Quickly, panic took over and I began to scream. I yanked and pulled on the door handle but the door didn't move. I kicked and screamed at the door, barely causing it to shake a little. The thick wood held fast. It barely even shook.
"Help me!" I listened for a moment and heard nothing in reply. I screamed again and again. Suddenly I stopped. I had heard something. It was incredibly muffled, as though coming from a long way off. I couldn't make out what was being said, but I could tell it was another girl. She was screaming the same thing I was. That was when I knew that I was in far more trouble than I had originally thought. I pressed my ear to the door. The sounds were coming from farther down the hallway.
I laid on the floor and pressed my ear to the crack underneath the door to listen closer. Footsteps padded lightly through the hallway, straight to my door.
"Nobody can hear you," he said from the other side, speaking as softly as though we were face to face. "Scream all you like, there's no help coming."
"People know where I am," I yelled. "They'll come looking for me!"
"You mean Adam? I donot think you understand. He thinks you left already. Your things were gone. I talked to him this morning. Donot feel lonely though. Adams last substitute girlfriend is just down the hall in another room." I knew then where the screams had come from. I heard the main door close and I knew he was gone. Peering under the door, I could see everything was dark.
My mind whirled in a vortex of the steps I had taken the night before just after the knife was shoved through the clothes inches from my nose. I sank into a black hole in my own mind. Not a soul in the world knew where I was. My family didn't care where I was and I had no friends in this strange town except Jenny. If she went into my room and discovered everything was gone, she would think I had left, too. There was nobody alive who would look for me. I knew it could possibly be the end of the road for me.
The blanket crowding my thoughts cleared. I needed to get out of this place. I looked around the room and saw a possibility on the opposite wall to the door. I made my way down past the length the couch and flung back midnight curtains to reveal a window. It had been boarded up long ago. I dug and clawed at the wood over the window until my fingers bled. I broke a lamp on a near by table and used a piece of the shattered ceramic to start digging at the nails holding the plank in position. It started to come loose and my adrenaline kicked in full force. I grabbed the wood and yanked with all my might, finally freeing it of its purchase.
The wood slid out of my hands and hit the floor with a hollow thunk. The window had bars in place, but beyond the bars was a solid wall of brick. The place was air tight. He was right, nobody would hear me scream.
I sat on the couch close to the window and ducked my head between my knees. My breathing became rapid and panicked and my eyes became blurry with tears. I knew I wouldn't survive the night. I took a deep breath, wiped my eyes and sat up. Again, I looked around for any way out of this trap.
The door was in the corner to the left of me. Next to the door was a small round table with another lamp on it like the one I had broken. It was the only light source I had. In the corner next to the table was a tall, black, standing wardrobe. Along the wall in front of me stretched the bed, covered with a shabby old brown bedspread. Between the couch and the bed was another small round table under what was once the window. There wasn't much in the room, but I knew there had to be SOME way out.
I opened the wardrobe to discover a marijuana plant growing under a heat lamp. The musty smell nauseated me and I wanted to do something to aggravate and piss off my kidnapper. I dug under the bed for something to wrap the plant in and found an old 2 liter bottle that had been empty long enough to begin to mold. I pulled it out from the dirty clothes shoved under with it and opened it. The moldy smell was about as bad as the marijuana plant. I grabbed the plant up, shredded the leaves and stems and shoved them all into the moldy bottle. Then I secured the top and set the bottle on the table by the door like a flower in a vase. If nothing else, I felt like I had done something to my attacker in return, though not enough.
I had lived through Hell for more than three weeks at this point. Constantly there was some obstacle in my way, trying to force me into submission. Just as I did when I was a kid, I mentally prepared myself to fight back. When my parents took away everything I owned as a punishment, I mentally fought back and found a way to not only persevere, but to thrive without their knowledge. I could find my way out of this Floridian Hell, too.
My first sentence when I was a kid was "I do it by self" and I meant it. I've always been that way, but somehow I lost that drive for a while when I got married. I didn't want to "do it by self", I wanted someone else to do it for me because it was easier. Here I was in a situation where I knew I couldn't depend on another living soul to help me. It was up to me now, and my life depended on it.
I started to claw at the dirty clothes under the bed looking for anything I could use to unscrew the door handle and get out of the room. I tried buttons on jeans and the taped ends of shoe laces. I tried my own finger nails. I tried using a heart shaped necklace pendant I found and tried not to think of what happened to its original owner. The heart was too wide for the bit in the screws. I tried the bottle cap for the moldy bottle. I tried the shards of lamp still under the window and even tried splinters of wood from the piece I had pulled off the wall. Nothing I found worked. I grew thirsty and hungry, but there was no food or water around.
I made a discovery towards the back of the clothes that made my heart leap with joy and hope. There was a very dull, very old serrated edge knife with about a 5 inch blade on it. It was a very thin steak knife, but it was a knife! I used the tip to pry at the screws and only succeeded in breaking the tip of the knife off. I tried to use the broken edge and managed to cut my hand on the dull blade. My eyes welled with tears again as I became so frustrated I wanted to scream. I knew that wouldn't do me any good. Out of the frustration I was feeling, I swung the broken knife at the door and rested my head against the cool wood. The knife stuck. I looked. Inspiration struck again and I started to hack away at the door with the dull, broken steak knife with a fury that would make most people cower in fear.
Six hours later I had managed to saw a hole in the door just barely big enough for my hand to fit through if I pinched my fingers together. I had refused to give up even when my fingers cramped and my muscled ached. I stabbed and sawed at the door until I could see the back of the poster on the front of the door. I jammed my hand into the tiny hole and began to reach for the door knob. I couldn't reach with my right hand, so I frantically tried with my left. I was so close to freedom I could taste it! The jags of wood cut into my hand as I pushed it through the opening. I could feel my skin ripping and blood began to ooze from day old marks put on me by a Holly bush. Fresh cuts were made, but I pushed on. I didn't pay attention to the pain I felt as the wood gouged a piece of flesh from the back of my left hand big enough to leave a scar even to this day.
My hand touched something just above the door knob. The cold metal surface shocked me. I hadn't noticed this on my way into the room. I felt a hinge of sorts and a metal paddle with a hole on the end. Inside the hole was another piece of metal protruding. I felt around more, my hand beginning to go numb from the lack of blood flow due to the constricting space I had my arm in. There, hanging from what I had discovered was a latch, hung a combination lock. I pulled on it, turned the dial and prayed that I could get it open. After twenty minutes of failure, I had to give up on that pursuit. No matter how I tried, I wasn't getting out of that room. The only thing I had discovered was that removing the door handle wouldn't change the fact that I was locked in the room.
I threw the knife at the wall and watched it hit soundly and bounce back a little before landing in the pile of dirty clothes I had pulled out from under the bed. Once more, I had a moment of inspiration. It was as if seeing the knife land in the clothes was pointing them out to me. I knew what I needed to do.
From my best guess, it was around 10 at night. I had to act fast. Hopefully "Esteban" would be back soon to check on me or do who knows what with me. I needed to prepare. I began tossing the dirty clothes onto the couch in a large pile. I grabbed the 2 liter bottle containing the marijuana plant and mixed that in. I began to form a shape to the pile with the bottle being about two feet from the end of the long pile. Then I grabbed the brown bedspread from the bed and tossed it over the pile of clothes. Pulling a few last items from under the bed, I fashioned something that resembled red hair and left it poking out of the top of the blanket.
I walked over to the door to survey my work. I had done remarkably well. The plastic bottle provided just enough lift to one pair of jeans to resemble a slightly bent knee under the blanket. It looked like an actual person was sleeping under there - but something was missing.
I took the lamp shade from the broken lamp and tore the paper to long strips. I crumpled these like newspaper and shoved them into a sleeve of an over sized hoodie. Then I strategically left three pieces slightly poking out of the end. From a distance, it looked like fingers hanging out. I propped this piece over the arm of the chair as though the person was laying face down. The filled in sleeve made the perfect arm. It bent in just the right spot to look like a wrist. My creative project was done. I picked up an ink pen from the table near by and absentmindedly placed it in my pocket.
I got on my hands and knees and crawled under the small round table by the door. It had to be near 11 pm at this point, but that was only a guess. This happened before the days of everyone having cell phones, and I didn't have a watch. At the time, I didn't feel the need to wear one. Now not a day goes by without one. This story is that reason. It's also the reason I am obsessed with making sure I have a cell phone with a full battery at all times.
I crouched under the table, ready to spring up if anyone opened the door to the room. I had lived through a nightmare long enough, it was time to do something about it. Fully empowered by my own thoughts of escape, I knew that I could outrun about anyone right then. Adrenaline pumping, I listened closely for any movement.
I waited for what felt like hours. My stomach growled and my head throbbed. I leaned back against the wall, still perched on my toes and sitting on my heels. Without realizing it, somewhere around 5 am, I fell asleep. When I woke up, I was petrified. The door had been opened. If it hadn't bumped my hand that had fallen out in the way, I wouldn't have noticed. I froze.
I couldn't move. If I had, the movement might have been noticed. If I didn't move, my hand might be stepped on and the difference in texture would have been noticeable. I took my chances and remained in place. One shoe stepped right next to my hand. If I timed this perfectly, I knew I wouldn't be seen. The other foot began to move ever so slightly. I thought I had been spotted, but then the foot lifted and came closer to my hand. I yanked it back quickly and silently, just before the shoe landed exactly where my hand had been. Once more my heart threatened to give me away with its obnoxious pounding in my head and neck. I heard my own heart thumping between my ears. All of my muscles tensed up and I got ready to spring into action. The legs weren't moving though. Did the dummy not fool my keeper?
He took a step closer to the couch. He reached over. He touched the 'knee' lightly with a finger tip. Almost gingerly, he caressed the 2 liter bottle. I knew it wouldn't be long before he realized it was a fake.
I sprang into action and leaped for the door. I came up too quickly though and my shoulder struck the edge of the table. The jarring noise startled my attacker who shrank farther into the room before realizing what was going on. He spun and looked at me and then at the couch. By then it was too late, he was coming at me.
With my left hand I reached behind me and grabbed the light source casing eerie shadows on the walls. No hesitation kept me from bringing the lamp hard across the temple of 'Esteban' the kidnapper. He stumbled back and dropped something. It was the combination lock from the door. I wanted to reach over and grab the lock, but I knew I didn't have the time. He was already coming after me again, reaching out in a dazed trance. I dashed out the door and closed it behind me as I went. I strained and pulled, trying to keep him inside the room. His arm began to flail wildly around through the hole I had cut in the door. He grabbed my arm and tore into the skin with his fingernails. He was screaming at me but I couldn't understand him. I tried to yank my arm away but he held fast. I grabbed the pen from my pocket with my left hand and stabbed him between the knuckles of the middle finger and ring finger. He yelped in pain and yanked his hand back. The end of the pen was covered in blood. He started reaching again and I slapped the latch of the door in place and shoved the pen through the hole. I knew it wouldn't hold him long, but maybe it would be just enough for me to get away.
I hit the main door to the house at a dead run. I was blinded right away. I had lost all track of time while asleep under the table and the sun was high in the sky, showing the time around noon. I had been locked up for 23 hours, strategically fighting for a way to get out and survive. My sneakers tore at the gravel driveway and I slid around the corner without slowing down. I heard a loud bang behind me and knew he had gotten loose. He would be coming after me. I heard another loud bang, but this one sounded more like a 'Pop' of a gun or a car backfiring. I wasn't going to stick around to see which one it was.
I ducked down one of the side streets and headed straight into a lawn. Diving on my hands and knees, I crawled beneath another bush, but this time it wasn't Holly. The car I had seen Esteban driving went roaring past me on the road.
I jumped out of my hiding place and took off in the opposite direction. I saw a black and white police car and once more failed to flag them down when I needed their help the most. I ran straight out into the street screaming at him.
Esteban heard my screaming and squealed tires to turn around illegally in the four lane road. Seeing this, finally the cop stopped. I ran to the window and screamed wildly at the cop inside. It was a petite female by the name of Sandoval. I tried to tell her that I had been kidnapped and escaped. I told her where the place was that I had been held in and that there was someone else inside. I told her that Esteban was the one who had done it, and she looked at me like I had sprouted two heads. Esteban, seeing that I was talking to a cop, spun around again and took off. Sandoval tried to persue, leaving me on the side of the road on my own once more.
A wild pursuit ensued on the streets of Daytona Beach that day. Cops swarmed the house where the other girl was being held captive. I walked meakly back to Adam and Jenny's house, gathered my things from under the house, and walked away from the Florida Nightmare forever. I slept on a few park benches until I found another place to land, but anything was better than where I had been for the past three weeks.
Walking away from that disaster with my life was probably the luckiest moment I've ever had. I've lived a blessed life to continue on with the determination and desire that I have. The story you've just read is true. I didn't even change the names to protect the innocent - because in the end, nobody was innocent. Not even myself. I'm guilty for not standing as a witness, for not going back for the other girl myself and for not telling Jenny the truth about Adam. I'm also guilty of stealing something from Jenny and Adam.
I still haven't gotten my knee surgery, and over the years my knee has gotten worse - but it reminds me of the desire I had to survive and all I have to live for.
This story in its entirety has never been told before today. You are among the FIRST to know the truth. My own family doesn't know this story - and unless they read my blogs, they probably never will. Yes,I was kidnapped. Yes, I lived to tell about it. And now, you know how I survived.
Had I not been patient enough to think clearly througout my situations, had I not had the luck I was born with, I wouldn't be telling this story today. The Secret of Life may hold more meaning for each of you now that you know my story.
We all have that strength within us. Sometimes it just takes extreme circumstances to bring it out of us.
The Jade Coyote
(Yes, I kept it.)