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The Locked Door by Mike Bozart (Agent 33) | October 2017

The Locked Door

by Mike Bozart

© 2017 Mike Bozart 

Karen, a 31-year-old single Asian American, arrived home at her one-bedroom, one-bathroom, second-floor east Charlotte (NC, USA) apartment at 5:55 PM. It was a tranquil fall evening, but this particular late October Thursday (2015) had been anything but at her uptown trend-analysis office; she was completely exhausted. She flopped on the couch, flipped on the local news, and exhaled. What a day! Need a glass of Merlot. Sleep is going to feel oh so good.

Halfway through the international news, Karen arose and stumbled into her old ottoman. She looked at it. I don’t really use that thing anymore. It’s just in the way. Better put it up before I trip over it and do a nasty faceplant. [frontward fall]

Karen then grabbed it and walked over to the storage closet. She put the well-worn, brown leather, two-seams-ripped footstool down on the beige carpet. Then she grasped the door handle. But, the door was locked. This puzzled her. That’s strange. I guess that I accidentally turned the switch to horizontal again, just like I did a few weeks ago. I’m way too tired to deal with this right now. I’ll use a flathead screwdriver to open it later. Why does a storage closet door in an apartment have an inside lock anyway? I bet that the contractor only ordered handlesets with locks. Probably a volume discount. If the lock were on the outside that would be crazy – and quite dangerous: a tiny solitary confinement cell. One could accidentally get locked in there. Wonder if I can disable it. Or, maybe just tape the thumbturn in the vertical position. Well, that’s a project for another day. Don’t even have any duct tape. Time to eat and lie down. I need a goodnight’s sleep like a parched rice paddy needs a long soaking rain.

At an already-dark 7:37 PM, Karen was in her queen-size bed reading a spy novel. She had forgotten all about the locked storage room door. At 7:58 she was sawing logs; she was out like a lamb.

He quietly unlocked the closet door at 8:02 PM. He turned the pewter doorknob and slowly pushed the lightweight foam-core door open. He stepped out and quietly reclosed the door.

Then he silently tiptoed across the living room floor to her bedroom door. He looked through the crack. He saw parallel blanketed ridges: her legs at the bottom of the bed. The low-wattage nightstand lamp was still on. The same book was lying on the red coverlet, off to her right. It was just as he remembered.

He then opened the bedroom door some more. He saw the left side of her tan face and remembered their times together in that very bed. It was now five months since they had broken up.

Without any forewarning, Karen turned her head towards the door. She was starting to awake. He quickly pulled the door back to its original slightly open position. She resettled; she never awoke.

He then soundlessly made his way over to the front door. He unlocked the deadbolt as quietly as possible and let himself out. From the dim, 1960-ish, brick-walled corridor, he relocked the deadbolt and doorknob lock. Then his 32-year-old, lanky, Caucasian American body slinked away. It was the third time that Jack had secretly entered and exited Karen’s apartment – with her in it.

Down in the parking lot, blonde-haired Jack prepared to enter his car, a 2009 silver Ford Mustang. Just as he touched the door handle, he was struck on the back of the head by a truncheon. He was knocked-out instantly; his body slid down the side of the car and onto the asphalt parking lot.

The late-20-something Hispanic male attacker then dragged him over to his green minivan and handcuffed him. Then he placed Jack, facedown, in the back of the seats-removed 2006 Dodge Caravan. Next, the attacker tied bandanas over Jack’s mouth and eyes to gag and blindfold him. Then he got in the driver’s seat and promptly drove off.

At the crossroads township of Red Cross (28 miles – 45 km – east of Karen’s apartment) on a now-quiet four-lane highway (NC 24/27), Jack started to come to; his consciousness was achingly returning. He groaned and moaned. Gosh, my head hurts! I’m all bound-up in a moving vehicle of some kind. What’s going on? Why me? Why me!

“Take it easy there, pretty boy,” the gruffish Mexican American shouted backwards from the driver’s seat. ¡Qué escoria! [‘What a scumbag!’ in Spanish]

Jack growled indecipherably. What in the world has happened? Apparently I’ve been abducted. But, by whom? Who is this guy? He sounds Hispanic. Where are we going?

“Listen here, gringo, [Latino slang for a non-Hispanic American] if you don’t shut the fuck up, I’m going to put a bullet right through your goddam cutie-pie head! Right here and right now! Just try me, dickhead!” Oh, crap! He’s an insanely violent type. He must have whacked me in the back of the head in the apartment parking lot.

Jack quieted down. He lay motionless on the carpet that reeked of motor oil. What a fix I’m in. But, why? I’ve never crossed any Hispanic dudes. Why didn’t he just rob me and leave me? Need to try to talk with him. Must try to get this damn cloth out of my mouth. Maybe then I can reason with him. Maybe I can cut a deal to save my life.

Using a nodding motion against the carpet while sucking his lips inward, Jack tried to get the lower bandana partially free from his mouth. But, it was to no avail. It’s useless. It’s way too tight to move. I’m fucked.

Eleven contemplative minutes later, the driver turned on the radio. Soon he was humming along with the songs on a Spanish radio station. What a bad seed this hombre [man in Spanish] is. From crass violence to saccharine love songs.

Quite suddenly, the assailant-abductor-driver turned the radio off. The only sound was that of the worn-out tires. Guess he didn’t like that tune. What a nut-job. Damn, these handcuffs are on so tight. Fucking sadist!

Sixteen minutes later the vehicle stopped in the emergency parking lane. The portly, still enraged, dark-haired Hispanic man got out of the van and walked around to the side door. He slung it open and ripped Jack out, setting him atop the concrete rail of the bridge over Lake Tillery (Pee Dee River).

“You fucked my Juanita,” the driver snarled. “She told me that it was a golden-boy gringo. Now you get to go for a swim.” Who is Juanita? [She lived across the hall from Karen.]

“Nooooo,” Jack pleaded through the bandana.

“Oh, sí,” [yes in Spanish] the vengeful driver retorted as he forcefully pushed Jack in the upper chest, causing him to topple. Oh, no! What’s behind me? Anything? / Athios, bastardo Americano. [‘Goodbye, American bastard’ in Spanish]

Jack fell backwards over the guard wall. Two seconds later he splashed into the cool water. Holy cow! I’m in a lake. Or, is this a slow-flowing river? Must stay afloat using my legs. Which way to go? No idea. Kick harder.

The minivan pulled away under a moonless sky.

Karen got her desired night of restful sleep. She awoke refreshed and recharged at 5:58 AM. I feel much better now. So much better. What a difference a night makes.

After a medium-hot shower, she alighted in the kitchen for coffee, a banana, and a slice of toast. It was her usual workday breakfast. After buttering the hot bread, she looked at the silver knife. This could open that door. I’m not sure where that flathead screwdriver is. Maybe Jack took it. Oh, why not give it a try? I’ve got some time.

Karen then walked over to the storage room door. She deftly placed the curved side of the butter knife on the door’s brass tongue. I’ll never forget dad showing me how to do this little trick. Gosh, I still miss him so much. Why did he have to get colon cancer and die at the age of 45? Only 45! This tragic life: It’s just not fair. And, it never was, or will be. That’s just how it is. That’s how it goes, I suppose.

Next, Karen pushed down on the door lever. It went all the way down easily. The door immediately opened. Huh?! That’s odd. It’s like the door wasn’t locked. What the heck is going on here? It was most certainly locked last night.

Karen then peered into the storage closet. There was a yellow baseball cap with a cryptic indigo logo lying on the carpet. That’s Jack’s! What the hell! So, my sneaky ex-boyfriend was in there. Why did he hide in there? How long was he in there? Did he steal anything? How did he get in my apartment? Oh, that’s right; he still has the duplicate keys. I need to have the locks changed. Immediately. Must call the office when they open. Should I call Jack? No, nothing good would come from it. He would just go into his Prince Charming act and try to get back with me. I’m done with him. He’s obviously a psycho. Should have listened to Suzie. [her best friend] She was right once again; she really knows men.

Her Friday at work was much less fatiguing than yesterday; it was a breeze.

At 6:03 PM, with new keys in her left hand, Karen nervously opened her apartment door. It looked ok. She relaxed and considered going out with some female friends later.

Karen switched on the local news. The white male reporter had a lake behind him. Then Jack’s face appeared with his full name below. A morning fisherman had found his bound body floating near the western shoreline.

She gasped. Oh, my God! That’s Jack! My ex is dead! But, why? Who did that to him? Was he really in my apartment last night? Of course he was – that’s his cap. How horrible!

After dolefully eating a bowl of rice and tofu, Karen disconsolately walked over to the storage closet door. It was locked.

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