The heavy rain pelted mercilessly against the windows as Andy fumbled into his apartment and tossed his sling bag on his already messy floor. Soaked as though he had gone swimming, he hurriedly flipped on the light switch and shed his muddy boots and coat. He had one thought on his mind and one thought only: a long, hot bath. He was absolutely numb with cold. Just as he stripped off his T-shirt, a blinding flash of lightning made him reconsider. Death by electrocution did not seem appealing to him, even after the day he'd just had. Well, the rain had probably given him enough of a bath, he thought as he went to his room to change into his pyjamas. His room was small, but comfortably so. He had pushed his bed up against the furthest wall so that it was to the left of his bed. Andy was slightly neurotic about that. He always had to have his bed against a wall and that wall always had to be on the left. His out-dated computer sat forlornly in the corner; he hadn't used it in ages. The real focus point of the room was his ornate, antique oak desk. It had been his brother's and was his most prized possession, so much so that it was allowed more leg room than his bed. There were novels and scrunched up pieces of paper stained in ink scattered all over it. Crumbs and pieces of chicken remained as a reminder of last night's late night supper (sweet and sour chicken pizza). The state of his room reminded him of how much of a hurry he'd been when he left that morning. The comforter for his double bed remained where he'd tossed it after he realised how much he'd overslept, the contents of his drawers lay strewn across the floor as he'd attempted to find a clean pair of underpants and the window was wide open, letting in powerful gusts of wind and freezing rain. He quickly ran over to shut it. Giving a weary sigh, he slowly began to clean up the clutter. Suddenly, there was an earth-shattering clap of thunder that made him jump a foot in the air. The lights went out.
"Great," he mumbled, "Just what I need."
Knowing his incompetent landlord, if the electricity had gone in a storm this severe, it would only be back by the following morning. He fumbled his way to the kitchen and pulled out candles and matches from the top cupboard. Andy was hungry as hell and had been looking forward to making himself a decent home-cooked meal to kick off the weekend. This didn't seem like a very good start to the first free weekend he'd had in three months.
"Looks like it's cereal for supper," he said, peering into the fridge for the milk.
He took a quick sniff to verify that it was still safe for human consumption and pulled out the Coco Pops from another cupboard. He sat in the dim candle light at his kitchen table, chewing quietly, and solitary as always.
Andreas Baron was twenty-two, tall and happy. He worked as a book reviewer for his favourite literary magazine, Inkwell, and intermittently wrote articles for local newspapers and journals. Although only a junior writer, he received much respect from his peers for his writing abilities and he often wondered whether a promotion was on the cards for him. Promotion or not, working at Inkwell was the best thing that had had happened to him since he was born. Small and shabby though his apartment was, he enjoyed the independence. It was more of a home than anywhere else he had ever been. Andy abruptly realised that he had been staring blankly at the milk carton for the past ten minutes, yet, inexplicably, he couldn't draw his eyes away from the photograph printed on the side of the carton. It was a picture of a young girl, not older than nineteen. She had gentle features and soft, dark curls that framed her face perfectly. She was displaying a set of dazzlingly white, straight teeth and judging by how light her eyes looked in the grayscale photograph, they were probably blue. The photograph had so perfectly captured her isolated moment of happiness that the massive, bold MISSING' printed above her visage seemed impossibly cruel. There was something about her that was enthralling him but he couldn't quite place what it was. He picked up the carton and examined the photograph more closely. Her name was Lisa McKenzie and she had been missing for three months, after last being seen getting onto the bus after school.
"Lisa," he whispered, a slight frown appearing on his face. He wasn't sure but for a moment he thought that herecognised her? Andy was sure that he had never seen this girl in his life, not even every morning when he ate his breakfast. Now gripped with the annoying feeling of trying to recall information that the deeper labyrinths of his brain just would not part with, he stood up to replace the milk into the fridge. Andy was struck by an overwhelming surge of dizziness that brought him crashing to the floor. His heart pounded so strongly it was as if it was trying to squeeze as many beats out of itself before it stopped. Terrified and strangled by breathlessness, he clutched at his chest, not knowing what to do. As he scrambled for his cell phone, his head suddenly felt as if it had been cracked open. Wheezing and grunting in pain, he tried to get his bearings as his body turned against him. The room began to spin madly and he felt himself throw up all over the floor. The onslaught was relentless and as he struggled to take breath, something very strange happened. Lisa McKenzie's face flashed before his eyes. What made it even stranger was that it was not the stunning, perfectly happy Lisa McKenzie he had just seen on the side of his milk carton, but a frightened, bruised, bloodied and gagged Lisa McKenzie. Her azure eyes were so distinctive, and they were filled with nothing but fear. He heard her trying to scream through her gag but he also thought he heard somebody else. Her frightened face flashed alternately with his tiny kitchen as he, once again, attempted to get up. He managed only to hold on to the edge of the table before the pain overwhelmed him completely and he collapsed, unconscious.
Somebody was pounding incessantly at the door.
The shouting was becoming louder more frantic. It was making his head pound. Andy was slowly regaining consciousness and he opened his eyes to the blinding glare of the morning sun.
"Andy!" he heard somebody shout again.
He then heard the characteristic jangle of keys and his front door being, what sounded like, kicked down.
"Andy?" the voice repeated. "Where are you?"
He recognised it to be his friend, Bonnie. He felt her rush to his side and grab his face.
"Andy? Oh my word! What happened to you?" she asked frantically as the puddle of sick beside his head caught her eye. He gradually opened his eyes and saw hers worriedly looking back at him. He felt drained and weak.
"Come on, I got you," she grunted as she helped him up. Bonnie helped him to his couch and placed a few cushions behind his head. He blinked slowly and involuntarily retched as he tasted vomit in his mouth.
"Whoa! Steady now," said Bonnie as she eased his sick-drenched pyjama top over his head. She had a dish with warm water and proceeded to wipe down his face and torso. Eventually his stomach settled and he managed to sit up.
"Jeez Andy. What happened?"
"I don't know," he replied, still disorientated. "I think I had a fit or something."
"A fit? As in an epileptic fit?"
"Yeah, something like that. I don't know what happened. I just got really nauseous and I fell over. Then my heart tried to beat itself out of my chest and I had the mother of all headaches."
"That doesn't sound like an average fit to me. Did anything else happen? You look like hell."
He contemplated telling her about Lisa and decided that that moment wasn't the right time. He needed to recover.
"Nah, I can't remember anything else. I just really need a bath. Is the power back yet?"
"The power was gone?"
"Yeah. You know this place when storms like yesterday happen."
Bonnie stood up and flipped the switch on the kettle. The water began to heat up.
"Yup, looks like it's back. Oh no you don't!" she said sternly as she saw him attempting to get up. "You stay there for a few minutes. I don't know why I'm not rushing you to the emergency room right now."
"No please don't! I'm fine, really. Just help me to the bathroom please; I really need to take a bath."
She looked at him sternly, shook her head and helped him up.
When he walked back into the kitchen after his bath, he saw that it was spotless and that Bonnie was making him breakfast.
"Bonnie, really? What're you doing?"
"What's it look like I'm doing? I'm making you food. You need to do some grocery shopping by the way. I could barely scrape anything good together."
"You don't have to do this, really. It's Saturday, I'm sure you have better things to do with your time."
She gave a wry laugh. "You mean like study? Yeah right. One more second in that place and I'm going to kill myself. Besides, I came in and found you unconscious, in a pool of your own sick. Don't tell me you're fine Andy."
"What were you doing here anyways?" as he buttered a slice of toast. The thought of eating it was making him slightly queasy.
"I just came for a visit. You know how boring it gets in res. I needed some fresh air. It's exam time. You of all people should know what kind of psycho study freaks everybody morphs into when it's time to hit the books."
Bonnie Conrad was a fifth year medical student and his best friend. She was quite short and had skin the colour of fine milk chocolate. Her diminutive stature didn't diminish her authoritative nature in the slightest and she made every effort she could to keep people in the dark about her medical student status. She reckoned it scared people away once they found out you were smart'. She had a knack for dressing like she had just stepped out of the cover of Rolling Stone and often got into trouble for her brightly coloured hair whenever they did hospital rounds but she got away with it because you couldn't help but like her. By far her most distinctive feature was her grey eyes, which seemed to shine, even in the dark of night. They met at university when Andy himself was still a medical student and still remained good friends two years after he dropped out. She was always there to look out for him and he didn't think she realised just how grateful he was for that.
"But you're almost done," said Andy, daring a bite of toast. "One more year and you'll be adding the title Doctor' to your name."
"Yeah," she replied indifferently, shrugging her shoulders and playing with her grass-green hair. "At this point, I just want it to be over. It's all well for people on the outside to keep praising you for being so noble and all that. I'm only doing this because it guarantees me a job and pays well. How's the writing coming along?"
He chewed his toast tentatively and swallowed it carefully before replying. "It's alright. Nothing special going on at the moment. Bonnie?"
"Yes?" she replied, looking up from her tea.
"Something else did happen."
She looked confused for a few seconds then he saw the comprehension dawn on her face as she realised what he was talking about.
"Oh. Okay. This sounds ominous. What happened?"
"Just promise me one thing."
She looked at him sceptically, unsure how to reply to his request. Andy gave her a beseeching look.
"Fine." she said eventually. "What?"
"You won't think that I've completely lost my mind, gone off my meds or insist on sending me to therapy."
"Okay," she repeated with more conviction.
After taking a sip of his coffee, he took a deep breath in before starting the story.
"While I was having myepisode, I saw something?"
"Saw something? What do you mean?"
"I mean, like I was on the verge of unconsciousness and the whole room was spinning but then I saw this girl. Lisa. I clearly saw her face. She looked so scared Bonnie."
"Lisa? Who's Lisa?"
"Pass me the milk carton." He turned it around to show her the photograph. "Lisa McKenzie. She's been missing for three months."
"Do you know her?" asked Bonnie. He saw the beginnings of concern budding in her eyes.
"That's the thing. I've never seen her in my life. Not in real life anyway. I only just noticed her on the milk carton today. That's exactly when this whole thing started. Right after I saw her face. I know that I don't know her, and that I've never seen her before but I have this feeling nagging at me that I recognise her from somewhere."
"Andy, you probably recognise her from the carton. I mean you still eat cereal for breakfast every morning, don't you?"
"It's the first time I've bought this brand of milk Bonnie. Mine usually comes in bottles. But that's not my point. The point is I saw her face. And it didn't look the way it looked on the carton. She looked real. Her face was all beaten up and she was gagged. She was petrified of something or somebody because I heard another voice as well. It looked like somebody was holding her hostage."
Bonnie looked at him inscrutably. "I don't know what to say to this."
"Neither do I," admitted Andy as he turned the carton over to look at the picture again. He looked at it for a few seconds when just as suddenly as before, he was wracked by an excruciating headache that made him cry out.
"Andy?" cried Bonnie. Her voice sounded distant.
He grabbed his head, willing the pain to go away when the familiar vision crept back into his mind again. It was clearer than ever. This time he saw Lisa tied to a chair, clad in nothing but her underwear. Her whole body was mottled with dark, painful looking bruises and her wrists and ankles were bleeding at the points where she was bound to the chair. Her eyes were frantically searching the room for an escape. A large, heavily tattooed man then came into his line of vision. He was holding what looked like a butcher's knife and was obviously saying something to Lisa but Andy couldn't decipher what; his ears were ringing too badly. The man knelt in front of Lisa and casually rested his hand on her bare thigh as he continued to taunt her. He used the knife to brush her away from her face to reveal her piercing eyes. They were full of nothing but complete and utter panic. Finally, Andy's horrifying vision was accompanied by sound. The man's voice was deep and gravelly.
"And then when I'm done, I'm going toget rid of you. Nobody will even know we were here," he said with sickening cheerfulness.
Andy heard Lisa's muffled scream through her gag and saw the tears rolling down her cheeks. He didn't want to see anymore and thankfully, the scene dissolved and he was back on his kitchen floor, staring into Bonnie's large, grey eyes.
"Oh my word," whispered Andy.
"Yeah, I think oh my word' is just about right." replied Bonnie, with terror distorting her features.
"For the hundredth time Bonnie, it was not a dream! You were right there with me. You saw exactly what happened!"
It was a balmy afternoon and Andy was sitting with Bonnie at Confetti Cup, her favourite caf. They had decided that getting out of the apartment was a good idea after that morning's events.
"Then it was a hallucination or a side effect of your medication! Andy I really think you're making too much of this! You saw a girl's picture on a milk carton, and your imagination went crazy because you're stressed or something. That's the rational explanation for this."
"What about my blinding headaches?" he demanded. "And the sickness and everything else? This is a fully body experience!" Andy was growing frustrated. "Why on earth would I have such a vividly" he paused to search for the right word, "nauseating dream about somebody I don't know? And who was that man?"
Bonnie closed her eyes and sighed. "Andy, I'm sorry. I can't answer all those questions. All I know is that this isn't a big deal and you shouldn't read too much into this."
He knew that he was going to sound like a psych patient but he didn't care. These visions, or whatever they were, were really making him uneasy. He leaned over the table to get closer to her face.
"Bonnie," he said quietly, "what if it's real? What if I'm seeing something that's actually happening? What if that girl is being tortured by some crazy freak and I'm sitting here doing nothing about it?"
He felt he didn't deserve her patience but she always gave it to him nonetheless. She gently held his face in her hands and looked him dead in the eye.
"Andy, you're over-exaggerating here. I don't know what else to say to you except that what you are telling me is totally impossible. Even if this Lisa girl is still alive, there is absolutely no way that you can know what is happening to her. That's just not how it works. I think maybe your brain is just manifesting your stress in a particularly strange way this time. You talking like this is making me very worried. Do you want me to stay over tonight?"
He knew that that was more for her benefit than his. She wanted to be sure that he wasn't going to do anything stupid when he was alone. Andy leant back in his chair.
"No it's fine, you really don't have to do that. I've bothered you enough with my bouts of madness already. I think I just need to get some rest."
"No," she said firmly. "I need to make sure you're okay. I just need to fetch my books and I'll be there by eight o'clock."
He knew that it was pointless to argue with her so he just shrugged his shoulders and smiled at her.
"I really feel like carrot cake," she said suddenly. "What about you?"
"Sounds good to me."
He could see that she was searching her mind for a topic that would inconspicuously change the direction of the conversation. He decided to help her out.
"I got a letter from Robert Murray the other day."
Her eyes lit up with excitement. Andy thought that she was probably the only other person who knew who he was.
"Like, National Geographic Magazine Robert Murray?" she asked incredulously.
"Yeah, the one and only. He wants to offer me a permanent job writing for them."
Now that he thought about it, he didn't know how he had forgotten to share such exciting news with his best friend. It's safe to say that he was a little preoccupied with other things.
"That's amazing!" she squealed. "Why didn't you tell me this?"
"Bit preoccupied I think," he said with a sheepish smile.
"But what about Inkwell?"
"I can still do some part time work for them. The editor is kind of in love with me so I think she'll do anything to keep me on the team."
Bonnie sniggered at him. "Are you talking about that creepy Anne lady? Dude she's ancient! The way she's always checking you out makes me uncomfortable."
"You? What about me!"
This is what he enjoyed so much about Bonnie's company. She could always lift up his mood no matter how unfathomably bad he was feeling.
"What about you?" he asked. "What's it like being a student intern?"
Her face fell somewhat. She hated what she was studying.
"Not any more exciting than not being a student intern. Being surrounded by deathly sick people all day doesn't do wonders for your morale you know. And I keep failing everything do with the medical consultation. The registrars keep telling me that I show a complete lack of empathy and that I have an awful bedside manner'. I mean, seriously? Everybody says I'm like House. Am I that bad?"
"Knowing you, you probably are that bad," he replied as he ate his cake.
That was another one of Bonnie's personality quirks. She had a very difficult time showing any type of emotion that was not anger or annoyance. She quickly grew impatient with people who did not catch on quickly to what type of person she was and at the best of times she had an unnerving lack of compassion. Her uncanny ability to fake positive emotions such as happiness and excitement usually got her by in day to day life but faking was an effort, and she never managed to do it absolutely all the time. Rarely was she ever aware when she was hurting somebody with her words and actions. It wasn't her being rude, it was just the way she was. She sometimes joked that she was a sociopath. The only person with whom she could share such emotions with was Andy. He was still at a bit of a loss as to why. He didn't know why, but he knew with absolute certainty that whenever she was with him, she conveyed nothing but complete sincerity.
She sighed heavily and picked at her cake. "You're probably right. Oh well. They'll just have to deal with me. I want more cake."
They were back in Andy's apartment and he was busy cooking them lasagne for supper. Bonnie was sitting on the couch, vigorously making notes with her books strewn all over the floor. Andy looked over at her. When she was studying, she became completely unaware of her surroundings. It was like watching a car being put together by robots in an automated construction line. She was methodical and unrelenting. He went over to the oven and pulled out the lasagne. He dished up for them and joined Bonnie on the floor next to the couch.
"Wow," she said with her mouth full, "this is amazing! I think you're in the wrong career here."
He laughed at her. "Yeah somehow I don't see myself becoming the next Jamie Oliver."
As she finished the last of her supper, her demeanour changed and she turned to gaze at him with a deathly serious expression. Andy suspected what was coming.
"Andy," she said tentatively, "are you sure you're okay? Everything that happened this morning, the way you've been going on about this vision you hadIt's freaking me out. I just want to be sure you aren't having a relapse."
He knew exactly why she was so concerned about the day's events. Andy had an unpleasant history when it came to stress and hallucinations. When he was still at university, the pressure of being a medical student proved to be too much for him. He had been stuck studying something that he completely despised and that had only contributed to his condition. The stress caused by the impossible workload, incessant demands and lack of will to do what he had been doing led to his nerves fraying beyond repair. He withdrew into himself and slipped helplessly into an endless chasm of sorrow. Bonnie had been there for him throughout the whole ordeal. She'd watched him transform from the buoyant, innocent being to an empty husk weighted down too heavily by his troubles. Eventually she convinced him to quit and pursue something else, something he really wanted. By then it was already too late. Andy had never been quite the same since, no matter how fulfilling his new life was. All those late nights picking up anti-depressants, consoling him when he seemed inconsolable and splicing his broken pieces together had obviously had a greater effect on her than she had expected. He ran a weary hand through his obsidian hair, trying to gather up the right words.
"Okay listen, I know this is very sudden. To be quite honest, I know about as much about what's going on as you do. I don't know what this means but I can tell you for sure that I'm not relapsing. I promised I'd never let myself get that bad again. I could never put you through all that again. It wouldn't be fair to you. You've already done way too much for me Bonnie."
There was a long silence during which she contemplated what he was telling her, trying to gauge whether he was telling the truth. When she finally decided that he was, she gave him a weary smile and said, "Okay."
Relieved, he cleared up their dirty dishes and went to the sink to wash them. Just as he started rinsing the cups, he saw movement outside the window. Normally, he wouldn't have cared much about somebody harmlessly walking across the parking lot but what he saw made his blood run cold.
"Okay why are we doing this again?" said Bonnie, not even attempting to hide her frustration.
"We are doing this because this cannot possibly be a coincidence! I won't sleep tonight until I find out what's going on here!"
"But what if he notices that we're following him?"
"He won't," he replied, slowing down at the red robot.
"How do you know?"
"Seriously? I know I ask a lot from you sometimes but right now I need you to trust my judgement and to trust it completely. Can you do that for me? Just for tonight. This is going somewhere I can just feel it. Something just isn't right here."
"Of course something isn't right! We're following a complete stranger because you supposedly saw him molesting a girl you don't know in a vision you had this morning!" Bonnie shrieked incredulously.
"Look, you can shout at me all you like but I know you well enough to know that you wouldn't be here right now if there wasn't a small shred of you that believes in what I'm doing."
There was a tense silence as Andy sped up his Camaro to keep the burgundy van within sight. As he had been washing the dishes that night, he'd seen a large, tattooed man making his way across the parking lot. That had startled him enough but that was not what drove Andy to follow this strange man. His apartment window had been open and he had overheard the man talking on his cell phone in a familiar, deep and gravelly voice that he would have given almost anything to forget. He had decided that that was proof enough of whatever was going on and that he was going to investigate. Bonnie initially refused but upon realising that Andy was going to go with or without her, she eventually agreed to come along. They continued to drive behind the man as inconspicuously as they could and followed him down the highway. Andy drove for what seemed like an eternity before they noticed that the van was turning off the main road. He looked over at Bonnie. Her expression was anxious and he saw that she wanted to tell him what a bad idea it was to go any further. He was well aware of that, but it was not just about them anymore. He genuinely felt that Lisa McKenzie was in trouble and needed their help. Reluctantly, he switched off his headlights as they continued along the dirt road. They drove past tree plantations for about half an hour before he noticed the van's lights make a turn off into a narrow pathway between the trees. Andy came to a stop just where the pathway began. He took a deep breath, now feeling nervous himself.
"Okay, I don't think we should drive any further. He might spot us if we do."
"Andy, what exactly are you planning to do? Okay fine, we've followed this man into the middle of nowhere and now what? You do realise that if anything, anything goes wrong, nobody will now? We're at least an hour away from the nearest service station."
He hadn't thought about his. Then again, he hadn't been banking on the man going so far out of town.
"Well then, we'll just have to not get caught. Let's go"
The path they were walking along was only just wide enough for a car to get through. It was littered with broken branches that had fallen off the trees as the van had repeatedly forced its way through. It was a pitch black, moonless night and they could barely see where they were going. Bonnie recommended that they leave their torches behind in case the light alerted the man to their presence. They could not afford to be seen, not when they were completely unarmed and unprotected. After stumbling through the forest for a few minutes, a derelict wooden cabin finally came into view. The wooden walls were rotten and covered in dark green moss, the windows were broken and boarded up and the front porch looked like it was on the verge of collapse. It looked like something out of a cheap horror movie. Nonetheless, it was a good place to hide somebody whom you did not want found. The burgundy van was parked right in front of the door to the cabin and they carefully made their way around it.
"How did he even find this place? It's so creepy," said Bonnie with a shudder.
"I don't know," replied Andy absently. "There're some sick people in this world. They'll do anything they have to do to hide their crimes."
Andy could hear voices inside but it wasn't clear what they were saying. He signalled to Bonnie that they should go have a look through one of the windows. She looked at him apprehensively but followed suit anyway. Luckily for Andy, he was tall enough to be able to peer through comfortably. There was a small gap between the planks used to board up the windows but after his eyes adjusted, the scene that had invaded his mind so many times began to materialise before his eyes. The room was dimly lit with what looked like oil lamps and he noticed that they were looking at it from behind. He could see the back of the chair that he recognised as the one Lisa had been bound to but she was no longer in it. Confused, he looked around for her before spotting her in the far corner, still bound and gagged.
"What can you see?" asked Bonnie, anxiously looking around.
"Not much. Lisa is definitely in there. But she's not in the chair anymore , she's tied up on the ground."
"And the man?"
"I can't see him. Wait," he said as he saw movement in the shadows, "there he is!"
Andy turned away from the window and signalled that they crouch down.
"You see!" he hissed triumphantly. "I told you that this meant something! This is exactly what I saw in my mind! That girl needs our help Bonnie. We can't just leave her in there."
"But I can't see what we can do here. I mean we can't just waltz in there, take her and go. We need professional help. We have to go back to the car and get the police."
She began to get up but Andy yanked her back down,
"No," he said firmly. "If he's already kept her here for this long, what's to say that he isn't going to kill her right now? He isn't going to keep her forever and judging by his what he's doing right now, I don't think she's going to make it through the night. We don't have time to go all the way back. We have to get her out somehow ourselves."
No matter how afraid, angry and incredulous Bonnie felt, she knew that what Andy said made sense. They would have to do it themselves. She sighed heavily, wiped her face wearily with the back of her hand and tied up her hair.
"Okay. But we need to think of a solid plan first. We don't have much time. Just have a look to see what's going on."
Andy stood up to look through the window again. Lisa was still on the floor, alive but just barely. However, it didn't look like she was going to stay that way for long. He saw the man come in with the very same butcher's knife Andy had seen him with previously. Murder was in his eyes.
"Oh no," said Andy, filling up with dread.
"What?" Bonnie whispered.
"He's going to kill her."
"What! How do you know?"
"He's going to kill her!" he repeated, panicked. He'd spoken louder than he'd meant to. The man raised his glance to the window, knife still in hand. Andy swore that the man was looking him dead in the eye. He quickly crouched back down, his heart thumping uncontrollably.
"He saw me!"
"He saw you?" she nearly shrieked, her eyes popping with terror. "Come on!" she said, jumping up. "We need to get the hell out of here! We can't do anything for her if we're dead!"
Andy was relentless. "No!" he said, breathing fast. "We need to." He heard footsteps around the corner and put a finger to his lips to show Bonnie that she needed to remain silent. They slowly backed around the other corner. He stood closer to her, now completely wracked with fear.
"Okay listen," he said speaking quickly and simultaneously looking behind Bonnie to see if the man had found them yet. "No, listen!" he pressed as he saw that Bonnie had opened her mouth to interrupt. "Lisa is alone in there right now. Judging by how quickly he came out, he probably left the door open. I need you to go in there, untie her and take her back to the car. Wait for me there. If I don't get back there in twenty minutes, drive off and go to the police station."
Bonnie looked well and truly angry. "And what exactly is going to happen to you during this whole plan? Andy, we're risking our lives for some girl we don't even know! We're in the middle of some God-forsaken forest, we don't know what this man is capable of and you're asking me to leave you alone with him? No, I'm not out of my mind!"
"We don't have time to argue! Please, please just do it. It's our best chance. I promise I won't do anything stupid. Please."
With one last murderous glare, she set off to the other side of the building.
"Bonnie," he hissed.
She turned to look at him. "Please be careful."
With that, she disappeared around the corner. He was confident that Bonnie would be sharp enough to not get herself into a sticky situation. He wasn't too sure that he could do the same. He turned around to see the man standing about five metres from him. He looked both livid and surprised that somebody had found his personal house of horrors. Without a word, he pulled a pistol from his waistband. Andy's heart thumped even harder. He hadn't banked on the man having a gun. He hadn't thought that far ahead. He didn't even pause to see if the man had pointed it him yet or not. He turned and ran into the woods as quickly as he could. He heard the deafening gunshots behind him and felt the bullets whoosh past his head. He dared a glance behind him as he was running and saw that he could faintly see the man's outline amongst the tree trunks. For a man of his size, he was moving incredibly fast. This worried Andy. He heard another gunshot behind him and ran even faster. Suddenly, he tripped over a fallen branch and flew through the air before slamming into the ground, hitting his head on a root. Dazed and disorientated, he scrambled to his feet and continued to run. The man was closing in on him. Slowly but surely, he gained more ground and Andy crashed to the ground once more; pinned down by what felt like a ton of muscle. The man gruffly turned him onto his back and proceeded to punch him in the face. Andy felt his nose break and the blood gush all over his face. He couldn't see anything.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he grunted between brutal punches to Andy's face. "You think you can follow me and spy on me? We'll let me tell you," he whispered, grabbing Andy by his collar and talking straight into his broken face, "I'm going to kill you, and then I'm going to kill that useless bitch in there too!"
He reached for his gun again and frowned as he couldn't find it. Andy was badly beaten and close to unconsciousness but he would have been a fool not use the opportunity. He groped blindly at the ground and by some stroke of insane luck; he found what he was looking for. He grasped the branch and shoved it at the man's face as hard as he could. It caught him in the eye and the man let go of him. He scrambled away and saw the glint of metal on the forest floor. The gun. He'd never shot one in his life and had never wanted to but he was being pushed into a very tight space. Just as he lunged for it, the man grabbed his legs and started pulling him away. He kicked and thrashed with what little energy he had left and managed to get loose. He crawled to where the gun lay and picked it up. It was much heavier than it looked. He turned around, aimed at the man and shot. The recoil made him shoot skew and it looked like he had hit the man in the leg. He took another shot for good measure, dropped the gun and stumbled away without looking back. Thankfully, they had been running in circles and he could just see the narrow pathway that they had used to get there to begin with. He made a point of looking behind him every few seconds to make sure that the man wasn't skulking behind him, ready to hunt him down like an animal. He could see no signs of the muscled giant. As the adrenaline wore off, he began to feel the full extent of his injuries. His nose was most definitely broken and his side was on fire; he probably had cracked a few ribs during his fall. He also felt another type of pain, stronger, more nauseating and more overpowering than the rest. The small of his back felt like it had a knife wedged into it. He felt under his clothes and for the source of the pain and his hand came back covered in blood. He'd been shot.
"Oh boy, not good," he mumbled to himself.
To his relief, his green Camaro came into view and he also saw Bonnie pacing impatiently in front of it. Upon seeing him, she sprinted towards him.
"Andy! Oh man Look at the state of you," she said, on the verge of tears. He stopped her.
"You can fuss later. Is Lisa with you?"
"Good." he whispered weakly. "Get in the car and drive."
Bonnie was quite a reckless driver at the best of times, but he had never seen her drive so fast in his life. The street lights sped by so fast that he felt he was on a rollercoaster. He turned away from the sight; it was making him want to be sick again. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. He was beginning to feel incredibly sleepy. Bonnie's voice seemed so distant, he couldn't hear what she was saying. He fell asleep.
"You're such a freak, you know that? A psychotic freak with a death wish!"
"Well, hello to you too," breathed Andy groggily. "Could you pass me the water please?"
"How are you feeling today?" asked Bonnie impatiently.
"I don't know. You tell me. You're the doctor here," said Andy with a smile.
It was Monday morning and Bonnie was standing at the foot of his bed in a white coat and had a clipboard that he assumed contained information about his current condition.
She rolled her eyes at him. "Yeah, very funny princess. I'm not even supposed to be here. I sneaked away to check on you. I'm scared you'll get a staph infection or something from this place."
She pulled the curtains around his bed shut and sat next to his bed.
Ooh, are we going to play Doctor Doctor now?" he said as he sniggered into his water.
"Okay, seriously?" She shook her head.
"So I guess you believe me now, don't you?"
"Unfortunately, yes. Andy, what's going on here? People don't just have visions of other missing people. I feel like I'm in a sci-fi movie."
"Trust me, if I knew I would tell you. I'm just as confused as you are. I'm just glad to be alive right now."
"Me too. We cut it a bit fine arriving here when we did. They almost couldn't get you back."
She looked like she was about to burst into tears but thankfully, she managed to compose herself before she did.
"Well, they got me back and here I am. How's Lisa?"
"Physically, she's almost back to full health. Mentally, I don't think she'll ever recover from this. That man did some sick things to her. Her family's with her now. Her mother wanted to come and thank you for finding her but I told her you were asleep."
Andy heaved a sigh.
"I'm just glad we got there before it was too late. She didn't deserve to die."
"It also seems like the guy who took her, Eli Donald is his name apparently, is going to get it pretty bad. He's got all sorts of charges against him, especially with Lisa's statement and everything."
He couldn't care less what happened to this Eli person. He had more pressing matters to deal with.
"So what do you think?"
"What do I think about what?" asked Bonnie as she peered around the curtain to check if anybody was looking for her yet. She turned back to look at him.
"Do think this will ever happen again?"
"I sure as hell hope not! This isn't exactly my dream job but I definitely prefer it over being dead."
"And if it does?"
"Honestly, I have no idea."
"Promise me something, Bonnie."
She laughed at him.
"Promise you something? Last time I did that it nearly got us both killed. What is it that you want me to promise you?"
"That if it does happen again, you'll be my faithful sidekick," he finished with a smile.
She gasped dramatically and gave him an exaggerated indignant look.
"Sidekick! I'm appalled. If you change that to Leading Lady, then I think we're all good."
"Leading lady it is then."
She stood up to leave, aware that she could not milk any more time out of her already extended lunch break. However, it didn't seem like she was in any rush to get back.
"I don't know about you, but I fancy myself some cake," she said with a wide grin.
He couldn't help but laugh out loud.