Hours later, Amanda and her family are at Jean’s work picnic. It’s a hot, sunny day at the park, which is full of green grass, laughter, and people having a good time. Amanda’s in a large, crowded field, holding a water gun.
Amanda squirts her water gun, hitting a tall, thin man with a thick beard and a short thatch of hair on the back of his head. “Oops. My finger slipped.”
The man turns around and gives Amanda a dirty look. “Real cute. We haven’t even started yet.”
Amanda squirts her gun again. “Oops.”
A six-year-old boy with a short fade haircut walks in front of Amanda and begins squirting her up the nose with his water gun. “Oops!”
Amanda struggles to speak until the boy stops. “What the hell? Whose crazy kid is this?” Amanda looks around.
The man Amanda squirted gives the boy a high-five. “Way to go, son! My little man’s always got his daddy’s back.” The man is hit in the back of the head with a water balloon. “Alright, they clearly said no headshots.” He turns around and sees Jean standing behind him.
“Don’t mess with my cub,” Jean sasses him. “Hey, Jamie. How about you pick on someone your own age?”
Jamie squirts some water at Jean. “You two must be related. I can see the similarities. Also, it’s Dr. Connor to you. Don’t make me write you up for insubordination.”
“That would scare me if we were at work, but we’re out in public. You know what that means? That means your ass is mine!” Jean cackles.
“Why are you so aggressive? You do know this is all fun and games, right? Right?” Jamie looks at Jean with worry.
Amanda begins to raise the roof. “Woop-woop! Way to tell him, Mom!”
Jean blows a kiss at her.
“Alright, I’m tired of waiting. Ready, set, go!” Amanda shouts. Everyone in the field begins running around, squirting each other with water guns, and throwing water balloons.
With the water fight finally finished, many people begin to gather under a tent massive enough to fit over one hundred people. Some of the people are dripping wet from the water fight, and some are dripping with sweat from the heat.
Amanda sits at a table full of kids her age, eating, talking, and laughing.
Logan and Jean eat next to each other on one side of the table, while Saira eats opposite them.
Logan, his mouth full of food, looks up at Saira. “You know, you’re just like me when I was younger: calm, cool, and didn’t want to be bothered. Your sister—she’s like your mom, the wild child.” Logan sees Saira isn’t paying attention, merely plucking at her food, so he decides to change the subject. “I understand why you didn’t want to sit across from me. You were scared I was going to spit in your food when I talk. You see, you’re not the only one with critical thinking skills. I was around your age when I became super-smart too. I started to see things from a different angle, and people thought I was crazy. I can drop some of this knowledge on you if you want it.”
Saira continues picking at her food. “No, thank you.”
Logan points his fork at Saira, and food particles fly onto Saira’s plate. “Maybe later.”
“No, thank you.” Saira gets up from the table with her plate and throws it in the garbage. Then, she goes to a chair in front of a fan tucked off in a corner.
Jamie approaches Logan and Jean from behind with his son on top of his shoulders. He taps Jean on her shoulder and startles her. “You know, all that greasy food is bad for you.”
“Well, Dr. Connor, it’s either eat or starve, and I don’t think anyone wants to see me hangry!” Jean snaps her teeth at him.
Logan sighs. “God, you’re so embarrassing.” He sneezes, spraying snot into his food and shaking the entire table.
Jean gives Logan a straight face. “God, you’re so embarrassing sometimes.” She turns back toward Jamie, bug-eyed. “Dr. Connor, my daughter is lonely in the corner over there. Do you mind if your boy goes to play with her? She’s very friendly and fun to be around.”
Jamie takes his son, Lucas, off his shoulders. “Go say hi.”
Lucas runs over to Saira. “Hi! I’m Lucas!”
“Please go away,” Saira answers in her usual way.
“What? I can’t hear you. Can you talk louder?”
“Where’s Megan?” Jean asks.
Jamie looks around. “I don’t know. She’s not picking up her phone. She drove separately because she said she had to handle some stuff. Probably out screwing someone.”
Jean gives him a quizzical look. “Oh. Does that happen often?”
Jamie shrugs his shoulders. “Not that I know of. I’m just guessing. I hope not, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Things have been bad between us for the past few months. The constant arguing and fighting—anything sets her off. We fought over the toilet seat being up. Can you believe that?”
Jean’s eyes dart to the ground. “Kind of. We do that, too.”
Lucas walks over to Jamie, holding his head. “Dad, my head is starting to hurt again.”
Jamie puts his hand on his son’s shoulder. “The migraines are back? Alright, we’ll leave in a few minutes.”
“Dad, when is my doctor’s appointment? The headaches are getting worse.”
“In a couple days. I had an appointment for you last week, but your mother failed to take you to it. Blame her. Go drink some water, then come back, and we’ll leave.” He kisses Lucas on his forehead, and Lucas goes to drink some water. “I’m more worried about how our arguing is affecting my son than anything else. I don’t want him to have to go through a divorce and custody battles.” Jamie’s phone begins to ring. He looks at it and sees that his wife is calling. “Speak of the devil. Lucas! Let’s go.” Lucas runs over to his dad. “Nice talking to you, Jean.” Jamie waves, then picks up the phone. “Hello?”
Jamie walks over to another tent, then begins looking around until he finally spots his wife standing in line for food. He walks up to her with his son and grabs her by the waist.
Megan giggles. “Justin, stop!”
Jamie puts his face in Megan’s view. “Justin? From work? Why would you automatically assume it was him?”
Megan turns around with a radiant expression. “Calm down! The only reason I said his name was because I was just talking to him.”
“So, you just giggle when a man grabs your waist?”
“No! I knew it was you. No person in their right mind would come up and grab a woman’s waist.” Megan suddenly sees Justin, with his frizzy hair and large ears, approaching from behind Jamie. Megan shakes her head, trying to prevent Justin from coming over, but he doesn’t notice. Jamie turns around.
“What’s up, lady and gent? Dr. Connor, why the long face? You’re supposed to be having fun outside of work,” Justin says with a sly smile.
“He’s having a bad day. We were actually just getting ready to leave.” Megan smiles at Justin and begins pulling Jamie, but he doesn’t budge.
Jamie gives Justin a dark look. “You have a very pleasant scent. Kind of smell like my wife’s perfume.”
Justin gives him a perplexed look. “Well, I did hug her earlier.”
“You would have to hug her for a considerable amount of time to have her scent on you like that,” Jamie fumes, clenching his fist.
Jamie throws a hard punch, knocking Justin into a table full of food and causing hotdog water and hotdogs to fall on his face, burning it. Justin rolls on the ground, screaming in pain.
Jamie grabs his son by the hand. “Lucas, let’s go!”
Megan grabs Lucas’s other hand and pulls him. “He’s not going anywhere with your crazy ass!”
“Megan, let go of his hand right now!”
A look of fear comes over Megan’s face. She begins to scream. “Help! Help! He’s trying to take my son!”
Looking and feeling defeated, Jamie lets go of his son’s hand. “So, this is the real you? An evil manipulative bitch? You mean nothing to me now. You’re dead to me.” Jamie jogs away and ends up in his car, where he belts out a sound of frustration.
Several hours later, Jamie nurses a headache at the local pub—brought about both from the number of drinks he’s had and the number of times he smacked his forehead against his steering wheel in frustration before driving away from the picnic. He’s already drunk and slurring his words at a stocky bartender with a dragon tattoo covering his entire arm. Smooth jazz plays in the pub.
“Let me get another round,” Jamie demands.
“Look, man, you’ve had enough to drink already. I don’t need you falling and hitting your head and dying in here,” the stocky bartender worries.
“Yeah, whatever,” Jamie slurs. He tries to get up from his chair but ends up stumbling to the floor.
A thick woman in a short dress sees him on the ground and walks over. “Hi! I’m Becky. Looks like you need some help.” She extends her hand.
“No, I’m alright.” He slaps her hand away, then stumbles to his feet.
“Well, maybe I’m not. I could use a little company.” She winks, then bites her red lip.
“Sure, why not? Eye for an eye, right?”
“Nothing. You wouldn’t understand. My wife would, though.”
“You can tell me all about it at my place. I’ll drive. Let’s go.” She helps him keep his balance.
“Sounds good to me.” He puts his arm around her shoulders, and she leads him into a car outside.
Becky pulls out her phone and begins to speak in Russian. “I have one. I’ll meet you in ten minutes.” She hangs up the phone, leaving Jamie clueless as to what was just said. After driving a few miles, they end up on a dirt pathway in the forest, lit by the moon. She parks the car behind a white van.
“Hey, where are we?” Jamie asks.
The car door opens, and he is pulled out. He puts up a small fight but is easily manhandled by two muscly men wearing ski masks. They open the van’s back door and toss him inside, where two more men wearing all black and ski masks begin to tie him up. Jamie lets out a cry for help before his mouth is taped shut and he’s knocked unconscious with a vicious punch.
Jamie awakens, dazed, confused, and struggling to move until he realizes he is still tied up and gagged. He grunts and wiggles around like a worm, trying to break free, but only succeeds in exhausting himself and making his kidnappers laugh.
One of his captors looks down at Jamie, then starts speaking in Russian. “She said he was drinking alone. Probably a fucking alcoholic. His organs will go to someone who appreciates them.”
Seconds later, the van swerves and comes to a stop, slamming Jamie against the wall. Jamie lets out muffled screams, hoping someone will hear, but his pleas for help are drowned out by the shouts of dread and gunshots coming from the front of the van. Lasers burn holes through the wall separating the back of the van from the front, then continue through the back doors of the van, making everyone in the back shiver with fear. The goons inside stay silent, trying to maintain their composure, but from the way their hands are trembling, it’s clear they are horrified.
The van dips down as something lands on top of it, shaking the men’s balance and triggering them into letting off a hail of bullets that make the roof look like Swiss cheese. They cease fire and look up, only to see a hand with black fur and long black nails cutting through the top of the van. The hand grabs both kidnappers by their faces. One of them panics and fires off shots as they’re pulled through the roof. Jamie is hit in the chest by four bullets. He gasps for air, trying to cling to life as he hears sounds of terror coming from above him. Jamie’s vision becomes blurry, but blood begins to pour into the van as his kidnappers are torn apart.
Before going unconscious, Jamie sees what looks like a demon with a sinister, sharp-toothed grin reach down and grab him by the foot. Then, it throws him like a rag doll through a portal with a desert inside.