Missing – Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Katie and her friend Sarah had spent the entire day on the road.  They had left Colorado Springs around 8:00AM and were hoping to be at Miami Beach by 4:00PM the next day, splitting the driving duties between them.  They had intended to drive the full thirty to thirty-five hours straight and they brought an ample supply of Ritalin and Dexedrine, just in case they needed some help.   Sarah worked at a pharmacy and was casually sleeping with the owner.

Since her little brother was diagnosed with A.D.D., she managed to get double and triple prescriptions with a little “negotiating”.  Usually she used them for studying or late night partying.  Now they were actually going to be used for a good cause, or at least in the girl’s opinion of what a good cause would be.  They were a couple of newly liberated eighteen year olds ready to take Spring Break by storm.

Only problem was that the rest of their friends were already at the hotel in Miami and the girls couldn’t fly out because of Katie’s Fear of flying.   She tried getting on a plane once and went absolutely berserk; getting herself blacklisted from several air carriers once she made front page news.

Unfortunately neither could sleep while the other drove as they were both ridiculously bad at steering and paying attention at the same time.  They were already making horrible time, stopping several times to eat and use the washroom.  Twenty-two hours later, 6:00AM Monday morning, they arrived at a little town called Pulaski, Tennessee.

“What a shit hole” Sarah screamed angrily.  She was already pissed that she wouldn’t be partying on the beach tomorrow as she had hoped, but now she would have to spend a night in this tiny town and they still had another full day of driving ahead of them.

“I’m sorry.  I can’t go another minute, I’m seriously about to fall asleep right here” Katie pleaded as she struggled to carry her three designer luggage pieces up the stairs to their second floor room.  They had found a little Comfort Inn and booked the last room available, even though there were no other cars in the lot.  They didn’t care.

It took them each about an hour to finally fall asleep, but when they did, they were out cold.  Katie was the first to awaken, nearly a full twelve hours later.  “Sarah! It’s after 6:00PM already! We have to get going, come on let’s go!” she shouted and shook her friend violently out of bed.

“I feel worse than I did last night” Sarah moaned and defiantly fought to get back to her pillow.

Katie wasn’t going to let this happen.  She already felt bad enough that it was her fear of flying that forced them to drive in the first place, she wasn’t about to be responsible for missing any more of the partying than she had too.  She quickly gathered their stuff and headed down to their Lincoln MKX.

When she was about halfway down the stairs, Katie was greeted by a shaggy haired man, probably in his mid twenties.  “Hey, need a hand?” he offered kindly and then took two of the bags off of her hands.

It was a kind gesture but she was a bit taken aback at how aggressively he had grabbed them.  She set the pace, walking quickly to her car and the man followed beside her.  “Thanks” she replied cautiously as he put the luggage into the trunk.  She hit the door lock button on her keys as soon as the bags were inside and then turned to go get Sarah.

“I’m Tom.  My friends and I are in town for the next couple days, how about you?” he prodded and motioned to her out-of-state license plates.

“Nice to meet you, Tom… no we’re just passing through.  Thanks again” she smiled half heartedly and brushed past him and bound up the stairs.

“Okay, nice meeting you, I’ll see you around” he called up and walked away.

Katie shook off the uncomfortable chills he had given her and then was surprised to see Sarah up and ready to go before she got to the door.  “Alright, I’m ready, let’s rock!” Sarah shouted, oddly enthusiastically.  She was definitely not a happy riser and just as definitely high on something.

They raced back to their SUV and hopped inside.  Sarah tried to start the engine but it wouldn’t turn over.  After thirteen obscenity laced tries, she gave up.  “There’s got to be a mechanic around here somewhere” Katie thought out loud.

“I’ll call triple-A” Sarah offered and pulled out her cell.

The clerk at the Comfort Inn had been outside having a cigarette when their car problems started.  He walked over and explained that there was a mechanic just down the street and that they could easily walk over to the shop.

So together, the friends headed down the street, pissed off and biting their tongues the entire walk.  Sure enough, ten minutes later they were standing in front of a small body shop, “Big Ed’s AutoBody”.  A fat, grease covered man walked over and wiped his forehead, unknowingly smearing oil all over his face, and then nodded at the girls.  “What can I do for you lovely ladies?” his voice was as greasy as his overalls.

“Our car won’t start.  It’s parked over at the Comfort Inn.  Any chance you could take a look at it? We’re sort of in a rush” Sarah asked impatiently.  She wasn’t exactly pouring on the charm with her voice, but she was definitely pouring it on with her body.  She was leaning forward and letting her breasts dangle in her extremely loose-fitting tank top.

The fat man was clearly squirming uncomfortably as he tried his best not to stare, or at least to not be noticed staring.  “Sure.  I’ll get Junior to drive over and pick it up and tow it over to the shop.  We should have you up and running in no time” he smiled, revealing his severe lack of proper oral hygiene and several grossly cracked teeth.

“Great! Thanks sweetie” Sarah smiled coyly.

“Junior! Get over here you lazy bastard” the fat man shouted into the shop.  A young man, probably twenty years old, walked out of the shop.  He immediately caught both girls attention.  He was covered in oil and grease from head to toe, but he was also topless and quite muscular.

“That’s exactly why we should be in Miami right now!” Sarah whispered angrily to Katie who didn’t answer, but nodded in agreement.  There would be thousands of boys like that on the beach.

The fat man and Junior talked over the situation and then within minutes, the young man was in their tow truck and heading down to the Comfort Inn.  The girls hadn’t bothered with the complimentary meal that the motel had offered, they assumed they would be long gone by now.  But since they were going to be around for at least another hour, they decided to head over to the little mom and pop diner across the street.

The outside looked like a dump.  The old brick was cracked and stained and the curtains looked like ugly shredded table cloths.  Inside was pretty cute though.  It was sort of 70’s chic, whether intentional or not, and the jukebox in the corner was playing Sinatra.  They sat themselves and when the short woman with the enormous calves and microscopic ankles came to wait on them, they each ordered small salads with rice and a small garlic bread roll to share.

“So we meet again” the familiar voice greeted them cheerfully as they ate.  Tom was standing at the counter with two friends.

“Hi” Katie replied.  She tried to sound friendly enough to not be a snob, but casually enough to not sound interested.

Tom and his friends were undeterred.  They walked over and sat at the adjacent table.  “Car trouble?” he asked with a smirk.  The way he looked and the strange confidence he displayed set off alarm bells in Katie’s brain.

Sarah on the other hand loved the attention.  She loved any attention she got from young men.  “Yeah, stupid shit always happens when you’re in a rush.  So anyway, where are you boys heading?” she asked curiously.

“We’re here for… a meeting.  Or a convention, I don’t know what to call it really.  Basically we’re meeting up with some friends for a party tonight.  If you guys are still having trouble, you should swing by” Tom spoke with so much enthusiasm that even Sarah wasn’t enjoying the attention anymore.

“How did you know we were having car trouble?” Katie asked abruptly.

“There’s like seven thousand people in this entire town.  Everyone notices everything, besides, we were getting an oil change as your SUV was towed into the shop, must have just missed you there” he replied promptly, his enthusiasm still intact.

The girls quickly downed their food in an awkward silence as Tom and his friends spent the time whispering secretively to each other and watching the girls with weird, overly friendly looks.  Not gawking or ogling, just… with a creepy amount of happy.

“Well, it was nice meeting you, again, but we have to get going” Katie’s voice sounded like a robotic answering machine message.  Without another word or looking back, the girls left the diner and headed back to the shop.  The fat man and the clerk from the Comfort Inn were standing beside the SUV, talking baseball as the girls approached.

“So mister, how does it look? Can you get it fixed for us?” Katie asked, clearly desperate.

“Definitely.  Junior’s the best mechanic in the state.  Unfortunately the part you need won’t be shipped here till the morning.  I put in a special request with my usual supplier and he promised to get it out here as soon as our doors open” the fat man explained proudly.  He oozed bullshit with every word and motion of his bulbous body.

“Tomorrow…” Sarah muttered and shook her head in disappointment.  Her earlier exuberance was a distant memory now.

The clerk flashed a crooked smile and leaned his head to the side to get a good view of Katie’s backside and then flicked his eyebrows in approval, unaware of Sarah staring straight at him.  “Ugh, as if” she cursed him while shaking her head in disgust.  “Ok, we’ll be back in the morning then.  Thanks for your help” she said to the fat man and the two girls headed back to the Comfort Inn.

“Another night in this hell hole… what are we going to do now?  We won’t even get on the road until tomorrow and won’t be in Miami until Wednesday” Sarah moaned.  She wasn’t trying to crush Katie into a pile of guilt ridden dust, but she was.

“I’m so sorry.  Next year I’ll drive alone, or maybe I’ll get some counseling or medication…” Katie replied apologetically, her voice cracked as she verged on tears.

Sarah gave Katie a hug and the two cried for a good twenty minutes before settling in for the night.  In better times, they would have made good use of the bar on the other side of town and then wasted the night away in the motel Jacuzzi or curled up and watched some slasher flicks all night.

There used to be nothing more fun for them than being a couple of girls in a motel room watching scary movies together.   Now they were grown up and they were also actually terrified of those movies.  They were also in no mood to celebrate in any way, shape or form.

Since they had woken at 6:00PM, they struggled to fall asleep that night.  The more they tried, the more frustrated they got.  They sat on their beds, flipping between the news, to help bore them to sleep, and live clips from spring break to help them wallow.  Their friends hadn’t even called to check on them, but then the girls couldn’t blame them.  They were probably having so much fun…

At 3:00AM Sarah finally fell asleep.  Katie paced around the room angrily.  This was all her fault and the guilt was killing her.  Then she heard laughter and screams from outside.  She raced to the window and tried to peek cautiously from the bottom corner of the curtain, hoping to avoid being seen.  Down in the parking lot were three men that very closely resembled Tom and his two buddies.

There was a fourth man, stumbling around on his hands and knees as the others tortuously kicked and punched him, taunting him to get up.  Suddenly the motel clerk raced out to see what the commotion was about.  Katie couldn’t make out the words, only the muffled sounds of the drunken discussion.

Surprisingly the clerk didn’t seem intent on breaking the beating up.  In fact, at one point he even threw in a cheap shot punch of his own.  Afterwards he urged the group to take the man out of his parking lot.  Begrudgingly the men dragged their victim away into the dark night and the clerk headed back inside.

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