Kate could see the flickering of light through the hole where the broken tail light was. It felt like she had been in the car trunk for days. The last thing she remembered was walking home on that rural stretch of road from the Millers place and then waking up in a dark trunk.
She had screamed and plead for help for what felt like hours until her throat burned raw and stripped bare. Kicking the sides of the trunk with her legs and hitting the roof of the trunk until there was no more energy left in her arms and legs. Her face was seared from the hot tears which had streaked her cheeks with permanent lines down her face. She was so tired from fighting and crying, her body gave up and passed out.
The trunk was swampy and cramped. The sound of footsteps in the gravel woke Kate and it took a moment to remember where she was. Her mind couldn’t grasp the situation she was in or what may happen to her. Kate knew, no matter what or who was on the other side of the trunk when it did open, she was going to fight it with everything she had left. The footsteps stopped and Kate heard the jangle of keys. She braced herself and tried to push her body up against the back of the trunk as far as she could. She waited with her hands pressed up against the side and top of the trunk. Nothing.
The footsteps made their way around the car and she heard a car door open, felt the weight of someone getting in, and then closing the door. She tried to listen as hard as she could for something, anything to give her a clue about what was happening. Nothing.
The engine cranked and came to life causing a vibration in the trunk. Wherever she was, it was about to change. Kate wondered if anyone knew she was missing. Were they looking for her? How long had she been gone? Would they find her? She knew the longer someone is missing, the less chance people had of finding them alive. At least, that’s how it is on the true crime mysteries she watched and now she was one.
The vibration was getting to her. The car finally began to move and Kate suddenly felt a strong urge to pee. Of course, she thought to herself. Naturally, no one ever talks about what to do if you’re trapped in a trunk and have to pee. She tried to ignore it. After a few minutes, the pressure intensified. What was to become of her? Every time the car hit a bump it made it harder to hold it in. She knew she had no choice but to let it happen.
Kate began to cry softly and tried to maneuver her body to a spot where the pee could go without her having to lay directly in it. As she fumbled around in the cramped space and got into position, she wondered if the effort meant she was on the verge of a total mental breakdown or if her brain had somehow kicked into a higher gear of survival. She couldn’t hold herself in this position for long and she couldn’t relax enough for her body to let go.
The pressure became so intense, her arms started shaking; but nothing would come out. The harder she concentrated, the more the pressure increased, and still nothing. Kate, feeling defeated, relaxed her arms and turned on her left side facing the opening of the trunk. She wrapped her arms across her face and sobbed into the sleeves of her shirt. She felt a release and the hot wet feeling of pee spread warmth down the left hip side of her jeans and up the back of her pants and shirt pooling underneath her.
She was exhausted, scared, and now humiliated. It felt good to not have to pee anymore, but still, there was so little in Kate’s control at this point, what was next? Maybe whoever this weirdo was who took her would be super grossed out from Kate peeing herself, he wouldn’t be interested in anything else? Unless, the weirdo got off on that sort of thing.
Before Kate’s imagination could get the best of her, the tail lights lit up. She hadn’t noticed them on earlier so it must be dark out now. The red light glowed inside the trunk and Kate could make out the trunk latch and the compartment cover for the tail lights. She remembered seeing in an episode where the young woman broke the taillight out and signaled for help using her fingers. Kate felt around the cover and found where the cover clipped in. She needed a tool to release it. She felt around the trunk and came up with nothing.
Kate knew bad things were going to happen if she didn’t do something, but what? She tried using her fingernail but it kept slipping out every time the car bumped or shifted. The frustration overcame her and the tears began to burn her eyes. A guttural cry of fear and anger came from deep within Kate as she lashed out at the interior of the trunk and then herself in the tiny space. She clawed at her arms and chest, then pulled at her clothes as if to rip them off when her fingers caught her belt buckle.
Her breath caught and she almost choked on the air in her throat. She wiped the snot running down her face and the tears from her eyes with her sleeve, then reached down and felt the shape of the buckle. It was square and thin and fairly sturdy. Not one of those cheap belts that fall apart easily. Kate turned onto her back and tucked in her legs so she could get her belt off. The right side slid easily out of the belt loop and Kate was able to pull the belt to release the prong from the belt hole. She grabbed the belt buckle and tried to pull the belt toward her left to remove it, but it wouldn’t budge. She had too much weight on the back. She tried lifting her butt up a little and pulling on it but it still wouldn’t budge.
Kate felt the car sway and had to brace herself with her arms and feet. She knew she didn’t have much time and she had to keep it together. The car righted itself and Kate took a deep breath then let it out in steady stream of air centering herself. She visualized pushing and pulling the belt, squeezing it through the damp loops, and then slowly and methodically began pushing the end of the belt backwards through the loops on the left side of her jeans, loosening it while lifting her butt and pulling on the buckle end on the right. After about five or six butt lifts of pushing and pulling, the belt finally released from Kate’s jeans.
She turned back to her left side and curled her legs toward the trunk opening. Kate was on a mission now and she wasn’t going to let some sicko get the best of her. Pee or no pee. She found the straight edge of the buckle and immediately used it to pry open the tail light compartment cover which opened up to a small hole leading to the bulb. She reached her fingers in the hole but the bulb was too hot. She needed to get the outside cover off, but how? Kate felt around the edges of the compartment hoping to find another clip type crevice she could pry open. Instead, there were small screws needing a flat head screwdriver which she didn’t have. She tried the buckle edge but it was too big. She felt frantic. She was so close. Come on, come on, she thought.
A small laugh escaped from her mouth and soon she was crying again. Her mind clicked. The prong. The prong from the belt! Kate hurriedly felt for the belt and found the buckle prong. It might work if she can maneuver it correctly. It was hard to hold into the screw head and the buckle kept getting the way but she managed to insert the end of the prong into the screw and apply pressure to turn it. Righty tightey, lefty loosey. The little prong felt like it was bending under the pressure so Kate used her fingers to hold it down closer to the screw head. She wouldn’t be able to see if it was working, she would have to feel it.
She closed her eyes and willed the screw to turn as she applied pressure with the prong. She felt the screw give after a bit and hope came back to Kate. She got the first screw out, wiped the sweat off her forehead with her sleeve and began working on the next screw. The car began to slow and then made a turn. They must be getting close to wherever they’re going. She needed to hurry. Was getting this cover off even going to matter? She had to keep trying. She worked on the other screws while the car continued to slow down, make turns, and speed up. Kate got the last of the screws out of the cover and pushed on the tail light compartment. It was jammed in there tight. She pushed as hard as she could until it finally gave. It hung there, dangling outside of the car by the electrical wires for the bulb, clanging against the rear of the car. The cool air from outside felt good on Kate’s face even though it was mixed with exhaust.
She must have passed out because the next thing she knew, the car had stopped moving, the engine was off, and there was a flicker of light coming through the tail light hole. Kate couldn’t see because the light coming through was too bright but it flickered as footsteps passed in front of it. She heard voices but couldn’t quite make out everything they said. There was more than one sicko? Her throat felt raw and her eyes swollen. Her face was caked with tears and sweat and her clothes stiff from sweat and urine. Her nerves were shot. She didn’t know if she had the energy to fight one weirdo let alone two.
The footsteps approached the rear of the car. Keys jangled near the trunk latch. She heard someone say, “She’s probably scared, so be ready for anything.”
The other voice replied, “She managed to get the tail light out. She might have something she can use a s weapon.”
“Naw, I checked her pretty good. She didn’t have anything on her.”
“Well, she used something to get it off.”
“Okay. Just be careful, and remember, she doesn’t know, so we have to go easy with her.”
Kate was terrified. What were they planning to do to her? Go easy? What did that mean? What did they mean, she didn’t know? Know what? She knew she was kidnapped. She knew they were going to do something to her. Kate pushed her body back as far as she could to rear of the trunk and positioned her legs to kick out when the trunk opened. She heard the key slide into the lock and turn and the trunk lid popped open about an inch as it released. She waited. They waited.
“Amy? I’m going to open the trunk now. We’re not going to hurt you.” the first voice said trying to sound calming.
Amy? Who’s Amy? Did they kidnap the wrong girl? “I’m Kate! You’ve got the wrong girl!” she yelled back from inside the trunk.
The second voice spoke up. “Kate?! You said this was Amy. That you had Amy. What’s going on?”
“It is Amy. They renamed her Kate. I told you, she doesn’t know. She was too young.”
Kate’s head was spinning. What in the hell were they talking about? Too young? Renamed? Her head hurt and her eyes stung. She searched back in her mind for any memory of an Amy. She couldn’t remember. “I’m not Amy, I’m Kate!” she yelled again. “Please, don’t hurt me,” she cried and then began sobbing.
The trunk slowly lifted and the two men stood there looking in at Kate out of reach of her kicking range.
“I know you don’t know us; but try to trust us. It’s going to be okay. We’ll explain.” Said the taller one with the calm sounding voice.
Kate stopped crying and looked at them. They seemed normal enough but weirdos usually do. That’s how they get their victims. She shook her head no. She wasn’t going to fall for their tricks.
“I’ll go get Rachel. Maybe she can help.” said the shorter one.
“Good idea. Bring a blanket back, will ya, and some water for her to drink.”
The short guy left the tall man standing there by the trunk. He and Kate continued to look at each other without speaking for a couple of minutes. Finally, he spoke. “It’s weird to see you all grown up. I know this will be hard for you…and we’ll try our best to help you…we’ve been looking for you for so long, Amy.”
“Why do you keep calling me Amy. My name is Kate. What do you mean about me being grown up? I’ve never seen you before in my life.”
“It was twenty years ago…you were only four when they took you.”
Kate felt like she was in some weird alternate reality and she wanted out of it. “I was adopted at four, not that it’s any of your business. My parents were killed in a car accident.”
“Your parents are very much alive. You were taken—”
“Scott. Not now.” a woman said as she approached the trunk. “You must be scared, hungry, thirsty, tired, and full of questions. My name is Rachel. How about I take you inside? You can take a shower. I have clean clothes for you.” The woman looked soft and warm and even though Kate didn’t know her, she felt like she knew her. Kate wanted more than anything for this woman to wrap her arms around her and make her feel safe. She was so confused; she didn’t know what to do until Rachel held out her hand for Kate to take. Kate looked into Rachel’s eyes searching, then reached her hand out to Rachel who helped her climb out of the trunk. Kate thought about running but she was so tired, she could barely keep her legs from giving out.
Rachel led Kate into the house and down the hall where she opened the door to a bedroom which had been decorated as a little girl’s fantasy. A white canopy bed with pink blankets and matching dressers with little pink unicorn lamps, pink and white rugs with Barbie’s and girl toys neatly placed in the corner. Cute posters of kittens and Sesame Street characters adorned the walls along the book reading nook in the corner.
Above the dresser were photographs of a mom, dad, and little girl. Kate recognized the parents as younger versions of Rachel and Scott but who was the little girl? Was Scott saying Kate was the little girl they called Amy? Kate’s head felt very light all of a sudden. It was too much for her to take in causing her to faint.
She woke up on top the canopy bed still wearing the same clothes covered with a princess blanket. Kate carefully sat up and looked around. There was a plate on the nightstand with a cheese and mayo sandwich on white bread with the crusts cut off and a glass of iced tea. How did they know it was her favorite sandwich? Next to it was a scrapbook and a note. “This might help you understand. Come on out when you’re ready and we’ll talk. – Rachel”
Kate took a long drink from the iced tea. She was thirstier than she thought. The sandwich was exactly how she liked it growing up. She hadn’t made one for herself in a long time. When she bit into it, memories began flashing back. Nothing particular, just moments of laughing and running in the sunshine. She picked up the scrapbook and looked at the picture of the little girl on the cover. It could be her. The girl did look like her in a way. She opened the book and looked through the pictures of Rachel and Scott with Amy as a baby all the way to preschool with them laughing and playing together outside. Then the preschool section of Amy with her little friends and teachers.
Kate looked closer at one of the photographs. There was someone in the background who looked familiar. The woman looked like her mom but with different hair wearing a shirt with the preschool’s name on it. What was her mom doing there? She didn’t remember her mom working at a preschool. As Kate turned the pages in the scrapbook, it became clear. The missing poster had both Amy’s and the woman Kate thought to be her mom’s picture on it. The poster stated the Preschool worker in the photo had taken the little girl and were at large. The date of disappearance on the poster was June 9, 2002. That was the day Kate was told her parents had been killed on their way to pick her up and she had to go home with the teacher…
All this time, Kate thought her parents were gone and here they were looking for her. Twenty years. Kate was an adult now. She had a life. What was she supposed to do? What was she supposed to believe? There was only one person she could ask so she called out, “Mom…?”
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This needs a sequel. I like it and it’s a great ending but at the same time it doesn’t feel like the end and I need to know what happens next.
Um...I'm glad you liked it enough to want more but I'm not planning on a sequel. You, on the other hand, are more than welcome to write one which I would love to read. You're amazing and could probably take this story to another level. I've done series writing with friends where we each wrote one episode of a 13 episode series for television. I wrote episode #2 and I think we're somewhere around episode #5 or #6. There's an overall arc but each writer adds or answers plot points along the way. It was nerve-wracking but fun. I can't wait to ...
I’ll think about it. I’ve got a few stories planned to write just now. What are you working on?
I posted a bleak tale about a cattle rancher dealing with drought exacerbated by an environmental issue. So, you know, comedy, haha. Outside of here, I'm updating a stage version of a public domain play I adapted for Zoom a couple of years back. It was a hit as a Zoom theatre production and I think my updated stage version would be well received. I'm also attempting to expand a 10 minute play I wrote a looong time ago into a full length play. People keep asking so I'm giving it a go. I typically like to write short pieces so this will be a...
So you work in theatre or is that a side hustle?
I have a theater production company I write, direct, and produce (and sometimes star) for in the Pacific Northwest. Not fully full time at the moment; but that's the goal.
Why did they kidnap her? I need more! Will there be another installment?
Haha, well...my only guess is the teacher or teacher's aide who kidnapped her at age four probably had some mental issues, maybe she miscarried or...?...and then managed to kidnap Amy--go to a place where no one knew them, change Amy's name to Kate and raise her as her own daughter. Who knows? After looking for their daughter for 20 years, the dad randomly sees Amy/Kate...maybe at a store (?) and somehow recognizes she's his long lost daughter, makes a plan to kidnap her back, and manages to do it. I honestly have no idea. I only know what ...
I like to think it's because the family who took her had dangerous connections, so they couldn't approach her openly, it had to be a stealth operation 😁
I like your thinking here... :)
I'd love to see a follow up from the perspective of the kidnappers 😁 One more thing - did they put her to bed in pee-soaked clothes? 🤔
Nice catch! Yes, they did. I went back and forth about that detail actually. I decided she should be on top of the covers with a blanket in her pee soaked clothes so she didn't feel violated upon waking up. They asked her to trust them. If she had woken up clean with different clothes, she would've wondered who and how and that would have damaged the little amount of trust she had to begin with. Also why they didn't put her under the covers :) And plus, the clothes were mostly dry by then so she was mostly just smelly.
Wow, I feel like I’ve just watched a movie. This was thrilling to read, and impressive knowledge about the boot of a car! I love stories like this when the ending leaves the imagination whirring.
Thank you! That's a huge compliment coming from masterful suspense writer like yourself :) Thanks for reading and commenting! You made my day :)
Very suspenseful take on the prompt! The beginning throws us right into the deep end, so it's strong. I like how Kate struggles in the trunk. She's in a desperate situation and nothing gets handed to her, but she's forced to rely on herself and really pay attention. I didn't know if she'd pull it off with the light, though I guess in the end it didn't help. Perhaps the work kept her sane though, and gave her some measure of control. I didn't see the twist coming, and it's definitely a lot for someone to take in. It sounds like Kate/Amy is ...
Thank you for reading my story! I felt the same way with the light struggle. As the ending started to reveal itself to me, I realized it wasn't going to help her; but it kept her busy working toward something so I stayed with it. The twist was a surprise to me, too. I didn't start writing with it in mind. The only thing I had going in was the image of a flickering of light outside of a tail light. Haha! I like your take on it being suspicious. I totally had not thought of that. I was concerned about her age and so much time going by and kid...