Sunday, May 25, 2014
Without a flashlight, Melinda had a rough time navigating the narrow passageway. Twice her clothes caught on something and each time she had to fight back the tears, fearful someone would come from behind and pull her back into the cave. The first time, she was able to free herself by moving backwards and unhooking her jeans. The second time, she had to pull with all her might until her jeans ripped and she was able to move forward.
Melinda’s biggest fear came when she was nearing the opening because she had no way of knowing if they would be outside waiting to abduct her. Panic gripped her hard and she forced herself to muster all her strength and courage to expose herself to the unknown. She slowly stuck her head out from the tunnel and glanced around.
Thankfully, the moonlight glow was bright enough for her to see that no one was waiting for her. Maneuvering the rest of her body through the opening, however, proved to be much more difficult because she had to lift the branches on the bushes at the same time she worked her legs to completely extricate herself from the tunnel. By the time she was totally free, she was exhausted and had to take a few minutes to catch her breath.
She wished she had remembered to locate her jacket or at least her phone so she could call the police. It was imperative to get immediate help if she was to have any kind of a decent chance to save Angie. Inasmuch as the two of them were completely different, and somewhat estranged, Melinda loved her and knew she would have to do everything she could to get her back safe and sound.
Thoughts of the conversation back in the cave made her shudder. She pushed herself away from the rocks and began finding her way back to Angie’s house. The going was extra difficult because she had no inclination as to whether she was heading in the right direction or going entirely astray. Every time she heard a noise, she crouched as low as possible to keep from being seen. At one point, the noise was so close she actually got down on hands and knees and moved as quietly as she could away from the sound.
As it turned out, it was a blessing because she came upon the path. Not sure which way to turn, Melinda labored over the decision for only a moment. She would have to take her chances that her instincts would guide her in the right direction. She took a deep breath and turned right onto the path. When she felt it was safe, she stood up and hurriedly made her way, hoping beyond hope that she would recognize the path leading out of the woods.
She was doing well until her foot caught in a tree root and she fell into a thorn bush. The sharp pointy thorns punctured the skin on her hands, arms and face. Luckily, they missed her eyes and didn’t sink into her cheek too badly. The forceful momentum from the weight of her body, however, caused the barbs to pull backwards as she sunk deeper into the bush. She managed to stifle her moans as they cut and scratched her face and arms.
It took a few minutes before she could move and when she did, she had to do so carefully. It was a painstaking task moving the branches aside so she could free herself. Once free of the bush, Melinda sat down in the path. She was feeling even more exhausted than she had been earlier. Trickles of warm blood traced their way down her cheeks and neck and she didn’t bother to wipe them away. She would have been content to just lie down and go to sleep but she had to save Angie. The thought of Angie locked up inside the cage brought her back to the moment. Melinda struggled to her feet and continued on, hoping it wouldn’t be much longer before finding her way out.
May 1, 2014
Monday, May 19, 2014
Sometime later, Melinda started to regain consciousness. It wasn’t a speedy process at all but a slow gradual awakening. She could hear muffled sounds in the distance and felt like she was crawling and scratching her way out of the darkness. Her eyelids fluttered and then opened. Everything was a giant blur and seemed to be swirling. She closed her eyes and waited, hoping the feeling would pass more quickly.
Her mouth felt exceptionally dry and then it dawned on her that she had been gagged. At the same time, it registered that her hands were tied at the wrists and she felt extra cramped. She opened her eyes again and studied her surroundings. A tear formed in her eye upon discovering she had been locked in a cage like a wild animal. Her mind flooded with a bombardment of questions, none of which could be answered and only served to make her head swirl all the more.
Just then, she heard footsteps approaching and closed her eyes.
“Looks like she’s still out,” said the person next to the cage.
“Good. We don’t need anything else to go wrong.”
“What do you think is going to happen to her?”
“That’s not our worry. We just do what we’re told to do and that’s it.”
“Yeah, but no one told us to do this.”
A faint scuffling noise entered the chamber. Melinda tried to listen to what was going on. In the position she was in she couldn’t hear that well but she was afraid to move lest they knock her out again.
The barely audible sound of voices mixed with the shuffling feet seemed to be getting louder. A moment later, the voices cleared and Melinda was able to hear everything they were saying.
“What the hell is this?” the man in the room asked when the others entered.
“We finally caught our pigeon,” a deeper voice answered.
Looking down he said, “Hold your head up sweetheart so everyone can see your face. Feeling bashful? Let me help you.”
He grabbed a handful of hair and yanked her head back. The woman let out a small yelp.
“So it’s you?” the first man said with utter disdain.
One of the new men looked in Melinda’s direction. “Who’s that?”
“Caught her snooping”
“Great. That’s just what we need........ one more problem, as if we didn’t have enough to deal with already. What are we supposed to do with her?”
“I don’t know. That’s not our decision now is it?”
“What do you want to do with this one?”
There was a short silence. Melinda heard the woman’s protesting sobs and then quiet. The noise from a cage rattling came next, followed by someone huffing and puffing and then a grunt and the cage door being closed and locked. The woman had been placed in a cage behind Melinda and she couldn’t turn over to see who was in it. All she could do was pray that it wasn’t Angie.
The men moved into the other chamber and all Melinda could hear was their subdued voices. While lying there, she tried to work things out in her mind as to what was going on. Nothing made sense. She glanced at the cages stacked around her and realized each one had an animal in it. None of them moved and Melinda had a difficult time trying to determine if they were dead or sedated.
Lost in her thoughts, she didn’t hear the small group re-enter the room. This time, however, someone new had joined them and Melinda immediately deduced it was someone of importance by the way the others spoke.
“Where?” the new voice half-whispered.
“There, Tulkoy,” deep voice answered as though talking about two pieces of furniture.
“The one over there was caught snooping. What do you wish we do with them?”
Tulkoy thought for a moment before speaking. “It’s perfect. In fact, it’s a sign. There’ll be no sacrifice tonight. Tomorrow is the rite of the double moon; we shall honor it by having two sacrifices. Make sure come tomorrow they are properly prepared.”
“As you command,” the others answered in unison.
Melinda had all she could do to remain calm but her mind was racing and her heart was pounding. The conversation repeated itself in her mind and frightened her to her core. What had she stumbled into?
She waited a bit longer before moving, wanting to be certain the others had cleared the room. Feeling confident they had, she worked her hands back and forth until the binding loosened. As soon as her hands were free, she removed the gag and took a deep breath. She managed to re-position herself in order to see her feet. She placed both of them on the cage door and pushed as hard as she could but the lock on the door held fast. She was trapped.
Just then, the two men entered the room. Melinda immediately stuffed the gag back into her mouth and moved her arms in back of her to make it look as though they were still tied. She hoped by making them look like they were under her, the men wouldn’t notice that they were no longer bound.
“Should I give her another shot?” one of them asked.
“Check to see if she’s come out of the last one,” the other one replied.
Footsteps came closer to the cage and then Melinda heard the lock being opened. Next, she felt a hand grab her leg and shake it. Keeping her eyes shut, Melinda sensed the guy had moved closer to the front of the cage. She could smell his cheap cologne as he reached in and shook her shoulder. She almost gasped when he took hold of her chin and moved her head back and forth. She forced herself to stay relaxed so it would give the semblance of her still being unconscious.
About that time, something crashed in the other room and the two men rushed to see what had happened. Melinda realized her captor hadn’t locked the cage and she hurriedly shimmied out. She moved to other cage to see if was Angie but the girl was positioned so she couldn’t get a good look. The hair resembled Angie’s and for the life of Melinda, she couldn’t recall what Angie had been wearing when they had left the house.
She quickly scanned the small table off to the side, hoping to spot a key or set of keys. But before she could make a thorough search, Melinda thought she heard one of the men returning and made a mad dash to the tunnel entrance.
May 1, 2014
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Melinda walked quite a distance before stopping to rest. The weather had turned much warmer and she needed a drink. She spotted a large boulder to her right, removed the light jacket she was wearing and sat down. When she laid the jacket on a nearby bush, she noticed the whistle had fallen from the pocket onto the ground. She picked it up and debated blowing it to locate Angie but then realized everyone in hearing range would come thinking she had found something, so instead, she shoved it back into the jacket pocket.
A couple minutes later, Melinda thought she heard a cat or kitten meowing to her left. She listened and a moment later heard it again. It was faint but she could still hear it. Excitement washed over her thinking she had found Angie’s cat or possibly one of the neighbors' pet. She snagged the jacket from the bush and headed in the direction of the sound.
As Melinda wended her way around bushes and through the ground brush, she believed the sound was getting louder and moved with a new sense of energy to locate the cat. Several times she called out, “Here kitty. C’mon kitty;” and even began making kissing sounds in hopes to attract the cat to her. She wasn't that lucky as the animal didn't appear.
At one point, Melinda realized the sounds were beginning to fade and knew she had gone too far. It puzzled her that she could have heard the sound getting louder without so much as seeing an animal. She turned to backtrack but stopped when the sound of a kitten crying reached her ears. Looking around and under bushes, she didn’t see a thing and when the cries came again, she deduced they were emanating from a place behind some tall bushes. She moved toward it.
She was unable to see the cat but its cries were definitely coming from close by. Melinda had all she could do to push some of the branches up so she could see behind the bush. The only thing she saw were some fairly large boulders with what looked to be an opening at the base.
Melinda got down on her hands and knees and listened. The cries came again and she knew she had found one of the animals. She reached into the jacket pocket and pulled out the flashlight and shone it into the opening. There was no sign of the kitten except for its cries and Melinda noticed that the space was large enough for her to venture into. She pulled her jacket on and with the flashlight in her left hand, she moved deeper into the tunnel.
In a few places, the space narrowed but thanks to her being thin, Melinda was able to squeeze through and continue on. The going was slow but the increased volume of the kitten’s cries made her continue on. With her sole intent on saving the kitten, she never once stopped to think about how she would get back out of the tunnel.
She rounded a slight bend and was surprised to see some type of lighting ahead. She couldn’t tell if it was sunlight or from a lamp but was happy to be getting out of the darkness. She moved with a renewed quickness and reached the end of the narrow tunnel and gasped at the sight before her.
Melinda pulled herself into the large opening and discovered it was a cave, big enough for her to stand up. She brushed off her clothes and shook the dirt, leaves and twigs from her hair. As she stood gazing in total confusion and puzzlement, Melinda didn’t hear the noise coming from behind her.
Without warning, she felt a very strong gloved hand clamp over her mouth and felt a stabbing pain in her neck. Moments later, she felt herself getting weaker and weaker and then she blacked out.
May 1, 2014
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
The rest of the evening was spent chatting and talking about old times and family. Finally, Melinda headed off to bed feeling both tired and still somewhat angry that Angie had her come all that way for a lost cat. But she was here now and Angie, although loaded with faults, was still her sister and she loved her for better or worse. She couldn’t help wondering if having Angie for a sister would qualify her for sainthood. She chuckled at the thought then laughed even louder when it came to mind that contemplating murdering one’s sister, regardless of how bad she was, would negate any chances of becoming a saint.
The next morning when Melinda went into the kitchen, she was shocked to see a number of people there having coffee and morning pastries. She glanced at Angie as if to say, “What’s all this?”
Angie spotted Melinda’s puzzled look and stopped what she was doing. “Listen up everyone. This is my sister Melinda who has traveled from the East Coast to help us out.”
A chorus of voices chimed out, “Hi Melinda.”
Melinda nodded to the group then walked over to Angie. “What’s going on?”
Continuing to butter a toasted bagel, Angie replied, “These are my neighbors. Most all of them have their pet or pets missing as well so we’re going looking for them.”
Melinda glanced over her shoulder at the group, then turned back to Angie. “They’re all missing animals?”
“Yeah, and the weird part is they all pretty much went missing at the same time.”
Melinda digested the information and thought about it for a minute before speaking again. “You think there might be an earthquake coming? I read something not too long ago about how animals can sense an earthquake with the tremors and all.”
Angie handed her the bagel. “It’s best to have it with coffee dear.”
Melinda took the plate. “Didn’t you hear what I just said?”
“Yes, I heard you.”
“It could very well be, but it doesn’t change the fact that we have to go look for them. Now hurry up and eat, we’re all eager to get going.”
Melinda shook her head, made herself a coffee and found an empty chair at the table and sat down to eat. As she ate, she studied the faces of Angie’s neighbors and could see the pain and anguish they were going through. She had never owned a pet of her own so she couldn’t relate first-hand what they were feeling but their eyes told an unspoken story that reached deep into her soul and knew she was doing the right thing by helping out.
Once outside, they split into pairs; each pair heading off in a different direction. Each person had a cell phone, whistle and a flashlight along with a small packet of treats for the dogs and cats. Melinda followed Angie to the end of the street and then onto a small path heading into the woods.
Not far along, Angie called out, “Brandon, come here honey, mommy has some treats for you.”
Melinda rolled her eyes. “Mommy? You tell the cat you’re its mommy?”
Angie clicked her tongue. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“No I wouldn’t,” Melinda shot back. “Personally, I think you’ve spent too much time in the sun.”
Angie stormed ahead mumbling something. Melinda couldn’t quite decipher it and just laughed. To her right, she thought she spotted some fur on one of the branches and stopped to check it out. She pulled her hand back when she realized it was either a moth’s cocoon or a spider’s web. The thought of spiders sent a chill along her spine.
She quickened her step to catch up to Angie and came upon a fork in the path. “Just like her,” Melinda muttered in disgust. “Angie, where are you? Angie can you hear me? I didn’t mean it about the mommy thing. C’mon Angie answer me.”
Getting no reply, Melinda reached into her pocket and pulled out the cell phone. She hit the quick dial for Angie and held the phone to her ear. After a number of rings, she was transferred to the voice-mail. Melinda patiently waited for the message to end. “Angie what the heck is the sense of having a cell phone if you’re not going to answer it? I’m at the fork in the path and need to know which way you went.” She pushed the end call button and gritted her teeth. “Aargh! I swear I’m going to kill this girl!” she yelled into the woods and started walking to her right.
May 1, 2014
Thursday, May 1, 2014
Melinda nonchalantly picked up the phone. “Hello.”
“Melly, it’s Angie. I need you to come to California as soon as possible. Can you do that for me?”
Melinda gripped the phone tightly. “My name is Melinda, Angie. How many times do I have to tell you to stop calling me Melly? “
“Okay, okay. Now can you come out here or not?”
“What do you need me for?”
“I can’t say.”
“Listen Angie if you can’t tell me what it is then it can’t be that important.”
“Will you stop being so damn selfish and show a little empathy for others for a change?
“Don’t give me that crap about not having empathy when I was the one who spent time taking caring of our mother while you played the precious little princess hosting parties for the phonies.”
“Look, let’s not fight okay. I need you.”
“And how am I supposed to get out there?’
“Drive, how else.”
“Are you serious? You want me to drive three thousand miles for something you won’t even tell me about?”
Angie sighed. “Okay, you win. We had a fire out here.”
“Yeah, I heard about that but I thought it was a good distance from where you live.”
“The main part of the fire was but you know how the winds are out here.”
“Actually Angie, I don’t being that you never invited me to your house since you moved.”
“Are you sure?” Angie said then cleared her throat. “I thought I had and for some reason you couldn’t come.”
“That’s bull,” Melinda spat. “You know damn well you never invited me because you didn’t think I was good enough for your high-falootin friends.”
“I’m sorry,” Angie offered her apology.
“You sound more and more like your phony friends, you know that? What ever happened to my sister?”
“So will you come?”
“Yes, I’ll come. You know it is going to take time for me to get there.”
“I know. I feel better already. Thanks Melly….Melinda.”
Melinda made some phone calls, then packed her bag and locked up the house.
Fighting to keep the duffle bag from slipping off her shoulder, Melinda hurried toward her gold Chevrolet Impala and cursed for having parked it so far away. She couldn’t believe this was happening. She reached the car and put the duffle bag in the trunk and set out on her cross country journey.
Four days later, tired and hungry, Melinda pulled up to Angie’s house and immediately noticed there were no signs of fire damage to the house or surrounding area. A thousand questions popped into her head but none of them had answers.
Angie opened the door after the second time Melinda rang the doorbell. “I am so glad you are here,” she said wrapping her arms around Melinda’s shoulders. She leaned back then gave Melinda a kiss.
“How was your trip?”
“Reckless,” Melinda replied. “I’ve been driving myself nuts wondering what happened that was so bad you needed me right away. I didn’t know if the house was burned down, or if someone was in the hospital. So tell me what’s happened you need my help?”
Angie led Melinda to the living room and sat down. When Melinda was seated Angie said, “Geez you look a mess.”
Melinda glared at her. “No kidding I look like a mess. I’m hungry Angie and I’m not helping you with anything until I get something to eat.”
Angie looked like a deer caught in the headlights. “Yes, well, um. You sure it can’t wait?”
The icy-cold stare Melinda shot her made Angie sit back in the chair. “I…I didn’t mean it like that ……it’s it’s just that the cook is not here and……”
Melinda stood up. “You’re hopeless, you know that. Where’s the kitchen for God’s sake?”
Angie nervously got up and led Melinda through a hallway into a spacious kitchen where Melinda set about making lunch for the two of them. Finally Melinda asked. “So what was so urgent you had to have me drive out here?”
Angie cleared her throat. “Brandon is missing. He’s been missing since the fire.”
Melinda shook her head. “Wait a minute. Hold on right there. Are you telling me that you had me drive all the way out here because your cat is missing! What the hell is wrong with you? I don’t believe this. You have gone bonkers. You are absolutely crazed you know that!”
“You don’t understand, there’s there’s more,” was the only thing Angie started to say.
Melinda jumped up. “Do you hear yourself for God’s sake? You had me worried sick for a damn cat. I can’t believe you did this. You’ve lost your marbles.”
Angie stood up. “I know it sounds crazy but Brandon has to be suffering from hunger pains now and maybe even dead. You know how much I love that cat,”
Melinda stormed to the door. “I’m going home.”
“Aren’t you going to help look for him?” Angie asked as if nothing of what she had said sounded bizarre.
Melinda waved her hand in disgust. “I’m going home.”
Angie watched as Melinda pulled out of the driveway. A tear trickled down her cheek.
Melinda drove to the end of the street and stopped. She glanced in the rearview mirror and saw Angie standing in her driveway watching her leave. She lowered her head and shook it. “Aaaaagh!” she screamed out loud and put the car in reverse.
“I have got to be out of mind,” Melinda mumbled to herself. “Why I ever let myself get suckered in by her I’ll never know.” At the driveway, she shifted into drive and pulled into the driveway making Angie jump out of the way.
Angie opened the door for her. “Thanks for coming back.”
“You owe me big time,” Angie said, then added, “The least you can do is get my bags out of the back seat.” She stormed into the house, closing the door behind her and headed straight into the living room where she plopped herself down on the couch.
May 1, 2014