The Girl in the Woods

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Chapter Nine

 

The man walked into the cabin and went over to the girl. “Amanda, what happened to you?”

“She fell down last night,” said Alex. “We’ve been taking good care of her.”
“I see,” said the man. He took the girl by the hand and led her to the front door. “Well, thanks for doing that.”

Alex and Amy looked at each other, then to the girl. There was no recognition in her eyes, but she was leaving voluntarily.

“Let me at least give you the first-aid kit. That way you can keep her head clean.” Alex handed it to the man, who turned it over in his hand.

“Okay, thanks. Come on Amanda.” They walked out of the cabin and down the hill. He looked back, she didn’t.

Alex shut the door and looked over to his wife. “Well, that was very strange.”

“You aren’t kidding.” Amy said.

 

**********

 

“Thought you could pull a fast one, huh?” The man said, pulling Noli by the hand as they walked. Noli looked at him blankly.

“What?  He said. Cat got your tongue?” He looked at her inquisitively. “What’s with the look?” They stopped walking and he ran his hand up and down in front of her face. “You okay? Boy, you must’ve really smacked your head.” He lifted the gauze and sucked his teeth. “Yeah, you’re pretty banged up, but you’ll be fine soon enough.” He took the first-aid kit and threw it in some bushes. “You won’t be needing this.”

They continued walking, Noli leading the way. After a while, the man stopped her. “Want something to drink?”

She turned to him and he handed her a bottle of water, which she proceeded to guzzle down. He drank half of his own bottle, then replaced them back in his pack which he slid over his shoulders.  He took her hand again and they walked on.

 

**********

 

About an hour later, with Alex and Amy still puzzled over what had happened, they tried the cell phone again, finally getting a signal. Alex called the police station and spoke to the deputy explaining what had occurred.

“Can you describe the girl?”

“Blonde long hair, all knotted up, wild looking. She was dirty and smelly, like she’d been in the woods for a long time. She was wearing jeans that were way too big on her, and a stained t-shirt. My wife gave her a set of clean clothes, socks, and shoes. She’s about 5’5” and really skinny. She had taken a tumble, hit her head pretty good.”

“Sounds like Noli Meyers. She went missing about a week ago,” the deputy said.

“A man came to the cabin claiming to be her brother,” said Alex.

“Let me notify the sheriff. Can you hold for a moment?”

“As long as we have a signal, I can.” Alex turned to Amy and told her everything the deputy had said. Amy put her hands over her heart.

The deputy came back on the line. “Sheriff’s at an incident on the highway. He’ll come as soon as he can. Meanwhile, I’m going to send a squad up to your cabin. Might be a couple of hours till they can get there.”

“Should we go after them?” Alex asked.

“No, it’s best you stay put until the sheriff gets there. He’ll want to…” the phone went dead.

“Shit!” Alex yelled, closing the cell phone.

“What’s going on?” Asked Amy.

“The sheriff is a couple hours away. We’re supposed to stay here and wait, but the girl’s life is in danger. We should go after them.”

Amy followed Alex into their bedroom. He went to the closet and pulled a box down off the shelf. He pulled out his Glock and loaded it with bullets.

“Alex! No, we shouldn’t…”

“We can’t just sit here and wait, wondering what’s going to happen to her.” He slid the gun into the back of his belt.

“Well, I’m coming with you,” Amy said.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Alex smiled. They grabbed a couple water bottles from the refrigerator and headed out, locking the cabin door behind them. Alex taped a note on the door telling the sheriff which direction they were going to go.

 

**********

 

The Weavers started walking the way the man and girl had gone. They looked for tracks and found two different shoe prints. They followed them for a while, losing them a couple of times.

“There’s something over there in the bushes,” Amy called out. She went over and picked up the first-aid kit. “Well, we’re going the right way so far,” she said. They continued on, keeping their eyes on the ground.

“They turn over in this direction,” Alex said, motioning to the east. Amy followed him through an unmarked trail. They walked on through the pines and grass.

 

**********

 

Noli and the man crossed a small stream, their feet and the bottom of their pants getting wet. The sun was going to set soon, so the man looked for a place for them to stop for the night. He found a spot that would suffice and laid his pack down. There was a downed tree and he motioned for her to sit on it. He grabbed some rocks and set them in a circle, then looked for logs and put them inside. He lit a fire and sat next to Noli. She still hadn’t spoken a word.

“You hungry?” he asked, pulling some MRE’s out of his pack. He opened the first one and handed it to Noli. She just sat there and stared out, not taking it.

“Hmmm. I guess not.” He started eating, looking at her now and then to see if she was interested. When he was finished, he threw the empty bag into the fire, which caused it to smoke. They sat there for a while, in the quiet, watching the fire. The man heard a noise and stood. He looked around, but couldn’t see anything. Then he heard footsteps and grabbed his rifle. “Come on!” He grabbed at Noli, but she just pulled back. The man went behind a tree, looking through the scope of his rifle. He saw them, the man and woman who had taken Noli in.

 

**********

 

“She’s over there.” Alex pointed. “Stay here,” he told Amy.

“Is she alone?”

“I don’t see anyone else.” Alex walked over cautiously to where Noli sat. “Hi, honey. Are you doing okay?” He looked around, not seeing anything. Noli looked at him, then glanced over to where Amy was standing.

Amy came over and stood by Alex. “Are you alone?” She asked Noli

Suddenly the man came out behind the tree. “No, she’s not alone.”

Alex and Amy looked up to see a rifle pointed at them. Alex pushed Amy behind his back, and they both took a couple of steps back.

“Get on the ground, now!” The man yelled aiming the rifle at Alex’s head.

They both knelt down with their hands up.

“I don’t know what’s going on here, but…” Alex started.

“Shut your mouth.” The man said, walking up to them. “Goody-two-shoes, aren’t you? Think you can save her? You best be worried about yourselves.”

“Please, we just wanted to…” Amy said.

The man raised the rifle to her head. “You first.” He chambered a round, ready to fire when Noli stood and grabbed a burning log.

“No!” she screamed and hit the man on the back of the head. The rifle went off as he collapsed, and Amy let out a scream.

“Are you hit?” Alex said, looking at his wife.

“No, it just scared me.”

The man laid on the ground and the Weavers rose and went to Noli. Amy put her arms around her and tried to subside her shaking. Alex grabbed the rifle and tapped the man with it. He moaned and turned over, face up. “This isn’t the way it was supposed to go,” he said.

 

**********

 

They reached the cabin the same time as the police arrived. The man was placed in handcuffs and led to a patrol car.

“Noli Meyers?” The sheriff asked the girl.

“Y..yes,” she said.

“Everything is okay. You’re safe.”

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The Girl in the Woods

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Chapter Eight

 

Alex had gotten the girl breathing again. They brought her into the cabin and laid her carefully on the couch. Amy covered the girl with a quilt and lifted her hair to see how bad the wound was. It wasn’t too deep, but there was already a knot forming on her forehead. Alex went to the bathroom to get the first-aid kit. He brought it back with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. He opened a gauze pad and poured some peroxide on it. He gently blotted the girl’s cut, taking care to clean the dirt out of the wound. He got as much out as he could, then applied a generous amount of Neosporin. He placed a clean pad on her head and gently wrapped some gauze around her head, taping it in place. She was still unconscious. Amy stayed with her throughout the night, checking to make sure she was still breathing.

Morning came. The girl was still alive. They didn’t have a telephone, just a cell phone with service that was iffy, so there wasn’t a way for them to communicate with the closest town. Alex thought about putting the girl in the backseat of the car and driving her to the hospital but didn’t want to move her again, not knowing if she had a neck injury.

 

**********

 

Noli went in and out of consciousness aware of voices she didn’t recognize. She opened her eyes, but just saw blurs of color and movement. Her head hurt worse than any headache she’d ever had. She tried to sit up, but a woman with a gentle voice laid her back down.

 

**********

 

Amy took a wet washcloth and held it to the girl’s lips. She squeezed a little bit of water onto them and the girl opened her mouth and eagerly sucked on the cloth.

“Easy, easy.”

“How is she doing?” Alex asked.

“I think she’s coming around,” said Amy. “She’s been trying to get up. I’m really worried about her.”

“I think she’ll be okay. It wasn’t a bad cut.”

“I’m hoping she doesn’t have a concussion, or worse.”

“I tried the cell phone again. Still no service.” Alex said. “I’m wondering if I should take the car and drive to Acorn, and bring some help back.”

The girl stirred and tried to sit up again. Amy helped her lean against the back of the couch.

“How are you feeling, honey?” Amy asked.

The girl tried to open her eyes a couple times, looking around.

She tried to stand but fell back against the edge of the couch. She put her hands up to her head.

“Can you tell me your name?” Alex asked, leaning down to her.

The girl didn’t say anything. Just looked in his eyes, then over to Amy.

“You’re safe here, no one is going to hurt you,” Amy said.

“Let me check your head,” Alex said taking off the gauze. The wound had stopped bleeding and looked a little bit better. He cleaned it again and re-wrapped it with fresh gauze.

“Are you hungry?” asked Amy, then turning to Alex, “I should heat up some broth.” She went to the kitchen and took out a can of chicken broth from the cupboard. She opened it and poured it into a mug, then warmed it up in the microwave and brought it to the girl.

“Here, try some of this.” Amy held the mug out to her and the girl eagerly drank the broth.

“Not too fast.” Amy took the mug from the girl’s lips and brought it down to her lap.

The girl looked down at the mug and slowly brought it back up to her mouth, slowly sipping on the broth.

“That’s good,” Amy said.

“She must be starving.” Alex took the empty mug from the girl. “Maybe you can make her something more solid.”

“I want to get her a little cleaned up, maybe a change of clothes when she gets her balance.”

The girl stood, swaying a bit. Amy took her arm and helped her walk a few steps. “Are you doing okay? Do you need to sit back down?”

The girl looked at her, no emotion in her eyes. Amy slowly walked the girl towards her and Alex’s bedroom. She sat her on the bed. “Let me find you something clean to wear.” The girl was about Amy’s height and weight. She went to her closet and brought out a clean pair of slacks and a long sleeve blouse. “Do you need help changing?” The girl stood and began to take off her t-shirt. Amy turned away, giving her some privacy. She turned back towards the girl when she thought she was dressed. “I have a pair of shoes that would probably fit you.” Amy went back to her closet and brought out some walking shoes that she had worn only a couple times. She went to her dresser and grabbed a pair of socks. She bent down and went to put the socks and shoes on the girl’s feet, noticing how dirty and blistered they were. “Oh, you poor girl.”

Once they were back in the living room, Amy sat the girl back down on the couch. “She’s all cut up and blistered. We need to get her to a hospital.” Amy told Alex.

There was a knock at the front door. Amy and Alex looked at each other. Alex went to the door and opened it. There was a bearded man with wild looking hair.

“Yes?” said Alex.

“I’m hoping you can help me,” the man said. “I’m looking for my sister. We got separated during the night.”

“Um,” Alex turned to Amy.

The man looked into the cabin. “Amanda! There you are.” He pointed to where the girl was sitting.

The Girl in the Woods

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Chapter Seven

 

Noli gathered her clothes and the rest of the stuff she had thrown out the window. She was covered in chocolate pudding and had dirt and leaves sticking to her naked body. She went to the stream and set everything  to the side and stepped in the water. She ducked under and rinsed herself off. The water felt cold but good in the heat of the morning. After getting dressed, she rolled her tangled hair into a makeshift bun. Taking the rope, she ran it through the belt loops of her jeans and tied it off. She took a water bottle, filled it, and drank, repeating until she was full. She then filled up the remaining two bottles and grabbed the MRE’s and stood, trying to figure out which direction she should start walking in.

They had come from the east, so she started walking west. She followed the stream until it turned away from her. She found herself on a hill, each step painful in her too-big shoes. She could feel blisters forming under her socks. As she reached the top of the hill, she looked back towards where she had come. She couldn’t see the cabin anymore.

Noli rested for a while, drinking half a bottle. The sun was overhead and pelting heat down on her. She was hot and sweaty, and took a little bit of water in her hand and wiped her face and the back of her neck with it. She gathered her things and started off again. The land was covered in tall grass, trees, and shrubs. She followed some switchbacks and came across another ravine to the left of her. She stopped for a minute, allowing herself to plan her steps across. She cradled the water bottles and MRE’s in her right arm and slowly made her way across the edge to the other side. Halfway across, she lost her balance and fell on her knees, the bottles and MRE’s going over the edge. She half crawled the rest of the way and once she got to the other side, she sat down hard. Now she didn’t have any water or anything to eat. She fought tears threatening to spill down her cheeks. She knew she couldn’t stay where she was, so she got up and brushed herself off, and continued on.

As the day wore on, her thirst became desperate. She was hot and sweaty, and beginning to get hungry. She searched for something, anything she could use for food as she walked. She knew some plants and leaves were edible, her father had taught her that on their hikes through the woods.

Noli came across a few things that looked familiar that she and her dad had tried. She was very wary to put anything in her mouth, but found some wood sorrel. Kiowa Indians had used this plant to alleviate thirst. She pulled up a plant and hesitantly put part of it in her mouth. She chewed on its sour leaves and stem. It wasn’t so bad. She picked the yellow flowers and popped them in her mouth. Then ate some more leaves. Afterwards, she pulled up as many plants as she could hold in the fold of her t-shirt and began walking again.

After a while, as she was walking, she came across a couple large piles of scat and footprints. They were large, like bear prints, and she suddenly got a chill down her spine. She looked around, but couldn’t see or hear anything. The scat was somewhat dried out, so she hoped it had been a while since the animal was near. It made her realize she was not alone in these woods. She hadn’t even thought about wild animals being out here with her. She walked on, mostly in silence, cradling the treasure in her t-shirt. Pretty soon she came across a patch of wild blueberries. Someone was watching down on her. She dropped the wood sorrel from her shirt and began picking and eating the blueberries, cramming them in her mouth as fast as she could. Her fingers began to stain and she knew her mouth was turning blue from the berries. Juice was dripping off her chin, and she wiped it with her hands and stuck them in her mouth. She was finally getting full, and decided to take a bunch with her tucked in her t-shirt as she had the wood sorrel. Once she had enough to last her a few days, she headed off in the same direction she had been walking.

Noli walked for what seemed hours. Trees towered over her, giving her some much-needed shade. She just wanted to sit under one and rest for a while. So she sat down and leaned against a tree trunk, after looking to make sure there weren’t any ants or other creepy crawlies on it. She closed her eyes and took some relaxing breaths. Before long, she had fallen asleep. When she woke it was evening. The sun was fading in the west. She looked down at the front of her shirt, the blueberries had rolled off onto the ground, leaving her shirt stained with juice. She picked up and ate as many as she could, then stood and brushed herself off. Her hands and shirt were sticky, she tried rubbing her hands on her jeans to get some of it off. She began to walk again, heading into the sunset. She didn’t know what she would do when darkness came. She would have to find somewhere to hunker down for the night. At least the moon was full, that would help.

She found a stick she could use to help her walk, She tested it out and it was thick enough to hold her weight. She leaned on the stick as she walked and it seemed to help her balance. She wanted to walk as far as she could before giving up for the night. She looked up at the sky. The stars were beginning to come out. If she hadn’t been in such a predicament, she would’ve enjoyed the beauty of it all.

She continued walking, holding the stick a bit in front of her so she wouldn’t trip over anything. Something caught her eye, a shooting star. She closed her eyes and made a wish that this ordeal would all be over with and she would be home in her own bed safe and sound. She thought of her dad again, and a tear fell from her eye. She wiped it away and kept on walking. She was getting mad. Furious at all that had happened to her. Angry with the man who had kidnapped her, taking her away from her family and friends. He had no right to do what he did, damn him. She wanted this to be all over, it should have never happened, to begin with. Who was this guy, this freak who had taken her and worse, was going to sell, yes, sell her to another asshole. Where would she be if he had handed her over to the other guy? She had read about human trafficking, about what happened to young girls and women who would most likely never be seen or heard from again. They had talked about it in sociology class. But you would never think it would happen in your own backyard. And here it was, practically happening to her. Yes, she was scared, but she was angrier than anything.

There was something ahead in the clearing. She couldn’t make it out in the dark. As she got closer it began to take form. It was a building, no, a cabin. She started to panic, had she been going around in a huge circle this whole time. She began to shake, and dropped her stick. She screamed and turned around and began to run, but tripped over a pile of rocks. She hit her head on the biggest one, and then she was drawn into darkness.

 

**********

 

“What was that noise?” Amy said to Alex. They had both been in the great room reading.

“I don’t know, maybe an animal.”

“You should go take a look, honey. It didn’t sound like an animal I’ve ever heard.”

Alex put down his magazine on the coffee table and stood up. He walked to the front door.

“You should take the flashlight,” Amy said getting up and going to the kitchen drawer where they kept it. “Here.”

Alex took the flashlight and turned it on. He opened the front door and walked out into the night.

Amy stood by the opened door and watched as her husband moved the light left, then right, then left again. He walked out toward the front of their property and suddenly ran towards something. He leaned down.

“Amy!” He called to her. “Come here, hurry. I need your help.”

Amy ran to her husband and looked down at what he was seeing. A girl, her head bleeding badly, unconscious and not breathing.

The Girl in the Woods

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Chapter Six

 

Morning came, and Noli sat up on the cot. She was cold and tried to wrap one of the wool blankets around her shoulders. The man was standing by the window, looking out.

“I got to figure out what to do with you,” he said in a low voice. “We can’t stay here forever. Keith will be looking for us. He doesn’t know about this cabin, though, so that’s a good thing.”

Noli wondered what she was supposed to say. She had no words.

The man went to the table and opened two MRE’s. “Come and eat.” He untied her wrists and she sat at the table.

She looked inside and her stomach churned. She hated eggs, but forced herself to eat, she’d need the strength. The jeans she wore were too big for her already, and if she lost any more weight, they’d slip right off.

“I’m going to leave for a few days,” he said. “I got to get to a phone.”

Noli panicked at the thought of being left alone. Her breathing became shallow, and she broke out in a sweat. “Why?” She asked.

“I got to get ahold of someone. This guy I know, he owes me a favor. Maybe he could help me out of this mess.”

“Why don’t you just let me go? I can just say…”

“Oh, no. No way. You’re worth too much to let go. I’ll leave you most of the rations and a few bottles of water. You should be okay til I get back.”

He packed a few things in his backpack and turned back to Noli. “Don’t get any ideas about breaking out of here. You couldn’t fit through the window even if you tried. I would hate to come back only to find you dead and dangling. You wouldn’t even know which way to start walking.” He re-tied her wrists together. He unlocked the padlock and opened the door. “You be a good girl.”

She got up from the chair as he closed the door. She heard the click of the padlock and footsteps as the man walked away. She ran to the door and turned the knob, pulling at it. It wouldn’t budge.

 

**********

 

It was getting hot in the cabin. She was trying to ration her water. He had left her one full bottle of water, and one that was half full. There were two empty bottles that he had left on the table. The first thing she was thinking about was she had to get her hands untied. The rope was wrapped around her wrists four times with a big knot facing away. She tried to move her wrists so she could reach the knot, but it proved difficult. She could almost reach it, but not quite. She then looked around the room for something she could use to cut the rope off. She tried the edge of the table, but that wasn’t working. The wood was too soft and worn down. Then she thought about the cot. She went over to it and lifted the mattress off. The cot was made of metal, albeit rusty metal. She got on her knees and started rubbing the rope underneath the edge of the frame. It put a small dent in the rope, but at that rate it would take her days to cut through. Her wrists were getting hot from the friction of her movements. She sat back in defeat. She looked around the cabin again, her eyes catching the small window. If she broke the glass, she could use a shard to cut through the rope.

Her heart was beating fast as she thought about it. It was a possibility. She didn’t want to use her hands to break the glass, so she tried the full water bottle. She hit the window again and again, finally a small crack appeared. She hit the window once more and the glass broke. The water bottle split open and poured out on the floor. Oh no, she said out loud.  Now she only had a half of a bottle’s worth of water left.

She turned back to the window and pulled a shard off the pane. She struggled with it, trying to cut at the rope, but only managed to cut her hand. She was rushing, and she told herself to take a deep breath and try again, slowly. It was working but would take some time to cut through the rope. With her hand bleeding, the shard became slippery. She wiped it on her shirt and tried again. After a while, she finally got the rope off from around her wrists. Yes! She yelled and jumped around the room. She was free of her binds, but now she had a bigger problem concerning the water. Her hand was still bleeding so she took the towel and wrapped it around it. She opened the water bottle and took the tiniest sip. Replacing the lid, she walked back over to the window. It would be a very tight squeeze, but with the weight she had lost since the ordeal had begun, she thought it might be possible to get out.

She used the towel and cleared the window pane of the rest of the glass. The window was a little high up so she moved one of the chairs to it. She carefully stood on the chair and reached for the window. She heard a crack, and the next thing she knew, she was on the floor, and the chair was in splinters. Ow, damn it! She yelled to the room. She got up and kicked the pieces of the chair away from the window. Looking around, she saw the cot and moved it to the window. She tentatively stepped on the frame, and got her balance. If she got on her tippy toes she could reach the window. She put one arm out, then her head. She tried to bring out her other arm, but it got stuck half-way through. She pulled herself back in, and took a deep breath. This was going to be hard. She had to think of a way she could slide herself out. The clothes the man had given her were baggy on her. She thought if she wasn’t wearing them, she could slither out.

So she took off her shoes, then pulled off her t-shirt and jeans. She was careful of the glass and splinters of the chair being only in socks. She climbed back on the cot, and got in position. This time she got her head and both arms through, but couldn’t get her hips to move through. She was getting frustrated and angry. Then she had an idea.

She went to the MRE’s and started opening them up. She looked through them until she found something that would work. She went to the window and threw out her clothes and shoes, then threw out the 2 empty water bottles, plus the half-full one. She threw out the length of rope She looked around the cabin for anything else useful. There were 2 rations that she hadn’t opened so she threw those out on the pile. She went to the table and put her hand in the MRE. She began to cover herself in chocolate pudding. Over her shoulders, hips, arms, and thighs. She went back to the window and pulled her arms and head through. So far, so good, she thought. She wiggled her tummy through and again got stuck at her hips. She thought about what the man had said to her about dangling dead in the window. That motivated her to push harder. She had her hands on the outside wall of the cabin, and used them to move herself the rest of the way through. She fell onto the ground on her shoulders. She felt a sharp pain in her back, and tried to stand up. It hurt, and she rubbed her back, feeling a little better. She was out. Free. But what the hell was she going to do now?

The Girl in the Woods

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Chapter Five

 

They reached the cabin in the late afternoon. “Stay here,” the man told Noli as he dropped his pack and held up the rifle. He approached the front door that was padlocked. He took a key out of his jeans pocket and unlocked it, opening up the door slowly, pointing his rifle around the darkened room. He went towards the window where he lit a lantern. It was a small cabin, with a cot at the far side of the room, a table with three chairs, a wood burning stove, and a wooden trunk. “Come in,” he ordered. “Sit down at the table.”

Noli sat as instructed, glancing around the cabin. It was dusty and had an odor to it she tried to place. They both hadn’t washed since her kidnapping, and she wondered if the bad smell was coming from them. As if he read her mind, he told her there was a stream close by where they could wash up.

The man opened his pack and pulled out 2 sets of jeans, t-shirts, and socks. He placed them on the cot and emptied the rest of his pack. He had a bunch of MRE packages, and bottles of water. He pulled out the first aid kit and told her that after she cleaned up, he would re-bandage her wounds. He went to the trunk and pulled out a couple wool blankets and placed those on the cot. He pulled out a towel that was threadbare and stained. “This will have to do.” He grabbed the jeans, shirts, and his rifle then took her rope and led her down a hill to the stream.

“I’m going to untie you, but you best not get any ideas to run.” He undid the knot around her wrists and dropped the rope to the ground. “Take off your clothes.”

She looked at him with horror in her eyes.

“Come on, get to it.” He began taking off his shirt and shoes.

Noli rubbed her bruised wrists and hesitated.

“Now!” He yelled, making her jump.

She began removing her torn and tattered robe, and laid it down next to her. She turned around, facing her back to the man and removed her nightgown and underwear. She slowly stepped into the stream and got in up to her waist. She knelt down in the frigid water and covered herself with her arms.

The man finished taking off his clothes and walked in. He stayed away from her as he started cleaning his body and hair. She mimicked his movements, dunking her head under the water and scrubbing her body. Her cuts were stinging and the coldness of the water made her catch her breath, but it felt good to get all the sweat and dirt off.

He climbed out first, drying his body and dressing in the new jeans and t-shirt. He sat on the ground and put his socks and shoes back on. He stood and looked at her. “Done?” He held out the towel for her.

Noli nodded but was hesitant to get out. She stood, covering herself the best she could and climbed out of the water. She was cold and shaking, and she took the towel and dried off.

“Here,” he said throwing clothes at her. “Put these on.”

She tried to balance herself to put the jeans on. She zipped them and put on the t-shirt. He walked over to her and put socks and shoes on her feet. He grabbed the towel and her ruined clothes. He re-wrapped her wrists together, picked up his rifle, and led her back to the cabin.

She sat back down on the chair closest to the cot. Her hair was all knotted and she tried to finger comb it, but it didn’t help.

“Hungry?”

She nodded and watched as he prepared two rations. “Do you want chicken or beef?” He asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said quietly.

He gave her the bbq chicken sandwich and a bottle of water. She nibbled at the sandwich while watching him shove his sandwich down his throat. He guzzled his bottle of water and sat back, satisfied. He was in the mood to talk.

“So, what’s your name?”

She was shocked at his question. He kidnapped her but didn’t even know who she was. “Noli,” she whispered.

“How old are you, Noli?” He asked, picking his teeth.

“Fifteen.”

“You’re sure a pretty thing.”

She put the rest of her sandwich down and turned away from the table.

“Don’t worry, Noli. I’m not going to hurt you. Not like Keith was going to anyway.”

She looked back at him.

“Oh, yeah. He had big plans for you. I was supposed to bring you to him and get my money. But I knew he was going to screw me over, so I took you for myself.”

Noli realized what he was talking about. She had heard of women and children being sold. Tears formed in her eyes and slowly rolled down her cheeks. “I’m tired,” she said.

He took her outside so she could pee, then brought her back in the cabin and padlocked it from the inside. He put the key in his pocket. “I’ve got to clean your wounds. After that, you can sleep on the cot.”

When he was done, she curled up in a ball trying to get warm. She thought of the past few days, how she missed her father, and if she’d get out of this alive. She tried to figure out how she could escape if she could, where she would go. She was completely lost, dependent on this man for everything. She finally fell asleep, listening to the man breathing deeply.

 

**********

 

The Girl in the Woods

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Chapter Four

 

“Get up!” The man ordered. “We have a long ways to go today.”

Noli rose, trying to get her hair out of her eyes. It was dirty and tangled. “I’m thirsty,” she said. She was hungry too, but didn’t say anything.

The man got out a bottle of water and two clif bars. “This will have to do, at least until we get where we’re going.” He handed her the water and she took three big swigs. Then took the energy bar that he had opened and ate it quickly. She was more hungry than she thought.

The man packed the water bottle and the wrappers in the pack. He rolled the pack over his shoulders and grabbed the other end of the rope. He led her toward some bushes. “You best do your business while you can.”

She went behind the bushes and squatted. At first her urine wouldn’t come out because the man was gawking at her. He sighed and faced away from her. When she was finished she pulled her underwear back over her hips and fixed her nightgown and robe. She came around and they took off into the woods.

In the afternoon, they took a little break. She was sweating and breathing heavily. The man, though he was sweating, was breathing normally. “He must be in good shape,” she thought to herself. They continued on.

They were approaching a drop-off, and she was warned to watch her step. It was hard for her to walk in the shoes he had given her, and she was still curling her toes so they wouldn’t fall off. She looked down into the ravine and caught her breath. It was a long way down to the bottom. Right after she thought that she lost her footing and began sliding down the side of the mountain. She screamed as she tried grabbing tree branches and whatever else she could hold onto. The man tightened the rope around his hand and the rope grew taut. She was panicking and thrashing around, the pain in her wrists immense.

“Hold still, I’ve got you,” he yelled, trying to get a foothold in the dirt. He pulled her up slowly and she cried out, the rocks cutting into her stomach, arms, and legs. When she got back to the top she was shaking and her breath came in gasps.

“You’re okay now. I’ve got you.”

Noli pulled away from the man’s touch on her shoulder. Even though he had just saved her life, she was still leery of him. He let her rest there for a few minutes before they moved on. She was bleeding from her cuts, and her nightgown and robe were getting bloody.

“When we stop again, I’ll clean you up.” He held the rope closer to his body and tighter as they finished crossing the ravine.

She didn’t want him near her, but she worried about infection. They came to a clearing in the wilderness and he sat her down on a rock. He took out a first-aid kit from the pack, and the bottle of water. He lifted her robe and nightgown a little to look at her legs. They were pretty banged up.

He brought out some rubbing alcohol pads. “This is going to sting like a mother,” he said, dabbing at her wounds. She sucked in her breath and tried not to cry out. He put Mercurochrome on each cut and bandaged them. He then did the same to her arms.

“Let me check your belly.”

She tried to hold her nightgown down, but he pulled it up to her shoulders. He was staring at her. She grabbed the material from him and covered her breasts with it. He cleaned and bandaged the cuts on her stomach, taking care to collect all the trash. He then put it in the pack.

He helped her to her feet and they walked on.

 

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At the end of the last paved road, Sheriff Richardson gathered everyone around him. He handed out flyers to each person containing information and photos of Noli Meyers. “All right, folks,” he said looking at his watch. “It’s now 10 am. We’re going to go in groups of two and follow the grid pattern I have printed. There are 15 of us, so that makes 7 groups and a leftover. That person will stay and keep in contact with the searchers via handheld radios, which each group will receive. If you see anything, hear anything, no matter how insignificant it might seem, call it in. If something doesn’t seem right, call it in. And I want each group to radio in every half an hour to give an update, Okay?”

Dylan Meyers looked around at his neighbors, friends, and some people he didn’t even know. Though he was upset at the circumstance, he was glad for a search to finally come together. He hoped and prayed that someone would find his daughter. A woman he hadn’t seen before approached him with a smile.

“You must be the father,” she said. “I’m Michelle Antigue. I just moved into town a few weeks ago. I was told about your daughter missing from my neighbor, so I thought I’d come and see if there was anything I could do to help.”

“Thank you for doing this. I’m Dylan. Dylan Meyers.” He looked at Michelle and gave her a sad smile.

“We can pair up if you want,” Michelle said, looking at the flyer in her hand. She’s a very beautiful girl, your daughter.”

“Thank you.”

“Okay, everyone find a partner and come get a handheld,” the Sheriff called out. “I want everyone checked back in by 5 pm. I don’t want anyone else to get lost, so follow the grid. And don’t forget to check in.”

There was movement as everyone got their partner and waited in line for their handheld and grid. On the paper, there were times for that party to check in.

“Grab yourselves some bottles of water and snack packs out of the box over by the trailer. Good luck and stay safe.”

They headed out in all directions, some on dirt roads, and others right into the woods. Dylan and Michelle placed their water and snacks in their backpacks and started for the woods.

“I know this area well,” said Dylan. Noli and I liked to take long walks whenever we had the time.” He sniffed and Michelle put her hand on his shoulder.

“I’m sure someone will find her. The sheriff thinks that she ran off.”

“She would have no reason to do that,” Dylan said a little angrily. “No reason at all.”

They walked in silence, looking and checking at all the things around them. Dylan found them each a walking stick, and they used those to turn over leaves as well as lift up plants. After a while, Michelle needed a few minutes to rest. They drank some water and wiped the sweat from their brows. It was time for them to check in.

“Team 5 reporting in,” Dylan spoke into the radio. “Haven’t found anything yet.” `

The Girl in the Woods

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Chapter Three

 

Dylan Meyers didn’t know his daughter was missing. He left for work before she usually got up in the mornings. And now, at 5:45 pm, he had arrived to an empty house. He figured she was at a friend’s house doing homework.

He walked past the living room into the kitchen to get a beer. He noticed the blinking light on the answering machine, so he went to the phone. He pushed the play button and listened as someone from the school said that Noli had been absent today and for her parent to please call back.

Dylan sat down hard on the chair. He was furious about Noli skipping classes. They had talked about it last year when it got to be a bad habit. She had promised she was done ditching. She was going to be grounded for a long time when she got home.

He got a beer from the refrigerator and pulled out a frozen dinner. He ate in silence. He couldn’t get over how mad he was at Noli. He grabbed another beer and took it to the living room, turning on the t.v. to watch a game. He finished his beer and laid his head back against the couch cushion and closed his eyes.

He woke with a start, not meaning to fall asleep. He glanced at the digital clock on the cable box. It was 8:30 pm. He went through the house looking for Noli. He checked her room. The blankets on her bed had been messed up, though she rarely made her bed.

Dylan’s anger was now turning into concern. He opened the front door and the back door, calling her name. Nothing. He went back into the kitchen and lifted the phone, checking the electronic directory, calling the friends he knew she hung out with. They hadn’t seen her before or after school, or during classes. He could hear the concern in their voices and he asked each one of them to call if they heard from Noli.

He was beginning to panic. It was time to call the sheriff.

 

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Noli was so cold. She was shivering and tried to wrap her robe around her. The man had re-tied her hands to the front of her. He had taken the other end of the rope and wrapped it around his own hand, so if she tried to escape, he would know it. The fire the man had built was nothing more than burning embers now. She was scared and went to lay her head back down. Leaves and twigs were stuck in her hair. She closed her eyes and silently wept. The morning was about to dawn, and she wondered what the day would bring.

 

**********

 

The Sheriff arrived at Dylan’s house early the next morning. He had taken down some information over the phone last night but wanted to come to the residence for an extensive interview.

“Now, you say you didn’t see her at all Sunday night into Monday?” Sheriff John Richardson was asking, opening a notepad.

“Not after we went to our bedrooms around 10:30 pm,” said Dylan.

“And you didn’t see her Monday morning? Did you know if she was home at that point?”

“I leave for work around 5:30 am. I always leave a note on the refrigerator telling her to have a great day and that I love her. I don’t usually go into her room because she doesn’t have to get up until 7 am. “

“Does she have a cell phone?”

“Yes,” said Dylan. “I called it and it rang in her room. It’s still in there.”

“Is anything missing? Clothes, shoes, money…”

“Honestly, I haven’t really checked her room that well.” Dylan was beginning to shake. “I didn’t think about it. I’m not thinking straight.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “Oh, God. Where can my baby be?”

“Try to calm down, Mr. Meyers. We’re still looking at this as a possible runaway situation. Did you two have any arguments? Disagreements?”

“No, not really. A guy at school had asked her out and I said no. She was a bit upset about that, but nothing more came of it.” Dylan said.

“I’m going to need the names of her friends, people she hangs out with, and the boy’s name.”

Dylan complied, and after more questioning walked the Sheriff to the front door.

“We’ll be in touch, Mr. Meyers. And if you can think of anything else, no matter how insignificant it might be, let us know.” Sheriff Richardson said, leaving the house.

Dylan closed the front door. He didn’t know what to do with himself. He finally ended up going to Noli”s room and sat on her bed. “Where are you?” He whispered.

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