Chapter 3

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"Where are you taking us?" Jenna asked. "I mean, surely you have a plan? It's never too late to stop. Let's stop the killing. I think you need help. I can get you, we can get you the help you need." Jenna was a psychology major in college, and she loved using it in reverse. Her mother was a school counselor, and she had plenty of hang-ups herself. But she was a good woman. Jenna has her tough-as-nails personality, though. Sometimes it can be annoying, to say the least. "You don't have a clue, do you?"

"Shut up!" Robert said, looking straight ahead. "Just shut up and let me think. We've done this five times today. We've never got caught yet. And I don't intend to get caught this time. So, let me do the thinking."

"That's what I thought, don't have a clue." Jenna slumped in her chair. Jenna talked to Robert the way she spoke to me—in a berating, accusatory manner. For a moment, I saw Robert as myself. It snapped me back to reality, not the reality of being kidnapped—the reality of what loved used to feel like before it all fell apart.

Jill turned to Robert. "Seriously, though, babe, where are we going?" Jill asked. I shifted my body and cut my eyes to Robert in the rearview mirror. By now, all eyes focused on Robert. Something in Jill's eyes told me she didn't want to be there just as much as we didn't want to be there. Jill had these beautiful lips with hazel eyes and long red hair that cascaded to the small of her back. But sitting there in the car, she was just as responsible as he was for the robbery and kidnapping us.

"I haven't decided that yet," Robert said. "I just don't know. Okay?" Robert said, more confused than assertive. "Whatever we do, we've got to get out of here. Things didn't exactly go as planned."

"Oh, come on, babe. We talked about getting a plan before doing something like this," Jill said. "You promised." Jill slapped the dashboard. "I can't believe this shit."

"What do you want from us?" I asked. 

"Look, we're not bad people." Jill turned to Robert and placed her finger on her chin as if she were distancing herself from Robert. "Okay, well, I'm not a bad person. We just need money for our son's operation."

"This isn't the way to get it," Jenna said. I mean--"

"What would you know about money?" Jill turned to the back seat and scanned Jenna's clothes as we continued traveling the freeway. "Wearing nothing but designer apparel. Things aren't easy for folks in the real world."

I placed my hands in front of my body in a take control kind of way. "Listen, you've got your money, just let us go." I realized how much I sucked at using reverse psychology. I'm starting to see why I can't convince Jenna to stay with me. It was a gut punch acknowledgment.

"Maybe he's right," Jill said. "We've got the money."

"Count the money." Robert looked in the general direction of the moneybag. "We need to get more than we need. Hopefully, open that coffee shop you wanted."

Jill flipped through the cash. One bill after the last. "Four thousand dollars."

"We need at least ten thousand dollars, just to be on the safe side," Robert said as if they were casually paying bills. "Once we get the money we need, we'll let you guys go. But the cops aren't going to kill innocent hostages."

"So, you're using us to get your money?" Jenna said. "Look, buddy, I don't have time for this stupid shit."

Robert laughed.

"What's so funny?" Jenna shouted.

"I know where your parents & sister live. If you want them to live, you'll do what I say."

"How do you know me?" Jenna asked.

"We saw a car that we'd assumed to be yours at the Diner, and cut the tire, knowing you wouldn't make it too far."

"You knew we'd have to come back to the hotel?" I said.

"Now, you're catching on. And we, I, am a former police officer. I ran the tags and remembered your mother worked for the Suntinde School District. It's pretty easy to figure it out after that."

I turned to Jenna and the blood drained from her face. It was that out-of-control look she had when her father yelled at her. With everyone else, Jenna towered with confidence, but now that Robert can find her family, she's shaken.

"It's late," I said.

"And?" Robert said.

"And, we need to rest—even you."

Robert sucked a deep breath and blew out a sharp sigh. We'd passed ten hotels before coming to one with vacancy. I finally thought things would calm down, and we'd leave while Jill and Robert slept. We all looked on as Robert went to check-in. I'd thought about writing help on my hand and holding it to the window. But just when I thought of the idea, it escaped me when I heard several gunshots. I glanced back to the clerk, and this time he was slumped over the counter, bleeding from a head wound. Shit, I thought. He robbed the place. Before a minute had passed, Robert slid into his seat and slammed the door. His foot pressed the gas as we flew down a back highway.

"You said no one else would get hurt!" Jill said loud. "You promised." Jill punched his arm. "Damn it. Your Dad is a pastor. I don't think he's going to like going to his son's jail cell."

"He was going to call the police on us," Robert said. "I'm not going to jail for anyone. He recognized the car." Robert drove down a dirt road. It seemed to be rarely traveled yet private land with several KEEP OUT signs on either side of the dirty, bumpy roads. If possible, I thought that some redneck son-of-a-bitch might come out with a gun and a lower protruding lip, spitting tobacco everywhere and asking us to get out while he racks the shotgun. Robert parked the car, and I, we, batted our eyes until we couldn't.

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