This story is by Sue Moreines and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
For weeks that bastard kept us locked in the basement. There was no way to escape or even call for help and there wasn’t much I could do except pace back and forth like a caged animal. Occasionally, he flung down bottles of water and bags of food. Still, we were always hungry and forever thirsty.
One day, he stumbled down the dilapidated stairs and without thinking, I lunged for his neck. I learned quickly that wasn’t a good idea. He whipped a Glock 19 out of his pocket and pulled the trigger. Luckily, the bullet only grazed my thigh.
“If you ever let Charlie try anything like that again, I’ll finish the job!” threatened the madman.
Bria pulled me behind her and demanded, “When will you stop torturing us? You have to let us go!”
Before responding, his phone rang. “Yeah, it’s Max. Next Thursday will work.” After hanging up, he smirked at Bria and snarled, “Really? Just wait and see.”
That’s when I feared we were going to be sold, bartered or killed in that hellhole. There was no way out.
I didn’t notice when Max pulled out the gun, a knife dropped out of his jacket and slid behind a rusty hot water tank. After Bria tended to my wound, I saw her reach for the object that had disappeared from view as Max shot me. She hid it deep inside a crack in the cement floor that was covered by our own excrement. Every day she dug it out, then spent hours filing the edges of the blade by running it across the bottom of the cracked ceramic mug I drank from. I had no idea what her plan was, so I watched and waited.
One night, Bria commanded, “Charlie, lie down behind that pile of boxes and don’t come out for any reason!” Pointing toward the floor, she added, “Remember, I said stay there!”
As I peered through the spaces between the battered cartons, Bria settled herself into a fetal position on the floor with her back toward the bottom of the stairs. I cowered when she emitted the most ear-splitting scream. Max came running down, wondering what the commotion was all about.
Bria curled into a tight ball, and Max leaned over her bellowing, “What’s the damn problem?”
Within seconds, Bria flipped around and plunged the polished blade of the razor-sharp knife into his chest, causing him to fall backwards as his callous heart exploded. Blood hemorrhaged through the gash as she yanked out the slippery weapon. I trembled, gazing at the gruesome scene.
“Let’s go Charlie!” Bria called. She stepped away from the shriveled shell of the dead man and we disappeared as the sun peeked over the horizon.
We hiked and climbed for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, Bria found the perfect hide-out. It was a small cavern in the side of a hill that once housed a large animal or two. It provided enough room and sufficient cover to prevent anyone from finding us. Late at night we ventured into town to search for food and water. That couldn’t have been easier, since people threw away so much. I have a great sense of smell and we went back with enough supplies to last a few days.
Memories, flashbacks and nightmares left little time for sleep. While stroking my head she often said, “I don’t know what I’d do without you Charlie. We’re a great team and truly need each other.” That’s why I never let her out of my sight, and knew if not for my companionship and instinct to protect her, she might not have been able to cope.
I often replayed the events that brought us together. We were both wandering through a park, and met at dusk along the shoreline of an algae covered pond. I just turned nine and Bria was almost 16. After being abused for far too long, I ran away. Bria said her parents were neglectful, so she left home too. I had been bedding down wherever I could find a safe spot, and rummaged through trash cans to find things to eat. Bria found herself an abandoned house where she’d been staying for a while. After sharing our stories, and a sandwich she bought at a corner store, Bria encouraged me to follow her to the house. To make money, she collected cans and bottles, earning close to five dollars a day. Sometimes when she rested, she’d put a can down at her feet and people dropped in spare change. Once I began tagging along, many more reached into their pockets. Bria said I was her good luck charm and hoped I’d never leave her.
One day, that psycho pulled up in a van and ordered Bria to get in. He flashed a pistol and a wad of money, and through gritted teeth said, “It would be in your best interest to come with me.” I sensed Bria didn’t want to, but she reluctantly obeyed. I jumped in right behind her before the door slammed shut. That’s how we ended up in the basement.
Our cave was cramped, but it was better than being confined between cement walls and controlled by a tyrant. We spent most of our time hanging out there, not wanting to draw attention to our whereabouts. Besides trying to sleep, Bria talked about her past, and shared some things that really shocked me. To say the least, the more I found out, the more I wanted to turn tail and run.
One night, Bria was very restless, tossing and turning for hours. Finally, she sat up and said, “Charlie, I need you to hear this. After I ran away, I walked aimlessly around the city for days. At night, I rested behind trash cans in filthy alleyways and used up the few dollars I’d saved for things to eat and drink. Then Max came along and offered me a job and a place to stay. Since I had no way to take care of myself, I accepted the offer. I met other teenagers living in a small bungalow at the edge of town. Everyone was expected to scour the city for runaways and bring them to Max. On my very first day I found a scared, tired and dirty boy about your age. We walked together down a side street and Max pulled up in the van. Two men reached out and pulled the wriggling boy inside. As they drove away, all I could hear was a muffled scream. I was horrified, and immediately took off and found shelter in a vacant house. I knew Max would eventually hunt me down, and he kidnapped us because he could get an unusually high price for me once he found the right buyer.”
I laid very still while she talked. As soon as Bria finished her confession, she fell fast asleep. That’s when I leapt from our refuge and ran off as fast as I possibly could. Loyalty can only go so far. If I was lucky, someone else would come along willing to take in a stray.
When Bria woke up and realized she was alone, panic set in. “Charlie! Charlie where are you?” she yelled, climbing out of the hole to look around. Crumpling to the ground, she lamented, “I ran away from terrible parents, got involved with a child trafficking ring and murdered a man. Now, I’m on my own again, and have only one option left.”
Bria stood at the front desk and told an astonished Police Sargent about the crimes she had committed. Detective Brennan was called, and took her into a small interrogation room where she outlined every detail. Then, Bria tearfully said, “I’m so sorry for what I’ve done and hope you won’t send me to jail. I’ll show you where we lived, help identify Max’s accomplices and take you to his remains. Maybe the teenagers are still at the bungalow and can offer more information to help you find the children that were abducted.”
Detective Brennan replied, “There’s no time to waste. Let’s go!”
As the door opened, Bria saw a police officer standing in the hallway holding a German Shepherd dog by the scruff of its neck. Officer Michaels announced, “Hey Brennan! Look who I found wandering around in front of the station today. From the looks of him, he’s been on his own for a long time and has the scars to prove it’s been a tough road. My kids have been asking about getting a dog, and there’s something special about this guy. They’re going to love him.”
As Bria walked by, she whispered, “Charlie, thanks for being there when I needed you. You’re finally going to have the life you deserve.”
I looked up into Bria’s eyes, wagged my tail and whined softly, as if to say, “You did the right thing. Good luck!”