The entire machine must have weighed a ton.
Finally, Vallery's attention drifted to the Chinese girl standing in front of her. The girl blinked. “It is called a wheel rack,” she said simply.
Vallery sneered. “Oh, how cute. Little Chink sadists.”
The Chinese girl in front of Vallery smiled. The second girl had been out of sight alongside the wheel, but now appeared to join her sister. “You have great honour,” she said.
“How do you mean?” It was distinctly uncomfortable being bent back over the arc of the wheel, the manacles constantly pulling at her wrists, and even breathing was a labour. It felt far from honourable.
“We find this in museum annex after the English leave, years ago,” the first girl said. “It is antique, maybe five hundred years old. Nobody has been on it in many centuries.”
“Well shit, do you expect me to be impressed?”
The first girl shrugged. “Whatever. All the same to us.”
Vallery gave her best confident laugh. “Yeah? Well you Gooks all the same to me!”
The second girl pouted. “I Lao Ling. I the one who punch.” Without warning, her small fist slammed into Vallery's unprotected belly. Vallery was slammed against the wheel with a shriek, her legs bouncing up in reflex. Nausea lurched up into her chest, and she hung panting in the manacles.
“Okay …” she managed to wheeze. The second girl closed in.
“And I'm Li Mae,” she said sweetly.
Vallery tried to prepare for a second assault. “Let me guess – you're the one who kicks!”
Li Mae went wide-eyed. “No, silly! I speak better English!” As Vallery relaxed a little, Li Mae added, “I also punch.”
Her fist drove up under Vallery's ribcage with a thump, sending the air out of her lungs and leaving her again gasping, hanging off the wheel. The girls watched while the winded American strained to get her feet under her again. Pain pulsed savagely in her guts.
Finally, Vallery was able to lift her head between her raised arms, and focused watering blue eyes on the two Asian girls. “Okay, enough. I'll cooperate. What do you want from me?”
“Not you. We want your friend,” Li Mae said. “We want Franco.”
“Nikki Franco?” Vallery echoed, puzzled. Then realisation hit and her eyes went wide. “Huang! You're Davy Wong's sister!”
“Ah! Smart girl!” Li Mae exclaimed, impressed.
“But … it was an accident. I mean – he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Working for the wrong crowd … he was a criminal!”
“He my brother,” Lao Ling corrected. There was fire in her dark eyes, and a shine of tears. “Nikki Franco kill him. Now, we kill Nikki Franco.”
“Forget it.” Despite her awkward and painful restraint, Vallery tried to sound tough. “You can do anything you like to me – I won't tell you where she is.”
“We know where she is,” Li Mae said scornfully. “In Beverly Hills. You going to bring her here.”
“Oh yeah? How am I going to do that?”
“Call her,” Li Mae smiled, holding up Vallery's cellphone.
Vallery stared at the phone in disbelief. Were they really going to make it that easy? It wasn't hard to give a nod of acquiescence. “Okay. What do you want me to say?”
“Tell her we have you, and if she don't come here, we will torture you.”
Vallery believed them. She nodded wearily. “Okay. … Could you maybe ease off the wheel a bit? It's really starting to hurt.”
Li Mae glanced up at Vallery's manacled hands. The American's lean body was nicely arched over the wheel's curve, and the discomfort of being chained up by the wrists, combined with Hong Kong's oppressive heat, had given her skin an appealing gloss of perspiration. Li Mae gave a shrug. “You okay how you are.”
“Please,” Vallery tried.
Li Mae tossed her hair. “No.”
Humiliation washed over Vallery as the Chinese girls returned to their table and turned their attention to a laptop computer. To be so helpless was almost as unbearable as the growing pain of her restraint. Her wrists were burning in the manacles' rough iron, her arms were aching, and her shoulders felt like they were about to rip out of their sockets. Her back was already aching, bent along the wheel's arc. To make it worse, her feet were cramping from standing on tip-toes for so long – but every time she tried to find relief, her weight was transferred to her arms, doubling the pain. Her baby-doll dress clung to the curves of her body with sweat, the thin fabric turning translucent over the plump swell of each breast.
When I get out of here, you bitches are dead, she decided, her blue eyes narrowing at the thought.
Li Mae glanced over her bare brown shoulder at their captive. “We call Nikki Franco now.”
Vallery bit her lip. Nervous but determined not to show it. She watched as the Chinese girls entered a number into her cellphone. Brushing aside her glossy hair, Li Mae put the phone to her ear.
The phone was evidently answered, and Li Mae spoke slowly: “Listen carefully, Nikki Franco. We have your friend Vallery Irons. Come to Hong Kong and we will not hurt her. But you must come alone.” A pause. Then, “ok, you listen.”
Li Mae held the phone towards Vallery.
“Nikki!” Vallery seized her chance. “It's a trap! Their names are Huang Li Mae and Huang Lao Ling and they want to kill you! Stay away!”
The two Chinese girls stood speechless, and Vallery allowed herself a moment of triumph. “Now what are you going to do, bitches? She knows who you are!”
Li Mae shrugged and folded away the phone. “That's ok, I didn't call her.”
“What?” Vallery's heart stopped for a moment.
“We test you,” Li Mae explained, “to see what you do. Gut feeling.” She patted her flat belly. “We think you will do something like this, so we have a plan B.”
“'Plan B?' What 'plan B?'” Vallery asked shakily. Her confidence had drained in an instant; now she felt more alone, more afraid than ever. Close to panic, she craned her head to look up at the manacles that held her on the wheel.
Lao Ling walked slowly back towards the rack. “Torture,” she said simply.
Vallery's face went white. “Oh – come on, you don't need to do that!”
Li Mae shrugged. “We give you chance, you blew it. Now you are fucked.”
“I'll do what you ask,” Vallery said quickly. “I'll cooperate, I promise.” Her eyes widened as Lao Ling drew close. “No! Please!”
“Too late,” Li Mae said. Lao Ling knelt down by the base of the wheel. Half-hanging as she was, Vallery couldn't see what was going on, but suddenly her foot was seized in a small hand, and the cold, hard grip of an iron shackle closed around her ankle.
“Ohhh shit … oh God … no, don't, please! – I'll scar!” Vallery tried desperately. She tugged her foot against the shackle, but heard the grating of taut chain.
Lao Ling popped up long enough to regard Vallery with wide-eyed sincerity. “No scar,” she promised. She ducked down again, and seized Vallery's free leg.
“Li Mae!” Vallery shouted, sweating in panic now. “I swear, I swear I'll do what you say!”
“You lied one time already,” Li Mae replied. For the first time, Vallery saw what the girl was doing; connecting a webcam to the laptop. “We stick with Plan B.”
Lao Ling locked Vallery's right ankle in its fetter, so that their captive was arched back over the wheel with her legs apart and chained to its base. “You can't do this!” Vallery moaned.
The pain in her wrists was almost unbearable. Her dress had ridden even further up her spread thighs, exposing her tiny pink bikini briefs.
“Okay!” Lao Ling gave a thumbs-up signal to her sister, who made the finishing touches on the webcam, checking the image on the computer screen.
“You can start,” Li Mae said.
Vallery groaned. No scars, Lao Ling had said. What did that leave? Electric shock torture? Starvation? Sleep deprivation? Chinese water torture?
Lao Ling moved to the periphery of Vallery's vision, and closed her hands around a long wooden lever. Vallery's eyes went wide.
“Shit – no!”
But Lao Ling pulled on the lever, and there was a deep groaning and creaking sound. Slowly, the huge wheel inched around, and by her chained wrists, Vallery felt her body being hauled up. The chains around her ankles grew taut. Vallery gave a shout of dismay, feeling her whole body grow tight between wrist manacles and ankle shackles.
The wheel stopped. Vallery's head fell back between her upstretched arms. She was helpless. Her heart was thumping hard against her spine. Her pouting breasts rose and fell with fearful breath. The warehouse seemed to have grown hotter. She closed her eyes.
The wheel shifted again, the chains drawn upwards. The tension in Vallery's body increased; it felt like stretching at the gym, a familiar tightness in her muscles, a slight burning in her joints.
Again the wheel stopped, and Vallery let out her breath in a gasp. She lifted her face towards her tormentors. “No more,” she pleaded.
Li Mae had settled in one of the chairs to watch the process, her hands behind her head, and gave a shrug. “Not up to me now. Lao Ling choose how much.”
“What do you want from me?” Vallery asked desperately.
The answer was for Lao Ling to crank the lever again, and the wheel shifted. Vallery gave a cry of horror as her arched body stretched. Pain flared down the insides of her legs, up her arms, fire in her shoulders. She gave a long moan.
“Wait!” Li Mae suddenly shouted. The winch stopped. Vallery gave a groan of relief; the pain was already intense, but still tolerable. The Chinese girl had leaped from her chair, and admonished her sister sharply in Chinese. Then she hurried over to where Vallery was arched over the wheel – quivering with the tension on her body, on the brink of true agony. Li Mae said hastily, “I'm sorry.”
“For what?” Vallery managed to gasp.
By way of reply, Li Mae grasped the string straps of Vallery's little dress, and wrenched downwards. Vallery gave a howl as her wrists and arms were wrenched with it; but after a few seconds, fabric began to tear. The shoulder straps broke, and in one swift movement, the sweat-wet pink dress was ripped away. Vallery's tanned and wet body was exposed in all its glory; her proud breasts, her muscled belly, her slender hips. Throwing aside the torn remains of the dress, Li Mae snatched the hip-string of Vallery's knickers and ripped them away, revealing the tidy blonde thatch of her pubic hair.
Li Mae took a couple of steps back and inspected her prisoner with a slight smile. “Nice!”
Heat and pain had already glossed Vallery's body with sweat. Her bare breasts shone, her ribcage was stark and raised by the arching and tension; the muscles in her arms and legs were defined and firm. Clamped between her upstretched arms, Vallery's face told of a battle for control.
Li Mae gave a simple command to her sister. “Stretch her.”
Vallery was looking straight into Li Mae's brown eyes as the wheel shifted. Then her vision blurred as her body was tightened, and agony exploded down her arms. She gave a scream of pain, her head rocking back. It felt as if she was being torn apart as the wheel rack stretched her. Li Mae clapped her hands in delight.
The wheel stopped, but Vallery's screams lingered, the hot pain still searing her arms, her shoulders, her legs, and spreading along her spine. She was being tortured, now; the pain more than she could bear, and yet it had only just begun.
Her scream became a wail, her head dropping again, sweat running down her breasts.
Lao Ling's face had become predatory, her eyes burning. Despite Vallery's innocence of any crime against her, it was the Chinese girl's catharsis; a chance to find an outlet for her grief. When the American's screams faded to wails and moans, Lao Ling hauled on the lever again. The simple technology of ages past creaked into action; a toothed wheel turned, rotating another; a ratchet clinked over, and the huge wooden wheel groaned around another quarter inch. Vallery was stretched, and she gave a hideous scream, her head shaking at the agony that exploded through her body.
Her joints were liquid fire. Her muscles were stretched and burning. Her belly was hollowed and hard. Her ribcage jutted up into the air. Her arched spine creaked. The tension was all-engulfing, fierce torque on her entire body. Vallery had never imagined that being stretched could hurt so terribly, that the simple act of drawing out a body could cause such overwhelming pain. Her taut limbs were polished with sweat.
The wheel turned again, and Vallery stretched another half inch. She gave another scream, loud and long, the manacles creaking against her wrists and ankles, her body bowed over the wheel.
Lao Ling let the pain of being stretched do its work; Vallery screamed for more than a minute, before her voice trailed off into a long cry of agony. The floor below her dangling feet was splashed with sweat.
“Please,” Vallery wept, her head rolling side to side, “I'll do anything, please stop the pain …”
Lao Ling scowled and hauled the lever. Vallery screamed anew as the wheel shifted and she was again stretched. The pain in her joints exploded into fire as tendons and ligaments were subjected to unsurpassed levels of strain. Her ribcage looked ready to burst from her skin, her arms and legs impossibly tight, her hands and feet curled by the pressure of shackles.
“Enough,” Li Mae suddenly announced. Lao Ling looked surprised, and then annoyed, and the girls began to debate in Chinese, while Vallery half-hung, half-lay, arched backwards over the wheel, crying out in agony, stretched beyond belief. Li Mae stalked over to her sister and wrenched her hands from the lever, slapped her sister's bare shoulder. Lao Ling finally acquiesced, and stamped away from the rack, pouting at the floor.
Vallery's screams finally trailed off into long wails of pain. Her body was on fire, more agony than she had ever imagined she could feel; given the choice, she would have opted for death in an instant to release her from the torture of the rack. But there was nothing she could do to stop the pain, and the sweat streaked her body in salty rivulets.
Li Mae returned to the computer. Lao Ling sulked. Vallery lay arched across the wheel rack, in pain, stretched to her body's limit. Her head lolled, her hair glued to her face. The heat, the pain, the racing of her heart had taken their toll, and her breath came in short gasps.
Finally, Li Mae returned to the rack, and stamped on a brake-release. The wheel creaked again, but this time it rotated slowly forward. Like a rubber band, Vallery's distended body visibly shifted as the strain was eased. She gave a loud cry of relief; still hanging limply from her manacles, but no longer being stretched. The wheel groaned around until Vallery's toes kissed the floor. There, Li Mae stopped it, so that their captive could touch the ground, but get no respite from hanging.
Tossing her hair, the Chinese girl stood before the shining-wet blonde. “That is enough, for now,” she said. “We email what we have to your friend. You pray she come to help you.”
Vallery could give no reply, hanging exhausted. Li Mae bent to the floor and picked up Vallery's own bikini briefs, still damp with sweat. She calmly packed the bikini into Vallery's mouth, then fetched a strip of packing tape and secured it over the gag to stop Vallery spitting it out.
As the two Chinese girls packed up their computer and left the warehouse, blackness closed in on the tortured American.
Night in Hong Kong was barely any better than day. The heat was still fiercely oppressive in the warehouse, and it, combined with the ongoing pain of her restraint, kept the tightly-gagged Vallery from finding any respite. Aside from a brief period of unconsciousness, she was constantly, fitfully aware.
The torture hadn't ended when the girls left.
Sweat clustered like condensation in the taut gullies of Vallery's smooth armpits, collecting until a fat droplet would slither down to caress the gleaming flank of her breast, then slide down over her taut ribs. More droplets clustered between her magnificent breasts, at the base of her throat, and down the gentle valley of her belly, slow trickles of warm perspiration creeping down between her buttocks.
Being bent backwards over the wheel was pure torment. The iron manacles burned into the bones of Vallery's wrists, the weight of her body compressing her hands into helpless claws, bruises spreading darkly around the circumference of each wrist. Her arms were in constant pain; not accustomed to taking the weight of her body for any length of time, the muscles and joints were screaming in protest. Being racked had only made it worse, and the pain was savage.
From time to time, moaning into her gag, Vallery strained her feet for the floor. By pointing her toes and stretching her legs, she could almost get support. But at once, crippling cramps would spear through the arches of her feet, forcing her to lift her toes and hang fully in the manacles again.
After several hours, she gave up even that basic struggle, and hung limply.
But in the stillness before dawn, when the air finally cooled a little, Vallery found some presence of mind again, and shook herself from stupor. She realised that the Chinese girls would be back – and were probably going to kill her. There was no way she could still be in the warehouse when they returned.
Desperately, Vallery tipped her head back. She had been in situations like this before, and always she had managed to escape. But this … shit …she saw her own two hands, dark with strangled circulation beyond the manacles. The chains were short and thick, and well beyond her paralysed fingers' reach, bolted securely to the rim of the wheel. The manacles themselves were locked with keys. She couldn't even see her ankles, but they were chained just as securely, wide apart, her heels well off the floor. Only brute strength would break her out of this, and she knew already that the ropes and chains were far stronger than her own flesh and bone.
Vallery was helpless.
Breath hissed through her nostrils, a gagged sigh of defeat as she let her head fall back, and hung weakly from the manacles, waiting for her captors to return.
Many long, restless hours later, they did. Vallery stirred as light exploded from a doorway at the far end of the warehouse. Two slender figures walked purposefully in.
Lao Ling was the younger and prettier of the two, and she knew it. Long lashes and almond-shaped mahogany-brown eyes, a pouting mouth, long glossy-black hair that swept her brown back as she walked. Dressed vampishly in a white halter top and black hot pants; a hand-span of firm midriff. Her legs were slender and long, perfectly smooth. She wore pink thick-soled shoes.
Li Mae was older, not as pretty, perhaps, but striking all the same; she shared the dark eyes and pouting mouth of her sister, but her hair was carelessly tied back. She wore a basic black tank top, blue jeans and low-heeled boots, clothes that meant business. There was a bag over her shoulder.
As Lao Ling went to the nearby table and laid out their computer and cell phones, Li Mae went to check on their captive. “Good morning, Vallery Irons!”
Vallery's blue eyes swam in and out of focus, her head barely lifting as the petite Chinese girl arrived in front of her. Li Mae deftly plucked free a corner of the packing-tape gag, then stripped it away sharply, using delicate fingers to extract the soaked bikini brief from Vallery's mouth.
“I have bad news for you,” Li Mae searched Vallery's face for a reaction as she spoke. “Your friend Nikki Franco, she tell us to 'get fucked.'”
Vallery tested her voice for the first time in nineteen agonised hours. “I don't believe you.”
Li Mae shrugged. “Whatever. She says she will not come to Hong Kong. We are welcome to kill you, she doesn't care. So now, we go to Plan C.”
Vallery was afraid to ask. “And … what is Plan C?”
“You will help us to have Nikki Franco killed.”
Vallery's face hardened and her mouth curled into a sneer. “No, I won't.” Her voice found strength. “You can stick your Plan C up your tight little Chinese ass, I won't cooperate with you. Ever. I know what you can do, and it's not enough to persuade me to betray my friend.”
“You will betray her,” Li Mae said confidently. “You will beg to betray her.”
“Crazy American,” Li Mae shrugged, and turned towards her sister, barking an instruction in Chinese. Lao Ling casually stood and strolled over to the rack. With one small hand, she grasped the lever and cranked it. The wheel creaked and slowly moved, and by the wrists, Vallery's body was gently hoisted. Almost at once, her ankle chains locked tight. Li Mae watched as the muscles in Vallery's long, tanned limbs were drawn taut, the tendons through her sweat-wet armpits visibly tightening, then signalled a stop.
The wheel was halted.
Vallery was breathing hard, her perfect breasts rising and falling rapidly. Her ribcage was lifted by the strain, her body arched back. She was already stretched, her arms burning, her spine too; but not yet to the point of unbearable pain.
“You know why we chose to use this?” Li Mae asked, indicating the ancient machine. “Is very effective torture. The body does not want to stretch, does not stretch very far at all. Maybe only a few inches. Not supposed to stretch far. When it's made to stretch … it hurts very much indeed, even without much damage.” Her dark eyes took on a dangerous fire.
“But if the stretching continues … then damage starts, and pain is very much worse. Pow, dislocate. Pow, joint break. Muscle rip. Tendon break. Then ligament. By then, not so easy to recover, maybe never walk again. Stretch more, and spine come a apart like so – crack, crack!” She demonstrated the process by separating her hands, all the time looking intently into Vallery's face. She put cool fingertips to the toned flatness of Vallery's stomach. “Muscle rip here, too. You can't breathe. Then you die.”
Li Mae clicked her fingers. The wheel shifted, Vallery stretched. Agony exploded into her shoulders and along her arms, spread like molten lead down her spine, under her shoulder blades, through her hips. Vallery's mouth flew open in reaction to the sudden, overwhelming pain; but she held back her scream. The wheel stopped again, leaving Vallery poised on the brink of losing all control.
Sweat clustered over her naked skin. Her breathing was hard and fast.
“You see?” Li Mae asked. “It hurts, yes?”
“Of course it fucking hurts,” Vallery managed to gasp.
“You will have Nikki Franco killed?”
The wheel moved and Vallery screamed. It was only a quarter inch, but her limbs filled with unbearable agony and her resistance broke. It was too much, too painful, her body felt like it was tearing apart. She had no way to fight it, no leverage against the rack's savage force. In a fraction of an inch, her bravado had dissolved into helpless shrieks.
“Say you cooperate, and we stop!” Li Mae shouted.
Vallery screamed a refusal even though tears were pouring down her face, mixing with the sweat that coursed freely down her ribcage, streaked her spread thighs. To Vallery's disbelief, Lao Ling cranked the lever again. The wheel shifted, Vallery's body stretched another quarter inch. The creaking of the rack was joined by the pops of Vallery's body stretching further, as joints were drawn closer to breaking point. The pain was incredible, as if her whole body had been doused in gasoline and set alight. Vallery screamed out her agony.
Li Mae inspected her nails and waited patiently.
At the rack's lever, Lao Ling sucked her lip. She felt so horny; she was wet between her legs, there was sweat on her bare skin. Her hands caressed and stroked the wooden lever of the rack up and down, a slow, sensual worship. It was like a cock to her, powerful, beautiful, and indescribably exciting.
Over the next quarter hour, Vallery's screams slowly trailed off into a breathless whimpering, her stark ribcage shifting fast as she panted for breath. Her feet, inches off the ground, were splayed, toes spread; her hands crunched into balls above the manacles, her body arched and wet and impossibly taut.
“We can stop the pain,” Li Mae promised.
Vallery's face was running with sweat, her hair was splayed over the wooden curve of the rack, and she could barely control her voice as she fixed her swimming eyes on Li Mae. “Please. Please, stop the pain … ”
“Say you have Nikki Franco killed, and the pain will stop.”
“I can't do that, I can't, I can't,” Vallery sobbed, her head lolling between her upstretched arms.
Lao Ling bent to kiss the handle of the rack, closing both hands around it, and, with effort, hauled against its growing resistance. Slowly, the wheel shifted, and Vallery's mouth flung wide in a scream of agony as her body was stretched. Hot pain like molten lead spread down her back, up her arms, through her hips, paralysing agony that overwhelmed her and left her screaming and screaming without break. Her bladder loosened in a hot spray that had Li Mae jumping back with a shriek. The two girls laughed to see the beautiful, haughty American so reduced, stripped of clothes, self-control, and dignity.
No matter what Vallery may have intended, they were breaking her with pain, and soon enough she would cooperate with them fully. The rack's work was slow, but inevitable.
Li Mae and Lao Ling took a break, strolling outside into the searing midday sun to stretch and smoke and gossip and sip on their water bottles, casually letting the better part of an hour slip by. When they finally returned into the muggy dimness of the warehouse, both girls' bare shoulders were gleaming with perspiration. But it was nothing compared to the varnish of sweat that covered Vallery's stretched and bowed body.
Every limb was pulled to its limit; her body wrenched and arched backwards over the wheel, tighter than a steel cable, the whole rack creaking slowly with the stored tension. Cries and groans came from the tortured blonde woman, and slow rivers of sweat ran down the curving surface of the rack. Her full breasts thrust into the air from her arched ribcage, streaked and beaded with droplets, shifting with the shallow breaths that she managed to draw against the strain and agony.
“Now, do you cooperate?” Li Mae asked calmly.
Vallery's head slowly shifted right, then left, then right. No.
Lao Ling took hold of the rack's lever, pulled … and nothing happened.
“Oh, is too hard!” she said.
Li Mae joined her sister. Shoulder to shoulder, the two girls took hold of the lever as one, and pulled together. Slowly it shifted, the cogs grated about, and the wheel moved. Vallery's screams reached a new pitch as she was stretched another half-inch. The agony doubled, a terrible fire spreading up her lower back as her pelvis was wrenched on its anchoring muscles. Every tendon was defined, her skin taut, her ribs sharp, her body bowed over the wet wood, the chains creaking with strain.
Another half hour. The girls lazed around, passing time while Vallery was held on the brink of madness by the agony of the rack. Her shrieks and cries echoed through the warehouse, the slow creaks of the wheel. Eventually, the girls returned to their victim.
“Do as we say,” Li Mae demanded.
“You're killing me,” Vallery groaned through her pain.
“No kill you,” Lao Ling promised from where she again caressed the rack's handle, eager to resume the torture. “Just very hurt.”
“Do what we say,” Li Mae repeated coldly.
“I can't!” Vallery wailed.
“Then we stretch you more.”
“Oh God – no, no, please, no!” Vallery howled.
The two girls were sweating with effort as they grasped the lever again, and together, heaved with all their strength. Vallery began shrieking dementedly as the wheel started to move; just a tiny shift, but as it went, there was a sucking sound from her shoulders; her arms seemed to lengthen by a fraction of an inch.
Fifteen minutes. Two hours since the torture had started, twenty-four hours since Vallery had first been chained to the wheel rack. The girls were beginning to swap looks, their confidence starting to ebb as they wondered if the beautiful American might actually hold out.
Vallery's screams echoed on, though her voice was becoming hoarse, her breaths too shallow to allow the full bellowing of earlier. Now they were high-pitched cries, barely covering the sound of her own body creaking and groaning with strain.
Finally, Li Mae joined her sister at the lever again. They grasped it and began heaving. Their slender bodies braced, arms straining, gradually they dragged the lever forward and the wheel began to shift. As it did, Vallery's mouth opened to its widest, her eyes bulging, and an inhuman sound came from her throat. New sounds came from her shoulders and hips as they were drawn almost to the point of tearing from her body. The ratchet clinked into place at last, and finally Vallery gave a terrible, long scream of pain.
“Ohhh god, stop, sto-o-op! Stop the pain, I'll do anything you say, anything, I'll do it!”
Li Mae released the handle, unselfconsciously wiped a hand through her own wet armpit, and sniffed it. “Aw, you made me all hot!” She fanned herself. “Okay, now you better talk.”
In gasps and shrieks, glossed with perspiration and stretched to breaking point, Vallery gave them all they needed. She gave names, numbers, offered her credit card and bank passwords. Then, while Li Mae began making calls and transferring funds, Vallery remained bowed across the creaking wheel rack, stretched and agonised, groaning and heaving for breath. Lao Ling rested, with one hand still closed about the lever, sometimes caressing it, anxiously watching her sister in the hope that more torture would soon be needed.
Finally, Li Mae looked up. “Okay. Now we wait.”
Reluctantly, Lao Ling released the brake. Vallery gave a long cry as her whole body visibly retracted, the tension easing in her straining limbs and wrenched spine. The relief was overwhelming, more intense than any orgasm. She groaned and sighed as joints settled back into place and muscles loosened. Lao Ling stopped the rack with Vallery's toes still an inch off the floor, and Vallery hung, half-senseless and exhausted.
Nikki Franco sashayed from the gym with the flamboyance of a woman well aware of her own beauty. In a micro crop-top and painted-on leather pants, her short hair gelled and perfect. It was a wonderful day. It had started with the sexiest email she'd ever received, a video of Vallery Irons being tortured. It had made Nikki so horny, she'd had to masturbate in front of her computer. She'd written her email reply in an instant. Today was the day Vallery Irons would be tortured to death, and V.I.P. would become N.F.P. Nikki smiled to herself, chirped the lock of her car.
A burst of red appeared just above her left breast, and she slammed to her knees, her face showing disbelief as her keys clattered to the sidewalk. A moment later, a small hole was smacked through the bridge of her nose, and the back of her head burst as the sniper's second bullet found its mark. The twitching corpse of Nikki Franco crumpled to the concrete.
Vallery Irons hit the ground hard. For a few moments she lay. The racking had left her weak, and her strained muscles and joints burned with pain at every tiny movement. But she was alive, and whole, and the feeling was slowly returning to her purple hands.
Li Mae knelt beside Vallery, rolled her gently onto her back, then lifted Vallery's head and shoulders into her lap. “You need to drink.” A bottle of warm cola was put to Vallery's cracked lips, and she drank thirstily, draining the contents in half a minute. A droplet ran down her chin, and she lifted her eyes in gratitude to the impassive Asian beauty kneeling over her.
“It is done,” Li Mae said. “Nikki Franco is dead. Now you are free to go. You will keep quiet about this, and we will keep quiet about whose bank account paid for Franco to die.”
Vallery Irons nodded weakly and closed her eyes.