Authors: Tim Miller
April sat in her apartment trying to work on her novel, but she had drawn a blank. Writer’s block wasn’t something she had regularly experienced, but it occasionally reared its ugly head. In the past, she’d just put it aside for a few weeks and get back to it. She didn’t want to do that now, though. She’d been on a good streak and finally had some time.
It was late, so she got up and grabbed an energy drink from the fridge and chugged about half of it. They tasted awful, but it kept her up so whatever worked. As she sipped the rest of the energy drink, she looked out the window. The street was fairly quiet, but it was a weeknight after all. There were a few cars passing by and not much else happening. She walked over and sat back down. It wasn’t long before she was startled by a knock on the door, causing her to bump her drink. She managed to catch the can before it spilled all over her laptop.
“Holy shit!” she said as she jumped up and grabbed the can. Looking at the clock, it was just past twelve thirty. Her roommate was working late, and she wouldn’t have knocked. April walked to the door and looked through the peep hole but there was no one there. Turning away, the knock came again.
“What the fuck? Who is it?” she called out.
“Building maintenance ma’am. We got a report of leaky plumbing,” the man said. She noticed his thick Texas accent, thicker than most living in or around Austin.
“Nothing is wrong with the plumbing.”
“You have stuff leaking ma’am. They called from downstairs.”
“It’s the middle of the night. Nothing is leaking and I’m busy!”
“It will only take a minute ma’am. I do apologize.”
“Fuck. Only a minute?”
“Yes ma’am. I’ll be in and out before you even knew I was here.”
She considered it. It was late, but this asshole would keep bugging her until she let him look at the fucking pipes.
“Ok. Just hurry please?” she said as she walked over and undid the deadbolt and opened the door. The man who stepped inside was huge. He was wearing all black and had on a rubber clown mask.
“What the fuck?” she said as the man in the clown mask punched her in the nose. The blow knocked her backward and into the wall. The punch stunned her, as water filled her eyes. Another man stepped inside; this one was much shorter and was wearing an Obama mask.
“Did you kill her?” Obama asked the clown.
“No, look, she’s movin’ around. I just knocked her out. Let’s get her to the truck.”
“Gotta pack her up first,” Obama said.
While the two argued, April’s alertness began to come back. She slid a few feet back and slowly pulled herself up using a chair, and made a break for the kitchen. She heard the men yelling behind her.
“Hey! Get back here!” the clown yelled.
“See what you did?” Obama screamed from behind him.
“Just get her already!”
April dug through the drawer until she found the butcher knife. The clown closed in on her, but paused when he saw the knife.
“Hey now, easy,” he said. “We’re not gonna hurt ya. We just need to talk to you.”
“Then why did you punch me? Why are you wearing masks?”
“Masks? What masks?”
“Yeah, fuck you.” She lunged forward with the knife and slashed the large clown mans’ forearm. He screamed as she ran past him. She expected to have to cut the little Obama guy, but he moved out of her way as she ran past.
“You fucking bitch!” the clown screamed as she raced out the door. She ran down the stairs and out into the street, hoping there would be a cop or someone who could help her. She got outside, but there was no one around. Looking from side to side, she ran to her right. Wearing nothing but a thin tank top and boxer shorts, she hoped someone would notice her. Noticing she just had the knife, she dropped it so as not to look dangerous herself and ran around the corner.
An old woman was walking around the corner, April almost knocked her down.
“Oh mercy!” the woman said.
“Oh God. I’m sorry! Help me please!”
“What’s wrong honey? Why aren’t you dressed?”
“Some guys are after me. They were wearing masks. One of them hit me. Can you call the police? Do you have a phone?”
“Oh my. That’s terrible. Sure sweetie. I have a phone. Let me find it here,” the old woman said as she started digging through her purse.
April looked behind her for any sign of her attackers, but there was no sign of them. She turned to see if the woman had found her phone. The lady was holding something and then thrust it into April’s chest. At the last second April could see it was a stun gun, but it was too late. Electricity charged through her body, paralyzing her as she fell to the ground. The woman bent down and shocked her several more times.
“You think you can say those things about me and my boys?” the woman screamed. “You’re about to learn a thing or two!”
The two men in masks came running around the corner.
“Don’t worry boys. I did your work for ya!” the woman said.
“Sorry Ma. She was quicker than we thought,” the big clown said.
“No matter. Get her tied up and put her in the truck,” the woman ordered.
The big clown grabbed her wrists and started wrapping them in duct tape. Obama walked over, standing near her head and kicked her in the face. The last thing she saw was the bottom of his boot before everything went black.
Herbert woke up and looked around. The back of his head was throbbing and his vision was hazy. He also had a pounding headache. As his vision cleared, he realized he was in some kind of large shed or garage. There was a work bench with tools scattered all about. There was an old saddle hanging up on the wall, and piles of junk stacked all over.
The place also smelled rotten, like dead animal carcasses or something. He tried to move, but his hands were tied behind his back. All he had on were his boxer shorts. Last thing he remembered was lying in bed when someone knocked on his door. He was tied to some kind of post while seated on a bench. His feet and hands were both tied around the post with some kind of wire that dug into his skin, causing it to burn up and down his arms and legs.
He also wasn’t alone. There were four other people in there, three girls and one other guy. They were spread out around the shed, all tied to benches similar to him. All were in various stages of undress. One girl was completely naked and another wearing a little white tank top and shorts. She was the one also starting to wake up.
“You ok?” Herbert asked.
She looked around confused as well, struggling against her bindings.
“It’s no use,” he said. “We’re tied up good. Hurts like hell too.”
“Who the fuck are you?” she asked.
“I’m Herbert. Not sure what is going on here. I think someone bashed me over the head and brought me here.”
“Where is here?”
“I have no clue. A garage or storage place of some kind,” he said.
“Jesus, it fucking stinks! What is that?”
“I don’t know. It’s nasty whatever it is.”
“Who are these other people?”
“I don’t know that either. I just woke up myself. What’s your name?”
“Sorry we have to meet like this April. Hopefully it’s someone fucking with us.”
“Who would fuck with us like this? Jesus.”
Herbert noticed she had a huge bruise on the side of her face. They must have gotten her good, whoever they were. Someone screaming from his left made both of them jump. Herbert looked to see the naked girl had woken up screaming. Her screaming woke the others up after a few seconds.
“Hey! Hey! Shut the fuck up!” Herbert yelled. Finally she stopped. The naked girl was black, with long hair and a firm, athletic build. Herbert felt a bit strange tied up looking at this poor naked woman. April was petite and had dark hair. Herbert looked down at his belly that hung over his waist. It looked even bigger sitting down. Then again, he had much bigger problems at the moment than the size of his belly.
“Who are you people? Where are my clothes?” the woman asked.
“Fuck if we know,” April said. “Look! We’re tied up too. I’m April. I have no idea how I got here or why.”
The woman finally started to get her breath as she calmed down.
“I’m Brenda,” she said.
“What is going on?” The other guy said who had just woken up. This man was older, like in his fifties. He had gray hair and was in a t-shirt, boxers, and black socks.
Herbert rolled his eyes at the question. He was getting tired of explaining. April explained to all of them what they knew so far. The older guy’s name was Don and the other lady was Nancy. Nancy was a few years younger than Don by the looks of it. She had on a nightgown and had short, curly hair. Once they all figured out who each other was, the question turned to where they were.
“Does anyone remember anything on how they got here?” Herbert asked.
They all shook their heads as he looked around.
“What time is it?” Don asked. “I have a flight to Vegas to catch at noon.”
“Well you’re not gonna make it pops,” Brenda said. “Or haven’t you noticed our situation.”
“Don’t talk to me like that. You know who I am?”
“Do I give a fuck?” Brenda said.
“I’m the CEO of Bogart Industries. The largest HVAC Company in the Southwestern United States!”
“Well right now you’re just some old dude in his underwear. How do I know this all isn’t some kinky fetish bullshit of yours?” Brenda asked.
“Ok, enough!” Herbert yelled. “Why are we here? Why us?”
“Well, Donald Duck here is some rich dude, so maybe they are holding him ransom.”
“Fuck you, you loud little coon,” Don said.
“Little what?” Brenda yelled as she pulled against her restraints. She tried to wiggle out but it was no use.
“See? You’re all the same. Then you wonder why I never hire you people. You just yell and bitch and get pissed off over every little name.”
“I’m gonna cut your fuckin’ throat when I get out of this,” Brenda said.
Don laughed and looked away.
“Yeah. Have fun with that.”
“WILL ALL OF YOU STOP IT?” Nancy screamed. “How about someone just try to get us out of here?”
“Boy, this is a smart one,” Don said.
Herbert didn’t blame Brenda. He wanted to strangle Don already, but getting worked up wouldn’t help anything except waste his energy.
“Hey! Guys! Let’s calm down. Ok? Screaming at each other won’t get us out of here. Now, I remember these guys came to my apartment last night. They had on these ugly masks. One of them was a clown and the other was of Obama. The clown guy was huge, and the Obama one was some little guy. They kept arguing and I ran away, but some old woman shocked me with a stun gun. They acted like they knew her, so she had to be with them.”
“Holy shit,” Brenda said. “Last thing I remember was getting out of the shower and then waking up here.”
“I don’t remember much either,” Don said. Nancy just shook her head.
“They must have perfected their technique after they got me. Can’t believe I trusted that old bitch,” April said as the door to the shed swung open. They all squinted against the daylight that poured in.
A large man came walking in, with the short one behind him.
“Well, well, well! Looks like the kiddies are awake!” the short one said.
“What the fuck is this?” Herbert asked. “What is going on here?”
“Oh, we’re gonna have some fun,” the man said. “You guys like to leave reviews on Crashbooks. Well I like to crash some heads!”
FBI Special Agent Bobby Kennedy walked through his daughter, April’s apartment. There was a table knocked over and some broken vases along with some blood stains on the kitchen floor. He’d been called there as a courtesy by Jack Baxter, an Austin Police Detective.
“You doing ok?” Jack asked.
“Yeah,” Bobby said. He wasn’t ok at all. His little girl might be twenty, but she was still his little girl. She hadn’t just run off with friends for a few days. Something had happened here, something horrible.
“You don’t look ok.”
“I’m fine Jack. Did anyone see anything? Hear anything?”
“Not that we know of. I got guys talking to all the neighbors.”
“This place is a mess. Someone had to hear something,” Bobby said.
“I know, but this is Austin, everyone tends to be in their own little world.”
“Yeah, I’m sure.” Bobby looked around and stopped. Something was lying on the floor in the corner. Bobby walked over and knelt down. It was a matchbook. On the flap it said it was from Titties N’ Kitties in Browneye, Texas.
“Jack, check this out,” Bobby said.
Jack strolled over and knelt next to Bobby who pointed at the match book.
“What the hell? Titties and Kitties? In Browneye?” Jack said.
“Where’s Browneye? I never heard of it.”
“It’s some little shithole up in hill country, a few hours from here. I didn’t think anyone was even there anymore. There used to be some bars and restaurants there, but that was before the freeways were all built.”
“Must be some off the gridders or something. Great,” Bobby said.
“You thinking of going up there?”
“Well we have to. April sure as hell wasn’t hanging out at fucking Titties and Kitties.” Bobby braced himself for Jack to say maybe she was dancing there, but he knew better. April was a pretty girl, but she was always rather modest.
“Ok. I’ll go with you,” Jack said.
“I can handle it. You don’t need to go.”
“Bobby, you have no jurisdiction here. Not to mention you have a direct conflict of interest. So yeah. I’ll drive you up there.”
“All right. Let’s get going.”
“My little girl is missing. So if you’re going with me, I am leaving now. Or you can catch up to me later,” Bobby said.
“Ok. Ok. Let’s go. My car is outside.”
They walked out of the apartment and to Jack’s car and climbed inside. It was midday and the Bobby broke into a sweat just on the walk from the building to the car. As they pulled away Bobby looked out the window as he spoke.
“So you ever been to this town?” Bobby asked.
“No. I heard about it when I was a kid growing up around here. I don’t suppose you heard of it growing up in Fort Worth.”
“Well, I guess you’d have no reason to. I think at its peak it only had maybe two hundred people. I’m amazed they even have a strip club, or that said club has matchbooks it gives out.”
“I’ve seen stranger things.” Bobby said. Despite his calm exterior, he was freaking out on the inside. He’d been an agent so long and had seen so much, he’d trained himself to hold it all in. Besides, he needed to keep a cool head until he found April. He could dwell on any number of things once he knew she was safe.
It had been a long time since he’d been on this type of investigation, so maybe it was good that Jack had come along. Bobby’s specialty was counter terrorism. So he spent a lot of time traveling near the border and screening undocumenteds for any potential terroristic threats. He hadn’t been the best dad over the years, but that didn’t mean he loved his little girl any less.
“I’m sure you have.” Jack said.
Neither man said much else for the rest of the drive. After almost two hours of driving through hills and wilderness, they drove past an old beat up sign that read “Welcome to Browneye.” The sign was crooked and rusted, but still there. As they drove past the sign, Bobby noticed a dead armadillo lying on the roadside. He hoped that in itself wasn’t another type of sign.