Chapter 23: Trapped

The next time I opened my eyes, I saw the man standing a few feet from me. He was staring at me, and I could see clearly that he wasn’t this hideous monster that I thought he was.

In the candlelight, he looked to be in his mid-thirties, with shaggy brown hair and cold, dark eyes. He was wearing a flannel shirt, the cuff torn slightly like he’d cause them on something — like a fence. He shivered slightly, and then reached down to grab his jacket. He slipped it on and smiled.

“Who are you?” I asked. I was sitting on the couch, very still, except for my leg, which was jingling due to nerves.

The man smiled slightly and shook his head. “You don’t get to ask me something when you so impolitely didn’t answer my question. Now, let’s try this again.” He took hold of my jaw and somehow forced my mouth open. “Where is she, Clayton?”

In his opposite hand was a metal tin, the label reading very clear — gasoline.

I couldn’t speak properly, so I just shook my head. He didn’t like that. He leaned closer, pressing the can against my cheek. I tried not to gag as the smell of the gas invaded my nose. When I realized he hadn’t tied me at all, I slammed my hand into the side of his head.

The stranger staggered, the gas falling from his hand. He crashed to the floor and groaned. When he picked himself up, he had a heinous smile playing on his lips.

“Tell me where she is, or I swear to God, I’ll burn this whole place down.”

To prove how serious he was, he dripped some gasoline on the floor, and then he produced a set of matches from his back pocket. He lit one, dropped it, and watched a small fire start. He stomped it out and smirked at me.

“Go get her!” he screamed. He stood up and walked over to me. “Get her or I’ll kill you.”

“Okay,” I said. I stood up and walked over to the stairs, gripping the banister.

“Get on with it, I haven’t got all day.” He shook the canister of gasoline at me. “Hurry it up.”

I reached the top of the stairs to find a small source of light in the corner. I followed it and found Cari, huddled and shivering.

“You’re back.” She sounded relieved. “Lena was asking for you.”

I frowned and handed over her cell phone. “Cari, you’ve got to come with me. We have to get Lena and get out of here.”

I slid down the wall next to her and gripped her hand in mine.

“What’s going on?” she asked in a small voice.

I sighed and put a hand on my cheek, wincing from the bruise. “He’s downstairs, Cari. We have to find another way out.”

“How did you get away?” She looked into my eyes, her own reflecting fear. Then she gasped, “What did he do to you?”

“Oh, that? He just hit me, it’s totally fine.”

And it was. If I could protect Cari, and even Lena, I’d let that psychopath do what he wanted. I wondered how long he’d wait until he started burning things down. I didn’t want to know.

“We have to get Lena and go, now.” I stood and slipped back into the guest room. I didn’t need any light to know where I was going, since there was only one bed. My knee hit the edge of it, and I whispered her name.

Lena groaned and groggily asked, “Who is it?”

“It’s Clay,” I said softly. “We have to go. Are you okay enough to walk?”

“I think so,” Lena replied. She sat up. “He hit me hard. Where is he?”

“He’s downstairs. He wants Cari, and if he doesn’t get her he’s going to burn this place down.”

“Oh, wonderful.” Lena gripped my shoulder for support, startling me. “Why don’t you give him what he wants? I don’t really want to become crispy.”

I touched her hand gently and helped her stand. “That would mean Cari dies, Lena. I know you’re a bitch, but you’d never wish someone dead.”

“I wouldn’t, no, but what happens if we give him Cari and he still burns the house down? I guess you didn’t think about that.”

“That thought didn’t occur to me.”

When we were finally out in the hallway, Cari came and hugged Lena.

“Thank you for not dying,” Cari said.

“Yeah, well, I know you’d feel bad if I did so I tried not to.” Lena smiled. “Besides, someone has to keep you away from Clay.” She nudged me in the ribs slightly.

“This is touching and shit, but we don’t have time.” I looked at them. “I really wish the lights would come back on. It’s creepy enough that we have some psychopath waiting for Cari down there.”

“That would be a problem,” said a voice, “if this supposed psychopath hadn’t just cornered the three of you.”

The man was standing several feet from us, in front of the stairs, blocking our only way out.

We were trapped.

The End

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