Chapter 1: What Just Happened?
I rounded the corner of another worn down, red brick building, trying to find my sister. We were spending some time together, eating lunch, when she suddenly disappeared. I had gone to throw our trash away and when I came back to the wooden picnic table we sat at, she was gone.
I sighed outwardly as I realized the area around me truly was deserted. My sigh was a mix of concern and frustration, but mostly annoyance. Every time we tried to spend time together, she would run off and leave me wondering what happened. I would worry sick until she would call or show up at home. Each and every time she did, I would lecture her and make her promise to never run off again.
I sounded like my mother.
Of course, I guess I had to. Haley and my parents died just a few months ago, and now I was the legal guardian of my sister. This wasn't exactly a hard task, considering the girl was 16 years old. However, with her sneaking around every night, you'd think she was a wandering toddler.
Pulling out my phone, I dialed Haley's number and waited for an answer. Of course I didn't get one, and that sent my nerves over the edge even more.
I attempted to calm myself down, thinking of everything that could have happened.
She could be out with Derek again.
That thought calmed me slightly, as it wouldn't be the first time she snuck off with him. Derek was her boyfriend, one that I didn't exactly approve of. He was years older than her and didn't have the best reputation in our small town. Haley constantly told me she was in love with him, he was a good man, they were getting married someday and so much more.
I didn't believe a word of it.
I'd only met Derek a few times, but that didn't matter. Each time I spoke with him I got a horrible feeling in my stomach. Maybe it was the possessiveness I felt for my sister, and the fact that his arm was always wrapped dangerously close to her butt. Either way, I didn't like the guy.
Despite my anxious feelings and worrying scenarios that played through my head, I knew that Derek had most likely come to pick up Haley. She never answered her phone while with him, so that would explain why my calls kept going to her voice mail.
Defeated, I started the journey home. I knew she would show up eventually, just like every other time she ran off. As far as I knew, she might be at home right now.
Letting my mind wander, I turned the corners while walking back home. I passed street sign after street sign, worn down building after worn down building. Our town was old and dusty to say the least. As I walked I planned out what I would do for the rest of the day, as I had a busy schedule. Work that evening, school the next day, my second job after school, my life was hectic. The only thing that kept me going through it, was that I knew I had to take care of Haley.
Time seemed to fly while I thought about my responsibilities, and after about 20 minutes of breathing in smoke and dirt filled air, I arrived at the door to my apartment building.
The apartment buildings we lived in strongly represented a motel and were the cheapest housing options around. I didn't particularly like living here, but it was all I could afford. Sighing, I walked up the concrete steps and opened the wooden door, only to reveal a hallway of doors leading to various apartments. I walked down the hallway and past a couple more doors, before I turned the corner to my apartment.
I gasped slightly when I saw my door was nowhere to be seen. Where my door should have been, there was a gaping hole. Cautiously I started to approach my now broken doorway. Once closer, I realized the red wooden door hung loose on the metal hinges, threatening to fall at any second. Despite my calm exterior, fear started to overcome me. Is there an intruder? Should I even go inside? Who would want to rob someone living in these apartments?
After contemplating what could be going on, I decided to wait outside my door and listen to see if I could hear anything. After waiting about ten minutes I knew the coast was clear and my house was empty. Entering through my broken doorway, a puzzling scene lay in front of me.
Judging from the door I expected my apartment to be wrecked and empty, but instead everything was in place.
Maybe the burglar saw we had nothing worth stealing? Unlikely.
I walked room to room to find everything just the way I had left it. The only difference from this morning when I locked up the house, was that there was a message waiting to be played on my old phone machine in the front room. Before I listened to the message though, I thoroughly inspected the rest of the house wanting to play it safe. Deciding it was, I sat down on my couch to listen. After pressing the worn down red button a message began to play.
Static noises. Shuffling.
“Help! Help!” a voice was whispering into the speaker. Samantha, help me. I’m so sorry I should have listened. I need you to come get me, they-
“What are you doing?” a rough male voice this time. “You little wench! How dare-“
And it was over.
I replayed the message over and over again, trying to dissect what just happened. I knew for a certainty that voice asking for help was Haley’s.
My breathing gets heavier as what I just heard began to dawn on me. Haley was in trouble, but I had no idea where she was or who she was with. I didn't even know where to start to look for her. I hadn’t recognized the male’s voice, and I couldn’t call the police because they didn’t exactly help out around this town. However, I couldn’t sit in my apartment and let anything happen to my sister either.
This could not be happening. This sort of thing was the plot to the stories I read. It didn’t actually happen in life! Was this some sort of sick joke that was being played on me?
I checked the rustic machine for a callback number. After discovering one I immediately began to dial the number.
Ring. Ring. Ring.
Oh crap, what was I going to say? Think, think, think!
“Uh, yes! I have a pizza delivery order from this number and I need the address you’re at.”
Would that work? Ugh, I'm so stupid.
“Excuse me? You have the wrong number.” The rustic male voice went to hang up the phone.
“Wait!” I shrieked into my speaker. I had to come up with something convincing before the guy at the other end of the line hung up. Reluctantly, I went with the truth.
“Okay. Truth is, I got a voicemail from my sister saying she needs help. I need to know what the hell is going on and where she is.” I tried to muster up all the courage I could and put it into those two sentences. To my surprise, I sounded rather demanding.
“Ah! Yes. We were wondering when you were going to call." The male’s voice was teasing. "Yes, yes, we have Haley. She really is a pretty thing, you know? I can’t wait to see how she fares the next couple of weeks.” The deep male’s voice continued. “Now because of the stupid stunt your sister pulled, I need you to do something so she doesn’t get hurt. You need to pretend you never got a call from her and you never spoke to me. Or else, I will kill her. Do you understand?”
“Wait! Please, please don’t kill her. I- I will do anything.” All the courage had gone and panic started to ease into my cracking voice. I imagined my sister in the hands of those monsters, probably on the verge of death. My breathing increased and I fought the urge to hyperventilate.
“Oh, don’t worry, darling. As long as you forget everything about this afternoon, no harm will come to your precious sister. I only wish she was older so we could have more fun. The older ones always sell faster too.” The voice I had come to hate started to mock into the phone. “Oh well. We will have to settle. Money is money after all, right?”
My head started to race as I thought of ways to keep my sister from harm. I couldn’t just let this man take her. Silence crept into our conversation and the man on the other end began to grow impatient.
“Do you understand me or not?”
Suddenly I had an idea. An awfully horrible and crazy one, but it would save Haley.
“Yes. Yes, I understand. Only..” I tried to steady my breath.
“Only what?” He practically screamed into my ear.
“Only you said you wanted someone older, right? Well I am three years older than my sister. My sister is very popular and her absence won’t go unnoticed. I, on the other hand, don't know very many people. If I were to go missing, no one would care.” It was true. I had always been an introvert and a sort of recluse.
“What are you playing at girl?”
“I want you to let Haley go and take me instead.”
Silence. Had he finally had enough of me and left the conversation? Dread filled my body as I crumpled to the floor. Terrifying images of Haley started to cloud my mind and tears filled my desperate eyes.
“Please! Please. I will do anything. Just please let my sister go.” Despite my efforts the desperation showed in my voice.
A new, yet strangely familiar voice appeared on the other end of the line.
“All right, Samantha. You will be at the shop at the corner of Amber and Willow Lane in an hour.”
The line went dead.
Was that Derek’s voice I had just heard?