Time to Kill
And who’s the little girl?
Never mind the girl…
Don’t Be Scared
Sarah doesn’t move too much during those unforgiving empty hours, she just sits there on the bed holding it. She’s afraid that if she moves the dam will burst, and if the dam bursts she will wet this bed. Sarah Hammond is many things, but a bedwetter isn’t one of them, even if this bed belongs to the strange chunky white man who orchestrated her kidnapping.
It’s very peculiar to Sarah, this whole entire situation. Her and her parents were rolling down Cannonball on the way to the YWCA near the center of town when a cop car pulled out of the woods with its sirens on before the front two wheels hit the road. Sarah’s Daddy was all sorts of uncomfortable, he turned the music down real low and started muttering under his breath. Her Mommy elbowed him in the arm and he stopped, but the entire van had a strange air about it, a mood that Sarah could physically feel; it was as if the air was soup with so much salt added in that the broth got thick.
At the urging of Sarah’s Mommy her Daddy pulled the van over and opened the window on his side all the way. Her Mommy opened her window too, despite the look her Daddy gave her, and then Sarah saw them both glance up into the rearview mirror. Then they both turned around and looked at Sarah with long solemn faces, the kind of faces they put on when one of Sarah’s single uncles or aunts who still live out in Bur City show up to the house unannounced (and uninvited). Sarah’s Daddy explained how a cop had decided to pull them over, probably for no reason, and then Sarah’s Mommy added that they still had to respect the policeman because he was, in fact, a policeman. Sarah asked her Mommy what about if the policeman was a lady, but the answer didn’t change.
Sarah was looking dreamily out the back passenger-side window when the cop came up. She didn’t see the other two cruisers roll in and surround them, as she was looking at all the leaf buds on the branches. Some of them were already starting to open, they looked like little green sparks burning on the edges of the dark gray branches. It made Sarah want to get bright lime green nail polish, and she decided that as soon as they were back on the road, she was going to ask her Mommy to get her some lime green nail polish right after her lessons at the YWCA.
The blazing green leaf buds were so distracting to Sarah’s young mind that she didn’t even hear the heated conversation erupting between her Daddy and the cops, nor did she hear her Mommy’s nervous humming, nor did she see her Mommy look back at her horrified when the gun came out, but then the minivan slammed into the parked police car and she heard the first gunshot. Saw the second one. Saw the fresh blood splatter against the windshield and the windows and the dashboard and the console and the steering wheel and on her seatbelt and her clothes and her face the blood splattered on her face and the cops were climbing into the van and reaching for her and grabbing her and pulling her and unbuckling the seatbelt and wiping the blood away and she didn’t even get to say goodbye, she hardly had enough time to inhale a scream that would never be released before the cops shoved a wadded up cloth in her mouth and covered her head in some kind of pillow case and bound her wrists and ankles together and then she was moving, then she was lying in the back seat of a police cruiser for the first (and last) time in her life, and then eventually she was here in this bedroom.
There was a white man here with her, a strange and chunky white man with a thick mustache and bad skin, and to be brutally honest, in Sarah’s eyes, he looked like he was even more frightened than Sarah was herself. He brought her to the bathroom, even held her hand so she wouldn’t get lost, as if Sarah was dumb enough to get lost in a tiny little bungalow, her parents had a three-story house with more rooms than she could count and then she was thinking about her parents and then she was crying and the strange white man was crying with her too, but he dried her tears and then he dried his tears and he ran a bath for her, and to Sarah’s surprise (a sense of surprise more from her instincts than from experience or even knowledge of such horrid possibilities), he quickly exited the room and told her not to come out until he said she could. So she didn’t, she just took a bath and cleaned herself up.
There wasn’t any more of her parents’ blood on her at that point, not on her skin at least, but still she washed herself over and over again. When she was all done she drained the tub, but she didn’t want to put her old clothes back on because they still had her parents’ blood on them, so she just kind’a sat on the floor and waited. Not too long after the last drops of dirty bath water (ass water, as her Daddy called it when her Mommy wasn’t around to hear) she heard a few doors opening and closing outside of the bathroom, and then the man told her to come out and take his hand. She told him that she was naked and he didn’t say anything for a few minutes, then she heard him walking away. Then he came back and told her to come out and take his hand again. This made her feel all sorts of uncomfortable, but she was alone in a strange chunky white man’s house and her parents were dead, so Sarah didn’t feel like she had much of a choice.
Sarah opened the bathroom door and walked out, stark naked, and to her instinctual surprise yet again, she saw the man had blindfolded himself. He was wearing a sleeping mask (and a very ugly red sweater), and he even taped the bottom flaps to his cheeks. Sarah couldn’t help but giggle at this, despite the vehemence she felt for the direction her life was taking, and she reached up and took the man’s hand (what, was she going to run out of the house naked? God no, it’s March, she would freeze) and the man led her back to his bedroom where a folded pair of purple silk pajama pants and a plain white tee shirt were waiting for her on the roughly made bed.
The man quickly showed himself out of the room and she heard a click after the door shut, as if he locked it, but that didn’t make sense. Bedroom doors don’t lock from the outside. Sarah cautiously put the pajamas on after smelling them first – they smelled brand new, like they were never washed or even worn before, and they fit her perfectly. She called out to the strange fat man when she was dressed and he told her she had to stay here for a little while, that he was very sorry but she wouldn’t be going home anytime soon, that he and his Fellers needed her for a very special event tomorrow night. She didn’t like that very much, no, not very much at all, and she went to open the door and give the fat man a piece of her mind when she realized she was locked in.
And she’s been in here ever since. She doesn’t know where the fat man is sleeping, but it’s not in here with her. She doesn’t know if that fat man is eating, although she’d wager he is, but she knows he’s not feeding her. He gave her some water late last night and she managed to avoid drinking it until after he left this morning, but now she has to pee. Now Sarah needs to pee real bad, but she can’t get out of the bedroom and she refuses to pee on the bed, or in the closet like the creepy man suggested. Sarah Hammond is many things, but a bedwetter isn’t one of them, and neither is a piss-sniffer.
Sarah sighs. Her Mommy always hated it when she said the word piss, she preferred for her daughter to use the word urine. Her Daddy thought it was pretty funny though, as long as nobody else was around. Sarah misses her Mommy and Daddy. Sarah misses her Mommy and Daddy a lot. Even more than she has to pee.
A monstrous groan escapes the depths of Sarah’s being as she sits achingly upright on her captor’s bed. It’s as though the groan originated in her soul rather than her body; it’s an existential groan, the kind most folks don’t know they’re capable of until late into their forties when they realize that, despite feeling like it hasn’t yet begun, their life is just about halfway over.
And now her stomach is rumbling again. Great… oh wait, that’s not Sarah’s stomach, that rumbling’s coming from outside.
“Did I really think that was my stomach?” Sarah asks herself, looking down at the stomach in question. “I need to get out of here…”
There’s a muffled slam from outside, the noise of a car door being shut. Sarah hears one of the house’s doors open, and then footsteps – not heavy like the fat man’s, which is good, and a lot calmer than that of the creepy guy’s, which is even better – track through the house and stop at the bedroom door. Whoever’s in the house with her now knocks three times on the door. Sarah doesn’t say a word.
“Hello?” asks an unfamiliar voice. “You in there?”
Should she answer? It’s a tough call, tougher than one Sarah’s age should ever have to make, but Sarah’s life has never been especially easy; before her Daddy got his new job at the doctor’s office here in Wuester her family lived in the housing projects deep in Bur City, and not the clean projects, either. Not the innocent projects, not the morally redeemable projects. There were more white folks than brown folks in Sarah’s old projects, and while that never meant much to Sarah, it seemed to mean a lot to her parents. That was always the first thing her Mommy and Daddy would tell their friends when they were talking about wanting to leave. There are more dusty white folks here than anyone else, real trashy characters. You never know what the dusty white folks are gettin’ up to when nobody’s lookin’ at ‘em, and believe you me, sistuh (her Mommy called all her friends sistuh, regardless of their gender), you don’t want to know what the dusty white folks are gettin up to when nobody’s lookin’ at ‘em. To be fair, there are plenty of dusty white folks in Wuester, too. Hell, most of the folks in Wuester are dusty and white, especially the cops, but they’re more spread out here than in Bur City. They have more space to do their dusty white folk stuff, whatever that stuff may be.
It just now occurs to Sarah that maybe that’s what this is. The double-homicide that was her parents’ fate, her kidnapping and being locked up in a grown man’s bedroom without food and with only a little bit of water. Maybe this is just the kind of stuff dusty white folks get up to… after all, little kids disappeared all the time in the Bur City projects where Sarah used to live. Usually it was windowless white vans they would disappear into rather than police cars, but still… no. Can’t be… unless…
“Hello?” the voice says once more, breaking Sarah’s train of thought. The source of the voice starts knocking again. “C’m’on, are you in there or not?”
“I’m in here,” Sarah says with a voice much higher in pitch than she intended. The girl sounds like a tea kettle starting to whistle.
“Are you okay?” the voice asks. “You don’t sound too good, kid.”
Sarah takes a few deep breaths and tries to evoke her inner baritone. She’s mildly successful, but still doesn’t quite sound herself. “Yeah, I’m okay I guess. I just miss my parents, is all. My parents that you murdered.” She lets that one sink in for a moment, then, “And I need to pee. Really, really badly.”
More than just a moment is needed for that one to sink in, as evidenced by the voice’s failure to, well, voice a response. Sarah begins to wonder if the voice was ever really there when suddenly, it says, “Well, uh… I can’t… there’s not a whole lot I can do about your parents, little girl, I…” She hears him – it’s definitely a him, even the dustiest of white women sound like women, plus, there were no lady cops when her parents were murdered in cold blood and what Sarah knew as her life came to a blindfolded, bound, and gagg’ed end. “You uh, you need to pee, you said?”
“So badly,” she answers, sprinkling some extra groan on it for good measure. “I’ve been sitting still forever in here because I think if I move I’m go’n’a burst.”
“Uhh-uhhh… uh… do… I don’t…” The man seems to be having some trouble. “Do I, I mean… I’ll, uh… do you… you don’t need me to uh, to carry you, uh… do you?”
“No’I’ll’walk,” Sarah says quickly, not entirely sure she’ll be able to but one hundred ten percent sure she’s not feeling being carried. “I won’t run or try to escape or anything either, don’t worry. I just want to pee.”
“Oh, I’m not worried about that,” says the voice. “I’m sure I’d be able to catch you.”
Yeah, well, so was Sarah’s instructor at the Y until Sarah taught her better… but still, she isn’t going to try to escape. Not yet, at least. She was blindfolded the whole way here, she doesn’t know what part of Wuester she’s in – if she’s even in Wuester anymore. She assumes she is, because the cops who slaughtered her parents were Wuester cops, other towns’ cops wouldn’t have been on Cannonball Road, but still… she sighs. Sarah misses her parents so much. As the man opens the door and peeks in, Sarah supposes she’ll never not miss her parents.
‘They’re really gone now,’ as she is escorted into the bathroom where she stripped out of the clothing dotted with her parents’ blood to unsuccessfully bathe the foul feelings away. ‘They’re gone and they’re never coming back. Forever. They’re gone forever and they’re never coming back… I’m an orphan now…’
Somehow, emptying her inanely full bladder doesn’t feel as good as she thought it would. Somehow, the empty bladder only makes her feel emptier.
Sarah flushes the lemonade and washes her hands very, very slowly, not to make sure she kills all the germs or anything – she doesn’t even use soap, but not because she’s gross; the fat man just doesn’t have any hand soap in his bathroom, probably because he’s a dusty white folk, the kind who kills parents and abducts daughters… but at least he’s the kind who also wears a blindfold when the abducted daughter isn’t wearing any clothes, right? – but because she can’t bring herself to move fast, breathe fast, she can’t even think fast right now. Everything in Sarah’s little world is slowing to a dragging, limping crawl as the cold water bites at her static hands.
‘Better get used to it,’ Sarah comes to realize. ‘That’s just how it is in the real world. Slow. Cold and slow.’
Sarah Hammond begins to cry yet again. Her crying turns to a sobbing, to a bawling, to a wailing like a widow whose partner’s plane will never come in for a landing. The guy starts knocking on the door but Sarah pretends she doesn’t hear it. He knocks louder.
“I’M FINE! ” Sarah shouts at the top of her lungs. “You dusty white monsters killed my parents but I’m fine, just fine and DANDY! ”
“Kii’iiid,” the guy moans piteously. Sarah can picture the look on his stupid stubbly face, all sad and wretched and wrinkly and gross. His cheeks are probably flushed redder than that stupid ugly sweater the fat one had on. “C’m’on, don’t be like th–”
“Don’t be like what?! ” Sarah challenges, taking the stiff handtowel off the wall and whipping it at the door. It lands standing up, which Sarah would find much more disconcerting if she was older, but it’s only because of the hard water. Maxwell doesn’t change his towels much anymore, all that stopped when the wife left him. “Don’t be sad? Don’t be scared? You want me to just pretend that everything is fine, that I’m not an orphan now, that my parents are going to come pick me up soon? Is that what you want, Mister… I don’t even know your name! ”
“It’s Billy,” says Billy, apparently. “Billy Gene, okay? My name is Billy Gene.”
“Well that’s great, Billy Gene!” Sarah shouts so loud she has to close her eyes at the word great. “I’m Sarah Hammond, and I’m an orphan because of you! ”
Billy Gene doesn’t say anything for a few seconds.
“Look, ki–… Sarah,” Billy says through the door. He’s resting his head against his fist which is resting on the door, leaning his full weight against it. “Look, it’s not my fault this is happening to you, all right? It’s not. You need to understand that it’s not my fau–”
“But you’re not doing anything to help!”
“I let you use the bathroom, a’ight?!” Billy Gene shouts, back on his own two feet. “I didn’t need to, I could have let you sit in there until you burst! And I didn’t pull the damn trigger, either!”
Sarah says nothing. The rage is so blinding she finds herself unable to speak. It’s like a cloud, a tactile red cloud that started in her brain and just kept growing and now it’s moving down her throat, filling her belly, expanding like construction foam and taking away that emptiness in her core where her parents’ love used to be.
“It’s nobody’s fault what’s happening to you, all right? The chief didn’t wake up one morning and think, Hey, I ought’a kill a couple of Earthen folks and take their kid today, it didn’t happen like that!”
“Then how did it happen?” Sarah asks calmly. She turns off the water as to better hear the officer’s answer, and when she doesn’t get one right away, “Explain it to me, Billy Gene. What exactly is happening to me?”
The doorknob turns. Sarah springs back and almost trips over the toilet, but then she catches herself on the plastic shower curtain hanging on the shockingly sturdy metal pole above the rim of the tub. As Billy walks in Sarah sees that she was right – his face is just as red as the fat one’s stupid ugly red sweater, and now that she’s paying attention she realizes with latent horror that he’s wearing the exact same one.
“It ain’t up to me to tell you what’s goin’ on,” he says, holding out a hand. Sarah eyes the hand, staring at it like Billy was a wrinkled old hag and his hand was holding a shiny red apple. “C’m’on, you peed. I have shit to do today, it’s time for me to go. Let’s go back to the bedroom.”
“What if I don’t want to?” Sarah asks, still eying the man’s hand, faintly surprised at how smooth and well-maintained it is.
Billy reaches down and grabs the girl by the wrist. Sarah leans back on her heels but it’s no good, Billy Gene forcibly drags her out of the bathroom and through the strange fat man’s house. He doesn’t quite throw her back into the bedroom, but she doesn’t choose to crash into the bed and get half the wind knocked out of her lungs either, y’understan’? The door is closed and locked when she catches her breath, but still Sarah’s feet hit the thin carpet and bring her charging forward all the same. Her small body smacks against the solid slab of wood like a rubber ball into a brick wall, bouncing her right down to the floor. There she sits as tears well up and the emptiness inside her deepens and deepens.
Sarah Hammond weeps silently on the thin carpet of the bedroom floor. On the other side of the locked door, Billy Gene unknowingly joins her.
Hello Commons, this has been the fifth subchapter of the third chapter of Under the Hood: The Imprisonment of Jonathan Knox, a novel about a man who likes to eavesdrop on his neighbors.
Under the Hood: The Imprisonment of Jonathan Knox is the second book in the W-2222 series, a series of books which take place in Universe W-2222.
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