There’s a chill in the night air as the leaves falling from the first changing trees of the season, scatter along the sidewalk. They blow 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 grimy homeowner breathes a deep sigh of relief. He doesn’t see anything reporting on the abduction last night. His luck and attitude change when the channels stop on the twenty-four-hour news. He turns the volume up when he sees a familiar face plastered in the upper right corner that he wished he hadn’t. Pausing and sitting forward, letting the nuts fall to the floor, 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 after they change the subject. He may not have been as careful as he thought. Cursing, he thinks about the lies he would need to tell to get out of this situation. He couldn’t run, not yet. He needed to bide his time until the coast was clear. This wasn’t like the times before; they didn’t have anyone looking for them. Why had he accepted this tempting offer. He knew it was too good to be true when he was given the information, but he took it anyway. One look at her and he fell, harder than he ever fell before. He was promised that no one would be looking for her, that she was no one from a nothing family. The added information settles sourly in his stomach. He could hear the conversation with his supplier now. Pushing his fingers into his eyes until he saw only purple, he tried to think of something else.
No more than five minutes after the news report, a telltale sound came from the back bedroom. Clicking the TV back on, he turns the volume up until it drowns out the new noise. If his nosey neighbors reported him again, he would have to leave sooner, exposing himself and his project to the town. Something he very much did not want to happen. The muffled sounds coming from the room start rising above the sound of the three stooges smacking each other on the television. Thinking on his feet, he decides to silence the noise the only way he knows how, without having to start the fun plans he had planned later.
Changing pace, he stands from the ratty recliner and heads for the back room. Taking long strides down the short hall, the oily 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. The young lady that set his soul on fire when he looked into her begging eyes. He stands there for a moment and thinks about that night. He thinks of her pleading eyes, the ones swimming with wantoning need as her hands reached out for him, barely able to stand on her own feet without his help. The memory of her perfume engulfs him as it did that night. The scent of her sweat just under it – she had been dancing that night. He could even smell the vodka on her breath, remembering the drink he spiced up for her at the club. It was only something to help her into his rough arms, nothing that would hurt her, he hated the idea of her being harmed in any way.
Breaking out of his memories when the sounds didn’t stop, he bangs on the door three times. When it finally dies with a yelp, 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 on it until the yellow light is cast around the small room. Crouching down, he came face to face, and eye to eye, with his beloved 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. He hums to himself as her hair is caught between his rough fingers. His eyes linger on the strands of deep brown hair as he curls them around his index finger. With the space of the walk-in closet, he had plenty of room to sit and stare at her all night, if he wanted. However, 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. She didn’t know him then, but when she smiled at him from across the room, he was consumed. It wasn’t even just the tip about her existence from his buddy, she was truly a beauty. One that shouldn’t be forgotten or wasted too quickly.
Tilting his head to the side, he opens the door to the kennel just enough to reach in and hold her dirty face in his thick hand. Her eyes don’t meet his as they stay stuck on the wall behind him. He shakes her head until she squeaks and moves her eyes too look at his. “Good girl,” he whispers as she flinches. He loved seeing the terror on her face, she was such a good actress, he believed. “Stay quiet and I’ll give you a little treat.” He twirled her hair again once his hand fell from her face.
“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 – to not believe in them. Hearing the news before told her everything she needed to know.
Breathing deeply, she closes her eyes as the kennel door closes and locks with a thick click. The last bit of hope that anyone would come for her disappeared as she swallowed back the fear stuck in her throat. The light died around her as her mind searched for something to hold onto. With fuzzy thoughts, she reaches for any sort of light still lingering inside her but finds herself as dark as the closet. It was stuck in the room with her, hanging by a string of hope that frayed with every passing day.