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The Price of Blood
Young Haley Marie McMurphy and Thomas James Michelson were only five years of age when they were snatched from their normal lives and taken by a creepy, yet oddly familiar old man. Little Haley and Thomas had never met each other, yet they were much more connected than they knew. In the previous days, Haley had managed to escape from her cruel captor, but Thomas was still locked up in a hidden cabin in the middle of a forest of willow trees, attempting to scream for help, but having nothing to show for his effort.
It was a cold overcast day, August 13, in Mirage, Texas and TJ had been gone for at least an hour now, the police searching for him. Trapped in this miniscule cabin, and bound by his wrists and ankles to a pole, TJ watched in horror as the sadistic old man made his way over to the cabinet, that had look so innocent just a few minutes ago, but grew more menacing by the minute. TJ could feel the warmth from the fire roaring behind him, warming the tears as they streamed down his face. He tried with all of his might to muster a bit of courage. “What are you going to do to me?” he asked.
“I’m going to punish you the same way I always punished you whenever you were a bad boy. You know that Charlie.” Replied the old man hoarsely, as he opened the cabinet, the contents obscured from TJ’s view. TJ feels a flicker of recognition come across his mind, Charlie; he knows that name from somewhere. “And as soon as we’re done with you, we’ll go find your sister Charlotte together. Then we can be a happy family again. You want that, don’t you son?” the old man explained, as if he were truly explaining it to his own son.
“I just want to go home to my mommy and daddy!” sobbed TJ, desperate to be home safe with his parents.
“You know your mother isn’t around anymore Charlie. She was a very bad girl and she had to be punished for her actions.” barked the old man. “Now don’t you ever mention her again!” he hissed. TJ turned to look at the man, once again attempting to wipe away his tears to find that he was still tied to the pole. And as soon as he saw it, a look of horror spread across his face. In his hands the old man held a whip, but not just any whip, a whip made out of willow switches. Suddenly he remembered something.
It was a searing hot, sunny summer day as little four year old TJ played around in his front yard, his mother knitting a pair of little socks for him in a lawn chair. TJ sat on the grass trying to find bugs to put in his little enclosure when a strong breeze blew from the east. Instinctively TJ looked up at the forest across the street, which looked dreary as usual, but not as bad today. Squinting his eyes, TJ saw something blowing in the wind towards him. He kept squinting as hard as he could, trying to make it out, but the bright ball of fire in the sky obscured his vision. Then, all of the sudden in hit him in the face, and TJ let out a cry. Quickly, his mother came running over to him. “What’s wrong sweetie? Did one of the buggy wuggys bite you?”his nervous mother questioned as she searched his arms and legs for bug bites. TJ just giggled, confusing his mother to no end. “I was just scared mommy! Something hit me in the face, but it was only this!” TJ snickered as he picked up the willow switch that had blown from across the street. Mrs. Michelson bellowed with laughter, and little TJ who had just watched Indiana Jones yesterday said “Watch out mommy! You’re a bad guy and I’m gonna get ya!” TJ then proceeded to chase his mother around the yard yelling “Give me back the crystal skull!”. Little did he know that his father was just returning home from work. What TJ and Mrs. Michelson took as just plain joking Mr. Michelson took very seriously. As he exited his cop car and saw what his son was doing he ran over to him and stood in front of him, an angry look upon his face. “Watch out daddy! Or I’ll whip you with my whip!” giggled TJ. Mr. Michelson snatched the willow switch out of TJ’s hand, obviously fuming. “You will never play with one of these again. What have I told you about crossing the street?” growled Mr. Michelson. “Honey, he didn’t it just blew over and we were just having fun.” began Mrs. Michelson. “THIS IS NOT FUNNY JENNIFER. THOMAS GO INSIDE, AND DON’T YOU EVER TOUCH ONE OF THESE AGAIN. “screamed Mr. Michelson. TJ began to pick up his bug kit, bawling his eyes out, but he distinctly heard his mother’s hushed voice, “I’m sorry Charlie….”
TJ woke up from his daydream screaming, as he felt a stinging pain across his chest. He looked down in horror to see a bleeding red line across his chest. “Just a few more Charlie.” breathed the old man, bringing the whip back once again.
“Wait!” TJ screamed, but it was too late, for another bloody line crossed the other one on his chest.
“What do you want child?” breathed the old man, obviously tired from the effort it took to whip so hard.
“My… my name isn’t Charlie.” whimpered TJ, hoping to save himself from more pain.
“Don’t you lie to me boy! For that you’ll get another whip!” The old man brought the whip back once again, and with all of the force he could he brought it across TJ’s face, leaving a line of blood from TJ’s left ear to the right of his neck. “My…. My daddy’s name is Charlie!” bellowed TJ, with all of his might. The old man suddenly look startled, as if he was trying to wake up from some deep sleep. TJ, a smart boy for his age, had put the pieces together in his mind. “Grandpa! That makes you my grandpa! Grandpa! Please don’t hurt me anymore!” bawled TJ, tasting the metallicness of his own blood. The old man, or should I say TJ’s grandfather, looked even more bemused, a war obviously going on in his mind. “Wha… What year is it?” the old man queried.
“2013! It’s 2013 grandpa!” TJ exclaimed, glad he had learned his months, days, and years last year in kindergarten.
“No, no! That can’t be true! This is 1982! You and your sister left me, left me all alone in that cell!” screamed the confused old man, readying his whip once again. TJ knew that he had better convince him quickly or he would be whipped again. He sympathized with his captor yet loathed him at the same time. He tried to use his whole year of knowledge he had obtained at school to his advantage. “My name is Thomas James Michelson, not Charlie! I live at 665 Willow Switch Lane in Mirage, Texas. I have no brothers or sisters, but I have a daddy and a mommy. My daddy does not like willow switches and he told me to never cross the street, but I lost my ball today so I came over here to find it!” he pleaded, trying to make his sad excuse for a grandfather understand. “Now you try it! Tell me about you!”
Slowly, but surely a light came to the old man’s eyes as he replied, “My name is Henry William Smith. I used two have two children, Charlie and Charlotte, and a wife named Sheila. My wife Sheila was a bad woman. She didn’t obey me like a good lady does, and I had to punish her. The whip didn’t make her behave anymore so I thought I would try the knives, but I cut her and she began to bleed.” The old man began to sob. “She wouldn’t stop bleeding. I tried to make the blood stop. I did. I did.” The old man sat down on the ground and began to rock back and forth. “I…. I was taken by the police. I had a trial, and Charlie and Charlotte. They told everyone that I was a bad man. I wasn’t though, I was a good father, I was!” TJ’s grandfather began to hyperventilate. “I was taken to the cell. I was there for a long time, but I was a good man, I was good. They let me go, and….. I had nothing. They ran away. They left me. Why did they leave me? I was a good man.” He continued to bawl for a few minutes and then he stopped, his eyes glazed over once more. “You have been a very bad boy Charlie, and you must be punished. The whip won’t work Charlie. I’ll have to use the knives again.” He replied sadistically, clueless to the fact that he had just had a major revelation. TJ opened his mouth to scream when he heard a pounding at the door, and it was then that he knew he would be alright. “Put your hands up! We have you surrounded!” a familiar voice demanded. TJ recognized this voice as none other than his father. “DADDY! HELP ME!” cried TJ, relieved to know that his father was here to rescue him. TJ was just sure that he was going to be safe when he felt a cold piece of metal against his neck. “Come in, and I’ll use the knives. You don’t want that again do you Charlie?” scathed the old man, not talking to TJ anymore but to his father.
“I’m here to accept my punishment father. Wouldn’t you rather punish me, than my son?” replied Charlie, TJ’s father, in a calm voice. TJ couldn’t believe that his father would let himself be whipped and cut, but he resisted the urge to scream out. “Fine, but I only want you Charlie. No other police, and no guns, just you, me, and your son.” retorted TJ’s psychopathic grandfather. After a shuffle and a few hushed whispers Mr. Michelson replied, “Fine father. I will do as you ask.” The creepy old man made his way to the creaky old wooden door and peaked through the keyhole, checking to make sure his son was alone. Then, he quickly unlocked the door by its’ three locks and pulled it wide open. For a minute the two just stared at each other, observing how each one had changed, and then TJ’s father finally demanded, “Untie my son or I walk in no further.” The old man nodded, thinking it a reasonable request, and went over and cut the ropes binding TJ to the pole, the knife so close to TJ’s skin that he began to sweat. As quick as a heartbeat, TJ ran over to his father and gave him a huge hug, tears spilling from his eyes. “Shhh.. shh… It’s alright TJ, it’ll all be right. We just need to get this taken care of real quick. Okay? You just wait right outside for me. TJ is nervous to leave his father alone with well… his father’s father, but a reassuring wink from his dad, lets him know that everything is going to be fine. TJ shivers in the windy air, wishing he had a coat, as he goes to sit down at the opposite corner of the cabin. He faintly heard the sound of pieces of rope being cut, and then tied around something, and with tears in his eyes he realized that is father was being tied up just as he had been. The old man made his way to the door, and TJ barely saw the door wiggle as the old man touched it to steady himself, getting ready to shut it. Suddenly, without warning, a loud bang rang through the air, and TJ heard a body thud against the cold hard ground. Horror spread across his face as TJ realized that someone has just been shot.
Bawling, TJ ran to the doorway, not noticing the various policemen coming out from hiding behind him. However, when he reached the doorway he was confused to find his grandfather laying dead upon the ground, and his father shedding tears tied up to the pole that had once trapped TJ himself. A kind officer TJ recognized as his father’s friend Officer Ryan, kindly asked him to step aside, and as he did the other policemen rushed inside the cabin, untied his father, grabbed the body, and loaded it into an ambulance. The rest of that day was a blur of police car rides, questions, tears, and hugs for TJ. That night, after him and his father had finished at the precinct they went home and TJ slept in bed with his parents.
The very next morning, TJ woke up alone in his parent’s bed. Scared half to death, he raced downstairs to find his parents sitting awkwardly at the dining table sipping coffee and reading the newspaper. Whenever his father saw TJ he said, “Thomas please sit down. I need to explain to you exactly what happened yesterday.” TJ sat down, afraid of punishment, for his father only ever used his actual name in extremely serious matters.
With a deep breath, Mr. Michelson began, “Thomas. The person you met yesterday was my father. My daddy as you might say.”
“Yes I know that! He was my grandpa wasn’t he?” asked TJ meekly.
He continued to explain, “Yes he was Thomas. He was, but you see he wasn’t a good, nice daddy like I am. My daddy hurt me and my sister Charlotte often, for even the smallest things we did wrong. He didn’t just ground us or spank us; he whipped us with a switch very similar to the one he used against you. Anyways, though that is extremely wrong and mean, back then that was accepted as a form of punishment for misbehaving children. But you see, he didn’t even just punish my sister and me, he punished my mommy too.” “Do you understand Thomas?” he asked sympathetically. TJ nodded, trying to fight back tears. His father continued, “He punished her the same way he punished us, but once while he was punishing her she resisted, and yelled that she didn’t deserve punishment from her husband of all people. That’s when he brought out the knives, Thomas. He claims that he didn’t meant to kill her, only make her bleed a bit, but with his limited knowledge of the human body he nicked one of her major arteries and she bled out. I heard my mommy scream from the basement so I called the police, and they came and took him. And after a bunch of time there was a trial, and my daddy was found guilty and sent to jail. My sister and I told the good guys what daddy had done to us, that’s a big reason why he was put away.” “Do you still understand?” he asked once more.
“Yes daddy. Grandpa said something about that in the cabin.” whispered TJ. Mr. Michelson winced, saddened yet again that his son had been exposed to his cruel father. “Yes, well there’s the program that helps people like me and my sister, called the Witness Protection Program, which is a fancy way of saying that they gave us new names and new lives so that hopefully our father would never find us ever again, on the off chance that he was released or that he escaped.” Then, from the corner of his eye TJ saw a woman and her daughter walk in from the living room. “That is your aunt Charlotte, my sister, and your cousin Haley, her daughter.” The other two proceeded to sit down at the opposite end of the table and then Charlotte continued. “Haley was kidnapped just like you were Thomas, but she got away. She actually only got away only a couple of hours before you were taken.” Haley began to sob silently into her pink Dora shirt, and by some move of compassion TJ said, “It’s okay Haley. We’re okay now. He’s gone.” TJ got up and went to sit down next to his cousin Haley. Touched, Charlotte continued, the emotion evident in her voice, “Anyways, you two looked so much like us that our daddy thought that you were us. He was a very old man and very confused, and he had a disease where he forgets things. You see, he couldn’t remember all of the years that had passed since we left him. He thought we were still little, but we grew up and got our families.” She tried to continue, but she broke out into tears, so TJ’s dad finished explaining, “He thought that you two were us. And he wanted to punish us for leaving him, but I promise you it’s all over now. That horrible man isn’t going to bother you anymore.”
TJ, putting the pieces together asked, “Is it because the police shot him?”
His father sighed and replied, “Yes Thomas that’s why. He’s not alive anymore and he won’t hurt anymore kids like you ever again. He’s gone for good.”
Haley whimpered, “Are… are you sure he’s gone for good?”
Her mother replied, “Yes sweetie. He can’t hurt you anymore. And I promise I won’t ever let you get hurt like that again. Cross my heart and hope to die.” And with that the family spent the rest of the summer together resting and relaxing, and recovering from that horrible day. Charlotte took a position as a pediatrician in town and moved in next to the Michelsons. From that day onward Haley and TJ spent every day together, for only they could truly understand what each other had been through. And they both swore to their parents, that they would never cross that wretched street, into those god-forsaken woods ever again.