“He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them."
~ Sun Tzu
"Once my heart was captured, reason was shown the door, deliberately and with a sort of frantic joy. I accepted everything, I believed everything, without struggle, without suffering, without regret, without false shame. How can one blush for what one adores?" ~ George Sand
There wasn't much to see. A single pink rose bloomed in a pint rum bottle left on the dirty top of the dressing table. One of those ugly brass and glass dressing tables that had been so popular when her Mother was young. Vines hung overgrown in a tangled mass outside of the airless little room's only window. Set high and narrow, along the back wall, the window would be useless even if it were not nailed shut. That was the first thing Lena had checked when she had woken up here two days ago. She had dragged the three legged stool over to the wall and climbed up to the narrow window hoping to at least let in a little bit of fresh air. She hated being cooped up. She had banged on the solid door and screamed at the top of her lungs for the entire first day. Finally stopping when the sun set behind the clouds. She knew that if she were to survive this ordeal she would have to play by her own set of rules. She would have to figure out the game and then figure out how to win it. Today had been long and boring. She had spent most of it trying to remember anything that might give her a clue as to where she was and how she had gotten here.
The room itself was actually pretty nice she thought looking around. It had a twin sized daybed with Black satin sheets and a warm black velvet blanket. There was a television with a dvd player hanging hospital style on the wall and quiet a few of the popular dvd's on a shelf beneath it. Whoever her captor, he had planned well for her stay. There was even a toilet in one corner, behind a beautiful oriental folding screen of pink and purple flowers scattered over black velvet material. Although she had little appetite there was a picnic basket filled with food and bottles of water. She had nibbled on some crackers and fruit this morning, knowing that she had to keep her strength up. If she only knew who her captor was or even why she was here she thought, then she might be able to make an escape plan. Lena had no plans for being a victim, she had grown up in the slums of Atlanta Georgia, She was street smart and tough. At least that's what she kept telling herself as she curled under the blanket and gazing at the tiny bit of daylight coming through the tiny window, drifted off to sleep.
The sound of a door slamming somewhere close by brought Lena leaping to her feet. Checking quickly she found the door to again be locked. " Come back Here!" she screamed, "Why are you doing this? Let me out!" Her desperate cries got no reply. Hating the fear she heard in her own voice she turned back to the room. "Well, well," she said loudly to herself and she hoped to her listening captor, forcing herself to sound calm. "At least I can draw !" Picking up the Sketch book that had replaced the picnic basket on the dressing table, she flopped back onto the bed. "Thanks for nothing!" She yelled. "Moron! Let me out!"
Try as she might Lena just couldn't understand why anyone would hold her as a hostage. She worked a regular job for regular wages. She wasn't exactly a starving artist but she still had to count her money and make every penny count. It was true that she had moved her way up in the world and was engaged to marry what her Mama would have called a Moneyed man next spring. She wondered if Paul had people looking for her. For just a few minutes she even wondered if he had a hand in her being here shut up like this.
She had met Paul and fallen head over heels in love with him when he had bid on some of her art work at a museum auction. Entering it on a dare she had been surprised when it had sold for such a high price. Working at the museum had been a wonderful learning experience for her. She had stayed on there even though Paul insisted that she should move into his mansion and doodle. Wrinkling her brow she again thought of Paul. Would he have people out searching for her? Was he going to be asked for ransom to get her back?
Lena's parents had both been killed in a drug deal gone bad when she was barely fourteen years old. She had spent two years in foster care before she had met Ralph. He had been much more than a social worker to her. He had taught her to survive. He had also taught her that she needed a release from the stress of everyday life. For her the drawing was her way to relax. Ralph had given her a sketch pad that day in his office and told her to draw herself a future. She had been drawing and painting ever since.
She had taken a guides job at the museum and had studied the art that moved through the huge building. Changing at least monthly. Always something new to see something new for her to learn. Working her way up she now helped choose the artist who's work was displayed there. She still saw Ralph and his wife Peggy every year at Christmas. Paul had said he wasn't going with her but she was supposed to have dinner with them next week. She really couldn't understand why Paul wanted her to leave her life so completely behind. She knew it wasn't as exciting as his life filled with money and power had been but still it was her life.
Eleven Marks on the wall; Eleven days Lena had been shut up in a tiny basement room without seeing her captor. Somehow they always managed to slip in and leave her food and water. When she had filled the first sketch pad with pictures of the room and the roses, that appeared fresh, every single day in the rum bottle, a new one had been left for her to fill. She had three sketch pads stacked on the edge of the old dressing table and still she had no idea who would do this to her. She couldn't see a thing outside the horrible little window except for the vine that covered it. Ivy, like the clinging vine that had grown around the base of the apartment buildings in her old neighborhood.
She tried to remember all the people from her old Apartment building. The only person she could think of was Twila. Twila had been her best friend. She knew Twila had a brother but she couldn't even remember his name. It had been one of those hood names anyway. Like shifty or something. He had been a few years older and always in trouble with the law. Just teenage stuff. As her pencil began to draw Twila and her family, Lena found herself wondering if any of them still lived. If she made it out of this alive, she would search for Twila. She knew Paul would tell her to let sleeping dogs lie but she had changed while she had been shut away here in this room. She couldn't run from her past forever. Besides, she had friends back there. She might even have some family and she intended to find out even if Paul didn't like it.
Seventeen Days, Lena said to herself as she drew a mark next to the others beside the door. She wondered why there was no breakfast this morning. She looked at yesterday's rose wilted in the old rum bottle. Trying not to get her hopes up or to let fear take control of her she reached out and gave the door knob a gentle turn. With a click the door swung open. She was facing a huge empty room. She knew where she was. She and Twila had played with their Barbies here on rainy days. The huge old basement was empty now. The washers and dryers moved out with the tenants. The buildings here were all empty. The electricity only on to keep pipes from bursting and flooding the streets. Due to be torn down in the spring as the city built New high-rise apartments for the wealthy in their place.
Grabbing the sketch pads and pencils from the dressing table she ran across the Basement and slowly started to creep up the stairs. She was about halfway to the top when Twila walked down the top three steps. Drunk or on drugs. Lena was afraid but she didn't think Twila would hurt her. Still it had been many years since they had played Barbies and shared secrets here in this old Basement.
"He wouldn't pay for you" she slurred. "A measly ten thousand and your rich man wouldn't pay." Twila plopped down on the step and leaned her wobbly head against the stair rail. "I'm messed up" she mumbled "Shifty told me to get straight. Or not to come home. I thought if your rich man would pay for you... " she muttered to herself as much as to Lena.
"I'll talk to Shifty for you. He'll let you come home. I'll even get you help myself." Lena rambled trying to figure out exactly how she was going to get out of here. Climbing the rest of the stairs she walked right passed Twila and out of the basement. Looking back she knew she had to do something to help her childhood friend. But first, she had to deal with Paul. She wondered how much he might be worth to his wealthy family. She wondered how he would like being shut up in a tiny room for seventeen days. Going back to the steps she sat down next to Twila and leaned her head over on the rail just as Twila was sitting. " I wasn't gonna hurt you" Twila said as she grabbed Lena's hand. " I love you; You were my only friend we used to have so much fun drawing and playing Barbies."
"We are gonna get you the money for some help " Lena said squeezing Twila's hand. But first you have to make one last phone call.
Paul walked into the empty building just as the crazy woman had told him too. He wasn't sorry he hadn't paid for Lena. He had even noticed a few other women At the bash he had held last night. But Now the woman wanted him to come and get Lena back. Well, he didn't mind that either. She was beautiful hanging on his arm. Almost like having a designer purse he thought to himself with a laugh. He hadn't even minded coming alone. He was a strong man and though Lena didn't know it he had Killed a few times. He hadn't even brought a gun. He hadn't thought he would need one. Even if the crazy cracked out woman was here, she would be easy enough to deal with. She had begged him to pay for Lena. He had refused until finally last night the woman had called and told him to come and get Lena this morning. He had followed all of the instructions just as she had told him to. No need to invite trouble.
Down the stairs and Paul could see the tiny Janitor's room in the back corner of the Basement. The door standing open. He suddenly wondered if maybe he should have brought some of the guys along. They could have all had a little fun. He could see the Bed with an old quilt tossed over the mattress. "Damn, " he thought. " she was kept kinda rough." He walked into the tiny room and looked around. A toilet in the back corner and a shelf of some kind on the wall where a deck of cards lay. He was glad she was held in rough circumstances. Might make her listen to him more. This was just the kind of place she grew up in. The kind of place him and his family ruled with their drugs and their strong arm power. "Of course" he added to himself with a chuckle, " Lena doesn't know about any of that. Just like she won't know I wouldn't pay for her."
Paul drew another line down next to the others beside the door. Twenty-seven days. He couldn't believe his father hadn't paid for him. He had tried yelling at the captors threw the door. He had tried to stay awake for hours to catch them leaving him food on the ugly old table in the corner. He had played solitaire till the cards had nearly driven him crazy. He would make his Family pay in so many ways when he got out of here. He wondered how much they had asked for him. Surely more than ten thousand dollars. He had that in a drawer next to his bed. Just in case he wanted something flashy or needed something done in a hurry.He wondered if the maid he had been fooling around with would steal it while he was here. He had showed it to her once when she had asked him what kept Lena with him when he cheated on her. He hadn't thought about Lena since he had been here. He hadn't wondered if she was still alive. He couldn't believe the cracked up caller had tricked him.
Twila felt so good. She was getting out today. Shifty had brought her babies last weekend to see her. She had been so glad to see them. She was lucky to have a loving brother like Shifty. He had raised her Twins for three years, begging her to be a good Mom to them and to break away from the streets. She had forgotten what life was like without the drugs. She couldn't even remember where she had been before being brought here.
She had been in real bad shape when she had woken up in a Motel room with Lena. Her friend from the old neighborhood. She had been shaking and crying begging Lena for a fix. Instead Lena had brought her here. She had a social worker named Ralph. He was old but he was kind and loving. He had encouraged her to find a way to release her stress. He and his wife Peggy had bought her the new clothes she would leave here in and had started her off with a supply of beads. Every color and shape she could imagine. She had made her bracelets while she had been recovering for the last few months. Almost every Nurse and social worker here wore one of her designs on their wrist. Lena had taken a box full of them and brought back a purse filled with money in their place. She had displayed them at the museum and they had sold for real Money. She was so Lucky to still be friends with Lena.
Lena left her meeting with Ralph and Peggy and started to walk through the park. Paul's Father had called her once to say that he was certain Paul wouldn't want to marry her now that she had been held by people unknown for all those days before they had dumped her at a cheap motel and captured him instead. Holding him for thirty-six days, before they accidentally left the door unlocked, allowing him to escape. She had seen him once in the museum with a woman who looked like one of his house maids dangling from his arm like a cheap copy of a designer purse. Lucky for her she had been too busy setting up Twila's newest display of Bracelets to pay him much attention.
Shifty waited at the end of the path that ran through the park. The twins were with their Mama finally. He missed them so much. He hadn't figured the whole thing out yet but he was pretty sure something was up with Lena and Twila and the whole thing about that rich man who had been kidnapped. He was glad though that what ever had happened had set Twila on a new path. "Please Lord" he prayed there in the park, "Let it last." He couldn't believe that Lena was finally back in their lives. He had loved her for so long. It was way back when he was just a teenager that he had known that she held his heart. She wouldn't look at him back then. Now she smiled at him. He watched her hurrying down the path to meet him. He smiled to himself as he realized that now that he had found her again his life was complete. This time not just his heart, but his very soul was captured!
written by: Patricia Sawyer