I was never afraid of the dark, but the night creeped me out. I was all too familiar with the sort of people who were active in the midnight hours, and I wanted nothing to do with them. Still, when you work until nine P.M., it’s unavoidable to be out at night. When the clock struck the hour, I tapped my employee identification number into the electronic pad near the exit. The glass door slid sideways with a soft whoosh, and I hurried out to my car.
I always parked near the front when I’m working late, and tonight was no different. My brown and red secondhand station wagon sat in the first available parking space, directly in front of the door. The rest of the lot was empty, and the yellow streetlights lent a garish aura to the scene. As I turned the key in my lock, I felt a damp warmth on my neck.
“Don’t move,” a raspy voice whispered in my ear. “Turn around slowly, and hand me the keys.”
When I hesitated, he pushed something cold and hard into my back. I knew it was a gun. I could sense the metal beneath my thin t-shirt, could feel the depression where the bullet would be released were I to disobey him.
Again, he ordered, “Give me the keys.”
This time, I obeyed. I spun around as slowly as I could, keeping my eyes to the ground. His brown boots were scuffed at the toes, and he wore dark blues jeans, frayed and caked with mud and dirt. With a shaky hand, I reached out and gave him the keys. He quickly took them before snatching my arm in a vice grip and violently shoving me to the passenger side.
“Please,” I begged, “take my car. You can have my whole purse, too. Just, please – please, let me go!”
The man didn’t say a word. He quickly unlocked the door, grabbed me by the head, and began to push me inside the vehicle.
Taking a deep breath, I screamed as loud as I could manage, “Help! Please, somebody, help me!”
A quick, painful yank of my hair jerked me closer toward the inside of the car. I knew, if I went in there, the chances of me getting out of this alive were close to nothing. I stumbled over my own feet as the man continued to shove me in the passenger seat and fell to the ground.
Releasing his grip, my assailant thrust the gleaming gun in my face. I squeezed my eyes shut, barely catching a glimpse of a black-masked figure with startling brown – and angry – eyes.
“Get in the car or I will eviscerate your wretched face.” He didn’t shout. His words were even-tempered, conversational even. But the callousness with which he delivered them sent chills down my spine. I knew he was serious. I had no choice but to get off the asphalt and into the car.
He quickly shut the door behind me and ran over to the driver’s side. Sliding in, he stuck the key in the ignition, gave it a flick, and put the car in drive.
“Where are we going?” I finally worked up the nerve to ask after passing the third stop sign. I was counting them in case I ever survived this and could tell the authorities where he was trying to take me.
“You’ll see,” he chuckled and turned on the radio, setting the volume too high for conversation.
He drove on for an hour. And then two. After four hours, I had lost track of time, but still I kept a diligent watch for road signs and other landmarks to keep my bearings. I knew we weren’t in Kentucky anymore. I’d seen the state welcome signs for Illinois and Iowa, so I knew we were headed west – well, northwest.
My stomach was twisted in a perpetual knot, and, if not for the lump in my throat, I’d have anxiety-vomited ages ago. Flashes of ‘Missing’ posters sailed through my mind, emblazoned with my face and clutched in the hands of my teary-eyed loved ones. I, myself, hadn’t cried… yet.
I was too afraid to show weakness in front of the terrifying man. Riding in the station wagon next to him, I couldn’t help seeing more of his appearance. He drove while still wearing the black ski-mask, and the denim jeans came up to a plain, black t-shirt. Muscular arms protruded from his tight-fitting sleeves, and he smelled of cigarettes and soil. His overall aesthetic reminded me of a construction worker – or maybe a lumberjack, with his fit physique.
The speakers continued to blare. He’d never bothered to change the station, so it was left on the A.M. talk shows I listened to on my way into work that morning. The hosts were debating over which out of two politicians was best suited for a Senate position. Their shouted argument was amplified by the increased volume. It was a cruel and unusual form of torture.
“Can you please change the station?” Keeping my eyes pointed forward, I casually asked my captor for this one, small favor.He merely grunted and turned it up louder. Now, I did begin to cry. It was just past one A.M., I’d been working all day, had barely eaten, and hadn’t slept well the night before. My exhaustion, coupled with the terror of being kidnapped, was too overwhelming. I wasn’t bound or gagged, which was either a good sign, or a very, very bad one. Was he ill-prepared, or was he certain I wouldn’t be able to get away. Just where were we going?
Read part 2 here!