Kelsey listened intently as she hid in the darkness above her attic hideaway. Something was happening in her house, and she was too afraid to leave her hiding spot to find out what it was.
As a teenager, Kelsey was extremely outgoing and had an active social life, but one afternoon while playing with her friends at a nearby park, a shoot-out began between police officers and a car containing two masked men.
As the cars raced through the busy street, pedestrians ran for cover. One elderly lady, unable to move in time, was struck down by the bandit’s vehicle, hurling her through the air and into a store window. Her bloodied body laid limp across shards of broken glass.
The criminals turned the corner swiftly and headed in Kelsey’s direction. She grabbed onto the hand of her friend, Stacey and began to run. Bullets whooshed past her head. She prayed that they would find a place to hide soon.
Suddenly, Stacey came to a stop, halting Kelsey in her tracks. As she looked around, Kelsey saw her friend falling to the ground with a pool of blood trickling out around her head. Kelsey screamed and dropped to the ground, trying her best to revive her friend, but it was too late. Stacey was gone.
Kelsey was brought back to reality as the sound of the police siren neared. She began to run once again and was able to dive behind a fountain moments before the cars sped by. She remained hidden in that spot for several minutes until a woman approached her and set her hand on Kelsey’s shoulder.
Kelsey jumped and pulled back in fear, then took off running once again toward her house. Once home, her mom tried for well over an hour to calm her down enough to explain what had happened. Kelsey’s dad had come home from work and called the police department. They sent over a police officer along with a woman who dealt with victims of crimes.
After spending a couple of hours with the psychologist, Kelsey seemed more relaxed, but still held a sense of fear in the back of her mind. It was suggested that a room of solitude be prepared for Kelsey to escape to within the house if she ever felt that fear returning. The following day, her dad started preparing the attic for her escape room.
The attic was equipped with a chair, radio, and a bed if she chose to stay there at night. Her father even installed a skylight that could open when she needed some fresh air. She could also close shutters over the skylight if she chose to have darkness.
It took some time for Kelsey to adjust to this room of solitude, but once she had, she spent most of her time there, only coming down to eat, shower, use the bathroom, or go to school.
School was another challenge. Every loud noise that Kelsey heard would cause her to jump and panic. She was teased by her classmates, but there, she had no escape room to run to.
By the time she finished high school, Kelsey could not bear the thought of going to college. She knew that her high anxiety issues would prevent her from succeeding, so she spent her first year after high school in seclusion. She only stayed connected with her friends through phone conversations and the occasional drop-in visit. Social media was out of the question for Kelsey. She considered it to be a way for people to find out where she lived, who she knew, and any other personal information that would allow criminals to hurt her more.
Her parents tried to get her help, but she refused to leave the house to attend any of the doctors’ appointments. By the time Kelsey turned nineteen, she was a full recluse. She rarely left the attic anymore. Even at mealtime, she would stay hidden away from everyone, then sneak down after her parents went to bed to eat leftovers and get cleaned up a little.
Kelsey stared in the bathroom mirror at herself. Her eyes were blackened and sunken in. Her pallor complexion made her look like a zombie that had been raised from the dead. Her dishevelled, oily hair was knotted and unkempt. The pyjamas that she wore had not been changed in several days and emitted a putrid smell of body odor.
She decided to shower and change before heading back to her hideaway. When she finished, it was if twenty pounds of dirt had been washed from her body. It felt quite refreshing. She quickly grabbed a snack from the kitchen, then climbed the ladder back up into the attic.
Kelsey had just begun to doze off into a deep slumber when she heard her mother scream. It only lasted a moment, then her voice had silenced. Seconds later, she heard struggling going on in the hallway below the attic access. She dared not move in fear that someone would hear the floorboards creaking. Instead, she sat silently on her bed and listened carefully.
At first, she thought her parents might have been fighting. They did that occasionally, but it had never become physical. Then she heard another man; a stranger’s voice ordering her father to give him the money that he owed him or else he would kill Kelsey’s mother. Those words caused Kelsey’s anxiety to kick in even stronger, and she found herself frozen, unable to move at all. The fear had engulfed her, and she no longer had control.
She listened as her father insisted that he didn’t have the money that the stranger was looking for and was struck by his assailant.
“Don’t give me that crap, Charlie!” the stranger yelled. “You know damn well that I spent two years behind bars because of you. I am here to get what is owed to me. If you don’t want to give it to me, I will put a bullet between your pretty wife’s eyes while you watch. So, what’ll it be, Charlie?”
Kelsey wanted to yell out to tell her dad to pay the man what he wants so he would leave, but she knew that if she did, the man would find her and kill her too.
Her fear began to subside and was replaced with anger. She decided that if her dad wasn’t going to do anything, then it was up to her to help her mom.
Carefully, she eased herself off her bed and slowly edged her way to just beneath the skylight. She quietly unlatched the shutters and opened them up, trying not to cause the hinges to squeak. Standing on a chair, she cranked open the skylight and pulled herself out onto the roof.
From the roof, she took out her cellular phone and called 911. After explaining to the operator what was happening, she dispatched a police car to Kelsey’s address. Shivering in the chilly night air, Kelsey glanced down at the car parked in front of the house. She was certain that she had seen it before somewhere but couldn’t recall where.
Two minutes later, a police cruiser rolled up into the driveway. The blue and white lights were blinding to Kelsey. The two officers exited the vehicle, and one of them spotted Kelsey and called up to her, asking her to remain there until they tell her it is safe.
The police officers entered the home quietly and edged their way up the stairs, guns drawn. As they approached the top of the stairs, Kelsey could hear the distant voice of one of them yelling out, “Police officers. Put down your weapon.”
Three shots were fired, followed by a loud thud, then a crash. Kelsey hovered in terror by the edge of the skylight, ready to flee if the stranger came through the entrance to the attic. Light pierced the darkness as the hatch door opened. First, she saw a hand grab hold of the attic floor, then a head poked through the opening. Kelsey readied herself to jump off the roof, if necessary, but when the face came into view, she saw that it was the police officer. He helped her back inside and asked her to follow him down the ladder.
Hesitantly, she climbed down the ladder, fearing what she would witness. What she saw, was the intruder laying on the ground in handcuffs with a bullet wound to the arm. Memories of that moment back in the park as a teenager suddenly began flooding back. She remembered where she saw the intruder’s car before. It was the one that the two men were driving in when Stacey was gunned down.
She pulled the officer to the side and told her what she remembered and what she had heard the man saying about the money. The officer ran a background check on the intruder and found out he had just been released from prison after serving two years for armed robbery. The other man in the car was never captured, however. He had jumped from the moving car while they were being chased and disappeared.
The officer asked for the man’s known associates. He then walked down the hall into the other room. After getting his response, the officer returned to the hallway. He approached Kelsey’s father and asked him to accompany them to the station to answer some questions. Kelsey and her mother stayed behind, and the intruder went with one of the officers to the hospital to be treated for his gunshot wound before taking him to jail.
One hour had passed before the phone rang. Kelsey sat closely by her mother’s side, trying to hear what was being said. Her mother’s eyes began to tear up and Kelsey knew that the news was not good.
After she had hung up the phone, Kelsey’s mother wiped her tears and held onto her daughter’s hand, looked her in the eyes, and told her some devastating news. The gunman in the car that day when Stacey was shot, was Kelsey’s dad. He had escaped and kept the money from a bank robbery to himself while his partner went to jail. The intruder never gave her father’s name because he thought the money would be waiting for him when he got out of prison.
For his part in the robbery, along with the deaths of the elderly woman and Stacey, her father was facing a long prison sentence.
Knowing how this was going to affect their way of living, Kelsey decided at that moment, that she was done hiding. It was time for her to come out of the darkness and face her fears. She looked her mom in the eyes and said, “We will get through this, mom…together.”