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Like an old Polaroid picture, the darkness in Chryssie’s mind slowly turned from black to gray and then back to reality. Instead of fully opening her eyes, she squinted not wanting to alert them that she was awake.

The man who’d hit her was leaning on the driver’s seat. “I had to do that. It wasn’t my fault.” The big man’s voice whined.

The driver said, “Tell it to the boss, not me. He told you not to hurt her.”

Who was the boss? And why didn’t he want her hurt? Not that it mattered, she had no intention of going quietly with them so they could kill her like the man had done to that guy in the alley.

Her eyes moved from the man to the back door of the van. It was crazy, but she had to do it. The rule was never to let them take you to another place. She’d heard police, self-defense experts, and even Dr. Phil say those words of advice.

She planned to take it.

Before she could change her mind, she jumped up and grabbed the back door handles…


She didn’t hear the rest of his sentence. She managed to jump and curl up in a ball as she landed on the pavement. Her shoulder banged on the road, but not her head.

A woman on the street stopped and her mouth fell open as she stared at Chryssie laying on the pavement. Moving to her knees, Chryssie yelled, “help me.”

Chryssie’s yell motivated the woman into action. She moved toward her.

The van had stopped and the man with the fist marched towards her. His face was an angry mask of rage. He’d obviously forgotten he wasn’t supposed to hurt her.

The woman looked at the man and then back at Chryssie. She charged towards Chryssie reaching her before the man. She bypassed her and ran to the attacker. Her hand moved towards his face.

The man bent over and moaned as the woman ran back to her.

“Come on.” The woman grabbed Chryssie helping her to her feet. “That mace won’t stop him for long.”

Chryssie looked back at the van and her would-be kidnappers.

The two other men were out of the van now and running towards them.

The woman pulled her away from the road. Still stunned from the fall, she allowed herself to be led away. As her senses came back to her, she ran faster.  Chryssie looked at her rescuer. “You need to go. I don’t want you to get involved in this mess.”

“I can’t leave you.”

“Yes, you can. I’ll be OK. I work at this bar.” Police or not, Chryssie had to go inside.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, and thanks so much. Keep running. Don’t let them find you.”

The woman let go of her hand. “God bless you.” The words floated back to Chryssie as the distance between them grew.

Turning the corner, she noted the police car was gone. At least one thing was going her way. Footsteps banged behind her. Well, it didn’t matter. Chuck would keep her safe.

She sprinted the last few steps and opened the door.

Chuck stood behind the bar. Looking more like a lawyer than a bartender, he wore a business suit and his brown hair was trimmed and neat. Must have a meeting somewhere.

He looked up and smiled when he saw her. “Hey.”

She launched herself into his arms. “Help me, Chuck. I’m in a lot of trouble.”

His arms stayed around her. She’d be OK now. Chuck wouldn’t let anything happen to her. “What are you talking about? What kind of trouble?”

“Two guys are chasing me.”

“Chasing you? Why would they do that?”

“It’s a long story.”

“Where are they now?”

She was wondering the same thing. Surely, they’d seen her come in here. They weren’t that far behind her. “I don’t know. They grabbed me and put me in their van. I jumped out, but they started chasing me.”

Chuck’s moved his arms away from her, his face a mask of incredulity. “Are you kidding me?”

She pointed at her face, now sore from the fist, and the scrapes from falling. “Does this look like I’m kidding?”

“No, it doesn’t. Stay here. I’ll go outside and look around.”

“You might need your Billy club.” It was behind the bar at all times just in case the customers got rowdy. She’d never had to use it, but she would now if those men tried to kidnap her again.

He shook his head. “I won’t need that. It’ll be fine.” He put an arm around her shoulder and led her to a table. “Sit here while I go check.”

Chuck walked out the door. Her heart still raced and she fought the urge to go back and get the Billy club. In spite of what Chuck said, they might need it. He didn’t understand what was going on. He had no idea what she’d been through since last night.

Needing a drink of water, she stood and walked behind the bar. Chryssie stared at the shelf for a moment and then turned to get a drink of water instead. As she held a glass under the running water, her gaze moved to the picture-filled wall.

The glass fell from her hand and shattered in the sink.

Her gaze was glued to one of the pictures hanging on the wall. It was Chuck with a man. The man who’d shot that poor kid. Chuck had once told her the man in the picture was his cousin.

Her mind went blank for a moment. She didn’t know if Chuck knew what kind of man his cousin was, but she couldn’t take the chance.

As she ran towards the door it opened.

Chuck walked in. “Nobody out there that I saw. Now, sit down and tell me what’s going on?” He looked at her. He must have seen something in her expression. His face hardened. His eyes moved past her to the back of the bar, and then he nodded.

She turned towards the back.

Two men stepped out of the shadows.

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