“Look out, Renee!” Ethan shouted.
As she turned toward his voice, a foam football bounced off her forehead. “Ah, Papi!” she said, pretending to be upset, but her smile expressed the truth.
“I told you not to get distracted when we’re playing catch, dear,” Ethan said, reminding her of a lesson he had taught. “At least you’re not crying about it.”
She picked the ball up and threw it back to him. The football spiraled through the air like a professional had thrown it.
He thrust his head into the flight path of the ball, allowing it to hit him in the forehead. “There, now we’re even.”
Renee placed a hand on her waist and tilted her head to the side—a stance she often used when becoming sassy. “Aren’t you supposed to be teaching me how to catch?”
“You are your mother’s daughter, dear,” he said, shaking his head.
Rolling the sleeves up on his long-sleeved Henley, Ethan began to perspire from playing catch with his daughter after only ten minutes of physical activity. Reaching down for the football in the grass, the soil squished beneath it as he picked the ball up. The ground was still damp from rain the day before.
The sky was bright blue and clear of any clouds. The air peacefully still with not so much as a breeze; weather that beckoned Ethan to bring his family outside. While Maria was in the garage, jogging on her treadmill, he entertained Renee with a game of catch, yet she was more engrossed with picking flowers in the garden between each pass.
As he cocked his arm back to throw the ball, Renee had her face down in the flower bed, smelling the few perennials that had remained alive since the Spring. Taking in a breath of fresh air, he became jolted out of his peaceful mindset by the vibrating phone in his back pocket.
Assuming it was Owen or Chase, he answered the phone without bothering to check the caller ID. “Hello?”
“You really did it, you stupid bastard. You must have some serious connections, or maybe a friend in law enforcement?” Roger said.
Ethan looked over the fence at the police car sitting across the street. “I’m the stupid bastard? You should probably just turn yourself in. They’re probably tracing this phone call right now to get your location.”
“Do you really take me for a simpleton? I’m sending you a picture. I know there’s a cop watching your house, so keep any knee jerk reactions under control unless you want their lives on your hands,” Roger said in a threatening tone.
Ethan wondered whose lives he was referring to until the phone buzzed again with receipt of a picture. Sarah and Kathy were lying on a concrete floor with their mouths, hands, and feet duct taped. Both terrified and in tears. “You motherfucker,” Ethan said under his breath.
“You’re going to act normal. Tell your wife you have to run an errand and make sure the police aren’t following you. Most importantly, stay on the line. If you hang up or I can’t hear what’s going on, they are both dead. After which, I will viciously slaughter your fam—”
“I get it, Roger. I’m on my way now.”
Thinking quickly, Ethan high-tailed into the garage, grabbing a piece of charcoal from the barbeque on the porch along the way. “Maria, could you take a break and watch Renee? Lin needs me to drop by the office to take care of some paperwork.”
Stopping the treadmill in the middle of her workout, Maria looked confused as to why he would need to visit the office. He used the charcoal to write on the concrete garage floor. He wrote, “Roger has Sarah and Kathy. Have Agent Ramsey trace my phone. I love you,” while talking to her. “I’m sure it’ll just take an hour or so. Lin needs help placing this little girl, Emma, in a suitable foster home,” he said out loud so that Roger could hear.
Maria looked up at Ethan with fear in her eyes. “No problem honey. Hurry back so we can have lunch. I’m starving after running three miles.”
“See you in a bit, honey.” He gave Maria a quick kiss and then jumped inside his Escape.
“Alright, Roger. I’m pulling out of the driveway. What now?”
“You’re going to get on the I-12 Freeway and drive until I tell you to get off. Make sure that guard dog doesn’t follow you, otherwise it’s going to be one hell of a bloodbath.”
Ethan looked into the rear-view mirror as he drove away. The patrol car didn’t move, most likely tasked to stay put guarding the house and his family. “I’m not being followed. What’s the point to all this? You’re going to be tried in a court of law for your despicable crimes. Why fight it now? You’re lucky I didn’t kill you when I had the chance.”
“Oh, Ethan. I’ve planned for this situation. What’s most important right now, is that I keep my word to you. You aren’t innocent in all this. We aren’t all that different. I promised you would regret crossing me. I just wanted to put you on edge yesterday, but your actions have pushed me into a corner. Today will be your real punishment, and don’t forget that you are responsible for bringing Sarah and Kathy into this.”
“You can let them go. I’m coming to you now. Don’t hurt anyone else just to get to me. You’re the only one responsible for what happens to them.”
“You know that’s not true. If you would have followed the law like you’re supposed to, I might be in jail already. You had to get that retribution for yourself, no one else. It back fired miserably, didn’t it?”
Guilt manifested inside of Ethan again, knowing wholeheartedly that he couldn’t argue against Roger’s last point. Just yesterday he had felt vindicated after confessing to Chase, but now the threat posed to his family had become primarily directed at Sarah and Kathy.
“You should be nearing exit 94A to the 133. Take 133 for two exits and get off,” Roger said.
“What are you going to do with us?” Ethan said, legitimately fearful of his response.
“In due time, Ethan. Trust me when I say how excited I am for the surprise. I’m sexually stimulated by the anticipation.”
Ethan was repulsed by his suggestion, but had no idea what he meant by it, worried about the state Sarah and Kathy would be in when he arrived. He feared and imagined the worst.
“What now? I’m getting off 133.”
“You’re ten minutes away from Thomas’s house. You’re going to throw your phone into the street and get here within that ten minutes. Keep the line open because I better hear your phone hit the ground, surrounded by traffic. If you’re not here within ten minutes, they’re dead,” Roger said. “Throw it now!”
Ethan tossed the phone out the window, watching as the phone skidded across the asphalt before being destroyed by car tires. Disheartened that Chase would not be able to track him, his only hope was that Roger could be tracked somehow, but he wasn’t about to keep his hopes up.
Driving fifteen miles over the speed limit, he arrived at Thomas’s house within six minutes. To his dismay, the street was quiet and no one was out for a walk. He hoped that a neighbor might witness him suspiciously entering the house that was unoccupied and surrounded by yellow, caution tape.
He carefully stepped through the front door, looking into each corner before fully entering. The house was dark and quiet. Peaking around the corner and down the hall, a faint light in the basement projected against the wall opposite the doorway. Regrettably, he would have to enter the nightmarish dungeon once again.
Standing at the top of the staircase, he hesitated to make his way down. His heart was pounding and adrenaline pumping just as vigorously as it did when he had met Thomas. He said a quick prayer to God, asking for the strength needed to stop Roger and for no one to get hurt.
“Come on down here, Ethan. Nice and slow. I want to see your hands in the air, too,” Roger said from downstairs.
He complied with Roger’s request, slowly stepping down the staircase with his hands in the air. His heart sank as he reached the bottom of the steps. The child’s coffin was gone, but the steel table was still in the basement. Kathy was restrained to the table wearing only a knee length nightgown. Roger stood next to the table, pointing a nine millimeter Beretta at Ethan with his left hand.
“Welcome back, Ethan!” Roger said, smiling from ear to ear. “Is it like you remember?”
Kathy looked at Ethan with red, bloodshot eyes. “Please help me, Ethan,” she said, desperate and vulnerable.
“It’s going to be alright, Kathy,” Ethan told her, trying to alleviate her fear.
Roger laughed. “No, no it’s not, Ethan. You stay right there and don’t move. I have to grab Sarah.”
Roger struggled to open the closet door with his three broken, middle fingers, taped together on his right hand, all while trying to keep his aim on Ethan. He lifted Sarah up from the ground, who still had her hands, feet, and mouth taped. Dropping her to her knees, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a five-inch knife, placing the blade under her chin.
Sarah cried profusely and screamed, muffled by the tape tightly wrapped around her mouth as the knife blade rested between his thumb and her neck.
“Roger, please, just stop. Let the ladies go already,” Ethan said, reaching out his hand.
“Their survival depends on you. Now it’s time for the stimulating part. Sarah and I are going to watch as you have sex with Kathy, all the way to completion, and I’m willing to bet that you even enjoy it,” Roger said, his grin turning into a perverted smirk.
Kathy closed her eyes and cried, shaking her head. “No, no, no,” she whispered repeatedly to herself.
Ethan’s jaw dropped from being both perplexed and disgusted by Roger’s request. “I could never do that. I’m not you.”
“I don’t think you understand. If you don’t, I’m going to rape, torture, and murder you all, but you’re going to be last, Ethan. If you make any movements toward me, I’ll slit Sarah’s throat and shoot you long before you get a finger on me. Thankfully, you left me with a trigger finger, and I can still put enough pressure on this knife to cut her throat.”
Both Sarah and Kathy cried uncontrollably.
“You’re going to kill us all either way. I know you because I’ve met several men just like you. None of you deserve to live,” Ethan said, seething at the thought that Roger had the upper hand. He began to panic, not knowing what he would do to get out of the situation.
“How dare you presume what I would or would not do. I’m growing tired of your bullshit. If you want to save Kathy’s life, get over there and fuck her. I’m not going to ask again, I’m just going to end Sarah’s life right now!” Roger screamed at the top of his lungs, his voice cracking from not training his vocals to reach such decibels. “I even took the liberty of warming her up earlier today. Don’t thank me though, I did it for myself. It was one of the few things left on my bucket list.”
Ethan had no choice but to walk over to the table as Roger lifted his gun higher, pointing it at his head. His brain couldn’t process any alternative course of action as his eyes spastically scanned the room for any object he could use as a weapon. To his dismay, there was no such object.
“Oh, yeah. We’re ready, Ethan. Put on a good show for us. You don’t want to disappoint me.”
Standing directly in front of Kathy, he apologized. “I’m sorry, Kathy. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen.”
“We got it already. Hurry the fuck up!” Roger said, tightening his hand around the pistol and pointing it toward Ethan’s head.
“Please watch over Maria and Renee while ensuring they know how much I love them. And please spare Kathy and Sarah from Roger’s wrath,” Ethan silently prayed.
Placing his hands on Kathy’s thighs, Ethan wanted to give Roger the impression that he would follow through with the demands. His real plan of action was to lunge at Roger, hoping to catch him off guard and to overpower him with all the rage he had built up for the man.
Ethan pivoted on his right foot, took two steps, and then jumped toward Roger with his hands out, ready to wrestle the gun away. Immediately after his feet left the ground, he heard the gunshot as Roger pulled the trigger, generating an agonizing burning sensation in his abdomen. As he came down on top of Roger, he was able to grab the hand holding the gun, pointing it toward the ceiling as Roger fired a second shot.
Roger and Sarah both fell backward as Ethan toppled them, resulting in the knife being removed from her neck. Fighting through the debilitating pain from the bullet wound, he held each of Roger’s arms with his own. Although he had the advantage of being on top, Roger slowly began to overpower him because of the excruciating pain from his wound.
He fought to try and slam the hand holding the gun against the floor, but Roger fought just as hard to prevent it. The gun was nearly aimed at him again until Sarah sat up and scooted on her butt over to Roger’s left hand, throwing her head back on it like a hammer. Dropping the knife, the pain must have been too much for Roger, and with any luck broke more bones.
With no time to hesitate, Ethan snatched up the knife and drove it down toward Roger’s neck. He stopped Ethan’s arm by throwing up his own, but without a hand to grab it, he just guided the knife in slower.
Pressing down with all his body weight, the knife slid directly into the center of Roger’s throat, slowly piercing the skin and continuing to penetrate until reaching the spinal column.
The blood sprayed out of Roger’s neck like a faucet, meaning Ethan had pierced the carotid artery. The blood that puddled in his neck bubbled as he tried to inhale, preventing any oxygen from reaching his lungs. The gun fell from his right hand as his body went limp.
Although becoming lightheaded and dizzy, Ethan stared down into Roger’s glassy eyes, taking pleasure in watching shock set in. Ethan felt no remorse for ending his life. While it was doubtful that he repented for his crimes in the final moments, he must have struggled to comprehend the events leading to his demise.
Once the life had disappeared from Roger’s eyes, Ethan collapsed on top of him. Ethan’s own shirt soaked in blood, he began to lose consciousness. Unable to help, Sarah and Kathy could only watch in horror, still taped up and restrained.
As all hope seemed lost, the front door could be heard bursting open. Several pairs of footsteps pounded along the floor upstairs, then down the steps into the basement. Chase was the first one down the stairs, gun drawn and ready to act, followed by two other police officers. Once realizing the threat was eliminated, they all lowered their guns and two paramedics rushed over to the bloodied bodies on the floor.
Chase and the other officers released Sarah and Kathy from their restraints. The officers escorted them out of the house of horrors, while Chase stayed behind to monitor Ethan’s status. One paramedic pronounced Roger dead on arrival, while the other ran Ethan an IV. While he was still alive, he was in desperate need of a blood transfusion and surgery.
“You guys rush him to the hospital and I’ll call the coroner to pick up the dead guy,” Chase said.