Simplicity

Steven was confused. For the first time in a long time, Steven actually felt like he was loved. He actually cared about someone. Her name was Janet. The only problem was that she was a felon. The night before, an FBI agent had approached Steven and told him that she was a crazed serial killer: an expert at deception that targeted lonely, isolated men. In Steven’s small town of Sandy, Utah, the usual crimes consisted of loitering and jay walking. An FBI investigation like this would be something to talk about.

As Steven got ready for another monotonous day as an accountant for the family-owned Prince Paper Company, he heard footsteps at his apartment door. He panicked. What if it was Janet? How would he act around her? Would he be able to stay calm? Then the door bell rang. He couldn’t decide what to do. Finally, he gathered himself and slowly crept towards the ominous door. When he opened it, he looked into the somewhat familiar face of an older yet ominously large man.

“Steven Ivey?” asked the man in a deep, hoarse voice, “The name’s Joe. FBI Salt Lake City. Do you mind accompanying me to my vehicle?” Steven didn’t have a choice. The man could’ve easily picked up the slender figure that was Steven, so it wasn’t worth the fight.
When Steven entered the black, unmarked van outside, he was met by the curious glances of another, much younger, man. The older man, his eyes cemented on Steven, also intently observed him as he buckled up in the backseat. Even though the younger man’s glances seemed harmless and simply out of curiosity, the older man reminded Steven of a bad cop from a 90’s action film or TV show.
“I’m sorry we’ve not been able to really meet yet, Mr. Ivey. I’m agent number 563 of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. You can call me Joe for short. I choose not to reveal my real name for personal security reasons. Anyway, we feel that you are not safe living here and would like to move you to an undisclosed location.”
“What about my job?” questioned Steven.
“Uh, yeah, we took care of that, and for security reasons, they think you’re sick and can’t work,” nervously replied the agent.
“Alright, I guess it doesn’t really matter to me,” Steven mumbled quietly, still relieved of the fact that he was under the protection of the United States government. No one else spoke the rest of the drive.
After about ten minutes in the van, they finally came to a stop. When they climbed out of the packed back seat of the van, Steven looked at an abandoned apartment complex in front of him. Once in the room, which was also very plain, Steven observed that it just contained the absolute necessities. The agent gave him a brief tour of what there actually was inside, but seemed to avoid going down a certain hallway off to the left. Steven assumed that it was just an empty hallway, so he didn’t think to ask about it. After the tour was over, Joe and the still unidentified younger man went grocery shopping for the week, leaving Steven alone in his apartment without any way of leaving the confined area.


Steven was bored. Even more so, Steven was exasperated. He didn’t understand why he had been forced into this complicated situation, unable to continue his daily life. While relaxing on the bare sofa, the only piece of furniture in the room, Steven heard the air conditioning shut off. On this sweltering summer day, Steven needed the AC and went to go turn it back on. However, Steven didn’t know for sure where the thermostat actually was, so he decided to go look for one.
After about five minutes of looking around, Steven noticed the hallway off to the left. At the end of the unlit corridor, Steven came to what looked to be a boiler room. It was locked. Needing the key to open the door, Steven started in the kitchen and went through every drawer he could. Unsuccessful with his search, Steven was forced to just deal with the sweaty temperatures.
After his search, Steven was thirsty and decided to pour himself a glass of water. When he pressed on the ice cube machine, nothing came out. Instead, he heard something get jammed in the upper compartment. Upon opening the fridge, Steven reached his hand down the ice cube slot. Immediately, Steven felt the problem. In the machine, there was a slender black box which had been chewed up by the ice cube grinder. Inside, Steven found the answer to his problem: a shiny key. But Steven was even more confused now. He couldn’t understand why someone would go through so much trouble to hide a simple boiler room key. More concerned about the temperature, Steven stumbled back down the hall to the now ominous door.



Sliding the key into the slot, Steven immediately felt the sharp click and knew the key fit. However, inside, instead of pipes like Steven had expected, there was a stocky file cabinet plopped in the middle of the open floor. With nothing better to do, Steven started to dig through the many folders and important looking papers. Finally,
Steven reached the final drawer and slid it open. Again, he found more important looking papers. This time however, something caught Steven’s eye. Janet’s name appeared on all the papers. Another word that appeared often…. “DIVORCE COURT.” These papers intrigued Steven as Janet had never mentioned a previous relationship to him. The papers, many of them transcripts and records from the trials and court reviews, seemed tense and violent. Further down in the drawer, Steven found a picture…a picture of Janet and the so called FBI agent together at a beach. As Steven further examined the old photograph, he discovered writing on the back….

“Oh, What Could Have Been”

There was also a large, red “X” across Janet’s young face. The only other item in the drawer was an automatic pistol: a silencer extending the barrel of the weapon. Steven quickly grabbed the weapon and stood up to run to the door.
Upon bolting from the room, Steven felt an excruciating pain shoot through his body. Looking at his leg, Steven saw two wires running back to a hand-held taser. The last thing Steven saw was the face of the crazed agent, heavily breathing over the top of Steven.


The older man dragged Steven down the steps as he was still immobile. In the van awaited the younger man, and together, they transported Steven to some type of headquarters that seemed to be close by. To prevent Steven from trying to escape, they blocked the windows of the van which didn’t allow him to see out and he lost his bearings. When the van stopped, the drivers got out and left Steven alone in the vehicle. A little later, Steven regained control, but he was still shaky. Looking at the door handle, he assumed it was locked, but he tried the handle just in case. It was open. Steven swung the back door open and looked out. Steven, his leg still somewhat sore, intently watched as the two men began to walk away.
“Dad,” the unidentified face questioned, “What are we gonna do with the man in the back?”

“Oh, he’ll be out here in a few minutes. I’m sure he’s gonna love to meet you.”
Steven couldn’t move; the shock re-paralyzing him. Had Janet also had a son?

Suddenly, almost superhuman like, yet a bit off kilter, the older man swirled around: eyes already focused on Steven. Steven tried to run. However, Steven couldn’t move, his legs seemed to still be immobile from the shock and he couldn’t bring himself to try to escape. All of a sudden the men raced towards Steven and threw him onto the cool garage floor. They dragged him across the garage and into an awaiting chair. Now both standing over him, they began to inform him of their meticulously crafted plan.

“My name is Robert. Robert DeVille. This is my son, Patrick. Two years ago, I was married to Janet. Together, we were happy, passionate, and successful. Until she left me. Left us. I mean, of course we had a fight, but her immediate abandonment of our family was unexpected and sudden. She left our family without a mother and husb…” The man’s words started to run into jumbled sentences and illogical phrases. Steven’s mind was blank. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He wouldn’t believe what he was hearing. Janet was loyal. Janet was compassionate. But most importantly…Janet was his.


Later on that day, the men came back and unstrapped a sleeping Steven. They viciously awoke him and showed him to the bathroom and instructed him to get ready for his date.
“What date?” Steven questioned, confused about what was going on.
“Did I forget to tell you?” replied Robert, a sly smirk on his face. “You have a date with Janet tonight: Silver Dollar, seven o’clock.”
Steven went cold. He lost emotion. Only one thing ran through his mind. What did they have planned?
Slowly, Steven began to undress. His face remained emotionless and his skin remained icy cold with distress. Even though the water in the shower was probably hotter than he had ever had it before, and his sore left leg seemed to be healed by the scorching temperature, his frozen blood couldn’t thaw.

Still shell-shocked, Steven slowly shaved his scraggly beard, brushed his dirty teeth, and put on a shirt and tie that were laid out for him. For the first time within the past few days, Steven was able to remove the coat of filth that had recently settled over him. He felt better.
He gathered himself and retook his seat in the back of the van. Although it was only five thirty, the men insisted on being early to avoid being seen. He kept running possible situations through his head. He didn’t know what they were after. Judging by the bloodshot eyes and whiskey stained shirt, Steven could tell this man had been hurt by Janet. Therefore he would want to hurt her. Whatever, it was, Steven would have to protect Janet.


“Steven!” she jubilantly exclaimed, “How are you? You haven’t returned any of my calls.”

“I’m so sorry. I’ve been swamped with work recently and have had no free time,” answered Steven reluctantly. He assumed there was some sort of microphone or surveillance device embedded in his clothes.

“Oh well, let’s eat, I’m starved.”

Steven had to think quickly. He knew that if he went sprinting out, it would give the men an easy target. He would have to find a way to bring them to him instead.

“You know what? I’m starved, too. Let’s start with salads, honey.”





________

“What is he thinking?” angrily fumed Robert. “He knows that he has no chance of winning this game.”

“Maybe he’s just hungry,” joked the son. Robert didn’t smile.





________


After the chocolate cake, Steven ordered another cup of coffee. Robert’s eyes lit up with rage. He leapt out of his seat and slashed at the dashboard with frustration.



“Stay here!”
Robert bounded to the door, ripped his assault rifle out of its position on the wall and flew out the back. Worried about what was going on, the son watched the video screen of the restaurant from the van. After only a few moments, Robert appeared at the door. Unnoticed by the restaurant patrons, Robert held his gun in the hair and fired four times. Everyone screamed. However, the son couldn’t find either Steven or Janet, his mother, on the screen. The table where they had been, a dark corner booth, was empty.

“Tap! Tap! Tap!”

The son whirled around in his chair. Slowly, he crept to the back of the van and timidly interrogated, “Who is it?”

“Honey, it’s me.”
Could it really be? He hadn’t heard his mother’s voice in over seven years. Slowly, he slid back the door. However, instead of the warm, comforting hug he was expecting, he was met by a violent tackle, knocking him to the floor of the van. Steven quickly drew the concealed pistol out of his pocket and held it against the son’s neck.

“Wait! No! Stop!” screamed the terrified boy. “What do you want?”

“Get up!”

Slowly, he rose to his feet, hands in the air.

“Start the car!”

He slid the keys into the ignition.

“What’s going on?” he asked nervously, “Where’s Dad?”

“Dad is inside. We have to leave without him, sweetheart,” Janet replied calmly.

The boy’s eyes glittered. For the first time in seven years, his mother was comforting him in his time of need.

Steven started the car. Without much hurry, but with approaching sirens in the distance, they drove out of the parking lot and onto the main road.
A new, yet tightly bonded, family…there was nothing confusing about it. Steven, once again, felt loved.





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