When I woke up the next morning, a noticeable soreness engulfed my body as I lay there. It wasn’t until I moved that a dull cramping pain in my stomach and right side flared up to waken me further. I gingerly touched my right flank, thinking I must have a broken rib. It hurt to breathe as I lay cold and shivering which only added to the pain. Looking towards the door I could tell it was unsurprisingly locked. The only surprise is how I was still alive. I had to pee but movement was excruciating right now, so I looked towards the bucket to gauge how much I needed to go. Slowly, I worked my way to a sitting position, taking in short gasps and holding my side to soften the discomfort.
Surveying my clothes, I found the only clasp on my shorts to work was the top button. The zipper gaped open unable to perform its function. My bra clasp was broken also, and I felt the fabric moving freely underneath my shirt. Pain prevented me from trying the next hook in line rendering it useless. The rest of my button-down shirt hung off me, exposing me to the cold draft of the musty room. Two buttons from the bottom were still functional and the two on the very top. I buttoned them to keep the shirt together as much as possible, thinking my modesty unrealistic by this point.
Instead of making my way to the bucket, I shuffled to the door. Humoring myself, I tried the knob, confirming it was locked. I looked out the keyhole but couldn’t see anything. I sensed Dan somewhere beyond the door but the way he was drinking last night, I assumed he must be sleeping it off.
The light breaking into my window told me it was early in the day, but I couldn’t say how early. I slumped to the floor as tears welled in my eyes. I’d lost hope. Dan would wake up and kill me, taking his revenge for my disobedience. What I did to him last night was unforgivable in his eyes. If he was ever planning to let me go, it was a forgone wish by now.
No one knew my location. Hell, I didn’t even tell anyone I saw Dan and no one would suspect he would come back from my past to kidnap me. I thought of Brandt and a bevy of tears fell faster down my face, washing my lips with its salty liquid. My Brandt. I loved him so much. We were going to start a family. What kind of mother was I if I let myself get killed?
Caught in my despair, I almost envisioned sounds that weren’t there. It started out faint, almost the sound of a bug or mosquito. My mind searched for the answer to the soft whirring tone. Insect? It wouldn’t be inconceivable. There had to be insects swarming around this far up the mountains even given the early morning hour. No, that wasn’t the sound of a mosquito. Something bigger then? It eluded me until the sound of a helicopter intensified. I remembered it from going up with Brandt and Phillip. Someone had a helicopter nearby.
I needed to get out and flag it somehow. Maybe they could help me. It felt foolish to hope at this point, but I needed to do something. I couldn’t just wait here to die without trying to help myself.
Walking over to the window, I worked in vain to see about opening it even though my side pulled with pain and my muscles ached all over my body. I couldn’t even make it budge. Even if I could, chicken wire covered the other side preventing me from escaping without waking Dan. I wouldn’t be able to stick anything out further than a couple of inches, making it impossible to see my signal from the height of the chopper.
Scanning the room, I felt as though I couldn’t give up. Damnit. There had to be a way. The chair. I could throw the chair out the window. No, it wouldn’t break through the chicken wire. Shit. The sound was coming closer and if I didn’t do something, it would go over and sabotage any chance at escaping my prison alive.
Looking at the chair, I felt I had to chance it. It may not break through the window’s wire, but if Dan was sleeping off a hangover, it just might work to my advantage. If I could startle him, I could pull it off.
Grasping the back of the chair, I ignored the pain in my hip and abdomen. Lifting it high, I aimed it toward the window. Swinging with all my might, I crashed it into the glass, shattering the window so loudly the sound reverberated off the empty walls. It made a loud noise and although the old window panes crumbled to the ground, the chicken wire held. A scream filtered through from the other side of the door. “What the fuck!” The doorknob turned but didn’t open. He was working the key into the lock, and I grabbed the chair once again and stood behind the door.
When he got the key in the lock and opened the door, he rushed to the window looking for me. Once again, I brought the chair up and swung it from behind the door and into his back with all my might, momentarily forgetting my pain as the adrenaline surged throughout my body. It knocked him into the window with the broken glass, pushing his body off balance into the sharp jagged edge of the remaining window. I didn’t stay to watch, knowing this was my only chance to run. The door was open, and I raced for it.
The front door to the cabin closed, but mercifully unlocked, slowed down my escape albeit slightly. I opened it quickly as I heard the blades of the aircraft above me. My only hope was to flag them down, but when I saw Dan looking out of the bedroom door, bloody and in a rage, I took off, creating as much distance between us as possible. He looked wild. His bloodshot eyes matched the blood stains blossoming on his upper body. Sticky red liquid dripped from his one hand and saturated the ground while he clenched his other hand at his side. He screamed at me in a fit of rage, and I broke for the shelter of the trees, hoping I could hide from him in its thick enclosure.
I wished I had paid better attention when we got here not knowing which way to run. When I looked behind me, the doorway stood empty. My moment of relief was replaced by panic as he reemerged with the gun in his hand. Not wanting to be out in the open, I doubled my effort to make it to the safety of the woods.
The cover of the trees looming ahead would make it harder to shoot me, as I knew I would never make it to the helicopter in time. The wind from the blades above me spun my hair around my head, and I forgot all about the pain in my side, escape my only focus.
I ran just inside the tree line and was searching the thick brush for my next footstep when I heard the gun go off. A splintering sound merged as a bullet hit the tree on my right side, and a new fear went through me as I looked down at the thick underbrush. I ran faster not caring if I twisted an ankle. Looking back to gauge Dan’s distance from me, I didn’t see the drop-off. A gorge unfolded down in front of me, and I landed on my right side, a good six-foot drop. Pain shot up from the hip to my shoulders and back. More pain ripped into my upper back as this time I landed against trees and solid rocks. Cold water seeped into my shorts and top, covering me, and quickly rushing against my leg. The frigid temperature made an icy chill to numb my senses; both a relief to my discomfort and a deterrent to escape further.
The stabbing in my hip and back rendered me motionless, but I tilted in the stream to look above me, knowing he was still out there. I needed to locate Dan, and when I turned over, I saw him. Breathless and crazed he peered at me from the top of the gully. His beady brown eyes bore down on me, causing my body to shake uncontrollably. The gun in his hand lifted to point in my direction. I didn’t know whether it was from pain or from fright, but my vision blurred once again. I struggled to keep conscious but was losing my grip on the world.
Over all the commotion I heard my name being called. My name by Brandt’s voice. “Chelsea!” Looking up at Dan, I knew he heard it too. He took his aim off me, and the gun in his hand rotated to the sound of the helicopter.
He aimed and fired and my heart crushed in my chest. “Brandt!” The prospect of Brandt being close helped to keep me focused but when I didn’t hear him again, I started to cry. My heart sank. He found me. Brandt found me only to be killed, and I was at fault.
Dan smiled an evil smile and turned the gun back at me. This time I didn’t want to fight off unconsciousness. I wanted it to take me. As I stared at him, I could feel myself give up. Looking up from my position in the stream, I gave him a pleading look to end it. He pointed the gun to my chest, making the shiny metal glint in the sunlight. The sneer on his face depicted his victory, but I didn’t care. My fight was over but I would make sure he saw I wasn’t frightened by death anymore as my eyes met his.
And then I saw his head explode.
The noise of the gunshot reverberated over the continued sound of helicopter blades. Dan seemed to stand lifeless, without half of his head above me, and then as if in slow motion, I watched his legs give out collapsing down into the gully with me. He landed on top of my lower half, and I started to scream. Blood marked my surroundings as the cool water tried to wash it away. His lifeless body, too heavy for me to lift, forced me to jostle in the water to try to get out from underneath him as I fought to get away.
“Chelsea!” Through my screaming, I heard him. “Chelsea!” Looking up, I saw him in the brush and I wondered if I imagined him.
Brandt stood above me, alive and safe from Dan’s wrath. One side of his shirt was red, the same tint of color matching the blood pooled all around me. The harried look in his eyes mirrored my own as he made his way down to me. Although my harrowing experience over, my mind had yet to register as I continued screaming and pushing at Dan’s lifeless body. The contents of his skull visible through the hole in his head caused an insurmountable panic making me shake and scream all the more. Still in a state of shock, I watched as Brandt flung Dan’s body off me and wrapped his arms around me.
And then everything went dark.
Screaming louder, I covered more distance, running faster towards the treeline where Chelsea hid in the distance. That son of a bitch. I needed to get to her. Chelsea could be injured and lying there dying. I could only make out her tormentor standing just inside the line of trees. His vision centered further into the woods. I screamed out her name again, this time louder still. The guy, it must be Dan, turned and looked at me. His gun came up and fired at me causing searing pain throughout my left upper arm and momentarily stopped my run. I grabbed my arm and took off again when I heard her scream my name. She was still alive, and I needed to get to her.
Dan didn’t even watch to see my demise before turning towards her again. He brought his gun around, aiming in the distance and I knew his sight focused on her and this time he wouldn’t miss. Screaming out her name in the hope that he would circle back to me, my heart sank as I heard a gun go off, stopping all time.
It took a brief moment to register that the location of the gunshot came from behind me. I watched in slow motion as Dan’s head exploded in a red mist. He tried to stay upright for a short time yet, almost unbelieving his life had ended. Then his knees buckled, and he fell forward, out of sight.
More screaming emerged from the woods and I noticed a drop off just inside the treeline. Running over, I saw her down below in a small stream of water pinned down by Dan’s corpse. Chelsea’s petrified appearance caused a sinking feeling in my stomach as I realized she was in shock, screaming, and pushing at his body without being able to move him at all.
“Chelsea.” I tried to get her to look at me. “Chelsea.” And when she finally looked up, I saw her beautiful blue eyes and the terror in them. Her eyes widened despite her bruised and swollen face. Her left eye was black and blue and her hair matted to her head. The water turned crimson from Dan’s blood and I steadied myself not to slip on it as I scrambled to get down to her side. Her voice grew hoarse as she trembled and shoved at the weight pinning her to the ravine.
The smell of copper permeated the air between us as I worked my way to her side. Dan’s body was draped across her, minus the right side of his head. Her trembling caused the water to ripple around her as she continued to scream and scurry out from underneath him. I lifted with all my might, feeling pain in my left arm again but not caring until I freed the lower half of her body from her entrapment, not wanting any part of this monster to ever touch her again. Setting her legs free, I got down to her and wrapped my arms around her, relishing in the touch of her pressed against me once again.
“Chelsea! Chelsea, I am here.” Her screaming ended abruptly as she lost consciousness.
Picking her up, I carefully maneuvered us out of the gully. The pain in my arm lessened to a constant ache, and when I got up to the open area once again, Tony hurried to my side. He didn’t take her from me; it was as if he knew I would never give her up. No, not ever again. Instead, he helped rush us to the helicopter, asking me questions, but I ignored him, focusing all my effort on the woman in my arms. Seeing Chelsea lying limply in my arms, Phillip motioned for us to get in. I climbed into the back seat with her but Tony stayed on the ground.
“Phillip, get her to the closest hospital. I will call ahead and have them radio with the coordinates but head towards town now.” He saw the blood. They would both need to be blind not to. I don’t know how injured she was but time was crucial as I couldn’t rouse her. My only reassurance was the steady heartbeat I felt when I put my hand to her chest.
Tony stayed back, stating he would wait for the authorities and secure the location. When the local hospital diverted us to the next hospital with a helicopter pad and a trauma unit, I couldn’t have been happier. She needed the best. I didn’t want to fuck around.
Phillip called in his coordinates and notified the ranch for me, telling them to drive my car with Ed to the hospital as soon as possible. I was bringing her back to him. He would get to see his little girl. Thinking of this, I asked Phillip to radio ahead to my house and get Louis to drive the rest of the family to the hospital too.
As I cradled her in my arms, I looked down at the rise and fall of her chest to constantly remind me she was still with me. Still covered in his blood, she looked bad, but I tried to concentrate on the positive.
She only woke once on the ride. I tried to talk to her, but she was too weak. Instead, I let her drift back off and prayed that everything would be all right.