It had been a long frustrating Monday. Jazz was looking forward to being home for the evening. She smiled to herself as she thought of Victor. As she drove, she glanced in the rear view mirror. There was Duncan Ray and another man she didn’t know. There were the other two. Yep, there they were, still following her, but she dismissed them. She was becoming accustomed to their presence.
She carefully looked around before getting out of her car, and made her way to the apartment. When she got in, she let Owie out and locked the door behind her. Setting her things on the couch, she realized how tired she actually was. She made up a bowl of soup and sandwich for Victor, but only ate a little soup herself.
After letting Owie back in, Jazz took a hot shower, anticipating how good it was going to feel lying in her bed that night. She dressed in pink pajamas and was in her bed by eight. The cat took her place beside her.
At first, Jazz had some trouble relaxing. The constant thought of Victor kept her awake. She was just on the verge of falling into a deep sleep, when the phone rang. Only seconds after she said hello, a banging on her door began. Still half asleep, she went to the door. “We’d like to set up an appointment to demonstrate our vacuums...” the caller began.
“No, I’m not interested. I have hard wood floors, only area rugs.”
The banging got louder. Jazz found it hard to think.
“Oh, but our vacuums also sweep hardwood floors without scratching…”
The banging grew faster, louder. In frustration Jazz thoughtlessly jerked open the door without looking through the peephole.
The taller of the two men who’d been watching her pushed his way in the apartment as soon as the door was barely open, wrenched the phone from Jazz and threw it across the room.
“What are you doing?” Jazz demanded. The man raised a menacing pistol to her face.
“Quietly. Come with me.”
“You either come with me now, and quietly, or your brains will be splattered all over this nice wood floor the vacuum won’t scratch.”
Just at that moment, Owie ran from the bedroom. Seeing a strange man in the house, she laid her ears flat against her skull, hissed and bolted for the open door. The man took aim, Jazz yelled, “No,” and lurched for the pistol. A shot was fired, Jazz could see Owie’s tail whip around the corner, but didn’t know if the cat was okay. She turned on the man and began kicking and scratching at him, catching him in the face with her nails, ripping a long gash from his eye to his lip. The man pushed her down on the couch. Before she could stand again, he grabbed both her hands and tied them behind her back, then heaved her to her feet. He wiped the blood off his face, cursed at her and dragged her outside into the cold without her coat.
Suddenly Duncan and his partner appeared in the lamp light, both with guns. The kidnapper immediately fired off a shot at the man who was on the step closest to him, hitting him directly in the chest. With no time to aim accurately, the man whipped his gun toward Duncan and fired a wild, random shot. Duncan fell, Jazz screamed. The last thing she saw before being roughly pulled away was both men lying in blood stained snow, the man with Duncan lying face down, Duncan lying on his back.
When they got to his car, the man said nothing to her, pulled a foul stocking cap out of his back pocket and over her head to her chin. He pushed her down in the car and slammed the door. The car dipped to her left as he dumped himself into the driver’s side, slammed his door and roared away.
The stocking cap, saturated with the repulsive aroma of a sweaty, dirty head, invaded Jazz’s nostrils and her mouth. She gagged as she tried to breathe freely, sucking in foul threads from the cap. Sick with the smell and sick with fear, horrifying visions of being unmercifully raped and abused kept playing in her head. Her gums and teeth throbbed from her fear-accelerated pulse, sending pains shooting through her face.
Without the benefit of her eyes, it felt as if the car was rushing at a fantastic speed, taking curves unexpectedly and stopping suddenly. Nausea threatened with every turn and lurch of the car. She wished she would pass out. Whatever lay before her was as frightening as the trip, and as sickening as the noisome cap over her nostrils and mouth.
She lost all sense of time. After what seemed like hours of the sudden stops and starts, they appeared to be driving down a straight road. The feelings of nausea lessened.
Finally the car stopped, and Jazz almost cried with relief as well as fear. What was next? The driver turned the engine off. She was jerked out of the car, and forced up several steps at a rapid pace. They stopped momentarily as the man opened a door. She could tell they were now inside by the sound of her feet on the floor, the air was warm, and she could see light through the cap.
After walking a short distance, they passed through another door and stopped as soon as the door was closed. Someone ripped the stocking cap off her head. A rush of fresh air revived Jazz, but she felt dizzy. The nausea she had been fighting to avoid finally took over. She started to heave. Someone shoved a trash can in her hands just in time to catch the contents of her stomach which she spent several minutes losing.
Her stomach now empty, she was allowed to rest. Nothing was said, the room was quiet. Jazz breathed deep, the aftertaste of vomit on her breath. When she was able to take in her surroundings, she saw that they were in Johnson’s office. Intensely embarrassed, her head aching, Jazz said nothing.
Phineas Johnson leaned on his desk as if he’d never moved from the spot the week before. He raised his glass of absinthe to her, “Hello again, Ms. Phelps. I hope your ride was not too…uncomfortable. Did you think Victor would protect you from me? My man has told me that he hasn’t been to see you all week. I don’t think you understand the kind of man he is. He’ll shoot you himself if you get to be too much of a burden. I decided that, for your safety, you should come and be my guest for awhile. Don’t you think you’d like that?”
“No, honestly, I’d rather go home.”
“It’s too bad. You should enjoy this as a sort of… vacation. I don’t suppose you know where he is?”
Jazz shook her head no. She didn’t trust herself not to let her voice give her away.
“I think you know more than you’re letting on. We’ll have to have a nice chat later, but for now I think you need to rest and clean up. I don’t like my guests having so much... ah... travel dirt. Your rooms have a shower you are welcome to use. And Ms. Phelps, it’s up to Victor how long you’ll be with us. You’ll have plenty to read, but you must know there won’t be any possibility of leaving my home. Take Ms. Phelps to her suite.” Mackensie grabbed Jazz’s arm, and escorted her to a room. He opened the door, pushed her in and slammed the door. The lock jiggled.
Jazz found herself in a room with a bathroom attached. Immediately she went into the bathroom, found towels, soap and shampoo. She had to get that disgusting aroma out of her nose and mouth, had to wash her hair. She wouldn’t let herself think what might be living in that foul cap.
The shower felt wonderful. She let the water run over her nose and mouth, then bent her head down and breathed deep. The moist oxygen revitalized her sensibilities.
When she finished showering, she felt better, but her stomach still ached from throwing up. Now that the stress of being kidnapped was over, she found dealing with the state of being kidnapped curiously calming. She surveyed her prison.
Opposite the door entrance, there was a desk beside the bed. The walls of the bathroom and bedroom were beige. The bed, with a simple black-stained wooden headboard, had an off-white comforter with matching pillows. On the other side of the bed was the bathroom door, next to that was a massive bookshelf that stood against the wall by the door of the bathroom.
Jazz saw that Johnson had not lied to her. Unfortunately there was no television to watch, no windows to look out of and no radio to listen to. She explored to see if she could find a weakness in the armor of the closed rooms, but Johnson was more than right. Jazz sat down on the bed and cried not knowing what to expect. Anger erupted at Victor. Where was he when she was caught? Did he know? What if he was dead? No, it wasn’t that. Johnson had said that it was up to Victor how long she’d be there.
Where was he? Maybe the police got him? But again, she knew that she probably wouldn’t be in Johnson’s house if Victor was caught by the police.
Interrupting her thoughts, someone came in with a plate of food, set it down and left without saying anything to her. She couldn’t decide if she was hungry or still feeling sick, but she was also afraid of the food. What if it was drugged? And would she throw up again?
Deciding she needed to focus on something else, she tried to think of Bible verses to help take her fear away. Sadly, she realized nothing would come to her. She was beginning to feel frustrated. She’d been reading her Bible all week, and now that she needed it nothing would come?
Then it seemed she heard a voice from a long time ago, she was probably twelve. The voice belonged to a preacher, who said something about a filing cabinet. It took some time to remember, but she finally brought it up. He’d said if a person didn’t memorize Scripture that person’s filing cabinet would be empty and he wouldn’t be able to think of anything to help in a time of crisis. No, not until recently had she ever bothered to read her Bible except at church, and she certainly didn’t memorize Scripture. Tears welled up in her eyes. If she’d been reading her Bible longer, she would know these promises and have some comfort.
Her anger was suddenly turned toward God. She and Victor had prayed, asking for safety for both of them. Didn’t that count for something? Why didn’t God answer their prayer and keep her safe? If she couldn’t trust God to answer her prayers, whom could she trust? “God, what’s going on?” she cried out, “You were supposed to keep me safe!”
Immediately she felt guilty, but she couldn’t help how she felt. With no one else to talk to, she began to pray again. “Lord I need something to help me through this, some glimmer of hope. Forgive me for being angry, but I can’t pretend and I’m scared.”
In answer to her desperation, she remembered the verse that started her reading her Bible, “I will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile....” She’d not understood that part of the verse when she’d read it last Monday, but now it was giving her more comfort than even when she knew God called her beloved. “I will bring you back...” There was that comforting voice speaking to her, promising her he would care for her and bring her back home.
As she sat on the bed she was taken back to the memory of Sunday mornings in early spring. The sun was shining, birds were singing outside, the congregation singing inside. “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day,” Jazz thought about those old words. What did they mean? They seemed to give her hope, but why?
Then, like adjusting the focus on a camera, the meaning became sharp and clear. “I know whom I have believed…” The words, yes, she knew who she believed. She believed Jesus. Now she remembered it was Paul who’d written those words. She thought of the next line, “…and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed…” She’d committed her soul to God, but it was more than that. Everything she committed was in his keeping, and she knew he was able to take care of it. Now her very life was literally in his keeping. He was the only one who could save her. “… unto him against that day.”
Paul had written those words while in prison, just as she was in prison, and suddenly a new understanding came to her heart. It was an understanding that set her spirit free with a sudden peace. She knew that no matter what happened, whether it was good or bad or even life or death, the Lord was with her and it gave her new courage. Maybe being held captive by Johnson was an answer to the prayers that she and Victor prayed. She ate her meal unafraid, and then crawled into the strange bed and slept peacefully.
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