“The savage of man is never quite eradicated.”
-Henry David Thoreau
By the time I reached the hospital, my leg felt like it was on fire, and I was exhausted. The would-be jumper waited with me until the ambulance arrived, then disappeared. Even though he was a bit of an asshole, I hoped he would be okay.
My parents came in the morning, thinking I had thrown myself in front of a car in an attempt at suicide. I could see them reconsidering the institution and assured them it was an accident. It took a lot of convincing, but they finally seemed satisfied and left. My room was small with a window overlooking the river Dominic almost fell into. It was a warm, cheery room with a television on the wall and a stack of magazines to the side. I was in a hospital gown, and my leg had been straightened and fastened in a cast. They wanted to keep me another night, then I was free to go. When my mother called, asking when I would be leaving, I told her the day after in the hopes that I could leave without being confronted by her paparazzi.
Aiden visited after school, bringing me an extra pair of clothes. He stayed for several hours. When I told him I was leaving tomorrow, he agreed to stop by the apartment in the evening.
The next day, a nurse came and helped me get into my clothes. I hadn’t slept well with my leg throbbing, so I was hoping to take a nap when I reached my apartment. The nurse gave me pain meds and crutches before wheeling me to the desk. The waiting area was filled with coughing, impatient, unhealthy-looking people. I was just checking out when I saw a familiar face come in through the front doors.
The man I met on the bridge looked more put together, though his face was lined with stress, and his eyes flitted about suspiciously. He spotted me and stopped. I grinned, and, when I was done checking out, wheeled myself over to him, the nurse following close behind.
“Hey,” I said cheerily. “Fancy seeing you here.”
He smirked with his eyes fixed on the floor, looking fidgety. “They’re letting you out awful early, aren’t they?”
I shrugged. “No idea. I’m just glad to be going home.”
He glanced around. “You’re...not alone, are you? Don’t you have someone with you?”
“I am. I told my family I was getting out tomorrow. Just wanted to cut down on the drama.” I looked up at the man through amused eyes. His gait was stiff, and his hands played with the zipper on the front of his coat.
“Oh,” he said. “Well... I just came to apologize for what happened... I never meant for anyone to get hurt...”
I let out a short laugh. “What are you apologizing for? I’m the one that fell in front of the car.”
The man forced a nervous chuckle.
“Relax.” I frowned. He couldn’t be that nervous about apologizing, could he? “Are you feeling any better today?”
“A bit. It was just kind of...gnawing at me, and I knew you were trying to help, so I thought I’d stop by. Lucky I caught you.”
I nodded, patting my hands against my knees. I was anxious to leave the hospital so I could stand on my own two feet. The nurse stood nearby, holding my crutches and smiling with boredom.
“Do we know each other?” I asked. After the rather strange things he’d said about my revenge and entitlement, I was sure we had met before. But being the son of two celebrities, I’d met too many people to keep track of, and over the last couple years, my memory had been especially shoddy.
He gave me a long stare, chewing on his lip. “Yes,” he said slowly. “Yes, we know each other. But it’s a bit of a long story. You don’t remember?”
I shook my head.
“Oh... Well... Listen, I’d like to make this up to you. I could give you a ride or something.”
I frowned at the abrupt change of subject, but now I was desperately curious. “Nah, I don’t mind walking. It’s no problem.”
He snorted. “Yeah, as if you’re in any condition to go traipsing around town. C’mon kid, I don’t have anything else to do. Let me make it up to you.”
I contemplated his offer. My mother had always told me not to get rides from strangers, but I didn’t feel like limping across town, and I had no intention of calling my parents. Besides, from what I’d seen last night, he wasn’t very coordinated, and he looked like he was on the verge of running away already.
I grinned. “Sure. But on the way, you’ve got to tell me how we know each other.”
He smiled, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “Sounds like a fair trade. I’ll tell you along the way.”
We weaved our way through a myriad of halls and out the front doors. A cool, pleasant breeze brushed across my face, and I smiled, looking up at the clear blue sky. After the stuffy confines of the hospital, being outside was a relief. The man let out his breath as he looked around through narrowed eyes. The nurse gave me the crutches and helped me to my feet, and I thanked her before following my new friend toward the parking garage. I catapulted myself from place to place between the crutches, grinning like a madman. I’d never had crutches before, but this was more fun than I’d expected. The painkillers were still in affect, so I could hardly feel my leg.
“I never caught your name,” I said.
“Oh.” He looked toward me, reddening a bit. “It’s Dominic.”
“Pleasure to meet you.” I was sure I hadn’t heard that name before.
He chuckled. Now that we were outside, he seemed more at ease, hands in his pockets, occasionally glancing at me.
“So what sent you to the bridge?” I asked.
There was a long silence. A shadow fell over us as we walked into dim, crowded parking garage. Concrete pressed in on every side. Dominic’s voice echoed as he replied, “A lot of things.” He pulled out his keys. “Where do you live?”
“An apartment near Westfield. I’ll show you how to get there.” After a moment, I continued, “Thanks for the ride.”
“Sure thing, kid.” The man gave me a worried glance.
Ahead of us, a slim gray car’s lights blinked. It was situated in the corner, away from the others. I limped toward it, breathing in the cool, clean air. Sunlight peered through gaps in the garage in warm pools. I couldn’t help but smile whenever we passed underneath it, its glow leaving me warm all over.
“Sure is a nice day,” I said.
He glanced at me and said nothing. Once we reached the car, he moved ahead of me and opened the door to the back seat. I frowned. For a moment, I thought there was something in the passenger seat that he didn’t want to move, but the car was clean and empty. The man stared at me through narrowed eyes, waiting.
My stomach twisted with unease. “How do we know each other?” I demanded.
His brow furrowed. “You really don’t recognize me? That explains a lot.”
Before I could move, he grabbed me by the collar of my shirt and threw me into the back seat. The crutches clattered on the concrete. I cried out in pain as my broken leg smacked the interior. Confused, I twisted, grabbing at the handle of the other door in an attempt to pull myself out. Before I could open the door, the man dove in on top of me, grabbing my wrists in a vice-like grip. All the anxiety had left his face, and his expression was cold and emotionless.
My eyes widened with terror. “What are you doing? Get off!”
My assailant pulled a pair of handcuffs from his pocket and snapped it shut around one of my wrists. Then he jerked my arm toward the floor, winding the chain of the cuff around a bar beneath the seat and then wrestling my free wrist into the other cuff. I had nothing to do but thrash against him, agony coursing through my hapless leg.
“Let me go! You asshole, get off!”
He didn’t say a word, sliding back out of the car. I lifted my head, yanking against the cuffs, my chest heaving with panic. He grabbed my crutches and threw them in beside me before climbing in again and shutting the door. I gasped for air as he put his knee across my shoulder and began pulling off his jacket.
“Mister. Hey,” I panted. “Mister, what are you doing? W—we can talk about this. Just...let me up, and we can talk.”
He didn’t reply, and the lack of expression in his eyes filled me with terror. I was shaking all over. He stripped himself of his jacket and began to wad it up mechanically. I wrenched against the cuffs so hard I could feel them cutting into my wrists, but it was no use.
Twisting toward the door, I shouted, “Help! Help me!”
He shoved the jacket in my face, smothering me. I writhed beneath him, my chest heaving, kicking the door with one leg frantically. The pressure of his hands behind the jacket smashed my lips against my teeth and threatened to shove my nose back into my skull. My cries for help were muffled by the jacket. I tried to twist away from him, but he was too strong, his grip bearing down on me. Each passing second left me more and more desperate.
Panic twisted my insides, and I screamed with all my might, but even that was too quiet to be heard from outside the car. Tears boiled in my eyes as my starved lungs heaved for oxygen. Dizziness washed through me, and I began to feel light-headed.
“That’s enough, Jack,” Dominic growled. “Just give up.”
Oh my gawd, I’ll never see Aiden or Lucy again. I can’t apologize to mom.
Wetness dribbled down my hands as stinging pain cut into my wrists. I wrenched from side to side weakly, the frantic thoughts inside my head turning to a thick, foggy soup.
“Go to sleep, Jack. Just give up...”