Jaden stopped running after he felt his little brother’s hand pull from his. He looked back at his brother standing on the sidewalk with tears dripping down his face, and walked back to comfort him. Jaden could tell that he was exhausted and scared; he got down on one knee before him and dried his eyes
“I know you’re tired but we have to do this Junior. We have to go find mom, you want to find mom don’t you?”
“Yeah I do. But I’m tired Jaden, and my feet hurt.” He sniffled and looked at his brother.
“I know. I’m tired too, but if we don’t keep going we won’t find mom, and dad will come and take us so we have to keep going.” He held out his hand to his little brother. Junior held on to his brother’s hand, and the two headed down the street. They knew the area very well, and needed no directions to get back to their home. Jaden had enough money for him and his brother to take the bus back to Northridge. Their aunt’s house was a short distance from the bus stop, so it was a pretty easy walk for the two.
They went straight to their apartment complex. After a few unanswered knocks, Jaden flipped up a corner of the mat and got the spare key.
“Hi boys, is Karen home?” a voice came from behind and startled them. Jaden looked at the stranger, and then attempted to open the door again; the man concluded that the kids refused to talk to him because they were instructed not to talk with strangers.
“Okay, I can understand why you won’t talk to me, but I got a message from your mom. It sounded urgent, but I couldn’t get her on the phone, so I came here.”
He brought out his cell phone and was holding it in his hand tapping his fingers on the back.
“We don’t know where mom is mister, me and Jaden are looking for her,” Junior said. Jaden nudged his brother on the shoulder and scolded him with a look, but Junior kept talking.
“You don’t know where she is, aren’t you with her? She left to come and get you from Helen’s this morning.”
“We haven’t seen mom since yesterday. Our dad came and took us from Helen’s. He beat her pretty bad, and then he took us to our aunt’s house, but we climbed out the window and left to find mom.”
Jaden relaxed as he suspected that this man was the Richard who was apparently dating their mother.
“Who are you anyway, and why would mom ask you for help?” He asked just to confirm his suspicions.
“I’m Richard,” he said, as he turned his attention to the door and started to knock wildly on the door, forgetting that Jaden was holding a key to the apartment.
“She’s not in there. We already knocked. Here, I have a key,” Jaden said. He took the key, opened the door, and rushed in to find that the place was deserted.
He walked back to the living room, then plopped down on the couch, and cupped his hand over his face. He sighed then looked at the two boys peering at him. They were hoping he had answers, he was an adult after all, and they always know what to do in bad situations.
“You said that your father took you to your aunt’s house. So she must know what’s going on. I think she might even know where Karen is, we have to go back and talk to her.”
“No I’m not going back! I don’t want to go back!” Junior screamed, griping onto Jaden and hiding behind him. Richard dropped to one knee in front of him, took him by the hand, and tried to reassure him that he wouldn’t let anything happen to them, but Junior pulled away and ran to his room.
“I know you are scared to go back, but this might be our only chance to find your mother.” He said as he rose to his feet. Jaden took a deep breath and nodded his head in agreement
“I know. I’ll talk to him. Wait here,” Jaden said. He went into the room and whatever he said to his brother worked, because a moment later, Junior came back motivated and ready to help find his mother.
Joseph stepped out of the van and pitched his cigarette to the ground. He walked across the road, eyeing the window of Karen Tanner’s apartment. He thought for sure that the kids were there; where else would they go. They have no one to turn to now that their mother was tied up in their aunt’s basement. He thought to himself, a half smile curled on the corner of his mouth as he stepped out of the elevator and strolled down the hallway to Karen’s apartment. He didn’t bother with the hassle of knocking; he grabbed the knob and turned it. The door opened immediately.
Something was off. His eyes narrowed in suspicion as he walked through the obviously deserted apartment. He went back to the hallway, and looked around in frustration. He noticed that the door across the hall way was opened a few inches and someone was standing there.
He moved closer, but the door closed softly as he came out. He went over to the door slowly, and knocked, then moved away from the peep hole. No answer came the first time. He knocked again, and the door opened a few inches. A voice came swiftly through the opened door.
“Who’s there, what do you want?” Joseph pushed the door open, and the old man tumbled back and fell. He stormed in and grabbed the man by the collar and stood him up.
“What happened across the hall?” he asked.
“I don’t know Mr. I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, shivering and raising his hands to his face for protection. Joseph draped the man’s shirt tighter, and slammed him against the wall.
“Tell me what happened now!” he demanded.
Once again, Mr. Watson was caught in the very situation he didn’t want to get dragged into. His knees began to feel like wet noodles. He slowly began telling Joseph what happened earlier at Karen’s apartment.
“The kids came home about an hour ago, but their mother wasn’t there. A man came too, but he took the kids and left. That’s all, that’s all I know.” He looked away, and closed his eyes tightly expecting to get punched out. But Joseph’s grip loosened from his collar. He crumbled to the floor shivering like a wet cat. He sat motionless and watched Joseph walk out of his apartment. Mr. Watson crawled to the door and slammed it shut.
Joseph didn’t know what to make of the situation; even the walls felt the brunt of his anger as he left the building. The cracks and holes made by his fist painted a vivid picture of his frustration.
After sitting in that basement for God knows how many hours, I was relieved when I heard movement upstairs. I was weary and weak physically. I had been looking at the window trying to gauge the time of day, it was getting late. And my imagination played out all possible types of outcomes to the whole ordeal, so movement up stairs meant hope. My heart skipped a beat when I heard Henry announce his arrival home.
“Henry, you’re home!”
Cassidy greeted her husband with a natural relaxed tone as if nothing eventful happened all day. I could hear them conversing casually in the kitchen. This was my last shot I had to find a way to direct Henry’s attention to the basement. I bent over trying to get my face close to the arm rest and tear the tape from my mouth. The tape around my chest felt like a razor sharp knife sinking into my flesh, but I tore the tape from my mouth.
“Henry help me, please help me!” I screamed. I started to thrust up and down in the chair. The legs lifted then thudded to the floor.
“Did you hear that?” he questioned. I jerked the chair harder, and screamed some more.
“Cassidy, there’s someone screaming for help in the basement.”
“No, Henry wait!” She said anxiously, and the talking moved toward the door as she desperately tried to stop him. After sitting in that dark room for hours, the light from upstairs burned my eyes like pepper when the door opened. I closed my eyes tight and looked away. Henry ran down the steps, and worked quickly to free my hands and feet.
“What’s going on Karen why are you tied up down here?” He looked up at his wife as he spoke.
“Cassidy,” I began, “she and Joseph did this to me. She’s helping him.” My breath was labored.
“Joseph? Karen, that’s nonsense. Joseph’s locked away!” He spoke confidently, knowing that his brother-in-law, diagnosed with a ‘mental defect,’ was still locked up in the Horizon Mental Institute. By now, he was on his knees removing the tape from my ankles.
“He’s out, he escaped, he came here and Cassidy is helping him. He took the kids. I don’t know where they are.” Cassidy came down the steps with her hands behind her, Henry realized that she was standing over him. He turned to face her while attempting to stand, he began to ask her a question, but before he could properly form the words, she hoisted the vase that she had behind her and hit him over the head.
“What have you done? You’re insane!” I exploded with anger. She stared at me with complete and utter disdain.
“Shut up Karen, who do you think you are? You’re nothing, that’s what you are” She walked over to the table and picked up an old trophy. She made little circles around the base with her index finger as she moved slowly toward me. I backed away from her slowly, keeping my eyes on the deadly weapon she held.
“My old college professor, Dr. Monte, owed me a favor for a little situation I got him out of back in collage. Well I got him into it in the first place but never mind that. He’s a big dog in the legal world. You must have heard of him, of course you have. When Joseph got arrested, I called in that favor. You see, there’s a slight history of ‘mental illnesses’ in our family. Dr. Monte did Joseph’s psych evaluation and delivered his findings to the court. He was very instrumental in helping me to get Joseph into a mental facility.”
“He needs help Cassidy, and you can get him that help. Don’t do this it’s only making things worse for him.”
“You expect me to take advice from a nobody like you? You have no idea what he needs.”
“Having your lackeys help you to get Joseph in a mental institution is not help. You’re even crazier than I thought!”
“Well, what did you expect? You thought I’d sit back and let you send my brother to a filthy prison to serve a sentence with common criminals? Your disingenuous accusations ruined his life.” She exploded with rage, and threw the trophy at me. I managed to dodge the flying projectile, and ran for the stairs. But she grabbed my ankle and hauled me back down the steps.
“That’s why you helped him escape; you think you’re actually helping him.” I said kicking at her trying to get free.
“No, I had nothing to do with that. I knew about his plan. He filled me in the last time I visited him....”
“You’re insane!” I kicked her in the chest and she topple back and slammed into the table.
“You said it yourself, he needed help. I gave him the help he needed. I’ve hired P.I’s to track your every move, and told him where you were every time you moved, and I gave him your address when he came home.” Her smug sense of satisfaction disgusted me. Their ingenious plan was succeeding, and all that was left to do was tie up the loose end...me. Joseph burst through the door and came down the steps. He glanced at Henry’s motionless body lying on the floor. Then he looked at Cassidy. His eyes went to the unconscious man on the floor again, and then his gaze fixed on me. A cruel smile curled at the corner of his mouth as he walked over to me.
“Well done sis.” He said, not once taking his eyes off me.
“ Now let’s get this over with.” Cassidy moved to the bottom of the steps, and blocked the way out of the basement. Joseph took slow tormenting steps toward me. His cold cruel eyes locked into mine. I quickly moved backward, and bumped into the table. I was cornered. My two hands scurried across the top to find something to defend myself with. My fingers came upon something hard, cold, and metallic. It was a small pocket knife. I grabbed it and slid it across the table to my back pocket, and tucked it in. Joseph was standing directly in front of me. Instantly, I remembered days in our marriage when he cornered me like a helpless animal. The cold cruelty of his eyes weakened me. He smiled at me, and asked Cassidy to hand him the duct tape. Without taking his eyes off of me, he stretched one hand behind him and received the tape placed firmly in his hand. I was exhausted, terrified, and weak. All the fire, it seemed, had burned out of me.
At this point attacking him would prove to be futile because there was no way I could take Joseph and his insane sister. I put up a struggle, but he shook me off easily, I stumbled back. As soon as my eyes met his again the dark figure of his fist came straight at me.