Thursday Thriller – Rescued

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Read Part 1 – Calla

Read Part 2 – Tower

Read Part 3 – Beast

Read Part 4 – Rose

Read Part 5 – Quest

Read Part 6 – Banished

Read Part 7 – Transformation 

Calla hated hospitals.  She’d spent a good part of her childhood in them during the years her father was ill.  He died when she was thirteen.  A week after the funeral, when the phone had stopped ringing, when the neighbors had stopped coming by, when the house was closed-in and empty, stinking of days-0ld casseroles and wilting flowers, she poured herself a drink.  A whiskey.  Her mother was distracted by her grief, inconsolable, locked in her bedroom.  The alcohol was like fire going down Calla’s throat, but she drank every drop.  When the glass was empty, she poured another.  And another.  After she finished the bottle, she felt this delicious oblivion, like nothing could ever hurt her again.  She fell in love with the feeling, chasing it desperately for the next decade.  Her mother had tried, for years, to drag her back from it, to save her, but the pull was too strong.

Now Calla sat in another hospital, waiting for news of Edgar.  Catherine was beside her, her legs jittering nervously, her steely eyes facing the doorway of the waiting room.  She’d advised Edgar against having the surgery.  She’d spent the past few months trying to talk him out of it, but he was determined.  Even with the growth removed his face still wouldn’t look normal.  There was much work to do.  But this was the biggest hurdle.

Ash snoozed away in the baby seat at her feet.  All of their things, the ones she wanted to take with her anyway, were packed away in the trunk of her car in the parking lot.  Edgar had gifted her with a shiny new BMW a month before, thinking she was so far under his control that she’d never dare drive beyond the town’s limits.  How wrong he’d been.  She said her goodbyes him earlier as he laid in his hospital bed, right before they’d taken him into surgery.  Catherine had just left the room, leaving Edgar and Calla to sit in silence, the only sound being Ash happily gurgling in Calla’s arms.

“I would have helped you, you know,” Calla blurted out.  Edgar’s head whipped around.  He looked at her, startled.

“What do you mean?”

“I would have been a friend to you.  I would have agreed to help you.”  She wiped away a tear.  “I was so lonely then.  That’s what I was thinking about that day, at the exact moment you grabbed me, how lonely I was.  How sick I was of being alone.  I would have killed for anyone, a stranger, to just…notice me.”  She sniffed, shifting Ash on her lap.  “You didn’t have to do what you did.  You didn’t have to hurt me…”

“You would have taken one look at me and laughed…”

“I wouldn’t have.  I know what it’s like to be trapped.  I was trapped long before we ever crossed paths.”

She looked at his face, one of the few times she’d been able to see him without his mask.  Whether he’d ever admit it out loud, she knew he believed her.

“What about Rose?”  Calla continued.  “Why did you have to kill her?  You got what you wanted.  Me.  A marriage.  An heir…”

“She humiliated me.  Stole from me.  No one does that.” He snarled, turning to face the wall.

“She meant you no harm.  She just wanted to start over.  You hurt her over and over again but she refused to turn you in, even when I begged her to come to the authorities with me.  That’s the kind of person she was…”

“She was nobody.  Just like you.”

No one is looking for you.  His first words to her came back in a flash.

“When you come home, I won’t be there.”  She rose from the chair as Edgar turned toward her again, his bulging eyes filling with tears.  Calla was unmoved.  She was afraid, more afraid than she was the day she’d been taken even, but she had to try.  Ash couldn’t be raised in that house.

*

Dr. Knight, Edgar’s surgeon, entered the waiting room, a grave expression on her face that told Calla and Catherine all they needed to know.  Catherine began to wail, a horrible, keening sound that filled the room.  Calla felt nothing.  Just the anchor that had burrowed in the pit of her stomach long ago finally lifting.

Dr. Knight pulled Catherine to her feet and embraced her.  “I’m sorry,” she whispered.  “We knew the risks…”    Catherine nodded and sobbed into the doctor’s shoulder, muttering words Calla couldn’t understand.  Calla couldn’t bring herself to comfort her.

Once Catherine had calmed a bit, Dr. Knight moved to Calla, hugging her as well.  Calla found it all a bit strange.  The doctors that had all treated her father seemed detached when they delivered this news, like they couldn’t wait to get away from that room, the sounds of grief.   When Dr. Knight released her, she noticed a faint scar, pale pink, jagged, hardly noticeable unless one really looked closely, along the side of her neck, and held in a gasp.

What has she survived?  Was she outside, when I spoke to Edgar?  Did she hear? Did she…?

Dr. Knight’s eyes met Calla’s briefly, then she squeezed her hand and briskly left the room, disappearing into the busy corridor.

*

Calla turned down a road that was so familiar to her she could close her eyes and still remember every curve and bump in the asphalt.  She stopped in front of a modest house, red brick with dark green shutters, one-story, a driveway stained with oil and full of potholes.  She saw the blinds move, a pair of eyes peeking out.  Calla scooped up Ash and made her way up the drive.  The front door flew open before she even reached the porch.  Her mother put her hands to her mouth, her eyes watering as she laid eyes on her grandson.  She looked at her daughter.  Taking in her clear eyes, her healthy appearance.  Calla put her hand on her mother’s face.  Her skin was so soft, like Calla remembered, and warm.

“Mom,” she said with a bright smile.  “This is Ash.”

THE END

 

 

 

Thursday Thriller – Rose

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Read Part 1 – Calla

Read Part 2 – Tower

Read Part 3 – Beast

Calla pressed her lips together as her eyes ran over every inch of his face. Thick, jet black hair fell over his forehead, which was unnaturally white. He had an unusual nose, the bridge starting in the middle of his forehead and coming to a peak several inches above his lips, leaving a wide gap between his nose and mouth. Wet, blue eyes bulged out of their sockets and were lopsided, the left eye being much lower than the other. A grotesque-looking patch of skin under his right eye was engorged with blood and pulsating, as though it were filled with hundreds of tiny, slithering worms. Edgar stared at her, awaiting her reaction. She managed a tiny smile, and whispered, “It doesn’t change a thing.”

It was true.

The answer seemed to satisfy both of them, who moved on to their favorite subject – money. Calla stopped listening, her mind back on the woman who’d just disappeared into the kitchen.

The days dragged onward without much variation. Each day Calla spent much of her time alone while Edgar was wandering through the other, restricted, wings of the crumbling mansion, doing who knew what. The only thing that had changed – her bedroom door was no longer locked. She could move freely about one wing of the house, which meant that in addition to the bedroom, she had access to the dining room, kitchen, and library. It mattered little. All the doors that led to the other wings of the house, and the outside, were locked.

Every evening at dinner, Edgar chose another old-fashioned, unflattering, ill-fitting dress for her to wear. They spoke little, Calla living in constant fear of displeasing him. She wore the evidence of his displeasure on her skin. When she didn’t dress and come down to dinner quickly enough, when he didn’t like her answer to one of his questions, when her appearance didn’t meet his expectations, he vented his anger, violently, painfully.

The only bright spot in her days, besides her long afternoons in the library, was her time spent with Rose, the only servant caring for the sprawling property. She was a few years older than Calla, with the beginnings of soft lines etching her olive-skinned face. She had huge dark brown eyes even sadder than Calla’s, and chestnut hair scattered with gray that she always wore in a no-nonsense bun. Calla helped Rose with her work, and in return, Rose gave her information.  The first thing she learned – Rose was as trapped as she. She’d shown up to the mansion one winter day, inquiring about a job, and been attacked by Edgar and locked away. She was only allowed off the property once per month to go into town for supplies. Just like Calla, she’d been disowned by her family. No one was looking for her. It had been 10 years.

It was obvious to Rose that Catherine, Edgar’s mother, had no intention of ever giving her son his share of the family fortune in her lifetime. She never expected Edgar find a wife. And now that Calla was in the picture, she had no choice but to up the ante. She wanted an heir. Edgar hadn’t mentioned his mother’s words since that first horrible night, but Calla knew he would. She could feel him. Thinking about it. It was a matter of time. Whenever she thought of it, she felt the bile rising in her throat.

“Why don’t you run? The next time you get to leave?” Calla asked Rose morning they scrubbed windows in the kitchen side by side, looking out at the sunrise.

“Where?”

Calla said nothing. But that night at dinner, she grabbed a steak knife and stabbed Edgar through the arm. As he screamed and bled she swiped the keys from his pocket and ran for the door, holding her breath.

Part 5 – Quest

Thursday Thriller – Beast

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Read Part 1 – Calla

Read Part 2 – Tower

The dress was cutting off her circulation.  The bodice dug into her ribs, the aged fabric irritating her skin.  She’d done her best to make herself appealing.  To be pleasing.  The image of his blurred fist barreling toward her played over and over in her head, making her chest tighten.  She’d dusted her copper skin with shimmery powder, painted her lips and eyelids.  Fluffed her dark curls.  Covered the dark blue bruise on her temple with concealer. She looked like a stranger when she saw herself in the mirror.  A character out of a movie.  She had a feeling that’s what he wanted.

When he’d returned to the bedroom, demanding that she accompany him to dinner, he’d explained that his mother was visiting, that she had certain expectations and he expected her cooperation.  But he offered no further details.

The dining room was dark, the walls painted an unpleasant shade of green that reminded Calla of baby vomit, lined with dusty oil paintings of stern-looking men and women she assumed were his ancestors.  A huge candelabra sitting on the table was the only illumination. There was a woman already seated.  She was older, refined, hair grayed at the temples and swept up into a bun, diamonds hanging from her ears and sparkling from her neck.

“Oh Edgar, she’s just perfect!”  The woman rushed to her, brushing a cold hand against Calla’s cheek.  “Welcome to the family, my dear.”

Calla choked on her next breath and Edgar’s grip on her arm tightened.  She suppressed a cry of pain as the strange woman placed a dry kiss on her cheek.  As they sat at the elegantly set table in the center of the room, the woman exclaimed, “This is all I wanted to see! You married, settled, building a family.  I refused to allow you access to your share of the family fortune before only for you to squander it on frivolous pursuits…”

“Like what, Mother?”

As they argued, all Calla could hear, repeating over and over, was the word married.  This man, this Edgar, along with his mother, were truly deluded.

“…now we just need an heir…”

The sound of Edgar’s fist pounding the table stopped his mother in mid-sentence.  “That wasn’t what we agreed to.  You always said when I was married you would turn over the funds to me.”

“Things change,” she said with a sigh, unimpressed by Edgar’s outburst.  “So many young couples divorce these days with hardly a thought.  A baby.  That’s what makes a family.  An heir.  Another generation of Henry’s.”  She looked wistful for a moment, before regaining her composure.  “Of course, I’m willing to release a portion of your inheritance now.  Consider it a wedding gift.  Despite the fact that you eloped.  How dreadful…”

A servant bustled out of the kitchen carrying an armful of dishes, her head down, back hunched.  They were silent as she quickly served them, then exited the room.  Calla wondered if she lived on the property or elsewhere.  If there was some way to get a signal to her, to let her know she needed help.

“And Edgar,” his mother admonished as soon as the servant had left the room.  “Take that awful mask off.  I want to see your face.”

Edgar looked at Calla, his eyes questioning.  Calla had no idea what was expected of her in response.

“If she truly loves you, she’ll love you as you are.”

Edgar relented, slowly slipping the mask over his head and dropping it to the floor.  He turned to Calla, who held in a gasp.

My favorite prompt during Story A Day in May was Rewrite a Fairy Tale, so I decided to tackle it again, this time with Beauty and the Beast in a serial form. 

Read Part 4 – Rose

Thursday Thriller – Tower

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Read Part 1 – Calla

No one is looking for me.  

Those words sat like an anchor in the pit of Calla’s stomach because she knew how true they were.  The result of years of lies, stealing from her family and her friends to feed her lengthy addiction, the blackness that had possessed her mind and body for more than a decade.  Everyone had cut her off.  Even her mother, who no longer took her calls, who pulled the blinds closed when her daughter’s car came up the drive.  She was completely alone.  And he knew.  He’d been watching.

She’d awoken in a locked bedroom, where she’d remained for hours.  There was a huge four poster bed with an ornate carving in the mahogany headboard.  A family crest.  The bed was laden with a thick rich purple duvet with gold stitching.  A dress from another time, scarlet red with a tight bodice, puffed sleeves and full skirt was lying across the bed, with a note, commanding her to put it on. There was a window directly across from the bed, bolted shut.  She could see no signs of life outside.  Just a neglected garden, overrun with weeds, a white van parked in the bushes.  Screaming would do her no good.

There was also a bookshelf in the corner, stocked with all of her favorites, even a connecting bathroom with a luxurious vanity and whirlpool bath.  He wanted her to be comfortable, locked away, waiting for whatever he had planned.

The locks clicked open.  The knob began to turn.  Calla slowly backed away until she was pressed against the wall, feeling foolish and frightened.  There was nowhere to run.  The man stepped inside, dressed in formal attire – all black, a well-tailored suit.  His face was covered with a white mask, but she could see his eyes were steely and blue.

“Why aren’t you dressed?”  His baritone voice was cold, even-toned as he stepped closer.

She wanted to cower but she stood tall, her eyes meeting his.  “I won’t do what you ask.  I’m not playing this…this…game…whatever it is…just so you can kill me…”  The blow seemed to come out of nowhere.  His fist was a blur, barreling into the side of her head with a force that made her dizzy.  She crumpled to the floor, blood trickling down the side of her head to the carpet, as he leaned over to whisper into her ear.

“You will do everything that I ask!”  He stood, straightening his jacket.  “Clean yourself up.  Get dressed.”

The door slammed behind him.  Calla curled up into a ball, making herself as tiny as possible.  Though she knew no one was listening, she screamed.

Part 3 – Beast 

My favorite prompt during Story A Day in May was Rewrite a Fairy Tale, so I decided to tackle it again, this time with Beauty and the Beast in a serial form. 

Thursday Thriller – Calla

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If Calla had known this would be her last moment of freedom for two years, she would have taken a second to look at the sunset. It was an especially gorgeous one that day. Purples and oranges and reds swirling the sky, the sun an amber orb disappearing behind a lush line of trees. But she was thinking of other things – the daily uphill battle of her sobriety, the dirtbag ex she still loved who’d just left town without saying goodbye, how she would get through another sleepless night alone in her dingy apartment without a drink.

It happened so fast. She only caught a glimpse of his face before the hood covered her head. Enough to see that it was abnormal, disturbingly so. She clawed and screamed as she was tossed into the back of a van like cargo, the doors locked swiftly. How could no one see? Hear her screams? Was she that invisible?

She bounced around painfully against the hard surface as the van rumbled over jagged, bumpy roads. The ride lasted so long, her screaming until her voice gave out, she wondered if they were even in the same state when the van came to a final stop.

The doors opened again. She still couldn’t see, but knew it had to be night. The air felt cool; the song of crickets filled the silence as he dragged her outside and tossed her over his shoulder as though she weighed nothing. The fight was out of her. She tried other tactics. Pleading. Compassion. And when those failed – manipulation.

“There will be people looking for me,” she whispered, the loudest she could manage. “They’ve probably already called the police.”

There was a cruel twist to his laughter. “Calla,” he said as she heard the sound of a creaky door opening. “We both know that no one is looking for you. It’s why you were chosen.”

She felt a pinch, then all went black.

Read Part 2 – Tower

 

My favorite prompt during Story A Day in May was Rewrite a Fairy Tale, so I decided to tackle it again, this time with Beauty and the Beast in a serial form. 

Breath

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We left her behind.  The baby Willa took.  Willa was beside herself, clawing at me, pulling at her clothes, her hair, begging to take the child with us.  But I won’t inflict that pain on anyone else.

They will be looking for her soon.  It won’t take long for the authorities to connect the dots that lead straight to our home.   We have to run.

Willa isn’t well.  The truth is unavoidable now.  It’s no longer hiding, the storm just beneath the surface of our marriage.  She will never recover from our loss.  I should get her help.  I should.  A better man would.  But I won’t survive without Willa.  She is the breath in my lungs.  I will watch her.  I will keep her from wandering.

We stop to rest, and I fall asleep with her in my arms, exhaling softly against my chest.  In the morning, her side of the bed is cold once again.

 

For Story a Day and the Daily Post using characters from yesterday’s story.

Thursday Thriller – Reunion

 

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Read Part 1 – Wallflower

Read Part 2 – Smoke

Read Part 3 – Fury 

Present Day

As I watch Cat and Charles, I think back to my escape from that burning house.  The violent pain in my leg, which I limped on painfully through the woods until I reached the main road.  Hitching to Alma’s house and grabbing the rest of my saved cash.  Starting over.

I keep drinking, thinking I need the liquid courage, but it only weakens my resolve.  I’m going to go home. I finally conclude.  Why am I even here?  I ask myself.  What’s done is done.  I have a good, if dull, life now.  Everyone’s moved on and it’s time I did too.

In the parking lot, I’m trying to decide if I’m good to drive or if I need to call someone, when a pair of powerful hands grabs me from behind.

I wake up in the trunk of a moving car.  My mouth is taped.  I’m not afraid, just angry and humiliated.  I’d been so foolish, thinking I was going to out all of them to the community, ruin their lives, make them suffer the way I had.

The car stops, and the trunk opens shortly after.  Cat’s face is the first one I see.  Meredith, Tommy, Laura, and Charles surround her.  Cat’s crying softly.  A gun gleams in the moonlight from Tommy’s hand.

“I never meant for any of this to happen, Casey.  I’m sorry.”  Cat tells me through her tears.  I look at her, making eye contact, and I nod.  I forgive her.  I forgive them all.  Why not?  I never really existed anyway.  None of it matters.  No one will look for me when I’m gone.

Charles looks at the ground as Meredith leans into the trunk, her lips snarled.  “You should have stayed away.  We won’t let you ruin everything we’ve all worked for.”

Tommy steps closer, until the gun is almost pressed against my temple.  I close my eyes, wanting it to be over, when I hear a scream.

“No!” Cat yells, knocking the gun from Tommy’s hand.  It goes off, grazing Meredith’s shoulder.  During the ensuing confusion, Cat pulls me from the trunk and we race deep into the woods as more gunshots sound in the distance.  I look at Cat, adrenaline churning through my veins, and, even though I have every reason not to, I smile.  No matter what happens, we are Cat-n-Casey once again.

 

 

Hope

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Everyday she watched the keys attached to his belt.   As she listened to the clanging just outside the door, the unlatching of multiple locks, she wasn’t sure how many, she fingered the shard of broken glass she kept hidden behind her cot.  It had been there for months.  It would be her salvation.

She could see it in her mind, she played it over and over.  Her brandishing the weapon, attacking him swiftly.  His shriek of surprise, then labored moans of agony.  Her grabbing the keys, opening the locks, running from the decrepit shed, the home that had been forced upon her for months.  Shouting.  Fresh air on her dirty face, jagged rocks under her feet.  Free.

He was in.  He turned and locked the door behind him, as he always did.  This was her chance.  But too quickly, he turned to face her, the doors secured behind him, wearing that same detached, sinister expression.

Minutes later, she listened to him locking the doors outside.  It began to rain as her dinner grew cold at her feet.  She reached for the shard again.  It felt so heavy in her hands.

For Sunday Photo Fiction

Thursday Thriller – Perfect

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Read Part One – Awakening 

Four Years Ago…

There was a perfect family that lived in the house on the corner lot.  The Stephensons.  The wife was young and beautiful, with a tiny waist and a huge shiny smile, adorned with a gorgeous wedding ring that always glinted in the sun.  The husband was handsome and broad-shouldered.  He liked to swoop his wife in the air in the front yard and swing her in his arms as though she were weightless.  Her musical laughter could be heard throughout the neighborhood.  People always stopped and smiled.  Zadie and Robert, they thought to themselves enviously, what a couple! Their son, Noah, was their pride and joy.  So young, but such ambition!  And so smart.  Gorgeous, just like his father with his mother’s bright smile.

It was a placid Saturday afternoon.  Zadie was lying on a lounger in the backyard, sipping lemon water as she read Town and Country.  Her lips left a perfect red stain on the straw.  Robert and Noah were playing catch.  Noah had to perfect his spiral if he wanted to make varsity in the fall.

“Noah!”  Zadie called across the yard.  “Did you finish your chores?”

“Yes, mom!”

All of them?”  Zadie pressed.  Noah sighed heavily, and he and his father exchanged a knowing smile.  Women, they both seemed to be thinking as they smiled at each other.

“No, mom.  I’ll do my last one.”

“Thank you, dear.”

Noah dropped the football on the brilliant green grass and ran inside.  He prepared a quick lunch, a sandwich, fruit and lemonade, and arranged the items on a tray, then grabbed the key from the desk in the front hallway.  He ran down the back stairs to the basement, then unlocked another door.   A heavy, dark door, that opened with a loud creak.  There was a girl sitting against a bare mattress pressed against the far wall.  She was sickly and pale, but strangely beautiful, in an alien, other-worldly sort of way.  Her belly swelled in front of her.  There was an angry, red laceration on her cheek, evidence of her last escape attempt, crawling through a broken basement window.  The shattered glass tore at her skin.  Noah set the plate in front of her in silence and turned to leave.

“Noah?” She whispered.

He turned, reluctantly.  It hurt to look at her.  “Yeah, Grace?”

“Do you think I can come out today?”

“I’m not sure, Grace.  I’ll ask Mom and Dad.”

“Okay.”

Noah’s shoulders drooped as he locked the door behind him.  He’d stopped asking long ago.  Their answer had always been no.

He needn’t have worried.  It was the screaming that undid them.  The horrid, chilling, blood-curdling cries of suffering.  A passerby, just someone on an evening stroll with their dog, heard the sounds and called the police.

Robert swore that the screaming wasn’t coming from their home, that it must be someone next door, someone outside, but the officers were persistent.  They followed the noise, down the dark hallway and the dark steps, through the cobwebbed door, the sounds getting louder and louder.  They banged down the door, and there she was.  Or there they were.   There was Grace, Robert’s and Zadie’s oldest child.  Lying on a blood-soaked mattress, holding a very small newborn infant.

Robert was taken away immediately.  Grace and the baby to the hospital.  Zadie and Noah to the police station for questioning.  Zadie, an adept liar, made up an elaborate story of torture and abuse at the hands of her husband, rendering her too fearful to rescue her poor, defenseless daughter from the hands of her monstrous husband.  Noah refused to talk to the police, but quickly moved across the country to live with relatives.  He never spoke to his parents again.

Grace was sent to a facility for long-term treatment.  Robert was convicted of false imprisonment, rape, and a host of other perversions, sentenced to decades behind bars.  That left Zadie.  And the baby, a girl.  Named Elly.  Zadie, again, an adept liar, used her skills of persuasion to gain custody.  When the social worker placed her in her arms, the baby cooed.

“I’m going to get things right with you, I promise,” she told her.

Read Part 3 – Elly