He to an armed fleet was forced away
By seamen, who perhaps themselves had shared
Like fate; was hurried off, a helpless prey,
'Gainst all that in 'his' heart, or theirs perhaps, said nay.
From “Guilt and Sorrow” by William Wordsworth
~ 10 ~
Some Relief, If Only Temporary
AJ could taste freedom. It was coming at any second; at least that was the hope. Once Kevin managed to get himself into the van and Brian loose, they both set to work on freeing their dangling friend. Brian went out into the rain to look for something that might help tear AJ’s seatbelt since the buckle was too far bent to be able to unclick it.
“We’ll get you down from there soon buddy, I promise.” Kevin said in his most reassuring voice as he sat pretty much in the same spot that Brian had called home for the last several hours.
“How’s the ankle?”
“It’s been better.”
“You really think it’s broken?”
“Yeah, most likely, but I’m hoping for just a really bad sprain.”
Brian returned within a few minutes with a really pointy shard of glass and it was that, he used to finally saw AJ’s seatbelt in half allowing him to sail to the ground with the aid of his friend who made sure he didn’t completely fall and hurt himself. Once down AJ hugged his Brian so tightly he thought that maybe he might have broken him in half. Once he let go, he went for Kevin and did the same.
“I swear to God I am never sitting again!” He said as he plopped himself down on the floor next to Kevin.
The rain finally stopped as they all sat in the van, quietly assessing their situation. AJ protectively wrapped his right arm across his stomach. He was sure that he probably had one hell of a bruise across his abdomen from that dam seatbelt. Granted, the thing probably saved his life, but even still he most likely would always find himself second guessing the need to wear one on long drives. Looking across at Brian, he noticed he was doing his own massaging, “How’s the arm?” He asked concerned that maybe he had broken it.
“I’m starting to get feeling back but it’s actually my back that’s hurting. Pretty much everything is hurting at this point.”
“Same, brother…So, what do we do now?” This time he directed his question at his oldest band mate, the one who always had the answers.
Kevin was also rubbing at his sore spots, this time it was his neck. “I think we need to wait until the morning and then try to flag a car down.”
“Yeah, let’s not forget about the fucking wolves.” AJ’s offering to the argument.
“I think the rain scared them away or at least made them go back to wherever they came from, for now at least.” Kevin went from rubbing his neck to rubbing his legs.
“Shouldn’t we try tonight? I mean I have heard cars passing by.” Brian suggested as he moved his arm back and forth in small circular motions.
“I don’t know, Bri. It’s dark as hell out there. I’d be afraid if you guys tried to make it up the hill you’d end up hurting yourselves even more, plus AJ did have a point about the wolves, they’ll be back.”
It was almost perfect timing because just as Kevin finished his sentence a pair of car lights shown as they drove by, but the car didn’t sound like it zoomed past, it actually sounded as if it stopped. “Did you hear that?” AJ asked excited as he found himself sitting a little straighter.
“Shh…” Kevin put his finger to his mouth as all three listened. The look on Kevin’s face turned from hopeful to disappointed, “Never mind, I don’t hear it anymore.”
“That’s why I think maybe we should go up there; I mean that was only one car maybe the next one…”
As AJ listened to the cousins arguing he could swear he heard voices coming down the hill. He moved closer to the windshield, “Guys!” He said as the two continued to argue about what they should do. There was no doubt in his mind he thought he saw the slightest flash of a light pass by the back of the van. “Someone’s here!” He said loud enough that both men stopped mid-fight. “We’re saved!” he pointed to the side of the van where two pairs of feet passed right before a familiar voice was heard.
“Guys, are you here?”
“Nick? Is that you?” AJ jumped up as did Brian and even Kevin tried before he fell right back down after yelping in pain.
Nick came into view shortly after that, bending over and looking into the broken windshield. “I was hoping you guys wouldn’t be here.” His voice was weak, it almost didn’t sound like him at all.
“We’re here buddy but the more important question is, where the hell have you guys been?” AJ helped Nick into the van. He seemed very shaky on his feet. He then moved his hand thinking it would be Howie he’d be helping next only to be thrown off by the presence of a complete stranger. “Hey.”
The stranger nodded and handed him a bag, “We brought you some supplies, there’s another bag. I’ll be right back.”
“Oh, okay.” AJ sounded confused. He turned to Nick who was slowly making his way beside Kevin who pulled him into a protective hug and was surprised when Nick was so quick to pull away.
“Give me that bag quick and listen to me, I don’t have much time!”
The alarming sound of his voice made AJ’s heart grow cold.
“What’s going on Nick, where’s Howie?”
“That guy…look he’s nuts, okay? He kidnapped Howie and I. Howie is still at the cabin tied up. I convinced him to drop these off for you but then I have to go back with him…”
He was talking very fast and erratic in between very labored breaths as Brian grabbed a flashlight and shone it on their friend as he continued to talk, literally hoping to shed light on this very farfetched situation. “He said if you guys try anything he’ll kill you so you have to let me just leave with him…you have to let me go.”
Now AJ also was holding a flashlight as Brian passed the remaining one to Kevin, “What? This makes no sense.” Brian said, but just taking one look at Nick, one real close look, you could tell he wasn’t lying.
AJ was focused on his face; he had never in his life seen Nick look as pale as he did at that moment. He also looked absolutely petrified.
“Jesus, let me see those!” Kevin’s eyes however had gone down to Nick’s wrists which were all red and bloody, “Did he do that to you?”
Nick nodded, “I’ve been tied up this whole time…look he’s going to be back any minute. You… You have to let me go…”
The panic on Brian’s face echoed the one AJ felt on his own. “How can we let you go with a maniac, Nick?”
“Because if you don’t he will kill you Brian!” This time he broke into tears, “He will…”
“But if we let him take you, he will kill you!”
“No, Bri…he won’t hurt me.”
“He already has!”
“I mean, he just won’t…he’ll kill you guys.”
Kevin grabbed Nicks shoulders very softly, “Okay, you need to tell us as much as you can. What’s his name? Where does he live, what is he driving?”
Nick swallowed hard, as AJ saw the flashlight beam once again at the back of the van. “He’s coming, hurry!”
“His name is Tim, it’s a white truck. He lives up the road a ways off this...” Was all he managed to get out before Tim peered in carrying the other bag in his hands.
AJ wanted to leap on him right there, the monster but then he saw the rifle and anger was suddenly replaced by fear.
“Okay, well you guys should have plenty of stuff there. I bought you some flashlights and blankets and there’s a whole lot of snacks in there plus bottled water. I’m sure there’s more than enough to get you through the night and then some, just in case you’re trapped longer than that.”
AJ, Brian and Kevin were all staring at the guy as he talked so calmly. “I’m sure Nick told you about our situation. I trust you won’t tell anyone about this. I would hate to hurt any of you especially him since we’ve already been through so much together.” The look, smile and wink he gave to Nick made the hair on the back of AJ’s neck stand on end.
“Can’t you just leave him here with us?” Brian asked placing a hand on Nick’s shoulder as if keeping that on there would prevent him from leaving again.
“But then Howie would be lonely, we wouldn’t want Howie to feel left out. He’s already probably wondering what’s taking us so long.” He said that last part to Nick who nodded and gave what looked like a real smile to anyone who didn’t know him as well as AJ did.
“Come on kiddo, we need to get going. There’s aspirin in this bag for whoever broke his ankle.” The man said as he handed the second bag over to AJ. “And no need to pay me back, consider it a gift.” He once again motioned for Nick, “Come on…we have to go, NOW”! He shouted that last word and just for a second, AJ thought he saw Kevin try to stand before calming himself down.
Nick turned to Brian, “It’s okay Bri…it’ll be okay.” He nodded and gave him a hug.
He then bent down and hugged Kevin who whispered something into Nick’s ear that had him nodding. AJ wished he could tell what it was, but he was too far away to hear.
Then it was AJ’s turn. Nick looked at him, there were tears in his eyes and dried blood all over his face. He grabbed his younger friend into a hug, “Please be careful and tell Howie we love him.”
“I will.” He smiled and then looked back and smiled at the other two before being helped out of the windshield by the lunatic they were just letting leave with their friend.
By instinct, AJ followed them out of the van as Brian tagged along, close behind. When he turned the corner Nick was down on the ground and the crazy man was helping him to his feet, almost dragging him. That’s when he turned around noticing the two of them watching, “You best go get into that van before I blow your heads off boys!” The voice coming out of him was sounding completely different than the one handing over the grocery bags just minutes before.
When neither of them moved, he dropped Nick back on the ground and held the rifle up, “I mean it!”
“Go…” Nick said barely in a whisper.
“Come on AJ, let’s go.” Brian put a loving hand on AJ’s shoulder as he felt a few fresh tears hit his cheeks. He couldn’t believe they were just letting him go with that guy. What kind of friends were they?
When they got back into the van there was a new kind of energy that didn’t exist before. It was a mixture of fear, anxiety and anger. Kevin was drinking some water and popping a few pills. “We have to do something!” Brian almost screamed it. “Did you see how bad he looked?”
“What the fuck just happened?” AJ was hoping maybe he had just had a stress induced dream or something. That couldn’t have possibly been real.
“Kevin we have to do something!” Brian said again putting one hand behind his neck and rubbing, something he did when he was completely nervous and stressed out.
For the first time ever, Kevin looked lost and unsure of himself and that scared the crap out of AJ. Who found himself just staring at his older friend, looking for some kind of answer.
Kevin took another swig of water before closing the bottle and placing it by his side, “I think we wait until morning and then flag down a car for help, just like before.”
AJ looked over at Brian as he exploded, “What? Did you not just see what happened, Kevin? Nick and Howie have been kidnapped by a psycho! Our friend just left with him… he had a rifle!”
“You know? Oh good; I’m so glad you know…Kevin what the hell?”
At that point, Kevin’s temporarily calm demeanor disappeared as he shouted in tears, “You think I don’t get it, Brian? I get it, okay?”
“Then why are we not running up that hill and trying to throw ourselves in front of the next car that passes by?”
“Because of all the reasons that existed before Nick showed up, you think everything else is magically going to go away?”
“You think he’s not waiting up there to see if we try to do something to help? Honestly?”
Brian hesitated for a second thinking about this as it dawned on AJ how right Kevin probably was. “Look, I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but I don’t’ think he’s going to hurt them.”
“He already has hurt Nick and I can only imagine what Howie might look like.” Brian seemed like he was bouncing now but it was really just nervous energy. If he had the room to run in place, he probably would be doing that.
Kevin closed his eyes, now fully crying, “I know…but the thing is,” He stopped and swallowed, trying to take control of his emotions, “The thing is…” He said a lot more calmly now, “If he really wanted to kill them, he would have by now. Instead, Nick managed to convince him to bring us supplies. The guy brought us two bags full of things only because Nick asked him to. If he planned on killing Nick, why would he be so willing to want to help him?”
AJ looked down remembering what Nick looked like, “Why did Nick look so scared then, Kevin? I will never forget that look on his face. He looked terrified.”
“I think it’s because he was afraid the guy was going to kill us, not him. He was worried about us.”
Once again AJ looked over at Brian who was now looking down at the ground. Kevin continued, “It’s clear that our lives were threatened, not his. If we try to leave this van now, there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be waiting up there with rifle in hand ready to kill us.”
“This is a test we can’t fail.”