Kidnapped! August 30th.
Denise Cochrane, twenty-two, got dressed for her morning run.
She was petite, barely five-foot four inches; shy, intelligent, and the great grand-daughter of the Cochrane who’d given the community its name: Cochrane Bluff, known for lumber, mining, and for its prestigious private school.
Being a relatively small, but prosperous community of barely 3,000, meant that everyone was known to everyone else. That, had both advantages and disadvantages.
She planned her day as she did all of her days, but there was not much to plan with them all being the same. There'd been a stage a few years earlier, of having to force herself out of bed rather than languish there in self-pity, as she'd done for the first few months of waking up to just how empty her life had become after all of the various mistakes she’d made, and giving up on her all-too-brief marriage.
Her older brother, Carl, had pulled her out of that phase, given her a good talking to (he could do it where their mother or father couldn’t) and got her back to college. Now, she got up at dawn, had breakfast, checked her appointments, and decided how much time she had, to go for a run; a longish one this time, before the deteriorating air quality from all of the forest fires closing in on them got worse, and before her first appointment, at nine.
She sorted out clean jogging clothing from the dryer and unwrapped her new athletic support bra. It was much more-snug than her others, and extended lower and higher than the older one, and the fabric pulled more tightly to give her better support where she most needed it, and stopped her substantial breasts from jogging in opposition to her.
She put on a white sweat-shirt that had belonged to her brother, to cover the tops of her breasts. She’d see where she could make changes in the bra after this run, and then improve it for the next time; re-enforcing a little here, and a little there, to pull things tighter. It was always difficult to find a good fit with her build.
Her breasts were too big for comfort, and the last thing she should be doing was running, except she needed to get out either on a bike or running, and she didn’t feel like biking this morning. There were no exercise clubs that she wanted to frequent. Everyone there was too nosey, too familiar, or on-the-hunt.
Most women with small breasts, wanted larger ones, and would do anything to get them, sparing no expense for implants, lifts, reshaping, but that was all expensive. Those with breasts like hers, usually wanted something less obvious. Few women were ever satisfied with what they had. She would have done anything to have hers made smaller. They were too big for her frame, and attracted the wrong kind of attention. They always had, even at school, but she’d never got around to doing anything about them.
She ate a light breakfast as she caught the headlines about the forest-fire getting ever closer to the town. She did some stretching to prepare for her run as she listened to the news and forecast—still no rain in the weather-outlook for the next few days, nor in the longer term—then dug out her cell phone and a bottle of water.
Sunrise, that morning, had been a crimson splash of color through all of the uncharacteristic pollution for their rural area. The smoke was already drifting over the entire region and could be felt by anyone with any breathing difficulties, most of whom had decided to move to more distant locations upwind of the fire until it all blew over.
The air pollution could drift for hundreds of miles and affect the air quality for days at a time across several states, but made for fantastic sunsets.
She walked out of the door, closed it behind her and started to punch in the numbers to call her brother and leave him a message telling him to drop his laundry off, and she’d do it as she usually did on a Friday, after she got back from her run.
Before she completed the call, the phone was knocked out of her hands; she was tripped and sent sprawling, feeling a heavy weight land on her, knocking the breath out of her as she hit the ground. There was no sound to explain what had happened to her, other than the scuffling of feet.
Before she could catch her breath and scream, she was pulled about roughly by her hair, gagged with duct tape, and then her eyes were covered with more of it, cutting off most of her vision, as her hands and ankles were tied with a thin rope that bit into the skin.
She vaguely glimpsed two men, even as she began to fight; kicking out with her feet tied, feeling and hearing just how effective she was when she contacted at least one of them in the middle, if the gasping noises and swearing she heard were indicative of anything, and even sending another flying when she kicked him in the knees.
Something hard, hit her at the side of the head before she was roughly turned over onto her face. One of the two men was swearing at her for the hurt she’d caused him, and then he knelt on her to hold her still as he recovered his breath, not caring how much he was hurting her. Two minutes later she heard a vehicle backing into her driveway.
They lifted her, not caring where they touched, or how much they hurt her, pushing her into the back of a car or a van, rolling her, raising another bruise or two, before throwing a blanket over her to hide her.
“I’ll take a photo.” She didn’t recognize the voice. She heard a shutter click. They were photographing her. Why?
They drove, with one of them reaching over the seat to hold her down by her hair to stop her sitting up.
They said nothing for a few minutes, recovering, after their exertion, concerned that someone might have seen them.
“That was easier than I thought. When we get out of town I’ll give him a call. Tell him how easy it was.”
His associate disagreed. “You shouldn’t, and you can’t. He told you clearly enough; we make no calls that could be traced between us, and he wouldn’t get that call anyway, considering where he is. It would land up on an answering machine somewhere, and that’s not wise. We call him only on Tuesday at the exact time he stipulated after he gets back from Denver, and that’s when we get the rest of the money.”
Denver! She knew what it was about now. They were talking about her absent, estranged-husband of four years; Hal. He’d set this up to get her kidnapped. But then what?
She didn’t need to ask. She knew.
“Yeah. I suppose he’s paying us enough to make her disappear, but I don’t think we’ll hang around this locality while we wait.”
Denise knew almost immediately what they were talking about. Hal, whom she hadn’t seen for four years since she’d walked out and left him, had engineered this. She didn’t recognize the voices of either of the two men, but she could guess what they were planning on doing. Hal had threatened to kill her for walking out on him and making him look bad. He would never dare do anything to her, himself, but he’d hire others to do what he couldn’t. She couldn’t help but wonder what he was paying them. She listened, knowing that her survival depended upon her learning what she could, and acting on it.
“She’s not that bad looking. Did you see those tits? Man, oh, man. Why’s he doing this?”
“Why do you think? He wants to get her out of his way, and out of his life the only way he knows how, and to take his revenge on her, but he doesn’t have the balls to do it himself with her brother constantly on his case and looking for an excuse to arrest him, or do him more harm than he already did. He probably took a big insurance policy out on her and planned something like this years ago, always playing the angles, our Hal.”
They weren’t afraid of her hearing his name. A bad sign.
“That’s why he didn’t divorce her. She has to disappear, leaving him as her next of kin. You know what he’s like. He can’t stand to be crossed. She embarrassed him for years, leaving him after just a couple of weeks of marriage, making him a laughing-stock with his friends. He had no backbone and he couldn’t take it. I wouldn’t have taken it either. He should have dumped the bitch earlier, or killed her, but he didn’t have the balls for that. God knows why he married her in the first place, except that was the only way she’d let him get into her bra or her panties. Go figure. He’s not the smartest guy. He had to leave town after that with her brother forever making trouble for him.
“After this, when she goes missing, her brother will be coming after him even more, but he figures he’ll have a rock-solid alibi, being where he is. From what I heard of Sheriff Cochrane, he won’t be asking Hal any questions. He’ll know, and he’ll just beat the crap out of him.” They chuckled.
She hadn’t liked to hear any of that. When she goes missing.
‘Missing’, meant only one thing. Her mind couldn’t handle that sudden thought. She became hot and began to panic, but was helpless to do anything to fight at them. Her bonds were too tight, and she could see nothing.
She wouldn’t be missed for hours. Where were they taking her? And why was this happening to her now? She hadn’t seen Hal in years, but she had a meeting set up for next Wednesday with him, so that he would sign the divorce papers after all of this time. That had been a ruse of course, and another part to his alibi.
Why was he doing this? For the best reasons in the world; money, and hatred. He’d lost face when she’d left him as she had. His precarious ego; very important to Hal, had taken a bruising, especially with his few friends. His other girlfriends gradually found out about him once they got behind that façade he constantly put up, and drifted off, and he hadn’t liked that either. Like any man of shallow character, he blamed everyone else, especially Denise, for everything wrong in his life.
There’d been a lot of things wrong with Hal that she had never seen about him until after she’d trapped herself into marriage with him. Hal always had been devious.
“It’ll take us an hour or more to get to the turnoff if we can find which one it is, so go easy. We don’t want to get pulled over. I just hope there’s no one there to stop us.”
“There wasn’t yesterday at any of those turn-offs when we drove by. They figured those barriers and all of the warning signs will stop anyone going into the woods with that extreme fire hazard alert. Once we get far enough into that road, we’ll be in the clear. He said an hour’s drive after that, and then we’d be on foot for an hour or more before we get up to the lookout."
She knew then, where they were going. She was being taken up to Lookout Point. When they reached the parking area, miles back from the main road; Lookout Point--which she knew well-- was still a hard walk, and a difficult one, even for someone reasonably-fit. These two were neither fit, nor strong. She’d already found that out.
They’d be more tired by then, than she would be, and she could outrun most men. They’d have to untie her ankles and maybe even her hands to get her to walk up there. That would give her at least an hour to see the best place to escape them.
She castigated herself for not being more attentive when she left the house to go on her run, and for being so stupid as to marry that Thomason bastard straight after high school and bringing this down on herself!