The Girl Who Was Taken Page 1

Author: Charlie Donlea

Genres: Mystery , Thriller

The Abduction Emerson Bay, North Carolina

August 20, 2016

11:22 p.m.

Darkness had forever been part of her life.

She looked for it and flirted with it. Became quaint with it and charmed it in a way foreign to most. Morbidly of late, she convinced herself about the joys of its company. That she preferred the blackness of death to the light of existence. Until tonight. Until she stood in front of an abyss that was dead and blank in a way she had never encountered, a night sky without stars. When Nicole Cutty found herself in this chasm between life and death, she chose life. And she ran like hell.

With no flashlight, the night blinded her as she broke through the front entrance. He was just an arm’s length behind, which caused adrenaline to flood her system and drive her for a few strides in the wrong direction until her eyes adjusted to the tarnished glow of the moon. Spotting her car, she reoriented herself and ran for it, fumbling with the handle until she ripped open the door. The keys hung from the ignition and Nicole cranked the engine, shifted into drive, and stepped on the accelerator. She gave the engine too much gas and nearly sideswiped the vehicle in front of her. Her headlights brought to life the ink-black night, and from the corner of her eye she saw a flash of color from his shirt as he appeared from around the hood of the parked car in front of her. She had no time to react. She felt the thud of impact and the awful rocking of the car’s suspension as the wheels absorbed the unevenness of his body before regaining traction on the gravel road. Her response came without thought. She pushed the accelerator to the floor and twisted a tight U-turn, then raced down the narrow road, leaving everything behind her.

Nicole jerked the wheel as she skidded onto the main highway, swaying in the driver’s seat as the fishtail settled and ignoring the speedometer as it climbed past eighty mph. She flexed her arm from where he’d grabbed her, a deep purple bruise already forming, while her eyes bounced from the windshield to the rearview mirror. Two miles went by before she eased off the gas pedal and the four-cylinder quieted down. Being free gave her no relief. Too much had happened to believe fleeing could make the problems of tonight disappear. She needed help.

As she turned onto the access road that led back to the beach, Nicole ticked off the people she couldn’t ask. Her brain worked that way, in the negative. Before deciding who could assist her, she mentally crossed off the people who would do her harm. Her parents were at the top of the list. The police, a close second. Her friends were possibilities, but they were soft and hysterical and Nicole knew they would panic before she explained even a fraction of what had transpired tonight. Her mind churned, ignoring the only real possibility until she had ruled out all others.

Nicole paused at the stop sign, rolled through it while she grabbed her phone. She needed her sister. Livia was older and smarter. Rational in a way Nicole was not. If Nicole dismissed the last stretch of their lives and ignored the distance between them, she knew she could trust Livia with her life. And even if she wasn’t sure about this, she had no other options.

She stuck the phone to her ear and listened to it ring while tears rolled down her cheeks. It was close to midnight. She was a block from the beach party.

“Pick up, pick up, pick up. Please, Livia!”

The Escape Two Weeks Later Emerson Bay Forest

September 3, 2016

11:54 p.m.

She pulled the burlap from her head and gasped for air. It took time for her eyes to adjust while amorphous shapes danced in her vision and the blackness faded. She listened for his presence but all she heard was the splattering rain outside. Dropping the burlap bag to the ground, she tiptoed to the bunker door. Surprised to see it opened a crack, she put her face to the crevice between the door and the frame and looked out into the dark forest as rain pelted the trees. She imagined a camera lens trained tightly on her eyeball as she peered through the splinter in the door, and then the camera’s focus backing out in a slow reverse zoom that captured first the door, then the bunker, then the trees, and eventually a satellite view of the entire forest. She felt small and weak from this mental picture of herself, all alone in a bunker sunk deep in the woods.

She questioned whether this was a test. If she pushed through the door and stepped into the woods, there was the chance he would be waiting for her. But if the open door and the moment free from her shackle were an oversight, it was his first misstep and the only opportunity she’d had in the last two weeks. This was the first moment she found herself untethered from the wall of her cellar.

With her hands trembling and still bound in front of her, she pushed open the door. The hinges creaked into the night before the slapping rain overwhelmed their whine. She waited a moment, held back by fear. She squeezed her eyes shut and forced herself to think, tried to push away her grogginess brought on by the sedatives. The hours of darkness from the cellar came back to her and flashed in her mind like a lightning storm. So, too, did the promise she made to herself that if an opportunity for escape appeared, she’d take it. She decided days before that she’d rather die fighting for her freedom than walk like a lamb to the slaughter.

She took a hesitant step out of the bunker, into the thick and heavy rain that ran in cold streaks down her face. She took a moment to bathe in the downpour, to let the water clear the fogginess from her mind. Then, she ran.