She wanted her mommy and daddy so she nervously stepped towards the door. Standing an arm’s length away, she reached out and pushed it open. Her head peered inside before she took a step inside. There was her father sprawled out on the floor between the bed and the broken window. There was her mother laid out on the bed, her hands above her and her feet tied with ropes to the bottom legs of the bed. A tube was connected to her face, to her mouth, moving somewhat as if something were oozing through it. Then there was something else Lacey noticed in the room. It was a pair of shoes sticking out from behind the curtain which extended beyond the window on both sides.
With lightning speed, a figure of a woman sprang out from behind the curtain, grabbing Lacey and putting a hand over her mouth to keep her from screaming.
The woman picked her up, pulling her over to a small table on the other side of the bed where there were two wooden chairs with ugly, faded and worn out cushioning.
There was a rope on the table.
The scared little girl was forced into one of the chairs, then held in place with one arm while the woman began to tie her up with her other hand. Then she put a bandana into Lacey’s mouth and tied it up behind her head so she couldn’t speak.
The woman wore clothes that Lacey thought were more appropriate for a man. She had on torn, dirty blue jeans, a t-shirt and an unbuttoned flannel shirt with the sleeves slightly rolled up. Her hair was medium length and mostly dark, but messy, and almost greasy looking. It took Lacey a moment to realize it was the strange woman from the Mexican restaurant when her mommy had first gotten sick.
As she was finishing with the bandana in the girl’s mouth, the door to the room opened and the clerk stepped inside. He closed the door behind him right away, then looked at the broken window tsking to himself, mumbling about the cost of replacing the glass.
His attention shifted from the broken window to the woman and the girl just after making sure the curtain was completely closed.
“Was all of this really necessary?” he asked her, waving his hand towards the man on the ground, the girl and the broken window.
“It ain’t like I wanted to do it. He done busted the window in.”
Waving her excuse off like he would a fly, the front desk clerk walked towards Lacey and knelt down in front of her.
“Lets put this one in front of the television,” he said over Lacey’s head to the restaurant woman.
“Come here and help me move her.”
Lacey’s feet did not touch the floor so pushing the chair was easy. The clerk took a few steps back and pointed to a spot just in front of the television. He grabbed the remote control off of the top of it, then pressed a button to turn it on.
While he was searching for something for the girl to watch, the woman pushed the chair from behind to the place the man had indicated, overshooting it just a tad and nudging him in the foot.
Immediately she looked up at him with fear in her eyes.
He was already staring at her when her eyes reached his. His eyes grew wide and evil.
“Mind the shoes,” he grumbled.
His expression changed immediately as he looked down at the girl, pointing to the television screen.
“You may watch this for the time being,” he told her.
The woman let out a sigh of relief.
Lacey could not move, but she heard a noise come from behind her. She thought it might be her father waking up. The clerk and the woman heard it too, and quickly moved over to him.
“I’ll hold his feet first. You tie them up,” he said to the woman, who already had a rope in her hands.
They tied up Artie’s feet, then his hands behind his back, and put a bandana gag in his mouth as well. Before he was able to come to completely, the woman hit him on the back of the head with something Lacey could not see, but she heard the impact and her father stopped making any noises at all.
The girl sat in front of the television, trying to figure a way to help her mommy and daddy, but she was stuck. She couldn’t focus on the television shows through her tears. She cried a lot.
The man from the front office had left shortly after Artie had been tied up, but came back three cartoons later with some Mexican food from where the woman worked. He handed a bag to the woman, who was sitting in the other chair by the small table. He dropped another, smaller bag in the lap of the girl.
He glanced at the girl’s father on the floor.
“Has he been any trouble?”
“Nah. He ain’t doin’ nuthin.”
His attention turned to the girl’s mother on the bed.
“And how is our other guest?”
The woman laughed and said something that Lacey couldn’t quite understand about feeding and getting fattened up.
Lacey tried to yell through her gag words that would have been, “You leave my mommy alone.”.
This brought the man’s attention to her.
“Ah yes. Then there’s you my dear. Well I’ve brought you something to eat.”
He stepped towards her and pulled the bandana from her mouth.
Lacey stared up at him with tears streaming down her face.
“Since you were there last night I assume you eat this, “he paused making an expression of distaste, “faux Mexican food.”
Lacey said she didn’t want it. She said that her mommy got sick there and she thinks it was something bad in the food.
“I assure you young lady, the food I have given you is just, “again he made the distasteful look, “fine.”
Behind her, Lacey could hear the woman chomping down the food the man had given her.
Lacey was hungry, having not eaten all day, but she wasn’t going to give the man the satisfaction.
“I don’t want it,” she said defiantly.
“Well it’s all you’re going to get,” he said to her.
She sat there with the bag in her lap. The smell was making her hungry. Of course, with her arms tied up, she couldn’t have eaten it even if she had wanted to.
With her mouth uncovered though, she realized she could speak. Since she had been sitting there, she was not only getting hungry, but she had started to feel as if she needed to use the restroom.
“I have to go potty,” she told the man.
He looked down his nose at her, “Of course you do.”
The man motioned for the woman to untie the girl to let her, as he put it, “Do her business.”
The restaurant woman put her own food down on the table, got up and walked over to Lacey. The man walked past her in the other direction, taking the seat she had just vacated.
Mumbling to herself quietly about nothing that Lacey could understand, although there were several bad words in there, the woman stopped behind her and started to undo the ropes that were surrounding both she and the chair.
When the rope hit the floor, Lacey suddenly had an idea which had nothing to do with going potty.
She stood up, shaking a bit, as she had been held in one position for a long time, but also because she was nervous about the thought she had just had. Would it work?
All at once she knocked the chair over into the woman and ran for the window, quickly making her way through the curtains and climbing outside, using the air conditioner just below for leverage. Her t-shirt ripped on the broken glass, not that she noticed. Lacey was much more concerned with landing squarely on the walkway in front of the window, then running away as quickly as possible.
The man from the motel office shot up immediately to run to the door to catch the girl, but was tripped up by the woman and the chair on the floor in front of the television.
“Get up! She’s getting away!” he shouted at her.
Trying unsuccessfully to kick the chair off of herself, a task made more difficult as he was in the way, she yelled, “I’m trying!” back up at him.
The man hopped up and stepped across the bed to get to the door, trying to avoid stepping on the girl’s mother. He tripped once on her calf, but did not fall. He pulled the door open, nearly hitting the woman from the restaurant in the head as he did. The little girl was nowhere to be seen. The man looked back at his accomplice, yelling at her to get up, then running to his right in the direction of the motel office.
Lacey spotted a pay phone at the gas station across the street, but heard the yelling in the room behind her so she ran to hide in an open closet near the ice machine which was located next to the motel office. She closed the door behind her and waited, breathing heavily, trying her best not to panic.
The door did not reach all the way to the closet floor and Lacey’s eyes remained focused on the strip of sunlight from outside, waiting for the shadow of either the man or the woman from the room who were doing bad things to her mommy and daddy.
Quick footsteps approached. Running. A zooming shadow flashed across the sunlight beneath the door.
Lacey listened and waited. It sounded like whoever it was hadn’t stopped at the office, but kept running. She remembered that there were two bad people, the man and the woman. Because she had heard the man yell at the woman, she reasoned that it was him that had run past her hiding place. Carefully placing her ear against the door, Lacey attempted to listen for the woman, but as she did, but as she did, the door began to slide open. Grabbing for the handle, Lacey began to close it, but then thought to herself that maybe she could leave it cracked open to hopefully see the woman instead of just listening for her.
The bad lady from the restaurant and the room jumped out of the doorway, then started running in the opposite direction. She stopped suddenly and turned around.
Lacey nearly panicked, thinking she had been found out.
Luckily for her, the bad lady only ran back to the room with Lacey’s mommy and daddy in it and closed the door. She then turned and started running again in the same direction as the first time. She ran all the way to the end of the building, looked both ways, then turned towards the back of the building.
Lacey watched and listened for the man from the other direction. She heard nothing. She remembered the pay phone across the street and decided to make a run for it. Pushing the door slowly open first, she looked back and forth, making sure she was alone. Once confident that no one was there, she sprinted straight towards the street.
Her parents had done a very good job at instilling certain safety rules in their daughter, and Lacey, who normally would not even be allowed to cross the street by herself, did remember to stop and look both ways before crossing. There was no traffic so she took off in a sprint straight towards the pay phone.
Reaching the phone, she pulled down the receiver and immediately dialed 9-1-1, having to stand on her tip toes to reach the ones.
The 9-1-1 operator answered. It was a woman with a voice that Lacey thought sounded friendly.
“Please, please. They have my mommy on a bed with a thing and my daddy is on the floor. He went in the window and then I….”
The operator interrupted, “Okay honey, let me try to help you. First, are you hurt?”
Lacey felt tears welling up in her eyes, and cried, “no.” Sniff.
“Okay honey, can you tell me where you are?”
The little girl looked around and tried to explain where she was, but not knowing the names of any of the streets, the name of the motel or the gas station, and lacking the ability to read yet, the only thing she could say with any certainty was the name of the Mexican fast food restaurant that her family had eaten at the night before. The place where all of this had started. Lacey started bawling.
The operator did her best to calm Lacey, but still needed more information to be able to help.
Lacey took another look back at the motel and saw the man from the office. He looked back and forth frantically, but suddenly his eyes shot across the street at the girl on the pay phone.
Just then, a large tractor trailer drove past on the highway between the gas station and the motel. After it had past, the girl was gone. He ran across the street as fast as his skinny legs would carry him. The receiver of the phone that the girl had been on was left swinging in the breeze. Looking to see where she might have gone, he walked to the phone and quietly hung it up.
Lacey had escaped behind the gas station which, unlike the motel, had no fence behind it, but a small open lot with a residential street just beyond that. She ran to the street and turned left, running along the sidewalk until she was too tired to keep on.
Bending over with her hands on her knees, she did her best to catch her breath. When she looked up, she noticed a public park across the street. There was a car parked there, just across from her, and she noticed a small fish on the back with a cross in it, which looked just like the fishy cross thing on the back of her grandparent’s car.
Lacey took this as a good sign. She looked both ways first, then crossed the street. She eye the car as she walked past, spying a small cross hanging from the rearview mirror, again, just like the one her grandparents had. It was a completely different kind of car though; her grandparents drove a white one and this one was dark blue. It was the only car at the park.
Ahead of her, in the park, she spied an older man with an older woman, old like her grandparents she thought, having a picnic together at one of the tables. The park wasn’t large and besides Lacey, they were the only people in it. The couple, oblivious to the little girl, talked happily to each other. Lacey was too far away to make out anything they were saying, and besides a growing sound of sirens had started from the direction Lacey had just run away from.
At home, Lacey and her family lived near a busy street not far from a hospital so she heard sirens all the time, so much in fact that she tended to overlook them, as she did while watching the older couple in the park.
From behind the picnic table the man and woman sat at, a small, white toy poodle bounced about and played with a stick. It very much looked like the one from the dream she had had that inspired the picture Lacey had been working on when her mother and father had picked her up from school.
Lacey cautiously stepped closer to the older man and woman.
The sirens grew louder.
Stepping closer, Lacey could almost make out the words the man and woman were saying to each other.
Did the woman just say, “music elevator”?
They hadn’t noticed Lacey yet.She slowly stepped closer.
The woman was wearing a dark, wide brimmed hat that protected much of her face from the sun. She was talking and the man was listening.
Lacey had gotten close enough to make out what the woman was saying over the sirens that grew louder still.
“Oh you know, ever since ours left years ago, I, well, you know, I simply love children and would love the opportunity to do something for them, you know, something charitable.”
Lacey didn’t understand what all of her words meant, but she looked like she was such a nice lady and there was the fishy cross thing on the car just like the ones her grandparents had and her grandparents were just about the nicest people in the whole world. Lacey gulped to gather courage, and walked right up to the man and woman.
The little white dog scampered over to Lacey and hopped up and down in an attempt to get her to pet it.
The sirens had gotten even louder.
“Can you please help me?” Lacey pleaded, “My mommy and daddy are…”
Before Lacey could say another word, she could see the expression on the old man’s face, and the expression on the old lady’s face and she knew it wasn’t good.
“Oh I’m sorry honey, “said the old lady, “I’m afraid I can’t, I mean we can’t help you,” then put her head down so that all Lacey could see was the top of her black, wide brimmed hat.
The sirens, which had become deafeningly loud, suddenly stopped.
Lacey looked up, noticing the sirens, or the lack of them for the first time.
A firm hand grabbed her right shoulder from behind.
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