By Nan Mykel
Kidnapping me was a lark. I was so unsuspicious he could have scooped me up with a butterfly net. Never again will I be so trusting of strangers, even if they do have suede patches on the sleeves of their sweater or speak with a British accent. What could I have been thinking of? I know—the lost mother beagle whose pups were crying up a storm.
I don’t remember the details of the snatch because to tell the truth I don’t seem to remember much at all since he held a handkerchief soaked in what smelled like chloroform over my nose and well, that was it until I woke up in this basement with my hands tied behind me. Chloroform is so pukey! He must have hit me on the head, too. Though I don’t remember it, I’ve got a pretty big knot on my top.
Since I‘m short and wear glasses, I guess he figured I’d be no flight risk. If only he knew! –Wait, don’t go there. This is real and life-threatening. The knot on my top is starting to throb, and I can feel my heart bamming away. What was more troubling is that I couldn’t come up with my name or age. Strange that I could remember some of the self-defense lessons from last summer. I may be a little bitty woman but those courses weren’t for nothing, although I didn’t use my head in the current situation.
I inched over to the heating duct to see what I could hear. Definitely no crying puppies. Could I hide somewhere? Dumb thought. Maybe he was going to try and ransom me. Would that mean my parents were rich? Even if they were it didn’t mean they would be willing to pay for my return.
My thoughts turned inward. Where did that thought come from? I don’t even remember my parents and yet I just caught a negative glimpse of them, true or not. I look around, recalling how other prisoners had freed themselves by rubbing their restraints against something sharp, (although I couldn’t even remember my own name). Zilch. This was not the basement of a handyman. Fire? No thanks. My eyes were beginning to adapt to the darkened basement. There were two very small windows up near the floorboard above, and a drain in the cement, which meant I could pee. Whoop de doo!
After what seemed like ages the cellar door opened and he came down the stairs carrying a tray. I barely looked at the try and said, “Thanks, Daddy.”
He drew his head back and said, “I’m not your daddy,” as he went to hand me the tray,
apparently forgetting that my hands were tied behind my back.
“Well, who are you?”
“I’m your worst nightmare,” he snarled, whereupon I giggled. He was acting like a monster from one of the movies I couldn’t remember, either.
“But you will spoon feed me like when I was a baby won’t you, Daddy? ‘Cause I can’t hold the spoon or the tray myself.” If looks could kill I wouldn’t be around to tell you this story. He cut the rope that restrained me, and as I rubbed feeling back into my wrists, I said, “Where’s Mama?”
He looked at me suspiciously. “What’s your name, little girl?”
“I can’t remember. What’s yours?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know!”
Oh, good. He‘s regressing. We’ll be down on the floor playing marbles soon.
“Not really. Just being polite. I really can’t remember my parents, my name, even my age.” I swung my legs against the chair as I swallowed a spoonful of canned chicken noodle soup.
“Yum! I was getting hungry.” I looked up at him and smiled. He was standing with his hands on his hips, watching me eat. My last meal? Nah, I hoped not.
“You don’t know who you are!” An incredulous, worried look crossed his face. “You could be anybody!”
“Yep.” I think I slurped a little. I was really hungry.
“How many kids get off the school bus at that stop?”
“Oh”—here I was pretending to count, because I really couldn’t remember. Would more or less be better? “Let’s see—Lavinia Rothschild rides when her driver is toting her mother around, and—aw, I can’t remember! You took my memory away from me!” I didn’t have to fake the sniffle that followed my statement, because I wasn’t having fun any more. “I wanna go home!”
“Yes, and I’d like to return you home, but I’m not sure what I’m dealing with here.”
“I know the feeling. I can barely remember a bunch of big houses in the neighborhood, but not my parents. My mother could be head of the house or the maid, or the butler could be my own dad—here I shot him a dark disparaging look. I felt my face brightening as a possibility crossed my mind. “Or I could even be a poor relation.” With my last statement he turned to leave.
“Hey, aren’t you going to tie my hands back up?”
He turned and gave a little-boy smirk. “You can try and escape. Be my guest. But I rather thought you liked it here, with me as your Dad-dee.”
I called up the stairs after him. “I’ll bet you don’t even have any kids of your own!”
He called back over his shoulder, “I can think of a lot of things worse than that!”
“Yeah? Name one.”
He emitted his Prince of Darkness snarl. “Like being held prisoner underground by a childless villain.” I heard him double lock the door. Several hours later he descended and set down what he referred to as a “pot to poop in.” He stood over me, again with hands on his hips. It must have helped him think. “Nobody in the whole world has missed you yet. Is no news good news or bad news?”
The next time he brought me vittles I had a new question for him. “Do you really not know who I am?”
“No. Do you?”
“No, but I want to know what happens to me if I remember.”
“I guess we’ll have to see.”
“Well, who did you think I was? People—even childless kidnappers—don’t just run around snatching total strangers….I would think.”
He did his heh-heh-heh thing and an idea occurred to me. “Hey! Wait a minute! Is this some kind of audition? I was in that play at school last fall…and are you trying out for Hulk or something? We’d make a great team!”
He scrunched up his face at me and said, “Are you from the funny farm or something?”
“No, but you must be, a grown man with nothing better to do than pick on little kids for fun.”
My statement seemed to come closest to making him feel a little ashamed. Hey! Just maybe he was religious! Could I tweak that banjo string? “Do you know why I’m still alive?”
He seemed curious and shook his head.
“Because God watches out for me and takes care of me.” He did not reply. “And do you know why I forgot my cell phone and left it at school today?” He was silent, listening. “Because He is watching out for you, too. He knows you have a better life ahead of you than playing bad guy—or somebody else’s stooge.”
She broke into song, revealing a sweet soprano voice and as the strains of “He walks with me and He talks with me and he tells me I am his own…” he fled upstairs. She called after him, “Remember that I don’t have any memory of you or what’s happened!”
It was several minutes before she realized she had not heard the door being locked behind him. Crossing her fingers, she tiptoed up the stairs and tried the door. It was unlocked. On the kitchen table was a sheet with big black words scribbled on it: “I QUIT!”
Without a moment’s hesitation she ran out the door, turned left and ran towards home as fast as her legs could carry her.