Those bastards! What kind of sick mind comes up with this stuff? Why would they do this? To me? To my family! They made this personal. They wanted my suffering to last, and last forever. Why? I don’t know them, never heard of them, they never heard of me. If they wanted their get-away to be perfect they could’ve just tied us up. Not this. This was sadistic. Someone’s been watching way too much TV to come up with this insanity. That they actually went through the trouble of setting all of this up. Climbing onto the roof, feeding the rope (Yes, they brought their own rope, and lots of it!) through the door to the balcony, and then tying us up in this fashion. This was thought out. Planned. Evil.
“Help, please, somebody, HELP!!!” That was Marissa crying out once again. Her voice was getting tired and raw, and very scared. She and my daughter dangled there, perfectly bracketed by the doorway, like a piece of performance art. Callie’s tears were a continuous flow down her face. I wish I could wipe them away. Just reach out, almost like I was doing now, just open my hand and wipe them away. And then hold her and my wife in a forever grip, never letting them go, not for a second, until it all got better. She looked at me with the pleading eyes of the innocent. Eyes that reached into my soul and pulled, tugged, yanked at my heart. She mewled softly into Marissa’s shoulder as they faced each other, holding each other as much as they could with their hands tied. Good thing their arms were clear of the ropes, but I’m sure their combined weight was cutting off circulation somewhere. My beautiful wife cried out again, hoping beyond hope that someone would hear. Her voice screeched like a night owl in the early dawn, scaring away any other birds that might have considered making a home in their roof.
Perhaps this isn’t the time for my writer’s brain to take over. It was my writer’s brain that brought us here in the first place. Perhaps I let it go to my head, all the fame and the money. I wanted a house to reflect my stature, something that when you pulled up into the drive and got a good look at it, you would say, ‘Here lives an important man.’ It is a wonderful house. Early American in style, slate blue with white trim, open concept kitchen, dining room, living room, all new fixtures and appliances, a front foyer that was the perfect size for receiving guests and led anywhere on the ground floor. Stairs that led to a balcony and then to three bedrooms and two baths. And totally isolated from anyone. It was a good half-mile to the nearest neighbor, and sat on the edge of a granite cliff overlooking the Pacific.
It was the isolation that appealed to me. Marissa had misgivings, being so far from everything, including her friends. But when I told her this was the kind of location that could help me write my new book she gave in. For that I made sure she could travel as much as she wanted. I bought her a car, with ample room for Callie and her friends. I bought her a new phone with video calling, important when she wants to talk to her parents. I tried to close the distance with any and every gadget I could find, and it’s been working out. She never complained and was very grateful for the things I got her.
But every here and there I would see it, deep in her eyes. She hid it well. I don’t even think she suspects that I know. But I do. She may love the place, but she hates the isolation. I thought the cliff would be the hard sell for her, but at ten Callie is well aware of the danger and never gets close to the edge without us. No, the hard sell was the distance from everything. We were only a mile from town, but it may as well be a hundred. We only moved a couple of miles away, but it may as well be a thousand. I would encourage her to go and visit her friends, and she did. But then she would come home.
I caught her once, after a trip from a birthday party for one of Callie’s friends. I just happened to be in the front room when they pulled up. Callie came running up the walk, ready to dig into her gift bag. Marissa was a bit slower, and her eyes never left the house. Then she would come through the door and change her demeanor almost instantly to that of a wife who missed her hubby. She is the most wonderful person in the world. Always grateful, always loving, always seeing to my needs. So I do everything in my power to make her not feel so far away from everything.
There were other pluses to this location. For one, we would go on little picnics away from the house, near the cliff edge. Close enough for the view but not too close for Callie. We would listen to the roar of the waves hitting the cliff bottom. We would stare at the unending sight of the ocean. I would set up the blanket and an umbrella on a grassy spot while Marissa rummaged through the basket, making sure we had all the food we would need. Then Callie would run around while I regaled Marissa with stories. Callie would listen in too when she wasn’t making a new discovery. And then the questions would start. ‘Daddy, what was he thinking?’ ‘Do you ever do that?’ ‘Why was the lady so mean to her kids?‘ Annoying little questions, which were ok. Sometimes they helped me with my writing. Other times they were just to annoy me, and her reward for doing so would be many well placed tickles.
Marissa cried out again, her voice straining. Callie continued to cry into her mother’s shoulder. My fingers continued to ache, as well as my hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder and back. My neck ached from bobbing up and down as I tried to keep an eye on them and give them reassuring looks. I’m not sure I can feel my fingers. I know they’re there, I can see them, tightly clenched around the rope and off color, holding onto the lifeline to my family’s demise. Why haven’t they pulled off yet? I consider myself a pretty strong man, but there are limits. Everyone has limits. And I’ve been holding this for how long now? Two, three hours? Is that normal? Or is it the way they rigged the rope? I couldn’t tell, but if everything didn’t ache I’d be okay. Maybe the thing to do is get my mind off of it, think of something else. Like Callie.
My beautiful little girl. She took to this place readily enough. The house was really close to the edge of the cliff, so instead of a back yard it had a side yard, with plenty of white picket fencing to keep her safe. It was large enough for her to have the birthday party she always wanted, full of children and bouncy castles and laughs. She especially loved her room. It was big enough for two which meant a bed on one side and a tent on the other. You never knew which she would sleep in for the night, except during her sleep-overs in which case she took to the floor with her friends. She loved the space and the view and everything else about the house. She was thrilled when she saw it for the first time. She ran from room to room, reporting on whatever room she was in at the moment, her words echoing in the emptiness. ‘Mom, this kitchen is huge’, ‘Dad, the living room is awesome’, ‘Is this gonna be my room?’ I got caught up in her excitement, we both did, and any misgivings Marissa had were swept away in all of the laughter. We settled in and allowed Callie to do whatever she wanted to her room. Ours was right next to hers, which made for easy access for those first few months. Callie would climb into bed with us whenever she was feeling lonely or scared or if there was a bad storm out. She would snuggle in between the two of us, which cut down on our intimate time at first. But more and more she stayed in her room, not because of anything we did. She simply adjusted to her new life. The tent helped, but as time went on she slept in it more for the novelty than the security.
Our room was the first one you came to off of the stairs. You opened the door and the door to the balcony was directly ahead with the bed to the right and master bathroom to the left. I made sure to show it to Marissa that first day. She was awestruck with the view and the balcony. It was spacious and it was built under the roof eaves to protect us from the rain or bird droppings, depending on the time of year. It was called a widow’s walk because it faced the ocean. But it was more a cosmetic attachment than a necessity. Callie liked it too, and she had the same view from her windows. Marissa and I had sex on that balcony many times, the best sex we’ve ever had. Something about the ocean air struck a cord with us, that and the openness. I guess it made us feel free. Marissa would hold out her hands to the clouds, trying to touch them as if they were right in front of her. We especially love it at night during a full moon. The way the light hit us was both magic and tragic. Maybe that was the turn-on; the sadness of the widow who will never see her man again, and the semi-sacrilege of what we were using it for. As the moon moved down to the horizon the moonlight would dance across the waves. It made for a stunning backdrop.
Once I had come to bed a bit late after working on an article. I opened the door to see that the room was dark, and she was on the balcony, doors opened wide, her back to me as she leaned on the railing, completely naked. The moon was full and low enough to outline her silhouette, making her seem ghostly. Her ankles were crossed, and her rear was aimed right at me. She “noticed” I had walked into the room, straightened up and turned to me, still resting on the railing, still with her ankles crossed, looking at me like I caught her doing something wrong. She leaned a little to the left, cocked her head to the right, and bit her lower lip while looking at me with doleful eyes. I couldn’t get my clothes off fast enough. I dropped the folder I held, ripped my shirt off, fumbled and stumbled with my pants, all while trying to cross the room. I couldn’t get over the way the moonlight caressed the side of her face, her shoulders, her arms, her hips, her legs. I finally got my pants off, then I grabbed her sank my teeth into her neck. She screamed and laughed, then we had the most passionate night we’ve ever had, and I mean passionate. I still rank that as the number one best sex night. It lasted for a an hour or so, first I picked her up and sat her on the railing while holding on. It scared her at first, and then she got lost in the rhythm. Then with her back to me so that she could see the moon while holding onto the railing. And just when we thought it was over we laid down and went at it again with first her on top, then me. We didn’t care that the floor was cold concrete, we couldn’t stop. It was a spur-of-the-moment surprise I will never forget. We put out blankets and pillows now, but that one time…
And now she’s hanging over that same balcony, with our daughter, relying on me to hold onto a short piece of rope. Those bastards knew this place, had to! Whether they staked it out or used to live there or just saw the floor plans. Maybe that realtor sold it to them. After they broke in, tied us up and ransacked the house they “complained” that we didn’t have enough for them to pawn. That was the first clue. They brought more rope than anyone could ever need for a home invasion, that was the second clue. They knew their way to the roof and where to brace the rope, knew how to run it into the house, and knew where to place me. No, this was planned from the very start. They wanted to do this, and knew exactly how to do it. They laughed when they tied me to the banister to the stairs, leaving one hand free. They laughed as they tied up my wife and child, then pushed them over the railing, holding onto the rope so they wouldn’t fall to the cliff bottom. They laughed when they handed me the rope and then cut it short, leaving only a few inches after my grip with no room to gather it or ease it down. They laughed as they finished their work, leaving me stretched out and struggling to hold on. They laughed as they walked down the stairs and out the front door. And if I ever find them, I will make them laugh before I kill them.
It’s official, I can no longer feel my fingers. My elbow was strained from being stretched for so long. My forearm was on fire and my shoulder felt as if it were ready to pop out of it’s socket. All of this added up to me being in so much agony, muscles and tendons stretched and worked like never before. And I was getting tired. I could feel it in my thumb for having to hold on for so long. I could feel it in my forearm for having to remain so continuously tensed. And my heart was beginning to break because I felt like I was about to lose my grip.
I didn’t want to, it was just going to happen. Those burglars, bastards, were so busy trying to find money and jewels, but my real treasure was hanging right outside that balcony. She sacrificed for me. She loves me, and I love her. And Callie, the product of our love. I am so proud of her. She takes after me by being creative and smart. She looked just like her mother, her beauty, her style. She was going to be something when she grew up. And I was going to let them down. I could feel my arm losing power, energy draining like a faucet. Marissa called out again. She needs to yell louder. Someone needs to get here quick.
Please God, anyone at all. Anyone will do, I don’t care. What can I offer, my life, my soul, I have money in the bank, I’ll give you all of it. You can have my house, my cars, anything, just please send someone. Please. Maybe if I send out a psychic message to the world, someone will notice it and come banging through the door. My arm hurts so much, can’t you hear me? Please! I don’t want to lose them, not like this. Not in any way, but definitely not like this! Please someone, appear! It’s coming down to the wire. I’ve been here for three hours. Three? We were asleep when they broke in, and dawn is breaking now. Wow, I didn’t know I could last this long. But I need more, and I don’t have it. How did I last this long? I don’t care, I need to hold on. If I worked out more I could hold it forever. Oh, it’s hurting so bad. Hold on, please, hold on. I could take my mind off of the pain again. How? My last story, that’s it. The one with the elephants and the ants. Where was I going with that? Uh, the elephants were doing something. God this hurts. I’m so tired, or exhausted, or spent, or drained, or, uh, something. Think, focus. Hold on. Hold off? What? That makes no sense. Hold on. So the elephants, they were minding their own business when… when…wait…the ants were? Stop it! Focus! Hold on! My forearm is burning. I should have worked out more. I…I…owwww. My God, when will this end? Will somebody please? This is my fault. I had to pick a house so out of the way. Hold on dammit! Baby, I love you so much. So, so much. So much.
Was that my name? I looked up to see Marissa looking at me. Callie still had her face buried in her shoulder, and she was crying more.
“Baby?” was all I could muster.
“I love you.”
I had to work through gasps, but I got it out. “I…I love you.”
The tears were working their way down her cheek and rolled under her chin. How do they do that? Were my tears doing that?
“It’s okay, we know you did your best. Isn’t that what you tell Callie, to do her best?”
I listened, not really comprehending what she was saying. Not wanting to comprehend is more like it. She was giving up on me.
“Blake, you did you’re best.”
“Noooooo!!!!” I screamed. I would not let them die. I won’t do it! I just had to put everything I had left into my arm. Everything. I will squeeze this rope, dig my fingers into it! I will not let go. Callie’s sobs got louder giving me the inspiration to hold on, I will just squeeze as hard as I can. I will put all that i have left into doing this one thing! Let my voice get harsh from screaming. I will NOT LET GO!!! I won’t. I will…will not. I…I…won’t…won’t…I…I…hear Marissa…calling my name…so…far…away…I…want to…kiss her…I want…