This story is by T.R. Tennyson and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Wha? Where am I?” Ezra grunted as he sat up from the uncomfortable reclining chair. He rubbed his eyes hoping that would help them adjust to the dim light quicker.
“You’re in the hideout.” A stern figure grumbled from across the small room. The man threw something dark which landed on Ezra’s lap.
“Who are you?” Ezra asked as he unraveled what was thrown to him.
A ski mask.
“Fantastic,” grumbled the man sarcastically as he walked toward Ezra, “You can call me ‘Sir’.”
Sir cut him off and grabbed him by the arm. “Listen, we don’t have time for this. I’ll give you the details in the car.”
“Hurry up,” Sir said as he shoved him toward a dim hallway. The two stalked toward the end of the hall and Sir opened a final door which led to a garage with a single, unmarked, white van inside.
“Look in your left breast pocket.”
Ezra did so and removed a picture of himself with a woman beside him and a small girl on his lap.
Ezra nodded. Fuzzy memories of both girls flashed through his mind. “Is this my wife and daughter?”
Sir grunted in approval and removed a picture from his same pocket and showed Ezra. “And this is mine.”
As the men reached the van, Ezra hesitated at the door.
Sir let out a frustrated sigh. “Look, we have a job to do or we will never see our girls again. I’m not going to let you screw this up for me.” Sir opened Ezra’s door and hurried him inside. “I’ll explain on the way.”
Ezra’s mind reeled with the events which were transpiring. My wife? My daughter? I certainly recognize them, but… Ezra felt uneasy with the ski mask in his hands. Something feels… off.
Sir settled himself in the driver’s seat, hit the button for the garage door, and turned to Ezra. “Our girls were taken by a man who calls himself ‘The Shadow’. He said if we don’t do three jobs for him, he will kill our loved ones.”
The garage door squeaked to a stop. Sir started the van and pulled out onto the street. “Two weeks ago, we completed our second task. We were to begin planning this one, that is until your dumb ass slipped and fell. You’ve been unconscious for two days for god sake!” Sir threw his hands up in frustration. “Now we have to do this on the fly!”
After calming himself, Sir continued, “It was lucky that you awoke when you did or both of our families would be dead tomorrow. We are in this together. Neither of us likes it, but it’s our last job and we have to do it if we want to see our family alive.”
“What’s the job?” Ezra asked although he wished he didn’t have to.
“Hold your horses, Ezra. No harm will befall the child. The Shadow wants us to grab the Newman boy. His father is worth a fortune. Once The Shadow gets the ransom money, the child and our families will be freed. The two other children were returned without a scratch. Don’t worry. It’s either this job or our families.”
Ezra sat in silence. A plenitude of thoughts swirled in his head like a twister. He had only minutes to remember something, anything. Ezra looked down at the picture once more, studying it carefully. He remembered few things about the girls. As much as he tried to remember specifics, only one thing continually stood out, that he loved them.
“Ok.” Ezra sighed reluctantly, “so what’s the plan?”
Sir nodded in understanding and wound his way through the city streets, “Good choice,” he said, then continued to explain how the kidnapping would go down. The van neared a city park and slowed to a stop only yards from the swing set.
“There.” Sir pointed to an elderly lady and a young boy exiting a black Escalade. The boy ran to the jungle gym with a massive grin while the lady took a seat on a nearby bench.
“When the time comes, don’t forget your mask.”
The two men waited while the young Newman boy ran from plaything to plaything, winding his way through the park. Sir eyed the boy at each of his stops, the jungle gym, the teeter-totter, the monkey bars, and the sand pit. Sir’s fingers began to tap with impatience. The boy then
stood, brushed off the sand from his shorts, and made his way toward the swing set.
“Mask, Ezra.” Sir said in his stern voice. He dialed a number on the burner phone he had in his hand.
Ezra stepped out of the van and saw the nanny’s face light up in joy as she began digging in her purse for her driver’s license number so she could claim the sweepstakes she had just “won”.
That’s the queue, Ezra thought.
Ezra threw on the ski mask and soaked the rag he had been keeping in his pocket with chloroform. Within seconds, Sir, Ezra, and the unconscious boy sped away in the unmarked van back toward their hideout.
Throughout the ride back, Ezra fought to reassure himself and justify what he had just done. I am not a bad person. I’m not! They have my wife and my daughter for Christ sake! I had to. What would my wife say if she saw me now?
Ezra’s thoughts repeated themselves in his mind until the sound of the garage door snapped him back to reality. He took the picture from his left breast pocket once more to study the faces he would see again soon.
“Are you going to just sit there or help me with the boy?” Sir said in a half snarl.
Ezra unbuckled himself with the hand which held the picture. In the process of doing so, it had been flipped. Ezra noticed scribbled writing on the back. My two loves -J.
Immediately, the once fuzzy memories became crystal clear. The years which he had spent with his beloved wife, Jess and their daughter, Aubry flooded into his mind. Their marriage, her birth, first steps, and first words. He knew them completely and totally.
The picture fluttered to the ground as Ezra gasped in horror. But the wonderful memories were accompanied by disastrous ones. He could see in his mind’s eye Aubry running into the street. She was far out of reach as the distracted driver was making his way straight for her. Only months later, his wife, terminally ill, scratched her final note on the back of her favorite photo.
Ezra remembered his entire life. However, he still could not remember how he had gotten to the hideout, what he was doing there, or who this man was.
“Who are you?” Ezra asked as he stepped from the vehicle and retrieved the photo from the ground.
“Call me ‘Sir’. That’s all you need to know.”
Ezra strode toward Sir with an angry authority. “Tell me this, ‘Sir’. How can The Shadow return my wife and daughter to me if they have been dead for five years!” Ezra screamed.
Sir turned to Ezra and nodded in understanding. “Anything can set you off, now can it, Ezra? What was it this time?”
“This time? Wh-what do you mean?” Ezra stammered.
Sir pulled out the gun tucked into his pants and pulled the trigger.
Ezra flinched as he felt something prick him in the chest. He looked down and saw the feathered end of what he assumed was a tranquilizer shot.
“By now you have an assumption of who I am?”
“Sh-Shadow?” Ezra mumbled already getting dizzy. He fell to one knee and Sir plucked the photo from his hand and read the message on the back.
“Good boy, Ezra. It’s a pity you remembered. Looks like I’ll have to take this message away from you too. We have a good thing going here, Ezra. Don’t mess that up.”
“A good thing? I help you kidnap children! You-You’re a monster.” Ezra was barely able to speak now.
“Oh, come now, Ezra. Only to ransom or sell them. In return, I take away your memories so you have no recollection of what you have done. You’ve been doing this with me for quite some time now. If I’m a monster, then so are you. Tell me, how easy was it for me to convince to do this, hmm? Seems to me like deep down you were always fine with it. Goodnight now.”
Ezra held up a hand in futile protest, but his eyes could no longer remain open. Ezra’s hand along with the rest of his body slumped into unconsciousness.
“Wha? Where am I?”
“You’re in the hideout.” A stern figure said as he stepped out from the shadows.
“Who are you?” Ezra said groggily.
“You can call me ‘Sir’.”