My face turned red as I screamed at the top of my lungs, over and over again until I thought I wouldn’t be able to scream anymore. I screamed my throat raw, and when I swallowed it felt like I was swallowing broken glass. I began to scream again, except this time I began to scream something specific.
“Help!” I managed to spit out, unable to form any other words. “Help, help, help!” I pleaded desperately.
I didn’t hear a response right away, and it made me extremely overwrought. I was so excited but so scared. I felt like my excitement was excusable but something to be short-lived. I had been so close to freedom one too many times only to have it stolen away, and I felt a bit scorned by it. I didn’t want to feel that disappointment. Not again.
Not many kidnapped victims had this opportunity—this gateway, and I couldn’t help but wonder if whoever lived in the sky had listened and granted my prayers. I hoped that this was a reward for never giving up for fighting for my freedom. Maybe my balkiness had paid off.
It felt like my cry out for help didn’t do much good right away, however. Silence sang back to me, leaving me feeling colder than ever. I had expected the police officers voice—not Zacharias’ for once—to call back to me, or to hear footsteps running up the stairs in mad succession to free me from the ropes. But there was nothing.
I grew more and more trepidatious as I laid there, only able to wait and see what would happen next—and when that something was going to happen. I felt sweat begin to bead by my hairline and drip down my forehead as tears welled in my eyes. Seconds meshed into hours, accomplishment blurring into hindrance.
I let out a shaky sigh, straining myself as I struggled to pick up on any sound that could’ve possibly been erupting from downstairs. I had never felt so anxious as I had in that moment for the simple fact that I had gotten myself into a parlous predicament. Things could either go very good, or very bad. There was absolutely no in between.
Optimism quickly dissipated into pessimism. My body, pulled tight as I clenched with nerves, relaxed as I slumped as best as I could, sulking. I debated on screaming again, but didn’t know if it was the best option. What if the officer was already dead? What if the first responder was Zacharias, answering my cry out for help instead of the cop? What if the officer hadn’t even heard me?
I should’ve screamed again, and I damn well knew it. Feeling depleted as though I had been thrashing and dehydrated for hours, my mouth opened but no sound could come out. If the police officer didn’t come, it was my own fault and I knew that too. But after so many failed escape attempts, I wasn’t positive this would be the one to succeed. Officer or not, Zacharias had a secret under his belt.
Staring down the barrel of a gun, I knew Zacharias wouldn’t show any fear. He was as close to invincible as anything biotic could get.
And then there were footfalls—heavy footsteps that began to creep up the stairs the same way a burglar creeps through the family household while everyone was fast asleep. I tensed almost right away, my ears pricking as my skin bristled uncomfortably. My toes curled as, more by instinct than unsuspecting terror, I lightly kicked against the bedsheets.
The stance up the stairs was slow—maybe apprehensive or territorial. I couldn’t differentiate the two; they clumped into one category. If it was Zacharias, I was scared that my cry out for help was the straw that broke the camels back; that he had finally taken enough shit from me and was going to kill me. I whimpered, lolling my head to one side as I clenched my eyes shut.
The footfalls stopped right in front of the door, and I waited, anxiety-ridden, as I expected to hear Zacharias turning the doorknob. I knew his foreboding presence better than I knew the back of my hand; the fear on my chest nearly as heavy as him.
But it was strange—this presence was far from foreboding. It was like I had inherited a sixth sense, because I didn’t feel as though the presence that stood outside of the door was a presence that wanted to do me harm. I felt as if the presence wanted to pluck me away from the harm...
And I was correct. After maybe ten or fifteen seconds, a male voice called out to me. “Police! Is anybody in this room?!”
Overjoyed, I went to call back; relieved when I was finally able to relocate my voice. “Yes!” I cried, ecstatic. “Yes! Oh, God, yes!”
Despite the fact the door was unlocked, he still kicked it open; holding his gun out in front of him as if I was only another criminal playing the role of the victim. I understood he had to take precautionary measures, but I still found it ridiculous. I had when I watched it in movies, too. Had I not been so appreciative of his arrival, however, I might’ve laughed.
I craned my neck up, wondering if I appeared as dishevelled as I felt. I knew blood was crusted by my mouth from me biting Zacharias, and I could feel the red heat in my face. I hoped I looked as desperate as I felt. “Help me.” I whispered.
“Edie Bartem,” the officer stated, lowering his gun. He was young; couldn’t be much older than I was. That scared me. Because with youth came inexperience, and with inexperience came sloppiness. “You’re the kidnapped victim—you’ve been missing for twenty-two days.”
“Can you untie me please?” I pleaded softly as more tears welled in my eyes, distorting my vision as they glossed over.
“Shit, yeah. Of course,” he responded, putting his gun back into his holder as he walked over to me. “How long have you been tied to this bed?” He asked, sounding like he was trying to hold a casual conversation instead of trying to gather information for a case.
“Where’s Zacharias?!” I blurted, realizing I didn’t exactly know where he was.
The officer put a knee on the edge of the bed, and I noticed the slight trembling of his fingers—he was scared, nervous, jittery. I picked up on it, feeling his emotions being bequeathed onto me. “The man? He’s in the police car, handcuffed. No resistance.”
I swallowed, suspicious, turning my head to the side as I looked away from him. It was all but humiliating needing to have someone untie you from a bed—it made me feel so...disgusting. Being left tied to the bed felt like something kinky that had gone wrong; like in Gerald’s Game. Despite the fact I knew it wasn’t true, I still felt grimy.
“You need to radio in for backup,” I told him shakily before he started to untie me. “Trust me. If you came here solo, you’ll need backup.”
He said nothing, but a blush rose to his cheeks as he pulled out his radio from his belt. He held down on the button, only to receive crackle and static. His brows furrowed for the slightest second, letting go of the button before pressing it down again. Subsequently, he still received crackle and static; until the radio died completely.
“That’s strange,” he mumbled. “It was charged this morning.”
“You’re new on the job, aren’t you?” I gently accused.
He put the radio onto the bedside table before taking a knife from out of his belt. Mistrusting, I was nervous for a split moment that he was going to slit my throat with the knife—even if he was a member of the law. Instead, however, he began to cut through the ropes; freeing me.
“This is my first time in the field,” he confessed hesitantly, as if I had asked him to tell me about his father. “I was sent on patrol duty. I saw the burnt car in the ditch then found this place. This road hasn’t been driven on for years. It’s nearly abandoned.”
“It would explain why no ones figured to look here,” I said. He cut through the rope that bound me to the left post, before getting off of the bed and walking around to the other side, kneeling as he repeated the process. “What made you decide to look here?”
“I don’t know. No one else has driven it recently. Thought I’d be the first.”
“Where does this road lead?” I asked.
He didn’t answer until he was finished cutting through the other side of the rope. Instantly after he was finished cutting me free from the bed post I clutched my still-bound-wrists to my chest, letting out a quavering breath as I felt the stinging ache lapse through my arms.
“Nowhere,” he said, grabbing my forearm with one hand as he began to cut through the rope with the other. Unused to being around someone other than Zacharias, I mustered the bravery to look up at him with unfamiliar curiosity. He met my eyes for a moment before looking away. “The roads less travelled often lead to nowhere. That’s why no one takes them.”
“It led you somewhere, officer.” I argued persuasively, giving him a shaky smile.
“Somewhere with terrestrial qualities that mimic the Bermuda Triangle,” he retorted, chuckling. “Seriously, its fucking with a police radio!” His voice had hit a crescendo. He was scared—as scared as I was, possibly. In that moment, I didn’t doubt he was probably even more scared. I knew approximately what to expect, he didn’t.
He cut through the rope, and I was twisting my wrists before he could fully pull the knife away. My wrists were throbbing as the rope fell onto my lap and my hands were a bright red, my fingers deep violet from my lack of circulation. I started breathing heavily as I tucked them under my armpits, hoping I could warm them up and increase the blood flow to them.
Deciding I needed to do more to help my circulation, I stood up to my feet and began nervously pacing the room. The officer followed suit, standing up and walking back over to the police radio. As I paced, I looked at him from over my shoulder. The way his lips pursed as he fiddled with the radio made me feel less confident than I had when I was initially tied to the bed.
He was so new on the force that it felt like a punch to the gut. He didn’t know what the hell he was doing, and because of that he ran the risk of getting us both killed. His police radio wasn’t working, he was just as scared as I was, and he had Zacharias cuffed in the back of the police car. He did the cops in those cheesy action movies no justice. Especially after he checked his phone, which seemed to have died on him too. He cursed under his breath. Now we were both stranded.
This hardly felt like a rescue attempt. The officer was tall and built, sure, but he seemed like the type who wouldn’t know how to use his size to his advantage. I swallowed nervously, shuddering to myself like someone had walked over my grave.
“Edie,” I corrected him politely. “Please call me Edie.”
“Okay, Edie,” he began, pinching the bridge of his nose. “How well do you know this cabin?”
I bit my lip and shrugged. “I don’t know many rooms. Only this room, the bathroom and the kitchen.”
“Okay, do you know if there’s any home-phones or cellphones that could be of use to us?”
I shook my head. “There’s nothing technological here,” I said sadly. “He’s told me on numerous occasions if I were to have free range of this place, I’d never be able to call for help. Call me naive, but I believe him. There’s no purpose for technology here—there hardly is when you choose to live off the grid.”
“I don’t fucking know what to do.” He complained, mostly to himself.
And it was anomalous—so confound in its own truth, that a police officer was at a loss. I remembered watching a true crime show about this solo cop who went on patrol down a busy highway, discovering a lady tied in this torture chamber in the back of a semi-truck after pulling the driver over for speeding. He had handcuffed the man but left the woman tied after radioing in for backup. Our situation, I couldn’t help but notice, was somewhat similar.
Except we didn’t have the option of backup. This whole...distraction seemed absurd if not even juvenile, as if we were two kids playing a game of cops instead of living a real situation where one was required. I knew the officer wouldn’t load me into the vehicle with Zacharius who was just exposed as a criminal. But we might not have another choice. It was less of a risk than being sitting ducks.
“Can’t you put me in your patrol car? It’s not as if we can secure the scene.” I suggested a little too calmly; numbly, perhaps.
“There’s a tracker and a radio in my car,” he said. “When they see that I’ve been stagnant after I radioed in that I had a suspect in detainment, they’ll send backup. If anything, they might be sending some backup right now.”
“You don’t know what you’re doing!” I blurted as I slapped my hands over my mouth. “We’re going to be killed in here because you don’t know what you’re doing!”
“It’s illegal for me to hotwire a car and leave the person in detainment at the scene of the crime. We have to sit here and wait.” He told me matter-of-factly.
“You’ve been negligent when it comes to concluding a plan B! We’re going to die, officer! We’re going to fucking die! Look at us! Two lives wasted. We’re going to die!” I cried, lashing out. I could feel it again—the gargantuan feeling of disappointment of being so close to freedom only to have it taken away from me again.
The officer was the wrong person to lash out at, but in that moment he was the only thing I could lash out at. I knew this wasn’t his fault— he was merely coming here to ask a couple of questions about a singed car. He had came here alone, so it wasn’t as if he had a partner who could provide him assistance. It made me feel powerless to know I was the closest thing to a partner he had.
“Are you sure your radio isn’t working?! Your phone?! Have you done everything you can in this situation?” I was beginning to break—another mental meltdown stealthily approaching as I flailed both of my arms around erratically. ”Are you even a fucking cop?!”
“If you don’t calm down, I will have to cuff you.” He warned without malice. We were standing a good distance apart from each other, facing each other head on. I was completely losing my marbles, and he was trying his best to feign his sangfroid. I believed him when he said he had done all he could do, but it didn’t make the pill any easier to swallow.
“You don’t get the fucking chance to touch her.” A voice boomed from the doorway.
Unprepared and completely blindsided, I suppressed a scream as I jumped about a foot in the air; feeling my heart as it leapt into my throat. My hands found their way to my mouth again, finding myself too reluctant to look to the side and see Zacharias as he stood in the doorway. The cop on the other hand was prompt, pulling out his gun and holding it in front of him.
The standoff only heightened the stakes; the jackpot coming in the form of me. My knees trembled and I felt so weak, nearly on the verge of collapsing again. I knew breaking free was too good to be true. As unreasonable as it was, I completely blamed the cop for it. I knew this situation was out of my control. I wasn’t willing to take the heat for this one.
“Get behind me,” The cop addressed me without looking at me. He refused to look away from Zacharias, and he was certainly refusing to lower his gun. I was frozen solid for a second, scared to move. “Now!” He demanded.
There was silence until I thawed and moved to take a step towards him. Before I laid my foot down to take that first step, Zacharias began talking to me; voice kinder than usual as if to prove a point, or to make me seem insane for ever crying out against him. “Come here, Edie. You should know I won’t hurt you.” He enunciated the last word.
I paused for a moment, feeling chills sneak up my spine as if icy spiders were crawling along the trail of my back. There was a brief moment of utter and complete indecisiveness—it wasn’t that I wanted to go to Zacharias, it was that I didn’t want to go to the officer. Zacharias was a weapon—a lethal one. With or without the officers gun, I was doomed, and so was the cop.
I took another step towards the officer, and Zacharias released a low, guttural growl that snapped my attention toward him. I looked over at him, only clad in a towel, the handcuffs ripped clean in half but still remaining on his wrists, eyes widening as I saw what he held in his arms—a weapon holding a weapon; a weapon that outdid the officers.
Zacharias took the safety off of his shotgun; the click of it enough to force the air from my lungs. I was caught in the middle of a deadly game of will and wits, and I was about to set off a trap that tested both. I was too terrified to stand in place, but I was also too terrified to move. I didn’t think Zacharias was going to shoot me—I had been scared he would earlier, but that fear had transcended.
I just didn’t want the officer to get hurt in the crossfire—he was young, inexperienced, and still had so much to prove in circumstances that were far more dangerous than this. Zacharias wouldn’t hurt me in the sense he’d kill me, but I knew he’d kill the officer if he didn’t scram...if he trusted he wouldn’t talk.
“I lied,” I barely squeaked, looking back to the officer. “I’m fine. Go.”
“Drop your weapon!” He yelled at Zacharias, ignoring me. The cop was big, but not as big as Zacharias. He was trying to intimidate him, but it wasn’t working; not that there was a chance it ever could. “Drop your weapon, sir, or I’ll have to shoot!”
“Edie,” Zacharias addressed me. My body began to shake violently as I slowly turned to look back at him. “You don’t have to come to me—” he was tackling a new tactic. “Go sit on the bed. Leave this to the men.”
I wouldn’t move. I couldn’t bring myself to. My breathing hitched as I dropped my head to my chest, clenching my eyes shut as I debated what to do. I wished the officer wouldn’t just stand and wait there for Zacharias to make the first move. I wanted to watch him pump him full of lead...even though I was certain Zacharias would find a way to literally dodge the bullets.
“Edie,” the officer addressed, and Zacharias clearly didn’t like him saying my name. Again, he let out a low, guttural growl. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up on end. “Maybe you should go sit on the bed.” I looked up at him, and he motioned his head over to the bed.
I stood there for a second, looking at Zacharias, to the officer, then back to Zacharias again. Like the officer, he motioned his head to the bed, and eventually my timid stare landed on the silk bedsheets. It seemed miles and miles away, fuzzing in and out of focus. Taking a deep breath, I sauntered stiffly as if I were a tightrope walker afraid of losing my equilibrium.
There was silence as I woodenly sat on the edge of the bed, dropping my gaze to the floor. The officer, again, demanded Zacharias to lower his weapon. I heard a light shuffle from where Zacharias was, perhaps maintaining his unwavering defiance. When I looked over, however, his shotgun was pointed at me.
Eyes widening, I raised my hands in the air and stopped breathing completely. I had been a fool to think he wouldn’t shoot me. “If you don’t drop your weapon, officer, I might just have to shoot.” Zacharias sneered, meaning he was going to shoot me.
And I fucking hyperventilated.
The officer, almost instantly, did what he was asked. “Okay, okay.” he relented, putting his gun on the floor before standing upright once again.
“Kick it towards me.” Zacharias demanded.
I gave the officer a quick glance, and he side-eyed me. Through unintelligible telecommunication, we made a plan and formed a united front. Maybe Zacharias wouldn’t catch onto it, because he couldn’t see my face; he didn’t know what my expression represented. But the officer did: kick it to me.
“Okay.” He agreed to Zacharias’ order, then rebelled and kicked the gun to me.
I grabbed it instantly, feeling the warm metal in between my fingers as I wrestled to have the barrel aimed at Zacharias. Once I had the gun in my hands, and my index finger rested on the trigger, I aimed at Zacharias to shoot; but I had forgotten his superhuman speed and strength.
He tackled me onto the bed, knocking the gun from me as he bashed it with the palm of his hand. He grabbed it from me, stood up off of me, and threw it into the air. I stood to catch, but in his last seconds of being human, pushed me back onto the bed. Man transformed back into wolf.
He let out a powerful, potent, paralyzing howl as he caught the gun between his jaws, eyes as emerald as ever as he looked back at me, then at the the officer. Following his howl, he let out a predatory growl—one released before an animal attacks.
He crushed the gun between his jaws like it was a potato chip, spitting the pieces onto the floor. He didn’t hesitate once before lunging at the officer, who could only let out a scream as he was attacked by the vicious beast who was human no more than seconds ago.
Knowing that was I was going to do next was probably futile and absolutely meaningless like everything else I attempted against Zacharias, it still didn’t stop me. I scrambled off of the bed, grabbing the shotgun that he had discarded onto the floor. It was lighter than expected as I picked it up, my sense of touch unable to register that something about the gun itself wasn’t quite right. But it didn’t matter.
Looking through the scope, I could only hear the sound of blood rushing in my ears—not even the sound of the officer being mauled—so I was grateful my sense of hearing was applying that filter. I was completely transfixed, insentient; unhinged, even, as I rested my finger on the trigger. Nothing was making sense, and I was completely detached.
But my finger wasn’t as I aimed and fired.