Authors: Rayven T. Hill
Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Suspense
She was helped from the trunk. He checked her blindfold, and then she stumbled and faltered as he led her blindly. Then, up three steps. She was being taken into a building of some kind. Then, across a wooden floor.
“Watch your step,” he said.
She nearly lost her balance a couple of times as she was pushed and prodded up a flight of stairs, and down a hallway. A door slammed behind her. A tugging at the back of her head, and the rag was slipped off. She was in a bedroom. He was going to rape her, she thought. She turned to face her captor. Now, more than afraid, she was angry.
She lashed out at him with her voice and her bound hands. “Why are you doing this?” she screamed. “Who are you? Why the hell did you kill Chad?” She was flinging her arms at him. Flailing uselessly.
He grabbed her by the wrist. “Calm down,” he demanded. “Just calm down. I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Then, what do you want?” She was sobbing now, in desperation.
Instead of answering, he retrieved a hunting knife sheathed to his leg, cut the tie holding her hands, and turned and left the room. The door slammed behind him. She heard a sound of metal on metal. Probably a dead bolt lock. She listened as his footsteps grew fainter, and then silent. She banged at the heavy wooden door and screamed until her hands were numb and her voice was tired. Then, she collapsed on the floor and cried.
And now, a week later as she lay on the bed, she was still trying to make sense of everything. Trying to understand why she was being held. Over the past days, though not resigned to the situation, she’d accepted it somewhat, and her bouts of panic and anger had subsided. Less panic, less crying, now lots of boredom, but still a pervading sense of helplessness and exasperation.
As she counted the boards above her for the millionth time, she had a thought. Perhaps there’s a way out through the ceiling. She saw an air vent, or maybe it was a heat vent, in the middle of the ceiling. She sat up and peered at it. Even if she could get the vent cover off, the hole was too small. The rest of the ceiling was covered wall to wall in hardwood, stained and yellowed with age, but solid. No way through.
She slipped open the closet door and looked up. Hardwood as well. And the walls of the closet were solid.
In frustration, she threw herself back on the bed. The antique headboard squeaked and wobbled, whacking against the wall. She heard the sound of crumbling plaster trickle to the floor, and caught the smell of its dust in the air.
Flipping on her back, she stared again at the ceiling, this time unseeing. Thinking. Then, suddenly, “That’s it!” she shouted. “The walls!”
It was so obvious. Why hadn’t she thought of it before? Jenny’s father had put an addition on the house a few years ago and she’d enjoyed running through the unfinished walls, between the studs, just generally getting in the way, but having a wonderful time.
Jumping from the bed, she half stumbled to a spot nearest the door. The one that led to the hallway beyond.
The ceiling may be solid, and the floor, and the door as well, but the walls are just plaster and empty space. The easiest way out of here is right through the stupid wall.
She pounded madly at the wall with her fists, and then kicking with first one foot, and then the other, until her toes were sore. Barely a dent.
Calm down. Just calm down.
She looked around the room. An old wooden chair might work. Or maybe some of those heavy books. No. There’s got to be a better idea. She looked around again, thinking.
She dashed to the bed. With a lot of effort, she managed to lift one edge of the mattress and sent it swinging and spinning, landing with a whoosh near the dresser. She inspected the bed frame. The rails were held to the corner posts of the headboard and footboard by a notched area near its center, slid in, and held there by a downward force. No screws. No bolts.
She finally managed to free one end with a lot of twisting, turning and pulling. The other end received the same treatment, and a side-rail was free. She tested the weight of the iron in her hands. Not too heavy. Just about right. Pulling off a pretty pink pillowcase, she wrapped it around the rail near the middle. Holding it with both hands on the padding, she tested her grip. Perfect.
She looked quickly at the clock. Just after four o’clock. I can make it.
She knew there were studs in the wall. She didn’t know how far apart, and assumed maybe twelve or eighteen inches. She chose a spot she thought should be between the studs, and about waist level from the floor. She tightened her grip on the iron rod and brought the end crashing against the wall. The brittle wallpaper cracked. Barely a ding, but it was something. One more try and the rip became a dent. Once more and dust trickled from the bruised wall.
Feeling frantic and euphoric at the same time, she continued to hammer away at the small hole, the weapon swinging rhythmically back and forth. Then, it was through. It caught and she had to twist it to wrench it free. The small hole became larger, and then pieces came away in bigger chunks. Inspecting the hole, she saw she was close to a stud on the left side, but by working to the right, the hole could soon be large enough for her to squeeze through.
In a couple more minutes, she was satisfied with the size of the space, but now the other side of the wall had to be done. More hammering, swinging, dust, and falling chunks. Finally, she tossed the makeshift tool aside.
She peered through the hole, the dust causing her to choke. She coughed it out, and looked through again, seeing only a hallway beyond. But it was freedom. She struggled through the tight space, catching her shirt on a nail head. She carefully worked it free, and then some more squirming and pulling, and she was through. She landed in a heap on the other side. She inspected herself. A badly bruised elbow, and a cut along one arm where she’d scraped it on a piece of sharp plaster. But otherwise ok.
She smiled grimly. “I’m free,” she whispered, as if not believing it. She jumped to her feet and threw her hands in the air. “Yes!” Her voice rose in triumph. “Free!”
She knew the wicked little man who’d held her captive wouldn’t be home for a while, but she was cautious as she made her way along the hallway toward the stairs descending to the main floor. Listening carefully a moment, she heard nothing. Holding the bannister with one hand, she took each step carefully. They squeaked in protest as she rested her weight on each tread. She stopped often to listen, and then continued, one slow step at a time, until she reached the landing.
The house appeared still and quiet. She could see the kitchen off to one side, and the living room at the other. She waited for a minute, contemplating her quickest means of escape. The back door off the kitchen would probably be the best.
She crept along the wall, moving slowly toward the kitchen. When she saw a telephone over by the fridge, she knew she should call for help instead of just dashing madly out to who knows where. She didn’t know where she was, but she pulled the phone from the wall clip and quickly dialed her mother’s phone number.
The phone rang. Once. Twice. Three rings. “Hello?” It was her mother’s voice.
Jenny hadn’t heard the back door being unlocked. She hadn’t heard it when Jeremy swung the door open.
“Mom, it’s Jenny. I’m ok. I don’t know where I am but . . .” She heard a noise behind her, and turned at the sound. Her voice froze in shock and terror. He had a pair of earphones on. His back was to her as he plunked a couple of grocery bags on the kitchen table. She dropped the phone, letting it hang, and slunk back to a spot at the end of the cupboards where he couldn’t see her.
She tried to control her breathing as she shivered in fright. She could hear him removing things from the bags and dropping them on the table. Her mind was running at full speed, deciding what to do. Any moment now, he could come to the fridge, and he would see her. She had to take a chance now. Half rolling, half crawling, she scrambled across the floor toward the entrance to the living room. She ducked around the corner and sat there a moment panting. A look around the room brought her to a swift decision. The couch. Behind the couch.
She heard a gasp from the kitchen, and then swearing. She heard the phone jangle as he slammed it back on its spot. Then, she heard him dash furiously upstairs. In a moment, he was down again.
“Jenny,” he called. “Where are you?” His voice was half angry, half mocking.
She was behind the couch now, trying to think. She rose up slightly and peeped at the front door. It was a double door, securely closed, and chained. She wouldn’t have time to get it open before he found her.
“Oh, Jenny,” he sang.
He was in the living room now.
“I know you’re here. The kitchen door was locked, and the front door still is, so I know you’re here. Come out, come out, wherever you are.”
Her mind was frantically searching for a plan. Anything that would give her a chance. She wished she had a weapon. She should’ve grabbed a knife from the kitchen. She wished she had, but she didn’t. All she had was a hiding place. And an unsafe one.
She held her breath. Her breathing seemed rasping, ragged, and uneven. Her heart sounded like thunder in her chest. Her leg was going numb from crouching in an awkward and cramped position. She dared to take another breath, letting the air out slowly. It sounded like rushing wind.
She could hear him now, in the small room, maybe an office, or spare bedroom off the living room. He was still calling her name, taunting her. A closet door slammed.
It was now, or maybe never.
She was still wearing her shoes. She slid them off and pushed them carefully underneath the couch. She eased from her hiding place, and tiptoed towards the front door. Carefully sliding back the chain, she turned the knob and, thank God, the door didn’t squeak. The outside door was a little trickier. It had a slide lock on it she had to ease back.
The lock opened with a bang, sounding to her like the fourth of July. She stood motionless.
“Jenny, Jenny, Jenny.” Still mocking, but now frustrated. He hadn’t heard it.
She pushed gently at the door.
“There you are!”
She caught a glimpse of him across the room as the door exploded open. With a mad dash, she stumbled down the steps. She had to get away. If she could only get to the trees, she could be safe. She could hide there. She dashed across the back lawn, through the garden. A look over her shoulder showed he was close behind. She doubled her effort, and headed for the forest. With each step, it seemed further and further away. The hard ground bit into her stocking feet as she ran.
Seeing a rock the size of her fist on the ground, she dove for it. He was only a few feet away now. Swinging her arm as hard as she could, she threw the rock straight at him. It caught him hard on the right shoulder, and momentarily drove him back.
“You little witch,” he screamed. “You’re going to be sorry now.”
His anger may have given him more energy, more determination, because before she could run more than a short distance, she felt a hand on her arm. Trying to grab her. She twisted away and changed direction. He lost a little ground, and then made it up, and was right behind her again. She felt a tugging on her hair, and she was brought to an abrupt stop, yanked backward, landing with a painful thud on the hard-packed ground.
He was on her. Sitting on her chest. She tried desperately to protect herself as he beat madly at her face and head. “You little witch,” he screamed again and again. His fists were pummeling her. She tasted blood in her mouth. She struggled in vain as he continued his crazed barrage, inflicting more pain.
As suddenly as the beating started, it stopped. She couldn’t move as he held her hands against the ground, breathing heavily. She looked into his depraved face through her one unswollen eye. The uncontrollable fire she has seen in his eyes a moment ago seemed to be dying down, as if extinguished by a dose of her tears.
“Now look what you’ve done,” he said.
Jenny managed to draw some saliva, mixed with blood, together in her mouth. She spit at him with all the strength she had. He sat back and raised his head, laughed, and wiped the mixture away. His face was speckled with blood. Some dripped from his chin.
Reaching out, he touched her mouth where the blood trickled out. He looked at the dark smear of red on his finger. He closed his eyes and moved his hand toward his mouth, and shuddered. His eyes snapped open. He wiped his finger on her shirt, sighed, and then smiled.
“I’m sorry I had to hurt you,” he said, his voice almost gentle now. “You shouldn’t have run. Why’d you run? You shouldn’t have run.”
She was exhausted and weak, not able to offer any resistance as he helped her to her feet. He held her firmly, leading her back through the garden and down a gravel path toward the barn. He swung open the decaying barn door and pushed her inside.
“Over there,” he ordered, pointing to a spot near the far wall. “Move over there.”
She stumbled obediently across the rough wooden floor, the dusty straw kicking up clouds as he prodded her along.
He pointed to a huge beam, far above, running the length of the barn. Tatters of rope still clung to the grizzled wood where he indicated. “See that beam up there,” he said. “That’s where Mother died. They said she hanged herself. Maybe she did. That was awhile ago. She’s buried now.” He looked menacingly at her. “You wouldn’t want to die there, would you?” It was a question, or was it a threat?
She looked up and shivered slightly, and then looked at him, instantly realizing who he was. She’d heard about that woman who’d hanged herself in a barn. This barn. This is the place mentioned in the papers, and on the lips of everyone in town for several weeks. She hugged herself and took a step backwards, stopping with her back against the wall of the barn. What is he going to do now? She quivered in fear, expecting at any minute he would throw a noose around her neck and hang her from the very spot his mother had hanged.
He laughed. “I’m not going to hang you. Just do as you’re told now.”
A length of chain was fastened securely to an upright post against the barn wall. Jeremy picked up the chain, testing it in his hands. The end of the chain had a wide leather collar. “We had a dog once,” he said. “She went crazy. Father wanted to shoot her, but I didn’t want him to, so he chained her up here so she wouldn’t hurt anybody. But then, the stupid dog bit me. Not hard, but still it hurt. So then, I knew Father had been right when he said we should shoot it, so I killed it. But I used a board to whack it, then my knife. There was a lot of blood. It’s buried now, you know. It can’t hurt anybody now.”