Zak sat slumped over in the rusty old fold out chair they had forced him into, bound hand and foot. The gag, once tied chokingly over his mouth, lay on the chilly terracotta floor pulled off after twenty minutes of struggle. "What's the use of screaming or calling out?"ÃÂ he thought. "Probably only get me another beating."ÃÂ With his head flaccidly drooping from exhaustion he felt another warm trickle of crimson liquid glide down his face and fall to add to the growing cherry coloured stain spreading from his shirt through into his jeans. "At least the bleeding's stopped,"ÃÂ he reflected, though in his heart he wanted the blood to flow out of him in a torrent and so be released from the mental torment that comprised what was left of his life.
His earlier thought of cherry engulfed him in pain and shredded his lifeless heart. "Cherry!"ÃÂ he cried in agony.
Only an hour ago his wife had been alive, smiling and flirting with him, cheerful as always. Now her beautiful long fingers were probably being nibbled at by hungry mako sharks on the sea floor of the Philippine Lagoon. The thought permeated in and out of his brain as he drifted between consciousnesses as the shock of his numerous broken bones ached throughout his battered self. He had nothing more to live for! She had been the only thing in his life, his one, and his all! They had been married for four years yet to others they seemed like newly weds, flirting and playful, dancing and enjoying life to the fullest. He had still longed for her everyday, when she came home from work late, missed her face when she was visiting friends. She was his soul mate and he hers. Love like theirs is hard to find these days yet it flourished between them. Flourished. Now it was gone and Zak no longer wanted to go on living.
He had told her not to gamble with big players, the rich businessmen sitting around the poker and black jack tables with almost malevolent seriousness etched onto their faces. "But she insisted,"ÃÂ he defended himself, "she never gave into a challenge did she."ÃÂ They had been gambling in the onboard casino of the cruise ship. Cherry had always had that winning streak when she got going. "She never knew when to quit,"ÃÂ he mused as he recalled the horrors of the night.
Jumping from table to table they had been picking up money steadily and had amounted a nifty sum of ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¬3000. In these casinos, you either lost three months salary or won it in five hands. Cherry had won it in four, when she decided to find herself some serious competition. She found exactly what she was looking for in a table of five middle-aged stern looking executives.
They were all dressed in tailor made suits and were involved in what looked, to Zak and Cherry, like a ferocious battle of Black Jack. "You gentlemen look like you're up to my standards,"ÃÂ she announced pushing past a body guard and promptly seating herself at the table among them. Zak remembered how quickly she became as engrossed as they were.
Soon she was back on her winning streak and their total doubled several times. Soon they had over ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¬75 000 in chips and the bets for the next round were placed at ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¬150 000. The enormity of the sum daunted Cherry and yet the sparkle returned to her eyes a moment later from the lustre of money she was playing with. And she was literally playing with it, since she had never seen this much money in her life. The excitement of the moment and the allure of riches sucked her into the money web so that she was caught and she couldn't hope of getting out.
Once the one million was on the board it became like playing with monopoly money, and Cherry was in full swing. Zak was already glancing around nervously not knowing what to expect. A few times he tried to hint at leaving but she shrugged them away with a subtle hand or a gesture. At ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¬1,5 million the executives themselves were beginning to become wary. Uncomfortable stress lines crept into their faces and two left the table with the excuse that they needed the sleep for a big meeting the next day. Soon only two remained, a Japanese Freighter tycoon and a Russian Politician.
When the hand was dealt for 2 million the Russian left while sweat droplets had beaded on the tycoons cheeks. He leant over and whispered something to his bodyguards and then returned his attention to the game. Zak was analysing the reaction of the Japanese man as he glanced at his cards. There was a glint of pleasure in his eyes as he said, "hit me!"ÃÂ His new card was handed to him and his eyes betrayed a teasing smile. Cherry wouldn't show Zak her cards and his Anxiety doubled. The businessman fanned his cards onto the table and triumphantly announced, "Twenty!"ÃÂ Cherry's smile did not fade as she placed a queen and an ace onto the table.
"Twenty one!"ÃÂ she whispered, and grabbed for the chips. A scowl appeared on the tycoon's face and he grabbed her hand. Zak was up in a flash but the one of the bodyguards pinned him against the table. They were dragged outside onto the deck and the bodyguards crushed them against the railing both with their backs over the ocean 100 feet below. Zak turned his head to the left to see what they were doing to Cherry. As he did so, heard a sound something like serrated knife cutting a piece of plastic wrap and an anguished gurgle as blood poured onto his clothes. All he saw was the blood pumping from Cherry's neck and her pleading eyes. Then she was falling toward the mass of water that supported them. There was a splash and she was gone! They made him watch her fall and his tears seared his cheeks and fluttered down to join her. They left him in the storeroom bound to a chair beaten a couple of times and then left for dead.
Zak jerked his head up as the memory passed in a moment and tears once again flowed down his cheeks only to join his blood and Cherry's. His head drooped again. "I'll be with you soon my Cherry,"ÃÂ he managed to utter before he slipped back into unconsciousness.