by Tim Mead
The Nightmare Before Christmas
It was exactly a week before Christmas. Tyrese wanted a report of what Cedric had done since he joined the firm. Ms. Bott had all the data on cases, dispositions, and billable hours, of course. But this! It was supposed to be a fucking "narrative" report. Due Monday, January 4. In law school no one had ever mentioned such a thing. He knew, or thought he knew, that Tyrese was happy with his work, but this seemed like a make-work assignment. Since it seemed to ask him to justify himself and what he was doing, however, he'd put a lot of effort into it. This was the third consecutive Friday he'd left the office, gotten some supper at one of the downtown restaurants, and then gone back to the office.
Now it was a little after 9:00 PM. He'd finally finished the first draft. He'd put it away, planning to get it out and polish it some during the week between Christmas and New Year's.
The weather was exceptionally mild for December. People who bitched all winter about the snow were complaining that there probably wasn't going to be a white Christmas.
Cedric hadn't worn a topcoat to the office that morning. After returning from supper he'd taken off his suit jacket and worked in his shirtsleeves. Knowing it would be chilly outside, he put the jacket on before leaving. He made sure the security system was armed and the office locked.
As he walked to his car, his mind was full of upcoming events. Jim Grant and Jake Handley were having some friends over the next evening for dinner. He liked those two older guys and was looking forward to seeing their home. He assumed the other guests would be people he'd met at the CQ gathering, and he would be glad to get to know some of them better. Then midweek he'd go home for Christmas. Adrian and Tom had scheduled a CQ event for the weekend between the holidays. Of course he'd work in a trip to Cincinnati to see Mark and Casey. Stan and Doug would be there. And, depending on schedules, he might see Trey, Chaz, Max, and Tim.
He softly sang to himself "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" with the modern rhythm given the piece a few years back by the Pointer Sisters.
He was surprised to find that he'd left his car unlocked. Colby's a safe place, he thought, but that's being pretty careless. No point tempting fate. He got in, closed the door, put on his seat belt, and was about to turn the key in the ignition when he felt something pressed against his neck.
"Okay, motherfucker, here's what's gonna happen," a voice growled in his ear.
There was no doubt in his mind that the object was the barrel of a pistol. There was a surreal feeling about this, the sort of thing that happened in fiction. But the sour breath of the man in the back seat was real . . . as was the coldness of the pistol-barrel.
"I'll do whatever you say. Just be cool."
"I'm cool," came the voice from the back seat. "I'm the one with the weapon. You be cool and maybe you'll live through this. Understood?"
"Good! Now just start the car. When you pull out of the lot, turn left and head for Higgins. You do know where Higgins is, don't you, faggot?"
He didn't recognize the voice, and it was too dark in the car to see the guy's face in the rear-view mirror.
Mentally kicking himself for not looking into the car before he got in, he did as the man said.
This isn't a random kidnapping or hijacking. The guy knows I'm gay. Seems strange. Colby's a pretty accepting place. Or at least that's what everybody says. But why me?
Traffic was heavier than usual. People coming home from dinner out or shopping, no doubt. Soon, however, they'd left the stoplights of the business district and were on the two-lane highway that led west.
The car had warmed up, but except for his sweaty palms, Cedric still had chills. Whenever the car hit a bump or went around a corner, the tip of the gun barrel touched his neck.
When they were still about five miles from Higgins, the guy in the back, who'd never taken the pistol, if that's what it was, away from Cedric's neck, said, "Turn right at this side road coming up."
When they had driven north about three miles, he was told to take the next left. This was farm country. The houses were some distance apart. Christmas trees and other lights shone from most of them, but they passed the occasional darkened house. Cedric guessed their owners had gone away for the holidays. And he knew that some of the retired folk in the area went south for the winter.
After they drove a while longer, there were fewer houses, and except for the beams from the car's headlights, there was only blackness. Cedric thought about trying to get out of his situation. Could he try to roll the Terrain over? Run it into a utility pole?
Nothing that came to mind seemed feasible. Before he could do anything, the man in the back could squeeze the trigger. And somehow being shot through the neck seemed worse than a shot to the temple or the ear. He suppressed a shudder
"Slow down. There's a driveway on the left in about a hundred yards."
After making the turn, Cedric saw that the drive had been graveled at one time but now dead weeds filled the area between the ruts made by vehicle tires. There was a white two-story frame house, set well back from the road, perhaps 75 yards. No lights burned. As they got closer, he concluded the place was abandoned.
To the right and beyond the house was a large barn, bigger than the house.
"Drive around behind the barn. Park so your car can't be seen from the road."
Cedric did as he was told. His headlights showed an old pickup truck already parked there.
"Leave the keys in the ignition and get out. Then put your hands on top of your head. And don't try anything stupid. At this range I couldn't miss. And I wouldn't shoot to kill."
The barn had a large door, big enough to accommodate a farm wagon loaded with bales of hay. The door was on rollers so it could be slid aside. Next to it was a people-size door.
His captor produced a flashlight, which he shone in Cedric's eyes for a moment. "You gonna do this the easy way?"
Cedric, who had been more or less in shock up to this point, now suddenly realized how perilous his situation was.
"Yeah, man. You got the gun. Whatever you say."
"Okay. Keep your hands on top your head and go to that door over there." He nodded toward the smaller door. "It's not locked. It pulls out to open. Open it and go inside. I'll be behind you with the light. And the weapon."
Once they were inside, while keeping the gun pointed at Cedric, the guy used the flashlight to show him some bales of hay or straw. Cedric didn't know the difference.
"Sit on one of those bales while I get us some better light. Keep your hands on top your head."
"I don't have a gun or anything I could use for a weapon." In spite of the way his heart was pounding, Cedric tried to keep his voice calm. He wasn't sure if he was doing a good job.
"Shut up! Just do like I said."
So Cedric sat and watched. The guy reached up and took down a lantern that had been hanging from a large nail driven into a 6" x 6" post that helped support a second floor. Oh, Cedric realized, his mind scrambling to use anything to distract himself from the situation he was in, that's probably a hayloft. He'd heard and read of such things, but he'd never really been in a barn before.
The device looked as if it might be a kerosene lantern, but the guy merely flipped a switch and it came on. So it apparently worked on batteries.
"This thing don't give a lot of light, but it'll do. We don't wanna be seen from the road." He turned on the lantern and turned off the flashlight, which he put in the hip pocket of his jeans. He was right: the lantern gave only a feeble light, doing little to dispel the darkness of the big barn.
The man used his free hand to scratch his nose. The gun remained pointed at Cedric. "Now, take off your clothes."
"Man, it's cold!"
"You must not be from around here. This is fuckin' balmy. Now strip!"
He hadn't been out of the car long enough to be chilled yet, but Cedric found himself trembling as he slipped off his cordovan loafers and then got out of his suit, shirt, undershirt, and briefs.
Having dressed for business, Cedric was wearing dark over-the-calf socks.
"Hoo, do all lawyers wear those sissy stockin's, or is it just you queers? Take `em off."
To this point Cedric hadn't had a good look at his captor's face, and the voice wasn't familiar. But the next comment revealed his identity.
"If Crystal had to get a fuckin' lawyer, I don't know why she had to get a fag." He paused. "But at least she's not sleepin' with you."
Cedric's only client named Crystal was Crystal Ferguson, the one who kept changing her mind about whether she wanted to be divorced. This must be her husband, Kevin. Cedric had only met the man once. Ferguson had consistently taken the position that he wasn't going to have anything to do with a divorce. He said marriage was for life, and that he and Crystal could work out their problems. If only she wouldn't slut around they'd be perfectly happy. Crystal had steadfastly insisted she wasn't having affairs with other men and if Kevin wouldn't slap her around when he'd been drinking she'd stay with him. She'd privately said to Cedric that her husband, who'd been laid off from his job at a local stamping plant, would have no source of income if they divorced, his unemployment having run out. She could barely support them when they lived together. No way did her job at the beauty "salon" pay enough to support them separately.
He thought about trying to reason with Ferguson, but the man's attitude quashed the notion. He'd been drinking and didn't seem amenable to reason.
"Now, boy, sit on that bale behind you while I get what I need. Don't be stupid and try and jump me. I was a Marine in Desert Storm, and I can still take you apart with or without my weapon here."
Cedric sat. And winced. The stuff in the bale was dry and stiff and prickly, digging into his rear and his balls. Keeping his hands on top of his head, he watched as Ferguson opened an old wooden chest and removed a couple of lengths of chain and a pair of handcuffs.
In a remarkably short time, Cedric's hands were cuffed in front of his body.
"I could have been nasty and cuffed them behind your back, but you'll need them to feed yourself tomorrow," Ferguson said, chuckling.
"Can I ask why you're doing this?"
"Not now, asshole. I'm busy. Stand up and bend over."
Cedric did what he thought the man wanted, winding up in a position that looked as if he were bowing to Ferguson.
"No, no dipshit! Turn around, spread your legs, and bend over facing away from me."
Off balance and very vulnerable, Cedric realized that in this position he couldn't kick or otherwise attack Ferguson. The man was kneeling behind him and put his gun on the dirt floor of the barn. Figuring this was his best chance to resist, he tried to kick backward. Doing so, however, put him further off balance, and he found himself lying over the bale of hay, his cuffed hands under him, his ass in the air. Once again he felt the cold steel, but this time it was pressed against his anus.
"Keep it up, sunshine, and I'll fuck your black ass with my revolver. The sight might feel real good on your prostrate."
Grimacing at the thought, Cedric said, "I'm sorry. I'll behave." Behave! As if you were a naughty child!
Ferguson wrapped the chain around one of Cedric's ankles and secured it with a small padlock. Then, leaving about an 8" length between them, he wrapped the chain around the other ankle and padlocked it. Finally, he wrapped the other end of the chain around one of the upright loft supports. Thus Cedric was handcuffed and hobbled. The chain would allow him to move at most ten feet from the post.
"Now, stand up. If you have to piss or take a dump, you can get away from where you're sitting to do it."
Cedric knew in the morning he'd have to move his bowels, however primitive the arrangement. Then he brought himself back to reality, realizing that he didn't know whether he'd be alive by morning. But Ferguson had said in the car he'd stay alive if he did what he was told.
"You're Kevin Ferguson, aren't you?"
"You can call me Mr. Ferguson, `cause we're sure as fuck not friends."
"Okay, Mr. Ferguson it is. But you can't leave me like this. It's freezing in here." It may have been a warm day for late December, but it was colder now that night had fallen. He was beginning to shiver, and he knew it would be even colder before daylight.
"This ain't the Ritz, boy. But we don't want the goods too damaged."
He went to the chest from which he had taken the chain, padlock, and handcuffs. Flipping open the lid, he reached in and pulled out two ratty-looking wool blankets that were a military olive drab in color. He tossed them at Cedric's feet. "You can use those."
He pulled his flashlight from his pocket and turned it on. Then he extinguished the lantern and hung it back on the nail, well out of reach of the tethered Cedric.
"Nighty-night, fag boy. Maybe if I remember it, I'll come back tomorrow and check on you."
He gathered up Cedric's clothing and shoes and let himself out. Cedric heard the snick as the padlock was squeezed closed. A moment later a vehicle door opened and shut. Then the sound of the truck being started. Ferguson revved the motor a couple of times and drove away.
After that it was very dark and very quiet.
Cedric picked up the two blankets and wrapped one around his shoulders. Then he sat on the bale of straw or hay, whichever, pulling his feet up, and awkwardly covering the front of his body, his lap, legs, and feet with the second blanket while trying not to drop the first one.
Even after his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he couldn't see anything. The farm was away from its neighbors, set back from a country road that had no street lights. And there seemed to be no moon that night. He didn't ever remember being anywhere it was so completely dark.
He thought he might be able to hear a vehicle passing on the road out front, but he wasn't sure. And so far, except for a dog barking in the distance, he'd heard nothing. Now, however, he became aware that he wasn't alone in the barn. He heard rustlings in the loft above him. And then on the other side of the wall he was leaning against.
Well, he thought, I'm going to have to sit like this all night. Don't want critters running across my toes. He shuddered at the idea. Rats could bite. And they carried diseases, didn't they?
Although the blankets were beyond musty, the air in the barn had a vaguely sweet odor, probably from the baled hay. Overlaying it all, however, was the faint smell he thought must be manure from long-departed livestock.
Other information about his surroundings would have to wait until daylight came. He tried to wiggle his hands out of the cuffs, but that didn't work and he chafed his wrists in the process.
It was pointless even to think of calling for help. There'd been no lights in the farmhouse, and the nearest neighbor had to be a half-mile away.
So he told himself to relax. There was nothing he could do until he could see. And he assumed that Ferguson would be back sometime the next day.
What did the man want? He was obviously pissed about the divorce. They'd known that all along. But what did he think kidnapping Cedric would accomplish? That made no sense. Surely he knew about the severity of the penalties for kidnapping. Unless he planned to kill Cedric. But how would that benefit him? Was the guy stupid or just plain crazy?
His legs eventually grew stiff from sitting in that position. He tried stretching out on the bale, but if he lay so that his head was supported, his legs hung over the end and his feet touched the ground. That was unacceptable, more because the blankets covering his body wouldn't stretch that far than because of his fear of the "critters." He stood occasionally to stretch his legs. Once he groped his way the full length of his chain and urinated. Then had to struggle to get himself covered again with the blankets.
Apparently he rustled around enough to keep his companions at bay, though he could still hear them scurrying across the loft floor. The ones on the other side of the partition seemed to have made a strategic withdrawal in the face of the larger intruder into what had obviously been their kingdom for a long time.
An awful thought! It occurred to him that the rodents could climb up onto the bale with him.
But then, he told himself, when the crazy man comes back, the rats may be way down on the list of your worries.
It was a long night. Worried and unable to get comfortable, he slept fitfully.
When he awoke, he was on his side in the fetal position. He was lying on one of the smelly blankets and the other was around his torso, leaving his butt and legs uncovered. He was cold, and he had a crick in his neck.
He sat up, stiffly. Then he leaned forward to pick up the blanket. Since his ankles were shackled, however, he couldn't reach between his legs. So he had to swivel them to one side. Leaning over in that position was precarious, but he managed to grab the blanket with his cuffed hands without pitching face-forward to the floor.
That done, he stood, wrapped himself in both blankets and began jumping up and down to stimulate his circulation. But the activity first thing in the morning had a predictable result: he felt the need not only to urinate but also to move his bowels.
He went to a corner formed by the stall partition he'd leaned against much of the night and an outside wall of the barn. As far from "his" bale as the tether chain would allow, the point where he'd relieved himself the night before. Urinating wasn't a problem. But Cedric was a city boy. He'd never been in the Scouts, never been camping. Never had to shit without a toilet. Still, it was obvious what he had to do. So he squatted and did his business.
And then another problem manifested itself: he had no way to clean himself. Walking spraddle legged he looked for an old cloth, a bit of paper . . . anything. Finally he looked inside the wooden box which had housed the chain and handcuffs. It was empty except for a sheet of newspaper. Carefully, Cedric tore the paper into squares. And then realized that he couldn't possibly wipe himself with his hands cuffed in front of his body.
Now that was too much! Nothing since he'd been abducted made him so angry as his inability to maintain his personal hygiene. If he weren't cold, hungry, and scared, he'd have had to laugh. At the mercy of one angry and probably unbalanced man, his major concern for the moment had become a matter of the need for toilet paper!
Ferguson hadn't, Cedric realized, taken his watch. It was a little after 8:00 AM, just daylight, but there didn't seem to be any sunshine. The distant dog barked again. Occasionally he could hear a car (or, more likely in this area, a pickup) going down the road at the end of the farm's long driveway. And he was hungry. Something told him he should be too worried about his situation to crave food, but the feelings in his stomach weren't to be denied. So he anticipated the return of his captor with mixed emotions. Maybe Ferguson would bring food. Maybe he'd beat up the naked, handcuffed, tethered Cedric. Maybe he'd use that nasty pistol and just kill him.
Cedric sat on his bale, his legs crossed under his thighs, and struggled to wrap himself in the blankets. He was profoundly depressed.
Just before 10:00 he heard a vehicle coming up the drive. His first thought was of possible rescue, but as it came closer, he recognized the sound of Ferguson's old pick-up.
The engine was shut off, a door opened and clanged shut, and there was the noise of the padlock being opened.
Ferguson came in with a gallon jug of supermarket "spring" water and a plastic grocery bag. He set them down within the limits of Cedric's tether.
He was a big man with broad shoulders and narrow hips, though he had a bit of a beer belly. With strawberry blond hair and blue eyes, plus a three-day stubble on his face, he might have been good looking if he'd taken the trouble.
"Can't have you starvin'," he said. Then his eyes narrowed. "At least not just yet."
Despite his hunger, Cedric wasn't going to just dive into the bag. He wouldn't give the bastard the satisfaction.
"I'll bet that skinny little boyfriend of yours is wonderin' where you are."
"He and I broke up." Ferguson must have been stalking him since before Thanksgiving.
"So there's nobody missing you this morning?"
Cedric wondered if he'd made a mistake by being truthful. He decided not to tell him about the party at Jake and Jim's that evening. They'd wonder, surely, why he hadn't shown up. But would they do anything about it? Probably not.
"No, not this morning."
"Well, then, we'll just wait until someone does miss you."
"Why are you doing this? I haven't done anything to you."
"Except fuckin' try to break up my marriage."
"I'd say you're the one who's doing that. Mrs. Ferguson doesn't like being smacked around. She's had enough and she wants out." He decided he'd better stop. There was no point in antagonizing Ferguson.
"She don't know what she wants. She just keeps changin' her fuckin' mind. But we vowed to be faithful to each other until death do us part, and, goddamn it, that's the way it's gonna be! You can't just walk out on a commitment like that."
"Didn't you break the commitment when you abused her?"
"Well, she's always cattin' around with guys she meets at work."
"Do you know that to be true?"
"My buddies say she has. Word gets around, you know. Now that's enough. I don't have to answer to you, boy."
Cedric couldn't help bridling whenever he heard the term "boy" used with regard to an African-American. "Are you a racist, Mr. Ferguson?"
"Hell, no! Some of the best Marines I served with were black guys. But I do hate fudgepackin' queers."
"It's good to know you're not a bigot."
"Watch your mouth, boy, or I may have to shove something in it to shut you up."
Ferguson was right. Cedric did need to cool it. He didn't much like the idea of having to suck the guy's dick – or his pistol.
"So, may I ask what's gonna happen?"
"May you ask? Jesus, is that lawyer talk? You sound like some of the suckups I knew in school." He chuckled. "But I suppose that's what you queers do, isn't it? Suck up?"
Cedric stifled his urge to respond.
"Here's what's gonna happen. We'll wait until someone does miss you. You'd better hope somebody misses you. Maybe your boss. I've seen that fancy dude with all his bling around town on weekends. Do you suck his cock? Does he stick it up your ass?"
Again, Cedric opted for silence.
"Since you asked, I'm gonna tell `em if they want you back, my wife has to sign an airtight legal document saying she doesn't want a divorce and won't ever ask for one. And the cops have to guarantee safe passage to Key West."
"But – "Cedric didn't finish. The idea was preposterous. But perhaps this wasn't the time to say so. If he told Ferguson that he'd undoubtedly be caught and would then go to jail, the guy might just decide to kill him. No point in spooking him. Better just to let things play out and see what happened. Apart from arguing with him, there wasn't anything Cedric could do.
"So, there's a couple of days' worth of food in that bag. I see you've had your morning dump. Good thing it isn't summer, or it might get smelly in here."
"Speaking of that, is there any possibility of getting some toilet paper?"
Ferguson chuckled. "Now that's really bright, sunshine. How you gonna wipe your shitty ass with your hands cuffed in front of you?"
Cedric had forgotten that. He blushed. Fortunately his captor couldn't tell.
"Of course, I could cuff your hands behind your back, but then you couldn't feed yourself. Or wrap the blankets around you. Or jack off. So I guess you'll just have to be a little uncomfortable until this is over."
He spat on the dirt floor near Cedric's feet. "You haven't even thanked me for the food and water."
It was to Ferguson's best interests to keep Cedric alive, so bringing food wasn't a matter of kindness. Cedric responded with an icy "Thank you."
After checking Cedric's cuffs and the chain at his ankles, Ferguson left. While he had been that close, Cedric caught the scent of cheap aftershave. He thought Crystal should have had her man wearing something better. But then, remembering what she looked like and how she talked, maybe she liked Brut.
Once again he heard the padlock being closed, the truck door opening and slamming shut, the motor starting, and the vehicle driving away.
And that began what seemed like the longest two days in Cedric's life.
He picked up the grocery bag and examined its contents, two dozen assorted power bars, granola bars, Slim Fast bars. Variety, but not much. He unwrapped one, ate it quickly, unwrapped another and ate it more slowly. He washed it all down with water. And then he realized that he didn't know how long he'd be there. Should he ration himself? Ferguson hadn't said when he'd be back.
Cedric nearly lost his mind from frustration and boredom. Tim used to talk about people today lacking "inner resources." He complained that everybody needed to be entertained . . . with computer and hand-held games, MP3 players, fancy cell phones, television. And these days there were "mobile devices," tablets and Kindles and lots of other things that weren't around when Tim and Cedric were lovers. Perhaps he was right. Cedric tried to think of things to pass the time. He mulled over briefs he'd been working on, the report Tyrese wanted, Mark's convalescence, how he and Trey and Mark had become fast friends. But eventually he ran out of things to think about. And so he sat there, impatient, frustrated, still scared. The food helped keep away the cold. He ate another bar at noon and two more at 6:00. And sometimes he did his jumping routine. He couldn't do jumping jacks. But he could touch his toes. That exercise didn't warm him up much, but it kept his muscles stretched, helping to compensate in a small way for his enforced physical inactivity.
He longed for a book. Or a run. Or, pace Tim, his iPod.
Ferguson didn't show up the next morning. Cedric thought that was probably good news, since it meant he was still alive, but he found himself disappointed. Reminding himself about Stockholm Syndrome, he still missed having someone to talk to, even if it was Kevin Ferguson.
Cedric had thought of Ferguson as crazy. On reconsideration, however, Ferguson didn't really seem mentally unbalanced (not that Cedric had much expertise in that area), but he wasn't very bright. He obviously didn't understand the law as it pertained to marriage and divorce. And he was sadly misinformed if he thought that any "document" Crystal signed promising not to divorce him would hold up in court. But, given her waffling for the last couple of months, the dingbat might just think Kevin's actions showed how much he loved her! And safe passage to Key West? Ridiculous!
He wondered if anyone worried that he didn't show up at the party the previous evening. He didn't think Jay was invited. But if he had been, he would probably have mentioned the weekend when Cedric went to Cincinnati without telling anyone except Ms. Bott. So there was probably no one who'd think of contacting the police. Not yet.
On Sunday afternoon there was a momentary break in the monotony. He heard voices: young, male, teen voices coming up the driveway. Three of them. The boys seemed to be teasing one another.
"Miller, ya sure ya got the booze?"
"'Course I have, fuckwad!"
"Wish it wasn't always vodka," whined the first voice. "I hate that shit."
"Ya don't have to drink it," said Miller. "But it doesn't make our breath smell, so our `rents won't know what we've been doin'."
"Hey, look, dudes," said a third voice. "There's a lock on the door."
"Fuck! Wonder who did that. Let's go around back and see if those doors are open."
The boys were apparently on bicycles. Cedric could hear a pedal repeatedly hitting a kickstand.
"Oh, fuck! There's a car here!"
"Cool wheels! A Terrain!"
"Yeah, that means somebody's here."
"Look, moron, both these doors are locked, too. There's nobody inside."
"And we can't get in either, can we dipshit?"
Cedric yelled out, "Help! Guys, call the police. I've been kidnapped."
"Jesus!" the one called Miller said. "Let's get the fuck out of here!"
"Please!" Cedric heard the sound of a bike wheel spinning on the grass behind the barn.
"Please, call someone!"
He heard the pedal hitting the kickstand again, this time with increasing frequency as the boys rounded the barn and tore off down the driveway.
Having stood up and gone as far as he could toward the back doors, Cedric returned to his bale and slumped dejectedly onto it. His only consolation was that maybe when the boys got over their fright, they'd tell someone what he'd said.
Nothing happened that day. Nobody came. It began to drizzle Sunday night. The barn, though not appreciably colder, was now damp, so the blankets smelled even worse. And, of course, there was the pile of poop that was two days' worth now. His bottom itched. He hadn't bathed since early Friday and he was beginning to reek. All in all, it was a miserable night.
But at least when he didn't show up for work on Monday morning, he thought, La Bott would sound the alarm.
It got dark early, since it was nearly the shortest day of the year. Perhaps the longest hours were those when the light had gone and Cedric had to sit there on his bale, waiting for sleepiness to come.
He must have dozed off, for he awoke to a crinkly sound. It seemed to be coming from the grocery bag which contained his food.
"No you don't, you bastards," he said. He sat up, put his feet on the dirt floor, stood, and lunged for where he'd left his grocery stash. He snatched it up and clutched it to his chest. By now both his blankets had fallen to the floor.
It took some time to get himself properly covered while keeping the food bag off the ground. Then he lay awake for a long time hoping the mice or rats or whatever wouldn't come back and try to get into the plastic as he held it.
Kevin came by the next morning with a sack of apples and another gallon jug of water.
"Interesting things should begin to happen any time now," he said. "You been keeping yourself busy?" He grinned. "Aren't you glad I cuffed your hands in front?"
Realizing what he meant, Cedric was shocked. "If you mean, have I been jacking off, Mr. Ferguson, the answer is no!"
"I thought you faggots did that a lot."
"Probably no more than you breeders." Knowing he shouldn't, he continued. "Why, Kevin, are you interested in getting' somethin' goin'?"
Ferguson shot him a menacing look. "Back off, queer boy! I wouldn't touch you with a barge pole."
Although Ferguson's meaning was obvious, Cedric wondered where his captor had come up with that expression.
"I hope this is over soon. I really, really need a bath!" He hated the whine in his voice when he said that.
"Then you'd better pray my sweet wife and the cops meet my demands."
He turned abruptly and left, not forgetting to lock the door behind him. Though, Cedric observed, tethered as he was, he wasn't going anywhere anyway.
Nothing of note happened for the rest of the morning. Cedric had polished off a Slim-Fast bar and an apple followed by a long drink of water. He screwed the cap back on the gallon jug and set it on the floor. The critters wouldn't likely chew their way into a jug of water.
The weather continued dark and drizzly. The temperature seemed to be dropping, as if the rain might turn to snow.
He thought he heard something. A car door being closed at some distance? He couldn't be sure because the rain muffled sounds. He strained to hear more, but there was nothing. Perhaps he'd imagined it.
A few minutes later, however, he heard whispering, though he couldn't make out what was said.
"Help! Whoever's out there, get me out, please."
"It's okay, man. I'm Sergeant Ray Stonesifer of the Colby Police."
"There's a lock on that door, Sergeant," a deeper voice said. "Think we could come up with a bolt cutter?"
"Maybe there's another door," Stonesifer said.
"There are two on the back side of the barn," Cedric called out, "but they're both padlocked, too."
"You're alone then?"
"Fiske, would you bring the bolt cutters, please."
"Mr. Jones, are you okay?" This from the deeper voice.
"Yes, I'm okay now that somebody's here."
They must have left their vehicle or vehicles at the road, because it seemed to take forever for Fiske to get back with the bolt cutters.
In the interim Stonesifer and the other man had gone to the back of the building and Stonesifer said, "Yeah, there's his car."
"We knew it would be here," the other voice said.
Then Cedric heard the footfalls of a man running. Sounding somewhat out of breath, Officer Fiske said, "Should I open one of these, Sergeant? Or should I ask SAC McNamee?"
"Please do the honors, Officer," said the man who must have been McNamee. "I'm here to observe and provide support, but this is Sergeant Stonesifer's show."
After two loud snaps, the door was opened. Stonesifer was the first to enter, pistol in hand. He was followed by a man in dark pants and a dark windbreaker and a uniformed cop, both with pistols drawn.
At that moment Cedric forgot about his humiliation, about being naked, bound, and dirty. He felt such relief that tears ran down his face.
"Man, am I glad to see you!" Stonesifer was the cute redhead he'd met at the CQ meeting in the fall, the one who was partnered with the gorgeous ex-model, Jesse something or other.
"It's okay, Ced. We're here now," Stonesifer said, putting away his weapon.
The other two holstered their pistols as well.
"Did the boys call you?" Cedric asked.
"There were some kids here yesterday afternoon. I think they must come here to drink. They were pretty bummed when they couldn't get in. Then when I yelled out to them, I must have scared them, because they took off in a hurry. I asked them to call the police, but apparently they either didn't hear me or were afraid to admit where they'd been or what they'd been about to do."
"Actually, it was Ms. Bott who suggested we might find you using the gps on your vehicle," McNamee said.
It was only then that Cedric took a good look at him. He was someone Cedric had seen before. He looked like the young Ernest Hemingway.
"Oh! I know you! Where have we met?"
McNamee smiled. "We haven't actually met. But underneath that beard I think I recognize a person I spoke with briefly at the Toledo Museum one day this fall."
"Oh, of course."
"Cedric, this is the Special Agent in Charge of the Toledo FBI office, Spike—uh, Barton McNamee." Ray, who was blushing, looked at McNamee and said, "Sorry. I still can't get used to calling you that."
McNamee grinned, and there was a funny flip in Cedric's stomach. He could see there was something more than a merely professional relationship between the two men. But he also wanted to lick McNamee's face, or any other part of his body. He'd never had that reaction to anyone before.
"How do you do, Special Agent?"
"A more important question, Mr. Jones, is how are you?" He had kind eyes, Cedric noted.
Cedric gathered his two blankets more tightly around him. "It would be nice if you'd get me out of these shackles. Other than that, there's not much wrong with me a bath and some clothes wouldn't cure."
"Officer Fiske," McNamee asked, "would you have one of those white Tyvek coveralls in the trunk of your unit? And some booties?"
"Yes, sir, I'm sure we do."
"Just bring the car up here, please, Fiske," Stonesifer said.
"We'll have something for you to wear in a jiffy, Mr. Jones. Do you think we need to get you checked out by paramedics?"
"No, not necessary. I'll be all right when I can get warm. What's mostly been harmed is my dignity, I think."
"Then let's get you out of those cuffs and that chain." McNamee held his hand out to Fiske, who gave him the bolt cutters. The SAC knelt and with a couple of snips removed the chain from Cedric's ankles.
"Think you'd have a key that fits those cuffs, Sergeant?" he asked.
"I don't know where this guy got them, but they look like standard police issue." He pulled a ring of keys from his windbreaker pocket and in a moment had Cedric out of the handcuffs.
"How long have you been here?"
"Since Friday night. I worked late, and he was hiding in the back seat of my car."
"Jeez!" Stonesifer exclaimed. "You're lucky it wasn't typical December weather."
"Yeah, I suppose," Cedric said, hugging himself. "But, man, I'm freezing!"
"Okay," McNamee said, looking at him with concern. "Why don't we take you home, let you get cleaned up, and get some hot food in you? Then we'll take you to CPD headquarters and you can tell us all about what happened."
Cedric was struck by the apparent tenderness in the agent's voice, as if he were talking to a frightened child.
"Do you have any idea who the guy was?"
"Yeah. You mean he hasn't been in touch with you yet?"
"We haven't heard a thing."
"Then how did you know I was missing?"
Again, McNamee smiled and Cedric felt fluttery. Perhaps he was just weakened from his experience.
"I promise we'll explain all that soon. But I need to know if you know your abductor."
"I asked if you know the person who brought you here."
"Oh, sorry. Yes, I know him. He's a local. His name is Kevin Ferguson. And he's pissed at me because his wife is divorcing him and I'm her lawyer."
"Jesus!" McNamee said.
Fiske returned with the white jumpsuit and the shoe covers worn by crime-scene investigators nearly everywhere.
Cedric tried awkwardly to take the coverall without dropping the blankets and exposing himself.
McNamee immediately sensed his problem. "If you're sure you're all right, we'll step outside and let you get dressed. Join us, please, when you're ready."
There'll be a two-week hiatus before the next posting. Sorry, but real life intrudes.
If you want to email me about this chapter, please do so at email@example.com . Be sure to put the name of the story in the subject line so I'll know it isn't spam. Thanks. --Tim