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A Spring Break Gone Bad

By , Chatham, NJ

    The hot Arizona sun sizzled against the gloomy and deserted Interstate 17 for a final moment that day as it sank back beneath the mountains. “Well, I'll be d----- if we see another living thing out here besides a cactus or a sand lizard,” Scott said, imitating the tongue of the locals they met back at the last rest stop, where they had filled up on gas and snacks. “What a place they have up here.” Scott started sarcastically, “All the locals are a bunch of weird creepos and there's nothing to do out here but kick a rock in the sand, if you’re lucky enough to find one.”
    “Would you knock it off? We’re still a good two hours away, and the campsite won't be like this. It’ll be good fun,” Matt insisted.
    “Yeah, I'm sure sleeping in a tent with a bunch of other strange hillbillies will be fun,” Scott giggled.
    “Don't do that. Don't pretend you don't know how camping works. The campsite is just outside the Grand Canyon, and we all bring our own tents and gear. We don't sleep in the same tents as strangers,” Matt replied.
“Matt, I was talking about your parents.”
The car swerved as Matt reached across the seat and smacked Scott across the backside of the head as both boys broke into laughter. “Look Scotty, I know that spending spring break with my parents and four annoying thirteen year old girls seems a little lame-”
“Don't forget the part about sleeping in a tent and pooping off a cliff,” Scott added obnoxiously.
“-but; if you open your mind to it you might actually have a little fun. It might be nice to get away from the city and girls and school and really just everything,” Matt insisted.
“Oh yeah, you're totally right buddy. I think spending some valuable vacation time away from epic parties and instead spending it with my best friend’s parents and little sister and her annoying friends sounds like a great idea,” Scott said, rolling his eyes and then snorting noisily, “are you forgetting that I'm a city guy! I've never been out of the city, I hate being out of the city!” Scott paused, “I can't believe you dragged me along on this stupid trip. We’ve missed one party already!”
“You know what? If you don't like it I can turn this car around,” Matt barked back.
Suddenly, the odometer rose quickly from 60 MPH to somewhere around 75 and the speed continued to increased. Matt dabbed the accelerator a few times, only to find out that he had lost control of the car completely, except the steering. There was a huge bump as the back right tire flew off and the car continued unevenly belting down the interstate. The metal on concrete made a horrible impact and sound as sparks flew off behind the car. Finally, as Scott froze in his seat, terrified, Matt came to his senses and grabbed hold of the wheel, steering it off the road and into the sandy desert, where the increase in speed reversed. On instinct, Matt swung open the door and dove out of the car, just before it slammed into a cactus, shattering the windshield and badly damaging the front of the car.
Matt lay on the ground for the slightest moment, his ears ringing and his brain scrambling for sense of the world around him. He had worked in an autobody shop and knew that cars didn't just lose steering like this. Suddenly, he recalled the terror on Scott’s face as the time to the possibly fatal collision neared. Although he did not yet know the extent of Scott’s injuries and also the extent of his own wounds, Matt shambled around the back of the car and up to the passenger's window as fast as his condition would allow. To his relief, the door swung open and a slightly unrecognizable Scott dropped out of the seat into the sand. The arm of the cactus that had punched through the windshield stood inches away from where Scott should have been sitting, any farther to the left and the pointed end would have skewered him. Matt thought that he walked away from the crash with pretty bad injuries, that is, until he saw Scott. Scott had cuts and bits of glass up and down his legs, his pants were torn and his shirt ripped, with a huge gash in his left arm where the cactus had scraped right through him-- almost down to the bone. But the worst was the permanent scar he’d wear from the tip of his nose up through a part of his buzzed head, which was the result of a razor sharp chunk of glass slicing through his face and part of his scalp. Matt’s injuries, which included scraped elbows and knees, slightly tattered clothes, and the single piece of glass that dug into his calf seemed like nothing to Scott’s, who was smeared in warm blood nearly head to toe.
Scott lie in the sand, bloody and only half conscious, as Matt spluttered gibberish and motioned towards the trunk. He stumbled back and fell to the ground just as Scott sat up and hurled in the sand behind him. Matt soon followed and eventually both boys got into a rhythm of continuously vomiting and occasionally coughing up blood. Finally, after they had rid their stomachs of everything, the boys lied down once again, being careful of the tender spots on their backs. Matt didn't realize yet that the reason for his vomiting was actually a bad concussion and whiplash he had gotten from face-planting out of the car, while Scott was vomiting more because of the trauma of being in the car during the crash. The cool sand and night sky put Matt into a trance, and lying there on the ground, Matt drifted off to sleep.
Matt awoke suddenly and miserably. As he jerked forward, a sharp pain shot down from his head to his spine, sending his body into a brief but agonizing spasm. It took him a few seconds to remember what had happened and to remember how he’d gotten to wherever he was, in which he was not quite sure of yet. Matt took a quick glance down at his injuries and recognized the purple tape and bandages that had been used on his wounds as items from the first aid kit in the trunk of his car. As Matt reached full consciousness, and truly awoke from his deep slumber, he came to notice that something else was odd. He half expected to wake up in a nearby hospital, but that wasn't quite how it turned out. He was hanging upside down, tied by rope to the ceiling of a mysterious and nearly pitch-black garage.
“Oh look, Mr. Sleepyhead finally woke up,” Scott mocked.
“Scott would you shut up and get us out of here!” Matt barked, annoyed that Scott even chose to be an imbecile at a time like this.
“Sure, Matt ol’ buddy. I think that's a great idea. Why don't we just magically break the ropes, somehow get the lock off of the giant metal door in the back, overpower the serial killer and his creepy little girlfriend that I’m sure you’ll remember from the gas station, and walk 20 miles to the nearest police station!” Scott hissed sarcastically. Matt, ignoring Scott’s snippy remark, quickly instructed Scott to swing toward him with his tied hands facing out. As Scott swung himself, Matt grabbed the rope on Scott's hands with his mouth, and yanked on the poorly done knot, sending the rope onto the dusty floor below. With his hands free, Scott, under the instruction of Matt, of course, untied his legs and helped Matt out of his restraints.
“Shut your mouth!” Scott whispered as Matt broke into a coughing fit on the ground. “He’ll hear us.” As Scott sat, feeling a bit of relief while on the cement ground, Matt made an attempt to find a way to escape the garage. First, he assessed his situation and checked every nook and cranny for a possible exit or entrance. His recon revealed that there were two entry and exit points throughout the bare, 2-car garage. There was a back door, but it was solid steel and was bolted shut with a mean looking lock and no key in sight. The second exit seemed pretty promising, but it would make a lot of noise and would alert their unknown number of captors and anyone else lurking around that they were attempting to escape.
While carefully discussing a potential plan of escape, which included leaving the garage and making a ten mile dash back to Black Canyon City, the rest area where they had previously stopped, the boys heard movement outside the main door. “Looks like our little friends are back,” Matt whispered as he heard the lady and creepy old guy talking outside the door. The boys listened for a bit until they heard a screen door open and the terrible two continued their conversation inside the house. As quickly as possible, Scott filled Matt in on everything that had happened while he had been out and, taking a piece of charcoal, drew the map on the floor of the garage.
“Okay, listen up,” Scott said, getting his action face on, “this is us, right here, in the garage. The house is to the right, with three possible entry and exit points. We’ll exit the garage through the main door and quickly but quietly make our way around his junkyard to the back of the house. While they are distracted and run to investigate the sound of the garage, we’ll use his heaps of car parts and junk as cover to stay out of sight as we make our way through the backdoor of the house and grab the keys to his truck, which is parked here. Now, the last part is incredibly difficult and also extremely important. We MUST stay out of sight as we make our way to the car, because I thought that I saw a gun for a brief moment while I was tied up in the back of that thing.”
“Wow, just wow,” Matt said, breaking into a chuckle.
“What,” Scott said, dumbfounded.
“You know, Scott,” Matt spluttered in between laughs, “I think that's the smartest, most serious thing you’ve ever said.”
“Oh my gosh,” Scott shook his head as Matt rolled on the ground laughing.
“Out of all the times you could have picked to be somewhat smart and not sarcastic and obnoxious,” Matt was almost crying now, “you choose now, when we’re being held captive in a sketchy garage in the middle of nowhere by a serial killer and a creepy lady from the gas station the probably was the one who rigged my car.”
Scott clicked the button to open the garage.
“Oh shi-”
The boys moved like ninjas through the night, ducking behind rusty truck engines and worn, rotting chassis. As they neared the back door, they heard Mr. Psycho c*** his gun and run out the front door of the house toward the garage, yelling to his accomplice at the top of his lungs.
“I don't think the girl came with him,” Matt whispered to Scott as they neared the backdoor.
“Me neither.  But there’s only one way be sure.”
As Scott opened the door, Matt popped his head through and checked for any signs of Mrs. Psycho. “All clear,” Matt said, inviting Scott to go in before him. The two boys searched the kitchen for keys, frantically opening drawers and checking cabinets.
“Got ‘em,” Scott said jingling the keys in his hand.
“Alright, let's go,” Matt said as the boys headed for the front door.
“Not so fast!” A creepy, shriveled old lady stood between them and the front door, pointing a big shiny revolver at Scotts head. “Dave, I got ‘em in here!”
“Good work, Maureen,” Dave said, walking through the screen door to the left of the boys. Dave was holding a big, mean hunting rifle and didn't look in too good a mood. “What do we have here,” Dave said in a heavy southern accent. Scott gave Dave a dirty look as he ripped the keys to the truck out of his hands. “So how did you youngsters get out of your restraints,” Dave said, staring the boys down.
“Go to h---,” Matt said with cold, dark eyes. Even Scott looked close to tears.
“Unfortunately boys, I can't kill ya just yet,” Dave started, ignoring Matt’s remark, “ya see, you've only been missin’ a few hours, and the level of concern of your families is at a low point,” Dave paused, “tell ya what, kiddoes, I'll let ya contact your families tomorrow night, sound good. Then we’ll work out a deal for your return and- uhh- I’ll try to make it quick. I mean, you understand, right, we can't have ya runnin’ around knowing what I look like and that. Sooo, we gots to take care of that. But, hey! Y’all should be celebrating, because ya just got promoted to our luxury sweet!”
“Scott, Scott! Wake up,” Matt whispered.
“Jesus, what time is it,” Scott said, yawning and fighting the urge to keep his eyes closed, “Oh my god! I think the real question is what happened!” Scott said when he saw where he was. It was a dark, musty room about ten by ten feet of bare concrete besides for a ladder in the far corner and a single window as the only light source. He was propped up against a wall with Matt sitting next to him.
“Shhh! Shut up, they just went to sleep! He knocked us out and threw us in his basement. You’ve been asleep almost a whole 24 hours!” Matt whispered, showing Scott his watch.
    “Whoa,” Scott said as he looked out the window into the vast desert, illuminated by bright, beautiful stars.
    “How do you feel?” Matt asked.
“How you’d expect someone to feel after what we've been through,” Scott replied.
“Yeah, same here, but we have to get out of here now. When those clouds roll in and it gets completely dark we won't have a chance.”
    The boys discussed a plan of escape and decided that their first priority should be getting through the lock on the trapdoor that led upstairs. “I snatched this from one of the drawers in the kitchen when we were looking for the keys, just in case we needed it later,” Matt said, holding up a big fat wrench.
    “That's great, we can use it to bust open the door, but we're going to need to boot it out of here once we get that lock off, it's gonna be loud enough to wake them up,” said Scott.
    “And what about the keys?”
    “If they’re in the car, great. If not, forget about em and run your heart out.
Don't look back.”
    With three swift strokes, Matt knocked the lock off the hatch and the boys ran like the wind out the front door and to the car. “Scott, look! Keys!”
Scott couldn't believe it. He was so emotional that he was in tears. ”Matt, Matt! We did it,” he yelled to his best friend over the roar of the 600 horsepower engine. The two ton truck kicked up dirt as Matt spun it around and floored the accelerator, the back wheels ripping up the asphalt of the glory road and spraying it in a shower of pebbles behind them.
As they tore away from the h--- hole they’d spent the single-worst and scariest days of their life in, the boys could never have been happier.
“It’s not over yet,” Matt yelled over the engine, “remember, we still have to make it to-“ There was a loud bang as the front window shattered and Scott’s bloody face slammed back against the seat. Matt suddenly couldn’t hear or think. The constant ringing was provoked by the vivid image of Scott’s limp, lifeless body, which lay crumpled in a heap on the floor of the passenger’s seat. He looked to his left as the glass came crashing down around him in slow motion. Suddenly there were two more gunshots, making a splat as they lodged themselves in the back of Scott’s corpse. This time, Matt knew exactly where they came from. He stared into the shiny black visor of the motorcycle helmet that stood just outside Scott’s window, and the face inside stared back at him. One hand on the handle, the other on the trigger of the revolver that Scott remembered from back at the house, and just as he flashed back to the moment the lady pulled the gun on them, another shot rang out, and it could be heard throughout the countryside, through the desert and into the mountains, where Scott’s family stood in wait with police. But the shot whizzed by his head, and as Scott realized he wasn’t hit, he turned the wheel hard to the right, sending both the truck and the motorcycle toppling into the sand below. Matt swore he heard a faint scream for the briefest moment before the large truck landed sideways on top of Crazy Dave, killing him instantly.
So there Matt sat, in the truck, sobbing onto the dashboard and shaking Scott’s shoulder with one hand, as if he was trying to wake him up. It was truly over now.

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