Her body wasn’t posed. There was nothing remotely glamorous or cinematic about this. The woman was dead, floating face-down in a ditch next to a stretch of highway that connected two permanently-recessed towns.
I didn’t yet know her name, but I knew the tangle of thorn bushes tattooed on her lower back would likely provide a quick identification if she didn’t have an I.D. on her once we put the word out around town. Girls with tattoos like that always have a following in these parts.
I lived just up the street from the scene so I figured I still had a good 10 minutes before anyone else from the dispatch showed up. It was just me, the early-morning rain, and a young woman who had just died the most-cruel death I could ever imagine.
The thought of running home to my wife, Amy, and three-year-old son back at home, still asleep, toasted by the fireplace, ran through my head, but no. I had a job to do.
My job at that moment consisted of looking down at the young woman’s body as a gust of wind rushed across the pool in the ditch she was in and turned her body face up. I vomited in the back of my throat once I saw her bloated face and swollen belly, slashed open at the bottom, creating an image I’d rather not describe for you other than let you know that it was a fresh c-section scar that had burst open.
Just one more detail I noticed that I feel I have to share with you. Carved into her left arm, seemingly with her own nails were two words – I fought.
You were supposed to gouge at their eyes when they attacked you, right? Or was that sharks? Maybe bears? No, bears were definitely make yourself as large as you can and make as much loud noise as you can to scare them. A born and raised Alaska girl always knows her proper bear defense.
The problem was I didn’t even get the chance to think about my survival strategies. It all happened so fast. The only thing I had time to do was become a victim.
A third generation Alaska sheriff, I thought I was prepared for anything I could encounter on the job. Raised at my grandpa and dad’s knees as they wove yarns about the rugged, good ol’ days of the state, my stomach was nails by the time I entered the academy after high school.
Still, I was in no way ready to stomach the image of the dead recent mother rolling in that ditch. I struggled to make the report when I got back to the office, I was shaking so hard.
The fact I had an nine-month pregnant wife waking up back at my house to make my son breakfast when I was on the phone with the Anchorage bureau didn’t help in the least. I was lucky my superior officers were kind and allowed me to follow up the call with a detailed written report about what I saw and gave me a few hours to recoup and see my family before I had to jump headfirst into the investigation of the death that was quickly ruled as a homicide.
It didn’t take them up on the offer. I don’t need to repeat the statistics about the importance of the first 48 hours of a murder investigation. I had to start working.
The woman in the ditch was Krystal Petersen, an unmarried local hairdresser who gave birth to a son just a few weeks before. She wasn’t engaged to the father, but reportedly had a good relationship with him, and he cooperated with our investigation and had an alibi that completely checked out.
Her family life was broken, but not sinister. Her parents were never married and her mom raised her lower-middle class in Ketchikan after her dad moved down to Washington state. She had a half-sister down in Washington, but no siblings in Alaska, and all her extended family described their relationship with her as “good, but distant.”
There were almost no leads. All of Krystal’s co-workers, friends, and strong acquaintances seemed to check out, and no physical evidence at the scene of the crime pointed to anything. We only had one real lead.
Krystal’s laptop at home was open to Ebay when she left and her last search had been for breast milk.
Those first 48 hours flew by without another lead. I checked Krystal’s account on Ebay and it didn’t appear she was selling or buying breast milk and her family said she was breastfeeding just fine with her baby son.
It wasn’t until I pulled away from the heart of the crime that I would start to see how that little puzzle piece of the mystery that was Krystal’s murder that my investigation went anywhere and took me out of my little jurisdiction in Haines, Alaska.
I usually heard the screaming and crying first thing in the morning. Cliche would tell you it would have been the middle of the night, but I felt the same, dull pain in the morning. The complete darkness of the night allowed me to drift off to some kind of dream world, I think because I at least couldn’t see where I was.
Also, he came at sunrise every morning.
It would start with the screaming and crying and struggle I believed came from the south. The first light of day would announce his arrival and he would go to work.
The screaming would stop and then a quick snapping and pumping sound would be barely audible. I would start to cry uncontrollably as soon as I could hear it. The near silence and the methodical chug of the breast pump was actually worse to me than the screaming and the fighting. The intimacy of the situation was what was most-terrifying to me.
The silence that returned after the pumping stopped chilled my heart. It meant that I was next.
Alaska is a tricky state to police. It’s more than twice as large as Texas and much of it is incredibly remote, impossible to get to without taking an airplane. So when crimes happen that seem connected across the state, many times it seems impossible to manage. It’s almost like fighting crime back in the 70s.
I can proudly say it was my lead that led to the first real opening in the case. Let’s go back to that initial Ebay clue.
Well, I will actually give the credit to my wife, Amy, a few days after I told her about the investigation. She had a revelation.
If Krystal was a recent mother producing breast milk who was searching for it on Ebay, it’s likely she wanted to see how much it was going for. Given that she was a hairdresser barely making more than $15,000 per-year, she could use the extra income.
Like many clues, that initial clue didn’t prove fruitful. I couldn’t find any record on Ebay of Krystal trying to sell breast milk, but it did lead me to reach out to the sellers based in the state of Alaska who sold on the site.
Apparently there was only one consistent seller of breast milk in the state of Alaska on Ebay in recent years, MarshaMarshaMarsha, and she lived in the tiny village of Egegik over on the southwest coast of the state.
It had been weeks and I still didn’t know what the guy looked like, though I knew his smell like the back of my hand. That’s how painfully-intimate our situation was.
I honestly wished the guy would have been more tortuous and evil. It would have been easier to stomach him coming and whipping me or beating me down, and then hooking up the breast pump. The fact that he always came in, stroked my hair, kissed me on the crown of my head and then went to work was a cold reminder that almost none of my boyfriends had even been that sweet.
He muttered his name to me one time in the middle of a pump and I think it was a mistake, because he wouldn’t repeat what he said after he said it. I thought he said “Zen,” but I’m thinking it might have been Ben, based on the fact I have never heard of anyone named “Zen.” Then again, if there was a guy named Zen, I think he would be the kind of guy who would live in the remote wilderness of Alaska and keep women captive to harvest their breast milk.
What was he doing with the breast milk? He just took it and left without any announcement other than sometimes a grunt or a long stare. Then I would hear screams come from north of my wooden cell and then more breast pump noise.
I assumed there had to be some sort of sickening fetish thing with the milk. He could have been selling it. I vaguely remember someone once telling me that you could sell breast milk for a lot of money in a bar once, but that might have been a dream.
Maybe this whole thing was a dream? Actually, this couldn’t be categorized as a dream, it was a nightmare.
It wasn’t a nightmare though, because I was wide awake when it started, manning the front desk at the day care where I worked just off Highway 1 on the way out of Anchorage to the North. We got a lot of business from Elmendorf Air Force Base and it was a good job. I sat at that desk and checked people in for 10 hours, took home $120 in cash and had free childcare for my baby during the week. It’s what you call a win-win.
The only downside of the job was my proximity to the entrance/exit of the building and how it made everyone think that it was my job to help them with their car.
The first group that perpetually wanted my automotive help were the sketchy people who struck out “begging for gas” at the 76 Station across the street. You know, the guys who sit there and approach you while you pump saying they left their wallet at home and can’t get home or just need gas to get to work, but really they just need cash for drugs or some shit.
Those fine Americans regularly would come into our daycare and say they needed my help because they drove over a nail in the parking lot. They would then make me look at their wheel, and the nail that wasn’t really in it, and ask if we could give them cash for the accident that struck them on our property.
I had no problem telling those sketchy bastards to get fucked. The owner of the daycare lived next door and was a proud member of the N.R.A. who lived to tell low lifes to get off his property.
The other kind of people who treated me like a porter at the airport were more tricky. Customers would constantly come in and want my help bringing their kids into the place or working their child car seat because apparently you need a doctorate in engineering from M.I.T. to work those things.
One of the last moments I remember is a middle-aged woman with long blonde hair rushing into the daycare to see if I could help her bring her daughter into the daycare while she grabbed some cigarettes at the gas station. She was late to work and needed to accomplish both absolute necessities at the same time.
I agreed to help her. I understood the struggle of a new mom and I had run out of things to browse online that day.
The last thing I remember was watching the woman run across the busy highway before I looked into the backseat of the open door to the bulky S.U.V. that was idling just off the side of the highway next to our parking lot. I don’t remember anything that took place between looking into the vehicle, seeing an empty child seat in the back, and waking up in the cabin.
Egegik’s population hovers just 100. It’s a small fishing town populated mostly by homemade houses lived in by natives and the occasional year-round fisherman trying to escape something that happened somewhere else.
Marsha lived in the town’s only apartment complex. A four-unit corrugated steel structure next to the town’s pier and only store that also functioned as a bar.
Marsha didn’t look like I anticipated when she answered the door. Living in Egegik, I assumed she would be native, she wasn’t. Professionally selling breast milk, I assumed she would be young, she wasn’t (I eyeballed her as late-40s), and given that I assumed she would have young children on a consistent basis throughout the past few years, I figured she would have a husband and family, she didn’t.
She ushered me into her cozy little apartment and welcomed me with some baked salmon, potatoes, and canned green beans. What I would like to call the official state meal of coastal Alaska.
I initially had a sharp fear once I walked into the place. I saw the movie Misery once on TNT when I was young and it stuck with me whenever I came into the home of a woman of a certain age who fit the bill of the term that I hated, “spinster.” I tapped my gun on my hip when I got up to help her bring dinner from the kitchen over to the dining room table as a reminder of who I was and my capabilities.
She seemed harmless though. We made small talk about our lives, mine mostly. I told her about my wife, my son at home, my wife’s due date. She commended me on how noble it was for me to be flying across the state to investigate with my wife ready to pop at any minute. It only seemed 40 percent passive aggressive.
She just served me up some orange soda and a good meal and filled me in on all the intricacies of the “online breast milk game.” Apparently it was a big ticket industry but it was hard to make it in the game up in Alaska because of shipping costs.
It’s why she had a theory about what might have happened with Krystal that I would have to fly back to Haines rather quickly to explore. It was possible that Krystal had tried to sell her breast milk on Craigslist, not Ebay.
She suspected that Krystal may have put an ad on Craigslist and deleted it. Was it possible that law enforcement hadn’t checked Craigslist, and a potential account for Krystal yet? Yes, that’s exactly what we did.
I decided to do an experiment. I whispered “Zen” when my captor was almost out of the door of my cabin. He stopped in his tracks in the open doorway.
Zen stood there for a few moments. I could feel the gears turning in his head as he stood there. It made me more nervous than I thought it would have.
Zen walked up to me at an alarmingly-steady pace until he was right in front of me.
Now is a good time to describe the mask that Zen wore. It looked a lot like a Michael Myers (Halloween) mask, but black. Just kind of a bare, face-molded mask that obscured what he looked like.
He got close enough this time and stayed there long enough that I could look deep into the eye holes. His eyes were blue, powerfully so. The kind you can’t look away from. I looked into the mouth hole of the mask, his lips were thin, cracked, I suspected that he might have severe psoriasis and I speculated that it might have something to do with the entire situation.
Again, the fact that Zen wasn’t over the top somehow made things worse. He just stared deep into my eyes for a good two minutes and he grabbed my face and held my gaze there when I tried to get away.
He only broke away when I heard something crash out in the woods outisde. He snapped into action and walked right out of the room.
I heard another crashing outside of my cabin. Light and swift, it sounded like deer hopping its way through the forest, but I couldn’t be sure.
The deer sound was joined by the lumbering, stupid gait of Zen, crashing around in the bushes. I heard him walk around the side of my cabin, muttering something under his breath.
The deer sound dashed outside my window, very close to my cabin this time, and then Zen’s feet pounded faster and harder in its direction.
The sound of the pursuit was quickly over, replaced with the most-hideous female scream I have ever heard in my life. Sharp, piercing, and painfully-loud, it sounded like a three-second cat fight you might hear outside your window.
Then it was gone, replaced by Zen’s clumsy stagger, stomping away.
I went through endless listings of just about everything for sale ever on Craigslist in the Haines area just before Krystal’s death and I eventually found it.
Breast Milk for sale. Krystal had her personal phone number and her email listed. Not wise Krystal.
I tried to access Krystal’s Craigslist account, but I couldn’t find any record of one. I tried to contact Craigslist and see if they could confirm if she ever had one and recover it if it was deleted. No help.
But again, another clue led to another clue, and Amy was able to help as we lay in bed, waiting for her to give birth at any moment. She suggested I should see if I could find any other recent breast milk for sale ads on Craigslist in the area and reach out to those women and see if they had experienced anything strange.
Amy’s idea was brilliant and breakthrough, coupled with a call from those superiors in Anchorage that I mentioned earlier.
They noticed a trend. There was an uncomfortable amount of recent mothers in the state, all around the state, who were missing. It was the largest amount of missing women between the ages of 20 and 30 the state had ever experienced at any given time.
Also intriguing was that of all the missing recent mothers, not more than one had ever disappeared from a specific region. It was always just one, and other than Krystal, they all went completely missing, bodies never found.
I hadn’t tried to escape yet as much as I should have. Let me paint the picture that had been my life during those weeks leading up to the day I heard what I assumed was another captive girl getting brutally murdered outside of the window of where I was being stashed.
I was locked to the twin-sized bed I laid on by thick steel chains on each wrist and ankle. I could move just enough to get to the edge of the bed, where I went to the bathroom in a bucket Zen so kindly provided, but that was about it. Zen dropped off food and water just before nightfall each night. That was my entire life.
The only other thing I had was being able to see outside of my cabin through a small crack in the wall by my bed if I strained my neck as hard as I could and basically did a held sit up for as long as my body could handle it – usually about 15 seconds. Through that crack, I could usually get a glimpse of the Alaska greenery outside. It was a sliver of life and hope that went a long way in keeping my spirits from completely tanking.
But now I was done. I needed to figure a way to get out of this hell, and I needed to make sure I could do it, and not end up like my compatriot I heard scream outside my prison wall.
Movies and T.V. would tell you that my first idea was to try and find anything I could do to somehow break or slip out of the chains all over me, but that wasn’t my strategy. I was more creative than that. I waited until nightfall when Zen came to my room.
Now I’m going to surprise you. I didn’t tell my superiors anything I had learned from Marsha or from researching online. If you have a job you might understand. I didn’t want to tell the slower-moving higher-ups about it, have them take over the case, and then botch it.
I was going to have to bring this thing home and then lead the stubborn mules to water.
My first step was to comb through months upon months of ads in the Haines Craigslist For Sale section. It was long and arduous, but it paid off when I found another breast milk for sale ad, about six months before Krystal’s was posted.
I called the number on the ad and connected with Lindsey. She was incredibly wary of me. Even when I informed her I was with the sheriff’s department.
She only agreed to meet me in public at the town’s only coffee shop. I was against the idea, for her own protection, I didn’t want her being seen with law enforcement in case anyone was monitoring her, but I agreed to meet her at the cafe. It was the only way I was going to move this thing forward.
I recognized Lindsey as soon as she walked in even though she looked much worse than she did in the Facebook profile picture I could find online. She looked like she had absorbed herself in the time since that picture was taken and then never had a good night’s sleep since.
I noticed a few new tattooes strewn across her pale canvass and watched as she took a seat at the first open table she could find. She sat there for a moment, but I could tell she was considering bolting out of the place the entire time.
I moved quickly. I joined her at the table. I asked to let me know everything she had ever wanted to order from the coffee shop and ended up ordering a hot and cold flavored latte and three pastries. It was money well-spent. I saw how hungry Lindsey was as soon as the food arrived and she started gobbling it down even though I could tell it embarrassed her thoroughly.
Lindsey acted like someone on the run and it made sense as soon as she launched into her story that made it clear that’s exactly what she had been for the past few months. Ever since she tried to sell breast milk on Craigslist.
“This girl I work with at Kroger, she told me about how you could make good, fast money,” Lindsey explained in between ragged bites of some kind of cheese Danish. “I needed the money because I lost almost all my shifts when I left to have Jessie. I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I had sold an old T.V. I stole from the break room at work one time.”
Lindsey looked around the place, even more wary than she was before.
“I probably shouldn’t have said that to a cop though,” she lamented.
“It’s okay, you want more food?” I tried to make my intentions clear, I was there to help her.
“No, that’s okay, but she was nice, at first, the lady from Craigslist. I met her at that gas station with the little restaurant in the back of it that my uncle likes, with the fried chicken. I sold her the milk, just how she wanted it, then she followed me to the bathroom,” Lindsey said, but stopped after the word “bathroom” because she had to break down.
“It’s okay,” I assured her.
“She trapped me in the stall and showed me a gun, told me to come out to her car. She got me out into the parking lot. Told me she’d shoot me if I even looked at anyone else in the mart or the parking lot. She got me out there into a trailer. She filled it with some kind of misty gas. Laughing gas I think. It knocked me out. I woke up on the side of the road. I don’t know what happened. The cop that found me said there was a car wreck that put me there,” Lindsey explained.
“Was there really a wreck?” I asked.
Lindsey wiped tears out of her eyes that were immediately replaced with fresh ones.
“I think so, there was debris and oil and skid marks all over the road by where I was, but I don’t remember. They said they think whoever tried to take me got in a wreck and ditched me to get out of trouble. I think they were right. I also think they didn’t do crap to try and find out who they were. I think they thought it was just a drug thing. It wasn’t,” Lindsey explained.
She gave me a look that begged for me to believe her. I did.
“I gave the cops the lady’s number. They didn’t do anything with it,” Lindsey lamented. “I can give it to you.”
I of course accepted Lindsey’s offer. I called the number. I got a bar up in Fairbanks when I called.
I waited for what I thought was an hour after Zen dropped off my dinner. I didn’t have a clock of any kind so I just had to estimate. I figured he’d be far enough away by then that he wouldn’t hear me start to unravel my plan.
I stretched myself as close to that crack in the wall as I could, to the point where I pulled a muscle in my neck that I didn’t know even existed and started to cramp up. I took in a deep breath in the flexed position and let out the loudest scream for “help” I was capable of.
I followed it up with a few more screams with some more exposition about my situation. I particularly explained to any other girls that were out there that there were others like us in this situation.
My screams rang out for five minutes. I was out of breath at that point and figured it was a good idea to limit the amount of time I was being ultra bold and asking for Zen to come back and do to me what he did to the girl outside my window that morning.
I waited for what I thought was an hour. No one replied except for a lone owl who I immediately envisioned picking at my corpse deep in the woods when all this was over.
The bar was called Old Timer’s and it wasn’t aptly named. Maybe it was just because I showed up on a Friday night, but the place was packed with kids in their mid-20s. It looked like some kind of high school reunion, but I don’t think it was one, at least not formally.
The bartender, Gary, who looked like a guy who had already passed the date of his 40th high school reunion, but who had never attended a single one, didn’t seem too pleased with the crowd, their choice of music, and the speaking volume they used, was happy to talk until I mentioned I was a sheriff. Then he clammed right up until I told himabout how I had a warrant at one point and how I hated my ex-wife.
Gary found a way to be helpful. The place didn’t have any security cameras or anything, but he knew that some of those “younger pricks” used the pay phone in the back of the bar a lot. He thought they were doing prank calls and stuff, getting off on the novelty of being able to use a pay phone. He didn’t know about anyone using it to set up breast milk deals or anything though, it seemed ludacris to him.
He gave me a free Canadian Club and told me I could stay as long as I wanted and keep an eye on the phones, see who was using them and take note, but that’s all he could do. Also, last call was at 11:45. The owner made them close up at midnight now. Too many fights.
I got my break at 11:42. A young woman who looked out of place. A little more haggard than the rest of the kids who looked like college students, a few more tattoos than the rest, a dye job on her hair that wasn’t as on-point as the others. She walked in, straddled up to the pay phone, and made a call.
I slowly made my way back to her. A few inches at a time, where it seemed like I was just floating across the floor, nursing another whiskey, and looking up something on my phone. I stopped when I got to the hallway where the bathrooms and the phones were, then I made a mad dash for the men’s room.
My strafe of her call gave me enough to see she was having a very-intense conversation. About what, I wasn’t sure. That’s why I stood just inside the bathroom door and listened in the best I could.
I still couldn’t make out the conversation, but I could hear her yelling about something that had to do with cabins and a lack of space. It could have just been a woman having a disagreement about an AirBNB, but no, there’s no way a 25-year-old woman would have that conversation on a pay phone at the back of a bar just before midnight on a Friday night.
I made my way out of the restroom and went right for her. I grabbed the receiver out of her hand. The three whiskeys I had in me made me bold.
“Hey, what the fuck?” She screeched at me.
I didn’t say anything into the receiver, I just let the person talk and held off the young woman with my arm. A soft-spoken man was on the other line. He was yelling, but it was in a whisper. One of the strangest things I’ve ever heard. He was finishing a statement, but I couldn’t make out what it was.
The young woman screeched at me and the phone. What she said I didn’t notice either, too focused on the voice on the line. Maybe I should have.
I heard him rasp out an address before he realized something went wrong and hung up.
“Thirty one-sixteen Farmer Road,” the soft voice crackled over the shitty connection.
I took a mental note of the address, released the troubled young woman in my grasp, dropped a $20 on the bar for Gary, and got the hell out of there.
I Googled the address on my way to my car and it looked like the only town in the state that had the exact address was down on Kodiak Island. I made travel plans to go there immediately.
It was extremely cold when I fell asleep. I know extremely cold in Alaska seems like a pointless statement to make, but it was now October, at least I thought it was.
Strangely, I actually tend to sleep better the colder it was and the one nice thing about my rustic cottage on Zen’s property was the thick quilt I was able to sleep under. It put me to sleep around what I assumed to be about 9 p.m. every night. It was like camping, where the sun and moon put you in touch with your inner alarm clock.
The sound of the front door of my room unlocking woke me up in the middle of the icy night. I instantly assumed that Zen had heard my breakout attempt earlier in the night and was coming to punish me.
Wrong. I saw the silhouette of three women standing in the open doorway of my cabin in the moonlight. They looked at me looking like ghosts, their long hair dropping down onto their collarbones, bared by revealing pajamas, even though I estimated the temperature to be under 40 degrees.
Maybe I had died in the night and these were my sensual angels ready to take me to heaven?
They squashed any thought of that when their leader walked over with a freshly-lit cigarette wafting putrid stench out of it. I hate cigarettes more than anything so there’s no way my heaven would ever allow me to interact with those awful things again.
The leader stood at the edge of my bed and I noticed she had a crumple of tin foil in her non-cigarette-smoking hand. The scent of a home-cooked meal cut through the cigarette and rumbled my stomach.
“Were you screaming earlier?” the leader muttered through smoke and looked down at me.
“Yes, “I replied with a gasp, their eerie presence having knocked the air out of me.
“Yeah, don’t do that shit,” the leader said then extended her bony hand down for a shake. “I’m Heather.”
She flicked her head over her shoulder at the other women, one blonde and one a redhead with a weird, unnatural dye job. They stood behind her like children do when their parents bring them somewhere and they’re unsure how to interact with adults.
“These are my friends, don’t worry about their names. I just call one Red and one Yellow,” Heather went on, thinking she was much more clever than she was.
“What’s going on here?” I shot back at her before she could say anything else.
“Don’t be scared, this is the best thing that ever happened to you,” Heather said coy, delivering a line like she was some kind of comic book superhero.
“My hands and wrists are so infected from these chains that I think I have sepsis, I haven’t seen my newborn son in weeks, and the only other person I’ve seen since I got here is some sort of Silence of the Lambs monster in a Halloween mask who pumps milk out of my breasts, I don’t think this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” I fired back.
“You just don’t know it yet. You’re in the intern phase. It’s not easy, I know because I did it myself, and that was in the middle of Winter. That’s a lot worse,” Heather continued.
“Excuse me, but what the hell are you talking about?” I asked back, probably as in your face as I had ever been with anyone in my life.
“Well, for starters, know that your son is fine. Zen needs to do a better job of communicating that to news. I’ll tell him that again. You’re fine and you’re making money, you just didn’t know it yet, and I snuck some better food out of the house for you,” Heather said and handed over the clump of tin foil she had.
I unwrapped the tin foil and looked down at a few drumsticks of barbeque chicken and what looked like mushy steamed broccoli. I actually hated chicken on the bone more than anything in the world, but it couldn’t have tasted any better when I immediately shoved it into my mouth.
I just stared up at Heather, chewing my meat, veins, and ligaments, still utterly mystified to what the hell she was talking about.
I don’t think Heather could sense my building rage, or maybe she just didn’t care, because she continued her Tony Stark, wise guy routine.
“You’re on The Farm,” Heather said.
The only thing harder than getting to Kodiak from Fairbanks in late-November was explaining to my very pregnant wife why I was doing it. She had been supportive before, or at least pretended to be, but she was growing concerned. Was I not going to be there when our daughter was born?
I was, I said with no real way to explain why I knew I would be. There was no way I was getting home in time for the birth if she went into labor when I was in Kodiak.
Amy was used to compromising with my career. I was lucky. She let me go and a long drive in the snow and two ferry rides later, I was in the town of Kodiak driving to the random address that I got over the phone.
Waiting for me at the address was a small, abandoned house. Boarded up, with an overgrown gravel driveway with a rusted Volvo in it, the place looked like a lot of the houses you found in Alaska where it seems someone just got up and got abducted by aliens one day and left everything behind.
This phenomenon was more clear inside when I kicked in the front door and stepped in with my mag lite lighting the way in the near darkness of the early sunset. Family portraits still lined the walls, there was a bowl on the coffee table with a spoon stuck into a hardened bowl of Fruit Loops, there were late-90s porn magazines laid out across the bed in the bedroom. Someone got out of here in a hurry.
The place broke my heart when I stopped and looked at the family portrait. It was a young couple, probably late-20s, with a boy who looked to be about 12, just about to hit puberty. He probably was only a few months away from discovering how messed up his family was, but the smile on his face made it seem he was still naive about his life.
Hopefully whatever horrible fate I’m sure soon found the boy was swift and painless. His family actually being abducted by aliens may have been a best case scenario. That might sound like a joke, but I work in law enforcement in Alaska, trust me, it’s not.
I made my way to the back of the house where a laundry room awaited me, clothes still in the dryer, a laundry basket half-filled with folded clothes rested on top of the washing machine. The darkness of the situation kept sticking deeper into me and I almost didn’t notice the pearl in the property resting at the back of the yard out the back door next to me.
I braced against the wind and falling snow to make it out to what looked like your standard, rural, backyard tool shed. I pushed my way through the tall grass of the yard and soon found myself in the rotting wooden shack.
The space was just one room, filled with dusty tools, rusted lawnmowers, and a shit ton of cobwebs. Basically, exactly what you would expect, except for one thing – a crumpled sleeping bag lying on the floor in the corner topped with a blood-smeared beige bra.
I dropped down to look at the scene. I figured it was an old squat from someone who stayed there in the Summer. It was way too cold for these kinds of situations in Alaska practically by the time October hit. The homeless had to find somewhere inside to sleep.
Yet, the blood on the bra was fresh. It wiped off onto my hands when I picked it up. On top of that, picking it up revealed an abandoned butcher’s knife, also streaked with hot, red blood.
I put my hand on the cold pistol on my hip.
Once you’ve been on too many crime scenes to count, you can get a feeling for when you’ve stumbled upon one, especially if they’re sinister, and this one felt sinister.
I stashed the knife and the bra in evidence bags and planned to come back in daylight. I didn’t want to get into a chase through the woods or get ambushed with limited vision.
But I thought too late. I didn’t even hear whoever was there sneak up on me, all I felt was my entire body quickly go numb, and then I fell to the ground.
The Farm? This place had a cute, little nickname. Actually, this may have been Hell.
Heather kept hard selling me that I was not in some version of Hell. I was actually in the world’s first, and most-lucrative breast milk farm.
Zen, the really nice guy who knocked me out and drug me out into the wilderness to lock me up and force me to give him my breast milk ran a lucrative business online selling breast milk. He had been doing this for a few years now. He would kidnap what Heather referred to as “unhappy” new mothers, take them out into these cabins and harvest their milk.
I was an unhappy recent mother? Yes, Heather explained. Okay, I probably was, I had to admit, after I fought through the initial reaction to feel like I had to stand up for myself on general principle.
Apparently Zen would eventually get the mothers to realize that this life would be better. He would cut them in on the business, and their job would then be to go find other women to jump in.
She promised me I would eventually love it. I mean, it’s better than sitting around a daycare place taking care of other people’s brats and trying to convince my baby daddy I was worth marrying. Her words, not mine, though mine probably wouldn’t be far off if I really thought about it.
She explained that I just needed to get through the next few months, produce good milk, and Zen would eventually make me one of them. Then I would get to live unlocked in one of the cabins, set my own schedule, and get to go out and “recruit.”. It sounded lovely.
Her next move was to further introduce me to Red so she could give me a second opinion, and an opinion from someone who Heather said had an even more conventionally-enjoyable life than myself. She was married and already had a kid when she joined and she was much happier on The Farm.
Red did confirm all of this, though with far less enthusiasm than Heather, which fueled the fire in my head that was assuming that all of these women were on drugs and that’s how Zen was pulling all of this off. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that Red’s down-to-Earth and more genuine endorsement didn’t do at least a little bit to convince that maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.
I wasn’t in the cult just yet though. I had questions, namely: what would happen if I tried to escape and he caught me?
“Don’t,” Red started in with wide eyes. “Just be quiet, we’ll bring you good food every night, and before you know it, you’ll be better than you even once were.”
I listened and I didn’t completely rule out Heather’s pitch all night as I tossed and turned until the sun came up. They may have had a point.
I was going to die in that shed. I was going to either bleed or freeze to death. I heard both were similar ways to go.
Whoever snuck up on me had stuck a knife somewhere into my spine and almost paralyzed me instantly. I couldn’t feel my extremities and trying to get up and walk was a struggle I never could have imagined. It took three tries just to get up onto my knees so I could pull myself to the open door as they ran away.
I used my upper body to drag the rest of my body out into the night and backyard. Once there, I looked out to the house that I’m pretty sure was only about 10 yards from the shed, but now seemed like an entire football field away.
Making it to my car at that point seemed impossible.
The next day unfolded the same as every other had, though I now I had a newfound calm that I think Zen noticed, because he seemed to let his guard down – taking more time with the pumping, lingering in my cabin, and constantly looking me in the eye. Knowing that he was invested in not killing me at least brought peace to me. I was an asset, not a liability.
I think Zen rewarded my calm by bringing more, and better, food that night for dinner. He brought me a (cold) rack of ribs and some corn on the cob. I don’t even really like BBQ, but I destroyed the meal once he left like a starving dog.
My first full meal in weeks, the rich food put me to sleep rather quickly.
I woke up to Heather and her minions standing in my door again. I began to think Heather was having them do this weird song and dance where they stood in the doorway until I noticed them like they were ghosts or something. Possibly an intimidation thing?
Heather and her friends came in with some more chicken. I ate it down in front of them and didn’t say anything about the ribs (which I much preferred to chicken) that Zen gave me earlier.
Heather started spewing out more information to me. About how Zen actually gave them money for health insurance and set up 401ks for them. It was actually like working at a big corporation, except this one actually cared about you.
I quickly pegged Heather as one of those people who would hand out information even if it didn’t work in her favor. You could ask her a question and she would hesitate, clearly knowing that she was revealing too much, but she would go on anyway, unable to not show her intelligence.
I learned a few more things on that second night. We weren’t too far from Wasilla. The property was a gated property within a gated property and was vast. Zen was friends with all the cops in the area so they left him alone. Zen had girls all around the state that worked for him, scouting, and sometimes bringing in girls. They were sometimes even able to get girls to come to work on their own accord.
This didn’t seem believable, but then again, I was locked up in a cabin in the woods getting my breast milk harvested every day by a man in a mask, so I think everything was believable at that point. Plus, Heather didn’t seem like a liar because she constantly admitted to things that made her look horrible. I strangely didn’t like her, but I respected her, and trusted her because she was who she was and didn’t apologize for it.
Heather and her friends left me alone again in my cabin after an hour of one-sided conversation that eventually ended with Heather telling me her opinions on the current season of The Bachelor, which I wasn’t even capable of watching, and wouldn’t have watched if I could anyway.
I waited until Heather and her friends’ footsteps were a safe distance away and took the bones of the three drumsticks of chicken she left with me. I ripped the last little bits of meat off the bones and took to the top of the mattress I was resting on.
I pulled open the seam of the mattress, revealing a little cubby hole I had squirreled into the fabric and slipped the bones into the mattress and covered it again with my pillow and tried to go to sleep.
I rested a little easier that night.
I still don’t know how I did it, but I got to my car and was able to get my cell phone out and call 911. They were there within 15 minutes and I was on my way to the emergency room. The paramedic in the ambulance assured me that I was going to live, but I kind of didn’t want to. I would rather have died than have to call Amy and tell her what happened.
What happened was that I was at least temporarily paralyzed. The doctor informed me from my hospital bed before he punched Amy’s phone number on my phone and I told her from the hospital bed with hot tears running down my eyes.
Amy cried as soon as she heard the tone of my phone through the wire. She knew it couldn’t have been good.
I was paralyzed, nearly dead, someone had tried to murder me, and worst yet, I would have to stay on Kodiak Island for at least a three months before they would be able to transport me back to Haines. Not only would I miss the birth of our baby, I wouldn’t be able to see her in our own home for months.
Amy and I just cried on the line for 10 minutes.
We got into a routine. Zen came and did his thing with me and got a little bit nicer every time. One day he just waltzed into the cabin not wearing his mask and I looked at the face of a decent-looking guy who was probably around 40 – tall, broad, five-o-clock shadow, a strong face, I would have thought he looked decent if I saw him back in a bar in my previous life.
He did his same routine – pump milk in the afternoon and bring me dinner at night. The only difference was he moved his daily kiss from the crown of my head to my cheek. The food kept getting better too. I even got pork chops and applesauce one night and a ribeye another.
Heather followed her same routine. She would show up in the middle of the night with some leftovers that weren’t as good as whatever Zen brought me then she would start venting about her day.
I started to realize that Heather was a drinker. I could smell stale vodka on her breath when she talked and she ranted and rambled in the way that only a drunk Alaskan girl could. She usually complained about the other girls on the farm that she didn’t like and people who were idiots around town when she ran errands.
It seemed that Heather got drunker and drunker everytime she showed up. She got so bad one night that she sat down on my bed and actually fell asleep for a few minutes before Red woke her up.
I sensed something was falling apart in Heather’s life. I know that someone who lives on a slave labor breast milk farm probably didn’t have much life to chip away at, but I felt whatever granite Heather had when she showed up and started talking to me was starting to crumble.
I officially confirmed this when she showed up alone and slept over one night on the foot of my bed.
Amy had enough. She couldn’t deal with the fact that my selfishness had resulted in me being paralyzed on an island across the state and was going to haunt our family for the rest of our lives. She refused to come to the hospital and rehab center to visit me.
Eventually she stopped talking to me. I didn’t know when our daughter was born. I didn’t know what her name was.
My co-workers also refused to share any information with me about the case. They claimed it was confidential now because a national agency was involved, but I could also tell they were simply pissed I had gone rogue and gotten myself hurt. It looked terrible for all of my supervisors. I might not have a job, even if I got my legs back.
The only time I ever got any kind of update about the situation was when I got a random call from my son. I think he had taken his mom’s phone number and figured out which number I was calling from when my wife didn’t pick up.
I answered the call practically before the first ring was even over.
I heard my son’s voice whisper back.
“Yeah, it’s dad. It’s dad. What’s going on. How is your mom?” I asked.
“I don’t know?” My son answered back.
“What? What? You don’t know?” I yelled into the receiver.
The line went dead. The phone didn’t answer the next 10 times I called back.
I could sense Zen was going to try and make an official move. I had been around men long enough to know the look and the posture. He looked at me and cinched his eyelids to the point where he could barely see. He put a soft hand on my shoulder and let it linger there.
This was Zen’s way of opening the door for me. If I was interested I was supposed to rub up against him, or touch his body so he would have the green flag to move forward.
I didn’t. I squirmed out of Zen’s grasp and laid down on the bed. I stared up at the wooden slats of the ceiling and started to cry.
As I just said, I have interacted with enough men, or should I say boys, in this life to understand how best to get your message across. I knew Zen was going to sit down on the end of the bed before he even did it.
I started rambling through my tears and sobs as soon as I felt the coils of the mattress stress under his 200-pound-plus weight.
“I…I…I…I…don’t know what is happening, but I’m done,” I started in, barely able to get any words out I was so shaken.
Zen leaned over to me and offered a comforting hand on my shoulder. I let it rest there, didn’t try to get away this time and rambled on.
“I’m tired, I’m cold, I’m hungry, I have bug bites all over my body. My sores hurt. My entire body hurts. Please, please, please, I don’t want to die.”
Zen put his entire body around me and squeezed. It felt like my first boyfriend in high school. A strangely-caring offensive lineman who died at the age of 19 in a logging accident.
He stayed like that until my crying stopped. Then he gave me one more hard squeeze and left.
Now I know that you’re starting to wonder what happened to the tension in my situation. Wasn’t there a search party and a whole squad of F.B.I. agents kicking down doors all around Alaska looking for me? Wasn’t my mom crying herself to sleep every night, driving up and down the state’s highways, looking for my bloated body by the side of the road, or looking for me hooking on the sidewalk, having ditched my sad life?
The answer: Yes, I believe all of that was happening, but I honestly was too far gone to even think about it. My life started and ended in the walls of that cabin at that point. That was all I had. Some ribs, some steak, some macaroni and cheese that I think was homemade. That was all I lived for at that point.
I always made sure to never cry in front of Heather. I always stayed strong and mostly just listened. I acted like a man on his best behavior to try and win over a woman early in their relationship – just ask the right questions, and listen.
I did this for what I believed was a good month and then Heather finally let down the golden gate. She invited me to come for her cabin for the night. She had the key to my chains. She could get me out as long as we came back within a few hours.
It didn’t take long for me to agree and be led, albeit at knife point, to Heather’s cabin, which she explained was a lot closer to the road that led to the property, and Zen’s “manor.” That’s what she called it.
Heather bragged about her cabin and how luxurious it was that I was shocked when she led me into a cabin that looked like a slightly-better version of my cabin. There were no shackles, there was a real bed, what looked like a working shower, and a working stove, but that was all that was different.
Still, Heather gave me a tour of the thing like it was an episode of MTV Cribs.
I went through the motions. I smiled and fawned when I needed to. I listened and I walked back through the dark forest with Heather after an hour or two.
I slept like a baby. Everything was going to plan.
I called up my co-workers after the mysterious call with my son. One, my wife had to legally let me communicate with my son. Two, had the local police noticed anything was off with their situation?
William, who was filling in for me in my absence assured me that everything was fine with my wife and son, other than that she wasn’t talking to me of course. He had seen her at the grocery store a few weeks before with the newborn and my son.
William also noted that Amy had recently called the station and let them know that she was going to stay with her mom up in Anchorage for a few weeks and they wanted to let them know in case I called to check in on them. It was a smart move by whoever abducted them to hold the authorities with that misinformation, but it didn’t get past me.
My wife had a horrible relationship with her mother. She hadn’t talked to her in almost a decade after she finally came to grips with the childhood abuse she suffered at her hands. There was no way they went up to stay with her mother.
Heather only opened up more once I started going to her house. She talked about her relationship with Zen. She referred to herself as his “bottom bitch.” I couldn’t believe a woman would openly relish that term, but she did, very enthusiastically.
And I believed her. She seemed to have a lot of special privileges, including access to a Civic parked outside of her cabin that she left the keys in.
However, perhaps I should not have believed everything that Heather said. I discovered a lie that she had planted in regards to that beat-up Civic one night when she brought me home with her and she passed out drunk off dry gin.
I used the opening to search her cabin. I started in the kitchen, pinching some of her prescription pills and CBD oil. I next moved to the living room, making sure to move as softly as possible as not to wake her.
Most-importantly, I found what looked to be the keys to the Civic underneath her jacket on the kitchen counter. I didn’t test them, but they were Honda-branded and I sure as hell didn’t see any other Hondas out there in the woods.
I put the keys back where I found them and joined Heather on the bed. I laid there wide awake until I felt her stir and I woke her up. It was time for me to go back home.
William and the rest of the guys at the station took my distress call about Amy and made a report, but there wasn’t much they could do. They said they would call her cell phone and she would always sound fine and assure them that things were okay. They talked to my son as well and he seemed fine as well.
William and crew reasoned that Amy would eventually have to go into the station in Anchorage for a welfare check, but they legally couldn’t ask for it for a few more weeks.
Meanwhile, I just had to wait in my bed in rehab, trying to Google a way to find Amy’s mom’s phone number in Anchorage.
Zen was coming to my cabin three times per-day now. He started popping in at random times in the middle of the day seeming sweaty and disoriented. It seemed like he had been working out in the field or something, the faint smell of dirt all over him.
He wouldn’t do anything on these midday visits. Just sit in a chair on the other side of the cabin and catch his breath. Sometimes he would burp or cough in an exaggerated way that made it seem like he wanted me to start a conversation, but that was it.
I began to suspect my time was running out. Zen was either going to kill me or bring me into his house to be his bride or something, or compete with Heather to be his “bottom bitch.”
I’m not sure which sounded worse.
Heather came over that night with a rotisserie chicken. A whole chicken. We ate it with our hands as she talked about some guy on The Bachelorette who was a “healer” that she found really interesting.
It was getting harder and harder to stomach her. Especially because she had promised me that I would be reunited with my baby son soon and she had yet to make any progress on that after weeks of listening to her drunken bullshit.
I suspected that Red and Yellow had grown tired of her ways as well since they hadn’t come by with her in a couple of weeks. Just me and her. Just me and her thoughts, and problems, and raspy, grating voice that had been smothered with cigarette smoke for years.
Heather did her usual routine of talking to me without taking a breath for 45 minutes and then passing out on my bed right where my feet would go when I would sleep. It was one of those things that would usually just be a mild annoyance with someone who didn’t have the personality of rancid milk that became infuriating when you got to know someone and really didn’t like them.
My heart was racing when Heather passed out that night. I reached behind my pillow, found my slit in my mattress and started pulling out my arsenal.
My arsenal? About 15 knives made from whittled animal bones – mostly chicken, some beef, and a few pork, though the pork and beef were a little too thick and strangely brittle to be effective. Those chicken bones that Heather was so kind to give me almost every knight were razor sharp and could easily saw through the wooden frame of my bed.
Those pork and beef bones were perfect for going after the hole of a lock though and I had thousands of hours to experiment with what worked and what didn’t. It took me about a month to get it down to where I could pop all of the locks on me off.
I managed to get all the locks off without Heather noticing. I actually heard her start to snore when I popped the final one off of my ankle and felt a cold shot of freedom wash over my body.
I needed to push that chill out. I needed hot, red adrenaline to do what I was going to do next. I started pumping in breaths in and out as fast as I possibly could and then went in and out of holding my breath until my face was burning.
I made my next move in one muscle flow so I couldn’t give myself any chance to pull back or hesitate, think about it, and stop myself. I took the sharpest of the chicken bones I had. The back bone I covertly kept after I shared the meal with Heather. How ironic that semi-translucent bone that she thought she was being so kind when she gave me was now sliding through her windpipe and draining the life out of her.
What a tragedy. I watched the dark red blood, almost blue, really, pour out of her neck and onto my stained-beige, formally-white sheets.
I only gave myself a few moments to enjoy my kill before I was out the door and a war path for Heather’s cabin.
The keys. The keys. The keys. Where the fuck were the keys? They weren’t in that spot on the kitchen counter. Of course they weren’t. That wasn’t a spot where you’d usually keep something like that. It had obviously been a spur of the moment placement. Why had I acted like it was a guarantee that they would be there?
Either way, the result was me trashing the cabin, frantically looking for the keys to the car. I swear I tore that place up and down and couldn’t even find a hint of them. Did she keep them in a secret compartment? Did I know how to hotwire a car? Was that even a real, actual thing?
Check the ignition of the car and the actual car idiot. I did. Nothing. Not in the ignition. Not on the dash. Not in the rear-view mirror. Not in the center console.
Heather had them on her body. Her body that was bleeding out back in my bed. Her body that someone may have found by now. That’s definitely where they were.
I ran back up the dark trail that took me down to Heather’s cabin. It wasn’t as easy this time. The pure adrenaline of the kill had faded, replaced by guilt, anxiety, and fear, but I had no reason to be scared. Heather was the only person who seemed to stalk those trails at night, or her harmless friends. I was safe.
There was no one else on the trail and no one else in the cabin when I rushed back in and started searching Heather’s body, quickly drenching my hands with syrupy blood, until I found my salvation in her front pocket. The Honda keys, oh, I could already envision myself unlocking the thing with a chirp and diving in.
That’s exactly what I was doing within a few minutes. I now laugh at myself when I reflect and think about how I buckled my seatbelt before I put the car in gear.
I had no idea where the road from the cabin went. No idea how to get to the highway. The thing might have just gone straight to Zen’s manor of torture and pain for all I knew. I didn’t care. I was going wherever I was going, armed with my pocketful of sharpened bones and the rage of a woman tied up for more than two months.
The road went past a few cabins just a little bit down the road from Heather’s. Could I really just drive out of there and leave all those other women behind? I pumped the brakes.
Yes, yes I absolutely could. The best thing for them would be for me to get out of there, inform the police, and for them to break the whole thing up peacefully. Me stopping and trying to rescue them would most likely just end up with all of us being killed.
I drove right on past the cabin and the next cabin that came up and then another. I finally found myself stopping when I reached a two-story farm house perched on top of a little knoll of grass above a garden and field of crops.
The place would have looked quite lovely if it weren’t for the situation. I imagined it sparkling on a rare sunny, Alaskan summer afternoon.
I shouldn’t have.
My day dreaming slowed me down in realizing that an ultra-thick fence separated my newly-acquainted Civic and the rest of the road ahead. There was no way I was driving through that thing with my little sedan.
My best option was to get out and to try and climb the thing. On top of that, Heather had said we were on a compound within a compound. There was no telling how large and secure the space past that fence was.
I may have bitten off more than I could chew, and that’s what I thought even before I heard the footsteps approach in the mud from outside of the car.
The eerie information about Amy’s whereabouts at least motivated me to push myself as hard as I possibly could in physical therapy. I swore as soon as I could get transported off the island, I was going back to Haines and paying someone to drive me around to track down Amy and my sons.
My physical therapist warned me against pushing myself too hard, but I got myself on track to get out of there at least two weeks early. I had the days left etched into the frame of my bed at the rehab and whittled them away each night before I went to sleep.
There were 14 lines in the wood left when I got a call on my cell phone that woke me in the middle of the night.
“Daddy,” my son’s voice leaked out the line.
“Dylan, where are you?”
“I don’t know, but they’re nice to me here,” he answered.
“Where are you?” I pleaded again.
The call went dead.
I started to figure out a way to get out of the facility even earlier than anticipated. It wasn’t going to be easy.
There wasn’t enough time between hearing the footsteps approach and feeling the glass next to my face breaking out and showering me. I screamed just before I felt the familiar hug of Zen’s bulky hand wrap around my neck.
The teddy bear, high school boyfriend who played nice was replaced with a football player blitzing an opposing quarterback in crunch time with a thirst for blood. He pulled me out of the car through the broken window and I felt myself get lifted up into the air.
I imagined I looked like a losing professional wrestler, being propped up into the air for the delight of the Cheeto-drunk crowd swilling Mountain Dew and Monster energy drinks. This struggle was not staged though. I came crashing down into the mud with a punishing thud that I didn’t think was even possible.
I thought I’d never get my breath back again as I laid there on the ground looking up at the unmasked Zen looking down at me, unshaven, and tired-eyed. He looked more annoyed than angered.
He reached down and grabbed me by my long hair and drug me to the house kicking and screaming. I looked up at the yellow lights of the house all on inside as he pulled me across the rough gravel walkway that led up to the front door of the home.
The intense smell of must overcame me as soon as I was in the house and lying on a hardwood floor. I tried to scream up and plead with Zen, but no luck. He dropped his foot down into my belly, knocking the wind out of me again.
I thought about the chicken bone knives stored in my pocket. I had designed some to be effective when thrown. Well, as much as I could. I used what energy I had to reach down into my pockets and throw one of the little sharpened bones up at Zen as he dropped down to me.
Right in the neck. The razor-sharp bone ripped across his soft neck and created a thin scratch. Nothing too damaging, but enough to pain and distract him away from me for a few moments so I could catch my breath and roll over.
I started to crawl back to the door he dragged me in through. My sad attempt was greeted by the slippered-feet of an emaciated woman. I followed her feet up to her torso where I saw a woman of similar age dressed in a familiar nightgown.
It was Red, standing over me with fear in her eyes. A thought flashed in my mind at that moment. I’m still not sure if it’s true, just an assumption. Red was winning over Zen as his new “bottom bitch,” and that’s why Heather was getting increasingly loose-lipped, frustrated, drunk, and detached from Red.
Oh no, I thought. I was just trading my death by Zen with a death by a crazed woman. I reached into my pocket and dug for my bone weapons, slicing my hands open in the process.
I was able to get a couple out and wound up to fling them at Red, but the movement of her mouth stopped me.
“No,” Red whispered to me.
I looked over my shoulder and saw Zen recovering behind me. Oh no, was this going to be one more breast milk pyramid scheme pitch from another woman who was on the Kool-Aid?
I could just stop and everything would be okay and fine and dandy, right?
No. Red stepped up to me and pulled me up to my feet by my hair. However, this wasn’t a violent, menacing pull, I could tell this was more of a get me the fuck away from Zen as fast possible, logistical pull.
Red stood next to me and looked to Zen as he lumbered to us. What was this bitch trying to pull? Did she think we were going to fight off this Leatherface clone in hand-to-hand combat?
No, I didn’t even notice it at first, but Red had something on her hip, a small dagger, maybe a letter opener. She squeezed it tight as Zen approached.
Red looked at me out of the corner of her eye when Zen was just a couple steps away. She didn’t have to say it, fight. I knew what I had to do.
Zen came at us like a professional wrestler again, grabbing us both by the chests of our shirts in a move I have to admit was fairly impressive. He threw us together like rag dolls and knocked us away from each other.
It then became a game of who would he pick? I prayed it would be Red. It wasn’t. He went after me.
I did my best to gather my weapons with my ripped-up hand. I slashed at him, but missed and only further cut my hand with my organic knife.
Zen knocked me to the ground and dove down on top of me. He got his hands around my neck again and went to work on choking me out.
I was starting to black out when I saw Red in the corner of my vision. I think Zen and I had forgotten about her, lost in the heat of our battle that he was winning rather easily.
My eyes were closed when Red took the upper hand. My world was black when I felt hot liquid splash across my face.
I opened my eyes to see Red’s dagger stuck hard into Zen’s neck. I watched as she twisted it deep inside and felt his grip loosen on my neck.
I could breathe again, in the smaller, and bigger picture. My war was over.
One of the security guards at the rehab facility was a retired cop. I told him my story and he showed me how I could get out of the facility earlier than I was supposed to. It was simple. The truth was I could leave whenever I wanted to. It was just recommended that I stay for the amount of time they were supposed to keep me.
I paid the security guard $20 to drive me to the ferry, I made my way back to Anchorage and eventually caught flights home back to Haines.
The house was freezing when I got back, the dead of January. There wasn’t any sign of a Christmas tree anywhere, telling me that Amy, Dylan, and my baby son whose name I did not yet know, had been gone for quite some time.
I tried to ask Red what the deal was, but she didn’t seem like she wanted to explain. She just led me to a backhouse not far from the kitchen where Zen tried to kill me.
She walked me up to a nursery lined with babies and babies, most crying, some being tended to by women who looked a lot like me and Red, tired, rural, Alaskan gals, who had seen the harder side of life.
Red made no announcement about Zen’s grisly death back at the house and the freedom they’d soon find. I had a feeling some of these women actually would not be excited about getting to go back to the real world, but they would have to.
So would I. This hit home as soon as Red led me over to the corner of the nursery where my baby girl, Mae, was crying for me.
I stopped and stood over Mae. I worried she wouldn’t recognize me. How many times had our eyes even truly met? Less than 100, possibly? Heartbreaking, but ultimately my ending was happy, though I know not everyone’s was.
And just like that Mae stopped crying and I reached down for her.
Amy, Dylan, and James (my newborn) arrived home one night, unannounced, having ignored my calls, even after the news of their rescue broke.
Amy still wouldn’t talk to me, but Dylan would, and she allowed me to see James. She didn’t kick me out, just gave me the cold shoulder.
Honestly things aren’t much different than they were a lot of the time before all of this happened, haha – I spend a lot of time watching T.V. on the couch and Amy doesn’t want to talk to me.
The main difference is Amy’s formerly blonde hair has been died a grating, sharp shade of red that doesn’t look right and she’s yet to let it return to its normal color, a few weeks after coming back home.
I guess some stories do have happy endings.