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Before She Escapes

by Timothy James Turnipseed 11 months ago in Adventure · updated 11 months ago
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A Shark on Skis

“No, no, no, no, no...!”

A cold, cruel wind scoured her face and teared her unprotected eyes as she bent into the classic skier stance, racing down the long, steep slope and into the snowy wood on homemade skis.

Her heart pounded in her chest and ears. She’d left chaos in her wake; dogs barking, people shouting, and blood splattering the snow. Terror and shame clung to her like rabid weasels, tearing at her soul.

The momentum from skiing downhill wore off, so she was reduced to cross-county techniques. Body angled forward, plant her stick-pole by her foot, then the other pole by her other foot, while kick-glide, kick-glide with all her might. Gasps of freezing air rasped her throat till she tasted blood.

Majestic evergreens, dusted in snow, swayed in the icy gusts, while the same wind brought other trees to life; their bony branches scratching the low grey sky.

Exertion made her hot under the beanie snuggled down to her ears. She sweated profusely in the wool lining of the heavy, vintage leather aviator jacket that was way too big for her. The knee holes in her faded jeans came from wear, not fashion. Her hands that clutched sticks used as ski poles were swathed in a pair of alpaca wool socks used as mittens.

Without more snowfall, it was easy to find the tracks she’d made getting to the ski lodge. All she had to do now, she decided, was simply follow her own trail home.

The fugitive realized her need to pause for repairs. The ever-loosening rope “slippers” that kept her feet on the makeshift skis had all but unraveled. Worse, her “boots” made from garbage bags and duct tape were finally falling apart.

Yet her fear waned, replaced by a burgeoning hope. Dogs, she reasoned, were small animals in deep snow and thus could not hope to catch her on skis. Her pursuers apparently had a “Ski Patrol”, but she had yet to see any on skis, and if it took them this long to get their act together, she had a lead they’d never make up.

Panting, she propped herself against a tree to catch a breath before the repairs. But then a dark bush ahead of her lurched, and not from the wind. It was a horse; a huge, muscular black stallion plowing through the snow. A big hunk of a man in a yellow beanie was riding the horse right at her!

The skier gasped and froze, horror and unbelief nailing her to the spot. The rider brought his bellowing mount to a halt right in front of her.

“Mrs. Waterson!” he sang, with a tip of his invisible cowboy hat. “We’ve got to stop meeting like this. What would your husband say?”

“How do you know...” the woman began, but that’s when she finally recollected her wits and launched, kick-gliding like crazy.

The rider calmly brought his horse up next to her in a humiliating trot.

“Going somewhere?” he chided.

As luck would have it, that’s when the skier noticed the terrain fall steeply away to her right.

‘Watch me!” she cried and kicked off down the slope.

It wasn’t quite like the ski runs she was so familiar with at the resort her grandmother had worked for. Here, God had the temerity to put trees right in the middle of the run! But she slalomed around them with expert skill...

Till a barely visible snow-covered log jumped out at her. She wrenched aside to avoid the collision. That was it; the rope “slippers” sprang loose, and the duct tape garbage bag boots utterly disintegrated. She was thrown sideways, skis flying, tumbling spectacularly down the hill in the agony of defeat.

Afterward she stood, feeling the wet cold leach into her now exposed cloth sneakers. The rider dismounted and pointed a handgun at her face.

“So now you kill me,” she sneered. “To shut me up about you and that old hag...”

“Jolene,” the man insisted. “Her name is Jolene.”

“You set me up. Both of you! And here’s where I die. Well, screw you!

But the big guy shook his head.

“I’m sorry Mandy. But I just can’t kill you...”

“Oh, thank God!”

“...yet. I’m not done with you!”

Then he strode forward, throwing his right arm around her neck as he stepped behind her. He grabbed the wrist of his right arm with his left hand and pulled her in close.

“This is called a Rear Naked Choke,” he panted, squeezing her neck unmercifully while singing, “Rock-A-Bye baby, in the treetop...”

*

Mandy awoke with a gasp, lying on a hard floor in darkness so black she could not see the hand she waved before her face. It was chilly, but not near as cold as outside. Fortunately, they’d let her keep all her clothes.

She sat up and flailed about till her hands hit a metal wall. At the base of the wall was a line of crumbs running parallel to it. Were the crumbs edible?

“Hello!” she cried, standing to her feet. “Is there anybody out there?!”

She kept calling till she heard approaching footsteps, followed by a jingle of keys and a metallic click. Flickering firelight grew as the black wall in front of her receded; it was an opening door.

A hulking brute, his face scarred by burns, stood there in full body armor with helmet, and carrying an automatic military rifle. Next to him was an attractive young woman in bright blue windbreaker and grey sweatpants, carrying a small plastic bag. Mandy gasped, recognizing her...

“So, this is the chick who took out the Chief,” growled the brute, hungry eyes fixed on Mandy. “Oh, I can’t wait to have my fun with you...!”

“Not yet,” crisped Windbreaker. “I’ve got this. Go watch the door.”

“Yes ma’am,” the armored man replied, and he stepped out of sight.

“It’s Melody, isn’t it?” Mandy asked.

“Yes, I’m Melody.”

“Melody, I did not kill your dad. Please believe me; I was set up! That big guy on the black horse... Ed or Edward or...”

“Edgar,” Melody stated. “Edgar Poe. I’m Melody Poe. Eddie’s my husband.”

“That guy’s your husband?” Mandy cried, taken aback. “He seems um... he’s...

“Old enough to be my father? Yeah, I might have heard that before.”

“Well... no disrespect my sister, but why....”

“My Dad made a deal to keep his old Special Forces buddy around. I was added to sweeten the deal.”

“Wow!” spat Mandy, “Isn’t it disgusting the way men these days think they can buy and sell us like property?”

“Yeah, you can come down off your high horse,” Melody sighed. “I did it for the Family; I wasn’t raped. You said something about a setup?”

“Yes! Your husband and his partner Julie...”

“Jolene,” Melody sniffed, sourly. “Eddie’s girlfriend. Yes, she’s old enough to be his mother.”

“Men are such dogs, aren’t they sister?” Mandy declared. “That husband of yours has a world class supermodel in his bed, but he’d rather fool around with the Baba-Yaga!”

Melody barked a laugh, and then chuckled, “Thanks for your kind words. Here, I’ve brought you something.”

With that, she handed her bag to Mandy, who opened it at once.

“A cookie? Thank you!”

“Eat it. Destroy the evidence before we both get in trouble.”

The prisoner nodded and took a bite. In shadow, the cookie was chocolate chip, but taste revealed it to be oatmeal raisin instead. Mandy was only slightly disappointed; in her hunger, the treat was gone before she could taste much.

Meanwhile, Melody reached into her windbreaker and produced a black rectangle.

“This is one of those digital picture frames,” the younger woman explained as the rectangle lit up. “You know, it cycles through all the pictures in there. I used to think these were so cheesy! Now they’re like, some of the most valuable things ever.”

Mrs. Poe stepped to Mandy and showed her a picture of a bright blue ocean on a sunny day.

“What do you see here?” she continued, pointing to a swimmer in the picture's distance.

“Is... that a mermaid?” Mandy asked, “Yeah, she looks just like a beautiful mermaid!”

“That’s just what I told my father, standing on the beach eight years old when I took this picture. ‘Look Daddy, a mermaid!’ But look closer.”

“Did you Photoshop this? Or is she wearing one of those... Oh. Oh my God!”

“Yeah, it’s a shark!” Melody hissed.

“No!” shouted Mandy, hands to her mouth in horror.

“Yes! What I saw as a joyful vision of fantasy and childhood wonder was in fact some innocent teenager dying in terror and agony. Her poor parents buried half a daughter; her legs are in that monster’s stomach!”

“What... why would you show me this?” the prisoner wailed, staggering back.

Starting in anger but ending in tears, Melody preached, “You look so sweet, so innocent, little Mrs. Mandy Allen Waterson. Harmless, even. But I see you for what you truly are; the monster who murdered Daddy!

“You can’t believe that! Would you bring me food if you really thought I was a monster?”

“You know what’s weird about hunger? You get used to it. Until you get just enough food to make you crazy for more, but not near enough to satisfy. And if that dry cookie made you thirsty, good luck getting anything to drink!”

“Melody! You are wrong about me!”

“I came here to ask you why. Why? But you know what? Save it!”

“Melody listen to me, please! Aren’t you the least bit suspicious...”?

“I’m done here!” Melody bawled to someone out of Mandy’s view. “Lock her up!”

*

Locked up in deepest dark, Mandy began to whistle a happy tune; sometimes, it seemed like it was the only thing that she knew how to do well. But Melody’s “gift” had made her ravenous, and after some time, she just couldn’t take it anymore. In sheer desperation, she got down on all fours, felt about till she found the crumbs and grabbed a handful...

The door opened. It was Edgar, eerily illuminated in the firelight. He wore black leather gloves, combat boots, a bulky black sweater, and khaki “contractor” pants with multiple pockets. A large handgun rode in a holster strapped to his thigh.

“You!” Mandy sneered. “Murderer!”

“At your service,” answered Edgar, bowing deeply. “Now drop that poison!”

“Poison?”

“Poison. You’re in a walk-in freezer; obviously without power. We used to have a big rat problem. But then folks round here got a lot less discriminating about what constitutes... ‘food’, and our rat problem went away.”

“Oh!” squawked Mandy, opening her fist to look at the crumbs. “So, this stuff is good for rats?”

“No, it kills them.”

Mandy spilled the crumbs, but then noticed, “Hey! What is this black stuff on my fingers? What did you guys do?”

“That’s ink,” Edgar told her. “We took your fingerprints while you were napping. Don’t worry, everyone in the Family must surrender their fingerprints. It’s no big deal... cuts down on some of the thieving around here.”

“Why are you here?” the prisoner sighed, standing up, vigorously rubbing her hands, especially her fingertips, off on her faded jeans.

“I’m here to save your life, Mandy! I can tell the Prophetess that I have proof the Drug Lord threatened to wipe out your whole family if you didn’t go along with his plan to murder Chief.”

“But I know what really happened to your precious Chief. So why keep me alive?”

“Because you were nice to me?” Edgar purred, then he stepped into the freezer and grabbed Mandy’s waist in both hands.

Mandy’s heart skipped at Edgar’s touch, and she felt suddenly colder. She wanted to slap this huge man in the face and tell him off, but that might earn her a beating. Plus, he could just make her “be nice” to him anyway. But that pistol on his thigh...”

“Sure baby,” the prisoner mewled in what she hoped was her most seductive voice, “I can be nice, baby... real nice!”

And she reached up and embraced him as he lay her down on the floor, his hot kisses on the side of her neck. Once she was on her back, it was a simple matter of slipping the cold, heavy pistol out of his holster and jamming it in his face.

“Get off me!” she demanded, and they both scrambled to their feet.

“No please!” Edgar quailed, raising his hands. “You’re not going to shoot me, are you?”

“Not if you’re smart.”

“With the state of medicine these days, even if you shoot me in the arm or leg, Doc might still have to amputate. So please don’t cut off my leg. I’ve grown rather attached to it.”

“Shut up! Now how do we get out of here?”

“Follow me, ma’am. Just please don’t hurt me!”

Mandy’s heart fluttered, yet she let out a sigh of relief. Finally, things were going her way. At this rate, she’d be back home in no time.

Adventure

About the author

Timothy James Turnipseed

Timothy was raised on a farm in rural Mississippi. His experiences have since taken him all around the world. He now teaches at local university, where he urges his Students to Run the Race, Keep the faith, and Endure to the End

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