Caleb grabbed Marti’s ankle and pulled her toward him. Marti, with hands and feet bound and limbs hogtied together, could do little but flail in impotence as he arranged her in the van’s passenger compartment in preparation to throwing her over his shoulder. “Yo! Knish! You got some heft to ya, Hot Mama,” Caleb declared, grunting as he threw the woman over his right shoulder and slid the door shut with his left hand.
Reaching forward, Caleb firmly grabbed Skylar’s right upper arm in his left hand, digging his fingertips into her bicep sufficiently to make his daughter gasp, but not so much that she cried out in pain. “Sorry, sweetie,” he said, pushing her forward as they moved from the swampy ground that imprisoned his van to Black Lake Road, “but once burned twice shy. You tried to run once so now you’re gonna have to earn my trust back. Come on,” he added, stepping out of the mud and contacting the road’s shoulder.
The distance from the van to Mrs. McNutt’s driveway was perhaps sixty feet and Caleb walked the solid white line of Black Lake Road as he labored with his squirming, fleshy burden. The thin sliver of moon did little to illuminate his way and he hesitated before leaving the tarmac and stepping onto the white stone of the McNutt drive. Exhaling deeply, he turned his head slightly to the right and spoke to Marti.
“Listen, Crikey. Pavement ends here and walking on gravel means I could slip and fall. I’m only telling you this because if I do I’m falling your way and landing on top of you, get it? There’s gravel. I won’t be able to catch myself, and if I fall you’re just gonna end up being my little JAP airbag, so I’d stop squirming if I was you,” he said, biting her ass through her skin-tight capris. “Here go,” he added, stepping forward.
The McNutt driveway presented Caleb with a more difficult sixty feet to maneuver than the paved Black Lake Road had, and the gravel plus Caleb’s fatigue slowed his pace as it increased his heart and respiration rates. Arriving at the wheelchair ramp that led to the front door of the McNutt house, Caleb released Skylar’s arm and commanded, “Go open the door, girl. You don’t want me to drop Miss Marti here, do you?”
Skylar looked at her father, said nothing, and complied with his command.
“Good,” Caleb said, following his daughter up the ramp and leaning over to deposit Marti on the ramp’s wooden handrail. “You stay put, now; you hear?” Caleb asked, watching his captive sink from the rail to the ramp’s upper platform in a controlled fall. Giving Marti a wink, Caleb reached down and patted the woman’s head, declaring, “I’ll be right back!” as he followed Skylar into the house.
Caleb walked directly to Mrs. McNutt and checked on her. The woman glared at him and he smiled in response. “Sorry to keep you here all alone for so long. Took a little longer’n I expected. Hang on a sec and I’ll be right back,” he added, going to the front door and pulling Marti to the faded linoleum strip that adorned the entryway.
“Skylar? Come ‘er a sec, sweetie.” Skylar hesitated, and Caleb sprung from his crouched position by Marti, landing on the balls of his Doc Martin clad feet. “Damn, girl. You have got to learn to mind,” Caleb declared, reaching for the duct-tape and fastening his daughter’s arms behind her back in a kitchen chair. Caleb lifted his daughter up by the chair and carried her to the living room where he placed her next to the couch.
Gently removing the duct-tape from his daughter’s mouth he asked her, “You okay?” and shrugged at her lack of response.
“Okay. Have it your way. I was gonna untape good ole Mrs. McNutt’s mouth, but if you can’t talk I guess there ain’t no reason to.”
“I can talk,” Skylar replied, eyes on the floor.
“Well good!” Caleb said. Returning to Mrs. McNutt, Caleb knelt beside her, used equal care to pull the tape from her mouth and asked, “And how about you, ma’am? Are you okay?”
Mrs. McNutt flared her nostrils in response, inhaled deeply and looked Caleb squarely in the eyes. “I suppose I’m fine. For now.”
“Good,” Caleb said, nodding, “let’s get you over to that couch,” he added, assisting the old woman to her feet and lending a helping hand as she sunk into the soft, low, worn couch cushions.
Once seated, Mrs. McNutt looked Caleb in the eyes and demanded, “What are you going to do to that poor woman?”
“Me and Marti? Why we’re gonna have a party. Now, which one of these rooms has the biggest bed?”