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It was a dark and stormy night. Well, not really stormy, and it wasn’t that dark yet. The sun was setting, and it had been raining lightly pretty much all day.
It looked cold and wet outside, but it as cozy in the bookstore. With fifteen minutes until close, I wasn’t expecting any more customers. It had been a quiet day, probably because the rain drove everyone to stay indoors. Winter was always a gloomy time of year here in Washington—it wasn’t cold enough to snow, it wasn’t warm enough to be enjoyable, and there was always a one-hundred-and-one percent chance of rain every day. It could be worse, though, I guess. At least we weren’t buried under three feet of snow like those folks out in the Midwest. I was glad I wasn’t them.
I sighed heavily and turned up the volume on my iPod. Coldplay was playing, their X&Y CD that I’d recently become a fan of. I’d owned it for a while, but just recently I’d really gotten to liking it. Wiggling in my seat (instead of getting up and dancing around the store), I closed my eyes and silently sang along to the words.
This was always the hardest part of the day. Only so few minutes left, with almost no prospect of anyone else coming in, and yet I couldn’t close the store until six. My manager had warned me that there was always a chance that someone would want to shop.
I wish I would’ve closed early that night.
Suddenly I distantly hear the desk bell ring.
Eyes open, I froze as I noticed the customer laughing at me. He was young, maybe a few years older than me. Short, neat blond hair, mostly clear skin, and tall. He didn’t really look like the type who would read.
I ripped off my headphones and threw my iPod under the counter. “Can I help you?”
He just burst out laughing again, not meanly. “What were you listening to?” he finally managed to choke out, wiping a tear from his eye. “You were really into it, whatever it was.”
We launched into a discussion about music. He wasn’t a huge fan of Coldplay, but he didn’t dislike them either. He explained his more preferred music, like Avenged Sevenfold and Staind.
He introduced himself as Randy, with a bit of a twang to it. Eventually he drifted away, searching through the CDs.
I considered listening to my iPod again, but I was afraid of making a fool of myself. There were only—I glanced at the clock—ten minutes left now, and I could wait.
The door jingled as it opened, and in walked my friend, Selena.
“Hey, Daytona. Have a busy day?” She smiled.
Yes. My name is Daytona. My dad has a thing for cars. He actually named me after the car, not the track. (But the track is the namesake of the car, so…)
“Yeah, real busy. It’s just been packed all day.” I waved my arm around the room. “Don’t you see all the customers?”
We both laughed and exchanged more pleasantries, her talking about her day. Both of us were excited about our planned outing tonight.
See, I’m kind of dating Selena’s older brother, Kade. We aren’t really going out, but we’re testing what it would be like to be in a relationship together. So far, it was all going well. Tonight we were going on a double date with Selena and her new romantic interest, a friend of ours named Zach. It was going to be a fun night—dinner, a movie, and then video games at Selena and Kade’s house—and since this was our fourth date, I was pretty sure this would make Kade and me official.
We chattered excitedly about the evening until Randy walked over.
“Can I help you?” I asked politely.
“Do you have A Perfect Circle’s eMotive CD?”
I glanced over his shoulder, at the CD stand. “You couldn’t find it over there?”
I wasn’t really that surprised. We didn’t get too many new CDs. People mainly just bought books here.
“No. It’s not over there.” His face was flushing beet-red. What is his problem? I thought. “I need this CD. Is it in the back somewhere?”
“If it’s not in the shelves, then we probably don’t have it. I’m sorry.” I spread my hands placatingly. “You might find it at Wal-Mart or Target—”
“No!” His loud cry echoed in the empty store. “I need this CD now!”
My brain was whirring, trying to decide what to do, quickly. “Um, okay, I’ll go check for it in the back. Why don’t you help, Selena?”
She nodded woodenly and followed. We weren’t supposed to have nonemployees in the back, but what was I supposed to do? Leave her out there with that unstable guy?
As soon as the door closed, Selena burst out, “What is wrong with that guy?”
“I don’t know,” I said, rifling through the boxes of CDs. “When he came in earlier, he was perfectly normal. We talked about music, and then he went over to look at the CDs.”
“The way he was acting, I’m surprised he wasn’t asking for a Charles Manson biography.” She shuddered. “I think I’m going to call Kade down to get us early. It’ll give us an excuse to kick that guy out.”
“It’s not like he’s threatened us.” Yet, I added in my mind.
She got on the phone and talked to Kade. He didn’t seem too concerned—I think I heard him say something about us being silly little girls—but he agreed to come down a few minutes early since we were so uneasy.
After searching through all the CDs, we didn’t find the one he wanted. I actually had a copy of it, at home. It was kind of a concept album, its theme basically “promote anarchy and over throw the government ’cause it sucks.” It was pretty violent music, including a song named “Counting Bodies like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums.” It was very creepy, to say the least.
“What do we tell him?” Selena asked, raking her fingers nervously through her dirty blond hair.
“The truth,” I answered. “What else would we tell him?”
We went back out into the showroom. I tried to keep my face neutral, and I glanced at the clock. It was past close.
Immediately he asked for the CD, his eyes hungry. “I’m sorry,” I told him, meeting his gaze evenly. “We don’t have it in stock.” I turned toward the door, planning on turning the sign to close and holding the door open for him to leave. “I can order it for you, if you’d like. It would in about five to eight business days.”
I was in mid-turn of the sign when three things happened: Selena gasped, the sound loud in the silent room; I felt something pressed against my throat; and a harsh, sinister voice said in my ear, “If you move at all or say anything, I will kill you.”
I froze, my blood hardly moving. He wrapped his arm around my waist and yanked me against him. Turning, he said to Selena, “You make a move and I slit her throat.”
She nodded quickly, terror written in her eyes. I felt his gaze turn back to me. “I know you’re lying to me. I know you have the CD. You just want to keep it from me, don’t you? Ted told you about me, didn’t he? Ted always tells everyone about me, because he doesn’t want me to get what I want. He says I’m crazy and stuff, but I’m not crazy, am I?” He waved the knife around, dangerously close to my face, while I tried to reassure him that he wasn’t crazy.
“Shut up! Now give me the CD, ’cause I know you have it, don’t you?”
I hesitated, trying to decide if to answer.
“Answer me, dammit!”
My thoughts were racing. Oh my God, what do I do what do I do what do I do?!?!? I had no idea. I’d already tried telling him we didn’t have the CD. If I did it again, with his knife pressed to my throat, what wouldn’t he do?
I finally came to a decision. “Yeah, you’re right.” My voice wavered, and I cleared my throat and tried again. “You’re right, I do have the CD. Ted did talk to me and told me you were crazy, but I can see now that you’re not. Yeah, yeah, I have the CD in the back. I’ll get it for you—no, I’ll take you to it.”
“Damn right you will,” he muttered, and he allowed me to lead him—knife still to my neck—into the back room.
At this point, I was completely aware that I was screwed. I didn’t have the CD, and I didn’t know what I was going to do when we got in there and I wouldn’t be able to find it. But at least Selena was safe. We’d left her out in the main room, and she’d be able to get away safely.
She was a smart girl. She’d get out and call for help. I could only hope that help would come in time to save me, too.
“I have to find the CD,” I told Randy. He nodded and ordered me to find it, watching me from the doorway. I walked away from him, shaking like a leaf. My mind still worked, though, and I figured he was on some sort of drug. I could tell he wasn’t drunk, because I couldn’t smell it on him, and he kept twitching and scratching at his arms.
I grabbed a random box of CDs and started thumbing through. At this point I still had no idea what I should tell him when I couldn’t find it. I was flipping through the same row of CDs for a third time when it occurred to me that Selena might still be in the store. What if she hadn’t left? What if she was frozen in place, too terrified to get herself to safety?
My fear overwhelmed me. Suddenly I stood up and told Randy, “I’m sorry, I was looking in the wrong box. It’s in one over there.” I pointed to a stack across the room.
“Yeah, whatever, just hurry up and get it.”
As I walked past him, I risked a glance out of the room past him. The showroom was empty. Instantly I was relieved and disappointed—I was officially in this alone now.
There was another useless box in my hands. I went through the CDs slowly, as if I had to go through and read every single title and artist. I realized that I was out of excuses, and now I was done for.
I was going to die.
Suddenly the bell on the main door jingled. I froze, and a thought occurred to me. If Selena had left earlier, I would’ve heard the door jingle as it opened. So the question now was, was that Selena leaving, or someone else coming in?
“Hey, Daytona! Selena! Where are you guys? What, are we playing hide-and-seek or something?” The voice faded as the speaker walked around the store.
My heart hammered in my chest. It was Kade. He’d come in practically screaming, and now he was going to get us both killed.
Randy rushed away from the doorway, grabbed my neck, and put the knife in my face. “Who is that? Who the hell is that?”
I couldn’t tell him that I knew it was Kade. I didn’t want Kade to go down as an accomplice or something, whatever relationship Randy would conjure in his twisted mind. I wish I hadn’t told Randy my name earlier; then he wouldn’t know that Kade was looking for me.
“I don’t know who that is,” I answered.
“Then how does he know your name?” Randy hissed.
I blinked. “I don’t know. Maybe he knows me from school, or something. I don’t know who he is, or how he knows me.”
“He’s not a cop, is he? ’Cause if he’s a cop, I’m going to freaking slit your throat.”
“No, he’s not a cop, he’s not a cop,” I mumbled numbly. All I was thinking was, Oh God oh God oh God oh God. I couldn’t think beyond my panicking.
Randy put the knife to my throat again, told me that if I turned around he would kill me, and then instructed me to keep searching for the stupid CD.
Mindlessly I was looking again, when suddenly I heard footsteps in the doorway of the room. “There you are, Daytona. I was looking all over for you.”
My God, I thought. He doesn’t know what’s going on.
“Sir, I need you to leave this room. I’ll help you in a minute, as soon as I’m done helping this polite gentleman.”
I turned to find Kade not in the doorway anymore, but instead hovering over Randy with a huge hardback Webster’s dictionary in his hands. He swung the book at Randy’s head and connected with a loud thunk. Randy, face-down on the floor, grabbed his head and started groaning, trying to sit up. Kade didn’t give him the chance—he started pounding the crap out of him.
I noticed that the knife had slipped from my attacker’s hand. Using my shoe, I nudged it away from him and picked it up. I was worried that he might overpower Kade, and then I would need something to defend myself with.
Randy’s face was bloodied, but he was still conscious. Suddenly I heard sirens, and the fight went out of Randy. Kade sat down on his back and didn’t get up. Selena appeared in the doorway, a cell phone in one hand, and told us that the police were on their way. She looked hollow.
The front door burst open with the shatter of glass and a call of “Police! Drop your weapons! Put your hands where I can see them!”
Selena, the only one visible, put her hands up, cell phone still clutched in one, and indicated to the authorities that we were in the room. I set the knife on the floor, away from Randy, and both Kade and I also put our hands up. Randy didn’t move, as if he was dead, or he wished he was.
They checked the rest of the building to make sure no one else was there, despite our assurances that we were the only ones. As they handcuffed and set Randy on his feet, I heard him mumbling random, crazy things. They led him away, and I heard a couple officers noting that he might be on drugs. They stopped him and rolled up his long-sleeved shirt. On his arms there were rake marks where his nails had literally caused scars.
They took him away from the room, and the world crashed down around me. Sobbing, I clutched on to Kade as he wrapped his arms around me. Selena, stoic during the entire episode, broke down too, and she was also held in Kade’s embrace.
Certain attacks are committed to show power over others, and to quit my job at the bookstore would have been to let Randy win in his power struggle over me. I still work at the book store to this day. At first I was very scared, but Kade gave me moral support—and a Taser— just in case. As the weeks went by and all my customers were normal, everyday people, I realized that it was finally over. I could move on with my life.
It might seem like a sick idea, but I became grateful for the attack. I’ll never want to thank Randy for his attack, but I know that it made me a stronger person. It showed me that there is evil in this world, but also, it helped me see even better the good in those around me.