It didn’t take long for him to get to the railway from his apartment. On a Friday in the late morning he found it very strange that there was hardly any traffic.
He parked his car too close to the curb, tires screeching on the sidewalk. He put on his jacket and grabbed his satchel. He barely glanced at the ‘No Parking’ sign his car was near. He proceeded into the station as if he would never see his vehicle again.
He got his ticket after a short wait in line. The cashier politely asked, “Is that all the luggage you have Sir?” Without answering the man took his ticket and went to his gate. When he arrived in the outside boarding area, he instead sat on a nearby bench while others boarded.
Several minutes flew by. The cold winter air whipping the man in the face. He didn’t move a muscle. All he was doing was clutching his bag. He still sat there not moving even as his train departed. He needed the ticket to be here, just as instructed.
Finally the man moved, to check his watch. 4:04 pm. It was time. With shaking hands he slowly reached his hand into the satchel. He removed the only two contents in the bag, a small pill bottle with no markings, and a note that read:
If you ever want to see them again, do as instructed. 4:05 pm.
With zero reluctance, he unscrewed the small bottle and poured the contents into his left hand. Three fairly large grey pills. They were the shape of footballs. One at a time he popped them into his mouth, with each subsequent pill harder to swallow as they scratched their way down his throat. With the final swallow he began to choke slightly, coughing. An older man started coming his way, but the man just shooed him away with a hand gesture, he couldn’t afford the attention.
Now having his composure back, he sat up straight against the bench and waited. A few more minutes passed. How long do these pills take to kick in? He thought to himself. After once again checking his watch, he realized it had been eight minutes since the instructed time. Have I done something wrong? What will happen to them if I fail? Panic surged through his veins like a gasoline fire, consuming all.
Fear taking over, he stands from the bench and starts pacing back and forth. He retraced his steps and recalled what had happened up until this point.
It had been two days earlier, he had just got off work and needed to get some groceries before heading home. It was his turn to cook, while Jenny watched the kids. They alternate parental shifts to ease the load. He wanted to make tater tot casserole again, his wife made it a few months before and he hasn’t stopped thinking of it since.
As he walked down the isles gathering the ingredients, he realized he forgot something. Was one of the casserole layers corn, or mixed vegetables? He put down his grocery basket and took out his phone to call Jenny. Before the first ring was over, the call was answered. At first all he could hear was static, after which he checked to see that the call was connected.
“Jenny? Honey, are you there? I have a question about dinner.” No answer. In a small break in the static he started hear his two sons crying in the background. Strange thing to hear considering your oldest is twelve years old.
He hung up and hurried to the check out line, deciding on a bag of corn. He figured that if the kids were having a meltdown, he needed to be there as soon as possible to ease that stress off his wife.
As soon as he entered through the front door in the living room, the groceries were dropped onto the wood floor with a loud smack. The recliner was turned over on its back. The television was on. There was a single boy’s sneaker on its side. While taking this all in, he hears that the sink is running in the kitchen. Quick as he could he ran towards the kitchen, before tripping over his wife’s purse. What the hell is all this? What in God’s name is going on here? He thought to himself.
He quickly picked himself up, dusting off his shirt. Feeling a sharp pain in his knee, he limped to the kitchen. The sink was overflowing onto the floor. The knife block on the counter had been knocked over and from it there was a butcher’s knife on the ground. He looked closer at the water splattered floor and saw that some of the water was discolored. He reached for the towel that hangs from the refrigerator handle and then he saw it. Blood. Blood splattered on the freezer door, dripping down the main door, then onto the wet floor. It felt as though lightning struck his heart.
He immediately felt sick and dizzy with fear. His legs felt like they were stuffed with wet garbage. He slowly limped in the direction of the boys’ room in a haze. Why didn’t she call if someone got hurt? Why didn’t Anthony call me? The door to the room was ajar. Nothing. No one. He had never heard the house this silent since his first son was born. He leaned against the doorway to get the pressure off his knee and tried Jenny’s cell once more.
“This number has been disconnected or is not available at this time…This number….” The generic phone voice echoed.
He grunted a sigh with every limped step towards the master bedroom. That is when he noticed the sporadic drips of blood trailing from the kitchen to where he was heading, his bedroom. He grabbed the knob of the door and pushed it open with some effort with his shoulder. Nothing was askew, except the blood covered note on his bed:
The first thing you need to do is take a deep breath. Calm yourself. Regain your composure and read this carefully.
Your wife and two boys have been taken. They are alive, and for the time being, safe. I cannot at this time tell you why, for you must earn that knowledge as a prize. Everything will come to make sense soon enough.
You must follow my instructions exactly. You may not stray from the plan. Do as I say and your family will live long prosperous lives. Leaving the house, going to the police, or telling anybody will result in the death of your family, and then yourself.
Clean the house, as if nothing had happened. You cannot leave the house until 3:30 pm on Wednesday. Go to the Railway station on 3rd Avenue and get a ticket for anything southbound. Do not board a train. Simply sit on a bench in the boarding area. Only bring the satchel that has been placed under your bed. Follow the instructions to complete phase one. Do this and you will see your family again.
I wouldn’t worry about the blood. It is mine after all. That boy of yours is quite the fighter.
Do as I say,