For the first time in my life, I had a gun to my head. While the fear finished its tour around my thoughts, I realized I had nothing to be afraid of. I was a meaningless blip on a greater plain of existence. I brought my hands up slowly as I took in a calmer breath. As long as I did whatever he wanted, I wouldn’t be harmed. I pulled out my phone and let it fall to the floor. I stepped on it, hard enough to break it, and watched it shatter under my shoes. I was forced into a corner with the rest of them.
When I heard the sirens, the declaration that the police were outside, I froze in place; a worse fear overcoming my body than the thought of death. I watched him start to formulate a plan, and I volunteered my services to him, concerned he might pick one of the crying victims for his plan. I told him I’d do what he wanted, as long as the police never touched me. He marched up to me, grabbed me by the collar, stared into my eyes for an uncomfortable second. I stared back until a duffel bag was forced into my gut. I wrapped my arms around it as he got behind me, jamming the gun into my back. He placed a hand on my shoulder, and we started walking.
Out the door, promises were made that I wouldn’t be hurt if they let us leave. We went past them, a reminder to smile whispered in my ear. I forced a smile as we walked down the street without a real destination in place. I mentioned my car was parked nearby, and that became our target. He had me give him the keys, throw the bag in the back, then get into the driver’s seat. He only gave me the keys when he slid into the passenger seat, pushing the gun into my side.
He gave me directions out of town, upstate into the woods. The gun never wavered as the roads turned from pavement to gravel. Houses thinned out, pushed back, until all that could be seen were the entrances to driveways that appeared every few miles. He had me turn into one of these driveways after a few hours of driving. I pulled up outside a small cabin. I gave him the car keys once more, carried the bag into the cabin, all with a gun flush to my flesh. He took the bag from me, threw it on a chair once we were safely inside the cabin.
It was unexpected when I felt the magazine hit my temple. I stumbled to the side as pain bloomed behind my eyes, my vision going blurry. He hit me once more with the pistol. I fell as my vision went dark, my head throbbing in pain.
I blinked out of the fog sometime later, my captor squatting in wait. He had taken his baseball cap off, showing off his short blonde hair. He no longer wore a mask or sunglasses. I noticed the pistol still in his hands. “Sorry ‘bout that,” he said. “Figured you’d put up a fight when I cuffed you.” I flinched at his words, trying to pull my arms in front of me, only to hear the unmistakable clink of handcuffs. “What’s your name?”
“Soren,” I said. I took inventory of the rest of my body. Other than the pain from him hitting me, I was unharmed, however, my legs had been taped to the wooden chair I was sitting in. I was utterly defenseless. “Are you going to tell me yours?”
He tapped the barrel of the gun on the hardwood floor. “Might as well since you’re not going anywhere. Mathias.” He stood, chuckling to himself. “Why the hell did you do all that?”
I looked up at him. “My reason’s none of your business.”
“Yeah well…I don’t know where I’m going with this.” He shook his body out. “Guess the adrenaline’s still there.”
Mathias left the room, left me in the chair. I closed my eyes against the pain behind my eyes, the pounding in my head. I didn’t try to get out of the handcuffs or break my legs free from the tape. On the drive to the cabin, with the pistol in my side, I made up my mind not to fight him. Not to try to get away or get him arrested for robbing a bank. He had a weapon, my phone was broken, and the lack of lights in the room had me thinking the cabin was off the electrical grid, and I hadn’t any way of knowing if there was a generator. I wouldn’t be able to call for help even if I wanted to.
I opened my eyes at the sound of his heavy footsteps. The pistol was tucked into his black jeans, an ever-present symbol that he could shoot me whenever he felt like it. In his hands were gauze pads and hydrogen peroxide. He apologized once again that what he was about to do was going to hurt, but he didn’t want blood dripping onto his nice hardwood. I hadn’t realized my temple had split open and was slowly leaking blood until he had wiped it away. The sting from the hydrogen peroxide didn’t hurt as much as the headache. He taped the gauze to my head, stepped back to admire his handiwork.
It didn’t take as much convincing as I thought it would for him to let me walk around. He promised me he’d come back to un-tape me after vaguely saying he had something to do outside. I counted seconds in my head, giving myself something to do. Four sets of a hundred and eighty seconds later, I watched the lights flicker on in the hall. After five hundred and forty-seven seconds he came back, bringing with him the tell-tale scent of the woods. The tape at my ankles was cut with a rather large knife, I finally stood, my hands still cuffed and tucked behind my back.
He crossed his arms, blocking the only way out of the small room. “I won’t kill you ‘cause I was raised right.” I nodded, unsure of what else to do. “You still gonna follow my instructions?”
I glanced at the gun still tucked into his pants, and the knife looped through his belt. “Whatever keeps me alive,” I swallowed.
“Good.” He dug out a small key from his back pocket and it held up. “I’ll make the cuffs more comfortable, but” he pointed the key at me, “you follow my rules.” He paused a second. “You cannot leave the cabin without my permission. Stay in my line of sight at all times. Do not use any electronics you find laying about. Other than that, I don’t care what you do.” He turned me around, undoing one cuff, before cuffing my hands in front of me. “If you want those off, you gotta gain my trust.”
I was led from that room into a hallway, into the kitchen. Everything that could be made of wood, was made of wood, giving my captivation a homey feeling. I sat at the island counter, while Mathias pulled ingredients out of the fridge to make sandwiches. The house seemed well stocked for it to be for vacation purposes. He must have planned to come here after his heist, stocked it up before. I, however, clearly wasn’t part of his plans. He pushed a plate with a sandwich in front of me, an identical one in front of him on the other side of the island.
We ate in silence. He stared at me, analyzing me, and I withered under his gaze. It was uncomfortable, him watching me like prey, waiting for the right moment to pounce and bite my jugular out. Eventually, he finished his sandwich, still watching me as I worked through mine. I was barely though the sandwich, trying to find my way through the vegetables, cheeses, meats, and condiments he packed high between the two pieces of bread. I tried not to think about the predicament I was in, I always found it easier to cope with tough situations that way.
That was never the right answer, I’ve been told many times. Acknowledging the problem always got it resolved quicker. But some problems were unable to be solved by being acknowledged. I was a hostage, in a cabin, in the middle of the woods upstate, off the electrical grid. There was no reasonable solution to this situation, except to pretend it didn’t exist. I let my mind run wild while I ate that sandwich, his eyes on me. I’d be fired from my job soon enough for failing to show up. My dog would probably make a mess out of my apartment before dropping dead. My unit would be sold by the end of the month when it became clear I wasn’t there.
A thought struck me as I finished the sandwich. I put a target on my back by letting the police see me. I hoped I covered my tracks well enough, but it’d be too hard to know for certain without a laptop. I took in a breath before I spiraled into worst-case scenarios. If I got out of this alive, I’ll stop being me, go back to the man I was before until I can repeat the cycle all over again.
As he washed dishes, he kept glancing at me over his shoulder, making sure I was still in my seat at the island. I smiled at him to his irritation. He set the plates to dry and leaned against the sink, gripping the counter. “Why’ve’n’t you put up more of a fight?” He narrowed his eyes at me.
I stayed calm, taking in a breath to hide my internal panic over my face having been seen. “I realized the gravity of the situation,” I said, folded my hands near my mouth. “And maybe I’ve come to like you in the…” I looked around for a clock, “…four hours, give or take, I’ve been in your custody.”
“You’re weird,” he said, crossing his arms.
“I don’t get out much,” I answered, staring him down.
He let out a soft chuckle, moved to lean against the island. I couldn’t think it was comfortable with a gun down his pants. “Wrong place, wrong time, trying to be heroic, then?”
“Like I said before,” I stood, getting closer to him from the other side of the island. “It’s none of your business.”
He tilted his head down, and I thought I won our little stare-off, until he brought his head back up. His blue eyes seemed to have been lit on fire. In a swift motion, he had grabbed the collar of my shirt, pulling me even more forward. “I’m gonna make it my business.” He tightened his grip on my collar. “Seeing as you made yourself mine.” He searched my eyes with the cold calculating nature of a killer. I was starting to think he was lying about not killing me. “Well?” When I didn’t answer him, staying firm in my resolve not to tell him my reasons, he released me. Only to grab the top of my head and slam it into the wooden countertop. “I was being nice before,” he said as he forced my head back up.
I tasted blood on my lips and checked to see if any teeth were loose. I felt lucky I only bit the inside of my bottom lip, that my nose wasn’t broken. However, I didn’t think all my teeth, or my nose would survive another bash against the counter. “You-you were right! Wrong place, wrong time! I didn’t want you roping one of the women into your plan!” I partially lied.
He let go of my hair. I brought my hands to my face as he smiled. “Was that so hard?” He grabbed a container of sugar out of a cupboard, then a spoon, then washed his hands. “Open your mouth,” he ordered. I did what I was told, too scared of what would happen if I didn’t. He poured a small spoonful of sugar into the cut in my mouth, using his finger to guide it into the right spot. Once he was done, he wiped the blood off my face with a wet paper towel, then gave me a dry one for my bloody nose before cleaning the blood off the wooden counter. “Don’t piss me off, and you’ll be just fine,” he smiled again as I decided to finally acknowledge the situation I was in.
Caught up in a bank robbery, Soren May offers up his services to the robber, Mathias Wooten. He hopes to achieve two things after the police arrive: keep the women out of the hands of a criminal, and keep himself out of police custody for his own crimes. After getting in over his head, can Soren keep himself alive with a man he can't read, or will he succumb to the calculating gaze of Mathias and all his whims?