Keeping up with the Yankeesby mkSTEVENSIt was a clear sky that night. The air was brisk. It was mid November. John and Sheila Porters, bothmonths away from retiring, sat in the park, on their bench. The bench was dedicated to their daughter,Erica. Sheila had been diagnosed as infertile so Erica was considered a miracle birth.Erica would have been twenty-four now. She’d be in post-graduate school, a year from graduating, ayear from the next stage of her life. It happened the day of her high school graduation. Her brother,Jason, a soldier in the US Army took leave for the special occasion. Jason had been Sheila and John’sonly child for more than ten years before Erica arrived. Jason was the product of two high schoolteenagers in lust, conceived at prom. Nine months later, with the adoption papers signed, Jasonbecame the rightful property of the Porters. They raised Jason with all the love a parent could give. Yes,there were issues. In his late teens, after finding out he was adopted, Jason took off to find his birthparents. When he returned four months later he gave his parents the news. He had found himself onhis trek. He knew his purpose in life. He had joined the Army.As Jason, John and Sheila waited with the rest of the crowd, watching students accept their diplomasthey had no clue that they’d never see Erica again. If there is one thing worse than burying your ownchild, it’s hearing that your child has gone missing. For the Porters, they’d hear this news while Johnwatched the evening news and Sheila knitted.The ability to break any bad news isn’t the easiest job. It takes a different ‘type’ of person. Like a doctortelling the family of a stroke victim that their father is going to be bed ridden for the rest of his life, aninvestigator can never show weakness, never show emotion. The investigator assigned to the case toldthe Porters they’d do their best but that nothing could be done for at least another twenty-four hours.There are no special cases when it comes to missing people and in the eyes of the law, she may have justran away for the night.At the time, Jason was at the tail end of a four year term with the Army. He offered to stay with hisparents, whether it meant he had gone AWOL. He loved his family, his sister especially. Jason and Ericahad a special bond. They rarely fought, in fact, he had been her role model growing up and he knew it.It’s half the reason why he joined the Army. He wanted to protect his family from the ‘big bad world’out there. However, before Jason had signed up for his latest tour, Erica had begged him to stay and geta job in their hometown. She wanted to see her brother alive when she graduated. He promised he’dbe there when she walked on stage. Unfortunately he would be the only one that upheld that honor.
In most cases it takes seven years before a family can petition for a death certificate. As much hope asone family can have, the Porters were quickly losing theirs. It’d been six years since Erica went missing.Two years since the police found any leads. Every night they would come to Erica’s bench, never in thehopes that she would return, but to remember her. They vowed to keep the memory of their daughterin their hearts.As John and Sheila sat on their bench, holding each other in their arms, something miraculoushappened. At their feet fell a young woman in her early twenties, who fit the bill of what Erica couldpossibly look like. As the young woman stared up at the two, her eyes widened. Her face was coveredin blood and bruises. She stared at the two for a second, then quickly got to her hands and feet and ranoff.In a flash John was in hot pursuit. The chance that this was his missing daughter was too much for himto pass up. It had been a tough couple of years and he’d never be able to live with himself if he’d let herget away.It wasn’t a long chase. The woman eventually ran out of steam and fell mere feet in front of John. Johncomforted her as she seemingly was suffering a nervous breakdown. He held her tight as she screamedand cried. All he could muster is that everything would be okay and that she was safe. He looked intoher eyes, trying to see if it was in fact Erica, but all he could see was a mess of blood and tears. Shequickly passed out in his arms. He sighed… could his daughter have returned?* * *It was mid afternoon before the young woman woke. Trauma takes a lot out of a person. Her eyeswandered the room. It was a teenager’s room, kept as if it were still in use. Sheila had an activeimagination. She figured if she kept the room alive, that maybe her daughter would return.The woman raised herself out of bed and walked the room. She checked out the vanity mirror and all itspictures. She spent a moment and looked at her face; the blood had been cleaned off. She ran herhands over her bruises. There were resemblances of Erica, but with all the bruising, it was too early totell.A knock at the door and the woman stood up quickly. ‘Come in…’ the woman said.The door opened slowly. Sheila entered with folded towels. She stared at the woman for what wasprobably only mere second, but it could have lasted an eternity.‘I have towels… in case you wanted to shower,’ Sheila said. ‘There are clothes in the closet…’
The woman grabbed a picture of Erica. She looks at Sheila.‘This you’re daughter?’Sheila nodded.‘She’s beautiful.’‘Thank you. She was very special,’ Sheila stared at the young woman and frowned, slightly disappointedfor some reason. She put the towels on the bed and exited. She popped her head back in. ‘Oh, anddear… dinner is at six.’‘Thank you.’Sheila took one last look and left.The woman took another look at the picture and put it back. She looked at the towel. A shower wouldprobably be amazing.* * *Sheila and John sat in their normal spots as the woman entered the room. John read the newspaperand Sheila knitted. Maybe this was their way to see if this were actually Erica. This would be one of afew familiar occurrences that John and Sheila would show in hopes to sparks the woman’s memory.Unsure of what to do next, John would be the first to speak.‘Feel better?’The woman nodded.‘Why don’t you sit next to me dear, we have a few questions,’ Sheila said.The young woman sat next to Sheila. She would soon begin the task of biting her nails, knowing theinevitable was going to happen. She would have to tell her story.‘We just want you to know that you are welcome to stay here as long as you’d like,’ John said, puttinghis newspaper to the side.‘We only want to help. We want you to feel safe here. Whenever you want to talk, we’re here,’ Sheilafollowed suit with her knitting utensils. She reached her hand out for John to grab, both happy in theprospect that Erica has returned.
‘Can we do anything for you? Do you have family we can call? How about the police? Are you ready totalk to them,’ John asked.The woman covered her face, the sure signs of another breakdown. Sheila reached out and grabbed herhand.‘I’m Sheila, and this is John. Do you have a name dear?’ Sheila asked as she looked at her husband andsmiled.‘Veronica,’ the woman responded.It was clear that John and Sheila were disappointed by the answer.‘Do you have any clue where you are?’ John asked.Veronica shook her head. She could be anywhere.‘Have you ever been to Dayton?’‘Several times.’ Veronica nodded her head. ‘My boyfriend…’ She stopped herself and looked away. Shelooked at Sheila and John. ‘I was on my way to see my boyfriend when all this happened. He has noclue where I am…’ She pauses again. ‘It’s been so long, I don’t even know if he’s my boyfriendanymore.’‘Did you want to call him?’ Sheila offered.‘Maybe after my face heals. He can’t see me like this. I’m so ugly. Besides, it’s just too much rightnow. I don’t know if I could take hearing his voice,’ Veronica replied.‘When you’re ready,’ Sheila responded.‘If it’s okay, I’d like to have some alone time. Maybe get my thoughts together,’ Veronica lifted herselfoff the couch. Before she left the room, she turned to both of them. ‘Thank you.’* * *It was the usual after dinner ritual, Sheila washed and John dried. It was complete silence, neither oneready to talk. Finally John broke the silence.‘I really want it to be Erica.’Sheila smiled at her husband.
‘But the stories don’t match up. And I stare in her eyes Sheil… I look at her and I think I see mydaughter.’‘But it’s not. It’s not Erica, John.’‘But it could be. I’ve read stories, articles. These bastards… they brainwash these kids. Make thembelieve things. Make them believe stories. What if they did that to her? What if our Erica is home,Sheil?’Sheila dropped the dish she currently washed into the sink. They’ve had this type of conversationbefore. John was a dreamer. He missed his daughter. They had a different love than Sheila and Erica.She was John’s baby girl and he wanted her back more than anything.‘I can’t do it John. So stop. Six years. Six years John. She’s gone, kids just don’t come back after sixyears.’‘Ours do. We raised them right. They’re fighters. That’s why Jay’s lasted so long overseas. He’s asurvivor and so is our baby girl. And I’ll be damned if you think we should just give up.’Seeing the tears in her eyes, John grabbed Sheila and held her tight. She’d fight him off.‘No. Don’t do that to me. I can cry. It’s okay John. I’m allowed to. You can’t just wrap your armsaround me like that and think all of this will go away. I’m tired of it. So just stop.’Sheila turned away and wiped away a tear. John noticed Veronica at the kitchen door. She looked atboth of them. She’s dressed in Erica’s PJ’s.‘Thank you for dinner.’‘You’re welcome dear,’ John replied.‘I want to say I’m sorry for all this, but I couldn’t find better people to save me,’ she hesitated for asecond. She definitely had more to say. Finally she got it out.‘Whatever happened to your daughter, I just want to say I’m sorry, if I could take her place I would…Goodnight.’John walked over and gave her a big hug.‘Get some sleep, we’ll call the police in the morning.’Veronica nodded. Although hesitant for some reason, it’s probably the right idea.
‘Goodnight Mrs. Porters,’ Veronica said. Sheila lifted her hand and excused Veronica from the room.As Veronica walked the hallway, she could hear John whisper ‘It’s her Sheila… a father knows when hehugs his daughter.’ Veronica stopped on one of those gaudy family portraits. The kind you get at K-mart. It’s the last family portrait that had all four members. Veronica glossed over the portrait until shelanded on Jason. She let out a brief smile before she entered Erica’s bedroom.* * *It took three weeks for Veronica’s face to heal, another week for her to gain the courage to call herboyfriend. She had assimilated into their family quite well by then even Sheila would give her a huggoodnight. She helped with the dishes, the yard and house work. She even cooked once in a while. Shehad them convinced that she’d call the police and her mother soon. However, right now she justwanted to see her boyfriend. The Porters were kind enough to invite her boyfriend out for theweekend.It was a week before Christmas. The house was fully decorated. Veronica hung decorations as shewaited for her boyfriend. The house smelled amazing, roast and Yorkshire puddings were in the ovenstaying warm. The Porters were in their normal spot, John reading the paper, Sheila knitting. Thedoorbell rang and Veronica’s eyes lit up. She raced to the door swung it open. There stood herboyfriend. She jumped into his arms and for the next few moments, they were inseparable.John stood up and joined them.‘We’ve heard a lot about you son, I’m John,’ John extended his hand. Veronica and her boyfriendseparated.‘Archie… thank you so much for taking care of my woman,’ Archie greeted John’s hand and entered.‘Archie and Veronica,’ John said.‘I know… sounds made up, but it was fate,’ Veronica replied as she hugged Archie again.The only person in the room not taken by Archie’s charm was Sheila. She greeted Archie quickly andthen attended to the food.‘Dinner will be ready in ten minutes.’* * *Dinner clearly finished, John and Sheila sat in the living room. John looked anxious.
‘Would you relax, it’s her boyfriend.’‘It’s the first time she’s been out of the house with anyone but us. What if something happened?’Just then the door opened and John let out a sigh. He looked them.‘How was it?’‘You have a beautiful neighborhood. Would really be great to raise a family here,’ Archie finished andpulled Veronica close. ‘I hope you all don’t find this weird, but I’ve been waiting three years to do this.’Archie pulled a ring box out of his pocket and lowered to one knee. He looked deep into Veronica’seyes.‘I swore if I ever saw you again, I wouldn’t let you go. Will you marry me V?’Veronica blushed. She nodded her head and Archie slid the ring on her finger. They embraced with akiss. John quickly gave Veronica a hug and shook Archie’s hand. Sheila, still hesitant hugged both.Archie grabbed his jacket.‘It’s getting late. I got a room at the super 8. You don’t mind if I come back tomorrow do you?’‘Breakfast is at nine,’ Sheila said.‘Don’t mind her,’ John gave Sheila a dirty look. ‘Go get those bags son. You’re staying in Jason’s room.’‘You sure?’ Archie asked, his eyes focused on Veronica.‘I insist. Unless Veronica minds?’ John looked at Veronica. She kissed Archie on the cheek.‘I’ll give you a hand, sweetie,’ Veronica, excited, grabbed Archie’s hand and dragged him outside.‘I don’t know John.’‘They just got engaged honey. Besides, they’re in separate rooms, what’s the worst that can happen?’* * *The moonlight hit Archie’s face, a smile plastered to it. Why? Because Veronica was on top of him.Veronica leaned down to Archie and they kissed passionately for a second. Veronica rolled off him andwalked to his bag.‘Did you bring them?’
‘Front pocket,’ Archie smiled and propped himself up against some pillows. Veronica reached into thefront pockets and pulled out two sets of handcuffs. She hopped back into bed and kissed Archie again.‘Time for some fun,’ Veronica said as she played with a set of handcuffs.Archie smiled and folded his hands behind his head.* * * * *The plan started in a small suburb just out of Columbus, Ohio. They planned it in the house of Genie andVic Levesque. Who are Genie and Vic Levesque? They’re going to be the top story on the five o’clocknews two years from now. But right now, they’re Archie and Veronica’s ‘guests.’ Some however, woulduse the term hostages.As Archie reached back and swung his fist at Veronica, the sequence of events that lead to this playedout just as it did for poor John and Sheila. Their last victims, Cord and Bobbie, from Cleveland,witnessed a similar display of love in their rancher house. It always started the same way. After theyraped the house of anything valuable, the ritual began.They would start by picking a target. Year after year it became easier for Archie and Veronica to picktargets. They stopped nabbing young girls for sex. It wasn’t that Veronica became jealous. She wasusually the one that initiated the assault. Pretty soon it became less and less about sex and it becamemore about survival… about quitting their day jobs and doing what they loved full time. In order to livethe lifestyle they wanted, they needed money to survive.It started off with petty kidnapping and looting. Sure, there was rape, but rape was a bonus for themnow. It wasn’t until they found their first real victims that they figured out the formula. It’s simple, oldpeople near retirement. You see, retiring people fit the bill. The kids have already moved out, they’vebuilt up a cache of assets to loot, and well, they’re old and suckers for helping a young woman in need.The hostage story was the big seller. Everyone wanted to help a young escapee, especially one wholooked as innocent as Veronica. Veronica was in her early to mid twenties, but looked seventeen if shewere a day. She was small and frail, her metabolism allowed her to be skinny enough that should couldconvince anyone of her ‘bread and water diet.’ Add bruises and blood to the situation and you’ve gotyourself a candidate for any stranger to open their heart and home to.They were experts now. Archie knew the right amount of physical abuse needed so Veronica couldrecover in less than a month. To make it official and because she was adamant about role playing,Veronica would demand to be treated like a hostage for at least two to three weeks. She wanted thecuts on her wrists that she’d get from trying to pry loose from the rope. She got a thrill out of fighting
Archie off while he raped and molested her. Remember, this was her choice, she asked him. It was howshe got into character. She loved the feeling of being broken in, about accepting the fact that she washis prisoner. She fell more in love with Archie every time it happened.The plan was simple. Locate your target, get into character, gain their trust, loot them, and send themoff with Reggie. You’ll find out who Reggie is soon enough. For right now, let’s get back to Vick andGenie, to their horror. The momentum of Archie’s fist sent Veronica to the floor. She immediately liftedherself off and got in his face.‘This your first time, Sailor?’ Veronica asked.Archie smiled, he was used to her mouth. He rarely took it personally anymore. This was all part of therole-playing. Their sex tonight would be epic. She slapped him across the face to get him motivated. Heplanted her across the face again, sending her to the ground. She could only get to her knees beforeArchie followed up with a kick square to her face. It was a hard kick, but not hard enough to knock herout. They were having fun. Their audience, however, were in terror.A few things really got to Archie. The first was when people touched the door when he held it open forthem. He had always had a short fuse for that and spent the better part of the age of twenty in jail forputting a middle aged man in a coma. Funny how life works out, the man had a full recovery and Archiegot out a year later for good behavior. To think that the selfish act of one man living would be the causeof over a hundred victims. The coma victim definitely didn’t think ‘WWJD?’The second biggest pet peeve Archie had was incessant crying and screaming, and Genie was doing anumber on his nerves. So Archie walked over and pulled out a knife. He looked her in the face and aftera deep sigh… ‘I like you Genie, I really do. You look like you made a good mother, a good provider foryour family. Can we make a deal? Is that okay? You cool with making a deal?’ Archie finished andwaited for her response. Eventually she nodded yes.‘Great. The deal is simple. We will let you go. We don’t want to kill you. We didn’t want to tie you up,but you guys wanted to escape and so we had to do what we had to do.’ He looked at the rope tied toher wrist. ‘We’re the good guys remember. Imagine if some amateur kidnapper was doing this. Wouldhe have used such soft rope, it’s like cotton sheets, isn’t it?’Genie stayed silent, Vick, out of fear, joined his wife.‘ANSWER ME YOU FUCKING WHORE! ARE WE BEING FAIR?’She quickly nods her head and Archie pulled a quick one eighty and went back to his usual calmdemeanor.
‘I hate that you made me get there. I’m not a monster Genie, you just bring the worst out in me.’ Hefinished and stood. ‘Now where was I? Right, our little deal… First, an example of what happens if yousay no.’Without hesitation, Archie kicked Vick in the chest, sending his chair over backwards. This set Genie off.‘Come on baby, save that energy for me,’ Veronica said, laying provocatively on the floor. Archie walkedto her and lifted her by her hair. He kissed her hard on the lips, a collection of her blood entering hismouth.‘Hold this baby,’ He handed her his knife. He followed that with a boot to her stomach and a quickpunch to her face, sending her once again to the floor.‘Fuck you’re a sexy man,’ Veronica said as she sat up. Archie walked back to Vick, who struggled on theground. He grabbed Vick’s chair and sat him back up, next to his shrieking wife.‘It’s getting real old Genie. It’s been five days of this, and nobody has come to your rescue. Five days,you still think screaming is going to make a difference now?’ He kicked Vick over again. Archie lookedback at Genie. ‘Here is how you hold up your end of the bargain. While I kick the shit out of mygorgeous wife over there, you shut your fucking trap. If you do, we set you free. If you don’t, in theshort term, I keep kicking your husband in the chest. In the long term, who knows, we’ll probablyfucking kill you.’It was at that moment that Veronica jumped Archie. Like any normal fucked up woman, this wholesituation got her off. She was horny and Archie could tell. He swung her around and kissed her again.After that he flung her to the floor. While he picked up Vick and made sure the couple had a good viewfor tonight’s show, Veronica undid her pants. He teased Archie, pulling them down slowly, until Archietook control. It was rough sex, but for them it was beautiful. For Vick and Genie, however, it washorrific and unfortunately, mandatory.* * *The thing that made Veronica so amazing was the fact that she could get anyone to fall in love with her.That’s what made this all work. There she was, this vulnerable woman at the beginning, a brave womanwho just escaped some sort of horrible injustice. Her bubbly personality could easily grow on people,and that’s how she got them. That’s how they trusted her. She was this woman who overcameadversity. She made those she stayed with famous in their own neighborhoods. For the weeks thatVeronica would recover, neighbors would make sure she was okay. Everyone would go out of their wayto make her feel at home. Isn’t it nice how she repays them?
Just like John and Sheila, Genie and Vick convinced Veronica to invite Archie for dinner. They asked himto stay the night. And the next morning, they were tied to chairs. Veronica played it off so well. If aneighbor was on the street, she’d introduce them to Archie. Soon enough, Archie would be gone.During the morning, she would force Genie and Vick to call a few friends to spread the rumor that theirhouse was being exterminated. They would turn down opportunities to stay with friends, saying thatthey are going to have some time away at a quaint B & B up country.With Veronica commanding from the back seat, Vick would be forced to drive from their house to someunknown field where Archie would be waiting with their ‘Company’ van. They would drug Vick andGenie and stick them in the back. Mid afternoon they would return to their victim’s house, and ransackit for a week, looking for anything to pawn. At this stage in the game, Reggie, the face of theextermination company, would get involved. Late that first evening, before ‘work’ finished and thecoast clear, Reggie and Archie would drag in the poor victims and tie them back up.They worked hard, and efficiently, in Monday out Friday. At the end of the week, when the place wascleaned out, phase two began. The ritual of setting up the next mark, whom Archie had been gainingintel on, would begin. The show they gave Genie and Vick was a well rehearsed show. By now theyunderstood people, and how they would react. Sometimes Archie kicked the husband so hard that he’dhave a heart-attack. Hazards of the job I guess.So, on the Friday, Archie and Veronica would load up the last bit of valuables, including Genie and Vickand drive off to where they were storing Genie and Vick’s car. However, this time they wouldn’t makeit. You see, a few blocks down the road, a cop had picked up their scent. Pulling them over for a brokentail-light, he would uncover a career boosting bust. There, in the back, mixed with the rest of thevaluables he would see Genie and Vick, hands behind their backs, duct tape to their mouths.The cop would draw his gun, and go down the procedure with Archie and Veronica. It may seem likethis is a little light in this situation. Yes, Veronica and Archie put up a fight, but neither wanted to losetheir Bonnie or Clyde, so they did what the cop said. Now arrested and on the side of the road, the copwould help Vick and Genie into the back of his cop car to keep them warm. He’d crank the heat, crackthe window slightly and walk back to his two criminals.Gun pointed to their backs, the cop forced them into the field by the road. Enough paces in for Genieand Vick to witness, after a few short words, the cop motioned for Archie and Veronica onto their knees,and executioner style, fired off two shots, dropping both to the ground.Trying to act calm and collective, the cop rushed back to his cruiser and drove off. Unfortunately forGenie and Vick, they’d never be seen again. You see, if Archie and Veronica were actually dead, how
could they kidnap John and Sheila? They weren’t dead because those were blanks in the cop’s gun.Yes, it was a real cop, and that was a real cruiser, and Genie and Vick were in real trouble, because whatthey didn’t know was that the payment for all the work Reggie did, was that he got to do whatever hewanted to the left over ‘waste.’With another job well done, Archie and Veronica awoke from their deaths, got in their van and drove totheir place with the rest of the loot. When it was dark enough to sneak back into Genie and Vick’shouse, Archie and Veronica drove back in his car, to get ready for their next attack.* * * * *There they were, trusting family #61, tied to chairs in their living room. There is always a question andanswer period that follows the first twenty-four hours. That enlightened period where John and Sheilastart to believe that they did something wrong. It is simple brainwashing 101. We do it with minoritiesall the time. We tell them they’ve done something wrong, and sooner or later, they believe that. WhatArchie wanted out of John and Sheila was to realize that this was destiny, that they were chosen andthat they didn’t have a choice in the matter.It was four in the morning on day two when John and Sheila were abruptly awoken from their slumber.Maybe slumber isn’t the right terms. How well can someone slumber when they’re upright.Nonetheless, they were awoken in haste by Veronica. She quickly untied them, something seemeddifferent, almost as if she were back as the woman they had first rescued; the scared woman.‘Quiet, quiet, I don’t want to hurt you,’ Veronica said as she cut through the ropes. ‘I didn’t want to dothis, it’s Archie, he has this power over me. I love you guys, I really do. Run for the door, I’ll hold Archieoff’John was free and was off, almost as if he had forgotten who he was and where he was. He stoppedshort of the door and turned back.‘Shit, Sheila,’ John said as he raced back to help his wife.‘Get out. Go far cause he’ll find you. I don’t want him to, but he will. He’s evil, he’s the one that beatme up. It was his idea to come here,’ finally both Sheila and John were free.Veronica stopped John before they ran to the door. She hugged him hard.‘I love you dad,’ she whispered in his ear. ‘Now run.’‘I love you too Erica,’ John whispered back and Veronica smiled.
‘Run’‘John, move it!’ Sheila demanded, already at the door.They swung open the door only to find Reggie, dressed as an exterminator, spray can and all, in front ofthem. Now at least a month since we last saw him, Reggie sported a sweet handlebar moustache,aviators, and a mullet wig.‘Someone call to exterminate some bugs?’ He graciously sprayed both John and Sheila in the face,stepped in and shut the front door.‘You’re an evil bitch,’ he said and kissed Veronica on the cheek.‘Thank you,’ she curtsied.‘Where’s Archie?’‘Where do you think,’ Veronica answered.‘How can he sleep, it’s like fucking Christmas,’ Reggie said as he put down his spray canister. Veronicashrugged her shoulders. Reggie took one look at John and Sheila, rubbing their eyes. ‘Up for achallenge, Ronnie?’ Reggie looked over at Veronica.‘It’s four in the fucking morning Reggie, what are you so chipper about?’ Veronica asked.‘You should have seen what we did to those people up in Columbus… made Abu Ghraib look likeDisneyland. Jugghead and Moose really went to work on that Vick guy. Fucked. Him. Up.’ Reggie said ashe switched from plastic gloves to leather gloves. Veronica sees this.‘Makes me feel like a man,’ Reggie said as he stared at his gloves. ‘We’ve had a lot of great memoriestogether… haven’t we?’John and Sheila, the spray wearing off, made a move for the door. Reggie quickly took charge. Hequickly backhanded Sheila away and tackled John.‘Easy with him. He’s not like the rest,’ Veronica said as Reggie hog tied John with rope.‘You going soft?’‘No?’‘Who’s goin soft?’ Archie asked as he stepped in the room. He raised a t-shirt over his head and put iton. ‘Help out Reg babe.’
Veronica grabbed Sheila who hid in a corner. Veronica looked at her, a look of ‘is this bitch for real?’look in her eyes.‘C’mon Sheila… it’s not the end of the world. We just want your shit… all your shit…’ Veronica endedand yanked Sheila by the hair. ‘I would have held my hand for you to grab it, but you were such a bitchto me, I figured why not, be mean.’After Reggie and Veronica propped John and Sheila back up on their chairs, Archie sat down on John’sleft leg and faced Sheila. He put a smoke in his mouth and went to light it. He pulled it out of his mouth.‘How rude of me. May I smoke in your establishment? Yes, no… maybe so?’ Archie asked. He stared ather for a second. ‘Since I can’t stand you’re god awful voice, and I fear if I do let you speak you’ll justslag my wife again, how bout we do this. Blink once for yes and twice for no.’Nothing from Sheila, just as Archie had suspected. Archie rose and lit the cigarette anyway. He paced ashe talked. ‘Why is it when people are put in the worst situations that the easiest of commands arehardest to follow? I ask you the simple question of can I smoke in your house. I gave you that courtesy,so why when I ask for the same in return, I get nothing?’ Archie paused. He could control a room. Hehad poise, confidence. In the real world, if he gave a shit, he could have done anything. He chose whathe loved, and it showed. He looked over at Veronica and Reggie.‘Well class, what should we do first? Should we get to work? Or should we have a little fun?’ Archieasked.‘Oooh, oooh fun… I choose fun,’ Reggie raised his hand. Archie looked over at Veronica.‘Fun…’ Veronica answered as she looked down. Of course she was pretending.‘How bout some show and tell…?’ Archie pulled out his cell phone. ‘Ten minutes everybody.’The three kidnappers took off around the house, searching for the perfect items.* * *Veronica finished showing off her last piece of Jewlerly and sat down on the couch.‘Reg, you’re up,’ Archie said.‘Thank you Archie,’ Reggie smiled and grabbed his prized possession. He showed the crowd a comicbook. But not just any comic book, it was the ‘All American Comic’s #16.’ Yep, the first appearance of
the Green Lantern and Reggie held it in his hand. In mint condition, which this comic was, was worthapproximately a hundred and sixty k. Chump change, right.‘It’s a fucking comic book,’ Veronica said.‘A fucking comic book… all that jewelry combined doesn’t equate to half this book.’ Reggie slammed thebook on the table. ‘And there’s more. It’s like a collector’s wet dream in Captain Amazing’s room backthere.’John squirmed in his chair and began to violently yell. Already knowing Archie’s pre-disposition toyelling and screaming, Archie stepped towards John.‘Think quick old man, you can say one thing, then the tape goes back on.’Archie tore the tape off quickly. John caught his breath.‘That’s our sons you bastard.’‘You done?’ Archie asked.‘Why are you doing this?’ John asked, squeaking it in.‘Well…’ Archie answered and flared his nostrils. He put the tape back on. ‘You see John, I never fit intothe Starbucks crowd. Reggie’s memory is so bad that he couldn’t cut it as a waiter, and Ronnie overthere… well her tits are too small to be a real stripper, so we really didn’t have any other choice… Whata stupid and might I add, obvious question. We are robbing you, we do it professionally… and when it’sall over, we’ll set you free, as long as you don’t try and find us.’Archie stood still for a moment. There is a time in every robbery where bliss takes over. For Archie, thismoment is right now. Like a conductor leading an orchestra, Archie barked orders and Veronica andReggie listened. Reggie stormed off into Jason’s room, Veronica into Erica’s room. Archie, however,walked into the kitchen… time for some breakfast.* * *In the winter months, night time came quick. By five PM the van was loaded and ready to head to downto Cincinnati where the rest of the crew would sort the merchandise for the local pawnshops. BeforeReggie left, they had dinner. It was during dinner that the fate of Archie and his gang would be tested.They learned early in their careers that anything out of the ordinary usually lead to a sticky situation, sowhen the phone rang that evening, they let John answer it. However, they underestimated John and hisson’s relationship.
Archie brought the phone to John, it still rang. As John raised the phone to his ear and hit talk, Reggieraised his gun to the temple of Sheila’s head. Archie shot a look of ‘What the fuck are you doing.’Reggie shrugged his shoulders and mouthed back ‘Just in case.’ Archie shook his head.‘Hello?’ John answered the phone… ‘Oh, hey Jason… no…, everything is fine…’Reggie pushes the gun harder into Sheila’s temple. Archie motions for Veronica to get the gun fromReggie. They quickly made an agreement; she showed Reggie her rack and she got his gun. Now theowner of Reggie’s gun, Veronica sat down to eat.‘You’re mom is doing well. She made a fantastic dinner. Your favorite, lasagna.’ John said. Archiepushed John to speed it up.‘Hey look son, can you call us back another time, maybe a week. Our house is getting fumigatedtomorrow… yeah, damn bugs. Yeah… a week I guess,’ John said. Almost ready to get off the phone,John motioned with his finger for one more moment.‘Hey Jason. Have you been keeping up with the Yankees? Sounds good. Bye son,’ John hung up thephone. Reggie quickly reneged on the deal he had with Veronica and grabbed the gun. He put it right inJohn’s face.‘What the fuck was that John?’ Reggie looked at Archie. ‘Did you hear that shit? He fucking squealed tohis son. And what was with all that call us in a week bullshit. I think it’s pretty convenient that he didn’tcall his son when they updated people. And come to think of it… I’ve seen pictures of that cute piece oftail you call a daughter… why didn’t you call that bitch either?John stayed silent. That last comment hurt. Archie noticed.‘What now?’ Archie asked John. John stayed silent. He didn’t want to speak so Archie grabbed the gun.He thought for a second to train it on John, but had a better idea. Instead, he trained it on Sheila, andripped off the tape.‘Talk.’This peaked Veronica’s attention. She shared the exact expression as Fairuza Balk had at the dinnertable in American History X, when Derek yelled at Davina to sit down. She watched with excitement,unsure what was to happen next.Archie cocked the gun.‘Talk.’
‘Our daughter was kidnapped six years ago,’ Sheila answered.‘Oh fucking likely story.’Both Archie and Veronica look at Reggie and cock their heads.‘Oh, what… nobody gets sarcasm anymore?’‘John still thinks she’s alive…’‘She is alive,’ John retorted.‘It’s been six years John. Six years. She’s gone, can’t you see.’Archie and Veronica eyeball fuck each other; exciting stuff.‘Okay, that explains the daughter… the son… what about the son? – that Yankees shit. What does thatmean?’ Reggie asked.‘I love you,’ John said under his breath.‘What was that?’ Archie asked.‘I love you. It’s my way of telling my son I love him.’‘By asking him if he’s keeping up with the fucking Yankees?’ Archie asked.‘That’s some fucked up shit,’ Reggie added.And this is where they broke him. His family. His children. Somehow holding Sheila captive was okay,but he couldn’t handle all this talk about his children.‘He’s in Afghanistan, fighting for our freedom,’ Sheila commented.‘You think he’d be better off here, rescuing you guys,’ Reggie commented.‘We’ll see you tomorrow Reg,’ Archie said.‘What?’‘Your services are no longer needed tonight.’‘Can I have my gun back?’ Reggie asked.Archie shook his head.
Fine,’ Reggie grabbed a roll off the table. He pointed at Veronica and Archie. ‘You guys behave now…’With Reggie gone, the evening fell quiet. Archie and Veronica ate in peace while John and Sheila sat intheir chairs, facing one another. All they could do was stare at their food.* * *At three-thirty Friday morning everything went bat-shit crazy. After kicking in the master bedroom doorand training a gun on Archie, Jason was ready for battle.* * * * *If only Archie, Veronica and Reggie knew that ‘Have you been keeping up with the Yankees’ actuallymeant that his family were in danger. Ever since Erica went missing, Jason had become over protectiveof his family. Because of their mass hate for the Yankees, Jason and his father decided it would be bestto associate them with immense danger.Another thing that John had kept secret was that Jason had informed his father that he was currently onleave, and he would be flying home the following morning.Jason arrived in Dayton mid Thursday afternoon. Jason was a complete wildcard and a Godsend forJohn and Sheila. Whoever thought a potential dumpster baby could possibly turn out to be John andSheila’s savior. Jason embraced the Army from the get-go. Because of this, he would rise through theranks quickly. A prized soldier for the Army, he was offered to be part of the espionage division. Withhis training complete, he was granted leave for a week. After that, he’d fly back to Afghanistan, wherehe would dress as a journalist.Jason took rest across the street. The All-American Jones’ had been family friends ever since Jason waslittle. They were as proud of his achievements as his parents were. He explained his situation. That hehad just flown in for leave, and hadn’t known that the house was being fumigated. He asked questions.Like how many hours the exterminators were there daily. Or what they looked like, or if they had heardfrom their parents.Knowing he had to get a better look, he even knocked on the front door. Reggie answered it, a maskover his face. They talked on the front deck. Reggie assured Jason that the company had put hisparents up in a nice bed and breakfast near Cincinnati. Unable to give him the phone number oraddress, Reggie returned to his work inside and Jason returned to the Jones’.Unsatisfied, Jason began to call every B&B from Dayton to Cincinnati. He called the motels and hotels.Nobody had registered guests under the Porters. The realization that his worst fear had now become
reality, Jason wondered how long his parents had been held hostage, or if they were still alive. In thegrand scheme of things it didn’t matter, even an hour of being held hostage would give Jason enoughmotivation to do what he would do next.* * *Jason watched as Reggie drove the van out of the driveway. If only Jason had known the horror hisparents were enduring that night, he would have kicked in the door in a heartbeat. Remember Genieand Vick. Well it was the eve of moving out and Archie and Veronica were putting on a show. TheJones’ had told Jason that his family should sue the extermination company for recouping theirelectricity bill. From what they could recall, the lights in the living room, kitchen and bathroom hadbeen on since Monday.From other answers he collected from the Jones’, he knew that the Van was always there before fiveAM, and that it left anytime after six. He had noticed Archie Thursday afternoon retrieve somethingfrom the van. Astute enough to gauge body structure and weight, he knew it wasn’t the man thatanswered the door. The only question that remained for Jason was how many others were in the house.* * *Knowing he had to move fast, Jason constructed a plan of his parent’s house from memory. He hadrecalled the fact that on his last visit his parents still hadn’t fixed the faulty latch on his old bedroomwindow. Jason climbed through the window. The first waves of emotion hit Jason. His room had beencleaned out. Pissed off, knew in order to be successful, he needed to be calm and collected. After abrief moment of breathing techniques, Jason drew his military issued hand-gun and quietly opened thebedroom door.The house was quiet, peaceful. Jason crept into the hallway. He checked the rest of the house firstbefore he went for the bedrooms. Besides the large pieces of furniture, the house was barren. Archie,Veronica and Reggie had been busy. They were professionals, they had their systems. Theysystematically attacked the house room by room. The first to go was the large sixty-inch wide screen TVthat Jason had purchased for his parent last Christmas with the bonus money he received from themilitary. With that, he noticed the DVD’s, stereo and CD’s were gone. All that remained in the kitchenwere a few personal items, like the mug Jason and Erica had made for Sheila when they were children.He checked out the garage. John’s prize winning Cadillac was missing, along with all his power-tools andJason’s fitness equipment. Back in the house, Jason slowly walked down the hallway towards thebedrooms. He stopped on the same picture Veronica had stopped on earlier. He looked at his family.He had never admitted it, but the disappearance of his sister had affected him immensely. It’s half the
reason he went for the espionage unit. He figured if he learned about surveillance and about collectinginformation, that maybe he could help the hapless detectives locate his sister.He slowly opened the door to Erica’s room and crept in. He shut the door behind him. As he edgedtowards the bed, he trained his gun on the back of the person sleeping. As he got closer, he finally sawthem. As a tradition, Archie and Veronica always let their victims sleep in a bed the last night in thehouse. Archie and Veronica figured their victims had earned it, besides they’d need as much rest beforebeing transferred into the hands of Reggie and the rest of the gang.Jason knelt next to his father and touched him on his shoulder. John instantly opened his eyes. Heshuddered from the touch, possibly thinking it were Archie, or worse, Reggie.‘It’s okay Dad, I’m here,’ Jason said. John’s eyes widened. His son had come back to save them. Hisparents untied, Jason lead them into the living room. They embraced, Sheila a mess of tears.‘Mom, you gotta be quiet.’ Jason looked down the hallway, at his parent’s room. He looked at John,who comforted his wife. ‘Go to the Jones’, and call 911. I’ll be there shortly.’ Jason told his parents.John stopped him.‘She’s in there,’ John said. Jason stopped and looked at his dad.‘Who?’‘Erica. She’s in there. She calls herself Veronica now. But it’s her Jay. It’s her. It’s my baby girl.’‘It’s not her John. You just want it to be her, but it isn’t,’ Sheila said.‘Whatever you do Jason, don’t hurt her.’Jason crept down the hallway, gun poised for danger. He reached his parents door. After a deep breathhe kicked it in and entered. He trained the gun on Archie.‘Don’t fucking move. Get out of my parents bed.’‘Don’t do anything stupid kid,’ Archie said. Still groggy, Archie tried to put the pieces together. It finallyhit him. ‘The Yankees.’‘Let’s go asshole.’ Jason motioned for Archie to get moving. The gun still trained on Archie, Archie satup. ‘Where’s the other one? Veronica? Where is she?’‘I don’t know man. You wake me up from a great dream and expect me to know everything.’
It happened so quickly. The bathroom door opened and Jason caught eyes with Veronica.‘Erica?’‘Wrong answer GI Joe…’ Archie said, his gun trained on Jason.BANG!Jason fell backwards, into the nearest wall. He had been shot in the arm. Jason had two options. Hecould succumb to the pain, and become a victim like his parent’s or he could…BANG!Archie collapsed to the ground. It’s the usual reaction when you get shot between the eyes. Luckily forJason he had been shot in his arm. Right handed, he had enough foresight to shoot Archie before Archiecould shoot him again. Veronica rushed to the aide of Archie.‘Easy…’ Jason trained the gun on Veronica. ‘Hands where I can see them,’ Jason propped himself on thewall, his left arm limp.‘Baby?… Baby?…’ Veronica said as she looked at Archie. She looked back at Jason. ‘You mother-fucker,’ Veronica shrieked like a banshee. She raised the gun and fired at Jason. Firing with emotion,not skill, she missed wide. Jason fired quickly, ending Veronica in the same fashion as Archie. Veronicafell to the ground. John and Sheila rushed to the room and saw Jason propped up against the wall.‘Where’s Erica?’ John asked?‘It’s not…’ Jason started, but was already too late. John was already on the other side of the bed.‘Oh no… oh no… no. Erica… No,’ John said as he propped Veronica’s head up. John shot a look at Jason.‘We could have saved her. She didn’t know any better.’‘It’s not Erica, dad. Look at her,’ Jason finished and slid down the wall. ‘It’s not Erica.’John looked at Veronica one last time, but this time it was different. She was different. She no longerlooked like Erica. It was just a woman. John broke into tears again, not only from what just happened,but from the realization that his daughter was still missing. John backed away and Sheila comforted him.* * *
Jason, arm in a make-shift sling, walked to the living room with his parents. As they reached the door, itslowly opened. Jason stepped in front of his parents and trained his gun on the door. Enter Reggie withthree coffees.‘Jason, right?’ Reggie pointed his finger at Jason and asked, sarcastically of course. Reggie looked atJohn and Sheila and immediately put it all together. He looked back at Jason. He sighed. ‘Fine,’ Reggiesaid as he raised his free hand in the air. ‘Anyone want coffee?’THE END