Foreclosure 3

by Zack

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© Copyright 2002 - Zack - Used by permission

Storycodes: MF/f; bondage; prisoner; n/c; XX

(story continues from )

by Zack

Part Three

Notice: This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, organizations, or persons is entirely coincidental.

It was just after 5 a.m., and Sharon was supine on her cot. She was wearing her usual night-time attire of tee shirt, sweatsuit, white socks, leg irons, and belly chains. She was covered by three blankets and shivering violently. The chains interfered with her circulation just enough that her hands and feet were icy. The outside temperature had dropped way below zero and it wasn't much warmer inside the jail. 

There was a loud crack, and the sound of running water. The lights went on and Otto appeared outside the cell. He looked at the water gushing from the broken pipe under the sink. 

"Oh, darn, this ain't good." 

He rushed out of the cell block and Sharon heard the outside door slam. She huddled on her cot, cold down to the core. It was quite a while before the water stopped running, and by that time a sheet of ice was covering the floor of her cell. Otto reappeared and unlocked the cell door. 

"The furnace broke, and this ain't the only pipe that froze up. I'm moving you to the courthouse 'til the sheriff decides what to do." He cautiously walked into the cell. Sharon sat up on the cot and Otto helped her get her shoes on. 

She complained, "I can't do much walking with this short chain between my ankles, sir." 

Otto removed the leg irons. "OK, I guess you couldn't get far on a night this cold anyhow." 

He helped Sharon to her feet and wrapped the blankets around her, and they managed to traverse the ice on the cell floor without falling. Then it was down the aisle and outside. The cold struck Sharon like a blow, and Otto had to steady her as they crossed the alley and went up the steps to the back door of the courthouse. 

Once inside it was much warmer. Otto guided Sharon to the Sheriff's department. Ole was already there, asleep on a bench. Otto moved a chair next to a radiator and sat Sharon in it. He used the leg irons to lock her right ankle to the steam pipe coming out of the floor and tented the blankets over her body. Sharon huddled over the radiator. Finally she felt her body start to thaw out. 

It was almost seven when the sheriff arrived. He was a tall, angular man in a black suit. His face held deep vertical creases, and he never smiled. Otto stood up when he entered the room; Trude entered right behind the sheriff and stood next to Otto. Sharon struggled to stand; she knew that Trude would add a day to her jail time if she didn't show the proper respect. Once everyone else entered the sheriff's private office Sharon sat back down and dozed. 

The sheriff barked at Otto, "What happened?" 

"The jail furnace broke and it got real cold inside. A lot of the pipes froze and there was water all over the place; it's ice now." 

"Any chance of a quick repair of the furnace?" 

"Nope. It's going to need replacing; it's so old I don't think we could get parts." 

"Damn! I don't have money in my budget for that. How many prisoners do we have now?" 

"Just Green and Ole. He'll finish his sentence at the end of the month." 

"We can let Ole sleep at his brother's place and just work during the day. As for Green, we could send her to another county or to the state prison, but I haven't got the money for that, either. How much time has she got left?" 

Trude spoke up, "Over a month, but she's adding time almost as fast as she serves it. She may be with us for more than a year." Trude thought fast. She didn't want to let Sharon escape her clutches. "We could keep her at my place, sir. There's a basement that would be reasonably secure. I'm sure my father would agree to it." 

"That might work. Give him a call. We could pay you what we pay the cafe for food, but not more." 

Trude quickly dialed and when Sven answered she explained the circumstances and asked if they could board Sharon. 

"I don't like that idea, Trude. I don't want a convict living with us." 

"She won't be living with us, Dad. She'll be in the basement at night, and out working for the county during the day. We'll get paid, and we won't have much in the way of costs. It would be a big help to the sheriff, too." 

Sven thought for a moment. "All right, you can bring her here. But you'll have to take care of her." Sven smiled when he realized that he had said the exact same words to Trude when she was a little girl and wanted to bring home a puppy. 

"Thanks, Dad." She hung up. "He agreed, Sheriff." 

"Good. I'll talk to the judge and make sure it's OK with him. Remember though, you can't have her do any work on your farm; you'll have to bring her into town and keep her working on public jobs." 

The sheriff left the office, and Trude said to Otto, "Where are you going to live?" 

Otto cackled, "There are several widow ladies who want my body. I'll see which one makes the best offer." 

"I'm very happy for you. If you'll watch Sharon I'll go over to the jail and get her stuff and the other chains. It's too cold to work outside, but there are a lot of restrooms in the courthouse that haven't been really cleaned in a long time. Let's put her to work on them." 

As soon as she could Trude returned to her house and inspected the basement. It hadn't been converted to a living area; most of the concrete floor was covered with boxes of junk. The gas furnace was in one corner and a vent from it opened into the basement and kept it reasonably warm. A steel support pole was in the center of the space. 

Trude spent a couple of hours removing and rearranging the junk until she had cleared everything away from the pole. She found an old mattress and put it and some worn blankets next to the pole. There wasn't any plumbing in the basement, so she added a plastic bucket with a lid and some plastic bottles full of water to the furnishings. She searched the barn and found an eight-foot length of heavy chain, and she bolted one end around the steel pole. 

Sharon was tired and sore after a day of scrubbing restrooms in the courthouse. She had been forced to kneel on the tile floors as she scrubbed them, and her knees ached. Her hands were red and chafed. She was glad when Trude arrived to take her back to jail. 

When Trude loaded her into the cab of a pickup truck instead of walking her across the alley she asked, "Where are we going, Ms. Olsen?" 

"To my father's farm. The jail won't be habitable for quite a while, so the sheriff wants me to keep you at my place." 

Sharon was glad; she figured that anything would be an improvement over the jail. She knew differently once Trude led her down into the basement and locked the heavy chain around her neck. The basement was bleak, with bare concrete walls and a bare concrete floor, but the worst part was the isolation. At the jail Ole was in the cell block, and Otto looked in on her regularly. Here she could be confined alone for fifteen hours a day. 

Sharon protested, "This place is inhumane! And why do you have to chain my neck? I can't possibly escape. I'm not an animal; you can't treat me as though I were." 

"You're worse than an animal; no animal would risk innocent people by driving drunk. I'm going to punish you for the rest of your sentence, which has just been lengthened by a week. If you say any more it will be a month." 

Sharon forced herself to keep quiet. Protesting her innocence yet again would be futile, and she didn't want Trude to add any more jail time. Trude removed the handcuffs and leg irons, and once Sharon had removed her outdoor clothing the belly chains were locked in place. Trude pulled the waist chain as tight as she could before padlocking it, and she made the cuffs tight enough to hurt. 

Sharon seethed with rage, but once she had been alone for a while the rage changed to despair. Trude had apparently 'forgotten' to bring her an evening meal, and this omission caused psychological pain as well as hunger. Sharon was used to being in charge of her life, and to be so dependent on the whim of another was breaking down her morale. 

The next day the weather changed with the abruptness that characterizes the northern plains. The temperature rose from below freezing to the mid-forties and the winds were calm. Sharon was dressed in her outdoor clothing; a tee shirt, the gray sweatsuit under the jail's denim skirt, and the old blue peacoat with the large white 'P' on the back. A blue knitted watch cap was pulled down over her ears. Her hands were covered with woolen mittens, and Trude had locked the handcuffs over the top of the mittens so Sharon's wrists wouldn't be bruised by her day's work. The leg irons were similarly padded by the cuffs of the sweatsuit. 

Trude loaded Sharon into her truck and drove to the courthouse, where she met Ole. They loaded a large orange trash barrel into the back of the truck and drove out of town on the main highway. About a mile north of the city limits Trude stopped the truck. 

"Today you're going to be picking up trash, Sharon. Help me with the barrel, Ole." 

Trude and Ole wrestled the trash barrel out of the truck and placed it upright on the shoulder of the road. It was made from an old 55 gallon steel drum, with wheels mounted on one side so it could be tilted and rolled. A forty-foot chain was welded to its side. 

Trude wrapped the free end of the chain around Sharon's neck and padlocked it. She enjoyed the stricken look on Sharon's face. She was still determined to punish Sharon as much as she could, and chaining her neck to the trash barrel would be very cruel. Then Trude hesitated. She felt a twinge in her bottom as she remembered how Erik had reprimanded her after the last time she had been very cruel to Sharon, and what he had promised to do if she repeated the offense. She removed the chain from Sharon's neck and relocked it around her waist. 

"OK, Sharon, you take this side of the road and Ole will take the other side. Keep walking north, picking up all of the trash as you go. I'll inspect what you did, and every piece of trash you miss will cost you another day in jail. See you down the road at lunchtime." 

Sharon managed to contain her rage until the truck was out of sight, and then she screamed, "How much more humiliation do I have to endure? Why don't you just put a pillory in front of the courthouse and lock me in that?" 

Ole answered, "That wouldn't get the roadside picked up. I suppose you're used to big city jails, where you sit in your cell or the drunk tank all day." 

"I was never in jail until I visited this town! And I am not a drunk!" 

"OK, OK. If you're not ready to get help I know there's nothing anyone can do. It's a shame, though. I'm an old man, and my life is already ruined. But you're a young woman, and if you got treatment you could have a future." 

"My future will be fine, once this town is not part of it!" 

"I'd like to believe that. Let's get to work. We have to finish this stretch of highway today, and I don't want to work out here after the sun goes down." 

Sharon didn't want to do that either, so she climbed into the ditch and started tossing beer cans at the trash barrel. It was awkward to do this with her wrists chained together; she eventually managed a sort of double-underhand lob. The trash was on the ground, of course, and Sharon had to bend over to pick it up. It wasn't long before her back started to protest, and then to scream. This job was more than humiliation, it was becoming torture. She complained to Ole, and he assured her she would get used to it. This didn't offer much comfort. 

Sharon had felt exposed when she was working in town, but it was worse out here. Every car and truck that passed slowed down, and some of the drivers honked and waved. She tried to ignore them. Every so often she forgot and bent over so her butt was facing the traffic, and the honking and yelling became a crescendo. 

Sharon was struggling to roll the barrel farther along the road when a car stopped next to her and two young women got out. The car had a Quebec license plate and the women were speaking French. One of them spoke the Quebec dialect, but the other's accent was straight from Paris. 

The Parisian said to her friend, "I've heard all of the stories about the brutal system of justice in the United States, but I never expected to see it displayed so openly! What was her crime, do you suppose?" 

"I don't know, Anne-Marie. I'll ask her." 

The Canadian woman spoke to Sharon in English. "Hello, can I ask you some questions?" 

There was a flash as Anne-Marie took a photograph. This annoyed Sharon; she didn't want a picture of her in chains to be posted on somebody's website. Her long-suppressed sense of humor peeked out and she decided to see if she could both slander the town and gull the tourists with the same story. 

Sharon said in French, "Please help me! I've been a prisoner here for months." 

Anne-Marie asked in French, "What was your crime?" 

"I didn't do anything! I was having lunch in a cafe and that old man over there came up to me and offered me $10,000 if I would be his sex slave for a month. I refused, of course. But when I left the cafe I was arrested on a false charge of drunken driving. I had a show trial and was sentenced to over a year in jail. Then I was delivered to his house." 

"What does he do to you?" 

"He makes me have sex with him two or three times a night. He's very demanding, and if I don't please him he punishes me. Making me work in chains out here on the highway is one of his favorite penalties, because it demonstrates his power over me to everyone in the county. I hate it, but it is better than being whipped." 

"How terrible!" 

"Yes, if it weren't for the orgasms I'd probably kill myself." Sharon smiled at Ole. "He told me that one woman wasn't enough for him and that he wants a harem. You two are exactly the type he likes. Escape while you can." 

The French women looked at Ole, who was smiling at them. They jumped into their car and roared away. 

Ole said, "Merci, ma cherie." Sharon blushed and got back to work. 

* * * 

Sharon woke from an uneasy sleep when Trude arrived in the basement, and she scrambled to her feet. Trude gave her a bowl of oatmeal, and after she left the basement Sharon began the struggle to feed herself. She sat on the edge of her mattress and held the bowl between her knees. She hunched over to put the bowl, the spoon, and her mouth as close together as possible. The waist chain was still pulled tight, so it was a stretch to get the spoon into her mouth. 

Sharon finished her oatmeal and waited for Trude to collect her for the day's work detail, but she never appeared. Several hours later Lena entered the basement and selected a jar of preserves from a shelf. 

Sharon asked, "Excuse me, ma'am, but what happened to Trude? I'm usually at work by this time." 

Lena was surprised by the question. "Today is Christmas. You and Trude have the day off." 

"Oh. Thank you, I had lost track." 

Lena left the basement, and Sharon stretched out on the mattress. She realized that this would be the fourth Christmas in a row that she had been alone; before that she had always visited one of her sisters for the holiday. She remembered what Christmas had been like when she was a girl. Her family had been far from affluent, but it had been close and loving and she had been very happy. Before she realized it tears were leaking out of her eyes. 

A few hours later Lena returned to the basement. She was carrying a tray of food. 

Lena said, "I've brought you Christmas dinner. Please, sit down." 

Sharon sat on the edge of her mattress and Lena handed her a plate. It was immediately obvious that she wouldn't be able to eat from it. She couldn't grip the plate with her knees, and the turkey would have to be cut with a knife and fork; an impossible task for Sharon, who could only use one hand at a time. Lena watched her for a few minutes as she struggled, and then took the plate and put it back on the tray. 

Lena exclaimed, "This is too much! I have to talk to Trude." 

Lena left the basement and went to the parlor, where Trude and Erik were entwined on the couch. A football game was on television, but they were engrossed in playing a game of their own. 

Lena said, "Trude, that poor woman in the basement is chained so tightly that she can't even feed herself. I want you to take off those belly chains and the leg irons." 

"They're necessary for security. She tried to escape." 

"That chain you locked around her neck is all you need. It's heavy enough to hold an elephant." 

"I'm the one that the sheriff appointed to watch her, not you. And I want her chained." 

"You were appointed to be her jailer, not her torturer. You are being cruel, and if you don't remove the chains I'm going to talk to Judge Petersen." 

Further objections from Trude were interrupted by Erik, who said, "Lena's right. You are being cruel. Go take the chains off." 

Trude went to the basement without another word. When the chains had been removed Sharon said, "Thank you! It's such a relief to be able to stretch." 

"It'll only last as long as you behave." 

Sharon nodded her agreement, and Trude left. Sharon happily ate her dinner, reveling in her ability to use both hands at once. 

She was still happy when Trude returned to pick up the dishes. She gave Sharon a letter. 

"Here. This came a few days ago, but it was delivered to the jail. I opened it to check for contraband, but I didn't read it." 

This was only the second letter that Sharon had received since she had been in jail. The other had been a power of attorney that she had signed and returned to Richard; he needed it so he could use the money in her bank account to pay her bills. 

This letter was from the bank. It had been sent to her apartment in Milwaukee and forwarded by Richard. Sharon expected it to be the usual announcement of her year-end bonus, so she was unprepared for what she read. It was a termination notice. She had been fired, effective at the end of the year. The severance pay was equal to two weeks' salary. 

Sharon was stunned. She had expected that her career would suffer because of the botched foreclosure, but she had been plotting her comeback and she had been sure she could pull it off. Now it was too late; her enemies had stabbed her in the back, and she was finished. Her entire life had been dedicated to getting to the top of the heap at the bank. Without her job she had nothing and was nothing. 

Sharon huddled on her mattress and went through the gamut of emotions associated with any great loss; starting with denial and ending in profound depression. Nothing mattered to her any more. Her life had no meaning. She cried most of the night. 

The next day Sharon had recovered only slightly. She kept telling herself that it was just a job, and that she would find a better one elsewhere. But she didn't believe it. The banking industry was contracting and the economy was in a slump. She had been fired, so she wasn't going to get a good reference. The best she could look forward to was a poorer job at a lot less pay. Her depression deepened. 

Trude noticed the change when she arrived to collect Sharon for the day's work detail. She always enjoyed the suppressed rage Sharon couldn't conceal when she responded to Trude's orders, especially when she held out her hands to be cuffed. Today was different; Sharon did as she was told without any emotional response. A zombie would seem exuberant compared to Sharon. 

"Are you OK, Sharon? You didn't eat too much yesterday, did you? I know! You were so giddy over having the chains off that you danced all night. Is that it?" 

"No, ma'am." 

"You'll be back doing highway trash pickup today. You'll like that, won't you?" Trude knew that Sharon hated to work beside the highway while she was chained to the trash barrel. Often this question brought an insolent answer that would add several days to Sharon's sentence. 

"Yes, ma'am." Sharon ignored the taunting; it was like she didn't even recognize it. 

"It's not that time of month, is it? Do you need some equipment?" 

"No, ma'am." 

Trude shrugged. She didn't really care what was wrong. Sharon was suffering, and that was what she wanted. She put Sharon in her truck and they drove to the work site. The trash barrel was where they left it, and Trude locked the chain around Sharon's waist. She waited until Ole's brother dropped him off, and then she went to her job at the courthouse. 

Ole was quick to notice the change in Sharon. The subdued, withdrawn woman facing him now was not the Sharon that he was used to. He had grown to like her strong personality. Her rage was never directed at him, so he could consider it to be performance art. 

"What's the matter, Sharon? Are you sick?" 

"I got a letter from the bank. I've been fired." Tears started to run down her face. 

"Oh, is that all? Hell, I've been fired dozens of times." 

"I know it doesn't sound that bad to you, but I spent the last twelve years just living to work. Now I find I've wasted the best years of my life. I don't have any friends and I've alienated my family, and all for nothing. I'm such a pathetic loser." 

"No you're not! You're smart and you're pretty. Although your personality can be a little rough at times." 

"You mean I'm a bitch on wheels. Thanks for trying to cheer me up, even if I don't believe what you said. It's all so futile. I just don't want to go on any longer." 

Ole continued to talk, but Sharon withdrew deeper into depression. She just walked along the road, automatically picking up trash. She didn't even notice the traffic, although she still attracted plenty of attention. 

At the end of the day she docilely obeyed all of Trude's orders. Once she was in the basement she spent hours on the mattress staring at the floor joists above her head. She looked for a way to fasten her neck chain to them, so she could end her miserable, worthless existence. Far in the back of her mind she could detect a small voice telling her that she wasn't thinking rationally, but her dark emotions dominated her behavior. 

The weather remained dry, and Sharon spent the next few days picking up trash. Ole was relentlessly cheerful, and gradually her depression lifted until she no longer considered suicide to be a desirable option. 

By the late afternoon of the last day of the year Sharon's mental state had improved enough that she could initiate a conversation. She said, "This is the last day of your sentence, isn't it?" 

"Yep. I'll be out of jail until I go on another bender." 

"It'll be hard to work out here on the road without you." 

Ole looked at the sky. "You won't be doing this much longer. I think it's going to snow, and about time, too." 

Sharon looked up at the sky, and she didn't notice the pickup until it skidded to a stop next to her. Two men jumped out of the cab. One man stepped up to Sharon, and she had time to notice that his face was covered with a ski mask before he backhanded her and knocked her to the ground. 

He rolled Sharon face down and used a short piece of rope to connect her elbows together behind her back. He pulled them together until the handcuffs cut into her wrists, and when she started to scream he forced a bandana into her mouth and knotted it behind her neck. He pulled the watch cap over her eyes to blindfold her. 

When Ole saw Sharon go down he ran across the road, but the other man intercepted him and punched him in the stomach. He fell to his knees, retching. The man who subdued Sharon tossed her into the back of the pickup, and then the two men put the trash barrel in next to her. They got in the cab and sped north, away from town. 

Sven was on his way home from work. Normally, he wasn't home until well after dark, but today the plant had closed early because of the holiday. He had to brake violently when a pickup truck made an abrupt left turn in front of him. He wondered where it was going in such a hurry, and why it was carrying an orange trash barrel. 

A few miles down the road Sven was waved to a stop by a frantic Ole. 

Ole shouted, "It's Sharon! Two men kidnapped her!" 

"Were they driving an old green Dodge pickup?" 

"Yeah. How'd you know?" 

"They turned in front of me and I saw the trash barrel. Get in." 

When Ole was in the cab Sven made a U-turn and drove north. He handed his cell phone to Ole and said, "Call the sheriff. Tell him the truck was heading west on Hilltop Lane." 

Sharon was very frightened as she jounced along in the back of the truck. She struggled against the rope binding her elbows, but she knew she didn't have a chance to escape. All she could do was hope for a rescue. She prayed that Ole was all right. 

The green pickup pulled into the yard of an abandoned farm and the men got out of the cab. They lifted out the trash barrel, and then one picked up Sharon and carried her to the porch of the farmhouse and dumped her on the worn boards. She thrashed and twisted as they stripped her. One of the men unbuttoned her peacoat and then pulled out a hunting knife and slit open her sweatshirt and tee shirt and peeled them back. She felt her nipples harden as the cold air struck them. 

The other man pulled off her skirt and sweatpants. Sharon fought desperately but ineffectually as a hand stroked her thigh and fondled her pubes. She felt one of the men kneel between her legs while the other pinned her down with a hand on her throat. 

"Hold on baby! You're gonna love this!" 

"Wait a minute. You don't have a rubber." 

"So what? You think she got the clap?" 

"Haven't you heard of DNA, you dumbshit? You leave your cum in her it's just like a fingerprint, and the cops will get you for sure. There's rubbers in the truck. Get one for me, too." 

"OK, but I still get to go first." 

The farmhouse was on a little hillock, and the man looked back towards the highway, about a mile away, as he walked to the truck. He saw headlights on the road, and then he saw more headlights turn off the highway. He took a closer look and saw flashing blue lights. 

He yelled to the man on the porch, "Shit! Here come the cops. Let's get out of here!" 

The men scrambled into the truck and roared away. All was quiet except for Sharon's muffled sobs. 

Sven had turned on his headlights just before he reached the turn onto the farm road. The sun had set, but it was still light enough to see that the road ahead was empty. 

Ole said, "The dispatcher said there's a patrol car just behind us." He looked out of the rear window. "Yep, I see his lights." 

"A truck just pulled out onto the road, and he's really moving. It looks like a green pickup. I'm going to check out the farm." Sven slowed and turned in the drive. He could see the trash barrel, and then he saw a body on the porch. 

Sven hit the brake, and he was out of the cab as soon as the truck stopped moving. He ran to the porch, and gasped with relief when he heard Sharon's sobbing. He gasped again when he got close enough to see her clearly. He said to himself, 'What a body she's got!', and immediately felt guilty. 

He knelt next to her and said, "It's OK now, Sharon. The men have gone." He pulled the watch cap off of her eyes, and he could see her body relax when she recognized him. He pulled her coat over her breasts and draped her skirt across her crotch. 

Erik arrived at the porch and asked, "How is she?" 

"She's alive. I'll take her to Doc's if you want to go after the truck." 

Ole said, "I'll go with you, Erik. I'll know the truck if I see it." 

Sven said, "Give me a handcuff key before you go." 

Erik pulled a key off his ring and tossed it to Sven. He and Ole got in the patrol car and resumed the pursuit. 

Sven took out the gag and untied Sharon's elbows. When he removed the handcuffs she hugged his neck and cried with relief. He hugged her in return, very aware that her coat had opened and her bare breasts were pressing against his chest. 

Sharon asked, "Is Ole OK?" 

"Yes. He went after the truck with Erik." Sven gently disengaged Sharon's arms and removed the leg irons. "I don't have a key to the padlock, but I've got some bolt cutters in my truck." 

While Sven was gone Sharon pulled up her sweatpants and put on her skirt. He cut the chain off of her waist and helped her stand up. She let her knees sag and when he picked her up she wrapped her arms around his neck. 

Sven carried her to his truck. When he put her down and opened the truck door Sharon kissed his mouth. She breathed, "Thank you for saving me." 

She released him and let him help her into the truck. Sven's emotions were scrambled. He was barely able to say, "I didn't do much. Those men must have taken off when they saw my lights, and anyway Erik's patrol car was right behind me." 

"You're very brave." 

Sven closed the door and walked to the other side of the cab. Once they were back on the road Sharon asked, "Where are we going?" 

"I'm taking you to Doc's. You've got a nasty bruise on your face." He didn't want to enquire about any other possible injuries, so he filled the time by using his cell phone to call Doc's office. 

Doc and Bertha were waiting when Sven parked his truck in front of the office. They helped Sharon inside and into the treatment room, closing the door behind them. Sven found a seat in the empty waiting room. He called Trude's office. No one answered her phone, so he called her cell phone, and when she answered he explained what had happened. 

Trude had been away from her office all afternoon, so she didn't know about the abduction until Sven called her. At the time he called she had been on her way to pick up Sharon and Ole, so it didn't take her long to reach Doc's office. A short while later Erik and Ole also arrived. 

Sven asked, "Did you catch them?" 

"No, they got away. I have a pretty good idea of who they were, but proving it may be tough. Ole said they both wore masks, and the truck's license plate was covered with mud." 

Doc entered the waiting room. Erik asked, "How is she, Doc?" When Doc hesitated he added, "I need to know officially. Was she raped?" 

"No. She said there was no penetration, and a physical examination confirms this. Except for the bruise on her face and some scrapes she's unhurt. She's free to go. So to speak." 

"That's good news. Trude, you take Sharon back to your place. I want Doc to examine Ole, and then I'll take him home." 

The three men entered the treatment room and Sharon emerged from it. Doc had kept the slashed shirts, so she made sure her coat was buttoned. 

Sven said, "I'm glad you're not seriously hurt." 

"Thank you, sir. If it wasn't for you and Ole it would have been a lot worse." 

Trude asked Sven, "Where are the cuffs?" 

"Back at the old farm. The trash barrel's there too." 

"OK." Trude crossed Sharon's wrists behind her back and fastened them there with a plastic handcuff. 

Sven protested, "There's no need for that. She's not going to escape." 

Before Trude could reply Sharon spoke up. "Thank you for your concern, sir, but I don't mind. Ms. Olsen is just doing her job." 

This was so unlike Sharon's previous attitude that all present were very surprised. Sharon was far more surprised than the others. She said to herself, 'I must be suffering from some sort of delayed shock'. 

* * * 

Sharon was correct about the delayed shock; she spent a restless night, with nightmares. She was glad that the next day was a holiday and she didn't have to work. She spent much of the day dozing, unable to really sleep. 

One of the times she slept she had a vivid dream. She was a village maiden being sacrificed to a dragon. She was paralyzed with terror as the dragon advanced on the stake where she was chained. Just when she was about to be devoured a knight appeared and rescued her; the knight looked like Sven. 

Sharon knew she had been lucky yesterday; rape was inevitable, and murder was possible, if Sven hadn't intervened when he did. Her close call made her even more aware of how she had wasted her life by subordinating it to her career at the bank. Her self-examination went deeper; she now recognized just how noxious her previous behavior had been, and she resolved to change it. Somehow, Ole had been able to ignore her poisonous personality, so he became her friend; the only friend she had had for years. His friendship made her realize what she had been missing in her life. 

Changing her behavior would have the additional advantage of bringing her sentence to an end. She really wanted her freedom. Her imprisonment wasn't as bad as it had been; by now she was so used to being in chains that it no longer bothered her to wear them in public, but the work wasn't very challenging, to say the least. The long hours of solitary confinement in the basement were the worst part of her incarceration. She was alone with her thoughts, which were often focused on Sven. She knew that she couldn't ever have a relationship with him, and his proximity would break her heart if she wasn't careful. 

Sven was also troubled by Sharon's presence. He couldn't forget the sight of her naked body, and he was constantly aware of her presence in the basement. Fantasies of seduction, or even of rape, occasionally bothered him. If she were gone he wouldn't be tempted. 

Ole proved to be a good weather forecaster. Snow fell for the next three days, and Sharon worked at removing it from the courthouse steps and other public areas. It was too cold to work outside all day, so after a few hours of shovelling snow and spreading salt she worked inside the courthouse, cleaning and painting. She tried hard to be pleasant and cheerful with everyone she encountered. 

Trude was the first person to notice the change in Sharon. She had mixed emotions; the professional part of her was glad that Sharon was being rehabilitated, but the personal part wanted her to suffer. But Trude was fair; she only assigned penalty days if they were warranted. As Sharon's behavior improved the time she still had to serve stopped increasing and started to decrease. 

* * * 

It was Saturday, and Trude and Sharon entered the house just as Lena was finishing a phone conversation. 

Lena said, "That was Pastor Lundquist, Trude. He wants to know why he hasn't seen you at church." 

"I'm sorry I haven't been there, but I can't leave Sharon alone." 

Sharon interrupted, "Excuse me, Ms. Olsen, but couldn't you take me to church with you? I'd like to attend religious services; it would help rehabilitate me." It would also get her out of the basement for a few hours every week. 

"Are you a Lutheran?" Trude had her suspicions of Sharon's motives, but it was politically difficult to keep a repentant prisoner from going to church. And she did want to attend herself. 

"Yes, I am. I haven't gone to church for quite a while, but my family was Lutheran." Methodist, Lutheran; they weren't that different. 

"You'll have to be chained. Won't that bother you?" 

"There are more people in this town who have seen me chains than there are that have seen me out of them." 

So next Sunday Sharon went to church. Trude waited until just before the service started, and then they entered and sat together in the back pew. Sharon had attended church regularly when she was a girl, but she lost her faith in high school, and she stopped all religious activities when she went away to college. Now, much to her surprise, she found that she enjoyed the services. 

The part she liked best were the hymns. She remembered many of them from her childhood, and they brought back memories of happier times. Sharon had a very good voice, and often people seated near her would stop singing just so they could listen to her. The choir director asked her if she would like to join, but Trude vetoed the idea. Sharon pointed out that it would be difficult to wear a choir robe over the handcuffs. 

Pastor Lundquist went out of his way to be welcoming; he obliquely mentioned Sharon in a sermon, and reminded the congregation that a church was primary a place where sinners came for redemption, not a place where saints displayed their perfection. A few people resented the presence of a convict, and a few fawned over Sharon, but most treated her as they would have treated any newcomer; with indifference. 

After a few weeks Sharon and Trude began to stay after the services for the social hour, where the traditional coffee was served in the church basement. Sharon decided that the best way to deal with the chains was to pretend that they were caused by a temporary physical impairment. If she had broken her leg she would have crutches; she broke the law, so she had handcuffs and leg irons. It seemed to work; since she ignored the chains other people could also ignore them. 

The only facet of attending church that was difficult for Sharon was that it increased her association with Sven. The physical attraction she had felt earlier when he rescued her had not gone away. When she was isolated in the basement she was able to convince herself that all she felt was lust, but the more she associated with him during the social hour at church the more lust changed to love. She could also imagine that he was attracted to her, because he was always close by, showing her kindness and providing her with emotional support. 

Sharon had been cynical when she said she wanted to go to church because it would rehabilitate her, but she discovered that it was actually happening. She was meeting people in a social setting, something that she hadn't done for years. She really worked at modifying her behavior. She wanted to relate to these people she met as friends; in her previous life everyone had been either an enemy or a subordinate. Gradually pleasant behavior became automatic. 

* * * 

There had been a light snowfall the previous night, and Sharon had spent most of the day cleaning snow off of the downtown sidewalks. The temperature was crisp but not bitterly cold and the winds were calm, and she had enjoyed being outside. She wore her usual outdoor clothing; a tee shirt and a sweatsuit under the jail's denim skirt, and the old blue peacoat with the large white 'P' on the back. 

Sharon was occupying the passenger seat of Trude's pickup. Trude drove into the farmyard and parked close to the back door. She said, "You can get out of the truck and go into the house." 

Sharon deftly unfastened her seatbelt and opened the truck door. All the weeks of wearing handcuffs had made her adept at performing many tasks with her linked hands. She hopped to the ground, accompanied by the jingling of the connecting chain, and she automatically raised her hands so the chain between her ankles was clear of the ground as she shuffled to the back porch and up the steps. 

Trude was holding the back door open, and Sharon thanked her as she stepped inside the mudroom. She looked to Trude, and when she got a nod she sat on a bench and removed her galoshes and shoes. Trude did the same, and then the two women moved through the kitchen and down the hall towards the basement door. 

As they passed the door of Sven's office they heard a burst of mild profanity. Trude asked, "What's the matter, Dad? Has the computer crashed?" 

"No, the computer is fine. I'm the problem. I've been working all day trying to figure out the best way to manage our operations, and I'm no closer now than when I started." 

He stood up and came to the door. When he saw Sharon he said to her, "You were right when you said any fool could grow a crop, but it takes real management skill to run a successful farm business. It wasn't this complicated in my father's day. All we worried about then were drought and insects." 

"Perhaps you would let me help you, sir. This is the sort of work I did at the bank, and my MBA thesis was on farm management." Sharon hoped he would let her help. She missed working on complicated financial plans; it was the only part of her job at the bank that she did miss. 

"I don't know. It would be a help, but you're not supposed to work on the farm." 

"Please, I'd like to do it. I don't have any other plans for the evening." 

She smiled. The evenings alone in the basement were the longest hours of Sharon's sentence. Lena had loaned her some paperback romance novels and they were better than nothing, but not much. She still slept during most of the time she spent in the basement; twelve hours of sleep a night wasn't unusual for her. Then she realized that neither she nor Sven would have the final say. She turned to Trude and begged, "Would this be acceptable to you, Ms. Olsen?" 

Trude decided to approve the request; her father did need the help. "All right, as long as everyone understands that this is strictly voluntary." 

"Oh, thank you! When can I start?" 

"How about after supper? But now we have to go to the basement." 

Sharon went down the stairs in a happy mood. She would be doing the sort of work she enjoyed, and she would be doing it with Sven. Reality returned as they entered the gloomy basement. As always, Trude chained Sharon's neck to the support pole before she unlocked the handcuffs and leg irons so Sharon could remove her outdoor clothes. The heavy metal around her neck caused Sharon's euphoria to evaporate. 

After supper Trude arrived to collect Sharon from the basement. She said, "If you're going to be out of the basement you'll have to be chained." 

Sharon had expected nothing else. "Of course. But if I'm going to work on the computer it would be best if I wore the regular handcuffs instead of the belly chain." 

"OK." Trude took Sharon's wrists and fastened them in the 'working' handcuffs. She also fitted the leg irons, but she didn't use the connector chain. Once the chains were locked on she grabbed Sharon by the arm and led her to the farm office. 

Sven was already there, rummaging through a pile of papers. When the women entered the room he got up and moved another chair next to his so he and Sharon could sit side-by-side in front of the computer. He said, "I appreciate you helping me with this, Ms. Green. For all of my big talk I seem to be making a mess of the management side of the farm." 

"It is a specialized field, Mr. Olsen. I've worked in financial management for many years, and I still have trouble sometimes." She nodded her thanks when Sven helped her into the chair. She requested, "Please call me Sharon." 

"OK, but you have to call me Sven." 

Sharon looked at Trude, who shook her head. "Thank you, Mr. Olsen, but the Judge wouldn't permit that. Let's get started, shall we? I'll set up a spreadsheet, and you can give me the numbers." 

Her fingers moved across the keyboard. Sven was fascinated by the erotic movements of Sharon's chained wrists. He had never engaged in bondage activities, but now he could understand their appeal, and he felt himself becoming aroused. He fought down the sensations; Sharon was far from being a free agent, and he wasn't going to apply pressure that she might feel she didn't dare resist. 

Sven and Sharon worked together for several hours. Sharon was careful to explain exactly what she was doing, but she didn't display even a trace of arrogance or patronization. When Sven praised her she thanked him with modesty and mild self-deprecation. But when he suggested some action that she knew was ill-considered she politely but firmly corrected him. 

Sven was amazed by how much Sharon had changed over the past weeks. It was like her old personality had been a toxic shell that had melted away to reveal an inner person who was sweet and loveable. Loveable. A sudden realization hit him, and he said to himself, 'I love her. Damn, what do I do now?'. 

After Trude had returned and taken her back to the basement for the night Sharon remained awake for some time. She thought about Sven, and how kind he had been to her, in spite of her lowly status. All of the other men she had ever known would have taken advantage of her in an instant. And he was so good looking, in a rugged way. She felt another stirring of lust. Life was so cruel; she had finally fallen in love with a decent man and he was unavailable. Just before she fell asleep her last, regretful thought was, 'Lena is a very lucky woman.' 

* * * 

More snow fell during the night. Trude delivered Sharon to Otto for snow-removal duty and went to her office. She was just about to leave at the end of the day when she had a visitor. 

"Hi, Juan. What brings you here? Not a legal problem, I hope." 

"No, I just want to say goodbye. I'm going back to Austin." 

"Are you going to work in a restaurant there?" 

"No, I've found a job as a software engineer. I can handle the work now. I've been going to AA meetings, and this time I'm staying off the booze." He took a pint bottle of vodka out of his pocket. "This is the bottle Astrid gave to me. Please give it back to her so she'll know I'm through drinking. She always tried to get me to quit." 

"If she was trying to get you to quit why did she give you a bottle of vodka?" 

"She used a bottle I had in the kitchen to play a joke on someone and this was the replacement." 

Trude felt a cold chill run through her body. "When did this happen, Juan?" 

"Around last Thanksgiving. Please tell Astrid goodbye. I'll miss both of you." 

Juan and Trude hugged, and he left the office. Trude sat in stunned silence for a while, and then she called Erik. 

"Erik, I need to see you at my house this evening. It's very important." 

Trude was distracted as she drove Sharon back to the house, but Sharon didn't notice; all of her thoughts were on Sven and the work they had started last night. She said, "Your father and I didn't finish last night. Can I work with him after supper?" 

"Huh? Oh, yeah, sure." 

After supper Trude conducted Sharon to the office. Then she waited in the parlor until Erik arrived. 

"Hi, Trude. What's so important?" 

"It's a moral dilemma, Erik. We've got to talk to Astrid." 

"A moral dilemma, eh? That will make an interesting change from talking about sex." 

"This is serious, Erik. But before I can get you involved you've got to promise that you'll go along with whatever I decide, even if it bends the letter of the law. Can you trust me enough to do that?" 

"I can't give you a blank check, but if it only involves your family I'll follow your lead." 

Trude smiled her thanks and they went to Astrid's room and entered without knocking. Astrid was seated at her desk, reading a textbook. 

She said, "Well come on in! What do you two want?" 

Trude replied, "Juan dropped by my office this afternoon to say goodbye. He's going back to Texas." 

"Oh, that's great! He must have his drinking problem under control." 

"Yes. He asked me to return this to you." She held out the vodka bottle. 

Astrid blanched, but she tried to recover. "Return it to me? What did he mean by that?" 

"He told me about the 'joke' you played. You lied at Sharon's trial, didn't you? She was telling the truth, and she didn't knowingly drive under the influence." 

"I don't know what you mean. I didn't do anything." 

"Admit it, Astrid. Juan told me about the joke, and Sharon was the victim, wasn't she?" 

Astrid denied everything, but Trude kept up her verbal assault and finally Astrid confessed. 

"Yes, you're right. But I didn't mean for things to go so far! All I wanted to do was make her miss the auction." 

"Well, you're responsible for a lot more than that. What you did has totally devastated Sharon's life. And you duped me too; I've been punishing her for a crime she didn't commit. But what was far worse was sending her out on the road drunk. She could have killed somebody! Not only are you a criminal, but you're a stupid, uncaring criminal!" 

"I'm sorry, I just didn't think it through. What are you going to do?" Astrid started to weep. 

"Sharon is your main victim, so I'm going to let her decide. You are my flesh and blood, so I don't want to be the one who sends you to prison." 

"Prison! What for?" 

"You lied under oath, remember? Perjury is a serious crime." 

Trude turned to Erik and ordered, "Put the cuffs on her. Let's go find Sharon, and if she wants to prosecute we can have Astrid join her in the basement." 

* * * 

Sharon and Sven finished the business plan, and while they were waiting for the printer to produce a hard copy they talked. 

Sharon said, "You have a sound business here, sir. You'll have a good income, and not having to make a gigantic mortgage payment will make it much better. You can quit your outside job and eliminate that terrible commute." 

"Thanks to you. You're the one who showed me the way to handle the business side of things." Sven paused as he planned what to say next. "Trude's calendar shows that in only a few more days you'll have completed your sentence. Do you plan to return to Milwaukee permanently?" 

"I don't know. The only reason I lived there was because of my job at the bank, and without that there isn't any reason to stay. I suppose that eventually where I live will be determined by where I can find work. That could be anywhere; banking jobs are hard to find now, and picking a location is not usually an option. Having a criminal record won't be a help to me, either. I've got some savings to live on, which is a good thing, because finding a job may take awhile." 

"Do you have any family to stay with?" 

"I've got two sisters; one lives in St. Paul and the other is in Indianapolis. But they won't speak to me. We had a big fight at my mother's funeral three years ago, and I said some really nasty things. I'm going to try for a reconciliation. It was my fault, and I can only hope they'll accept my apologies." 

"I'll be sorry when you're released." 

Sven regretted the words as soon as they were out of his mouth. He had just said that he wanted Sharon to remain a convict. 

She pretended not to notice. She asked, "Can I use the Internet? I'd better arrange to transfer money so I can pay my fines." 

Sharon arranged a wire transfer to Sven's account. Now that it was time to leave New Trondheim she was reluctant to do so. She had made friends here, and this was where she had gotten her life back into balance. Milwaukee had nothing but bad memories. What she wanted to do was stay with Sven, but that could never be. She would miss him so much. She started to cry. 

"What's wrong, Sharon? You should be happy to be free again." 

"I know. It's foolish of me to cry. But I'll miss you." 

Sven took her in his arms and kissed her. She resisted for a moment and then kissed him back. Sven whispered into her ear, "I love you, Sharon. I want you to stay here with me always." 

Sharon was thrilled when she heard this, but then she regretfully pushed away from Sven and said, "I love you too. But what about Lena? I can't stay because I won't break up your marriage." 

Sven was dumfounded. "Lena's not my wife, she's my sister!" 

"You sister? But..." 

"About four years ago my wife and Lena's husband were killed when a drunk driver hit his car. Lena and Astrid moved in here with me and Trude. Didn't you know this? 

"No, I..." 

"Now that we've cleared that up, will you marry me?" 

"This is so sudden. You don't really know anything about me except that I'm a convict, a drunk driver, and before that the bitch from the bank who tried to take your farm. I love you and I'll marry you, but you're the one who's taking a chance. You're going to be living with me when I'm no longer forced to be polite by a judge's order." 

Sven's reply was interrupted when Trude shoved Astrid into the room. Astrid's hands were cuffed behind her back, and Trude forced her to kneel. A moment later Erik ushered in Lena. 

Trude ordered, "Say it, Astrid!" 

"I lied at the trial. I put vodka in Ms. Green's food and then I called the sheriff and said she was driving drunk. I'm sorry." 

Trude addressed Sharon. "You were the one who was harmed, so you get to determine what's going to happen to Astrid. She is my cousin, so I hope you can forgive her. But Astrid is guilty of perjury, and if you want her prosecuted Erik will arrest her right now." 

Sharon glared at the wretched young woman kneeling before her. She let the tension build, and then she said, "If I were a saint I would forgive you, Astrid. But I'm not, so I can't. At least not right away. However, I don't want my niece-to-be to go to prison." 

There was a moment of silence, and then an uproar once this statement had been analyzed by all of those present. There was a babble of congratulations and comments. 

Trude said, "I have to apologize as well. I've been very cruel to you, and it wasn't justified. I'm sorry." 

"It's easier for me to forgive you. I understand now why you hate drunk drivers so much." 

When everyone had calmed down a bit Erik said, "Sharon is being very magnanimous, but Astrid has behaved badly and it would not be just if she were to escape without any punishment. So I intend to reprimand her. Very severely." 

Astrid had been worried, but now she relaxed. She was getting off easy. How bad could a very severe reprimand be, anyway? 

The End 

Story copyright© 2002 by Zack.  All rights reserved.
I welcome your comments.  Email me at [email protected]