There’s a chill in the night air as the leaves falling from the first changing trees of the season, scatter along the sidewalk. Blowing past house after house before settling in a pile against a thicket of bushes the homeowner has neglected. With the warmth of the clicking heater that needed tossing out years ago, the homeowner with the shaggy bushes sits among his deep thoughts with corn nuts scattered over his chest. Seemingly without a care in the world, he grunts and coughs up a few nuts before grabbing aimlessly for the remote stuck between him and the tattered “leather” armrest.
Flipping through the static-filled cable channels, the homeowner breathes a deep sigh of relief. He doesn’t see anything reporting the news from last night. His luck and attitude change when the channels stop on twenty-four-hour news. He turns the volume up when he sees a face plastered in the upper right corner that he wished he hadn’t. Pausing and sitting forward, he pays as much attention to the news as he can. Clicking the remote a few more times for the volume, he listens to what they have to say about the girl on his screen.
“Reports have come in about a young coed that’s been missing since last night. Her parents called in a report that she ran away but a witness may be able to shed some new light on the subject. More on the story at eleven. Until then, if you see a young woman, five feet eight, long brown hair, hazel eyes, and pale skin, please call your local police department. Her photo provided by her parents is on the screen now, any information is helpful. Now, onto the latest traffic report—”
He cuts the TV off seconds before they change the subject. He may not have been as careful as he thought, and he knew he’d get an ear full about it later. Until then, his project is all his, and he needs to begin before his boss makes a house call.
No more than five minutes after the news report, does a telltale sound come from the back bedroom. Clicking the TV back on, he turns the volume up until it drowns out the new noise, he didn’t want anyone else to hear. The muffled sounds coming from the room start rising above the sound of the three stooges on the television. Thinking on his feet, he decides to silence it in a different way.
Changing pace, he stands from the ratty recliner and heads for the back room. Taking long strides down the short hall, the man threw the back-bedroom door open and set his sights on the closet.
He stood at the front of the closet door while he listened to the pathetic moans and whimpers of the new project, he brought home. When the sounds didn’t stop, he bangs on the door three times. When it finally dies, he turns to leave the room, but a sharp, piercing screech brought him to a full stop.
Turning back and making quick work of the small lock, he throws it on the bed behind him and slides the other locks out of place before pulling the door open.
Reaching for the lightbulb’s string, he pulls it on and looks to the left far corner of the closet. Crouching down, he came face to face, and eye to eye, with his new project.
“You’re going to have to keep quiet, we wouldn’t want to wake the neighbors, would we?” Lowering himself more, he reaches out to touch the side of her face through the kennel bars, but she backs up as far as the metal cage would allow her to. With the space of the walk-in closet, he had plenty of room to sit and stare at her all night, if he wanted. Seeing the tears, dirt, and sweat on her face infuriates him. He wants to clean her up and make her smile like he’d seen weeks ago, when they first met. Tilting his head to the side, he reaches out and grabs the strands of her long dark brown hair that dangle just within reach.
“We’re going to change a few things, dear. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt, I would never hurt you.” With his unsettling grin, the fear that blooms in her chest, seeps into her soul. This isn’t a situation she’s going to walk away from, that much she knows. Worse than that, she sees the empty void behind the man’s eyes. Telling her every word that came out of his mouth would happen despite any effort she makes to turn them into lies. With the sound of the news woman’s words rattling around her head, she lets go of the last bit of hope she had.