It was not that Kateri truly minded being partnered with one of her other team mates for an assignment—she liked them all, though … sometimes to greater or lesser extents depending on the day—but she was so used to being partnered with Clinton that it took a little adjusting to be paired with someone else.
The team had its own shorthand after working together for years with few to no changes in personnel, and Clinton and Kateri had their own shorthand, an ease in anticipating each other's moves, an ability to read each other and to have basic conversations without words. They were both the quiet ones on the team. Kateri could often be found at her partner's shoulder, or just half hidden by him, where his larger bulk would draw attention off of her, leaving her to study a scene, a person, etc. without interruption.
Kateri getting paired with one of her other teammates was the exception that proved the rule concerning her usual partnership with Clinton. Kenny was the usual alternative choice, especially when Kateri had contacts to visit and needed a little muscle. Hana usually had her computers to attend to, and Barnes usually went with Jess, her skill at 'hand-holding' making up for where Jess sometimes lacked in those regards. Kateri liked Kenny. He was big and funny and a whiz at his job, and despite his size and temper, he never frightened her even when he was in a mood.
Despite this, one morning in early December, Kateri could not help but feel a little miffed when she and Kenny were paired off to go interview a POI with connections to their fugitive. They were in up-state New York, chasing a man named Nate May, wanted for triple homicide and armed robbery. The POI, Samuel Carter, was a former teammate of May from his time in the army, who lived in an isolated area out in the country.
Morning had come at last, after a long night's work with only a few hours of sleep. The temperature was hovering at around 10 degrees and was not likely to rise much, if at all, throughout the day. There was a thick cloud cover with a low hanging, freezing fog, turning the forest scenery, which Kateri usually would have enjoyed, into an eerie scene that seemed straight out of a creepy movie.
Kateri stared quietly out the window as Kenny drove, mindlessly but automatically cataloging the passing scenery and turns. For some reason she felt a hint of niggling unease. Picking up on her mood, Kenny had quieted his usual chatter and had turned on the radio, instead. Her unease was not making the car ride any more pleasant. Kateri was quite claustrophobic, and anything smaller than a moving elevator was prone to causing panic attacks. Cars usually didn't bother her. She knew she could get out of them when necessary, but today she could feel the barest vestiges of panic trying to dig its claw into her mind. There was just the slightest shake to her hands, she had had to wipe her palms on her jeans multiple times in the last ten minutes, and her heart rate was elevated, as if she had just hopped off the treadmill after a long run.
"You okay?" Kenny asked, looking over at her. Despite his hulking demeanor and his occasional fits of temper, he was surprisingly perceptive of other people's moods. He also knew Kateri was claustrophobic.
Kateri shrugged. "I'll be glad to get out of this car, but except for that I'm peachy."
"Just a few more minutes, and we'll be there."
The few minutes, in Kateri's mind, dragged on long enough to seem more like ten or fifteen minutes, but finally Kenny turned the jeep onto a long driveway that led further into the trees off the already tree-lined winding street. The house was set in a large clearing about 50 yards back from the road. It looked like a normal house that a normal family would live in, and the driveway was empty, though there was a separate garage.
Kenny stopped their car, and the two FBI agents got out, warily scanning the surrounding area for movement. They quickly checked the garage and found it empty, save for a good-sized ATV.
Everything started to go wrong when they got to the house. The living room, at least, was deserted, from what they could see through the porch window, and there was no response to Kenny banging energetically on the door or yelling through the door. Finally, Kateri checked the knob on instinct. Beneath her hand, it turned. She glanced up at Kenny, surprise in her eyes, and they both immediately drew their guns. Kateri turned the knob and carefully pushed the door open. She entered first, clearing the entrance way with quick, practiced movements, Kenny on her six.
The ground floor was large, forcing Kenny and Kateri to split up to clear the house. As far as they knew, there was no basement, and there was no upper level, either.
Kateri had almost finished clearing her end of the house, when the worst happened.
Out of nowhere, a hand clamping down over her nose and mouth
No chance to take a full breath first
A faint pin-prick in her neck
The panic-inducing sensation of her chest tightening for lack of air
An arm like a bar of iron pinning her arms to her chest
Her Glock dropping from suddenly nerveless fingers
Limbs that no longer responded fully to her commands
FIGHT. FIGHT! Kateri's brain was screaming at her, and she tried to scream but could get out nothing around the hand over her mouth.
Darkness starting to encroach on the edge of her vision.
Utter panic creeping over her, the exact wrong response in that situation
Kenny, HELP! Notice. Please, notice! Her brain was tragically clear, even as her body was starting to fail her. She tried to fight back, but disjointed flailing was about as far as she got, as she fell prey to whatever drug her attacker had injected her with.
Why are there stars?
All went dark, and Kateri slumped bonelessly against her assailant.
Consciousness returned slowly, crawling painfully back over her in disjointed fragments joined by a rush of disorientating sensations.
The throbbing ache of her hands and feet, bound in unnatural positions
The itch of rope and the sting of rope burns
Tightness in her chest and a floaty feeling in her head
A feeling of nausea like after eating bad sushi
Kateri lay still for a long time on the floor after clawing her way back to consciousness. Where she was, she didn't know. How much time had passed, she didn't know either. She knew her hands were tightly bound behind her back, and her legs were bound as well. Her eyes were blindfolded, but there was, thankfully, no bag over her head, which would be bad if she had to puke.
Kateri could feel the beginning of an oncoming panic attack clawing at her mind and body, the feeling like spiders crawling across her skin. Her claustrophobia did not appreciate the restraints or the blindfold, and she was almost glad she couldn't see. If she were locked in a small room, the day was just going to get even worse.
A few shivers wracked her frame, making her suddenly realize her coat was missing, though the rest of her clothing seemed untouched. The thought of what could have happened while she was unconscious made her suddenly feel even sicker.
Her head was muzzy, but she tried to make herself focus. Calm down! Calm down! She ordered herself. You're in a pinch and by yourself. Now is not a good time for a panic attack.
Kateri was frightened, very frightened, and a host of questions were bombarding her mind. Where am I? What happened? How much time has passed? Is Kenny hurt? Did whoever me take him? Do the others know I'm missing? Are they looking for me? She realized that, without a gag, she could try to shout for help, but depending on where she was and who was nearby, shouting could be next to useless or could, worse, draw her attacker's attention back to her.
She wanted to cry, be sick, and go home, not necessarily in that order. She wanted her teammates to find her. She wanted to get out of the ropes, to stop feeling like the walls were going to close in on her, like she was trapped and there was no way out, like no one was going to find her.
Kateri tried to rouse herself enough to move, but even small movements made the rolling of her stomach flare up until she began to retch, her stomach muscles and throat heaving, until all she was coughing up was bile. Somehow she managed to shift back a few feet, until her back ran up against a wall, so she had some relief from the smell of her own sick.
I just want to go home.
A few tears began to trickle from her eyes. Vomiting had made the pounding in her head even worse and, in restraints, had served to make every muscle in her body ache, and the spasms and her move backwards had only increased the awkward position in which her limbs were.
Her shivering was slowly increasing, and Kateri finally realized through the fuzziness in her head and the trouble focusing on anything except her panic that the ache in her feet and hands was not just from being restrained. It was the ache of cold that was setting in, too. Who knew where she was—save that she was not outside—and without a coat, exposure was going to become a problem.
I'm going to freeze to death in a small room while trussed up like a chicken and drugged. Can this day get any worse?
Her chest tightened, and her tears increased, her burgeoning panic attack escalating into a full-blown panic attack. The sounds of her sobs and gasping breaths seemed loud in the confined space.
I just want to go home.
Please, guys, come find me.
Please, Kenny, be alright.
I just want to go home.
GET ME OUT OF HERE.
PLEASE SOMEONE GET ME OUT OF HERE.
She was already stuck in the midst of a panic attack, and then the flashback started.
Kateri wasn't in her thirties, but a scared little ten-year-old girl.
She wasn't trussed up like a chicken in a small room, but trapped inside a wooden chest.
It wasn't her own sick she smelled, but the overpowering scent of cedar, which she still couldn't stand to that very day.
Instead of the noise of her sobs and own gasping breaths, all she could hear were her own screams, cries to be let out—pleading that she was scared of the dark, scared of the chest which was too much like a coffin for an orphan—and the mocking voice of her foster-brother and tormentor.
It was a long time before she came back to herself. Her headache had eased. Her chest wasn't so tight, and Kateri realized she had lost time. That happened periodically during panic attacks. In this case, she wondered if she had hyperventilated herself into a fainting spell.
The sense of cold had grown worse.
When her thoughts had cleared a little more, Kateri began to take a catalog of herself, her injuries, and what she thought she might still have supply-wise. She focused wholly on organizing her thoughts into neat lists, anything to keep her mind occupied and off her situation.
(1) Head, still pounding but better
(2) Stomach, still rolling but a tiny bit better
(3) Breathing, easier
(4) Chest tightness, gone
(5) Muscle tremors, only shivers
Injuries: None. I think, except for the rope burns on my wrists.
(1) Coat, gone. Rest of clothing intact. Thank God. She meant that most sincerely.
(2) Cross necklace, gone. Oh, come on. You took that of all things?
(3) Hair pins, gone. Could have been useful if I could have even gotten to them.
(4) Cellphone, gone. Too much to hope for.
(5) Backup gun gone, obviously. Unsurprising. Whoever jumped me would have been an utter moron to have left it.
(6) Main knife, gone, obviously. Ditto for sharp-pointy things.
(7) Pockets, rifled, but not empty. I think my gauze might be still there or possibly my bandana. I'm going to need something for my wrists if I can get out of these ropes.
(8) Watch, also missing
She started cataloging at the top of her head and worked her way methodically down to her feet. When she got to boots, she felt her brain grind to a momentary, screeching halt, when she felt a surprising weight still hidden in her right boot. You've gotta be kiddin' me. I've still got my boot knife. He didn't do such a good job of looking after all.
If I can get these ropes off my hands, I can free my legs.
Wait …. Could I contort enough to get my knife first?
Uh, probably not.
Might end up doing more damage to yourself with the knife than to the ropes.
Trying to get the ropes off her hands was a purpose, one which would distract Kateri from her claustrophobia, her situation, and Kenny's unknown fate. It was taking dedicated focus not to let her mind run way with her, not to let herself imagine Kenny lying injured or dead in that house. Please be okay, Kenny, she begged internally. She wasn't sure she would forgive herself otherwise.
Twisting and turning her wrists, she fiddled and picked and worried the ropes, trying to map out the knot with her fingers. The abrasions from the rope deepened until sticky blood ran down her wrists, coating her fingers making them more slippery and warmer both.