There I am, just walking down the street. Ice-cream cone in hand, I'm just thinking something stupid like what's on TV right now or what we'll have for dinner tonight.
I don't notice the big FedEx van creeping up behind me until it's too late.
The doors swing open. I'm pulled inside and tied up within the space of about five seconds. The doors slam closed and the car speeds off.
"Where to this time?" I ask uninterestedly.
"Shut up, kid," the kidnapper says.
He doesn't look like a thug. He's wearing a suit and tie and has thick-rimmed glasses. He never told me his name. Which is fair, considering I never told him mine.
"Nice haircut," I snicker. "Looks like a carrot threw up on you."
He has an orange mess on top of his head that I'm always making fun of.
"Shut up, kid," he repeated.
The van hits a bump and I'm thrown out of my seat. Since my arms are tied, I fall flat on my face.
Red-head picks me up and roughly tosses me back on the seat.
"Oof," I grunt upon impact.
I shake my head and look up at him. "Is it just me or are you guys getting more violent each time?"
"Shut up, kid."
"Come on," I coo. "This is what, the twelfth time you've kidnapped me? We should at least get to know each other."
"Shut. Up. Kid."
"Fine, be rude," I say, leaning back in the seat. "You guys owe me five dollars for the ice cream, by the way."
But I know that I'll never get it.
We pull up to an abandoned house in a sketchy neighborhood about twenty minutes later. Pumpkin-head pushes me out of the van doors.
"Huh, a house," I say. "A serious bump up from the old warehouses you guys would take me to. The boss give you a raise?"
"Just get inside," he mutters.
"Sure thing, Weasley!"
We walk inside and turn left into a kitchen. A woman is sitting at the table. She has too much lip-stick and curly hair the color of a tomato. These people are big on redheads for some reason.
"Hey Wilma," I say. "I met up with Archie earlier. We had some mind-blowing conversations."
She ignores me and looks up at Tiger.
"Anyone follow you?"
She glances at me. "Put him in the basement."
"Come on, kid," he says, pushing me in front of him.
"No problem, Arnold."
"Who?" he asks, giving me a confused look.
"Arnold," I repeat. "You know? From the Magic School Bus? Yeah, I know. I'm running out of material, but come on! This is like the eighth time we've done this! Give me a break, okay?"
Robin Hood lets out an irritated grunt and pushes me down the stairs. By some miracle I'm able to regain my balance before I hit the bottom. Sometimes I forget that these people mean business.
Henry VIII shoves me into a chair and quickly ties me to it. Without another word, he goes back up the stairs and closes the door, leaving me in the dark.
I let out a shuddering breath. Last time they left me in the basement for hours before coming down to interrogate me. How long would it be now?
After what feels like ten minutes, I begin to quietly sing to myself to pass the time. For some sick reason, I always like to sing about kidnapped people when I'm alone here. There's "Chloroform Girl" by Polkadot Cadaver and "Her Eyes Say Yes" by Hit the Lights. Both songs are about some seriously crazy people who kidnap the girls they like.
But that's not my situation at all, is it? In this case, it's the boy being kidnapped. And it's not by a psycho who has a crush on me. No, it's a couple of redheads who don't know my name. Sure, these people are crazy. But I know how to get out. I always figure a way out.
"So when the blindfold starts to slip," I sing. "And the rope starts to rip, and slowly I start to give-"
Suddenly, the door to the basement opens and the light turns on. Finally. I've been waiting for a half hour.
"Hey, look who it is!" I laugh. "Pippi Longstockings herself!"
"Very funny," she says grumpily.
"So Annie, how have things been going at the orphanage? I hope your toothbrush is still intact."
She gives me a puzzled look. "How come you're not afraid?"
"I'll admit I was pretty freaked out the first couple times," I say casually. "I mean, who wouldn't be? But come on, now it's just getting annoying."
She doesn't reply and I get frustrated. "I had a date tonight you know? It's a girl I've liked for a long time. Now I'll have to explain to her that I stood her up because I was kidnapped! I'll be lucky if she ever talks to me again!"
"If you just told us you're name we'd let you go!" she barks.
"What is wrong with you people?" I cry. "Nobody just randomly kidnaps people and demands their name! My mom has a major freak-out every time I disappear. And the police have been looking for months! I don't know why this hasn't been in the news yet!"
"Why can't you just tell us your freaking name?!" she yells.
I stare at her, wondering for the billionth time if this isn't all some disturbing dream. But it isn't. So all I say is, "I will when you tell me why you want it so badly."
Rage fills her eyes. "You know I can't!"
"No I don't!" I scream. "You say that but I don't know any of this! I don't know who you are or what you want or where you get your freaking FedEx trucks! You guys are nutbags! I can't even think of a reason to why you need my name, but I promise you that until I know that it's not for some evil reason, you will not get it!"
I breathe heavily, still fuming. She looks at me with disbelief, as if I were the crazy one. Who knows? Maybe I am.
"Well," she says haughtily. "That was honest. If only you could be so open with your name."
I take a big, shaky breath and stare at her. A serious headache is forming and I'm starting to get nervous. But I still try to play it cool.
"Sorry Ariel, can't do. So you can just drop me off on your way to your Wendy's commercial audition."
"You're really continuing with the redhead jokes?" she asks. "Like I haven't heard them all already. Carrots, Madeleine, Reba, Ginny, Strawberry Shortcake, Anne, Blossom, Daphne. One kid called me Merida last week. Do you even know what that means?"
"Uh, no?" I guess Jessie here doesn't watch many Pixar films.
She shakes her head. "Why I am telling you this? You're just another potato."
"A what?!" Maybe these people are even crazier than I thought.
"Well, there's one more thing we can try."
"What?" I ask.
I don't hear Redhead Guy come up behind me until two seconds before the baseball bat hits my head.
I wake up seeing colors in front of my face.
"He's coming to," says a voice. It's a girl's voice. A very pretty girl's voice.
"Pirrty gryl," I mumble.
"What's your name, kid?" another voice asks. It's a man's voice. A big man's voice.
"Just let me do the talking," says pretty girl.
A color comes into focus. Red. No, orange. An orangey red. Like fire mixed with traffic cones.
"Why yur all red?" I say. What's wrong with my brain?
"I'm all red," she says. "Now what are you? Are you Richard?"
"I hait Rikarrd! He steels ma puddin'."
"What is your name?"
"No, not Richard. But what?"
"Hee-hee," I giggle. "Yu sayed butt! Ha ha!"
"What is your name?" pretty girl cries angrily.
"Seris!" I slur.
"Did he say Sirius?"
"I luv Sareus!" I yell. "Hes sooo coo! Wit his Im yur godfader ting!"
"What is the kid rambling about now?" says big man. "I think this kid is a Harry Potter geek or something. He called me Weasley earlier."
"Shut up," pretty girl snaps. "What is your name?"
"I think he said Cyrus! Is your name Cyrus? Hello, Cyrus?"
"Wha da'ya want?" I murmur in recognition to my own name.
The next thing I remember is waking up in my front yard, still tied up.