Drama American Contemporary

“We’re running out of time,” Detective Brighten said, releasing a heavy sigh. “If that girl’s alive after 48 hours, I’ll be surprised. Whoever took her has a gun.” Squatting down. He pointed to an unspent nine millimeter bullet on the ground. His partner stared at it lying alongside a small puddle of blood.

At nearly midnight, just off campus. A florescent light flickered over the dryers in the laundry center. Not much happens on a Thursday night in San Marcus. Corey and his buddy Liam sat playing cards at a little wooden table in the back of the center.

Liam said, “Seems like it takes forever for jeans to dry.” dealing another hand.

Corey smiled, “I’m in no hurry,” motioning with his eyes toward the girl behind Liam sitting near the front door. He winked, “check out the attractive strawberry blond in shorts and a pink tank top.” It was Carol Taylor, a 20-year-old drama student at Texas State University.

Liam glanced back over his shoulder to see what had Corey’s attention. Turning back around, Liam grinned at Corey. “I see what you mean. I’ve seen her on campus before. She’s hot. But, I think she has a boyfriend.”

The lights flashed off and then back on. Corey batted his eyes, “What was that?” And glanced toward the windows. Carol was outside, a silhouette in the dim streetlights. With her was a fairly dark complected man wearing a black sweatshirt, ball cap, and fatigue pants. They argued. He tugged at her arm. She shook him off. He spun her and cupped his hand over her mouth. He held her hand behind her back and began dragging her. She twisted and kicked to break free.

Corey, standing, shouted, “What’s going on?”

Liam looked over. Carol struggled, as the man dragged her away. They vanished into the darkness. Liam shouted, “Something's not right!”

“I know she needs help.”

“Dude, we have to do something.”

Corey's fight-or-flight instinct took hold of him. His stomach tightened, and his pulse raced. He yelled, “Come on, follow me.” He and Liam dashed out the front door. No sign of them. Corey looked up and down the street. Not a car in sight, it was still and stone silent. Pointing toward the left, he snapped, “Let's check the back. You go around that way, and I’ll circle this way.”

Corey jogged to the back of the laundry. He stopped when he saw Carol standing alone under a streetlight. She stood with her back to him, just a few feet beyond a dumpster. He shouted, “Hey!” She didn’t move, he started walking up to her. He could see she was trembling. “Are you––” a man stepped from the shadows and struck him on the back of the head. Corey dropped to his knees and fell onto his side. 

A second or so later, Liam went looking for Corey. He found him on the ground. He ran to him and stooped down. Liam, shaking Corey, said, “Come on buddy, get up.” He felt something wet on his hand. Opening it to see blood. Liam noticed the small puddle beside Corey’s head. Fishing his cell out of his pocket.

“9-1-1, What’s your emergency?”

Corey sat on the back bumper of the EMS vehicle. An EMT attended to the cut on his head. Liam was next to him. A police officer stood in front of them and asked, “Did either of you hear any gun shots?” 

Liam shook his head. “No, sir,” 

“There’s a nine millimeter bullet on the ground where you were struck.”

“It all happened so fast,” Liam sighed.

“Did you know the girl?”

Liam paused and took a breath, “No, but, I’ve seen her around campus. She’s always with the same Hispanic guy.”

“Is that who she was with tonight? Did he attack her?”

“It’s hard to say. I'm not sure. It might have been him.” said Liam.

The next morning in Houston, Carol’s sister, Becky, was finishing breakfast. Maggie Taylor, her mom, scurried about her. “Hurry, Becky, I would rather not be late.” Maggie said, inhaling deeply. Her cell started ringing. Maggie sighed. She didn’t recognize the number, but forced herself to answer it. “Hello.”

“Mrs. Taylor, this is Debra Bowers, I'm an Assistant Dean at Texas State University.”

“Yes. What is it?” Becky paused and stared silently at her.

“I’m sorry to let you know your daughter, Carol, has gone missing.”

Her eyes began to fill with tears, her voice quivered, “What are you saying?”

“Apparently, she went to the laundry center on Thursday night. She was last seen leaving with a dark-complected man against her will. There were two young men in the facility at the time. They tried to come to her rescue. But, one of her would be rescuers got injured in the process.”

“How? What do you mean?”

“One of the boys took a nasty blow to the back of his head before he could help her escape. By the time help arrived, Carol was gone.”

“Mrs. Taylor, should you hear from her, please let the authorities in San Marcus and us here at the University know.”

Maggie’s thoughts drifted to Carol. Her firstborn, a delightful child. Her smile was contagious, she was a very popular girl. In addition, to playing roles in high school plays, she led the cheerleading team. Maggie's face now white from shock, She sat down hard in a kitchen chair. She put her head into her hands.

Stepping over to her Mom. Becky asked, “Mom, what’s wrong?” She gently laid her hand on Maggie's shoulder.

“That was the Dean at the University. Carol’s gone missing!” Her eyes clouded with tears. She stood and reached for Becky, and hugged her as tight as she could.

Becky cried, “Missing! Mom, how's that possible?” She buried her face into her Mom’s bosom and began to sob heavily.

Maggie grabbed her cell and quickly dialed Dawn Bailey’s number. A senior in high school, and Carol’s closest friend. 

Dawn answered, “Mrs. Taylor? Hello.”

Frantically, Maggie asked, “Have you heard from Carol?”

Dawn, cutting her eyes over to her Mom, who was driving her to school. “I talked to her last night. Why, is something wrong?”

Maggie sobbing, “Dawn, Carol is missing.”

“Oh my Gosh. While we were talking, someone interrupted her. The phone cut off, and I didn’t think anything of it. I didn't hear back from her right-away, and I fell asleep.”

Nine months earlier, Carol arrived at campus full of excitement and energy. The first thing she did was to call her boyfriend, Bob Menéndez. Carol met him on a drama field trip to California during her senior year. It was love at first sight. Despite the distance, they managed to keep the relationship going. Their hopes of attending Texas State together were finally coming to fruition. She felt on top of the world. The opportunity to start on her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting, while being close to her boyfriend, was a dream come true.  

The first day of class, she accidentally came to know her dean, Sharon Thomas. Carol bumped into her between classes. “Oh, Dean Thomas, I’m so sorry.” She said, helping the Dean gather the books knocked from her arms when they bumped against each other.

“No worries. The first day is always a hectic one.” The two of them stood silent, staring at each other. Sharon was struck by how much Carol reminded her of her younger self. The same height with strawberry blond hair, blue eyes and a bright smile. The resemblance was uncanny. Carol felt she could see her future self. Going their separate ways, Sharon said, glancing back over her shoulder, “Hope to see you around campus again soon.” Unexpectedly, goose bumps popped on Carol's arms. An eerie feeling that someone had eyes on them as they parted.

Each year, the Department of Theater and Dance sponsors a Black and Latino Playwright Conference. It included professional guest directors and actors. The event covered five days of open rehearsals. Afterward, the event culminated in a stage performance.

Four years ago, during the conference, Sharon met Charles Thomas, a black film director from Los Angeles. He and Sharon hit it off right away. They spent the five days together, day and night. Sharon didn’t believe she could fall in love again after her first husband’s tragic death. But, Charles swept her off her feet with a whirlwind five-day romance. 

It continued long after the conference. Charles occasionally visited Texas to see her. Sharon, when her schedule permitted, would spend time in California with Charles. Over time, the relationship grew stronger. Eventually, Sharon agrees to marry Charles, and moves to LA.

Early into the marriage, things went sour. Nothing went well for Sharon. She hoped to work in the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television. It never happened. Sharon and Charles constantly bickered over their lifestyle. His drug and alcohol abuse was unbearable. She eventually returned to Texas, and filed for divorce. Charles never accepted the end of the relationship.

On Tuesday evening of the week that Carol went missing, a red Camry slowly came to a stop. It was only a block away from Sharon’s house. The car lights went dark and the figure of a man stepped out. A knock at Sharon's door. She answered it, never expecting to see Charles, her now estranged husband of two years. Shocked, she looked up at him. His dark eyes burned with intensity as he stared at her. She detected the smell of alcohol and drugs. With her eyes betraying no emotion, she said, “What are you doing here?”

He shoved her back into the house and knocked her to the floor. Then he slammed the door. “We’re not finished!” Charles’s success in Hollywood, as a director, served to bolster his ego. An only child, Charles’s mother pushed him into the industry as a child actor. His success in television commercials faded at puberty. Unfortunately, his father grew dependent on Charles’s career. His addiction to a Hollywood lifestyle caused him to abuse both Charles and his mother. The result, Charles’s arrogant personality and abusive nature, was now on full display.

Looking directly up into his eyes, she panted, “Charles, It’s been over between us for a while. I can’t stand you or your Hollywood habits.”

His body trembling with blind anger, Charles snarled. “You little bitch! You didn't just leave Hollywood, you left me. And, I'm the one who decides when something’s over, not you.”

She covered her face with her hands. “Calm down. Don't do something you'll regret!”

Charles, shaking violently, standing over her. “ For two years now, you've never returned any of my calls, texts, or emails. I decided it was time to pay you a visit, and teach you a lesson.”

Sharon cried. “You wack-o. Get out of my house!”

On Wednesday morning, Sharon didn’t come into her office. Her assistant, concerned, called Debra Bowers, the assistant dean. “Debra, have you heard from Sharon?”

“Not this morning. Is something wrong?”

“I’m worried. It’s not at all like her. She always calls if she’s going to be late.”

Throughout the day, she tried Sharon’s cell. It repeatedly rolled to voice-mail. Frustrated and scared, she called the University Police and asked them to check on her.

On Thursday morning, Tom Robertson of the police, pounded on Sharon Thomas’s front door. He waited several minutes before stepping down from her porch. Walking around to the back, he cupped his hands to look through the backdoor. Peering into the kitchen. No sign of anyone. Grasping his shoulder mic. “Dispatch – this is Robertson. Dean Thomas doesn’t appear to be home.”

Inside, Sharon laid on her bed. Charles was next to her with his hand over her mouth. Her eyes were filled with fear. Holding a gun to her head, he whispered, “I’ll shoot you if you make a sound.”

About the time Carol was abducted on Thursday night, Sharon struggled to breathe with duct tape across her mouth. Her hands and feet were bound. Charles had sexually abused her multiple times. He had bound her hands and feet and left her on her bedroom floor. Naked and scared, she listened for any sign of him. No sound whatsoever. The only light was a dim streak across the floor from the streetlight. 

She remembered the scissors on her nightstand. Twisting around to the side of her bed. Using her raised legs, she rocked the nightstand, until the scissors fell to the floor. Twisting one blade between the tie-wrap and her wrists, she heard a loud snap and her hands were free. She removed the duct tape, and cut her feet free. With a mixture of fear and relief, she grabbed her robe from the bathroom. 

Suddenly, there was a commotion at the front door. Sharon could hear a struggle and muffled voices. She stood in the hall behind the living room. Peeking around the corner. Then, turning back, fear slithered up her spine and took hold of her heart like a boa-constrictor. Looking again, she could see Charles with Carol Taylor. Her mouth was duct taped. Her hands were zip-tied behind her back. He shoved her through the door and held a nine millimeter gun to her head. 

Sharon whispered, “It's that girl who reminds me of my younger self. I have to save her.” She dove into the struggle, surprising Charles, she was able to wrestle the gun away from him. Shaking, she held it with both hands, pointed at him and shot him one time. He rolled off of Carol. Sharon let the gun fall to the floor. Then she cut Carol free and helped her up. They stood staring into the hallway mirror. Sharon said, “If you really are my younger self. Please don't ever make the mistakes I made.”

Copyright © 2022 by Chandler Wilson

December 03, 2022 00:27

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