I’ve followed almost precisely the same routine each weekday for the past three years, excepting during a week when I went to visit my brother in Nevada, so you can imagine my surprise when I looked up from my Grape-Nuts one morning to see that two young men had forcibly entered my home. I use the term “forcibly” strictly in the legal sense, since in a practical sense they had needed do no more than walk in the front door, which I had left unlocked after going to retrieve the newspaper.
They immediately gave me to understand, using just a few words and the display of a pistol, that I was to accompany them. I was in no position to resist, so I didn’t bother deliberating. I left my cereal soaking in the soy milk and followed the two men out the front door and into the back seat of their car. They drove a few blocks before stopping, in a school parking lot, to blindfold me. They said nothing, but their threat remained apparent.
We drove for some time—perhaps 30 minutes. I tried to follow our direction, but they seemed to be taking an unusual number of turns, presumably in a successful attempt to disorient me. I wasn’t as frightened as you might expect, because I couldn’t imagine them having any motive to hurt me. I have little money, I have no family besides my brother, I’ve entangled myself in no gambling debt or shady dealings of any kind. I get up, I go to work at the library, I come home and read, and I go to bed. I do have what you might call a girlfriend, but our relationship is frankly casual and I couldn’t imagine what she might have done in her life as a daycare provider to inspire any nefarious powers to harm me or even hold me hostage. So my suspicion was that the entire affair was some kind of mistake, or an elaborate prank played by my coworkers.
When I was nudged to step out of the car, the sounds and smell suggested that we were in a wooded area. I was ushered up a set of wooden steps, and inside what I take to be a large house, up another set of narrow, creaking stairs. My blindfold was removed once I was ensconced in a small room with no furniture other than a plain bed, a writing desk, and a chair. A bathroom was attached. A sheet of plexiglass was fastened tightly over the window, the panels of which had been painted white. A single light fixture overhead provided illumination. The men said nothing, but removed my blindfold and left, locking the door behind them. I asked no questions.
My immediate impulse was to lie down and start thinking. I had no food—I checked under the bed and in the desk drawers, which were empty—but it would be several hours, perhaps more, before I became painfully hungry. No immediate action was required on that front.
I would be missed at work, and likely an employee would be dispatched to check on me: my coworkers would be rightly concerned that I was not at my regular station. The employee would immediately see that something was amiss, with my door unlocked and my cereal half-eaten. The notion of an abduction would seem absurd, so they would likely conclude that I had left to attend to some sudden emergency—not, however, taking my car. It would be 24 hours, I knew, before they would be able to officially file a missing-person report with the police. It seemed certain they would do so.
Or was this somehow all their doing? Or the doing of my brother, or my girlfriend, or some other party I had unwittingly offended? As I lay there considering the possibilities, I heard people moving quietly about the house. It seemed there were more people than the two men I’d seen, but it was hard to tell. It occurred to me that the men had not even bothered to mask themselves. Weren’t they afraid of ultimately being identified? Did their plan not involve me leaving the house? It all just felt completely unreal, but as I pulled the blanket around myself to defend against a distinct chill, it began to feel very real indeed.
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