The force of the rapidly slowing truck woke Logan, pushing him roughly against the seat back. The difference in the road surface was very apparent. It seemed the truck was pulling onto a gravel or dirt road. The shaken fireman could hear the sound of an occasional rock hit the underside of the vehicle while feeling the jostling effect of the numerous potholes.
Suddenly the truck hit an uncommonly large hole. Logan, his companion behind him, along with all of the stuff on top of and around them were ungraciously tossed into the air. They landed with a thud. He saw stars as his head landed hard on the metal part of the floor. A long muffled groan issued from his unknown partner.
The ride didn't get any smoother from there. The road gradually roughened to feel as if he were riding a roller coaster, or worse. Judging by sound and feel, they were driving the ragged roadway pretty fast. The rough and tumble ride continued for about fifteen minutes before the truck began to slow noticeably. For another five minutes the truck rocked back and forth down the back road, taking the group more slowly to God knows where. Finally they came to a slow, tossled stop. Oh my God, here it is, judgement day! the thought screamed through his brain so loudly that he just knew everyone around him could hear.
Logan felt totally electric. Not a livening, flowing kind of current but the high amperage, pounding kind of electricity that rivets a person to his seat. His body shivered uncontrollably. A cold sweat broke out all over him. There wasn't a time that he could recall when he felt such sheer terror. Many times he'd been frightened in uncontrolled emergency situations, never had he even come close to this, not even in his encounter with death. Maybe it wasn't death that frightened him. Now he had someone to live for, and a promise to fulfill! He just couldn't leave Morgan.
He felt so helpless at that moment, so vulnerable to outside forces. Being a fireman, had accustomed him to the constant presence of danger. Still, he at least had a delusional sense of being in control of his own fate, of being immortal, of being able to cheat death. This was different, he was at the whim of who knows what kind of madman! Logan felt no control over the actions of another being. Recklessly, the desperate captive began struggling against his bindings. The person behind him screamed once again through her gag. His bruised body ached everywhere with every struggling movement.
The sound of the rear hatch being opened almost stopped his heart. With all of his energy spent, Logan became resigned to his fate. The muted fireman just lay blindly, listening to the whistling of the strong wind that blew through the opened doorway. He was afraid that he was going to die for the entertainment of a madman. Voracious fear swallowed him up like a demon sucking out his very soul. Just as he hit the depths of his despair, a memory of Morgan floated into Logan's mind like a ray of sunlight through a dark storm cloud. He could almost hear her saying, "I love you, Logan. Come back to me, please! You promised!"
It was enough to give him all the determination that he needed to stay alive. He would do anything in his power to be with Morgan again, kiss her lips, feel her warm, loving embrace.
"Ya'll better hush back here now, you hear," the madman raged belligerently back to them. "I'll be takin' ya'll out one by one and ya'll better stay put where I put ya'. There be some hungry gators just ten feets from ya'. And I might not get as good a' price for ya'll if ya'll come up missin' a leg or somethin'. And you, mister fireman, you be too heavy for little ole' me to be packin' around so ya' betta follow my directions perfectly if ya' wants to keep breathin'."
Logan's head began to spin. He felt like he had just gotten a reprieve from the firing squad. His whole body went suddenly limp. The exhausted fireman had no energy left in reserve.
A muffled moan in unison with the grunt of his captor gently rocked the back of the truck. Soft footsteps slowly disappeared from the hatch. Did he just hear someone being lifted and carried away? That was odd, his companion was still lying close behind him.
"There must be two others, or maybe even more." Logan reasoned. The footsteps returned and he could feel the jostling of the body behind him. A long stifled, moan followed by a muted sob tapered off with the sound of footsteps into the crying wind.
"All right mister," his antagonist's scratchy voice grated against his very bones, "be your turn now. I'm cuttin' your bindin' between yo' hands and feets and yo' gonna' hop over to the way I tells ya'." The Cajun cut the binding that kept him scrunched up in a bundle. Immediately, Logan rolled onto his back for some relief. The howling breeze felt cool against him after being wrapped in the steamy blanket for hours.
"I'm a tellin' ya', I ain't puttin up wit' no shit now! I'll slides ya' to the' back of the truck here an' ya' gonna stand up and hop yo' way over to the place I tells ya'. Okay?"
Did he really expect an answer, Logan wondered. The captive firefighter felt a vise-like hand grasp his ankles, roughly spinning his body toward the rear hatch. With an unceremonious tug he felt himself slid to the edge of the exit, feet first. His captor stood him shakily up behind the vehicle. He immediately fell to the ground. His legs were so numb that they wouldn't support him. Hop! Like hell. I can't even stand up, let alone hop for God knows how far, he desperately wanted to tell the nitwit.
"If ya' don't get up off yo' backside I'll be shootin' ya' right here an' lettin' the gators take care of ya'."
Logan found an untapped store of strength. The determined young man slowly stood up by himself, waiting for his directions. His abductor took him by the arm, guiding him a short distance over some very spongy ground.
"Stop," the old man ordered firmly, "now, turn around an sit down."
That maneuver was a really strange sensation. Logan didn't know how far to sit or what he was sitting onto. The blind action just felt extremely strange. If he could just get this hood off of his head following directions would be much simplified.
Logan reached his seat with a thud. The structure was some kind of a backless bench that rocked slightly when he first sat on it. A sort of railing dug into the tender, tingling skin behind his knees. Suddenly, his feet were grasped, spinning him into place facing a different direction.
"Ya'll just stays right here now and don't ya' even move."
The kidnapper plodded away only to return to place boxes or suitcases or something behind him. Where were the other captives?
"Ya'll better hold on tight now and don't ya' be movin' around none too, ya' hear."
Logan almost fell over backward as his seat lunged forward with a jerk. Something or someone fell roughly into his lap and began wiggling to try to get up. I guess that answers that question, he thought. The fallen captive squirmed its way upright, screaming a muffled cry of exasperation to the taunting laughter of their abductor.
With one more sliding whoosh, the sound of water surrounded him. They were obviously in a small boat. It sounded like the only propulsion was a paddle or maybe a pushpole.
Either we are in some really out of the way place or this guy is pretty stupid, paddling an open boat with several people tied up in it, Logan decided.
The motion of the boat was very steady. They must be in some very sheltered waters. Listening through the opaque hood, all he could hear was the sound of a slight breeze in the trees, the chirping of a few birds and a few distant unidentified splashings. Occasionally the croaking of bullfrogs dominated his hearing, muffling everything but the steady swish of the oar or pole being dipped into the water and removed.
"Yeah, I think ya'll will like ya'll's new home away from home if only ya'll could see it," remarked the Cajun, breaking the silence after about fifteen minutes in the boat. "Believe
me, ya'll will have plenty of company if ya' try to get outside the place we goin'."
Their howling captor cackled to himself in a raspy, throaty sort of way for several minutes. "Plenty a' gators around there. Ya' know, we feeds ‘em, kind of make 'em pets, if ya' knows what I mean. Except these pets likes to eat anything in the water. Not yo' favorite swimmin' hole." He chuckled at his own brand of wit for several minutes, repeating several phrases under his breath.
Yeah, what a comedian, thought Logan sarcastically. The raspiness of the laughter reminded him of sandpaper against rusty iron. A minute of it was all that was needed to get his skin crawling. The fireman then heard a rumbling sound, guessing that it was distant thunder. "Great just what we could use right now, a thunderstorm," he mused sarcastically to himself as a second clap of thunder sounded much closer.
"Shit," the kidnapper squealed, going off into some unintelligible dialect that Logan had no idea how to interpret. The boat began picking up speed, moving a little faster as the already low light was getting even dimmer inside his hood.
Logan felt something drop onto the right shoulder of his department issued jacket, then another drop and another until a large drop of wetness hit his hand. Suddenly, a steady downpour pummeled him, followed by a clap of thunder that sounded as if it were right over their heads. At least it was a lot warmer here than it had been in Houston. He was actually getting hot in his heavy clothes, even in the rain.
The Cajun was blithering incessantly now in some unknown gibberish. The words sounded sharp and angry, muttered mostly under his breath. Logan assumed he was vocalizing his disapproval at the rain. The only thing he could understand was an occasional profanity spit out in English.
Suddenly this Bayou Comedian roared out in hysterical laughter. It wasn't just a chuckle this time, but a full gut-busting guffaw that pealed out over the sound of the pouring rain. This guy's got to be insane, Logan surmised, I mean totally whacked out. Their abductor began to sing.
At ten o'clock Morgan decided to get into the shower. No one had heard from Logan as of yet and she was beginning to get really worried again. The wavering lass seemed to jump back and forth between extraordinary faith in her lover's return and outright hysteria at his apparent demise. She sometimes even felt split into two completely different people at the same time. One part had all the assurance it needed of her boyfriend's eminent return. The other was in deep shock, just wanting to scream out. That fearful part wanted to get into a car and drive all over the city in search of him, but she knew that it would do no good.
Her reasoning felt tugged back and forth, up and down. The sensation was so real that it felt physical. The feeling was almost like she could take a small step to her right and speak completely from one identity. Then step back to her left and be in the other. Which one is really me? Why can't I just be one person? I can't keep the same idea going for a half hour! "I'd do anything if I could just choose which side I stood on and stick with it," the tortured young woman agonized through her clinched teeth.
With a stifled scream, Morgan slipped out of the T-shirt, forcing herself to neatly and carefully fold the treasured garment. The torn young woman deliberately set the clothing carefully on the bed. Next to the shirt was the unfolded note. They were two valued treasures to keep her company during Logan's absence. A single tear slipped down her right cheek.
The warm shower ran strongly over her firm body. Morgan was suddenly overcome by a wave of deep sadness. No thoughts really prompted the overwhelming feeling, she just felt as if the sky was crashing down upon her shoulders. Resting against the rear wall of the shower, Morgan let her body slide down the slick tile all the way to the smooth floor. The warm, rushing water washed her flowing tears down the drain.
"Oh my God, oh my God," was all that the lamenting redhead could repeat, rocking back and forth with her knees pressed tightly against her chest. A hollow, helpless feeling permeated her senses, a loneliness driven by hopeless despair. There was nothing that she could do or say, nothing but sit by the phone, nothing but keep up the hope of getting word as to the whereabouts of Logan. A slow feeling of release eased from the torrents of despair. Welcomed relief radiated through the sobbing lass like a warm wave, starting in her feet. The calming sensation rose gently up through Morgan's body, into her head. Her soul was slowly returning.
"I'm not giving up, Logan Keohane. You'd better just make up your mind to get back here as soon as you can! I love you. Do you hear me, I said I love you! More than I've ever loved anyone. You will be back with me. I know it." The echo of the woman's voice filled up the small glass shower.
Morgan gathered herself with a deep, slow breath, deliberately focusing on the warm shower cascading over her body. Amazingly, she was feeling pretty peaceful again. Still, was she losing her mind?
"There it is, there it is!" the Cajun exclaimed in the tapering rain. He sounded just like a kid looking for his favorite toy. "'Here we is boys and girls. Home sweet home. Don't it feel just perfect? I mean, ain't this just the most beautiful place yo' ever seen? Of course ya' can't see it! Silly ole' me!" Logan just shook his hooded head in disbelief. How could anyone this whacked out still be walking the streets?
The disgusted captive tried to focus on something else. Maybe he could figure out where they could possibly be. He had, however, completely lost his sense of time. Logan couldn't even imagine how long the boat ride had been, let alone the trip to the shores of this God-forsaken chunk of the world. It seemed like a week since he'd left for work. If he could just put together a timetable, it might aid them when they got an opportunity to escape. The spinning young man couldn't even begin to guess the present time of day.
Hell, first of all, he didn't even know what part of the country they were in. His first guess was deep east Texas or Louisiana. It was the only place where alligators lived. They couldn't have come farther east than Louisiana, could they?
Their singing abductor was again serenading them with some tune in, what Logan guessed was, French. At least the whacko sounded happy at this point. Perhaps he wouldn't feed them to the alligators anytime soon, the nervous captive prayed.
"Hold on to yo' panties, kids. End of the line."
Logan braced himself with his legs as the boat slid up to a soggy stop onto solid ground. One last surge of forward motion left them marooned on the shore. What now? he wondered.
"Grand Central Station, boys and girls. This be our stop. Home appliances on the first floor, ladies underwear upstairs. Ya'll be good childrens now, ya'll hear? You first, sweetness," he instructed with mock politeness. "And don't ya' be worryin' about us 'cause I'll be right back for ya'll."
The boat shook and rocked a bit as their kidnapper assisted the first captive ashore. Logan heard another low grunt as the wiry Cajun obviously picked up the captive and carried her away. Listening intently, the fireman could hear nothing except the distant twittering of birds. Suddenly, he heard a large swirl and splash of water just behind him and to his left . The hair on the back of his neck stood up as a chill ran through his back.
All that talk about alligators had left him a little panicky. He could envision a large gator turning over their boat and taking a bite of his leg. His heart began racing and his breathing quickened. Logan thought he heard and felt something brush against the side of the boat.
"Hey, get outta' there," the raspy voice of the Bayou Pavoratti yelled, clapping his hands loudly. The kidnapper approached the vessel with a squishy gait announcing, "Okay sweet-tater, yo' turn." Another grunt and shake of the boat left Logan alone with whatever beastie habituated the water next to him.
Logan was all ears. He didn't know what to do if attacked. "At least let me know it's coming," the frightened fireman moaned through his tight gag. Another swish of water and a hiss came from farther away. His whole body again turned into one big electrified knot.
The squish of footsteps returning came as a welcomed sound. Even though this grizzled fellow could be a threat to his life, Logan was anxious for his return. He actually began to relax a little.
"Alright big boy. Be yo' turn last. We gonna do like ya' done before and hop over to the house. Then we got some stairs for ya' to hop yo' way up 'til we gets inside. Okay, let's go."
Logan felt his feet being picked up and his body turned in the same direction that he had entered the craft. With the mad Cajun's hand under his arm for a boost, he slid over the gunnel, ending up ankle deep in ooze. This should be real fun, he thought, trying his first hop. If it hadn't been for the helping hand, the mired strongman would have been face down in the muck. The sticky mud sucked at his feet. What if he lost his shoes? What would he do then? Each leaden hop required all the power that he could muster.
Slowly, hop by hop, the ground firmed. The prisoner's movement became much easier, but the slimey residue left in his shoes felt terrible. The stench of the mire was also beginning to overcome him. Logan counted each hop as a reference, seventeen hops since leaving the boat. How much farther had he left to go?
Almost immediately he was instructed, "Now, one more hop and we be at the first step. Ya' gots to hop up pretty high or ya' gonna' fall down and break your nose on these here steps."
Logan concentrated on each individual step, making sure that each one was judged correctly. "One more step," the grizzly old Cajun cackled. Out of breath, the restrained fireman reached the top. "Now that weren't so bad now was it?" The kidnapper burst into another fit of contemptuous laughter. "I be gonna' call you kangaroo from now on!"
Logan desperately wanted to breathe from his mouth, but the gag made it impossible. He could feel himself passing through a doorway into an enclosed space. Maybe it was just a deeper shade of darkness or the hollow sound of his shoes on the wooden floor, somehow he sensed entering a structure. At this point, being inside of a building actually made him feel a little more safe and comfortable.
"Okay, that's far enough. Turn a bit to your right and had a seat." Logan followed his instructions and sat comfortably into a small padded chair with a high back. "One second there son. Stand back on your feets."
"Now what?" Logan puzzled. He felt his arms being lifted as far as they would go behind him and the chair back being slipped through. The kidnapped man sat back down, actually allowing himself to relax his aching back and legs. His comforting position didn't last very long, however, as another binding slipped around his feet then connected tightly once again to his wrists. At least there was something to lean against. The grizzled fellow noisily left the house, returning several times, obviously unpacking the boat. Their gear was tossed in various locations around the room.
"I hates to leave such good company, but I gots an appointment wit' a couple million dollars. And I got to fetch my partner out here 'cause he doesn't know exactly where we is. And don't ya' be tryin' anything 'cause between the hungry ‘gators, the cottonmouth's, the quicksand, an the neighbors, who shoot first and don't ask no questions, ya'll won't be alive and kickin' more than a hundred yards or so," the cheerful sounding Cajun informed them. "Yeah, I can't wait ‘til ya' meets ole' DuBose! He be quite some character! We goes way back, maybe twenty years or so. Hmmm, how many stick-ups have we pulled? Must be seven. . . no, eight! Yeah, he's my best buddy. Too bad his momma is ailin' and he couldn't be wit' me to get you two pretty little things. But, that's just the way ole' DuBose is, thoughtful! He takes care of his own. Even went to see his old mammy and missed out on all the fun! Humph, I swear!" Without further adieu the man quickly shuffled to the door and made his way down the steps.
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