I was the Janitor. The boss-man's daughter Jill liked working late, a summer job until school started. It was the Eastman Publishing House, and she read the slush pile.
I secretly watched in darkness from another room as she discarded my manuscript. A rage was born, mushrooming into this evil moment.
I seized her from behind in the conference room and placed the chloroform cloth to her mouth. There was no turning back.
It wasn't hard, putting my hands under her arms, dragging her soft scented body through the elevator, and down toward the open trunk in the basement parking lot. I waved to the security guard, and drove past the gate.
Racing through deserted Manhattan streets before the break of dawn, heart firing like a loose piston, I managed a row of green lights until I found the highway near Yankee Stadium. I crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River, and turned north. Smacking my legs together, I felt electrified, like cocaine drilling my veins. She was all mine.
As my car shifted and ascended toward the mountains, the city lights behind me melted into daylight. Ahead, the sun splashed over the peaks. A phosphorus green ignited the landscape of trees. I was rocking in my seat, pinching the wheel until my knuckles turned white.
Down the logging road and over a few crater-like holes, I heard the moans and muffled whimpers. My girl was alive.
I passed the wooden bridge at the tea colored creek. I dug into the loose gravel, up the bluff and along a set of sturdy pines, until hardwoods spiraled into a canopy, covering all but a thin ray of sun.
The road snaked until it disappeared beyond a hand made stop sign painted blood red on the crotch of a tree. I whisked past flimsy branches snapping them, crunching them with my tires.
I backed my car toward the door of the cabin, hands shaking with every key.
I opened the trunk. She was hogtied, duct taped. The stroke of light found her startled blue eyes darting in fear. "Hi sweetheart! WELCOME to my world."
I snatched her up, tossed her over my back. Only muffled screams could surface from her face. I threw her down on the mildew floor. I dragged her to my mouse-infested couch.
"You know who I am, don't ya?"
She nodded her head in tearful submission.
"Too bad you never thought of me as a writer."
I spat venomous words into her earlobe, "I bet you would read my story now?" I ripped the duct tape from her mouth.
"PLEASE...PLEASE, let me go, my dad he...he will give you whatever you want!"
"Oh really? Daddy's little girl. POOF. Just like that, he will order my story to be published." I bolted back, feeling the veins in my neck swelling. "Little miss Prissy, thinks I'm stupid, just the dumb ole Janitor, not even worth a look at my book!" I bent down, pinched the cheeks of her face. "You knew that manuscript was mine and you tossed it!"
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry," she cried, like a blind baby kitten under my body.
I discovered a favorite tool, a flathead screwdriver. I wanted to test her milk-colored skin, and press it along her flesh until the blood ran. I was intoxicated with the sweat of her fear. "Maybe this will jog your memory."
"NO, NO, PLEASE, I'm...I'm begging you. Please!"
Pearls of sweat dribbled down her chest, past her necklace with an empty cross. "What's this?" I plucked it!
"He's no longer on the cross, but in my heart." Her eyes fixed on me, "Jesus loves you."
"What?" I lost all focus. I threw the necklace in the corner. "You'd best make room in your heart for me sweetie."
"Yes...yes sir," she said meekly.
I pressed down over her, as if I grew from the dry rotted wood beneath me.
"WAIT. Is that your daughter on the mantel above the fireplace?"
I fell backward. "Huh?"
"Yes. Yes. She's in your book."
Tears stung my eyes.
"She died in a car accident. Shortly after, her mother divorced me. She'd...she'd be about your age--now."
"Her... her name is Natalie in the book! Isn't it?"
She knew my daughter's name? My heart exploded into an avalanche of emotions.
I unwrapped her wrist, handed her the manuscript, and watched her read. Her bloodshot eyes widened with every turn of a page.
She held my life in her hands.
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