“Me, too,” I say in fervent agreement. I’m on my second cup of coffee already, and it’s not going to be nearly enough to get me through the day. I barely made it to work on time, so I dive right into my lists. I don’t take a breather until lunch, and even then, I only take ten minutes to eat my ham sandwich. After lunch, I power through the rest of the afternoon, becoming increasingly nervous about the night’s adventure. I don’t want to fuck things up—I just want to bring Bob home. I clock out at five and grab a turkey sub from Subway on my way home. I’m not going to have time for a sit-down meal, so I need to eat whatever I can, quickly. I also stop at Cub to pick up some bottled water, a wrapped sandwich, and some fruit for Bob when I find him.
When I get home, I feed Onyx and Jet their treats before gobbling down half my sub. I give them each a sliver of turkey, so they’re happy campers. Afterwards, I take a shower and change into black slacks and a black turtleneck. I don’t know why I’m going into stealth ninja/thief mode, but it seems appropriate. I cuddle with the cats on the bed for ten minutes before going downstairs. My doorbell rings at exactly six, and I go to let Lydia in. She’s dressed in all black as well. Onyx and Jet jump up on her as she enters, and she spends a few minutes greeting them in a friendly fashion. Once they’re done, I grab my bag, and we take off in my car.
“How’re you feeling?” Lydia asks as I head up I-35W.
“Nervous. Tense. Hoping this is the end,” I say, keeping my eyes on the road. I don’t like driving when it’s light out, let alone dark. I have terrible night vision, and I find myself more reluctant to drive at night the older I get.
“Slow, steady breaths,” Lydia counsels, demonstrating for me. I join her, and I do feel minutely better. “Also, tuck your chin as you drive, and pull your head up by the topmost point. It’ll help you focus.” I follow her instructions, and I’m instantly more awake. We don’t talk much on the way up to the cabin. I’m too nervous to chat, and I think Lydia is respecting that. It takes forty-five minutes to reach the cabin, and when we get there, I shut down the car and turn to face Lydia.
“I think I should go in by myself to suss out the situation, but maybe you could stand guard at the door in case Hayley comes later?” I grab my bag as Lydia nods.
“Oh, hey. I have lock picks.” She pull them out of her pocket and waves them at me. “One of my students sometimes trades lock pick knowledge for lessons.”
“Cool.” We get out of the car and approach the cabin. There’s one light on, and I peek through a window. I gasp because I can see Bob tied to a bed, spread-eagled, with ropes, I think. He’s shirtless, but his pants don’t seem too grimy. Just as I thought, Hayley is keeping him in decent shape. I wiggle the doorknob, but it’s locked, of course. Lydia applies the picks to the knob, and after a minute, she pops it open. “Wait here,” I say to Lydia, and she nods in return. She assumes a relaxed stance, but I can see her eyes scanning the environment around her.
“I’m on it,” she says, and I’m reassured. Taking a deep breath, I open the door and go in.
“Bob, it’s me, Megan.” I brace myself for what I’m about to encounter, but it’s not as bad as I expected. The cabin is clean and heated, and there’s no piss or shit anywhere to be seen or smelled. It’s clear that Hayley comes every day, if not more often, and I don’t know whether to be relieved or upset by it.
“Megan? Is that really you?” Bob’s voice is hoarse, as to be expected.
“Yes, it is.” I hurry over to him, pulling my knife out of my bag. “Stay still.” I slide the knife under the rope on one of his wrists and saw away at it.
“It’s Hayley Wu! She drugged me and brought me out here.” Bob’s voice is frantic, and I don’t blame him. “Hurry! I don’t know when she’ll be back.”
“Don’t worry. I brought a friend with me who’s an expert in taiji. Tai chi. She’s at the door, so she’ll warn us if Hayley approaches the cabin.” I free one wrist, and Bob murmurs his thanks. He has a musky smell to him, but it’s not too bad. Apparently, he’s good at holding his bladder, which is something that would have been a problem for me.
“Jasmine doesn’t think I left her, does she?” Bob asks, his eyes trained on mine.
“Not at all. She’s worried sick about you.” I slice his other wrist free, and he massages it to get his circulation going. “Do you have your phone?”
“No. Hayley took it from me.” Bob looks as if he’s going to cry. “She claimed it was so I would only think about her, but it’s so I couldn’t call anyone, as if I could, anyway. She had me tied the whole time I’ve been here.”
“How ghastly.” I start cutting away the rope around one of his ankles, taking care not to cut him.
“She only untied my ankles, and that’s so I could relieve myself and she could change my pants.” He blushes in misery, and I feel sorry for the indignities he had to suffer. “She came at least twice a day, sometimes three. She often brought Teddy with her.” Teddy. Teddy. Oh, right. Her son. She actually brought him here? Somehow, that made everything even worse.
“I’m really sorry you had to go through all this, Bob,” I say, working on his second ankle.
“I can’t believe she did this! How did she ever think it would make me want to be with her?” I don’t answer because I think the question is rhetorical, but then I realize he’s waiting for an answer.
“I don’t know, Bob. She isn’t right in the head.” I finally free his last limb, and I start massaging it gently.
“How did you find me?” Bob struggles to sit up, and I help him. I grab a bottle of water from my bag and twist the cap off. I hand it to him, but his hands aren’t working correctly yet. I hold it to his lips, and he drinks it in gulps.
“It’s a long story. I’ll tell you on the way home.” I cap the water and put it back in my bag. I unwrap the sandwich and hold it out to him, and he grabs it, stuffing the end of it into his mouth. I gather Hayley hasn’t been here in a while, which makes me worried that she’ll come soon. I hear a commotion outside the door, and Bob sits upright in alarm.
“She’s here!” He grabs my arm in alarm, and I pat his hand soothingly.
“It’s OK. My friend, Lydia, can handle it. Wait! Does Hayley have a gun?”
“A gun?” Bob stares at me in consternation. “No, she doesn’t. At least, not that I’ve seen.”
“Let me go check on Lydia.” I grab the rope that had been tethering Bob before heading for the front door. Sure enough, Lydia has Hayley in a tight grip, and Hayley is struggling with all her might.
“Let me go! You’re trespassing. This is my cabin!” Hayley shrieks, trying to kick Lydia in the shin. Lydia moves away with ease and twists Hayley’s arm behind her back. “You fucking bitch!” Hayley howls, but there’s nothing she can do against Lydia’s skill.
“Lydia! Put her wrists behind her back,” I say, unfurling the rope.
“Will do!” Lydia complies, and I wrap the rope around Hayley’s wrists several times before tying a knot. Once she’s firmly trussed up, Lydia relaxes her grip, but still holds on to Hayley’s arm.
“Let’s bring her inside.” Lydia leads a cursing and screaming Hayley into the cabin and plunks her down on a chair. I grab more rope and tie Hayley’s legs to the chair.
“You! I should have known you’d stick your nose where it doesn’t belong!” Hayley screams at me, her face turning red. I ignore her as I look around for Bob. He’s nowhere to be seen, but he emerges a minute later from what I assume is the bathroom.
“That felt good,” he says in satisfaction. “She made me use a bucket.”
“Bob! Don’t leave me!” Hayley calls out, her voice all soft and helpless. I want to tell her to save it, but I know she won’t listen. She’s in her fantasy world in which she and Bob are soul mates.
“Let’s get out of here,” Bob says to me, ignoring Hayley.
“What do we do with her?” Lydia asks, jerking her head towards Hayley. “Do we take her or leave her?”
“Leave her!” Bob says vehemently. “I don’t want to be in the car with her.”
“You can’t mean that, Bob,” Hayley says, starting to cry. “Why are you being so mean to me?”
“Let’s go,” I say, making an executive decision. “She stays. I’ll make an anonymous phone call to the cops when we’re on the freeway.”
“Wait.” Bob limps over to Hayley and opens her purse. She struggles to free herself, but I tied the knots tightly with no give, so it’s useless on her part. Bob grabs his phone, then limps away from Hayley. I hurry over to him so I can support him on our way out. Lydia closes the door behind us, and we get into my car. Bob asks for the backseat so he can lie down. Before I pull away, I call 9-1-1 and report an incident at Hayley’s cabin. I ask for a cop car to be sent, and then I hang up when the operator starts asking me questions.
“We should come back after,” Lydia says, glancing into the backseat. Bob’s fast asleep, so he’s in no danger of overhearing us.
“That’s a good idea.” Hayley may be a delusional kidnapper, but that doesn’t mean I want something bad to happen to her. “Thank you for taking care of her, by the way. I’m not sure I could have done it on my own.”
“No problem! Don’t tell anyone I said this, but it felt good to do my taiji for real for once.” Lydia smiles at me, and I smile in return. “Shall we get the hell out of here?”
“Yes. Give me one more second first.” I call Jasmine to tell her I’m bringing Bob home. It feels damn good.