Somewhere in the blackness, Josie heard a voice. The voice whispered to her, words so soft Josie couldn’t make them out. She drifted in the darkness, straining to hear the voice. It whispered again. No, still too faint. Josie pressed herself, focusing on the whisper, and the strange but familiar voice that spoke, until she finally understood the words.
Josie opened her eyes and sat up with a shot as the memories came flooding back to her. The cowboy. The woman in black. Kidnappers. She had been taken against her will. Drugged and kidnapped. Josie scooted back, drawing her knees to her chest as she nervously glanced around.
“It’s okay, little ‘un,” the cowboy said. “Calm down.”
She had come to consciousness on a couch in what appeared to be a round room. Several doors lined the curved wall at regular intervals. A counter rested between two doors to her right, as well as a microwave, a fridge and a coffee maker. Another section held a desk, on which sat a small computer and a lamp. Several overstuffed chairs littered the room, along with a few more couches. The place looked like a lounge. Or a break room.
“How ya feelin?” he said. He was seated on a chair opposite hers.
Josie stared at him but didn’t speak. Every muscle ached, though whether from unintentionally ingesting drugs or sleeping on the lumpy couch she couldn’t be sure. She had no idea where she was. What time it was. What day it was. And all she wanted was to go home. To see her mom and her dad and forget this craziness ever even happened. Josie bit back a whimper. She wouldn’t cry. No. She wouldn’t give those maniacs the satisfaction of seeing her weep.
“I don’t fault you for not wantin’ to flap your gums at me,” Bill said with a frown. “I’d be pretty sore at me too for rustling you up the way we did. But you gotta know, we did it for your own good.”
She narrowed her eyes at him, silently questioning his motives.
“I know,” he said, waving his hands at her. “I know. It looks pretty darned bad from your end of things. You gotta see it from our side.”
“Your side?” Josie finally said. The words came out as more of a croak then speech. She swallowed a dry mouthful. “You kidnapped me!”
“No, no,” Bill said. “We rescued you.”
“Is that what you think?”
“Think about it. If we had left ya there, them agents woulda just swooped on back and nabbed ya. We took you with us to keep you safe.”
She had to admit, as silly as this whole idea was, it did make sense. She glanced around again, still unsure of where she was. “This is supposed to be safe?”
“Sure,” he said. “We brought you here to keep them from coming back for ya.”
“And to pick your brain,” Kate said from behind Josie.
Josie gave a hoarse shout and scooted away from the woman.
“She don’t mean your real brain,” Bill said. “She just means we wanna talk to you. Ask you a few questions. That’s all.”
“That’s all?” Josie said. “Just to talk?”
“Just to talk,” Bill said. “Right Miss Kate?”
Kate held out a glass of clear liquid. “I thought you might want some water. Passiflora incarnata tends to make one’s mouth very dry.”
“Passiwhatsa?” Josie said.
“Passion flower,” Kate said. She offered the glass again. “I apologize for such a strong dosage but I wasn’t expecting a target so … well … so small.”
Josie shook her head at the offered glass.
“Oh go on and drink it,” Bill said. “If she wanted to poison you, you’d be dead already. And she could, you know. It’s what she does.”
Kate sat beside Josie and let out an angry huff. “Bill, will you please quit telling my business to everyone we meet. Can I not maintain some air of mystery?”
“Not in those clothes,” he said. His eyes went wide as if he realized he had just spoken the words aloud, instead of thinking them safely in his head.
“What is wrong with my clothes?” The woman looked down at herself, and the skintight affair.
“It’s real hard to pull off any kind of surprise when you wrap the present in the shape of the gift. I told you I’d steal you a real pretty dress. Cover some of that mystery right up. Then you can be as mystifying as you like.”
“For your information, my body is not a present for anyone.” Kate slammed the glass onto a coffee table, nearly spilling the water. “Much less you, of all people.”
“I don’t know about that, sugar lump,” Bill said. “I reckon every time you smile at me it sure feels like a gift.”
The pair degenerated into what seemed like practiced bickering, him calling her pet names and her telling him where to stick those same names.
Their silly argument brought a touch of a smile to Josie. She tried to push it away but it peeked through. She snatched the glass up and sipped at the water to hide her humor. As soon as it reached her parched tongue, she turned the glass up and started to gulp. The cool water bathed her dry throat in waves of delicious lubrication.
“Careful there,” Kate said. “You don’t want to make yourself sick.”
Josie slowed down, sipping at what was left of the water. The pair of adults sat on either side of her in silence, waiting for her to recover. They seemed nice. Why did they seem so nice? Weren’t kidnappers supposed to be awful people? Josie sat the empty glass on the table and hung her head.
“I don’t understand what is going on here,” she said. Her eyes welled with tears. She wiped at her face and fought the urge to full-on cry. “I just want to go home.”
“Aw, kid,” Bill said. “Don’t be so sad.”
“It’s really rather simple,” Kate said. “You have something we need, and we are going to get it from you.”
“Get it from me?” Josie said. “H-h-how?”
“Kate,” Bill scolded. “Don’t scare the poor thing. Josie … can I call you Josie?”
“That’s my name,” Josie said.
“Good,” Bill said. “And remember, you can call me Bill. This is Miss Kate.”
The woman stuck her hand out in greeting. “K-8471-3922-165549. If you want to be more precise.”
Josie took the woman’s hand, giving it a hard squeeze and pump just like her mother taught her. “Nice to meet you, K-8471-3922-155549.”
Kate smirked. “It’s 165549, but that wasn’t too bad.”
“That’s an interesting, um, name,” Josie said.
“I am an interesting person,” Kate said. She stood and began pacing the room.
There was something electric about her, as if she couldn’t sit for more than a few minutes. Like she had to keep moving to keep living. Almost like a shark. Despite the situation, Josie liked her. She liked both of them. Her mother and father were always telling her to trust her gut instinct about people. She was fairly sure that didn’t include kidnappers, yet, there was something more going on here than just your every day kidnapping.
Those men disappearing into bands of light, for instance.
Yes, something was going on here, and Josie intended to find out.
(chapter continued next week)