by Sarah Scharnweber
Alexander put his arm around Veronica. His hand crept down her shoulder and onto her breast. She shrugged him off. “Stop.”
He leaned in. “Just a little kiss?” He puckered his lips.
She looked into the blue eyes she loved so much, but she hadn’t planned for this. It was their first date and she wasn’t ready to move this fast. “I think it’s a little early for that.” She brushed his hand off of her shoulder and reached for the handle. “I think you should take me home.” She tugged the handle, popping the latch, but keeping the door closed.
“I don’t think I’m going to do that.” He leaned in further. “One kiss is all I want.”
“I don’t want to. Please, take me home.” She pushed open the door; the wind blew in, blowing her long blond hair into her face.
He grabbed her arm and tugged on her. “Stop.”
She shook the hair from her face. “Either take me home, or I’m walking.”
“You aren’t going to walk in the dead of winter. We are in the middle of nowhere.”
“Take me home, or I’m really going to walk.”
“Don’t be stupid.” He pulled her hard; her left wrist popped as she shook free of his grip and went tumbling out the door and onto the ground.
She landed on her right hand, pressing pieces of gravel deep into her palm. She pushed herself to her feet, trying to ignore the pain. She heard Alexander’s door open. “Just leave me alone.” She tugged at her skirt, trying to straighten it as she walked down the road, away from him.
“Stop being a bitch and come back here. It’s not like I was gonna rape your or anything.”
“Just leave me alone.” She continued walking away from him.
“I’m just gonna leave you, then. This is your last chance.”
“Please do.” She shouted with her middle finger in the air pointed behind her. She walked for a few more second; heard him close her door, then walk around and close his own.
He slowed as he approached. “Seriously! Just get back in.”
“Just go, I’ll figure it out on my own.” She didn’t look at him as he drove away and his lights disappeared into the distance.
She walked for several minutes before she even noticed how cold it was. Her wool coat was warm, but it was short and so was the tight black skirt she wore. She pulled out her cell phone and sighed. Of course he would bring her to a no-service area.
She started crying, not sure what she was going to do as teardrops froze to her cheeks. She was very cold and she knew he wasn’t coming back. Before she knew it, she was talking to herself aloud. “So, this is how you do things. This is the best date ever. You are such a fucking idiot. This is what you get.”
She walked for nearly ten minutes before she saw her first highway sign. She checked her phone, but still had no service, but she believed she would be able to walk to a place where her phone would work.
She was beginning to worry about the dangers of frostbite when she heard the sound of a car coming toward her from behind. She felt a wave of relief when she saw the small black sports car pull around the corner and slow as it pulled up next to her.
The passenger window went down; Veronica looked in. There was a nice-looking man in his forties, dressed in a suit sitting in the driver’s seat. He looked confused. “I didn’t see a broken down car anywhere, where are you coming from?” He gestured behind him.
“Someone left me out here.” She looked into his eyes; they were brown, not blue. “Do you think you could get me into town? Just far enough for my phone to work is fine.”
He nodded. “Sure, just hop in.” He flipped a switch inside the car and the door unlocked.
She climbed in. The car was warm and her skin burned as her legs began to warm up. “Thank you so much.”
“Who would leave you on the side of the road like that?” He looked to her for an answer, then recognition overcame his face. “I’m sorry. I’m Ethan.” He reached out his right hand to shake, without looking away from the road. She took his hand, also looking at the road in fear while she did. “No one even uses this road anymore. Why were you out here?”
“Why were you out here?”
He chuckled a bit. “Looking for someone to eat.” He looked over at her and winked, then bellowed a deep laugh. “I’m kidding you, of course.”
She forced a laugh. “My date tried to take advantage of me, so I got out of the car and he left me here.”
“Sounds like there’s a young man who comes out this way quite often. That’s not the first time I’ve heard that same story.”
“So, picking up recently assaulted girls is some kind of a hobby for you?” Her fingers rubbed the edge of her skirt.
“Nah, just when I see a pretty girl, who looks like she’s in trouble, I stop. Last few months, there have been more of them.” He smiled. “I’m a lawyer; this is on my way home. Sometimes I see people and once in a while, I help them.”
She let out a breath that she hadn’t realized she had been holding. “You really had me nervous for a moment.”
“I’m sorry; I was just making conversation, was all.” He reached over and patted her knee.
“I don’t like to be touched.” She tried to speak gently, but the way she tugged her fishnet-covered knee away from him was cold.
“Wow.” He was calm, but seemed very offended. “I didn’t mean anything by it.” He twisted his hands on the steering wheel and pulled air in through his nose. “Not like you don’t owe me, or anything.”
“I don’t want to owe you anything. If you want, you can wait for my mom to come pick me up and I’m sure she can give you some cash for your troubles, but that’s it. I’m not even eighteen.” She pulled out her phone; still no signal.
He looked over at her, licked his lips and smiled. “Age only matters if they catch you.” He took a sharp left and they headed down another street. His hand reached over and held down the power lock.
Veronica reached over and tried to pull up the lock, but it wouldn’t move. She felt her heart start to race as she continued pulling at the lock. She grabbed the handle and yanked at it.
Ethan stopped and looked into her eyes. “You jump out and I’ll run you over until you are dead. If you think I’m kidding, just try me.”
She let go of the door. Her hands shook and her heart thudded in her chest.
“That’s better.” He straightened in his seat. “You’re mine now. You may as well get used to that.”
She felt tears streaming down her face again. “What are you going to do to me?” She felt her chest growing heavy as she started to have trouble breathing.
“Whatever I want, I guess.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Not much further now and then I guess you’ll see for yourself.”
A moment later, he pulled behind a big barn that would have struck Veronica as odd under other circumstances, but she hardly even noticed its electric blue color in the dark as he dragged her through the doorway.
Once they were inside, he let her go. He turned back and padlocked the door to the outside, then turned back to her and smiled.
She glanced around the room. It was large with wood and plaster walls. A long couch with huge orange and brown flowers on a yellow background stood against the far wall. She stared at him, certain that running would do her no good inside this place.
He tilted his head as he spoke. “Victoria? That’s a beautiful name. It’s too bad for you, really. If you weren’t so stupid, you wouldn’t be here right now.”
Tears still streamed down Veronica’s face. “It’s Veronica,” she corrected. “I don’t know what I did, but I’m sorry.”
Just as she spoke, she heard a scuffling behind her.
“Are you going to kill me?” She had gained some composure, but continued to cry.
“Not right away.” The voice behind her was familiar, but she couldn’t place it. “First, we’re going to skin you.”
She turned and saw Alexander standing behind her. He had a long hunting knife in his right hand. “I thought you were going to be the one, but you were just like all the others.”
“The one what?” Seeing him made her angry. Her tears had stopped before she realized she wasn’t frightened of him.
“I thought you were going to be the girl we were going to bring to the family. You should have just kissed me; that’s all you had to do.”
She bit her tongue, certain that this wasn’t the right time to argue with him. She looked at him for a moment, before Ethan pulled her hand behind her back. She tried to fight, but it was too late.
Something heavy struck her head and then there was darkness.
She awoke in a different room. It smelled like dirt and was completely dark. Her arms were restrained above her and her toes barely touched the floor. “Hello?” she called out. “Someone there?”
There was a cough followed by a low moan.
“Hello?” Her voice was louder than before.
“Shh,” a light and airy female voice whispered.
Veronica lowered her voice again, “Who are you?”
“My name is Mary. I’m not sure where I am, or how I got here. Who are you?”
“Veronica, I dated Alexander once. I guess that’s why I’m here.” Her eyes began to adjust to the darkness and she could tell there was someone chained to the far wall.
“You too?” Mary was calm. “What do you know?”
Veronica didn’t know what she meant. “I should have kissed Alexander and I wouldn’t be here.”
Mary sighed. “I wish I didn’t have to tell you this, but they’re going to kill us.”
“Because I didn’t kiss him?” Her voice was loud. Just as Veronica was going to ask more questions, there was a thud upstairs.
A door creaked and a small sliver of light illuminated the room enough that Veronica could see Mary’s long black hair hanging in unkempt clumps on her shoulders.
“Don’t make me come down there.” The low, scratchy voice had a slight drawl.
Veronica looked to Mary and shook her head, signaling her not to speak.
“Don’t make me get up again.” The door creaked closed, leaving the room dark again.
“You can’t make noise or they’ll punish us.”
“How long have you been here?” Her voice was almost inaudible.
“I have no idea. It’s been a while, but I sleep lots.” She groaned. “I’m sore, that’s for sure.”
“What are they going to do to us?”
“They sliced pieces of skin off of the last girl before they dragged her out.” She started crying a little, but managed to keep from sobbing. “I threw up and wet myself when I watched it. She was so sweet. Her name was Mandy.” She sniffed as if she were frightened they would hear even that above.
“Why would they want to kill us? I don’t want to die.”
“Don’t you start shouting again. If they come down here, I’m going to tell them you’re the loud one. Maybe they’ll kill you first.” She sounded angry, but it was clear that she was also scared.
“I’m not going to draw attention to us.”
“They’re coming either way; but I want to prolong it as long as I can.” She was calm again.
“I’m scared,” Veronica said.
Both girls fell silent.
A high-pitched female voice made its way across the building above them and approached the stairs. The door exploded open and footsteps thundered down. “No hiding now.” The strange female voice approached. “You both thought that you were going to refuse my beautiful baby boy.” She shook her head as she stepped into the room and stood between the two girls. “Lucky for you, I hafta to do this fast.” The building rumbled for a moment before the room was filled with people and light. A large blond woman with an orange apron around her waist stood there, surrounded by men.
“Please, don’t,” Veronica sobbed as her head swung from side to side.
“You ran out of please a few days ago.” A large man in front of the group stood with his feet shoulder-width apart as if in preparation for a fight. “Time to pay the price.” A large man in a too-small tee shirt and cut-off jean shorts lifted his fists.
Veronica’s lip quivered as he pulled a small knife from his pocket and scratched the tip of it along her cheek.
“I don’t want to die.” Her chest was heavy and full.
He looked into her eyes and studied them, while his thick, moist tongue lashed at his lips. “Bobby, carve into that one, I wanna see the look in her eyes.”
Veronica closed her eyes and looked away. She almost instantly felt cold, sharp metal against her cheek. Veronica turned her face away.
“Look at her.” He growled and dug his knife into her cheek.
She shook her head a tiny bit.
He cut a deep slit into her right cheek, nearly cutting all the way through. “I said look, dammit!” he shouted in her face.
She could feel blood dripping down her cheek as she forced herself to look.
A fat man in sweats, who Veronica assumed was Bobby, then sliced down her thigh. Blood poured down her leg as she screamed.
“Please, don’t.” Veronica sniffled and felt her lip begin to quiver.
The man in front of her chuckled, “More, Bobby.”
Fat Bobby carved into her thigh. Six inches to the right, parallel to the first cut. Alexander walked toward her, a meat cleaver hung at his side from one hand. He didn’t respond to Mary’s screams as he chopped at a piece of meat that now hung from her leg.
Blood splattered across the room, some of it hit Veronica’s leg. Veronica let out a squeal, but stifled it. “Please, just stop.” Veronica whispered.
Just then, she felt an explosion of pain and warmth as blood poured out of her stomach and down the front of her skirt. The man in front of her pulled up on the knife, ripping Veronica’s stomach open. She looked down and felt her head growing dizzy.
“Wake up, bitch.” She opened her eyes. Fat Bobby’s face was inches from hers. She was laying on something cold and hard in a bright white room. Fat Bobby stood to her right. She couldn’t feel her limbs. Mary stood on the left of her. Alexander stood behind her.
“Do it.” Alexander grunted at Mary.
She looked into Veronica’s eyes, begging her for an apology as she reached out and carved a flap of skin from her left breast. Blood trickled out. Veronica felt weak.
“I looked her in the eyes and cut her, am I in?” She looked from Alexander to Fat Bobby.
They both shook their head. Alexander reached down and picked the piece of meat from the knife. He put it between his teeth and pulled Mary to him.
The last thing Veronica heard before everything went dark was Fat Bobby’s voice, “I now pronounce you Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Crawford.”