Janefer gasped incredulously, “Audrey?!” Audrey whimpered. She shrunk back into the bushes, as if afraid of Janefer. Unlike the Audrey in the hospital, who was bubbly, funny, and cheerful, this girl was quiet, solemn, and dirty. Her hair was disheveled and sticking up in places. Her face, which had streaks and smudges of dirt on it, looked gaunt. She had a hollow look in her eyes as she studied Janefer. Absently, she wiped her eye with the back of her grubby hand, and she stood up, staggering. Audrey grabbed the brick wall for support. Janefer still couldn’t speak. Her throat dry, parched.
“Audrey, what’s the matter? Are you okay? What happened? You look awful!”
Audrey stared at Janefer. “Wh-who are you?”
Janefer gaped at her. “Audrey, it’s me! Don’t you remember me? It’s Janefer! You took care of me in the hospital.”
Audrey just shook her head as she stepped back. “N-no. I don’t, really. I- I have to go.” She started backing up, but Janefer grabbed her arm.
“Please, Audrey. Why don’t you come inside, and we can talk? You can tell me what happened, and maybe you can have a shower or something.”
Audrey hesitated. She looked around. “I can’t!” She dropped her voice to a whisper. “They’ll find me!”
Janefer was confused. “Who? Who will find you?”
Audrey just shook her head. “I can’t tell. He’ll hurt me if I do!”
“Audrey, I promise you.” Janefer said. “You will be safe. I won’t let anything happen to you while you are in my care. We’ll be safe in my house. I promise. You must be exhausted, and maybe you would like a nice cup of tea.”
Audrey eyed her suspiciously, but finally she gave in. “Okay.” She let Janefer lead her inside, where she sat down wearily at the kitchen table while Janefer put the kettle on to boil.
“Audrey, would you like something to eat? I could fix you a sandwich or something.”
Audrey shook her head. “No. I’m not hungry.”
How can she not be hungry? She looks so skinny. Janefer put a couple of store bought pastries on a plate and set them on the table. “Eat one.” She urged.
Audrey tentatively took one, then gobbled it down. The water boiled, and Janefer got out two mugs and poured hot water over the teabags. She set a mug before Audrey, and placed her mug at her place.
After a few moments, Janefer spoke. “So, what happened?”
Audrey wrapped her hands around the mug, wincing at the hotness. “I- I-just got in a little accident, that’s all.”
Janefer wasn’t buying it. “What kind of accident? You look like you’ve been homeless for months, and just had a field trip with a mountain of dirt.”
Audrey looked away. “I’m fine, really. My boyfriend and I just went four-wheeling. That’s all.”
“Who’s your boyfriend?” Janefer pushed.
Audrey looked at her, her head tilted to one side. “Why do you want to know?”
Janefer was surprised, yet hurt, at this new change of attitude. “Just curious.”
“His name is Jack. Anything else you want to know, detective?” Audrey said with a hint of defiance.
Janefer shook her head, unruffled by her attitude. “I was just trying to make conversation. Did you know my friend is missing? Actually, I think you know her, or knew her before she was taken from the hospital.”
Audrey lifted her chin slowly, then lowered it again. “No, I hadn’t heard. I’m sorry to hear that.” She looked down at her tea.
Janefer decided to tell her more about it. “Yeah, the nurse at the desk told me that a lady claiming to be her aunt checked her out. Apparently, the girl had brown hair, brown eyes, and was about your height……” Janefer mentally kicked herself for being so stupid.
“It was you, wasn’t it? You checked Mel out, and kidnapped her, and whatever else. You’re the one who made me blind, and sent Mel to the hospital with two broken legs!”
Audrey smirked. “You think you’re really smart, don’t you? Yeah, I checked her out, and helped with the kidnapping, but I had nothing to do with the car wreck.”
“Why?” Janefer asked angrily.
Audrey stood up and stuffed another pastry in her mouth. “Great choice. Too bad it will be your last meal.” She came at Janefer.
Janefer bolted upstairs and ran into her room. She locked the door, breathing hard. For extra weight against the door, she pulled over her desk chair and wedged it under the doorknob. She hid under the bed, her heart beating fast as she waited, hearing Audrey’s footsteps come closer to her door. Closer. Closer. Audrey jiggled the doorknob, then kicked at the door.
It didn’t break. Janefer breathed a silent prayer of thanks. All was quiet for a few minutes, until Janefer’s ears rang with the sounds of an ax breaking into her room, and through her door. Audrey stepped in, her wild brown hair sticking up. She pulled off the covers of the bed, and looked underneath.
Janefer screamed and kicked, but Audrey was much stronger than she looked, and quickly overpowered her. She tied Janefer to a chair, then looked around for a gag.
“Audrey, where is Mel? Please! You can let me go, and I won’t press charges against you! Please, do what’s right! We can find Mel, and–”
Her voice was cut off by a sharp,”No. I can’t. I’d lose everything, all that I’ve worked for.”
Janefer frantically tried to break through. “At least tell me why you’re doing this. Who are you working with? The police can capture whoever he is, and can send him away for a long time! He won’t be able to hurt you.”
Audrey broke down in sobs. “Yeah, and then he’d be off on parole in a couple of years for good behavior. Don’t you see? He’s already got his alibi covered. No one will know it’s him, and only I know, and then he’ll kill me and get all the money. I can’t.”
“Audrey, please, tell me! Just tell me who it is!” Janefer persisted.
Audrey hardened. “No. I told you, I can’t. Now, be quiet.” She shoved an old hankie in Janefer’s mouth, and went out of the room, shutting the broken door behind her.
Janefer could hear the front door shut, and all was quiet.
She started crying, tears flowed into her gag and dripped off her nose.
“God, please help me.” She cried, her voice muffled. She still didn’t know what she believed in, but right now it seemed as if she couldn’t turn to anyone else.
Suddenly, Janefer smelled an odd scent. What was that? Gas fumes? Diesel? What?
The smell grew stronger, and Janefer grew dizzy. Heat seemed to ripple over her. It’s so hot. What is happening? She had once read a book about something like this. In the book, the house was being set fire with diesel gas! Janefer’s tears flowed as she came to a realization. She’s going to burn the house down.. with me in it!