Although recent events (including fake bodies in her apartment, goat corpses in her mail, sex with Channel 9 celebrities, pawing by depraved geek journalists, kidnapping by insane Nordic criminals and drool from a somewhat unexpected gimp) had taken their toll, Erica was not without spunk. She wasn't going to take this lying down (well, not if she could get these chains off).
"What the fuck is it to you, turdbreath?" she spat at the evil face of Riekelt van Slooten.
"Some friends of mine wish to know," he said. "I think you have heard of the Slaöøüväääd."
The name of the little-known Finnish mafia rolled off his tongue a little awkwardly, Erica reflected. Could it be that, despite his ridiculous accent and apparently Scandinavian name, he was actually an Australian? Or even a close personal friend of Ron Casey's?
"Means nothing to me, cockhead," replied Erica, making a mental note to learn some new swear words when all this was over.
"We have ways of making you talk, you know," van Slooten said, bending in closer. His breath smelt of a curious mixture of raw herrings and Hubba Bubba grape-flavoured gum. Erica hadn't felt so repulsed since her mother had forced her to attend a Michael Bolton concert.
"Yeah, you and whose army, mate?" she spat back.
"That is an interesting question," Van Slooten shot back unexpectedly. "At one stage, I was using the Kiss Army, but the makeup bills got too high. Then I tried the New Zealand Army, but I'm allergic to wool. Right now, I'm using a mixture of Spice Girls fans and the Sandline mercenaries. But I will have an army, you can be sure of that!"
There seemed no obvious reply to this, so Erica stayed silent.
"You are very quiet now, but it will be a different story when The Punisher arrives!" van Slooten screamed. Clearly recognising his utterance as a highly suitable exit line, he exited.
Erica barely had time to recover when the leather-clad gimp returned, drool dribbling down his encased face and with his hands tied behind his back. Erica braced herself for the scream she hadn't managed last time, while the Gimp began making wild and incoherent noises.
Deciphering the utterances of someone whose head is completely encased in rubber is not actually an easy task. However, Erica had done a feature on bondage parlours for Cosmopolitan earlier that year, so she had a good working knowledge of the area. It didn't take more than a couple of minutes of moaning and flying spittle before she worked out the gimp was actually saying "Unzip me, unzip me!"
Using her teeth, Erica grasped the zipper cord and undid the headpiece. The gimp leapt into the air, shook his head wildly and exposed his face to the naked light of day. Erica had been prepared for a surprise, but nothing had readied her for this.
"My god, it's you," she yelled.