David left on the Fourth of July bi-centennial in the middle of the fireworks show. Nancy had to give it to him, it was rather cinematic. She watched him throw his empty beer bottle into the trash can at the county park right when a large red, white, and blue artillery shell exploded above.
Nancy wanted to chase after him, but she didn’t want to alarm Rose, who was asleep in her arms, barely a year old. That would be the excuse she would give herself for not going after her drunken husband whom she had barely been married to for a year.
The truth is she didn’t mind seeing David go. She had always only wanted the baby, not the man, not that he was one.
Nancy watched the rest of the fireworks show then went back to their small home on the edge of town.
The town Nancy, and formerly David, lived outside of was Uniontown, Washington. Population 310. Down from its peak of 426 in 1910. A small farming community in the lonely southeast corner of the state, filled with mostly rolling hills of fields and golden and green and farms known as The Palouse.
Nancy was born and raised there. Here parents were born and raised there. She had left for more than a few days less than five times and she was happy with that.
She met David in high school. Well, she went to elementary and middle school with him and church since she was a baby, but she didn’t actually talk to him until high school when he introduced himself at a party the summer before senior year and they started dating.
They both came from Christian families. Nancy’s was legitimate. David’s was illegitimate, at least according to her. So they had to hide the fact they started having sex starting Homecoming night of their senior year.
She got pregnant less than a year after high school graduation. Both families pressured them to get married. They did. In a low key ceremony at the catholic church both families attended.
David changed shortly afterward. He was never the most warm and fuzzy guy. He was one of those guys who only seemed happy when he was hunting or fishing and/or drinking, but he grew even-more distant shortly after getting married. She hoped it might turn around after Rose was born.
It didn’t. It just made Nancy resent David more. Which made things worse. Which culminated with him walking out after a huge fight on July 4, 1976.
Nancy went home with Rose and felt great for the first time since she was in high school. She fell asleep just before 10 p.m. and didn’t wake up until a little after 10 a.m. the next day when her new life started.
Rose continued her life about the same. She ran the front desk at a small construction company in Lewiston, Idaho. Went to church on Sunday and raised Rose the best she could. Everyone at church thought she was doing a great job.
Things would change that Christmas.
Nancy and Rose went to a small family gathering at Nancy’s parents’ across town. The baby was showered with gifts, the drink flowed, the Christmas music played, a blizzard poured out the window. It looked and felt like a Bing Crosby song.
It was the best Nancy had felt in a long time. She had two more glasses of wine than she would usually have and ate three slices of her dad’s cherry pie before she started getting the car loaded up to drive back home just before midnight.
Nancy strapped Rose into her car seat before she realized she hadn’t given her grandpa a hug goodbye. She ran in through the pounding snow to give her 90-year-old grandpa what she thought might be the last hug she would ever give him.
It seemed the snow was falling even harder when she got back outside from the 45-second exchange she had with her grandpa. She ran through the thick, white flakes to the car and didn’t even notice at first that the passenger-side door of the two-door sedan was wide open.
Her heart stopped when she stuck her head in the passenger-side door and saw Rose’s baby seat empty. She grabbed her chest and whipped her body out of the car.
She searched the snowy landscape but saw no signs of life on any horizon. She let out a blood-curdling scream that drew her entire family out into the driveway.
Rose’s family tried to get answers out of her when they found her screaming and crying in the driveway and started asking questions, eventually getting her to explain Rose was missing. It was okay. She must have just gotten out of the seat and crawled somewhere.
But Rose couldn’t crawl and there was no way she could have physically gotten out of her seat. Rose kept repeating that as they combed her parents’ property where she grew up.
No one could find a sign of Rose anywhere on the property after a 15-minute search that ended with everyone circling back up by Nancy’s Geo Metro where grandpa Jim was waiting, his scarred bare arm pointing down at the asphalt below next to the open passenger-side door no one had paid attention to yet.
A pair of footsteps led around the front of the car and into the front yard of Nancy’s parents’ neighbors. They were only faint though, almost completely filled up with falling snow already.
The group followed the footsteps into the neighbor’s yard, but they quickly disappeared. The snow was falling too hard.
The group combed the neighborhood, splitting into pairs, knocking on every door. Talking to every neighbor, sifting through the snow of every inch of every yard, ditch, little patch of woods, everywhere. Nothing.
Nancy broke down in the middle of the road, weeping and convulsing in the snow that just would not stop. She was there, with her father by her side for a minute before a pair of headlights cut through the snow and lit them up.
They hadn’t seen a car all night. 1 a.m. on Christmas night in the tiny town. No one was driving around. The sight chilled Nancy and her mother’s blood, even more than it already was being out in the frigid temperatures for more than an hour now.
Nancy didn’t let it freeze her body though.
“Come on!” Nancy screamed at her mom as she ran the 20 yards back to her parents’ driveway.
Nancy’s mom ran after her and jumped into the passenger seat as Nancy fired the engine and her little Geo Metro rumbled to life. Nancy backed the thing out of the driveway and out onto the frozen street.
“Where’d that car go!” Nancy screamed at her mom as she drove up the street in the direction where they saw the other car.
“I don’t know, but I think it was a truck,” Nancy’s mom answered back.
A truck. A truck. A truck. The thought kept running through Nancy’s head before she rolled down her window and instructed her mom to do the same on her side.
Nancy floored it up the street. She knew you couldn’t get directly to the highway through that end of the road, so if that truck was there, it was likely stuck if she got there quick enough.
She made it to the end of the road, sweating now, even though all the windows were down in the car during a blizzard.
What happened? There was nowhere that truck could have gone. Nowhere.
Then Nancy’s mom pointed to an open farm field next to the road and what looked like red tail lights burning off in the distance.
Nancy gave no hesitation. She pulled her car right into the field and got back to flooring it in the direction of the tail lights.
“That’s the direction of the highway, right?” Nancy barked at her mom.
“I think we should call the sheriff,” Nancy’s mom responded. “But yeah, I think that field spills out to the highway.”
Nancy mashed her foot into the accelerator even though it couldn’t be mashed any harder, smashing her toes inside her shoe.
The tiny car started rocking as they raced over mounds of whatever was being raised in the farm field. There was no way the car was going to make it through that field in one piece.
But Nancy could see the tail lights of what was definitely a truck. What she thought was a forest green truck from their new vantage point, and she was going to keep pushing till the wheels came off, literally.
Nancy’s Geo Metro crested a planting hill and crashed head on into a hard ledge of dirt, busting out both headlights and knocking the engine off its block, officially killing the car.
Nancy burst out of the car and ran in the direction they had been driving until she realized the tail lights were gone and she fell to the ground in the onion field.
She gave herself a moment and then looked back up where she saw a few lights going up and down the highway that led out of town and into the anonymity of the road.
She watched her hope fade away before she realized she was critically injured.
Nancy always celebrated Rose’s birthday on August 19th with a small cake and by writing a letter to her in a card she bought at the grocery she placed on her bed in her room for a week before she moved it to a dresser drawer with the 20 other cards. It didn’t make her feel any better. A therapist she saw shortly after Rose was taken from her on that Christmas night recommended it and she figured it might break through and help someday.
More than 20 years had gone by without a single break in the case. It had not been like some mystery novel or a true crime film or Law and Order show where the pieces of the puzzle started presenting themselves after Rose was stolen from the back seat of Nancy’s car that night and they eventually all came together and Nancy was either reunited with her stolen daughter or at least got closure.
Not a single puzzle piece ever emerged. Rose was just gone, like she never even existed.
Nancy told authorities to look heavily into David. She believed they did, but they got nothing. He lived in Montana, worked construction, and went home to drink a lot each day and almost never left the house other than for work. She even had a private investigator follow him for six months and he came away with nothing. David was also fully cooperational with any request from law enforcement and Nancy and her family. He actually seemed just as heart broken as anyone if anything.
Nancy went back to her life a few months after Rose’s abduction. Back to the desk at the little trailer on the outskirts of Lewiston. Back to church on Sunday. Back to spending most of her free time with her parents. Back to a lonely, empty, cold house with a giant farm field behind it that reminded her of the one where she broke her Geo Metro trying to chase that truck all those years ago multiple times a day.
That truck though. That was the lone puzzle piece they had though. A big, rumbling truck driving around the neighborhood where Rose was taken late at night in the blizzard was all they had.
A few times Nancy woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of a rumbling truck outside on her quiet, residential street and she ran out of the front door in her nightgown. Only once was a truck ever actually there and it was high school boys rolling down the street, drinking beer who weren’t even born yet when Rose was abducted. She thought she dreamed or imagined the rest of the trucks when they came by.
It was late on a Sunday night when she came home from dinner at her parents’ house when the first movement in the case in decades happened. Nancy barely even noticed it when she unlocked her front door in the dark, but resting underneath a stone next to her front doormat was a piece of paper.
She couldn’t believe what she read when she put it to her eyes in the soft light of her living room.
This may seem impossable, but want to let u know Im safe and alive. Not happy, but alive. Sorry if my writing and spelling is wrong, but don’t go to scool.
I don’t live around here. I was just coming. They said I was going to somewhere called C Attle, but then will be back to Colorado, where I live. They didn’t tell me I lived in Colorado other people have.
I have to leave. The people I’m with are dangerous. I don’t want them to even know who you are.
I came by just after sundown, in case you were wondering. I was hoping you were here. I think it is Sonday so maybe you are with your family. I hope you have more family. I’m sorry I couldn’t be part of it.
Nancy knew everyone would say it was a cruel hoax, but she didn’t believe it. The handwriting looked so much like her and her mother’s and her mother’s mother. There was no way someone could have known how to replicate that. It had to be Rose’s natural DNA.
She fell asleep with the letter in her grasp and dreamed of a future where she was reunited with her daughter.
Nancy gave the letter to the police the next day. She was downtrodden by how casual they were about it. Not treating it like the breakthrough she thought they should have.
She was able to get the police to make a copy so she could show it to her family. She was downtrodden by how casual they were about it.
She went around town the next week telling everything she could, asking everyone she could if they saw something in her neighborhood that day or anywhere in town that looked like they could have been Rose, or just a drifter type. Having to answer people about what Rose looked like and genuinely having no clue broke Nancy just a little more.
A few weeks went by and nothing from the police. They couldn’t even track where the paper was from.
Nancy had a plan though and she couldn’t wait any longer. She put in her two weeks of vacation immediately, booked a room at a modest hotel in downtown Seattle, and got in her little Toyota to drive five hours to where she could set up her own investigation.
Nancy checked into her hotel and unpacked her clothes. She had one set of Nancy clothes and she had one set of clothes for “Ruby.” Nancy’s clothes were plain, modest, full of Christian values, just like Nancy. Ruby’s clothes were those of a streetwalker, because that’s what Nancy was about to become.
Her plan was to take to the streets and befriend as many people who appeared to work in the Seattle sex trade as possible to try and get any information about Rose and her letter. It was a terrifying operation but the only thing scarier than it to Nancy was never finding Rose or getting any kind of closure.
It took a few days before she made a contact of any kind of value, but the one she eventually made was golden. Clam was a yellow blonde, Denace the Menace haircut-sporting, 19-year-old boy selling himself on the street after running away from an abusive father at the age of 14.
They met on the sidewalk when Nancy bum rushed him and gave him her an elevator speech about Rose. She could tell Clam was exceptionally-high, barely able to open his eyes, but he said he might be able to help Nancy out. He grew up in Nebraska and heard rumors of an underrage sex ring in rural Colorado where they stole young kids and kept them locked in basements.
Nancy bought Clam some chicken soup and tried to sober him up. She failed. He excused himself to the “little ladies room” about every eight minutes and came back watery-eyed and unable to keep his head up for more than about 10 seconds.
It was hard to get information out of him, but he kept talking about some house in Colorado where a lot of kids like him lived and serviced wealthy pedophiles who came by for services. Nancy stopped him before he got too deep into the “services.” She got the picture. She didn’t need to imagine more.
Did he know of this Colorado set up taking kids on tour, like to Seattle? Was that how he got to Seattle?
He thought it was unlikely, but possible.
What to do from this point though?
He didn’t know. He was just a dipshit named Clam high as hell on black tar heroin in a filthy diner with some lady from Eastern Washington he didn’t know.
She showed him the letter from Rose, hoping to tug at what may have been left of any emotions he had. Just reading it made her cry. She put on a show.
He barely glanced at the letter. He said it was fucked up, but someone was probably pranking her. Seemed like something him and his degenerate friends would have done when they were young.
Or, she forged the letter herself for attention and just forgot or refused to to be honest, even with herself about it.
She slapped him across the table, hard. A waiter noticed, but it was only about the third-strangest thing that happened in the cafe that night.
She got up and stormed out, leaving Clam to pay for his own chicken soup.
He chased after her and grabbed her in the parking lot in the soft falling rain like they were in some kind of morbid romantic comedy and he wasn’t going to let her go.
He was ready to talk. It was a long shot, but he figured if there was anyone connected to anything as brutal as what had happened to Nancy’s daughter then it probably had something to do with a guy named Ole who lived in a warehouse in South Seattle.
Ole was the ringleader of all things truly depraved in the city, at least according to Clam. Based on the number of tattoos Clam had that Nancy defined as “depraved” she believed him to be an accurate judge of that.
Word was Ole’s warehouse regularly hosted depraved massive parties that functioned as career fairs for a number of shady dealings and anyone in the kind of dirty trade that Nancy suspected Rose was stolen into would probably be there. Clam could get Nancy in the next night. He promised.
Nancy just had to get more edgy. More goth. More dark. She knew none of what that meant, but Clam took her to some sort of late night clothing store where everything available was black or red and got her a new outfit that included black fishnet stockings.
The next day was difficult. Nancy had bought a pack of cigarettes and occasionally puffed them when she was on the street playing the part of street girl, but she was so stressed waiting for Clam’s outing at Ole’s she smoked half the pack in her hotel room, and she really smoked them, inhaling and coughing out the noxious fumes.
Nancy walked out the front door of her motel and onto the grimy street on the hot Summer night. Clam was supposed to come to pick her up at 11 p.m.
He wouldn’t arrive, in a black town car, until 11:45, resulting in Nancy smoking three cigarettes while she waited and turning down the advances of three men.
The passenger door rolled down and Clam stuck his head out, looking so high he might die. He waved Nancy over and she stopped about six feet away from him, keeping an intentional distance. She didn’t like him not driving. Who was behind the wheel?
“My buddy Jim’s driving,” Clam announced before Nancy could ask a question.
Clam could somehow see Nancy’s hesitation through his fog of high. She didn’t like the idea of “Jim.” She may have put on a brave face to try and find her long-lost daughter, but she was still an Eastern Washington farm girl at heart, in much deeper water than she was used to.
“Jim’s cool, but we need something from you before we go. For the ride,” Clam went on.
“What?” Nancy balked.
“It’s fifty dollars at the door. There’s no getting around it,” Clam explained. “We can get you in for twenty five, but you just gotta hook us up to do that.”
Nancy was pissed. She thought about going back into the motel, packing up her stuff and driving back to Uniontown.
Then Jim ducked his head across Clam’s lap and showed his face. He looked like a flamboyent gay man who lived in the suburbs and worked in an office cubicle, clad in awkward khakis and a a light blue button down shirt with salt and pepper gray hair. The guy couldn’t have looked more harmless.
Nancy got the cash out of her purse and handed it over to Clam. She heard the doors click unlocked and she got into the back of the car.
Nancy tried to manage her breathing as they drove into the industrial part of town. Massive warehouses, city streets that seemed to have nothing on them, endless junk yards. It was like nowhere the little farm girl had ever been.
She felt her stomach drop into the bottom of her pelvis as they pulled into a gated parking lot manned by a guy who looked like a human pit bull. Clam and Jim led them to a dark entry at the back of the warehouse, the sound of pumping bass music radiating out of the steel monstrosity of a structure behind another security guard who also looked like an attack dog standing on two legs and standing at 6’6. She looked at the ground as the guard let them in and Jim and Clam brought her into the warehouse.
Nancy didn’t even realize she had walked into the party until she was right in the middle of it and was nearly knocked over by a guy who looked a lot like Clam dancing like no one was watching. She looked up and around and saw what must have been 100 people dancing mindlessly on a nearly pitch black dance floor to the tune of electronic music that was entirely unfamiliar to her.
Clam and Jim rescued Nancy from the reveler who was trying to lure her into a dirty dance with him and brought her over to a table loaded with powders, pills, and liquids. Clam turned and yelled something at her she couldn’t make out but she interpreted it as an offer to partake in one, or more, of the substances on the table.
She shook her head and yelled back.
“I just want to talk to Ole!”
The security guard manning the substance table must have heard what Nancy said, even though Clam and Jim didn’t seem to. He gave her a sideways look and hurried up to her, fully freaking her out when he stood next to her.
“You wanna see Ole?” the security guard screamed into Nancy’s ear.
She nodded and watched as Clam and Jim seemed to slide away from her, into the fray of the party raging on the dance floor next to them.
The security guard took out a cell phone, only the third time in Nancy’s life that she had ever seen one. The guard dialed up a number and put the phone to his ear. He talked into the phone quiet enough so she couldn’t hear. He had a brief conversation, hung up, and then went back to her.
The security guard motioned for Nancy to follow him to a flight of stairs. It felt like a Wizard of Oz situation to her. She should have been more worried, but she would later reflect that the amount of adrenaline running through her veins prevented her from being able to.
She followed the guard up a steep flight of stairs until they were at a metal door that led into a room above the dance floor, assumedly where the manager of the warehouse would work back when it was a functional facility and not a rave. She started to sweat.
The security guard knocked and the door opened. A thick plume of smoke with a smell Nancy in no way recognized wafted out. The guard just motioned for her to go in.
Nancy could barely see it was so dark in the room. The only lights coming from some green fluorescence light haphazardly strewn about the large space.
Had Nancy ever watched comic book movies, she would have described Ole and the way he carried himself as being “textbook comic book villain.” He sat in a swivel chair at the far end of the space from the door, looking out a one-way window down at the partiers below, all by himself in the room, waiting for Nancy to react.
Nancy took exactly one step into the room and stopped. The door closed behind her.
“Ole?” She asked softly.
“Why do you want to talk to me?” He asked without turning around in his chair.
“My friend, Clam, he said that you might be able to help me out.”
“Clam? Who the fuck is Clam?”
“A friend I met. I work on the street.”
Ole spun around in his chair. Nancy couldn’t make out much from that distance but he appeared to be small and white and dressed in all black with a low-placed baseball hat on his head.
“Come closer,” he instructed.
She took a few steps closer, now about in the middle of the room. Probably 10 feet away from him and his lone chair.
She could feel him looking her up and down.
“I don’t know who ‘Clam’ is, but the guard told me you were looking to get into work, not already working. I can’t really do anything with you then. Also, you’re old, but I guess Jerry is really into the thick, white, mom types.”
Nancy was too nervous to be offended by all the offensive things that came out of Ole’s mouth.
“I was actually just looking to see if you could help me?” Nancy asked as she started to sense she was being watched.
“How can I help you out?” Ole asked.
“I’m looking for my daughter.”
Ole rolled his chair a little closer to her. She got a better look at him and could see he was almost comically short for a man. He couldn’t have been much taller than five feet. His face was splashed with what appeared to be blood red birthmarks or scars and he seemed to have a cleft lip and a long mane of dirty blonde hair.
He rolled his eyes at her as soon as his chair finished rolling at her, leaving him just a few feet away from her.
“Please God, tell me you’re not some kind of undercover ho operation trying to get your daughter off the streets. I don’t deal in those kinds of things, I promise you, and I have no interest,” he explained.
“That’s not what I’m doing. She was taken from me twenty years ago and she tried to contact me. She’s part of an underground sex ring type of operation. In Colorado,” Nancy explained, trying not to break down.
Ole took a while to respond. She didn’t like that.
“I just am looking for any kind any kind of help,” Nancy pleaded, no longer able to hold back the tears.
“I know what you’re talking about,” Ole replied.
Ole took out his cell phone. Dialed some numbers and started speaking cool and calm into the phone.
“Yeah. Up here. Whenever. It’s all good,” he spit a bunch of vague generalities into the speaker.
Nancy took in a deep breath. She was so ecstatic from any kind of break that her entire body seemed to be coated with euphoria.
She was so excited she didn’t notice the door open behind her. She didn’t notice someone slip into the room and walk up behind her. She didn’t notice that someone else was there until she saw a smug smile spread across Ole’s face and then felt an arm slip around her neck.
She tried to fight for a moment, but there was nothing she could do. Whoever had a hold of her had a python grip and was trying to choke her out.
Her eyes opened wide as Ole got up out of his chair and walked up to her.
He spoke to her through clenched teeth, his posture reminding her of a snake just about to clamp down onto its prey.
“You thought you could come in here and start throwing around shit like that?” Ole hissed at her.
She couldn’t get words out, not enough air getting into her body. So she just thought.
I just wanted to help my daughter, that was all. She hoped the sadness in her eyes would convey her innocence and naivete to Ole.
It didn’t. She watched as Ole looked to whoever was holding her in his grasp and nodded his head.
What did that mean? What did that mean? What the FUCK did that mean?
Nancy would soon not have to worry about the nod anymore as Ole quickly supplied her with a more-important message. He pushed his face so close to her she could smell the stale vodka on his breath.
He got his face right to Nancy’s and yelled:
“Your daughter sucks cocks in Hell!”
Nancy recoiled for a moment before she tried to break away again and attack Ole, but failed. All she could do was keep fighting as the security guard drug her out of the room.
The path to the outside was a blur. Nancy couldn’t remember any of it. She just remembered finding herself in a dark alley that smelled like vomit, stumbling after finally being released by the guard.
She looked back at the guard once she caught her balance and saw a young man that was softer than she anticipated but still a large human being. He reminded her of a giant teddy bear you might win at a county fair and take home with you.
He looked at her with sad eyes and a soft stance, putting her as much at ease as she could have been in the situation.
“I can take you to where they are?” The guard said in a tenor that seemed far too soft and far too high-pitched for his stature.
“What?” Nancy asked back.
“You said you’re looking for your daughter. You think she was taken by someone when she was young. I know where they end up. At least in Seattle. I can take you,” the guard said, maintaining strong eye contact throughout, allowing Nancy to see deep inside and see the child the strong 25-year-old man may have been at one point.
“How do you know?” She asked, finally growing a little more mistrusting at this point.
“Because I’m one of them,” he answered.
Nancy would learn on the drive to “The House” the guard was taking her that the underage sex ring trade heavily relied on taking children shortly after birth. It was much easier to keep a child hidden and enslaved when they knew nothing else and they had formed so little people didn’t know exactly what they looked like.
He explained the groups that did it would scout small towns in the middle of nowhere because they knew law enforcement was scarce, people rarely locked their doors and regularly left their kids unattended and it was easy to get in and out of the town once you made the grab.
They also targeted single mothers and blondes. Single mothers were most vulnerable and the market was best for blondes in the trade.
Nancy had him stop talking about that at that point.
The guard, whose name was Horace, explained they let boys go out and work for organizations or those connected to the organization once they grew up and there was almost no demand for them. Horace was one of those boys.
They didn’t even think about letting the women go until after their reproductive capabilities were exhausted. He left it at that.
Most of the released boys stayed straight with the organization because it was the only thing they knew and they would likely be killed if they ever left or at least have to live in hiding for the rest of their life. However, Horace just couldn’t look into Nancy’s eyes and not at least semi-help her.
How Horace semi-helped her was to take her to the house where he believed any girls in the trade in the city would be. He confirmed they sometimes brought in workers from other states to keep things mixed up for the local customers. It was possible they brought Rose out from Colorado or wherever she may have been.
It was a Saturday night so there’d be a fairly open party going on at the house and Horace could get Nancy in as a girlfriend of his that was from an organization in Eastern Washington. The folks who he wouldn’t name who he assured were much worse news than Ole would be okay with that and she could try to see if she could identify someone who she thought looked like Rose.
Nancy could then start her own independent conversation and Horace would leave, supposedly none the wiser. He would not be able to help her out with anything after that. It was a deal.
Horace and Nancy entered the house through the back door. It was a lot like Ole’s warehouse. Smokey, loud pumping music, people dancing, people on drugs everywhere, people doing drugs everywhere.
Except, the house made less sense than the warehouse. It was an old Victorian on the water in West Seattle with a circular floor plan, all the rooms on the ground floor spilling into each other, all class, almost like it belonged to a wealthy elderly person not an underground, illegal sex ring lord, but maybe that’s who actually ran this kind of thing?
Nancy quickly cleared her mind of those thoughts which had little value at the time. She instead started just computing every little bit of information she could find.
One thing she took strong note of was the amount of men, particularly the men who seemed too old to be at the raucous party, kept going up a flight of stairs in the middle of the home. She posted herself up within eyeshot of the stairs so she could see who went up there and watch enough of the men who were close to her age go up.
Then she followed one of them up. Keeping a short distance between them, trying not to tip the man off.
Nancy stopped when they reached the top of the stairs and the balding man stepped into a dark hallway lined with closed doorways with red lights illuminated above them. She could sense his nerves even from a few yards away. She could smell the sting of his body odor lingering in the air.
Almost as if it was contagious, the nerves of the man started to take over her. She felt her armpits wet, she felt a drop of sweat start to tickle her forehead. Her fingers started to wiggle.
The red light above the door at the end of the hallway started to flicker. The sight of it seemed to cause the man to wipe the sweat off his forehead.
He sucked in a deep breath and headed for the door, quickly, with stiff, straight legs.
Nancy followed. No longer trying to be stealthy and not have him notice her.
She got to the door just as the man was going in, startling him as he went to close it. He looked to her with wide eyes and held the door open so she could step in.
She stood there in the open door, looking into the nearly-dark room, where she saw a young woman with soft red hair pulling stockings up her legs. She was just as shocked and startled and horrified to see Nancy as the man was.
The man’s lip started to quiver, trying to form something verbally, but he didn’t have time to get it out.
It was Nancy’s turn to try and get a word out, but she would be unable as well.
Why? Because it wasn’t Nancy that startled and horrified the man. It was the towering figure who stood behind Nancy with his hands about to grab the back of her neck.
Nancy soon saw the towering man as he grabbed her by the back of the neck and whipped her around to be face-to-face.
She thought he looked like the professional wrestlers on T.V. He was tall, broad, freakishly-muscular and had long hair that hung out the back of a faceless, black plastic mask that reminded her of a mask a beekeeper might wear, but with the face portion fabric so thick you couldn’t see his face.
The man in the mask whisked her away, but she was able to get one last look back into the room. She saw the red haired girl in the stockings now standing in the doorway, looking at her emotionless and glazed over.
Nancy got to look long enough to see the man close the door, sealing in him and the red-haired girl.
The thought of if that was Rose looking at her from that room filled Nancy’s head so much she didn’t even try to fight the man who carried her away until she was downstairs again, spinning around the party, over his shoulder, and strangely, no one seemed to care.
The man marched Nancy over to a doorway that led down to the basement, carried her in and closed the door behind them, sealing her in complete darkness before he started stomping down a rickety set of stairs.
She felt and heard him carry her all the way to the bottom of the stairs and then threw her down hard onto the cement floor with a sickening thud. She tried to find her breath and scramble away, but couldn’t, paralyzed by the blow.
She heard the man start to step her way, his steel-toed boots clicking on the asphalt which had just knocked the wind out of her.
The steps clicked closer and closer and closer. She finally found the strength to push her 40-year-old body off the ground when she could sense his presence hovering above her.
A hard elbow came down right into the middle of her back once she was halfway up off the ground and she hit the dirty floor hard again, the palms of her hands coming down hard on what felt like loose rusty nails.
She sensed him coming back for her. Like a predator who kept wearing out its prey, waiting for it to finally give up.
But she was not giving up. The thought of Rose being upstairs at the party pushed her to keep going. She grabbed onto those nails and threw them up at the man coming after her.
She heards the nails hit. She heard the man groan. Had they gotten through the mesh of his mask? She wasn’t sure, but it seemed to throw him off of his course toward her.
She made a run for where she thought the stairs were. She got to them. She felt a wave of relief wash over her body.
She raced up the stairs. She heard the man start to climb them when she was about halfway up.
She got to the door, she felt the thick wood and felt the handle.
She heard the stairs creak below her. He was close.
The handle wouldn’t turn. It was locked.
The man was just behind her.
She tried the handle again.
She felt the man’s hand grab her shoulder.
The handle turned.
She pushed out into the light with the door as it opened into the room on the other side.
Out of the basement, Nancy scanned her surroundings. She was in the kitchen of the home. The door to the basement was closed next to her and Horace was keeping it sealed shut with his massive frame.
She looked to Horace and asked him “what now” with her eyes. He reached a meaty paw out to her, grabbed her on the arm and pulled her close.
He covered her mouth and whisked her out of the place.
He drove her back to her motel, fighting her the whole way on her wanting to go back there because she was convinced the girl in the room she saw was Rose. He told her it wasn’t likely. He asked around. They didn’t have any out-of-town “talent” that night. That was the week before.
She said she would go back to the house on her own. Investigate. He balked. She didn’t even know how to get there. There was no way she remembered that much from their drive there.
He was right. She conceded as they pulled up to her sad motel in the heart of the city.
She got out of the car and already started to miss Horace as she stood in a warm rain that started to fall. She looked at him through the open door and saw a tired and sad man behind the wheel, likely going back to somewhere no one should ever have to go who only helped her out of the kindness of his own heart.
“Thank you,” she said.
She was ready to walk away, but Horace spoke up, looking guilty.
“Telling you this might end up killing me, but I have to. I have to try and convince you to not go back there. To maybe just not do this whole thing,” Horace explained.
She stood there in the rain that had picked up, soaking her clothes. She tried to not break down herself.
“That man that took you down to the basement. He’s what you need to be afraid of. He was going to kill you,” Horace explained.
“Who is he?” She asked.
“He’s the one who who does the worst. I don’t know his name, but he was a boy they stole when I was a kid. They didn’t realize he was blind when they took him and that’s why they have him do the hardest work. He can’t see what he does,” Horace stopped there, seeming to be unable to go on.
“That’s why he was fine with being in the basement in the dark,” she said, vocalizing her revelation.
Horace just shook his head and looked back at the windshield in front of him, now coated with rain.
“Just don’t go back there. Whatever happened to your daughter. It’s awful, but it happened. You’re not going to be able to change that. All you’re going to be able to do is hurt yourself more,” Horace said.
She was going to rebut, but he drove away before she could. She stood there, soaking up more rain for a few minutes, then she went back into the motel.
She slept, well. She drove back to Uniontown in the morning. She paid for the rest of the nights she didn’t use the room.
Nancy found most of her relief in gardening after retirement. She initially found no longer working, just made her sit at home, sip wine, and think about Rose, that time she spent in Seattle, and the blind man in the basement.
The years went by quickly alone. She had a routine that was solid enough – coffee-work-dinner-TV-sleep and take out the work part on the weekends and replace it with church as she went to Saturday and Sunday services.
She never went on vacation. She never went to a city. She never even thought about buying a new house, even though she could afford a nicer one, but she was as happy as she thought she could (possibly) be, given the breaks of her life.
Both her parents passed on, but at ages where it wasn’t sad. She sold their house and deposited the money into her savings account without having to even share anything with her siblings. She was an only child. Given her parents had been chronic savers and near shut-ins just like her and it turned out their house was sitting above a king’s ransom of gravel, her inheritance pushed her savings account well into seven figures.
She left the money in her will to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and she thought about just giving it to them right away, but decided she’d sit on it in case she ever really needed it. She never thought she would.
Then one day she did.
Marshall Nakis came to her as she was walking to her car after church, the taste of cheese and crackers still on her tongue when he startled her as she unlocked the door of her car.
“Um, excuse me, misses Jones,” Marshall started as she stared at his rosy cheeks that seemed to shine in the cold Winter air of early-January in Eastern Washington.
Nancy knew Marshall must have had something serious. The man was so sheepish she had gone to church with him their entire lives and she had never said more than the word “hi” to him and him to her, ever.
“Yes?” She responded flatly while looking around the parking lot, ensuring other patrons were around in case this was some kind of hostile attempt the quiet man was about to embark on.
Then she noticed tears in his eyes. She noticed his slumped posture. This was a defeated man. This was not someone who was up to something.
She agreed to have a conversation with him in the sanctuary in the church.
They were cleaning the pews as Marshall and Nancy sat there in their Sunday best, both trying to collect themselves enough to have an effective conversation. Things finally started to take off when he pulled a faded piece of paper out from in-between the pages of his own dog-eared Bible.
“I found this is my dad’s home when I was cleaning up the place to sell this week. He passed just before Christmas,” Marshall said as he held the paper in his lap, folded so all that could be seen was the blank white outside.
She looked at the paper in his lap and wanted to reach over and grab it, but stopped herself.
“I don’t know what it is, but I thought you should see it. Your address is on it,” Marshall went on.
Marshall finally opened up the paper and Nancy looked up a simple piece of notebook paper splashed with blue ink that formed a list of addresses, the penmanship so sloppy she couldn’t fully read them.
“Can I see it?” She asked.
He handed the paper over and looked at the addresses. She only recognized her own. The rest were scattered about the region – small towns she recognized in Eastern Washington, some in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and most-importantly, Colorado.
She wasn’t a historian, but she figured the ink and the paper had to be decades old. The paper was so thin it seemed a swift gust of wind could reduce it to ash. The ink fat and faded, once dark navy blue but now closer to sky blue.
“I don’t have the slightest idea what it is,” Marshall continued without breath. “There was something dark in my dad though. Don’t know exactly what it was, but he also changed around that time,” Marshall stopped there.
Marshall started to choke up. Nancy started to picture Marshall’s dad, whose name she couldn’t remember. She pictured a grizzled, hardened man who was always unshaven, chewing tobacco, and scowling.
“He went to church every Sunday, but he was not a kind man,” Marshall said. “My mom knew it. She left right around when, when you lost your daughter. I didn’t think anything of it at the time and she passed two years ago in Oregon. If she knew anything it went to the grave with her. She was a quiet woman.”
Nancy almost couldn’t move or talk.
“I didn’t find anything else in the house and I checked everything. Even just took off all the wallpaper. I found that thing stuck between a baseboard and the wall. It must have slipped in there and gotten stuck,” Marshall explained.
“Well thank you. I believe you,” Nancy said, even though she was only about 60 percent she believed he was sure there was nothing else in that house that might help.
That was okay though. She would exhaust every thing she could on this list until she would circle back to Marshall to hold his feet to the fire and to further strip his parents’ house clean to the bone.
“Is that your dad’s handwriting?” She asked.
He shook his head yes.
“I don’t miss him,” Marshall said before getting up and walking out of the sanctuary.
The addresses weren’t the breakthrough Nancy thought they were going to be. She Googled the addresses, found names, phone numbers, any information she could for each for the past 50 years and also shared it with any law enforcement agencies she could.
Nothing. It all led to nothing. She drove to each and every one of them as well and knocked on the door. She told people her situation. Most were helpful or at least pointed her to the local law enforcement, making it seem they weren’t guilty of anything.
Nancy also pressed local law enforcement about Marshall’s dad, but they couldn’t find anything that suggested any connection of him to anything like what happened to Rose or anything sinister in nature at all. They were sorry.
She pressed Marshall some more. He didn’t have anything for her in regards to his dad, or his mom.
She was about to start to light into Marshall on if he had anything to do with it he wasn’t sharing, but he shared a thought nugget she hadn’t thought of before she could, stopping her in her tracks.
“Do you know anything about the people who lived in your house before you bought it? Maybe this list was from before you moved in? Know anything about them?” Marshall asked.
Nancy didn’t. She had never even thought of it. Holy shit. Had the Barney Fife fucking dipshit local cops ever thought of that in the past 40 plus years?
Nancy and David moved into the house just about a year before she had Rose. All she could remember was the real estate agent who sold it said they were buying it from an elderly man who was retiring in Alaska so he could hunt and fish more and the price was super low.
She turned to Google to look up the history of her own address for the first time and remembered the first name she saw associated with it, which said he had lived in the house for 30 years before they moved in. His name was Delvin Van Brasha.
She couldn’t have been more thrilled to have it be such a unique name. This was going to be easy to track down. She also saw two other names associated with the address but with unlisted years. Trevor and Sharon Van Brasha. She took note of them as well.
Delvin was a wash. He died in Ketchikan, Alaska a few years after moving from Uniontown and law enforcement and Google couldn’t do anything for her.
Sharon Van Brasha was another story.
Nancy found Sharon Thompson (Van Brasha) on Facebook. She looked just about her age, but much more weathered. She lived in Montana and posted a lot of pro-Trump memes.
Nancy sent a private message telling her the situation of what happened to her and letting her know that she had questions for her.
Sharon Thompson (Van Brasha) responded in four minutes 12 seconds and sent a friend request.
Sorry to hear what happened to Rose. They’re all angels now. Angels watching over us. The only worse person on this planet than Trevor Van Brasha was his dad. I can fill you in on a lot of shit. Most of it is not good and maybe not helpful but worth a shot. I have something to tell you that’s going to shock you. I lost a daughter the exact same way too.
Call me 406-555-3116
Nancy called up Sharon and got a tiny bit more information. Sharon didn’t even want to give up much more information on the phone. Nancy would just have to drive to Montana in the morning. It was a four-hour haul, but beautiful, according to Sharon.
Sharon was right about it being beautiful, but it wasn’t a four-hour haul, it was only three because Nancy floored it the whole way up there.
Sharon lived in a small wooden home that looked to Nancy like one of those pre-made tool sheds you might find at a Home Depot.
The inside of the place smelled like cigarettes marinated in sweat. Sharon ushered Nancy over to a rickety kitchen table and explained her husband, Brett, was working in the oil fields in North Dakota and wasn’t going to be back for months. Brett was much better than Trevor, but he was still a “cock.”
Nancy was so uncomfortable with everything about Sharon she pressed her hard for information before she even took a drink of the instant coffee Sharon fixed her.
Sharon was an “Army brat” who moved all around the country growing up before she ran away from her abusive dad as soon as she graduated high school in Airway Heights, Washington.
She moved into a friend’s dorm at Washington State University and slept on the floor even though she wasn’t enrolled in school until she could find a better situation. That better situation was a chain-smoking chainsaw repair apprentice named Trevor who also hung around the school but didn’t go.
Trevor grew up in Uniontown and still lived in his dad’s house. 733 Rasper Road. The house where Nancy still lived.
Sharon got pregnant shortly after meeting Trevor and they got married shortly after learning that piece of information. Then they moved into Trevor’s dad’s house.
That’s when things went from bad to worse.
Trevor’s dad was an abusive POS. He was a hard man who only seemed to enjoy killing animals, chewing tobacco, road trips up to Spokane for “hot, young pussy” and kicking the shit out of his only son on a regular basis.
Sharon could never figure out how Trevor’s dad had any money. He never appeared to work and only got a very meager Army pension he spent on whiskey practically before he even got it. Yet, he always seemed to have plenty of cash for anything he wanted.
Sharon had enough and told Trevor they were either moving out together one night or she was moving out on her own. Trevor relented and said he had recently learned something horrible about his dad he would be able to hold against him and get him out of town with.
Trevor would never tell Sharon what it was, but it was enough to get Trevor’s dad to move to Alaska within a few weeks and never come back. They had the house for themselves before they got a letter in the mail saying that Trevor’s dad was selling it.
It was fine with them. They wanted to move to Montana anyway. They got out of town and moved without ever having to even talk to the real estate agent.
Sharon had her baby, Cole, just a few weeks after moving to Montana.
She woke up in the middle of the night a few months later because she thought she heard Cole crying. She found her missing from her crib on a cold Winter’s night, not long after Thanksgiving.
She searched the neighborhood. She exhausted local law enforcement. She called every single person in the county in the phone book to question them on her own. She never got a single scrap of anything that could potentially be connected to Cole for 40 years.
Until Nancy reached out to her on Facebook one day resulting in where they were that day.
Well, first thing first, Nancy thought whoever took Cole likely also took Rose a few weeks later.
Sharon theorized whoever did it was likely connected to Trevor’s dad and whatever it was that brought him money. She figured Trevor’s dad somehow found out Nancy had a baby and set them up as well.
It made sense to Nancy as well. Marshall’s family had a nice big house by the river even though it appeared neither of his parents had any kind of job. It’s possible they made their living supporting the ring Clam told her about in Seattle.
Speaking of Clam’s information, Nancy also explained to Sharon the bits and pieces she learned in Seattle about the underground sex ring and the house in Colorado and everything, but it didn’t do anything for Sharon.
That was about all they had though, except for a third look at the list of addresses from Marshall’s dad Nancy brought. This time, it sparked a thought with Sharon.
“You drove to all of these addresses and checked them?” Sharon asked Nancy in a tone which suggested her brain was doing a lot of math and was onto something.
“Yeah, I checked them all, calling people and stopping by,” Nancy explained. “There was only one that was weird. The one in Richland ended up just being a field. I figured the house just got torn down or something.”
“Well this was definitely a list of houses to take babies from but there’s something funny about Richland. I had a friend who moved from here to there and I eventually stopped getting letters back from her. I guess years ago they split the town into Richland and West Richland and it messed up their address system. It’s possible the Richland address on here is actually ‘West Richland’ and that’s why you just found an empty field in ‘Richland.’” Sharon explained.
Sharon had an idea. They could go check out that address in West Richland. They could leave first thing in the morning. Nancy could sleep in the guest room, which was going to be Cole’s room, before she was stolen.
Nancy didn’t sleep at all, cramped in the twin-sized bed, staring at the teddy bears painted on the sky blue wall of the room. It made her realize that no one else had ever been in Rose’s room at her house in the 40 plus years plus since her disappearance. Maybe it was time to let that room go?
It was a five-hour drive from where Sharon lived in Montana to Richland, or West Richland, or whatever. They got up first thing in the morning and got there in the early-afternoon.
Sharon grabbed some massive coffees to “gear up” for their “check-in” on the new address they had and Nancy had to try and talk her down. All of her other checks had gone nowhere and all they really accomplished was disturbing what seemed like nice people.
Nancy had to reiterate this wasn’t a fun thing for her. This was a necessary thing. She anticipated going home that night with nothing new and finally packing up Rose’s things in her room the next day.
Nancy was surprised when they pulled up to a massive industrial facility on the edge of town in West Richland. What looked like bunkers or reminded her of feed stalls at farms stretched endlessly out behind a steel fence and some cement blocks that sealed off the facility from the quiet road they had just parked on in separate cars.
“What the hell is this?” Sharon announced as she walked up behind Nancy, who was examining a call box on the front of the fence.
The place looked abandoned, but the call box looked new. Sharon hit a few buttons on the box as soon as she arrived.
“I don’t know if I would do that,” Nancy warned. “I wonder if this is a government facility, even if it’s abandoned.”
Sharon didn’t even respond. She just kept hitting buttons on the call box but getting nowhere, producing nothing. She eventually punched the call box with a closed fist and stepped back to try and catch her breath and the snot that was falling out of her nose.
“Maybe we should just go?” Nancy suggested.
“Inside, yeah,” Sharon said as she started to climb the fence next to the call box.
Sharon’s physique resembled a bowling ball but she had no problem scaling the six-foot-high fence. She reached the top in no time and looked down at Nancy.
She clearly noticed the hesitation in Nancy’s face and posture.
“How serious are you about finding your daughter?” Sharon asked before she threw herself over the other side of the fence. She landed on the other side with a hard thud and a scream followed by her yelling the word “fuck” over and over and over again.
Nancy saw Sharon contorting in pain on the other side of the fence, her ankle twisted back behind her body.
“I snapped my fuckin ankle when I landed,” Sharon screamed in pain. “Come help me.”
Nancy said the word “fuck” approximately one time in her head, looked over her shoulder to see if anyone could see her on the quiet road and started to scale the fence.
Nancy dropped down to help Sharon up and lifted the woman onto her feet.
Sharon pointed out the building closest to them. It looked like a small office space you might find at the front of a mini-storage facility.
“Let’s check it out in there,” Sharon instructed.
Nancy helped Sharon into the little office where, even in the dark, she could tell Sharon was standing quite strong on her ankle. Sharon started to laugh, her cackling filling up the dark space and echoing off of each wall, creating an eerie, funhouse feel Nancy didn’t care for.
“What’s so funny?” Nancy asked.
“I just faked that ankle injury to get your ass in here,” Sharon explained, barely able to speak through her laughter. “Now let’s check this place out. I think it’s an old nuclear bomb storage thing or old nuclear power plant,” Sharon said as she fired up the flashlight on her phone and aimed it at a dark doorway at the back of the room.
Nancy’s first instinct was to leave and forget about Sharon’s idea, but then she got a feeling deep in her stomach. Maybe it was the truck stop chicken strips she shared with Sharon or maybe she had an innate, maternal feeling there was an answer somewhere in that facility, but she agreed and followed Sharon into the void.
The guts of the place looked like some kind of abandoned, highly-sensitive storage facility. Nancy couldn’t believe it was just sitting out there unguarded the way it was.
Then again, maybe it wasn’t unguarded? Nancy had another deep feeling inside her they were being followed. She swore she could hear footsteps off in the distance as they walked. Sharon promised they were just the echoes of their own footsteps, but Nancy didn’t buy it.
Despite looking like a decommised laboratory from a science fiction movie, the place wasn’t yielding anything to them other than the faint smell of mold. Nancy doubted it was going to present them anything about their children who went missing 40 years ago. Unless they were abducted by aliens or something.
Nancy was thinking about aliens when the attack happened. It came from behind.
Much like it did when she got attacked in that house in Seattle, Nancy suddenly felt herself lifted up off the ground by the back of her shirt. Whoever had a hold of her was rather powerful.
The attack came so quickly it seemed like a blur, but Nancy got enough of her bearings to see Sharon standing before her in the darkened hallway, seemingly not concerned at all, standing there flat-footed, just looking up at her.
How was this happening again?
Those two questions flashed through Nancy’s mind before she realized it had been a set up and she saw the slightest hint of smirk spread across Sharon’s face.
How could Nancy have been so naive? How could she have been so trusting of this woman who was one big, giant red flag other?
Nancy couldn’t believe it as she was helplessly carried down endless rows of doors that had red lights above them just like that house in Seattle. She was right back in the belly of the beast.
And she was in her 60s this time. Her knees and ankles ached when she took a mile walk around the track at the local high school. She couldn’t imagine the pain she would have to inflict on herself to just try and fight her way out this time. She was weak.
Then she had another thought. She was back in the belly of the beast but that could have been the beast that also ate Rose. Rose could be close.
She took her nails and dug them down into the neck of the man who was carrying her. It didn’t seem to phase him in the least. She dug them deeper. Nothing.
He just kept carrying her until they reached the end of the hallway and everything was dark. Then he dropped her to the floor.
She looked up and saw his face again. The massive man from the house in Seattle. But just like her, he had aged. He looked down at her with white eyes, making him even more haunting.
He lunged down at her and she rolled away. She heard and felt him hit the floor and she ran away, but only got a couple of steps before she stepped down hard on a bolt that had been laying on the floor and fell herself, twisting her ankle painfully on the way down.
She had actually broken her ankle. This wasn’t a pretend trap like Sharon put on her out front.
Sharon found her injured on the floor. She walked up to Nancy and stopped a few feet away.
“What are you doing?” Nancy asked up to Sharon, fighting through the pain.
Sharon didn’t answer. She just moved in on Nancy, forcing Nancy to stand up on her broken ankle and take her on.
Sharon was much more short and stout than Nancy but Nancy’s rage fueled her. They locked up with each other like linemen in football fighting for yardage and Sharon started to speak through clenched teeth.
“You shouldn’t have knocked on that door. It was just a business,” Sharon said.
Nancy could have read a million things into that sentence. She didn’t have time. She had to fight. She dug her nails down into Sharon’s neck. That seemed to be more effective.
Nancy gained the upper hand on Sharon and used her weight to push Sharon down onto the ground.
Nancy crawled on top of Sharon and pushed back both of Sharon’s arms, smashing them into the hard ground and holding there.
“Is she here?” Nancy asked with blood dripping out of her lips.
Sharon twisted her head away from Nancy’s face and nodded it every-so-slightly, looking pathetic, beaten and defeated.
“That’s why I brought you here,” Sharon whispered.
“What?” Nancy yelled back at her.
“I want out, but I don’t have the guts,” Sharon went on.
“What does that mean?” Nancy screamed.
“I don’t want this. They did take Cole, but they just brought him back when he was done. I was so high I didn’t even know,” Sharon went on.
Nancy wondered why Sharon suddenly started to sound like an N.A. meeting. She didn’t care though. She didn’t have time. Her quick assessment was Sharon was bipolar or just nuts or something and went back and forth on her motivations.
It didn’t matter. It had all ended up with Nancy in this dark freakshow, with a broken ankle, pinning this little, round, obese piece of shit to the floor. She didn’t care if it was an accident or not or if Sharon had made millions off of selling random babies stolen around the Northwest.
All that mattered was if Rose was in that abandoned nuclear facility or not. Because if she was, Nancy was going to get her out of there, or die trying.
Nancy took her nail and jammed it right into the soft part of Sharon’s neck. She pushed it hard, feeling it rip through skin as it plunged deep.
“Is she here?” Nancy said down to Sharon quietly.
Footsteps. Heavy footsteps. Approaching from behind. He was back on her.
But Nancy had to wait for the answer.
“In one of the rooms,” Sharon gasped up to Nancy.
Nancy jumped up off of Sharon and kicked her in the face with her boot before she ran away from her, up the hallway she was carried in through.
She looked over her shoulder for a second to see the hulking man approaching, moving past Sharon, who sat up on the ground now, laughing hysterically with a mouth full of blood and chipped teeth.
Nancy was no longer afraid because of something she had pulled off while on top of Sharon.
She drew the pistol she yanked out of Sharon’s pocket and aimed it at the man with the milky eyes.
“Her name was Rose. I don’t know what you might call her now, but I want to know if she’s here,” Nancy barked at the man.
She watched as Sharon stood up in pain and started to chat with the blind monster.
Nancy could only make out a few words here and there in their quiet conversation. She focused on hearing the string “we look bad here” and she realized that the two might be looking to cover their asses for what had just played out.
Knowing that, Nancy took another step forward and waved the gun at them.
“Is she here?” Nancy screamed.
Nancy shook the gun at Sharon and the blind monster. Her hand was so slippery that it almost fell out of her hand.
“Is she fucking here?” Nancy screamed.
Sharon and the monster talked some more in hushed tones then Sharon stood up just a little bit onto her knees.
“If you let us, we will show you,” Sharon announced.
Nancy let Sharon and the monster stand up, at gunpoint.
“It’s deeper in the facility,” Sharon said.
Nancy let Sharon and the monster lead her deeper into the darkness, lit only by the flashlight on Nancy’s phone, combing white light through a cavernous facility that seemed to be endless.
They approached a tight corridor lined with doors with blue lights above. Nancy flicked off her flashlights, the blue bulbs providing enough illumination.
“She might be here,” Sharon whispered.
Sharon led Nancy and the monster into the blue hallway. Sharon lingered back toward Nancy and started to whisper to her.
Nancy stopped in her tracks. She wasn’t going to fuck around at all with anything this psycho bitch might try. Nancy put the gun hard onto the back of Sharon’s skull and left it there.
“What?” Nancy asked, having not actually heard any of the words that had just dribbled out of Sharon’s mouth.
“There’s no bullets in that gun, but I feel for you, so I’m trying to help you,” Sharon whispered into Nancy’s ear, growing more and more manic with each word.
Nancy had a horrible feeling Sharon was telling the truth and the woman truly wanted to help her.
“He’ll kill you in a second if he finds out that gun has no bullets,” Sharon whispered more into Nancy’s ear.
Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Nancy thought to herself.
“She’s in there,” Sharon said and then pointed out the last door at the end of the hallway. “I asked before I showed up.”
Nancy stared at that dark door at the end of the hallway and her vision flashed back to that house in Seattle so many years ago. She was right back there, and she couldn’t fail this time.
She had to try, and again, she could die trying rather than dying in her bed 30 years from them, regretting never getting closure on her baby daughter.
Sharon pointed out the blind monster standing in front of them.
“Go get her out of that room. I’ll block for you, as much as I can,” Sharon finished and then nudged Nancy into the hallway.
Nancy moved quickly past the blind monster and deeper into the hallway lined with doors. She could hear quiet murmurs, heavy breathing, and what seemed like punching sounds on the other sides of the doors as she passed them.
She reached the door at the end of the hallway and looked back at Sharon and the blind monster, standing at the other end, sealing her in. She ran her finger on the inside of the trigger as if the fact that it might have some bullets in it could give her some relief, even though she had never fired a gun in her life.
She reached the last door and took a deep breath. She tried the handle. It was locked. She tried it harder. Still locked.
She sensed some stress being beamed at her from behind, where Sharon and the monster were. She knocked hard on the door. She heard the halting of a soft sound on the other side, followed by a quiet conversation, then footsteps, toward the door.
Nancy tucked the gun into her pocket as she heard the door unlock on the other side. She didn’t want to scare whoever was back there.
The door opened and she locked eyes with a well-groomed man who she thought was probably about 30. He was clad in a dress shirt and slacks, but his tie was a mess and his hair flustered. He clearly had put himself together rather quickly.
He was horrified to see Nancy. He came out the gate stuttering.
“I’m just talking to my friend.”
Nancy pushed herself in and closed the door behind her. She started combing the room hungry, like a coyote that just got into a hen house.
She saw Rose. It was Rose. The baby that came from her. It was Rose. The young woman she saw in that house in Seattle. A woman of about 40 with soft red hair and soft features sitting on a bed with a towel draped around her, looking down at the floor.
“Rose,” Nancy said to the woman.
With that opening, the young man ran out of the room and closed the door behind him. Nancy moved to Rose on the bed. The woman finally looked to Nancy. She stared into her green eyes and she knew it was Rose. Everything lined up.
“It’s you,” Nancy said as tears started to pour out of her eyes.
Rose looked back to Nancy with nothing behind her eyes, looking like a neglected porcelain doll.
“Who am I?” She asked.
Nancy wasted no more time. She grabbed hold of Rose’s hand and led her to the door.
She saw the blind monster out there. She looked over to Rose who seemed totally unphased by the sight and knew they needed to run. They needed to make it through the fence that was this sinewy beast. He couldn’t see them. They had a chance.
Nancy grabbed Rose’s hand and ran with her up the hallway, right at the monster. Like a running back with elite vision, she saw a nice gap between the monster, Sharon’s corpse and the doors which lined the wall.
Nancy could see and feel that they were going to get past the monster. He was too slow. His vision was too limited. She was a gazelle, saving her baby from the stupid, savage lion.
Then one of the doors of the hallway flew open, just as Nancy and Rose were dashing by.
The door opening knocked Nancy and Rose to the floor, right at the feet of the blind monster. Based on where his gaze dropped down at them, he knew exactly where they were.
That’s why Nancy wasted no time. She flew right up and found her footing, just below the chin of the blind monster.
Nancy looked down to see Rose at her feet, unable to get up off the ground. She reached down for here and felt a huge blow strike her back, but she stood strong, keeping her balance.
Nancy locked hands with Rose and lifted her up off the ground. The monster pulled back for another swing. Nancy pulled Rose forward with her and rushed underneath the monster’s blow, missing both of them.
The two looked ahead and saw just pure darkness. How were they going to get out? Who had opened the door and knocked them down?
Nancy answered the first question by illuminating the flashlight on her cell phone.
She answered the second question by turning around and shining the light on the young man who had fled just a moment earlier, still looking just as horrified, if not more so.
“Sorry,” the young man mouthed at them.
That movement gave the monster just enough opening to get on Nancy and Rose’s tail. He was a few yards away until the young man stepped in the monster’s way and knocked him to the ground.
Nancy wasted no time this time around. She pulled Rose with her in the direction from which they entered.
Nancy couldn’t even remember what she saw until they were out in the bright light of day, gasping for air in the hot Eastern Washington sun.
“Go!” Nancy commanded Rose after they broke hands, just outside of the door to the office area of the facility. “My car is the white Chevy parked on the street!”
Nancy thanked her lucky stars she had turned down Sharon’s numerous insistence they ride together in Sharon’s SUV because it had “kick ass A.C.”
Rose charged ahead of Nancy. Nancy wanted to break down and cry watching her daughter run for the first time. She looked like a natural athlete. Would she have been a track, maybe cross country star had she not spent her life in captivity.
Nevermind. They reached the gate. Rose climbed over the thing in a flash and reached the other side.
Nancy jumped up onto the fence and tried to climb, but stopped halfway up the wrong side of the fence. She hurt something in her ankle. She wasn’t sure exactly what but it was likely a reinjury of what she suffered back in Seattle all those years before.
It froze her in her climb. She could hear and sense people approaching behind her even though she didn’t look. She couldn’t have had much time.
But her ankle hurt too much. She could barely move, just enough to get her body onto the top of the fence where she saw something that hurt even more – Rose running away from her, across the road where they parked. Leaving her in the dust.
“Rose!” Nancy called out at her daughter, but got no response.
She didn’t even know that was her name, Nancy thought as she saw Rose running away from her, almost across the road now, nearing the brush on the other side where she could disappear from her vision again for the rest of her life.
Nancy gutted out the last of what she had in her body to tolerate pain and almost got herself over the fence.
She screamed out in pain as she got hung up on the top. A belt loop of her pants twisted around a loose nail. She looked across the road and saw Rose stop, just before the brush. Rose stopped and looked back, presumably sparked by Nancy’s scream of pain and panic.
Rose ran back across the road. Nancy’s eyes lit up.
“Keep climbing!” Rose yelled as she neared Nancy. “They’re coming!”
Nancy pushed herself, but couldn’t get off the top of the fence.
Rose reached Nancy in a flash. A track star, indeed. She grabbed Nancy and ripped her off of the top of the fence and nail, gashing the top of her pants and some meat on her hip as well.
Rose put her arm around Nancy and helped her to Nancy’s white Chevy.
“Where are your keys?” Rose yelled into her mom’s ear.
Nancy pulled her keys out of her purse and handed them to her daughter. Rose pushed Nancy into the passenger seat and ran around to the driver’s side.
Nancy took the briefest of looks to her right and saw some dark figures over by the fence, but she had lost her glasses while climbing over the fence so could only see their overall outlines, not faces or people.
She heard the engine come to life. She heard the tires squeal as they pulled away. She heard Rose start to sob as soon as they got to what seemed like a safe distance.
Nancy and Rose went to the police department in Richland. They shared both their stories of that day and their life stories. Rose’s story confirmed she had lived her entire live in captivity, forced to be a sex slave.
It took a while, but Rose eventually shared her entire story with Nancy and a DNA test proved exactly who she was. The baby who spent her first few months of life in that little bedroom in Uniontown. Nancy was thrilled she hadn’t yet gone through with changing Rose’s old room.
Rose moved into that room and the two began to bond. All that money Nancy had saved up over the years, it was more than enough Nancy to stay retired and for Rose to retire from the life she had.
They would pass the next 20 years happily in their little house in a little town in the middle of a giant wheat field of nowhere in Southeast Washington. Mother and daughter. Daughter and Mother.
Nancy, and Rose.
Barely three years old, Nancy couldn’t even properly identify herself by name or what town she lived in, but her name was Nancy Powell and she lived at 3116 Garfield Place with her parents in Uniontown, Washington. She was passing a scorching-hot August afternoon in her parents’ front yard, running back and forth over a sprinkler, getting the freshly-cut grass stuck to every single one of her little appendages whenever she slipped onto the lawn, which happened a lot.
The man stopped his truck on the side of the street right next to the yard. Nancy thought nothing of it, adults were just background pieces in her world of exploration and wonder.
She didn’t even notice him or his truck until he yelled out at her from the open driver’s-side window.
“Hello,” he said loud enough so she could hear over the sound of his truck engine rumbling and the sprinkler aggressively spritzing.
Nancy stopped just before she was about to run through the sprinkler again. She zeroed in on the man as she approached. She would later learn she needed glasses, but at the time she didn’t think anything was weird about only being able to see a dark face behind the wheel of the truck.
“Hi, what’s your name?” The man asked in a gruff voice that seemed to grow more eager with each word because Nancy was getting closer and closer.
Nancy had to think about the answer to that question.
“Nan-cee,” she answered, not realizing the few seconds she had bought herself by thinking would make a big difference in her young life.
Nancy couldn’t see but the man had moved his hand onto the door handle inside the vehicle and was slowly pushing it open.
“That’s nice,” the man said as he started to ease his way out of the truck.
The screen door slammed back at Nancy’s house. The man closed the door of his truck and drove away with haste.
Nancy’s mom walked into the yard just barely catching the truck in her sight as it drove up the street and turned right.
“Were you talking to someone?” Nancy’s mom asked as she blocked out the sun and tried to scan for any other signs of life in the neighborhood because she swore she heard Nancy talking to someone while she was in the kitchen preparing supper.
“No,” Nancy answered before she skipped away back into the sprinkler.
Nancy’s mom thought nothing of it and walked back inside. She would call Nancy in to have dinner two hours later, both having already completely forgotten about the exchange, forever.