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The Shadows Among Us

by 𝓜𝓪𝓻𝔂 𝓛𝔂𝓷𝓷 7 months ago in Series
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Chapters 1-3

I find it very strange that I am in the place that I am. This does not happen to someone who has a routine, who eats breakfast the same time and goes to bed at 9:00 pm. I am starting to question what the universe has in store for me. Is this divine intervention, fate, or destiny? I will say that based on my lack of smoking weed or weed tolerance as the kids call it, my situational awareness was probably lacking. I should not have smoked that joint with Alex in the breakroom. Yikes. It’s dark where I am and my hands are bound, it reminds me all too much of a Lifetime movie, and so I know I will be facing death soon. I feel one small tear trickle down my cheek. It also smells in here, was this done before, or is that me?

My eyes are struggling in the dark. I wiggle my toes and my legs to make sure those are still attached to my body and let out a sigh of relief that my legs were not chopped off, to make it harder for me to run. Well, I guess my kidnapper has compassion. Wait? Am I in a car, oh shit? This is my worst fear, that and being attacked by a shark. We are moving, and he is driving the speed limit which is well played because how would they explain this to a police officer when I am found in the trunk of a car. I start to panic, I can feel my heart rate pumping at a high rate, and for a second, I feel like I can hear it in the car. My mouth taste funny like cooper or metal, and then it hits me blood. I can feel something in my mouth, and around my head. I take my arm and wipe my forehead, and when I taste my arm, it tastes like blood, so that wasn’t a tear trickling I am bleeding. How bad am I bleeding? How long have I been in this car, I feel sick? My instincts tell me not to vomit not while I am gagged. I continue to breath in and out like therapy taught me, but I can feel myself becoming sick at each bump, each turn. How did this happen? I began to let the car lull me to sleep, I need my energy because I am going to fight back. My eyes shut, and the darkness washes over me.

This day was like any day. I woke up and rubbed my dog Louie stretched my legs and checked my phone. Today I decided not to shower, and just threw on my jeans and work shirt. I let out an annoying sigh, because my room is a total disaster, and I promised myself I would clean it, and put my clothes away. Lately, I have been coming home from work with a bottle of wine and drinking it in bed while watching a Netflix series. I think that’s as depressing as it can be, I also have been hiding the bottles of wine in my closet, so as of right now I have diagnosed myself with a drinking problem, but I am still in denial.

It’s crazy what a memory can do, I have lived in this house my whole life, the hallway, the bathroom they all have this crazy smell, that lets me know I am home. My bedroom is in the back of the house, I have lived in this room for my whole entire life, I have had sleepovers, tears, laughter in this room. I shared some good times with my sister Cathy, and I feel a weird pull at my heart string, where does the time go that when we were once so connected and now so far apart. I shake my head and head downstairs.

I am scheduled to work a double shift. I wish that I could say or when the police find me that I was abducted from a high paying job in the parking lot, but I work at George’s which is a good gig, and I do get a twenty five percent discount so it’s worth it. I feed Louie, and I eat my eggs. I check my phone again, to my surprise I have one message that is left unopen on purpose until I am out of my drinking binge, from my ex. What happen there? We were set to be married, and I was finally leaving the nest, but it some fashion I self-sabotaged, and well I am still at my parents, and he well he’s taking a trip to reflect and regain his spiritual and mental awareness. My thoughts are interrupted by my dad asking me to take the trash on the way out. Of course, I respond.

My parents Carl and Cindy are watching the news drinking coffee. My sister Cathy has probably already called my mom three times, begging her to go on a girl’s weekend trip with her and her snotty friends, but all the moms are going, my sister would whine into the phone. My mom knows that this trip is just for my sister to boast and pretend they have this great relationship, while drinking a ton of wine, because as my sister says she needs it. Right Cathy, how terrible is your life, oh that’s right you married your teacher who is about forty years your senior. I can see why you need it. Nobody told you to do it, and our own father even objected at the wedding, but you continued the vision of life that you saw yourself in. What a shit show.

My brother Chris has already stopped by to drop of the girls for my mom to watch. My mom has the kindest heart, and while my bother won’t admit that his marriage is failing, my mom just continues to watch his kids so he can work, and his wife can work. I couldn’t imagine living to work and fighting all the time, but as my brother Chris points out I am alone, I have no children, no spouse so I should shut up and not even offer any advice. I do say out of all the things my brother has done, the girls my nieces are truly amazing. I don’t even like kids, but they are tolerable, and funny.

My mom is taking the girls to the pool, she lifeguards, and my dad checks the ID’s. Imagine being so in love that when you retire you work together. My mom is proud of being a lifeguard, she passed the test and even retrieved the brick from the bottom, it was a big deal. However, the most action that pool gets is when the senior citizen bus pulls in and the elderly use the pool. I glance at her and my dad sitting on the couch, so effortlessly, bodies moving together in sync. Will I ever have that?

“What time is your shift over tonight” my mom asks me. “I am working a double, and then I don’t know, it’s getting closer to the holidays so trying to pick up more hours.” My mom sighs, and looks at me and I know that look, that look of she feels bad for me , “You know sweetie you can stay at home as long as you like, you don’t have to work so many hours to get your own place, your dad and I love having you here”, she looks at my dad “Don’t we Carl?” my dad smiles kindly at me “Of course we do Cassie, but eventually you will need to figure it out, not rushing you, just trying to motivate you.” I smile back at my dad “Dad, I appreciate all that mom and you do for me, if anything I am really enjoying our time together”. I take my dish to the sink, rinse it out and put it in the dishwasher along with the other dishes “And you don’t even have to ask me to load the dishwasher, lucky you both.” My dad chuckles, sarcasm has always been a thing of mine, and for whatever reason my dad understands it the best.

“I will see you guys later, have fun at the pool, and let me know what we are having for dinner, because if it is one of moms healthy meals, I might pick something up love you”, I grabbed my jacket, my hat, my purse my phone, and my keys. “Will do dear we love you have a great day and text me on lunch” That was it that was the last thing my mom said to me, will she remember what I said?

I get in my car and crank up the heat, I normally would run out to start it, but I have just been feeling so lazy lately, probably depression. I don’t even remember driving, or the familiar signs I was passing. I light up a ciggerate and puff it away listening to the same music every morning. I was debating on getting a coffee, because at work it’s just shit coffee, so I turn into Timmy’s and of course the drive through is forever long. Everyone is so codependent on coffee, I often think that they put something in it so that you continue to come back. I order my usual, and every time I am embarrassed by the amount of sugar, I ask for but really four packets, I convince myself that they have witnessed worse. I pay for my coffee and lite up another smoke. Did you see me at Timmy’s were you in line? Did I just not pay attention.

Work today is going to be brutal, but I need to show management that I would be a good addition to the team. I park very close to the entrance, because Dateline has showed me that well lite areas are less likely to contain stalkers, abductors, or any type of psychos. Well, Dateline was clearly wrong. I grab my lunch and all my belongings and head into work.

I drop my stuff in my locker and take my lunch to the break room. I am not surprised to see Tanya and Jim flirting, or Beth stuffing her face and it’s only eight in the morning. Who hires these people? I ask myself this question at least twenty thousand times a day. Our management decided that it would be good to have a team meeting prior to hitting the floor. Therefore, I am faced staring at these people earlier than I would like to. Let’s talk about Paul our manager, middle aged, balding and wears his sweater vest way to tight. His teeth have not witnessed a dentist in years, and to be honest he looks like he was off the sex offender list, but that’s just me. My eyes scan the room for Alex, short for Alexandra, my best friend. Shocker she is not here, and Paul is going to lose his shit. I text her, “Hey where you at?”, she responds with all these heart emojis “Running late stayed at Bryon’s cover for me”, I quickly type back “If Paul asks you had to take your grandma to an appointment”, which would make sense since her grandfather just recently passed away and her grandma is alone “Tight” she replies.

Like clockwork Paul stops me after the meeting to ask me where Alex is. “Cassie, do you know where your pal Alexandra, is this is the third work meeting she has missed”, I smile and reply “Paul, you know her grandfather passed away, she has been taking her grandma to appointments”, and to provide proof, I show him the work calendar that I had added that appointment to this morning. Paul looks, and goes “Well if anything when I get older, I hope that my grandchildren do the same”. Wait is Paul married, I bluntly respond with “Are you married”, and he replies “No”, okay Paul I think great talk. As usual Paul has paired us up in the Women’s clothing section.

Slob Kabobs, that is what I call consumers. I don’t think anyone really understands how easy it is to fold a sweater and put it back. Whoever was working here last night, felt like it would be our job to fold all this shit away, and take the clothes from the fitting room back to their proper place. It least it keeps us busy. I begin the slow haul of taking the clothes and putting them back in their proper place. As I am leaning down, I feel two hands grab my side, I freak and scream. “Chill bro,” Alex says. “How nice of you to join us at work today”, I reply with full sarcasm. “Well I can’t help it that I had sex four times this morning, and I needed to wash my body”, Alex looks up to the ceiling, like she is looking at heaven, or that she felt on heaven during this experience. “Cool, did you still want to come over tonight to watch Netflix and drink wine?” I ask her. “I can’t Bryon is taking me to this really nice dinner tonight, and plus I want to work out, but let’s hang this weekend.” She glances at me with a softer look “I know we haven’t been hanging out as much, but I am just at a really good place, and it feels good to be with him”, she hugs me I can smell her Rose spray and her dry shampoo. Might have washed her body but not her hair I think to myself. “It’s all good, I am tired anyways, plus I work a double so shower and sleep are in order”. Alex fastens her blonde hair back in a clip and grabs some more sweaters to fold. That’s just how our relationship has been since day one, a bond, a sisterhood, we don’t have to talk we don’t have to address anything it’s just easy to chill and I love having her in my life. She has been there for some extremely hard times, including me living with my parents and if she is happy, I am happy.

Work just continues not a ton of slob kabobs today, but enough to make me irritated. Lunch rolls around and Alex and I head to the break room, we decided on having what we brought today, because we have planned a trip to Florida after the New Year and want to be in tip top shape. Alex of course is counting calories, carbs, and everything else. I just eat my P and J and go through social media. It’s a pretty boring lunch. We head back to work and go on a smoke break. “My sister called my mom again asking her to go on that girl’s trip,” I tell Alex as a I take a drag, she responds with “What a bitch, she just wants to show your mom off.” “True”, I say. “Scott text me, I haven’t read it yet, but I am pretty sure it is some life epiphany”, I stare off into the distant “Cassie, maybe you should read it, it was a fight, that’s all, these things you can work on”, she responds with a very sad face “besides we like him a ton, and he was fun and good looking and made delicious dinners and lunches, better than that P &J you had.”

“Yikes, I didn’t realize my lunch upset you that much Alex”. I realize that was harsh, she’s always so helpful. “Well when you want to talk about it let me know, but I heard they are doing ten percent off the good red wine, so I am going to snag a couple bottles, are you coming with?” she asks as she puts her cigarette out “Yeah, that’s a good deal”, I walk back into the store with her.

Our afternoon is always fun filled with laughing and people watching. Today just seems to fly by. I see Alex getting her stuff together, and waves me over. “I know you are working a double and I am about to head out, so let’s smoke some from this pen I just got, taste like bubble gum!”, she excitedly squeals. “You know I can’t hang, but Paul is leaving early, and only Jim will be here on the register so why not, you know Jim smokes every break”. “Exactly,” she whispers excited, “This is my favorite Cassie, the one who is fearless and fun, not mopey and depressed.”

We head to the break room, and I take a little hit, I can feel the smoke in my lungs, and I cough a lot, to the point where I almost throw up. She is right it does taste like bubblegum. Shit Paul is coming. Alex sees him too. Paul comes right up to us and says “Cassie I am leaving, I have the keys for you , this is a big deal please lock up the store after you do the registry count, place the money in my office”.

He hands me over the keys, was I supposed to say something? “No problem Sir Paul, “wait what why did I say that? Alex does everything in her power not to laugh. Paul responds, “I assume you are leaving Alexandria, perhaps another doctor visit for your grandma?”. Alex smiles bright and says “Yes, today we are going to get her catheter out, and you know how that can go. “Paul closes his eyes and says “If you two weren’t my best workers I would have fired you but, considering positions are opening, I need more time off, more money and more time away from the two of you. Good night”. Paul turns around and leaves as we say back “Goodnight”.

“Paul wants to bone you Cassie, “Alex says as she steals a slurpie from the treats counter. “Just a sweet treat, and then I will be off, good luck tonight”. I hug her, “Wash your hair tomorrow, and I will shower, let’s get lunch” she hugs me tight “Sure, but don’t expect me to text tonight, after dinner well you know love you”. She giggles and gets her things, and heads to the doors, “Open Sesame!” she yells and laughs and that was the last time I saw her. Did you see my best friend walk to her car and try to take her, or did she call you a creep and you got scared? Why me?

The night shift went as planned, nothing unexpected, my high wore off or maybe it didn’t. I talked to Jim at the register and ate some candy. Finally, it was time to close, I did the register count, and brought the money into Paul’s office, I watched Jim walk out the back, because that is where he liked to park, and closed the door behind him, why couldn’t he have parked in the front that day? Why didn’t he ask me to walk me to my car? I turn off the lights, and I lock up. Is this where you find me vulnerable?

I already have my keys in my pocket, but my glove is on and it gets stuck, I get to my driver’s side door, and can’t get my key out, I take my glove off, and reached for my key, and I feel you behind me. My body stiffened and I shake as I try to put the panic alarm on, but who would have heard us, nobody was in the parking lot, not one single person that day. I bite your hand as you cover my mouth while I scream, I stomp on your feet and use my back foot to kick your knee, still you are strong, you are sturdy. I am being pulled away from my car farther and farther, until it looks like another car in the distance, if I was able to escape, would I be able to run that far that fast, I should have cut out the cigs.

Like magic, my phone starts to ring, I see it, it’s my mom. Tears start forming, Mom I silently think, please know something is wrong, please send dad to the parking lot, please hurry. The ringing stops, I know that my mom is thinking that I just went to Alex’s to have wine, to dick off, but not this time mom, do you feel my energy? I know that this is it, so I am prepared to die in this parking lot, but something happens, I fall to my knees, I have been hit with an object. I imagined before if this was to happen, what it would feel like, but the impact, I feel nothing, my head feels warm, and I feel faint, but I can still see my car. I start crawling towards it, and I can hear footsteps behind me. This is a sick game, but I can make it. I crawl all the way to my car reach into my pocket and grabbed my phone. The footstep stops, he kicks my phone. He grabs me by my two legs and drags me, bump after bump I feel it, the rocks digging into my body.

He lifts me up, and the world starts spinning, I vomit on myself. He takes his hand and covers my mouth with a cloth, and I feel at peace, my eyes get heavy, and I feel as if I am floating. I don’t feel any pain, just calm in my surroundings. I can feel myself starting to fall asleep, even though I don’t want to, I want to keep fighting I told my brain. I can’t whatever this is, it’s overpowering all my senses. My head slumps forward and I begin to sleep.

Just another day, just another normal day, and now I have woken up to find myself tied and gagged in the backseat, or trunk of this car. I am praying that my sister Cathy feels some weird sister vibe and has asked my mom to alert the police. If anything, she is the one who can get them fired up. I need to go home; I want to go home. I know going home isn’t an option, and whatever I was drugged with has worn off because I have the sharpest pain in my mind, that my head is going to explode. I got off work at ten what time is it now? How far have we been driving? Suddenly, the car comes to a halt, we have stopped. Did the police pull him over? I pray God please return me to my family help me save me. I start to tremble and shake, I hear the driver’s side door close, those footsteps, the same ones that let me crawl all the way back to my car like I had a choice, are coming closer.

I hear the key to the trunk turn, this is it, I am going to die, I brace myself assuming that my captor will kill me with a gun and make it quick, but that’ not what happens, the trunk opens and I see a man standing outside he grabs me and yanks me out of the trunk I try to fight but nothing that I do even makes an impact. He grabs me and covers my mouth with that same cloth, what is this shit. My body has the same reaction as before, he lifts me over his shoulder, and we descend into the woods.

Chapter 2

Carl rustles from his sleep and glances down at his hand. The small amount of whiskey is still in the cup and the ice has melted. He knows that it is midnight, because the clock his wife Cathy bought chimes. He stretches in his recliner and focuses his eyes on the view around him. Cathy has already gone up to bed, the dishes are put away and the kitchen is clean from dinner. The tv is soft in the background, and the living lights are on dim. He gets up from the chair and glances out to the driveway, it’s strange that Cassie’s car is not in the driveway. However, he is not surprised. As of late, his wild carefree child, is suffering from something, and while Carl is a man of no words, he can sense the change in her.

He shrugs it up and heads to bed. He finds his wife of over thirty years is nestled in between the blankets, he watches her breath content, happy and her heart is full. Carl brushes his teeth, and changes into his pajamas, and chuckles softly, his wife has been adamant about him sleeping in actual pajamas, just like how she told the kids to always wear clean underwear in case they were in an accident. The simple things, that she would say, and the way she made everyone feel made Carl remember a long time ago as he starts to close his eyes.

Cindy always wanted a big family, after they met in high school, she would spend hours at his house. He came from a family of ten and he was the baby, the noise and the chaos were so natural to him, but to Cindy it was experiencing a whole new world and atmosphere. She loved the chaos, the family dinners the fighting, her eyes would light up when Carl and his brothers would have a debate. Everything about the way she embraced his family made him fall more and more in love.

Of course, they had challenges, Carl wasn’t exactly the smartest crayon in the box, and struggled academically, he was always thankful that college wasn’t the end goal. In his time, the most important thing would be to get a good paying job and support his family. So, like most high school boys, he spent his time with friends, occasionally smoking pot, and drinking in his friend’s basement. He had odds and end jobs, paper route, grass cutting. This brought in money but not enough to start a life, he often would lay awake wondering how he was going to be a good provider.

Cindy never understood why Carl had such a lack of drive. She could never get an emotional understanding of how he felt. Maybe this was because his father had died when he was only fifteen, and he had suppressed feelings. She never would push it. She would support any idea he had and would do so in a non-confrontational manner.

Her father and her brother were both in the Army, and they had a sense of pride, of passion for serving their country. War changes people and her sweet brother suffered a head injury causing him to leave his unit early. When he returned, he had his own set of demons She noticed a change in her father, when her brother who loved to fish and laugh and talk became so consumed in a life of heroin. Her father would deny this until the day that he died, that his son had a drug problem. It would be up to his daughter Cindy to protect her father from ever seeing the truth, and that was very exhausting. Her mother would just say these are not things to be involved in women don’t get involved in these things. Her mother would never address the problem and made sure that they had breakfast, packed lunches, homemade dinners made beds, and a clean house until the day she died.

Besides Carl, Cindy relied on the strength coming from her best friend Kim. As soon as they sat together in the second grade, they became best friends. Cindy loved spending the night at Kim’s. Her mother was so involved, and kind and gentle, that Cindy would sometimes have to excuse herself and cry in the bathroom. Something about that type of love made her feel not whole, knowing that her mother would never be like that.

They navigated the harder parts of growing up together and experimented with drugs and drinking. They spent the summers on the lake, laughing and joking, keeping secrets and sometimes when the mood was right, they would tell their darkest secrets. The lake always held special meaning for Cindy. Here, she could be free, and not feel the pressure of her parents, and it was here that she too decided to join the Army.

She knew she had to leave, and not having a job, caused her to have very little money to travel. Carl knew that he couldn’t stop Cindy from going, once she made up her mind that was it. This was a trait that Carl admired silently and was happy that it was instilled in all his children. The lake was where Carl proposed, and the lake was where they got married. Shortly after that, Cindy left for basic training, and her duty station was Panama.

While Cindy was in Panama, Carl knew this was the time to get settled, his friend Steve had started a small plumbing and cooling business. Steve offered the job to Carl, and he took the test to become a master plumber. He felt accomplished. Carl was staying in Steve’s basement for free, the business was really taking off, so he was able to save money. With this money he purchased a four-bedroom colonial house, it needed work, but it would be the home that he would share with his wife forever. He worked on this house every single day, making it perfect, and counting down the days until Cindy was done with her time overseas. Summer turned to Winter, and Winter turned to a New Year. The house began to transform with new paint and new floors. He carefully selected the furniture, the design the patterns.

As the years went on, it finally was the day to get his wife from the airport. He had written her thousands of letters and poems, and diaries, and he could not wait to show his wife the new life he built. As Cindy descended the escalator, he first noticed her short hair, her clean look and that smile. God, he loved that smile, she ran down the escalator laughing, pushing people until she was right where she needed to be in his arms. She was home.

Carl is disturbed from his sleep, when he hears a ringing next to him. He glances at the clock, and notices that it is only 4:00 am. He reaches for his phone, “Hello?” he quietly whispers into the phone careful not to wake Cindy. “Hi, my name is Detective Jeffery Davis, and I work for the police. “

Carl sits straight up, “Is it Cassie did she do something is she in jail?”, he becomes frustrated, and anger in his mind races with thoughts if she did something, I am going to give her hell. He thinks to himself; I am going to leave her in jail. At this point, Cindy has woken up. She leans over on Carl’s shoulder with a questionable look, Carl turns around mouths to Cindy It’s Cassie. Cindy becomes terrified, she reaches for her phone and does not see a text from her daughter.

“Sir, no I am contacting you and what I am about to say I will need you to try and not panic, we found her car in the parking lot of George’s Retail at first we thought maybe she grabbed a ride with friends or had car trouble, but taking a deeper look well there is no easy way to say this, I need you to come to the parking lot immediately. “

Whatever was said to her husband, shook him to his core. Cindy watches her husband get up and put his clothes on and she looks at him and sees a color on his face she has never seen before. “Carl, answer me right now,” Cindy says her voice unrecognizable a shriek. “Where is Cassie, what is going on", she screams at him. Cindy fumbles for her phone, and calls her daughter, it rings and goes to voicemail, she starts texting her, frantic looking for answers. Rereading the text messages the exchanges that just to Cindy happen moments ago but felt so far away.

“Cindy, you are to stay here”, his voice is stern “You are not to come with me, you are to stay in this house.” He grabs his belt and loops it clumsily missing the loops but not caring. “Carl, I will not stay if it involves my daughter. “Cindy gets up, but Carl urges her to sit back down. In fact, for the first time in his life he pushes his wife back down “Stay here.” He knows she will need much more for her to stay.

Tears are forming out of Cindy’s eyes. Carl comes to the edge of the bed as he puts his shoes on, “Cindy that was Detective Davis. They found Cassie’s car, in the parking lot, she was not with it. The detective has asked me to come right away to the parking lot.” He stands up and gets ready to head downstairs.

“Carl, I must come it’s our daughter, I don’t understand, maybe she went with friends, maybe she’s at Alex’s has anyone checked?” Cindy reaches for Carl, she is fidgeting, and he knows this of her, that this will lead her to pacing back and forth in the hallway. A sign of nervousness they have seen time and time again, when watching a movie, when watching the news, and they all laugh, but this time, Carl is not laughing.

How he does not want this for his wife, or him, or his children or this life that he was so sure he built to have a happy ending. The ending they all deserved.

“Cindy, you must stay here, please stop,” a frustrated Carl starts to head to the hallway and to the stairs, and he knows that his wife is right behind him, so he stops before in his tracks. He knows his wife, he knows she won’t stop pushing this and isn’t his job to protect her, to protect her mind, to ensure her everything is going to be alright. He has no choice.

“Carl, if you don’t tell me what the hell is going on, I will come with you as I am in my robe, and I don’t give a shit what you think.” She is screaming from the hallway.

Carl turns the lights on in the hallway, faces his wife who looks frail and torn. “Cindy, they found blood”, he turns the hallway light off and goes down the stairs holding back tears. As he reaches the door to the garage, he can hear his wife slump to the ground and yet out a small yelp, followed by a shrieking piercing scream. He has broken her.

Carl gets in the car, and heads down the driveway, he notices that Cindy has turned all the lights on, he shudders to think of how she looks how devastated she is, but he must focus on getting to the parking lot and finding out the truth.

He reaches for his cell phone, and calls his daughter Cathy, she picks up and groggily says “Hello?” Carl takes a breath and holds it, careful to not let out any sign of emotion and says “Cathy, it’s Dad I need you to go to our house and be with your mom, something has happened to Cassie, I am headed there now and will call you when I find out more, you need to be strong.” He hangs up before she can ask any questions. The phone rings, he knows it is Cathy calling back but refuses to answer, he turns the radio up a little to distract him from his thoughts, to distract him from anything. He remembers his sweet daughter, her crazy wild brown hair shining in the sun, her smile, her laugh. He remembers the way that she would throw her arms around him and chuckle and say, “I know I am your favorite daughter”, and laugh and kiss him on the cheek.

Why were all these memories coming back, they just found blood he thinks, maybe she cut herself, and went to the hospital. Something in his stomach turns, a pit of dread consumes his body. He knows whatever he sees he must be strong for his family. He puts his blinker on and turns left into the parking lot, the scene is unbearable, cop cars, crime scene and a detective signals him in.

Carl rolls down the window, the detective’s breath is frosty, it’s cold he wonders if his daughter is cold? “Carl Klonsky, Detective Davis, I am going to have to ask you to get out of the car and follow me”, he says it very quickly. Carl puts the car in park, and opens the door, his knees wobble. “Whoa whoa, easy Carl, do you need a minute, water?” The detective waives over a nurse who gives him so water, he can’t believe how thirsty he is, he gulps the whole thing in one sip. He looks at the detective and says, “How bad, how bad do I need to prepare myself?” he quietly asks.

Detective Davis sighs, and looks Carl straight in the eye and replies “When I spoke earlier to you to let you know we found blood that was true, but I didn’t tell you the amount of blood we found, making this a crime scene,” he shifts his weight from one foot to another, and you can tell he is uncomfortable having to break the news to someone’s father, “I am going to ask you to follow me, while we do not have a body, I need you to identify that this is indeed your daughters car, and the contents around it belonged to your daughter”. The way that Detective Davis says this is very confident and it saddens Carl thinking that he has done this before. Carl sighs, and looks up in the sky, bright and clear.

“I am ready.” He follows Detective Davis past people first responders that have arrived for his daughter, who become a blur in the night, the lights, the uniforms, he won’t remember any of these people, and suddenly Detective Davis stops. Carl can vaguely see his daughter’s car, it’s dirty, and it’s black, and he always reminded her that black gets dirty easily.

He notices something on the ground, her cell phone, and almost to the very left of it her Chapstick. He holds back tears.

Detective Davis turns around and looks at him “Carl, I will not bring you any closer, do you see what is in front of you can you identify that car?”. He asks stern yet quiet. “Yes, that is my daughter Cassie’s car a 2019 Jeep, she just got it last month, because I told her that you get better deals around the holidays”. Carl rambles when he is nervous, pointing out facts that are irreverent but mean so much to him. His reply is touching and soft, he was proud of Cassie for purchasing this car on her own and taking his advice minus the black.

Detective Davis nods and writes down, victim’s father identifies car, confirming victim is Cassie Klonsky. “Okay Carl, do you see anything else that you could identify lying around that is your daughters?” Carl looks around and points out what he saw when walking up, “the Chapstick, the phone those belong to my daughter Cassie”, he says trembling. Detective Davis waives over a crime unit specialist, “Kate, please go ahead and label both the Chapstick and cell phone as evidence, but don’t number tag yet, we need to figure out the sequence of events including which did the victim drop first, or was forcefully made to drop”, he looks at her “ Yes sir”, she replies and heads off.

“Thank you Carl, that is all I need from you now, we are going to do a extensive search of the area, and check the cameras, we have contacted Paul Malanga the store manager/ owner to get down here immediately. I think it would be best if you go and be with your family, we have stationed a cruiser outside your house, I will be in contact with you.”

He turns around and something comes over Carl, he pushes past Detective Davis, who is yelling at him to “Stop!”, but he doesn’t he needs to see what they are hiding from him, this is his child his daughter, he makes it to the front and stops dead in his tracks.

He sees at first the yellow markings, and looks down, he notices a pattern, like someone was dragged, the blood they have separated from the normal gravel, he notices a trail. He continues to run towards the car, breathing hard, sweating, terrified, and he sees it, a picture he can’t erase form his mind. Right in front of him, is a pool of blood, but what shakes him to his core, is that it looks like her arm, his sweet daughters’ arm, extended to the driver door to try and get it. She attempted my brave girl.

Detective Davis finally reaches Carl, and grabs him “Sir you cannot interrupt a crime scene”, he pushes him back to the original spot where they had initially started the identifying, “Kate “, he screams, make sure to rule out any DNA of Karl, he has run in the crime scene and we need to make sure that any extracted is from that of the perp and Cassie”, he angrily shouts at Carl “What did you think you would see, I told you this was a crime scene I am protecting you from seeing things, I myself have witnessed far too many times, it’s my job to protect you.”

He pushes Carl to his car “Go home Carl, there is nothing here for you to do, your family needs you, get in your car and go”, Detective Davis opens the door and shoves Carl in.

Carl looks Detective straight in the eye, and a crack in his voice “That son of a bitch dragged my daughter like an animal, an animal”, he hits the steering wheel with his hand and punches it and lets out a scream.

Detective Davis calm, and used to reactions simply says, “We will find him Carl, trust us, go home”, he turns on the car for Carl.

Carl reverses, and begins the drive back home, and he cries the whole way home thinking that he will have to tell his wife his family that his daughter, the baby of the family, was dragged like an animal, and she is missing. He feels defeated, that he couldn’t protect his daughter, and as he pulls in the driveway, he notices Cathy and Chris are at the house, he can see that they have spotted him in the driveway and start to make their way outside.

Carl steps out of the car, and for a moment before the chaos starts, he looks up to that same bright sky he saw in the parking lot, and says I am sorry Cassie, I love you Cassie, please know we won’t stop looking for you. He says a little more, but his thoughts are interrupted by his family. He grabs Cathy and he grabs Chris and says, “Let’s go inside”. Chris finds this behavior strange, his father is calm, collected maybe something didn’t happen to Cassie, she was always so dramatic, maybe he found out she was in jail and he left her. A million thoughts go through his head. Cathy on the other hand knows her father more than he thinks, and when he is like this way, she braces herself for what he is about to say.

The family heads inside. Cathy rushes up to Carl, and hugs him tight, kisses him on the cheek almost as if he is being greeted from coming home from work. He rubs her hair and kisses the top of her forehead. Carl shuffles to the cabinet and pulls out four glasses, he puts ice in each glass, “Sit down”, the family confused to his behavior are beginning to become scared and panicked, Chris feels it is his job to speak up “Dad what is it, why are we sitting down, is Cassie okay”, he is the first one to talk to ask since they have been in the house. Carl doesn’t say anything he again acts strange by calling Louie, Cassie’s dog, and he ask Cathy “Has anyone fed Louie?”, she responds “yes, he was sleeping on Cassie’s bed before you got here, we all checked on him.”, she looks at him questioning what he is going to say next “Good Cassie would have wanted to know that her dog was being looked after,” he replies, and quietly grabs the whiskey.

Maybe it was the way their father her husband said those words, but something overcame all of them, as they watched him pour the whiskey a heavy pour into each glass, he motions the whole family to come to the table, take their places and sit, he raises his glass to his mouth, and allows the whiskey to overtake his emotions, to calm him to wrap him in a familiar taste. He encourages each of them to finish the glass and thinks to himself how Cassie would have kept up with her dad drinking, and the satisfaction she would have gotten watching her sister Cathy squirm. He pours another round. He can see the fear in all of their eyes, and wants to soften the blow, he hopes the whiskey is filling them as well with a warming feeling, because he knows what he is about to say will not feel warm, but cold.

He puts the glass down and looks at his family. “They found Cassie’s car, I was asked to identify it”, he waits to see if anyone objects or questions it. He continues, “I did, it was hers, I also identified her cell phone, and her Chapstick, they were thrown around on the ground by her car.” Again, he waits, but no one has the words, as the reality of the situation starts to settle in their soul.

“One more thing, they found blood, a lot of blood, they are labeling this as a homicide/ missing person, the parking lot is now a crime scene. Detective Davis will be by soon, probably about an hour, do what you need to do, call your husband, call your wife, go home get your clothes, call your jobs, from this moment on we will all live together under this roof until we find and bring Cassie home.” He looks sternly at both Cathy and Chris.

“This is not a debate; this is not a suggestion. I don’t think I need to ask if I have made myself clear, we will not tell any family, until we know all the details, we do not need a media frenzy, nor do we need to let whoever take Cassie know we are going to begin the search for her, lock it down, only tell your husband and wife what they need to know at this time. “

Carl takes a drink out of his whiskey and when he looks up, he sees the tears of Cindy and Cathy the anger in Chris’s face. He stands up and grabs the leash. “I am going to take Louie for a walk, so I would advise you start to get your personal affairs in order, because when I get back I don’t want to hear any shit about what you didn’t do , everything needs to be done, so we can devote our time to finding Cassie”. He hooks up Louie to the leash, puts his jacket back on, and leaves his family sitting at the table to watch him walk down the driveway, until he is but a spec in the mid-morning dew.

Chapter 3

I must survive. I don’t know where I am, but I know that I must survive. I am awakened to the feeling of soft warm water and hands washing my hair. I sigh, thinking of the time when my mom would rub my head to calm me down. It was our thing, I would get very upset as a child, and for a long time my parents did not know how to react, but then one night while I was lying in bed my mom put my head on her body and started to stroke my hair. I immediately reacted by falling asleep, much as a I want to do now. I know that I must do it, I must open my eyes, to confirm where I am. I open my right eye first very slowly, and see nothing in front of me but brick, I open my left eye and notice that I am in a dimly lit room, in a basement of some sort. I just see bricks but feel hands on my head. What I hear next surprises me.

“Shh. Don’t move you have a very nasty cut, I am going to apply some alcohol to the wound and stich you up, this will hurt a bit”, she says. Her voice is soft, and soothing. My mouth is so dry that I can barely get the words out of my mouth “Don’t you think I should go to the hospital? “, I say in a small tiny voice. Her hands stop caressing me, and I can feel her get up, “You ungrateful brat, I should have just let you bleed to death, you have upset me, I will now come back when you decide to be grateful,” she flings my head back down, and it throbs in pain, I know that the cut is deeper than I can imagine and I need the help. I plead with her, “I am sorry, I just I am so thirsty I don’t know where I am at, please I am grateful”, I scream out. She stops, and I get a small glimpse of her shoes, they are old almost Victorian, I see her dress sway as she makes her way back behind me.

“Child, “she says, and I think something is off, besides the confusion of my injury this feels very old fashion to me. She continues, “Be still, and calm and know that the Lord is with you, I will begin now my procedure.” I am terrified, to the point where I can feel myself losing control of my body, and I begin urinating slightly on myself, she stops “Have you no manners you dirty pig, one must say excuse me I must use the restroom”, she sighs heavily, “This is exactly why you need to be here, you have zero manners, and you were dressed like a slut, thank god we found you.” She comes around to the front and pulls me up, I can now take in the full picture. I must hold myself from not gasping and crying out in shock.

She is wearing a full Victorian dress with one of those head bonnets, her skin is pale, and wrinkled, her eyes are full of darkness, but what strikes me the most is the lace gloves that she is wearing, how they cover her hands, she stands firm, and proper and as I am checking her out, she is doing the same with me but what I see on her face is disgust.

She is tall, taller than me, her words are crisp they cut to the bone when she speaks, “Get up, and follow me, do not make any attempt to run”, she unlocks the door. I follow her down what seems to be a dormitory, I see rooms after rooms, and when she catches me looking “Eyes front”, she barks in loud stern voice. We reach the end of the hallway and she politely tells me “This is the bathroom, please go in and finish what you started, I will be waiting here.” She ushers me inside.

For the first time I am alone, I look for windows, I look for an escape but there is nothing, I want to cry I want to scream, but I know that will be pointless. The bathroom contains three stalls, and one large shower. I finish using the bathroom and I am thrilled to know at least wherever I am they believe in toilet paper. I go to wash my hands, but I notice that there are no mirrors. I think to myself probably a good thing considering the wreck of a couple of days I had. I walk back out to where this Victorian lady is waiting. My dad would say it would be just like me to have humor in this type of situation. When my grandma passed away, I didn’t cry, not because I couldn’t but because I couldn’t process emotions, so I would laugh. That’s what I want to do now, laugh.

I boldly say, “I noticed when washing my hands, I did not see a mirror”. She slaps, me and hard. “Mirrors are for vanity and we do not believe in them”. She walks down the hall and I follow. I touch the place where she slapped me, and I feel embarrassed. I have never been hit by either of my parents before. I remember when I mouthed back to my dad because he told me I couldn’t do something and he threw a can opener at my head, and said “If I wanted to hit you I would have”, and that was the last time I ever crossed my dad.

We return into my room I see my surroundings, I have a bed, but no windows, I have a desk with a small number of notebooks, and a couple of pens. I have a calculator, am I expected to do math. What in the actual fuck I think to myself? I must remain calm; it is clear any type of emotion or any type of bold statement is going to get me smacked.

In the corner I have a small closet. I have a small nightstand on my desk, with a couple of books, authors I do not know, stories I have never been told. The room is designed with a cathedral door in the front and stained-glass windows on the top, if I wasn’t being held captive, I would say that this is actually very beautiful, having the candles lighting the room. I was supposed to have candles at my wedding, maybe that is why I think so fondly of them.

She tells me to lay back on the bed, she grabs my hair and pours some more warm water over me, she then picks up the alcohol and starts applying it to my wound, I scream in pain. She stuffs a cotton shirt in my mouth “Bite down when it hurts and do not scream, women do not scream when they are in pain, they keep pain on the inside”, she continues to work. The pain is too much to bear and I lose consciousness.

I feel a splash of cold water on my face, and I am forced to sit up. Finally, I am offered water, and I guzzle it down and quickly, I am offered more, and do the same. My mouth feels semi normal, and I ask “What do you want with me”, I await for her to slap me but instead she calmly says “Dear, we are here to help you, now that you have had some water, I will lay out the expectations we have for you”.

“Breakfast is served every day at 8:30, after breakfast you will have a list of chores to do, and you will be expected to complete them before lunch. After lunch you will go to the assigned classroom to begin the course work, tomorrow you will meet with one of our counselors and you pick something to major in, the expectation is to complete this. Consider this just like any schooling, you will have test, you have projects and you will have to complete this in the time that the course is allotted, or you will have consequences. “

“After schooling, you will come back to your room to mediate and think about the day, you will be let out for dinner, and to shower. Certain days, you will have outside recreation, or what you would call gym. We also have designed this program to allow you to have a liberal arts class, to include painting drawing or a random course will be offered, and you will have the chance to participate. “

She pauses to see if I have questions. When she sees that I do not she carries on “We do not offer any type of communication with the outside world as this program is designed for you to complete your course work and maintain yourself with ought outside distractions.” She looks at me sternly “We have a zero tolerance for drug and alcohol usage, to include fraternizing with the men that are here if you do use you will be punished.” She begins to walk the room. My mind starts racing, men? That means there are men and women here other people. I can’t believe it. I am literally living a nightmare right now.

“This is your room, and we expect it to be clean at all times, the bed will need to be made before you come for breakfast so make sure that it is and plan your morning accordingly, we expect you to be neat and for your hair is to be braided in a bun. If this seems to be a challenge keeping your hair tight and neat, we will cut it”, she pauses and takes a drink of water and continues.

“I don’t need to stress hygiene, but do not come to breakfast if you are not prepared in the way we need you to be. A first impression is the best impression.” She heads to the small closet area.

“This is what you will wear at all times, we have designed a uniform that makes you fit in with everyone else, do not alter this and try to make it your own or you will be punished,” she pulls out a jumper of green and yellow plaids with a white shirt underneath.

“You also have a set of pajamas, that you will wear and launder, do not wear them more than twice a week, as that is a dirty habit”, she points to a bin, “Place all your dirty clothes in this bin, whoever is assigned to do the laundry will come by and grab it from here, “ she points to cut in the door. “You will know when laundry day is, because all of the announcements are made at breakfast, it is your job to keep up with the daily events and be aware of household keeping”.

She grabs a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt, white underwear and white bra. She pulls out a pair of white tennis shoes and white socks. “Follow me”, and I get up and head down the hallway again towards the shower.

“Remove your clothes, and turn on the water,” She hands me soap, but its more like a disinfect soap the one that reminds me of when I was cleaning the floor.

I am grateful for the warm shower; the water is running down my body removing the dirt that I can see circle below me and go down the drain.

She hands me the clothes and I take them. I hate that she is standing watching me, her eyes flash over my body, and with the same look of disgust. I can see her focus is a tattoo that I have on my lower pelvic bone, a butterfly that Alex and I got one day. I want to go back to that day, where we were laughing and joking in the car, carefree unaware that any one was watching us. I see her throw my clothes, in a bag, like garbage.

I place my new clothes on me, and the sweatshirt feels soft against my body, it reminds me of a comfort of home. I finish lacing up my tennis shoes, she hands me a brush and I carefully brush my hair, careful to not strike or hit the side of my head that continues to throb. I tie my hair gracefully in a bun. The hair that I grew out because my boyfriend, fiancé Scott said he liked so long. I close my eyes for a moment and remember him complimenting me in the bathroom when we were getting ready, and about how lucky he was to have me. I can feel his lips on mine so soft to the touch, so warming and inviting.

I hold that memory close. When I open my eyes, I am still where I am, and that I still don’t know where.

I follow her back to my room which has a number on it, thirteen. This time she does not come in but says “Dinner will be served in one hour; I would take this time to reflect or if you need to take a nap. Since you do not have a clock, we have a large one that we place in all of the hallways, when you hear the clock, strike three bells, you will line up and wait until your door is open. The doors are numbered yours is thirteen, you will follow twelve and fourteen will follow you. “

“Wait, what do I call you”, I ask her from inside my cage, my cell. She replies, “You do not, if you are spoken to, you will respond, if not you will remain quiet”. She steps back and I can hear the key turn. “One more thing, “I ask her, she turns, “Why me, why are you doing this to me, I want to go home”.

I hear it ever so softly, “We did not do anything we were not asked”. I don’t get it so I scream “Who asked you who on earth would ask you to do this to a human being?”

“Your parents” she responds, and my whole world collapses brings me to my knees as she walks away.

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𝓜𝓪𝓻𝔂 𝓛𝔂𝓷𝓷

𝙰𝚜𝚙𝚒𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚆𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚎𝚛

𝙷𝚘𝚝 𝙳𝚘𝚐 𝙲𝚘𝚗𝚗𝚘𝚒𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚞𝚛

𝚆𝚒𝚏𝚎 + 𝙳𝚘𝚐 𝙼𝚘𝚖𝚖𝚊

𝙱𝚎 𝚂𝚝𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚢 𝙸𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚂𝚙𝚒𝚛𝚒𝚝

𝙵𝚛𝚎𝚎 𝙸𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚂𝚘𝚞𝚕

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