“Welcome to my cave.” Robert unlocked the door and waited for Charlotte to cross the threshold. A large TV hung about the fireplace in the living room with massive leather furniture and a bear rug on the floor. The kitchen to the right had the shiniest appliances Charlotte had ever seen. It looked like something from the magazines her mother loved to dream over.
“The bathroom is down the hall. I’ll start a fire.”
Charlotte was cold, hungry and aching for the bathroom. Robert seemed to always know just what she needed. The house assured Charlotte that all the stories about Robert were true. His parents were rich. He was free to enjoy their money. So, therefore, he was going to take good care of her. She began to relax as they munched on salsa and chips and snuggled on the couch before the raging fire.
“You can take the downstairs bed, I’m going to rest on the couch. A nap will do us both good.”
Her unpacked crumpled Disney tee and sweats seemed out of place in such elegance but she wanted to sleep with a memory of yesterday. She hid her backpack under the bed. It seemed the right thing to do. Charlotte fell asleep before her head could form an imprint into the pillow.
She dreamed of the lake near her home. Like a mermaid she swam through the dark waters navigating around thousands of piranhas. They attacked, shredding the scales and exposing her legs. Each time she followed a beacon, she crashed into a wall. It was like swimming in an aquarium that continuously shrunk in size. When she tried to break the surface of the water for freedom, she found it solid. Her lungs ached for air. She kicked harder.
She woke choking in a sack yanked over her head and shoulders. She screamed and kicked making contact with the kidnapper hovering over her. He rewarded her with a blow to the head, yanked her from the bed and threw her over his shoulder.
“Robert! Help! Rob…”
“Shut up or he dies”
Charlotte bit her lip; the taste of blood sickened her.
She listened for any sign of Robert. All she heard were hurried footsteps, another door, crunching pinecones, and then she was tossed onto a cold metallic surface. It wasn’t until the lid slammed shut that she realized she was in a trunk. The engine roared. She bounced and wept. “Oh God. Robert. Oh God, help.”
The scratchy sack protected Charlotte from the vapor fumes, though it forced her to choke on her own breaths. When the fumes became more pungent than her own sweaty air, she knew she was succeeding in freeing her head and shoulders. Charlotte searched for a tool to force open the lock. Nothing. She pried at the lock with her hands and kicked at the taillight until her feet bled. Gradually she began to lose the desire to fight; she only wanted to sleep. She dreamed of her high school football game; she was the ball.
A bright light woke her. The beam burned her eyes.
“What’s your name?”
When Charlotte didn’t answer, the man stepped away. The flashlight roamed the cabin revealing a small mattress on the floor to her right and a wooden table with two chairs to her left. Charlotte was on the floor huddled next to a sink cabinet. There were no windows, only the door on the other side of the man. The light was back in her eyes.
“What are you doing here?”
The man stepped closer and she could see his uniform. His sagging belly covered his belt; the pant legs strained around heavy thighs were stuffed in worn hunting boots. His badge flickered in the light and for an instant there was hope.
“Who are you?” His toothy aged smile popped his hat forward. A gray streaked ponytail escaped.
Charlotte tried to answer but only a whimper escaped, it smelled of gasoline. The officer walked around the room until he found a light switch. The bright glow flooded the room.
“Okay, girlie. Let’s see you. Stand up here.” The officer pulled her to standing and studied her under the light.
“Please sir, help.”
“Do you trust me?”
Charlotte nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“Well, you shouldn’t.” His laugh sounded like a lion’s roar before the kill. “I’m going to give you what sluts like you deserve.” The officer grabbed her throat with one hand and slammed her against the wall. The other hand ripped her tee shirt splitting Mickey’s face. Charlotte fought his hands but he pressed harder on her neck. She kicked at his shins. He stopped only to throw her on the floor and kicked her in the gut until there was no fight left. He picked her up by the neck and slammed her on the table face down.
Her pants ripped off in a second.
Charlotte had never imagined there could be such pain; it split her in two, body and soul. The officer snorted with each thrust. His hands clenched her hair and yanked her head back and forth pounding her face into the table. Blood oozed from her nose and lips. He groped at her back, her breasts, and her hips with claws that dug deep crevasses in her skin. There was no limit to his torture.
There was a time in the Bible when the earth split open and swallowed the sinful. Charlotte prayed it would happen to her, now. It didn’t.
When he was finished with her. She moaned, slid to the floor, and clenched her broken body to the table leg.
He searched his pockets for a cell. The call was short, “She’s ready.”
He lit a cigarette and waited. He laughed when she flinched at the flicked ashes.
By the end of the second smoke, Charlotte heard tires on gravel then two slamming doors. She held her breath and gripped the wood tighter. Footsteps crunched closer. The door opened.
The first to enter was tall and lanky, his body as crooked as his nose. He wore a baggy blue uniform with black Converses. His partner was tanned and toned in a khaki uniform. His biceps pushed the sleeves to their limit. There was state insignia on his cap. The Brad Pitt look-a-like smiled at her.
“Boys,” the first officer said as he crushed out his cigarette and stood with unzipped pants, “let’s party.”
Her only relief came when they tired, turned off the lights, and slept by the door. Charlotte never slept; curled in a fetal position she prayed the lights never came on again.
They did, for hours at a time. Charlotte faded in and out of reality. She dreamed she was burning alive in the Lake of Fire, or being ripped to shreds by a den of lions, but never, not once, did she dream of God’s rescue. Eternal damnation was her only hope.