The child simply refused to go to sleep, sapping away all semblance of sanity and energy from her mother, Kelly Levine. Holding the wailing two-year-old, she patted the little girl’s back and shushed her softly, pleading internally with the child. The babysitter would be here any time and she would want extra if the child was an angry, wailing mess.
Bing-bing! The little electronic clanging of the front doorbell sounded out through the house. This fascinated the child, who always spun and looked around to see where the noise had come from. As always, there went little Abby, whipping back and forth as slowly as she could, her tears already almost gone and her wailing vanished back into her. “Keep ringing it,” Kelly willed the guest outside. The bell went off twice more and by the time she was able to answer it the baby had quieted completely, aware that she was now going somewhere other than the nursery. Wide-eyed and delighted, Abby was always a show-off, smiling and laughing in a way that made everyone around her crack up as well. She was as cute baby and she knew it. Kelly flung the door open, the baby already waving and dancing back and forth.
“Hi Ms. Levine, sorry I’m early,” Robbie said. Nineteen, gorgeous, and charming, Robbie was one of the teenagers on Kelly’s street that was also kind and respectful. The girl had been a few grades behind Kelly, but they had run into each other a couple of times during Kelly’s senior year in high school. When she came acrossed her online, her search for a babysitter burning her out and exhausting, she had immediately clicked to look her over. Within an hour they had agreed on a price and set a date. Within twenty minutes Kelly had secured a date from an online site for that night, a reasonably handsome guy with a decent job who told her she was pretty. That was enough for her.
“You’re actually right on time,” she told Robbie. “I’ve got to head out in a second.”
“You seem nervous, boss,” Robbie observed. “Really nervous.”
“I’m fine,” Kelly replied.
“So…it’s been awhile, huh?” Robbie asked, a hint of condescension in her voice.
“Maybe. Hard when you’re a mom with no help or free time.”
“This is true, but I was a bit worried when you called me out of nowhere.”
“Oh don’t be,” Kelly said. “I’m older and sometimes you just make a date when you have the time.”
“Fair enough, old lady,” Robbie said, lifting the child into her arms. The girl lay her head back and showed off her smile, radiating exactly how much she understood about what she was doing. “Girl’s a flirt” she said, “now get out there and have fun.”
“So I look ok?” Kelly asked.
“You look fine,” Robbie said with a smile, “I’d hit that.”
“Good. I don’t think Jeremy will be, but you know how unpredictable that all is.”
“Just text me if you are staying out all night,” Robbie said. Five minutes later Kelly was on the road, headed for a coffee shop. She drove through the cool night with the windows down, relishing the damp air outside after the afternoon rain. It rained a lot these days, the weather completely crazy. Kelly pulled up in front of a small restaurant, a place that Jeremy had suggested. It looked like a burger joint, an “open” sign buzzing neon pink in the window, but the building looked off. The chairs inside were nearly deserted, and one young man in a black shirt under his frock. She felt apprehensive but saw they had beer taps and decided it was worth stepping in for a bit.
Jeremy was in a booth towards the corner, reading over the menu. She strolled back to join him, trying to shake her hips back and forth as she walked. Almost immediately she bumped into a chair and nearly knocked it over. Kelly recovered her composure and walked toward him in a more standard gait, suddenly self-conscious. He looked up as she approached, somehow having not heard her run into the chair.
“You’re here early,” Kelly said smiling widely.
“Yes, I showed up a bit early,” Jeremy said, returning her grin. “I wanted to look at the menu and see what I wanted before you got here. I needed to be ready.
“Ready for….” Kelly left the question open-ended, confused as to what he meant.
“For when we met and ….oh well, screw it, I’m really hungry,” He said, a small rumble in his gut. He patted his gut and signaled for her to sit. Then he looked over her even as stood back, giving her perhaps a bit too much space. “Ah,” he said as looked over her left shoulder, “they’re here.”
She turned and saw several men coming in the door, the bell at the top of the glass entrance jingling with every one that came through. “We were waiting for someone?” she asked.
“Just them,” he said. “They’re helping tonight.” The men began to pull the shades and Jeremy assisted, closing the one next to their seat. Kelly began to panic.
“I think this was a bad idea,” she told him. Rising from her seat, she began to hurry to the door to make her escape. The men in coats tried to block her, and eventually one hit her in the head with a thick piece of wood. Kelly’s head split in pain, the shock sending her to her knees. The man behind the counter was handing out knives.
“What’s happening?” she said, nervous. The men turned and advanced with knives. The sharp objects glinted in the light streaming through cracked pieces of shades. Kelly glanced around, her head throbbing, from the linoleum floor. Jeremy’s shoes appeared in front of her and she tried to glance up. She could not, but she could see the knife in his hand.
“This’ll be good for the burgers,” he said. “She’s curvy, probably a lot of good meat on there.” The men stood around her, looking at her body appreciatively and rubbing themselves in anticipation.
“What are you doing?” she managed to ask
“We’re starving,” Jeremy said. “Meat’s back, boys.” A large cheer went up with the men as they poured glasses for their alcohol and clinked them, savoring the flavors. Jeremy stood before hier and the rest of the men, mildly curious. Good burger meat,” Jeremy said.
And then the knives glinted and they were on her.