*** TRIGGER WARNING***
Abuse and abduction
It had been six hours into the day with no word from Evan. Ms. Lima, his elementary school teacher, reported last seeing him sitting under a tree in front of the gymnasium of Voorshilt Elementary. Evan sat there to shield himself from the scorching sun of mid-summer July, waiting for his mother, who was running late to pick him up along with the other parents.
Ms. Lima told the officer that she regretted not bringing him inside to wait for his mother as instinct told her. This was a time before school’s required identification and buckled down more on safety with the teachers and students.
* * *
Talbert Defroh drove up a dirt road that led to a two-story abandoned house situated in a wooded area an hour away from Evan’s home. Evan squinted his eyes, observing the dilapidated steps and rusty railings covered in desiccated vines. He pressed his nose against the window of his father’s car and gasped. A sickening feeling in his gut rumbled. The house wasn’t in the least bit appealing. It was something more of the Adams Family type. Evan swallowed, and a tingling sensation shot up his spine.
Evan turned around in his seat, staring at Talbert. “Where are we, Papa?”
Talbert stared straight ahead and gripped the steering wheel tighter. “You’ll see soon.”
At this moment, Evan regretted riding off with Talbert from the school. Evan sensed something was off with Talbert the minute he rolled the window down, and demanded that Evan get in the truck. He opened the door, and there were several empty liquor bottles in the passenger seat. In a panic, he pushed them to the floor to make room for himself before his father got any angrier.
Walking up to the house, Evan fidgeted with the straps of his backpack, and his head lowered at his chest as Talbert unlocked the door.
“Leave your shoes out here before you step foot inside.”
Evan nodded and removed his shoes, leaving them by a broken flowerpot. Talbert slammed the door behind him. He observed the inside that had little furniture, enough for a single person. “Is this your new place, Papa?”
Talbert’s lips curled into a smile, and he chuckled. “This is our new home. You won’t be going back to that school anymore, so get comfortable.”
“What about mom?”
Talbert put a finger to his lips and motioned to a large pile of wood in the corner. “Help me gather those to get a fire started.”
Evan regretted every minute he spent not listening to the words his mother taught him about safety. It was a tough situation to think about with his father. He trusted him, but even the ones we love or least expect can be wolves in sheep’s clothing.
A year passed, and Evan still hadn’t been found. The constant digging and rattling noises in the night were sounds he became familiar with. Evan walked past the fireplace, and the faint smell of burnt wood chippings tickled his nostril hairs. His eyes peeled through the window of the backdoor. He covered his mouth with one hand, examining the mud that covered his father’s shoes and coveralls as he shoveled the damp earth.
Not again, he thought. Not another one.
Evan’s eyes narrowed in on his father, tossing over a heavy object of some sort into a hole he dug.
Evan looked over his shoulders. A faint sound of a terrified voice muffled through the floorboards. He followed the cries for help down to the basement. Evan pulled the string above him to turn the lighting on and was taken aback by what he saw.
A woman who was a replica of his mother laid on the cold hard concrete panting with a look of desperation. She turned to Evan. Her feet were shackled by iron manacles, leaving her with bruised ankles. He observed her zip-tied hands behind her back. The heavy flow of her tears contoured her pale cheeks, ruining the fine mascara that streamed through her defined feathered lashes, forming a black river of ink.
“Please, you have to help me,” she mumbled.
Evan took a step back. “I’m sorry. He’ll get me if I help you,” he whispered.
The woman squeezed her hands through the zip ties to free herself from bondage, but it only panged her to do so. Evan took a long deep swallow and glanced at the painful markings covering his arms and legs. He realized the woman wasn’t without scars herself. He felt it was wise to be bold, but all he could do was empathize with her.
“Everything will be okay,” Evan reassured her.
The woman shook her head and cried. “No, it won’t be. It’s been days since I’ve eaten. I’m so hungry.”
“Um…wait here.” He cleared his throat to avoid stumbling over his words. “I’ll bring you something back.”
A half-eaten peanut butter sandwich with no jelly that Talbert made earlier for Evan sat on the counter. He licked his lips. There was nothing to quench his thirst. A couple of days passed since the feeling of dehydration fell upon him. It felt like there was a blockage smack dab in the middle of his throat, preventing him from salivating. His stomach twisted into a fist full of knots. Although he was hungry and terrified himself, he tried not to show any signs of weakness.
“This is all I have,” Evan said through parched lips. He sat the plate on the ground next to her and lifted the sandwich to her mouth. It was the last thing he would see until supper. “I have to go now.” He walked away, carrying the empty plate with him.
Evan stopped before reaching the door at the top of the stairs and gazed at the helpless woman. “Yes, ma’am?”
“You must find something to cut these off me.”
Evan took a long deep breath. “I can’t make any promises.”
A television sat on a small vintage stand a distance from the kitchen area that struck Evan’s attention. The wooden floorboards creaked above him with every step Talbert took. Evan’s shoulders sank into his chest, and his face hardened in concentration as a portrait of a beautiful local woman with ginger hair and amethyst eyes, reported missing, flashed across the evening news. The reporter stated her name, Claire Tyson.
Evan’s body was as still as a statue. Claire was an exact description of the woman in the basement; the second youngest woman to go missing over the past few months. She could have been his mother’s younger sister if she had one. The two women that went missing were identical to his mother. That’s what bothered him more.
Claire’s disappearance increased a ton of attention among Copen residents and heightened their fears. Evan’s concentration was cut short when Talbert plopped down in the recliner. Blue and white lights glared through the iris of his eyes. His face flushed a bright red, and his mouth set in a hard line as he impatiently rocked back and forth holding a Miller Lite.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost or something, boy. What’s wrong with you?” Talbert gulped down half of the bottle of beer.
“Oh no…I was only watching television.”
Photos of Evan flashed across the news, and Talbert sat up tall. After so long, the police expected the worst for his return. Straddles of Evan’s curly red hair swooped along his cool mint eyes. Polka dots in a row of three spread across each of his cheekbones in the photos. Talbert was a look-alike of him, but their personality was nothing of the same, of course.
“Evan Defroh, who would be twelve years old today, was last seen with a small-framed Caucasian individual. The man has a hawk tattoo on his arm. Authorities suspect the father Talbert Defroh, 49, who fits the description, maybe the suspect.” The reporter stated.
Evan watched as his mother appealed to the public once again with his grandparents at her side. She wiped her face as the tears from her eyes kissed her cheeks. She spoke with confidence through several microphones of reporters. He scooted close to the television. His mother was as beautiful as before, even when sad.
Mom, I’m here. Evan wanted to call out to her so bad. He kept silent. He wished that he could reach through the television and tell her the location of his whereabouts and confirm her worst fears that Talbert had indeed run off with him.
Evan’s bushy eyebrows drew inward, listening to her give a speech for someone to come forward with information. Laughter shot from Talbert’s mouth and struck Evan’s attention.
“She deserves everything she’s getting after what she did to me.” Talbert scooted to the edge of the recliner and whispered to Evan, “She will never see you again.”
Evan’s shoulders slumped. He felt the personal vendetta Talbert held against his mother from every word. “Why do you hate my mom so much? What did she do to you?” He lifted a brow. “What did any of those women do to you?”
“All these questions.” Talbert chuckled. “You’re a curious boy, but how about you mind the business that pays you.”
In an instant, Evan felt so much hatred for his father. He missed his mother and the home he was taken from, sometimes blaming himself. Tension was building, fogging the rim of Talbert’s glasses. Finally, he changed the channel and got up from the recliner. With clenched fists, he banged himself upside the head like a crazed person. Evan didn’t want to know what was happening in Talbert’s mind as he watched him pace the room back and forth. His odd behavior made him more afraid. Evan wanted to escape as much as Claire did. He didn’t know how, but he was going to find a way.
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