The Brown Cardboard Box
A Tale of Bravery and Quick Thinking
It was a Thursday night in the middle of summer. Ileana was in her car, going down the highway late at night, as she avoided driving by day. The heat and humidity were bad enough-without adding the trouble of the traffic. She had decided to take a road trip to Phoenix, AZ to be with some friends for the weekend. One of her close college friends was getting married and they were having a nice outdoor wedding that Saturday, followed by a bash at a local banquet hall. She had carefully planned everything, and a smile could be seen creasing her cheeks into slight dimples. Her mind anticipated the things that would happen…the memories that would be created…the guys she would potentially meet. Her hair’s highlights had been done the day before. Nails were done. Tan was nice and even. She had just picked up her cobalt blue dress, which hung on the back inside its bag.
As night wore on, and she was not yet at her destination, she figured she had to stop for gas and a place to rest. Besides, her small 2017 Toyota Corolla had been having some issues with heating up. She had meant to investigate it before embarking on this road trip, but she became preoccupied with everything else and did not do anything. As she got out and went into the convenience store to pay for gas, she noticed a strange man staring at her, smiling creepily under his worn-out baseball cap. Some unkept blondish and grayish hair curled out from the sides and down his neck. As she grew more and more uneasy by the second, knowing that she was alone and unarmed, she decided to just take off after her gas was full. She avoided the stranger’s stare, paid for the gas, and quickly ran outside. As she was clicking the pump to get the last drops, she noticed the convenience store’s glass door open outward- and out came the tall, lanky figure of the stranger. He looked around and she ducked behind her car. She quickly hung up the nozzle, hopped into the driver’s side lying low and took off fast. A sense of relief overcame her as she drove further and further away. “Not stopping there again!”- she thought to herself.
The night’s veil extended endlessly for all the miles visible before her and the air became crisper. A low grumble came to her stomach, then an acidy, bitter taste in her mouth that had emerged from her esophagus. “Could it be that sushi I picked up for dinner?”- she thought. She grew nauseous and the low grumble in her stomach quickly evolved into a sharp pain. “Oh no! Don’t tell me I’m sick!”. She could feel her intestines increasing in discomfort. She had to stop- and fast! Thankfully, she had packed sanitizer, water, soap, paper towel and toilet paper in the back of her car. She got off at the next exit quickly. She felt her intestines about to burst but the last thing she wanted was to go all over herself, her clothes, her car. She noticed a property approaching but as she sped up towards it to stop and park her car, the speedometer’s needle went back to zero. The car slowed down, and it came to a stop. She took the keys, grabbed her supplies, and ran into the bushes. As she quickly pulled down her pants and went, a sense of relief mixed with fright filled her. “I hope nobody sees me”- she said.
Runny excrement was soon followed by a strong, steady stream of urine, which splashed out drops of wet dirt mixed with it, as it hit the ground. As she wiped and sanitized herself, she tossed the dirty paper towels to the side in a crumpled heap. Then something eclipsed the light reflecting on the puddle of urine. As she looked up slowly, there he stood- the tall, thin old man that had been staring at her at the gas station. This time, he had a look of rage in his eyes. Ileana tried to scream- but had no voice. Her legs shook as she walked backwards. “Sooo!!!”- yelled the old man in a raspy voice. “You like crapping in other people’s property, don’t you?” Ileana turned around and ran as fast as she could. The man hopped after her and grabbed her shirt. “Gotcha!!”-he yelled. Ileana sobbed incessantly. She thought for sure, her life was over. “Please sir! Let me go! I’m so sorry!” she cried. In her struggle with him, she fell down. He grabbed her by the ankles and dragged her into the house, using the side entrance that had a ramp.
As her cries grew louder, he struck her across her face. “Shut up!! Bad day you chose to use my yard as a crapper!! Bad day!!”. His breath stunk of alcohol and his clothes reeked of both sweat and dirt. She tried holding onto the entrance’s doorframe, but he pulled her hard and into a very small room that looked like a combination of a kitchenette with a living room- all in one. An unmade bed was against the back wall. The sheets were as dirty as the curtains, the couch, and the towels in the kitchenette. He picked her up, forced her onto a chair and tied her hands behind her back with a rope. Soon she felt the bitter taste of a dirty rag cover her mouth. He gagged her, while laughing eerily. “You bad, bad bad pretty little girl.” he sang as he fastened more rope on her, this time on her ankles. “Do you know what happens to bad little girls like you, who reject me, crap on my yard or make me angry in any other way? Do you?”- said he with a toothless smile and in a menacing voice. Ileana shook her head, eyes wide open in fear. Then suddenly he exclaimed: “TA-DAH!!” and pulled out something from under one of the dilapidated kitchenette counters. It was a brown cardboard box, wrapped in brown paper. Ileana’s eyes looked at the box with puzzlement. What could it be? The old man shook the box in front of her and she could hear something rattling inside it. It sounded like several small pieces of something moving around within it. He set the box before her on top of the kitchenette table and proceeded to undo the wrapping and open the flaps. Ileana peered inside, despite her own fear for her life and what she might see. Small, white fragments sat at the bottom of it. A strange formaldehyde odor covered them. Then a stronger fear invaded her, so strong that she felt she was about to faint- but she fought her own body, her own mind, her own emotions. The fear of what he would do to her if she lost consciousness was even stronger than the faintness in her body…if her memory of those Biology and Anatomy lab classes in college served her right, those were BONES in the box…
Then suddenly, the old man’s cellphone rang, and he stepped outside to take the call. Renewing her strength, she fumbled with the ties and managed to pull up her arms above the back of the chair, by bending forward as far as she could. Then she pulled her wrists free. As she was undoing her ankle ties, she heard the man’s voice walk closer to the door. She pulled her feet and legs completely out, leaving her sneakers and socks. ‘Hey!”- he yelled. She ran sideways and grabbed a fire extinguisher that was hooked on the wall. She pulled the pin and aimed, but nothing came out! It was broken. He laughed gratuitously as he darted toward her. When his face was within inches, she swung the extinguisher with all her strength and managed to hit him on the side of his head. He grunted in pain as he held on to the sink. “Ouch you b*@%h!”- he yelled. She saw blood in his hand and as he regained his strength, she noticed a big, thick, shiny butcher’s knife with a black handle, sticking out of some old piece of ham that had been left at the end of the counter, probably for a few days. She jumped over a couple of objects left of the floor of the unkempt house and got a hold of the knife’s handle. As she pulled it out of the ham, she fell backward as the man yanked her from her hair with his left hand. His right one was still holding on to his face. ‘Come here!”- he yelled. And just when he bent over her to grab the knife from her, she quickly shoved it hard into his throat. His eyes bulged out of his head. He turned red. Blood was now running down all over his neck and clothes. “Help me! Help me!”- he gurgled, losing his voice more and more, as he gasped for air and his strength waned...
She quickly got up, put on her sneakers, grabbed the box, and dashed for the door. The old man staggered and stood on the way, still bleeding, and moaning in pain. “You are NOT leaving me!” yelled he, blocking the door. Ileana picked up the rickety wooden chair where she had been tied to earlier and flung it across him. The chair shattered as it hit his body. He fell with a thud, on that old stained carped that covered the entire floor of the place. She hopped over his body, ran to where her bag was outside and grabbed her car keys, still holding on to the cardboard box. She opened her car, grabbed her purse, and kept on running down the street, as she called 911. Thankfully, a patrolling police officer stopped her, pulling over to her side. - “Ma’am! Are you OK?” Then Ileana broke down and told him everything that happened. She also handed over the brown paper covered cardboard box. Soon more police cars arrived and then an ambulance. She was taken to the nearby hospital for check-up and observation.
As she rested overnight and was up the next morning, she saw the man’s face in the news. He had been suspected of being responsible of the disappearance of a few females in the area in the years that had passed, but authorities could never find anything that would link him to the crimes. Indeed, the fragments inside the box were of bones, specifically ring finger bones from his victims. The man, in his delusion, felt entitled to the affection of the females he selected and had retaliated against them with every rejection. With the passing of days, more and more of the victims’ family members came forward to talk about the disappearances, although the coroner had yet to conclude his work identifying all victims by name. Some of the mutual friends did not attend the wedding that weekend. Instead, they came to the hospital to show her their support and to take her home.
The police came to where she was staying to get her statement. They needed evidence to put this man behind bars. He had survived but was in critical condition. The city mayor offered her a ceremony to honor her bravery, as she had inadvertently helped catch one of the most wanted men in that county. Her newly wedded friend started a Go Fund Me account for her, to help her cover the hospital bills and she was the first one to pitch in. Ileana was on the news after that and was invited to different talk shows, to talk about her experience. In the end, everything that was meant for her harm, worked out for her good.
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