I grew up sheltered. I do regret the fact I didn’t go to parties, date or drink in school. I went off to collage without that much life experience causing me to fall for the first guy that gave me any positive attention. Some showed their true colors very quickly when I refused to sleep with them after knowing them for a day or so. The man I fell for, and later married kept his real nature well hidden. I only found out what kind of person he was after our son turned three. Due to health issues when I became pregnant, I needed to put off finishing collage for a year or so. I found myself unable to pay for the remaining years and took any jobs I could manage with my medical issues still lingering. I earned enough to keep us afloat. My husband slowly starting to show who he was as the years passed by. I found us unable to pay bills on a regular basis and unsure of where the money went. I fooled myself thinking that staying for our son was the best idea, regardless of our problems.
I asked a friend to follow my husband and he found out that our funds were going towards slots and horse betting. I confronted him about it and we got into a huge blow out. For six months I stayed, scared out of my mind over if we could feed our son or lose the roof over our heads. I never thought I would become one of those women who stayed with their abusive partner. While you’re in that kind of situation everything feels impossible. I was more afraid to leave than if what my husband would do if I stayed. Then he threatened my son and everything became clear. Overnight I packed up a few bags and left. Just left. I couldn’t even stay at my parents or friends because he knew where they all lived. I didn’t want to risk their safety because of my deranged husband’s wrath.
For a year and six months I made it work. I found a place to stay, I changed my first name and went by my maiden name. I did everything possible to ensure that man could never find us. After no signs of him for so long I became a little bit lax. I took my son out for ice-cream every Friday and I assume having a routine let him track us down. I don’t know how else he did so.
You may call me a bad mother for what happened. I left my son who just turned five, alone in the apartment by himself. I felt safe knowing I’d only be gone for ten minutes at the most and he was asleep when I left. I just wanted to pick up some bread from the corner store for his lunch the next day.
I came back and knew right away something was wrong. I knew I locked the front door but then I came back I found it unlocked. I flew inside, dropping my bags of food I went to the store to get. I rushed to our shared bedroom, dread growing in my stomach. The room was empty. I nearly fainted. I tore through the entire apartment looking for my boy. I pushed aside the couch and opened every cupboard in the kitchen, my mind in a blind panic. Somehow through that panicked state, I heard my cellphone ringing. I checked the number to see if maybe my neighbour saw my son try to leave the building and called me saying he was just at their place. I didn’t know the number and let the call go to voice mail. I didn’t even set the phone down when the same unknown number sent a text. A message a mother never wants to see from an unknown number.
‘I have your son.’
My sight growing grey around the edges giving me tunnel vision. My hands shook so much I couldn’t get my phone unlocked fast enough. The number called again and this time I picked up.
“Troy, I swear to God if you-” I shot out, voice shaking with fear and anger.
“Not Troy sweetie. Just someone he hired. I needed to get you but you weren’t in and this is better. Do you want to talk to your kiddo?” A deep voice came from the other end.
I’ve never heard this person before and didn’t have a clue who he may be. I always thought my husband wanted us gone but didn’t think he would dare spend money that could be used for gambling on something like that.
“Yes! Let me talk to him!” I hated how desperate I sounded.
Noises came over the phone as it was handed over. It sounded as if they were in a car with the windows down. My heart sank. They could be anywhere and travelling further and further away. My son’s voice barely heard over the noise.
“Hey mom.” My boy started but I cut him off.
“Benny, did he hurt you?! Where are you, are you ok?!” I barely kept myself from shouting.
My tone didn’t go over well with Benny. He was just a child and didn’t know what was going on. He didn’t even know being in a car with a stranger was a bad thing.
“No, tis ok. He’s a friend of dad.” Benny said in a small quavering voice.
I never really told him about his father. I just said we needed to be away for a while. I just couldn’t think of a way to explain how I felt about Troy without scaring my child. I knew he missed his dad but I told him so many times not to go with strangers. This man had been hired by my ex and got coached on what to say to make Benny comfortable and think they really were friends and going to see his dad again. All of this was my fault. I left him alone and I didn’t say the right things to protect him. I wanted to cry but needed to stay strong to make sure he lived through this.
“Can you tell me where you are? What car did you get into? What does he look like?” I pleaded hoping if he answered one of these questions it would help the police in finding him.
The phone was taken away before Benny said anything else. The man came back and I heard my son sound upset in the background. The phone got muffled like if the man pressed it against himself as if he didn’t want me to hear him sounding almost comforting to the child in the car. He cleared his throat and brought the phone back up.
“I have no reason to hurt him. I just need to you go to a certain location and time. After that, your son can go free. I’ll buy him dinner too. Is he allergic to anything?” The man asked. His deep voice not matching how friendly he tried to make the last statement.
“As if I believe you! What do you really want?! Just, please we’ll do the trade now. Bring my little Benny back.” I begged pressing my phone so hard against my ear it hurt.
The man didn’t answer for seconds that felt like hours. He rolled up the window so his voice came out clear.
“Show up on time at the location I’ll send you. If you call the cops, you’ll never see your son again.” The man’s voice so cold it made my shoulders shake.
I opened my mouth to speak but he hung up. A second after a text came through with a screen shot of local park on Google Maps. A part of the trail in the middle of the park was marked, and he provided some photos of the meeting spot. The trail a bit over grown and surrounded by trees. I should have called the police. I had the number the kidnapper called from. I didn’t record the phone call but they should believe me it took place. I did consider calling them. The meeting time was set for an hour from now and after it got dark. I didn’t think the cops would believe me so fast and put a plan in motion before the time was up. No, I needed to do the foolish thing and go alone.
I called a friend and told her that my husband found where I took my son. I didn’t go into details but told her to call the cops if I didn’t send her a message in two hours. I debated on telling her to send the police to the park if she didn’t hear from me, but decided against it. I would send her a message with the images of the park right before I needed to meet the strange man that took my son. That gave me enough time to get Benny back and hopefully have her call the police for us. If the police arrived at the wrong time, I risked my son’s life.
I kept looking at my phone while I drove expecting it to ring. My car wasn’t the greatest and it puttered along taking up a decent amount of time to arrive to the park. I got there ten minutes early and figured it didn’t matter. With the messages to my friend sent, I raced down the path trying to see in the dark and find the right spot. The trail empty and I didn’t see any cars in the parking lot besides an old grey one sitting at an angle. The uneven path nearly caused me to trip a few times and I cursed myself for wearing sandals instead of better shoes.
I saw the meeting spot under one of the rare post lamps. Bugs already buzzed around the light. The sun only setting a few minutes ago but it looked like the dead of night. I saw two shapes and my heart raced harder than it ever had before. A man I didn’t recognize was sitting on his heels doing what looked like to be a magic trick with a coin. Benny unaware of how dangerous the situation really was, watched on in awe when the man tossed up the coin, caught it and opened his hand to show it was no longer there.
I ran up, scooping Benny into my arms and took a few steps away from the kidnapper. I wanted to run but didn’t risk it in case someone else was watching us. I looked over my son, finding him perfectly find. Just a bit scared from my reaction. His face also a little sticky from soda. I noticed a takeout bag sitting by the lamp post to be tossed away. I fussed over Benny wanting to sob from missing him so much from the short time apart.
The man stood up and the movement nearly caused me to bolt. He picked up a grey suit jacket off the ground and quickly put it back on. Grey hair matched his jacket along with his eyes. He looked a few years older than myself and a bit scruffy to be wearing a suit jacket and a dress shirt.
“Did he hurt you at all sweetie? Did he…” I couldn’t bring myself to ask my son if a stranger touched him in a way that made him uncomfortable.
I sort of had that talk with him but never did it properly. I regretted a great deal of my choices that led to that moment but never regretted having Benny. He was the only thing in my life I was proud of and I almost lost him. From the looks of things, Benny wasn’t hurt in any way while away from me. The man told the truth of just holding onto him for the hour and buying him dinner. I hated this man and I hated a monster like him acted this good with a kid.
“I’m ok. Did I do something bad?” Benny asked in a small voice looking as if he might cry.
“No honey. I was just scared; your father’s friend didn’t tell me he was taking you.” I lied.
That calmed him down. I took a step backwards keeping my eye on the man who stayed silent the entire time. He placed his hands in his pockets and when I pressed Benny’s face against my shoulder to calm him, the man flashed the handle of a gun. He quickly put it away when my son looked back. He didn’t want to deal with a loud, crying child so kept his threat silent but clear. The brief look of the gun caused my body to almost shut down.
I wanted to get sick. My body shook from stress and I kept thinking about just making a run for it. I couldn’t risk Benny getting hurt. I needed to stay alert and escape when I had a better chance. I also had a small weapon in my purse. Just a stun gun but I needed to be closer to the man to use it and I didn’t want to put my son down either.
“Why did you do all of this?” I asked the man, voice filled with anger.
“I told you. Your husband hired me. He should be arriving any minute, so please let’s play the silent game until he gets here.”
“Listen-” I started.
He cut off my words by taking a single step closer. Hands still in his pocket, and an unsettling grin on his face. For a moment, I thought his teeth appeared too sharp and the light shone off his eyes in an odd way. I took a few steps back, legs uneven and shaking. My son started to get upset again and I needed to get him out of here.
“Can I… At least let Benny leave?” I begged in a soft voice.
He paused to consider my request. His face returning to normal, and he took a step away to keep us calm. Crossing his arms, he shook his head.
“It’s a dark park and he’s like, ten.” The man answered.
“Five.” I corrected.
He let out a long sigh, and cracked his neck in frustration.
“Aright, five. It’s not good for him to be walking alone at night. And where would he go? Do you have someone who can pick him up?” He offered; his deep voice almost friendly.
I stood, stunned. I didn’t think the person who took my son would let him go like this. I nodded and made me get out my phone. He watched me type out a message to my friend asking her to come by and get Benny. When I sent the message, he warned me to keep my phone in my pocket and not try and call the cops. He said that he was only hired me to get me to the park and didn’t care what happened with my son. If my friend left her place right after the message was sent; it would take her thirty minutes to get here. he agreed to let Benny leaver after she arrived to get him and not make him walk around to get lost in the park. We had some time and my ex-husband hadn’t shown up even though it was a few minutes after the meeting time.
The man started to pace as we waited. He found some rocks to kick into the grass when he got bored and I let Benny sit on my lap. I whispered to him how much I loved him and anything else that came to mind. He was confused and scared which was understandable. He just wanted to see his father again after so long. I wondered if I should have told him about his father or let him have the few years of still thinking the man was a decent person.
Finally, my ex showed up from down the path. His blonde hair looking like it’s seen better days. Face covered in a beard and eyes sunken. He didn’t look like the man I married and Benny didn’t even know who he was. The kidnapper let out a growl and dramatically tapped at his wrist.
“You’re late.” He hissed at my husband.
“I was making some deals. I can give you a little bit extra for staying. Are they both here?” Troy’s voice sounded rough as if he just woke up.
I suspected Troy got into something heavier than some drinks and ruined his body since I left. I stood up, son in my arms again trying to think of a way out of this mess. What did he want? I didn’t have any money or life insurance. Our deaths wouldn’t benefit anyone. In fact, I told my best friend if I disappeared to tell the cops Troy had something to do with it. If he killed me, all signs pointed to him.
“It’s the principle of the matter. But you’re here now. Do you want me to kill her?” The grey-haired man said as if he was asking a mundane question.
My legs failed me. I sank to my knees, Benny being strong but tears came to his eyes. I should have risked running sooner and now I wouldn’t be around to see my son grow up.
“No, no. I have some guys who want to pay for her. You can like, hit her head, right? Like do something to make it so she doesn’t know what’s going on but keep her alive? Wait, what do people do with an ice pick up the nose?” Troy offered, hands shaking but from withdrawals and not from what he was saying.
“Like a lobotomy? I don’t carry and ice pick around but I can figure something out. You’re the one paying for this, her dead or not.”
With a shrug, the hired killer turned and started to walk towards us. I made an attempt to stand only to have my legs give out again. This couldn’t be happening. I refused to let either of them follow through with their plan. I reached into my purse and found the stun gun. I held onto it tightly, waiting for the man to get closer. I wanted to shock him and run like hell thinking it would be my only chance.
“Oh, and the boy too. I’ll get more for him.”
With a few steps between us, the man stopped at those words. A dark expression came over his face for only a second. I thought I imagined thing it. He forced a smile on his face and brightly looked over his shoulder at my husband, his tone a false cheer.
“I told you it’s double for kids.” He nearly sang causing my skin to crawl.
“I’ll pay it. Just grab them or do whatever you need to do here fast so we can go.”
I wanted to scream. Like fucking hell this man was going to touch my son. I already failed him once by leaving Benny alone and I wasn’t going to do it again. I gritted my teeth together, waiting for the right moment. Just before he reached us, I set Benny down and screamed at him to run. My hand holding the stun gun flew out of my purse and I jammed it into the man’s side. I flicked it on and heard the current run but nothing happened. He didn’t flinch or react in any way. I smelled the burned fabric of his shirt and he still didn’t do anything. To my horror, I saw Benny just standing with wet eyes unable to move.
A hand as tight as a steel vice came down on my own and took the stun gun from me. He wrapped one arm around my neck to press my back against his chest and I screamed hoping someone would hear. Nothing worked. This man far too strong for me to get away.
“Please! I’ll pay you more than what he’s offering! My purse, all my cards are in there! You can take anything out of my purse and, and-” I choked on tears trying to think of anything else I had to offer to save my son’s life. “My body! You can do whatever you want with it! I’ll sell it too if I have to save Benny, just don’t hurt-”
My body was tossed to the ground and the man held onto my purse strap. Benny came running over, sobbing seeing his mother mistreated in such a way. With my heart racing, I looked up to see the kidnapper actually looking through my purse. He paused at some lip-gloss as if he was considering taking it.
“What the fuck are you doing?! Just grab them!” Troy yelled, his rage boiling over.
The stranger put the lip-gloss back and found my wallet. He pulled out a small purple card stock square and a smile with sharp teeth came to his face. The wallet was returned and the entire purse tossed at my feet. He held out the card showing it was a stamp rewards card for a local ice-cream place. All the stamps been filled out for a free waffle cone with two scoops.
“I’ll take this as payment, if you don’t mind. It was inside your purse so it counts.” He said and I didn’t believe his words.
He tucked the card away and turned towards Troy. His hands tucked inside his suit pockets and hunched over but he still looked like a force of nature walking towards my Ex with purpose. Troy screamed at him to finish the job and the man didn’t turn back on us. His anger taking over and Troy pulled out a hand gun from his pocket. I screamed and curled around Benny in case one of the bullets reached us. Each shot rang out through the empty park sounding much louder than I expected from a small gun. Raising my head, I saw a horrible sight. A bullet tore through the grey-haired man’s ear. Blood splattered on the ground and Benny went into a sobbing fit.
Instead of crying out in pain, the man started to laugh. He doubled over like he couldn’t breathe from laughing so hard. In a blink of an eye, he went from laughing a few steps away from Troy to knocking him to the ground. His scuffed dress shoe on Troy’s chest, pinning him down. I didn’t even see this man move. Troy’s hands flew to the man’s leg trying to move it as he shouted and cursed. All his attempts to get free failed.
“Ten grand! I’m paying you ten grand! She can’t give you that! Don’t they call you a Mad Dog?! A kid shouldn’t matter!” Troy screamed as if he hadn’t just shot the man now standing on his chest.
“That money is what you think you’re going to win off of a bet tomorrow. You currently do not have the payment, and this lovely woman over there paid me in advance. Unlike you, she did not promise what she does not have. So, I’m taking a job from her. After all, I haven’t gotten a cent from you, and I do believe you were just going to kill me instead of actually ever handing over any money.”
That sounded like Troy. I honestly never expected him to find me because that would require him to pay a private investigator or to spend a good chunk of his own time tracking us down. I wasn’t worth anything to that man until he found out he could sell his ex-wife and son to God knows who. Troy started to sputter out excuses, but the man pushed his foot down harder to cause him to start wheezing. He leaned over, his chest pressed against his knee to watch Troy’s suffering face closer.
When he turned his head to let our eyes meet, my body turned to ice. A pin prick of white light came from his pupils and somehow, his ear wound started to close. This man wasn’t human and I didn’t have any clue what he really was.
“I don’t get paid to hurt people. I only kill them. But someone has to tell me to do it. So, little lady, you have already paid. Do you want me to go through with the job?”
His smile got wider and teeth sharper. His face appearing more of a beast than a man’s. I looked from the monster and the man I married. I realized then they were both monsters in their own way. I nodded my head and that was enough. The deal silently made. I didn’t want my child to see what was going to happen. I stood up, ready to make a run for it and leave these two behind.
Off in the woods I saw more lights from eyes. Countless of them appeared in the dark. Out from a bush came a shape that made me gasp. A rotten bear with shining white eyes took one step into the clearing. The fur sagging off the thin frame and half the skull exposed. Such a creature should not be able to move around. I questioned my sanity in that moment. I turned to leave but saw the man move his leg. He kicked Troy hard enough for me to hear ribs break and see his body fly a few feet towards the dead bear.
“A fun fact about bears is they just start eating you. You’ll be lucky if you bleed out quickly from the attack!”
I heard the man shout with another wheezing laugh. My legs finally working and I ran for our lives. I met my friend at the start of the park, her face with clear worry. I forced her inside her car and told her to drive. I could pick up my car later. I refused to tell her what happened besides my husband found us but won’t be an issue any longer. She thought I killed him but was a saint. She let us stay at her place for the night. My poor Benny crying late into the night. I hoped this happened to him young enough the memories of the night faded in time.
I called out of work for the first time the next day. I expect the police to come knocking at our door but nothing happened. I hated leaving Benny with my friend so soon after everything that happened, but I needed to make sure of something. I told her I just wanted to pick up my car. I got on a bus to head to the park, only staying long enough to grab my car. But I drove down to the pier and found a spot to park. I looked around trying to find a certain person knowing my stamp card expired tomorrow so he had to be here today.
By some miracle, I spotted the man with the grey suit jacket leaning against the wooden railing and looking out into the water. The grey clouds of the day matching his hair. He had a waffle cone in his hand and a brown paper bag in the other. The cone almost finished with a few drips of bright blue ice cream on the side.
I walked up to him but stopped behind unsure of what to say. He somehow sensed I arrived. Turning, he tossed the bag at me which I thankfully caught.
“Your stun gun is in there. Oh, and about sixty grand in cash your husband won from his horse race today. I picked it up for you.” He said in a calm voice and a shrug.
“What?”!” I choked on my words, holding the heavy bag.
I pressed it against my chest, feeling what must be a stack of bills inside. I shook my head not believing he would simply hand this much money over.
“Why wouldn’t you keep this? I never would have known about it.” I questioned and noticed people looking at us.
I stepped closer to keep our conversation between ourselves. What kind of person would hand over a life changing amount of money and kill a man for an ice-cream cone? Not a person I told myself. He wasn’t human. Some sort of monster I never wanted to see again. I just wanted to know if Troy was dead or not.
“I don’t need it. And a dead man doesn’t either. And I think you earned this after being married to someone like that. Either way, I did my job. You still owe me a little bit though.” He said and finished off his cone with one big bite.
I let him chew and wondered what he was talking about. If he didn’t want money then what? I thought back trying to remember what I’d offered in such a state of panic. My words coming back and my stomach fell to the ground.
“You want me to…?” I asked mouth dry and the words dying in my throat.
“You offered. You said I could do whatever I wanted with your body. We can get this done right here.” He said, and his face turned into a smirk I wanted to slap.
“Here? Are you crazy?” I hissed.
I did offer my body but that didn’t mean I wanted to get arrested for public indecency. He raised one hand and with his index finger, tapped his right cheek until I got the hint. My face turned red and I held the bag closer, threatening to rip it. I wanted to kill him with my bare hands. I got closer and kissed his cheek, face still red and anger simmering in my stomach. This bastard just wanted to tease me.
“Is that all you wanted me to do?” I asked clearly seething.
He got closer, his lips neck to my ear causing my body to tense up. His hand went to the bottom of my back and only touched the space with his finger tips. I smelled cigarette smoke on him covering up an Earthy, almost sweet smell.
“Did you want me to ask for more?” He offered in a low voice
I jerked away, hating him as much as I hated the reaction my body had to his words. This man wasn’t human and I know killed my Ex and yet I shook from mixed signals. My face red and teeth clenched together I shook my head unable to speak. He laughed a harsh wheezing chuckle and I knew why he left it at just a kiss on the cheek. That soft moment and the suggestion afterwards made me question myself. For the rest of my life, I would curse what I felt for a half a second wonder if he pushed hard enough, I might go along with what he asked. Unable to help myself, I punched his arm. That caused him to laugh harder.
“Let’s hope we never meet again. You need better taste in men.” The man mocked and started to walk away.
“I really do.” I admitted.
I let the stranger leave, glad to not get his real name or know anything else about him. As the months passed by, I waited for the police to show up and they never did. No one came questioning me about Troy going missing and no body was ever found. If it wasn’t for the cash, I hid away I would have thought the whole thing didn’t happen. Benny blocked out the night but he started to have nightmares for a few months afterwards.
That man we came across, whatever he was, just wanted to amuse himself. He didn’t care about my life or Benny. He just kept me alive to tease me afterwards. Simple as that. Or he turned on Troy because insulted him. Either way, I was thankful his odd personality let us live through the night.
I hated Troy. I really did. But if I had the option going back and never marrying him knowing how it would turn out, I still wanted to go through with it. I have my son who I love more than anything. The past five years of bad memories are well worth having him around every day.