“I hate Monday mornings,” Darla grumbles, a yawn swallowing most of her words.
“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.