Warning: Sexual violence threats, crime, and foul language.
The rain was pouring down in sheets and forming puddles across the gravel surface of the high school parking lot. A wet and humid afternoon. Rachel was sitting in the bus shelter in front of the school at the end of the day, waiting for her father to pick her up. This gave her some protection from the rain but the roof was leaking in places so she was confined to a small corner.
A black, four-door Toyota pulled up in front. Wedged behind the steering wheel sat a heavy man in his mid-40’s with black hair and a trimmed beard. His appearance did strike a familiar note in Rachel's mind. He lowered the car window on the passenger side and motioned for her to approach, straining to make his voice heard above the rain and the engine noise.
“A good afternoon to you, young lady,” he said. “You’re getting wet as you wait for a ride or the bus. Can I give you a lift somewhere? Home, perhaps?”
“No thank you,” Rachel replied. She was a very pretty redhead with hair reaching down to her shoulders. “My dad should be here any time now. He’s usually on time.”
“Have you been waiting long?” the man asked. “Your dad may have gotten tied up in traffic which is just awful due to the rain.”
“About twenty minutes but he’ll be here soon,” Rachel replied with a note of cheery optimism. “He never lets me down.”
“I’m sure you're a little nervous about getting in a car with a stranger but I certainly don’t fall into that department. My name is Jake. I run the plumbing supply company in town. Everyone around here knows me well. I’m active in Rotary. Go to mass often at St. Pat’s. You may have even seen me there, if you go. What’s your dad's name? I probably know him.”
“His name's Marcus. He’s a supervisor at the steel fabricating plant in town.”
“I’m pretty sure we have come across each other. Fairly tall, sort of thin, medium hair? Right?"
"You need to get in the car now and I’ll get you home fast," Jake continued. "This storm is not letting up any time soon and your family is probably nervous. All you need to do is call your parents on your cell as soon as you get in the car so they won’t worry about you."
“I don’t usually accept rides like this. My parents will have a hissy fit,” Rachel responded.
“I’m no stranger. I already told you my name and that your father probably knows me. And besides, all this ‘to-ing and fro-ing’ is wasting time. I bet you're anxious to get home, have a warm dinner, and get started on your homework.” He leaned over and pushed open the door on the passenger side and beckoned her in.
Just then, a lightning bolt struck the ground not too far from the parking lot and Rachel, considering Jake's offer, made up her mind and jumped into the front seat, giving a tentative smile of recognition and relief to Jake.
“Well, I guess taking a ride with you will be OK as long as you know my father,” she said. “He's always told me to trust friends.”
As soon as Rachel entered the car and before driving off, Jake pushed a button near his arm rest that locked all four doors. “Better to be on the safe side with my special passenger. I’ve always done this with my kids since they were little.”
“Oh, and by the way, I just heard a buzzing sound coming from your cell phone. I’m an expert on these things — used to repair them. Let me take a closer look at it.” Rachel handed her cell phone over to him, a little puzzled because it had been working all day. “I admit that I don’t know what goes on inside this thing.”
“The problem obviously is with your SIM card. They can go bad quick,” Jake added. He grabbed a paper clip from the dashboard and slipped the straight end into the side of the phone. As a small tray popped open, he fumbled with it and the flimsy SIM card fell to the mat on the floor. “Oops, I dropped the little bastard. Don’t worry! We will find it at your house.”
He pushed the ignition button and the car engine turned over. Jake leaned back in his seat with a look of satisfaction. He then pulled out of the parking lot and turned right onto the main highway, heading into town. The storm continued, beating a staccato rhythm on the roof of the car. The wiper blades were oscillating back and forth, sluicing small streams of water down the windshield.
“So, how old are you?” he said. “Not that it makes much difference. You're obviously a high schooler.”
“I’m sixteen,” Rachel said, and moved herself a little closer to the door, growing somewhat wary of the personal direction of the conversation.
“Remind me now of your high school colors,” Jake said. “I like that kind of inside stuff.” Rachel replied: “Uhm, I can’t remember what they are either. I am not the cheerleader type. Sorry.”
Jake then rotated in his seat and glanced in her direction, moving his head up and down. “You seem to be well developed, uh, I mean, athletic. Do you play sports at school?”
“I run cross country and also play volley ball.”
The trip then continued as Jake drove at a normal speed down the road toward town. “I am sure that your parents will be relieved to know that you are safe and sound on this miserable night. You’ll be home in two or three shakes,” he said, obviously pleased to be helping her.
“Tell me one more thing before we get you home, Rachel,” Jake said. “You look like a very sophisticated young lady. Do you like to party? I am only asking because I like to conduct little scientific surveys to understand stuff about kids. It’s a hobby of mine. You answer will be important.”
Suddenly, Jake become distracted when, out of the blue and as the car sped down the highway toward the city, he noticed two police cars, one on each side of the road and facing in different directions, engines off, their interiors dark.
As he saw them, Jake twisted his head side to side, sizing them up and trying to figure out whether they were an immediate problem. “Looks like they are taking down a speed trap. Probably nothing for us to worry about. Don’t want no tickets or attention this special night.”
Rachel briefly thought of trying to wave to the police cars in some way but she quickly gave up on the idea — the car windows were too fogged up for her to be seen. Also, she thought that it might irritate Jake more than he already was.
“Uh, oh!” Jake suddenly cried out. “The car is not handling well. Seems to be rocking. I am going to pull off on this little side road that leads to a park I know. It will take me only a second to check it out.”
He quickly twisted the steering wheel to the left, drove up a gravel road into a clump of trees away from the road, and turned off the engine, and came to a sudden stop. He then turned around to face Rachel, his face now much more serious.
“Stop it! What are you doing? This is crazy,” she blurted out, now even more nervous.
“What’s happening,” he replied, “is that you and I are going to have a little party by ourselves here off the road. You're going to play an important role. How does that sound?”
Having said this and noticing her terrified reaction to his words, Jake reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a knife. He pushed a button on its side and a long blade popped out from the tip.
“Please pay attention to everything I tell you from now on, Rachel. Every word I say will be important. But don’t worry, I used to be a car salesman. Think about what's going to happen to you as a test drive of a new car. I have no intention of breaking anything. You never damage the merchandise.” He began to stare intently at her.
“I now want you to start to pull down your tights slowly with both hands. No monkey business! Get moving!”
Rachel’s eyes were now focused on Jake’s face and she responded with an unexpected, aggressive tone: “I'm sorry, Mr. Jake, but that just won’t be happening.”
“What kind of crap are you handing me,” he said quickly but now with hint of concern in his voice. "Why the hell not?”
“Because my tights are where I’ve parked my Glock 26,” she replied, pulling out the small but serious looking black gun and pointing it at directly at Jake’s heart, her finger resting lightly on the trigger.
“What the fuck! Who are you?”
I am Police Officer Rachel Weldon and you are under arrest for attempted rape and also a number of other documented sexual assaults. Drop your knife on the floor of the car right now. And for future reference, never bring a knife to a gun fight.
If you make any sudden moves with your knife or any other weapon you have on your person,” she said, “I will respond aggressively with my weapon and the results will not be pleasant for you, perhaps even lethal.”
“We have been searching for you for months and I took a special interest in your case. I volunteered to act as a decoy this afternoon to help get you off the streets. Lucky for us, you decided to offer me a ride home on a rainy night which brought us to this point. Unfortunately, though, there will be no party because my tights will stay up.”
She lowered the car window, stuck out her hand, and waved. In a few seconds, the two police cars that they had previously seen by the side of the road drove up the gravel road with their headlights shining. They flanked each side of the rear of Jake’s car. There was a police officer in the front seat of of both vehicles, each one holding a rifle.
One of them approached the Toyota slowly and said: “Great work, Rachel. We have been looking for this guy for months and you were able to reel him in all by your lonely self.
Jake was transported handcuffed back to the station in one of the two police cars and Rachel jumped into the other. Her fellow officer, Fred, who would drive her back to her apartment, could not contain his enthusiasm during the ride about Rachel’s daring capture of Jake. “We have been looking for this creep for three months but he has moved around the state and that complicated things,” he said.
“We did have a tip that he was cruising in our neighborhood this afternoon that helped us some," he added. I'm sure you looked vulnerable in the bus shelter and that gave him a sense of power and encouragement. We needed to catch him in the act and you delivered the goods.”
“I wish that I could have done what you just did — act as a decoy,” Fred added. “Takes lots of cahunas for you to sit in a car right next to this slime bag, chatting casually all of the way.”
“The next time we are stalking a dangerous female sex predator and need a decoy, Fred, I am going to suggest you, pretty boy,” Rachel replied. She punctuated her remark with an overly enthusiastic eye-roll.
It was still raining out as Rachel jumped out of the police car driven by Fred in front of her apartment and entered the front door, thinking of a hot shower and warm, dry clothes.
“Water, water, water,” she said to herself as she headed for the bathroom, shedding her damp clothes on the floor as she walked. Then, as she looked at them, she immediately decided to throw them away, defiled as they were by sitting next to Jake. “There is no way that washing them will get the stink out,” she said to herself.
She then the briefly thought about water, siting on the side of her bed, mumbling to herself:
“Water coming down from the sky.”
“Water from the shower.”
“Tears from my eyes because of fear and anxiety.”
“Holy water to remove sins.”
“I wonder if the holy water works for everyone?”
After an invigorating hot shower, she tucked herself into bed and slept soundly until the next morning.