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Never Read a Ransom Note
“What do you wanna do?” I ask Tammy, my best friend in the whole wide world since 2nd grade.
“I don’t know, what do you wanna do?” Tammy asks me back, with a mischievous smile forming on her freckled face.
“Don’t start this again, Tammy!” I giggle, “I want to actually do something today, instead of repeating the same question over and over again like we did yesterday.”
“Fine,” Tammy gets serious, “We should work on our French project.”
“Good idea, Tammy,” I say, “I can’t afford to get another bad grade in that class.”
“A c isn’t a bad grade,” Tammy tries to persuade me, “It’s passing.”
“Yeah, right,” I say. I know she’s trying to make me feel better, but seriously, my parents are going to kill me. They said so themselves. I think back to last night.
“Sierra, one more C and I’m taking away your computer,” My mom told me.
I guess she didn’t say she was actually going to kill me, but taking away my computer meant that I didn’t get to video chat with Tammy every night. And that would kill me. That’s how close we are.
“Sierra? Hellooooo?” Tammy is waving her hands in front of my face and I snap back to reality.
“Sorry,” I say, “Let’s get back to work.”
“Uuuugggghhhhhh! I hate French!!!!” Tammy shrieks.
“Ditto,” I say.
“Can we take a break or something? I think I’m hungry.” Tammy says.
I listen to my own growling stomach.
“Me too,” I say, “Let’s go to the kitchen.”
“And then we can watch the latest episode of Glee…” Tammy says hopefully.
“I would do anything to watch Glee,” I say, “But—“ Maybe we should take a break. After Glee, our brains will be refreshed.
“Okay, let’s watch Glee!” I say, excited.
The folded paper sat heavily in my hand. I read the note over again. It didn’t look like what you would normally imagine a ransom note to look like. It didn’t have letters cut out from magazines or anything stereotypical like that. It was a normal note. Just a note. Just a normal ransom note. But finding a ransom note in your best friend’s house is hardly normal. Very far from it. I can’t believe it. I close my eyes tightly for 10 seconds and open them again. The note is still there. I swear to myself. I think back to the beginning of my day. It started out normal. I woke up, got dressed and ate breakfast. Then I walked to school and went to my classes until lunch. My best friend, Tammy, and I sat at our regular table and made plans to hang out after school. It was on my walk to Tammy’s house that things started to get weird. I noticed that Tammy’s parents’ cars weren’t in the driveway. I thought, “They must have been held up at work.” I walked up the stairs to the front porch of Tammy’s house. I knocked on the door. It opened by itself.
“That’s weird,” I thought, “Tammy’s family always keeps their door locked.”
I walked inside. Something was definitely up. I walked into Tammy’s room. That’s when I found the note. The awful note. This sucks. A lot. Maybe this isn’t true. Maybe it’s some sick joke. I call my mom.
“Hello?” she answers.
“Mom? It’s me, Sierra,” I say.
“Hi, sweetie! How was your day?” she asks.
“Uh,” I don’t know what to say, “It was fine. But I’m at Tammy’s house and--“
“Oh! Are you having a good time?” Mom asks me.
“Um, well,” I start, “I have something to tell you.”
“What, Honey?” Mom asks.
“Well, I found something in Tammy’s bedroom,” I say, “Something bad.”
“What is it?” Mom asks worriedly, “Is it cigarettes? Crack? What is it?”
“Um, nothing like that Mom,” I say.
“Oh,” I hear Mom’s voice calm down a bit.
“I, I… I found a ransom note,” I stutter.
“Oh, Sweetie. You kill me. Stop joking.”
“Mom, I’m not joking. This is really freaking me out,” I say.
“It must be a joke,” Mom says.
But I find it hard to believe her. Who jokes about this kind of stuff?
“Don’t worry about it. Anyway, I have to go to a meeting. I’ll see you at home, ‘kay? Bye,”
“Bye, Mom,” But the line is already dead.
I can’t stop worrying about it. I want to believe it’s a joke, but somehow, I doubt it was. I guess I should go home. I take the note with me.
When I get home, I analyze the ransom note again. I can’t make out some of the writing, but I do recognize the words taken, $1,000,000, and Tammy. Well, if it was a joke or a fake, where was Tammy? Maybe Mom’s right. I shouldn’t worry about it. I take out my homework and start doing it. I might as well, since I can get it
out of the way and it will probably distract me and keep me from thinking about Tammy.
An hour later my hand is cramped, my floor has a new rug of pencil shavings, and my homework is finished. I walk into the living room and turn on the TV. I start flipping channels. I stop when I get to E!. There’s a special on called, “Most Notorious Disappearances.” Creepy. But I’m curious. Maybe it can help me find Tammy. There I go again. She probably just has plans that she forgot about! But how did that explain the open door and the ransom note itself? Oh my god. Nobody’s even filed a missing persons report!
“Stop thinking about Tammy!” I shout to myself.
“What about Tammy?” a voice says.
I look up toward the doorway and see Dad looking at me, with a curious look on his face.
“Nothing,” I say.
“Well, I guess I’ll just have to get it out of your mother when she gets home,” Dad jokes. He walks out of the living room.
I start flipping channels again. I get to one of those stupid Disney Channel movies and figure that’s the perfect thing to keep me distracted. I’ll just make fun of the bad acting and the awful story plots. My six year old little sister Sam walks in.
“Watcha watchin’?” she asks.
“Disney Channel,” I reply.
“Oh I love, love, love, love, LOVE Disney Channel!” Sam shrieks, jumping up and down.
“Okay, okay. Do you want to watch it with me?” I ask.
“Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!” Sam shouts. She walks over to the couch and cuddles up next to me.
We watch the TV screen for what feels like hours until we here the regular, “Dinner’s ready!” from Mom. I didn’t even hear her come home. I guess I was really focused on that stupid Disney movie. Huh. Sam and I walk down stairs to the dining room and sit in our usual seats: Sam next to me, my sixteen year old big sister Lyra across from us, and Mom and Dad at the heads. I look at
what’s on the table tonight: Asian noodles, green beans, and potatoes. Mmm, not bad.
“Nooooooooodles!” Sam jumps for joy.
“Yes, Sweetie, noodles,” Mom replies.
Sam’s white-blond curls bounce as she reaches for the noodle bowl. Lyra’s piercing green eyes glare at her with disdain. Lyra flips her chocolate brown, frizz-free hair.
“Mom, can’t you ever make anything without 10 million carbs?” Lyra says, annoyed.
“Honey, you are stick thin. You can afford to eat some noodles for a night. We all know you want to,” Mom replies.
Lyra eyes the bowl of noodles.
“Fine,” she says, “I’ll eat them today. But that’s my carbs for the week.”
Lyra can be really annoying sometimes. Not only is she your plain “annoying big sister”, but she has a problem with always watching her weight. She’s not anorexic or anything, and she’s not too thin, but she tends to really care about all that stuff. She actually eats way more carbs than she would like to. Another thing, is that she’s too perfect. I don’t mean captain of the cheerleading squad, with perfect test scores kind of perfect. I mean the other kind of perfect. Lyra has bright green eyes with dark chocolate wavy hair. She’s thin, and she’s beautiful, she has awesome clothes, and she’s president of the drama club. She has a C+ average, but she’s perfect. Sometimes, I can’t stand to look at her.
After we’re done eating, we carry our dishes to the sink.
“It’s your turn to wash the dishes, Lyra,” I say.
“No it’s not. I washed them two days ago.”
“Exactly. I washed them yesterday, so today it’s your turn.”
“Mooom, shouldn’t it be your turn to wash the dishes?” Lyra whines.
“Let’s see,” Mom starts, “I wash your clothes and I washed you when you were younger. I think it’s your turn. I’ve done enough for you.”
We all stand there, quiet, not knowing whether she was serious or not.
“Sorry,” Mom says quietly, “I had a stressful day at work.”
“But it’s still your turn to wash the dishes, Lyra,” Dad chuckles.
“Ugh,” Lyra groans, but turns the water on anyway. She knows better than to argue with Mom when she’s had a bad day.
I follow Mom upstairs to her and Dad’s room.
“Mom?” I ask, as soon as we’ve sat down on the bed.
“What, Sierra?” Mom asks, letting out a big sigh.
“Well, I’d really like to talk to you about something”
“Sierra, I’m really not in the mood to talk right now—“
“Mom, it’s important!”
“You know how I told you about the ransom note I found?”
“Well I can’t stop thinking it’s true.”
“Sweetheart, we live in a great neighborhood and everybody loves Tammy. No one in their right minds
would take her,” Mom says lovingly, “You have to trust me.”
“Maybe they weren’t in their right minds,” I mutter.
“If you’re still worried about it tomorrow, then, when I get home from work, I’ll take you to Tammy’s house. You can check to see if they’re home.”
“Okay,” I say quietly.
I walk out of Mom and Dad’s bedroom and down the hall to mine. I pass Lyra in the hallway.
“Lyra,” I begin, “Have you ever been worried that something bad happened to a really good friend?”
“Well, once my friend Sarah went bulimic for a week. But then she got better,” Lyra answered.
“Great, thanks,” I say. I should’ve expected an answer like that from Lyra. I start walking again.
“Omigod! Tell me what happened! Every single detail,” Lyra says.
I turn around to see if she really meant it.
“Well, what happened was—“ I stop when I see the phone that she’s holding to her ear, “Oh, nevermind.”
I walk to my room and sit down on my bed. It’s been a long day. Of course, it’s only 8:30, but still. I take out my book and start to read.
The rest of the weekend floats by. It was a laid-back weekend, full of movies and take-out. Not Tammy. I don’t know what to expect on Monday. I guess I’ll find out.
On Monday morning, I complete my usual routine: check the weather, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth/hair, walk to school. When I get to school, I check to see if Tammy was in homeroom. I scan the room, hoping to find her regular self in her chair. I find her, but it’s definitely not the normal Tammy. She’s muttering to herself very quietly and looking at her lap. I wave… nothing. I get nothing back. This is not the answer you would usually expect from your best friend. You’d expect a, “Hi!” or a, “How was your weekend? Tell me all about it! I have so much to tell you!”. I get … nothing.
When the bell rings for lunch, I walk straight to Tammy’s and my regular table. But she’s not there. I look around the café and see her sitting alone at an empty table in the corner. I walk over to her.
“Hey!” I say.
“How was your weekend?” I try, “I missed you Friday.”
She mutters to herself.
“Where were you?” I ask.
Tammy doesn’t answer.
“Come on, why won’t you tell me anything?”
“Can you please just leave me alone?” Tammy says quietly.
“Why?” I ask.
Tammy doesn’t answer.
“Why should I?” I ask again.
Tammy mutters to herself.
“What?” I can feel myself getting frustrated. Why can’t she just answer me?
“I had to go away,” she whispers.
“They told me not to tell,” Tammy says, barely loud enough to hear. I see a single tear stream down her face.
“Who? Your parents?” I ask.
“Tell me,” I start to whimper, “You can tell me anything! Everything!”
Tammy stands up. “Please don’t talk to me,” she whispers as she walks away.
I can’t believe it. I have so many questions that, no matter what I do, can’t be answered.
I sit at the table, awestruck. I can’t bring myself to stand. After 5 minutes of solid thinking, I stand up and walk to sit with some of my other friends. They say hello, and then continue talking about their topic of the day: I think it’s the new guy. I tune them out, while eating my lunch. It’s as if I’m in another world, somewhere where no one can reach me. I feel someone shaking my shoulders, but I ignore them.
“Hellooooo?” someone says.
I keep eating.
“Ma’am, you’re going to have to leave.”
I look around. The café is empty, and some janitor is telling me to get to class. I guess the bell rang… I mean, it must have. I gather my things and walk through the empty hallways, finding my way until I get to my locker.
“19-04-22.” I say aloud.
The lock opens with ease. As soon as I get my books together, I look at the clock. 12:45. Wow. I am really late. Might as well waste a little more time. I remember what Tammy said: “They told me not to tell.” Her words ring in my head. I think about everything Tammy and I have done together. I remember last year: she told me to program her lock combo into my phone in case she forgot it. She knew she’d always be with me. Then it hits me. I should look in her locker. Sure, it’d be a little bit of invasion of privacy, but I’m worried. Maybe there’s something in there that can help me figure out what happened to Tammy. I wonder if she kept last year’s lock. I walk over to Tammy’s locker and try the combo. Click! The lock opens and I brace myself for what I might see inside. But the locker is bare. Completely empty. Omigod. I look closer and in all the nooks and crannies of the locker. I find a note. Crap. Another note. I think about just going to class and forgetting this ever happened in the first place. But then I think about Tammy. And all the crap she supposedly got into. Crap. I take the note out of the locker and start to unfold it. The
handwriting is messy, but I can read more of this note than the last. I scan the writing. It says:
Dear Miss Jensenn,
We’ll get you again. You got away, but we’ll get you again. Don’t try to stop us. We took the liberty of taking your stuff, since you’ll be with us again soon. And you wouldn’t want to get behind on your homework—would you? We’ll see you soon.
Seriously? Is this a prank? Why would someone take Tammy? Am I hallucinating? I punch the locker. Nope, this is real. My knuckles hurt. A lot. I glance back at the note. “We’ll get you again,” It says. Not if they don’t know where to get her from. Tammy can’t go home. She has to come with me. To my house maybe. She can stay there.
The bell rings. Shoot. Shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot. Just my luck. I throw the note back in the locker and shut the door. I run down the hallway and into my 7th period class. Oh well, I guess I’ll never know what I missed in French. As soon as I sit down at my desk, I notice Tammy staring at me. I’m about to look away, when I notice something on her neck; something I didn’t notice at lunch. It looks like a big red splotch. Someone hit her. Hard.
“Sierra?” I hear my name being called. I look around to see who must have said it.
“Sierra,” a voice says impatiently, “would you care to point out a major city in this region?”
I realize the voice came from my teacher, Mr. Stevens. My brain snaps back to life. Well, at least it’s an easy question. At least I think it’s an easy question until I see that he’s pointing to Antarctica. There are no major cities in Antarctica! How am I supposed to know this?
“Maybe by paying more attention in class, Miss Sierra. You should do that more often.” Mr. Stevens says.
I realize I said the last few sentences out loud. My cheeks grow hot with embarrassment. Oops.
“Uh…” I start.
“That’s okay, Miss Sierra. We’ll let someone who actually pays attention in class and does their work answer that question for you. I suggest you follow in Tamara’s footsteps.” Mr. Stevens says in an obnoxious voice. The class snickers.
I glance at Tammy.
“But—“ I try.
“That’s enough Sierra.”
After thirty-five more minutes of agonizing history, Mr. Stevens finally sets us free… To our next class. Tammy passes me in the hall. It’s hard to follow her through all the people but I finally catch up to her.
“Tammy!” I say, out of breath.
She ignores me.
“Tammy, you have to talk to me.” I try again.
“I told you I didn’t want to talk to you.” Tammy says finally.
I open my mouth to say something, but the bell rings and Tammy slips into one of the classrooms. And I’m late. Again.
“One more late slip and you’ll get a detention.” My science teacher Mrs. Steath warns.
I nod and walk over to my desk. I’m ready to hear another boring lecture about protons and other science stuff. Sort of. But I don’t hear anything. Mrs. Steath is just staring at us. At the whole class.
“Today we will be watching a movie about bullying and how to stand up to it.” Mrs. Steath says unexpectedly.
“Um, Mrs. Steath?” one of the students in our class starts, “This is science class.” They say this slowly, like they were talking to a toddler or someone that was going kind of insane.
The class giggles and whispers to their friends.
“As funny to you as this may seem,” scolds Mrs. Steath, “one of our students in this grade has been getting bullied. Very severely, might I add.”
The whole class sits in silence, wondering who the poor kid might be.
“It’s probably not right for me to tell you who this student may be.”
I glance at one of my friends and we exchange a look. We know who it is.
“But I’ll tell you anyway.”
“Can she do that?” I wonder.
“Her name is Tamara Jensenn, and some of you might know her from other classes.”
“You can’t do that!” I want to scream. Mrs. Steath can’t share that kind of personal information with the whole class; the whole grade!
Mrs. Steath drones on about how bullying is bad and how it can affect people in dangerous ways. But no one is listening to her. All anyone is doing is talking about Tammy.
I can’t believe Tammy’s being bullied. And she didn’t tell me a thing. Actually I can believe it. She didn’t tell me about being practically kidnapped, so why would she tell me about being bullied.
During the movie, I’m in a daze. Until the bell rings. I race out there faster than anyone and run to my locker. I exchange my books and run to my next class. Safe! I’m the first one in there. I walk to my desk and sit down. Then I notice the two teachers whispering in the corner. I walk over to the pencil sharpener sitting on the desk, near where the teachers are talking. I take the sharpener and hold it over the trash can, putting my pencil through the hole. I sharpen my pencil slowly, straining to hear what the teachers are talking about.
“I just can’t stop thinking about that poor girl.” One of the teachers says quietly.
“I know,” the other teacher says, “I can’t believe someone would do something like that to a sweet girl like Tamara. I mean, did you see the marks on her neck? It’s horrible.”
I knew it. They’re talking about Tammy.
“I knew there were some bullies at this school but I never imagined it to be this bad.”
Now that I think about it, Tammy’s never had marks like that on her before. And I can’t think of anyone who would make marks like that on her. But what if a bully at this school didn’t make those marks on Tammy. What if Tammy was never even bullied at all. Maybe the people that took Tammy hit her. Hard. And she was trying to get away. And when teachers noticed the marks on her neck and asked her what happened, she lied and said she was being bullied. Because if she couldn’t tell me the truth about what happened, she certainly wasn’t going to tell a teacher.
I finish sharpening my pencil and sit down in my seat. A couple of girls walk in, gossiping. Tammy and I used to be like that.
As I walk home from school, I see two older guys idling by a car. Creepy. I wonder what they’re thinking about. Actually, I don’t. They start whispering and staring at something behind me. I follow their eyes. Some girl with dirty blond hair and brown eyes and—wait a minute. That’s Tammy. Those guys must be the people that tried to take Tammy. This is not good. This is not good at all. I run back to Tammy and put my arms around her.
“Hey, Tammy!” I say.
“Why are you here?” Tammy asks quietly, trying to hide her face.
“Let’s walk over here.” I say, trying to lead her through someone’s yard and away from the men. I look back around to see if they were following us. They were.
“Um,” I say, “ I have to get home so, maybe we should run.”
“Oh, just because,” I say, knowing she probably won’t buy my excuse, “We’ve got to get our excersize.”
Tammy doesn’t say anything.
We both start jogging and, out of the corner of my eye, I see the two men jogging behind us. I pick up my pace—until I feel a clammy hand clamp over my mouth. I try to scream but nothing comes out. I start kicking and moving as hard as I can. I try to move my head and look around to see if I can see Tammy. But I can’t. Suddenly, everything goes black. I feel like I’m falling. Falling into a pit of darkness.
I open my eyes to see Tammy, looking at me. I look around. Nothing looks farmiliar. All I see is a bare room with two pillows in it: one for me, and one for Tammy.
“Where are we?” I ask.
“Don’t ask me.” Tammy replies.
“They got you, didn’t they?”
“What do you mean ‘who’s they’?” I ask, a trace of impatience in my voice, “You know exactly who I’m talking about. The people who took you. The people who stole your stuff and left a note in your locker. I saw it all. Don’t try to hide it.”
Tammy is silent. I can tell she’s thinking.
“Fine,” she says, “Everything you said is true. And I don’t know how they know who I am, or how they found me, or why they even want or need me in the first place. But I got away and now they have me again. And if you haven’t noticed, they got you too.”
I take a minute to let it all soak in. They got me too. How the heck am I going to get out of here? How are we going to get out of here? Why would someone do this? Who would kidnap two thirteen year old girls? Unless… unless we have something they want… But what would they want from us? We mean nothing to them. Two men walk in to the bare room.
“Speak of the devil. Literally.” I say under my breath.
“What did you say, young miss?” One of the men says. He’s a little on the heavy side, with a scruffy black and gray beard.
The other man drops something he was carrying to the ground. I recognize it immediately to be my backpack. I reach for it, but he slaps my hand away.
“Don’t touch.” He says.
“Um, if you haven’t noticed, that backpack belongs to me. As in, it’s mine. I own it. So give it back…” I say. I know I should be projecting a sweet girl act and doing what they say, so that there’s a better chance of them being nice to me. But I’m really irritated. Really annoyed. Really exhausted. And I can hear it in my voice.
“Oh, you’re a brave girl.” He says, crossing his hairy arms.
“Uh…” I say, my voice shaking.
“That’s what I thought.”
“I’m Mike and he’s Bill,” the heavy-set man says, “Bill’s the one with the hairy arms.”
“Hey!” Bill says, sounding offended.
“Shut up.” Mike replies.
I look at Tammy to see her reaction. She’s just sitting there, trembling. I can’t help but feel even worse for her than for myself. She’s never been brave, and she must be breaking apart inside.
“So what do you want, anyway?” I ask, suspicious. I want answers and I intend to get some.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk…” Mike says, “Don’t speak unless spoken to…” They both walk out of the room.
Tammy and I just sit there, speechless. We don’t know what to do; what to think. Everything’s a mystery. A secret.
“You know,” Tammy starts, “You really should just do what they tell you.”
“So you’re saying I should just sit there? Like you?” I reply, annoyed. My voice is rising, and I know it.
“I’m just saying, I’ve dealt with them before. And I got away.” Tammy says, like she was making a great point.
“Oh, and look where you are now,” I say, “And this time you took me with you!” I know I shouldn’t be blaming this on her, but I don’t know what else to do. I’m clueless. I don’t know how to get out, or how to get back home. I miss my family. Right now, I’d give anything to be back in Mrs. Steath’s class. My eyes start to water, and I feel hot tears spill on to my cheeks. I want to curl up in a ball and go to sleep, and I want to wake up in my bed knowing that this was all a dream. But I know that will never happen. Because this is not a dream. This is real life. More specifically, my life. So I know this isn’t a dream. But I pinch myself just to be sure.
I wake up to the sound of metal pans being thrust on the floor.
“Eat.” Tammy says.
“What?” I ask, astonished by what Tammy just said.
“I said, eat.” Tammy repeats.
“Um, eat what exactly?”
“Eat what’s on the pan in front of you.”
I look at the pan. There are two misshapen eggs on it.
“Did you make this?”
“No way! I found this in the room this morning. You of all people know I can’t cook.”
I walk over to the door of the room and jiggle the handle. Locked. Crap. How do we get out?
“We might not.” Tammy says, sadness filling her voice.
I realize I might have talked aloud.
“Well, how did you get away last time?” I ask.
Tammy looks at the wall.
“I don’t know.” She says quietly.
“What do you mean you don’t know?” I say, “How can you not know?”
“I’m telling you,” Tammy says, her voice raising, “I honestly don’t know!”
“Well, you know what?“ I yell, “You’re gonna have to figure it out! You got away before!” I’m really upset now, and I try to relax so that I don’t say anything I’ll regret saying later. But it all just comes out. “You got me in to this!” I shout, “It’s your fault! If you would’ve told me…” I stop myself there. I know I’ve gone too far, and I see Tammy’s trembling.
“I didn’t mean to!” She shouts. Tears are rolling down her face and I burry my face in my pillow. Great. Now I’ve made enemies with the only friend I have here.
“I’m sorry,” I say quietly, “I know you didn’t mean to.”
Tammy continues crying.
“It’s okay.” She finally replies.
“Good,” I say, “Then let’s eat.”
We pull the pan close to us, and start finger-eating the egg. It’s cold, and slimey but it’s food nonetheless. When we’re finished, I look around the room for something to do. I spot my backpack. That moron left my backpack here! I walk over to it and check the pockets. Good. They left my bobby pins.
“Tammy!” I say excitedly.
“What?” she asks, “What could you possibly be happy about?”
“They left my bobby pins in my backpack!”
“Great, now you can fix your hair.”
“So we can pick the lock!”
Tammy’s face lights up immediately. We run over to the door and stick a bobby pin through the lock. I twist and turn it and, all of a sudden, the door opens. And a familiar face was on the other side.
“Going somewhere?” Mike says, and evil grin forming on his face. He pushes past us and grabs my backpack and the empty pan. Then he starts to walk back to the door, where Bill is waiting. Without thinking I pounce on Mike, trying to pry my backpack from his hands.
“Get off of me, you twit!” he shouts.
“Not until you tell me why we’re here!” I scream back, surprised by the confidence in my voice.
“Fine, I’ll tell you!”
I climb off of Mike and smooth out my shirt. But before I can stop them, Mike and Bill are out the door and I hear the lock click. The sound of heavy footsteps tells me that they’re walking away. I should’ve known better than to trust them.
“Crap,” I say, “We screwed up our only chance out of here.”
“It’s okay,” Tammy replies quietly, “I know you tried.”
“Well do you have anything else in here that might help us get out of here?” I ask.
“Not that I know of.”
“Well we have to find something.”
“Can’t you relax?”
There’s an awkward silence.
“I mean,” Tammy almost whispers, “I mean you’ve been trying to get us out of here for a while. I think you need a break. You’re stressed out.”
Maybe Tammy’s right. Maybe I should just relax. An idea will come to me eventually. And while it does… I can make Tammy talk about the first time. About the mystery that has been haunting my mind since four days ago. Only four days ago.
“So…” I begin, “Now that you can’t really hide anything, I want you to tell me exactly what happened on Friday. Every single detail.”
“Well,” Tammy hesitates, “I was walking home from school, thinking about what we would do when you came over. I turned the corner onto my street and, when I got to my house, I noticed another car parked in the drive way. One that I didn’t recognize. I didn’t think it was anyone dangerous… I thought my parents were having someone over for dinner. But then I noticed that my parents’ cars weren’t in the drive way. I thought about not going inside, but then I figured nothing bad would happened.”
Wow, Tammy’s a little clueless.
“So I walked inside,” Tammy continues, “and walked up to my room. But, as you might guess, they were there. Sitting on my bed. Waiting for me. They had taken my laptop, and all my valuables of course.”
“Mike and Bill, right?” I ask.
“Yeah, them,” Tammy answers, “So then I’m just looking at them. I’m trying to contemplate running away or standing my ground. I didn’t really have a choice. They kind of just pounced on me.”
That’s when I see the flicker in her eye. Her nose twitches. That only happens when she’s lying. Tammy’s lying to me. I don’t really know how to react. Should I confront her, or keep playing along?
Tammy continues explaining what happened, unaware that I’m in a daze. Then she stops. Out of nowhere, she stops. Tammy looks at me and shudders. I wake up out of my trance and look back at her.
“What?” I ask.
She doesn’t answer
“What?” I repeat.
Come on, not this again.
“I can’t take any more of the silent treatment.” I tell her.
Tammy nods. She’s looking out the window. Wait, was that window there before? If it was, I didn’t notice it.
Tammy’s still gazing out the window, her eyes in a blank stare. A single tear falls down her face. Then her expression hardens.
“Tammy,” I try again, “What is wrong?” I say this more like a statement than a question.
“TAMMY!” I scream at her.
She looks at me, her big brown eyes clouded over.
“What,” she says coldly, “do you want?”
I hear footsteps outside the door. Then the door opens. A woman walks in, about thirty or thirty-five, with curly blond hair that somewhat looks like a wig. I look at Tammy, but she’s staring out the window again, that hard expression still on her face. I don’t know what to do, so I just sit there, asking questions to myself. Is this person on our side or their side? Will she help us?
My thoughts are interrupted by a nasally voice. An unbelievably annoying nasally voice.
“Who ah you?” The woman asks, with a thick New York accent.
“Uh… I should ask you the same thing.” I reply.
“I’m Sally,” she says, “Mike’s goilfriend.”
“Gee, I didn’t know Mike had a girlfriend…” I say.
“Well now ya know. So know answer my question,” Sally says, “Who ah you?”
“I’m your boyfriend’s captive.” I say flatly.
“And who’s she…?” Sally asks impatiently, her foot starting to tap. She’s looking at Tammy, who’s now looking away from the window and at Sally.
“She’s—“ I begin to say, but Tammy interrupts me.
“I can answer for myself” she says with a flat tone.
“Well, then, ansa!” Sally practically shouts. She’s getting more impatient by the millisecond.
“My name is Tamara Ann Jensenn,” Tammy says, “Tammy.”
“Well, finally!” Sally sounds exasperated, “It took ya long enuff for you to tell me!”
“So, why are you here?” Tammy asks, sounding somewhat like she doesn’t even care.
“Well I was hea to pick up my purse that I left hea the otha day,” Sally says, “But now I’m gonna ask why my boyfriend has two teenagas held ce-aptive.”
“Good idea,” Tammy says, “And when you find out, tell us. ‘Cause we’re really curious.”
Sally turns on the heel of her six-inch stilleto boots and walks out the door, closing it behind her. We sit there, quietly, waiting for the other to talk first. But neither of us know what to say. So we just keep quiet.
About ten minutes later, I hear Sally’s squeaky voice down the hallway.
“Sweetheart, I thought you knew.” Mike says.
The door clicks and Sally, Mike, and Bill walk in to the room.
“Well, I don’t!” Sally says, “So please tell me!”
“Well, now I can’t,” Mike says, gesturing to us, “’Cause they’re right there.” Mike sounds like he was talking to a little kid.
“Miiiiiiiiiiiiikkkeeeeee!” Sally whines.
“Oh, fine!” Mike screams, “It’s the thing, with the thing, that we have to do!”
“What?” Sally sounds stumped.
“You know what?” Mike mutters.
“What, sweetheart?” Sally asks sweetly.
“Never mind,” Mike says, with a trace of aggravation in his voice.
Tammy and I still sit there, listening as, once again, we hear them walk down the hall. I’m starting to become really bored, not that I wasn’t bored before. Wait, how long have we been here? One day? Two days? Three days? We haven’t eaten in a while. We ate before we knew who Mike and Bill were. But if we ate before we knew who they were, wouldn’t that be a couple of days ago? I never really realized I was hungry. Then again, my stomach did grumble about an hour ago.
I get up and start banging on the door.
“Sally!” I scream. I figure it would be better to talk to her than Mike. “Sally! Sally! Come here! Sally!” I stop when I hear heels in the hallway. I’m about to call one more time, but am interrupted by the door opening.
“Aahh! What do ya want?” Sally shouts.
Then again, maybe it would be better to talk to Mike.
“Sally?” I ask semi-sweetly. “Do you think you could get us some food?”
“Again? You goils eat so much!”
“We haven’t eaten in…“ I stop to count in my head. Let’s see, one, today is two. “We haven’t eaten in about two days.”
“Well, too bad!” Sally says, “We don’t have a lot of food in this place! ‘S nawt my fawlt.”
“Oh my god,” I say dramatically, “You guys kidnapped us, and now you’re starving us, too?! When will this ennnnndddd?!” I look at Tammy, silently asking her to help me out. But she’s just looking at us. You know, I don’t know what’s wrong with her. One minute she’s my friend, then she’s crying, then she’s in a blank stare, and then she’s angry. I mean, there’s no reason for all of this. Why can’t she pick one mood per day? That’s what I do, and today that mood is hungry.
“Okay, okay, shut up awlready!” Sally shouts, “I’ll get you some food! Just keep it down! My earrings are gonna break. They’re crystal.”
I was about to explain that my shouting would hardly break crystal, but Sally was already out the door.
“What about you? Aren’t you hungry?” I ask Tammy.
“Kind of, not really….” Tammy says semi-quietly.
I don’t say anything more.
We sit there for a couple of minutes until the sound of footsteps comes back. I can hear Sally and Mike whisper-shouting something. The door opens and Sally and Mike barge in.
“Mike, I don’t want to!” Sally whispers.
“Tammy, Cindy, we have something to tell you,” Mike says in the sweetest voice he can make up.
“It’s Sierra,” I say flatly, “not Cindy.”
“I don’t care,” Mike says. “Now would you like to hear what we have to say or not?”
“Do we have a choice?” I ask.
“No, now listen up!” Mike shouts. “Tammy, you might want to hear this, too.”
I glance at Tammy who, again, is looking out the window. She turns to look at Mike.
“Fine,” she says
“We’re your,” Mike starts. “We’re your parents.”
The world is spinning.
“Wait, mine or Tammy’s?” I say, my voice shaking.
“Tammy’s,” Sally says.
I hear a thud.
Tammy is sprawled across the floor. She passed out. Mike and Sally turn to leave but I stop them.
“Wait a minute,” I say, almost shouting. “You’re not leaving! You can’t leave now! We have questions that need to be answered!”
“What about Tammy’s parents?” I ask. “You know. The ones that she’s lived with for her whole life?”
“Adoptive,” Sally answers.
“Yeah, right,” I say. “Prove it.”
“What?” Mike asks.
“Prove it,” I repeat. “Prove that you’re Tammy’s ‘real’ parents. ‘Cause I sure as heck don’t believe you, and Tammy won’t either.”
“Fine,” Mike says. “We have her birth certificate.”
“You could’ve stolen it when you broke into Tammy’s house,” I counter. “Besides,” I add, “you don’t look anything like her. Tammy has her mom’s nose and hair, and her dad’s eyes.”
“Well, I have brown eyes,” Sally says, “And my hair is bleached…”
“Obviously,” I mutter.
“Soooo, my hair’s natural color could look like Tammy’s— is like Tammy’s,” Sally says, correcting herself.
“You know, you guys are awful actors,” I say, still unconvinced. “I have another question. Why am I here? If you’re Tammy’s ‘parents’ and you kidnapped Tammy, then why do you need me?”
I hear the floor creak and turn around to look at Tammy. She’s standing up, and tears are streaming down her face. She walks over to us and kicks Mike, not really hard, just enough to have him holding his shin.
“You’re not my dad,” Tammy sobs, “and you’re not my mom.”
“We are your parents,” Mike says.
“Oh, really?” Tammy sobs more. “Would my ‘dad’ kidnap me and put a gag in my mouth? And would my ‘mom’ yell about how we eat too much when we’ve only had one meal in two days? I don’t know who you are, but I know that my real parents would be nice to me. In fact, they are nice to me. They’re at home, searching for me, because you took me!”
Tammy ran out the door. Mike and Sally tried to stop her, but she was too fast.
I stand there, stunned. I want to run after her, but somehow I can’t. Sally and Mike were already out the door, running after Tammy. And I’m just standing there. I honestly don’t know what to do.
And then it hits me. This is probably the only time I will ever be able to escape. The overwhelming thought makes my eyes water. I can get out. I can get home.
Now I start running. Out the door, around the corner, and down a long corridor. There are a couple of doors along the walls, so I try one. Locked. Another. Locked. Another. Locked.
“Oh, come on!” I shout, exasperated.
I run back down the corridor and try a different route. I turn right instead of left. Then I round another corner and stop when I almost run into a wall.
“Are you kidding me? Is this really a dead end?” I scream.
“It’s not a dead end,” a voice says.
“Uh….who’s there?” I ask.
“It’s not a dead end,” they say again.
“Seriously, who is that?”
“There’s a door.”
“No, there isn’t!” I scream.
“Yes, there is,” the voice shouts back.
I look around some more. I don’t see anything but an empty hallway with a blank wall at the end. There’s no door. Is this person crazy? Or maybe I’m crazy. I mean, there’s no one around for me to be talking to, so where is the voice coming from? Maybe I’m not talking to anyone; to thin air! I’m going crazy.
I turn to start walking back down the hallway.
“Wait, don’t go!”
“What do you mean, ‘don’t go’?” I continue walking.
“I mean, don’t leave.”
“You can’t tell me what to do. And I’m certainly not going to listen to a lunatic voice coming from the walls.”
“Why should I?”
I stop walking and do what they say. I don’t know why, but something just tells me I should.
“What?” I ask.
Suddenly a door opens. Well, to be more specific, the wall opens to reveal someone standing on the other side.
“Sierra!” They yell, while pulling me in for a hug.
If this was a normal day, I would have pulled away and asked what the heck they were doing. I don’t even know them! But this isn’t a normal day, and frankly, a hug feels really good right now.
The girl pulls away.
“Who are you?” I ask.
“Jordan.” She replies.
“Jordan who?” I prompt, “And how do you know who I am?”
“I know a lot of things.”
I turn to walk away, but Jordan puts her foot out and trips me.
“Hey!” I object.
“I didn’t tell you to leave yet.” Jordan says.
“You weren’t answering my questions!”
“Look, just come with me.” Jordan gestures to the direction of the opened wall.
“No way! I’m not walking through a wall! I don’t know where that leads! I don’t even know you!” I say.
“You don’t know a lot of things. But you can trust me. You can trust us. We will help you.”
“Wait. Who’s we?” I ask.
“We,” Jordan says, “are The Agency.”
“Otherwise known as the Controllers.”
“Of life?!” I ask, on the verge of yelling. The more she says, and the more I think about it, the more crazy it sounds. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about life, and why it goes in one direction or another, and who makes the descisions.” Jordan explains calmly. “I’m talking about the way life goes. We control it. We control everything.”
I let it soak in. “What?” I ask, still not understanding completely. “How do you control everyone’s life?”
“I said we, didn’t I?” Jordan steps back to reveal The Agency. The whole, entire of it. Chrome covers everything in sight, with the exception of the members of The Agency. Which, by the way, is enourmous. It is a giant room, that no one would have thought fit in what seems to be a tiny apartment building.
“This is crazy.” I say, looking around.
“That’s what we are… and that’s what all new recruits say.”
“Excuse me?” I ask.
“Oh, you must not understand.”
“Well, you are a new recruit.”
“WHAT?” I yell. Everyone turns to look at me.
“Sorry,” Jordan explains, “new recruit.” Everyone returns to their work.
“What if I don’t want to be a part of The Agency?”
“Well, you don’t really have a choice.”
“What do you mean, I don’t have a choice? I want my life back. I want to go home to my parents, and my sisters. They’re looking for me! I know they’re looking for me! Bring me home!” Tears stream down my face.
“I’m sorry, but… we can’t do that. Trust me, you’ll thank us one day.”
I wake up.
“Remember everything now?” A voice asks.
The voice is Allen, my partner at The Agency.
“Yes, I do now.” I say. “Thank you.”
“Anytime. I remember I wanted to know what happened to me too. They had a pretty crazy story. I got led to a volcano. And out popped Jordan.”
“Really? I got kidnapped with my best friend by total creepers.”
“Ah. One of the originals. You know, those ‘creepers’ work here.” Allen raises his eyebrow.
“Figures. I can’t believe how long ago that was.”
“How long?” Allen jokes.
“Twenty years, don’t make fun.” I smile. “By the way, they were right. Jordan was right. I do thank them. I can’t imagine my life without The Agency.”
“Well, come on.” Allen gestures. “Meeting in the Conference Ballroom.”
I stand up, looking around at our chrome home, that has been home to us for twenty years now. Allen and I begin walking towards the Ballroom, turning down silver hallways and past rooms full of new recruits learning the ropes.
“That used to be us.” I point to one of the rooms.
“Yup.” Allen says, but now we are in front of the Conference
Room, and there is no more time for talking about silly things like the past. “Only time for the future”, Jordan always says.
As the Ballroom files out, I spot a familiar girl with dirty-blond hair, and brown eyes. I hear the same laugh, and see her eyes twinkling. She notices me staring and walks towards me.
“Jordan said we might meet again.” She says.