John stopped just short of the clearing edge, breath heaving rapidly through his parched lips. He looked across the lawn bordering the woodlands he had just traversed. A house sat there quietly, inviting his weary gaze.

John had escaped the jail through a complete fluke. One of his fellow detainees had started a ruckus and in the ensuing confusion John had simply spirited himself out of an unguarded doorway. He sprinted across the yard to the waiting woods where he had kept moving, hoping to make good his escape. He knew the police would be mounting a search but so far it hadn't materialized.

John's stock in trade was in being unnoticed. He had made a good living, albeit illegal, from stealing from people because he looked harmless, even trustworthy. He had a penchant for gulling unsuspecting widows out of the estates they had inherited from their recently deceased husbands. That was John's specialty, defrauding widows of the funds their dear departed husbands had the foresight to bequeath to them.

John reflected on how true the saying was 'all good things must come to an end. Come to an end they had, with John being located then subsequently apprehended, arraigned, tried and convicted by a jury of his peers for the fraud he had perpetrated upon his victims. John had been waiting in the city jail for his transferral to the state prison, an incarceration he knew he would not survive. He was a criminal true enough, but a cultured one. His slight build and gentle manners would make him stand out in the general prison population like a bloody steak in a pool of sharks. He knew he'd be eaten alive before he saw his first dawn break in the big house. Fate had smiled at him in allowing him an opportunity to make his escape.

He saw the blue BMW approaching the house, slow down to turn into the driveway. He saw the blond woman driving, alone in the car. He needed a vehicle to continue his escape, money also for food, fuel, a motel room to sleep in, clothes to replace his dirty jail garb. As the car slid toward the house slowly, John broke from the woods and sprinted toward the house, obscured by the corner of the garage from view of the car's occupant. He thanked the Fates for smiling upon him twice in this very harrowing day.

Marlene Tierney was talking to herself in the visor mirror as she approached her home. As had been her custom for some time she was rehearsing the shortcomings of her husband Brad. She rehearsed how he didn't show her any attention anymore, how he didn't spend any of his precious money on her, how he was so tightfisted in giving her gifts for her birthday, anniversary, and Christmas.

Marlene and Brad were childless, having decided long ago that they would much rather lavish themselves with their wealth rather than upon a brood of unappreciative whelps. Marlene's mother had mentioned the word 'selfish' on more than one occasion when she waxed mournful on being deprived of the joys of becoming a grandmother. Marlene, when she thought of the subject of children at all, (which was a rare occasion), tended to think instead that she and Brad had been insightful rather than selfish.

The first 5 years had been rewarding enough, she grudgingly admitted. The ocean cruises and vacations in Europe had been very gratifying. The jewelry had been very nice though she always longed for something a bit bigger, more spectacular. Though she consistently desired more than she had been given, she knew she had been the envy of her friends, most of whom would have given a limb to be in her shoes.

Her shoes were currently tennis shoes, the ones she'd worn to her meeting with her tennis instructor Tony Richards. She'd been a pupil of Tony for 3 years and the lessons had branched out into other areas, though still of an exceedingly athletic nature. She was homeward bound at this moment from one of those lessons. She looked into her own pale blue eyes in the rearview mirror and told herself she deserved those little diversions. If Brad wasn't so busy grubbing for more money she wouldn't have to look elsewhere. She knew she was lying as she gave herself the excuse.

She wheeled the BMW down the exit ramp, made the merge and slid down the half mile to her home. The home sat well off the highway in the midst of an expanse of manicured green paid for by Brad through his career as sales representative for a major aircraft manufacturer. Brad was the one who was always off to make presentations, enjoying the perks of his profession, living the good life while she stayed at home. It didn't cross her mind to be grateful for the high 6 figure income he generated for himself and her.

She snapped the car off the highway and onto the drive leading to the house. She didn't think of it as a home. She came to a stop at the garage door and sat there a moment, listening to the end of the song on the stereo, enjoying the moment. She also enjoyed the sight of her slim figure, maintained by a combination of diet and exercise though she was just past the terrible 30 mark in age. She still noticed the looks she got from the well dressed men at their club, some of them Brad's erstwhile friends. Marlene still got lots of attention from the males, and thoroughly enjoyed it. She popped the car door open and got out, stretching her tall leggy frame after being behind the wheel. She set off for the corner door of the garage, tennis skirt swinging, her tennis racket held loosely in her left hand as she arrived at the door and put the key to the lock with her right hand.

The lock clicked and she pushed the door open. She saw a flash and a man burst around the corner, shoving her into the dark garage. He slammed her against the wall and used his arm as a bar across her throat. Her potential weapon in the form of her tennis racket clattered uselessly to the floor. She tried to knee him in the groin and missed. He hissed an indrawn breath and shoved his arm harder against her throat.
"Lady, I'm not here to hurt you, but I will if you try that again."
"Wha..what do you want?" She was still reeling from the suddenness of John's attack.
"What I want is your car, lady. I want some cash too. I won't hurt you if you cooperate, I promise. I just need some wheels and some money to get away from here."
Marlene looked closer at the man in the dimness. She saw the jail house clothing. "Oh my God, you're an escaped convict!"
"Lady, what did you expect, Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell?"

John took his free hand and grasped her wrist, twisting it and forcing her to turn away from him. "We're going in the house. You're going to give me your car keys and cash. I'm going to tie you up and leave you here. You'll be fine. I'll call the cops from a pay phone and tell them you're here and need help. You'll be ok."

Marlene's mind raced as she turned the words of this smelly convict over in her mind. She didn't believe a word he'd told her. John pushed her before him, forcing her to walk with her arm twisted painfully behind her toward the entry door into the house from the garage.

"Open the door and step inside. There isn't anyone else inside, is there?"
"No, nobody else is here. My husband is on his way home, though. He should be here soon." She hoped her words were true. Brad had called her earlier that morning, before her 'tennis lesson', telling her he'd be home in the afternoon.
"I hope for your sake you're telling me the truth. I don't want to have to hurt you but I will if I have to, lady."

She opened the entry door and stepped through, suddenly pulling against her captor. She had hoped to burst free from his grasp, but her attempt failed. All she succeeded in doing was scraping his arm against the door frame, scratching a furrow in his skin. A thin stream of blood flowed, a few drops spattering the tile floor of her kitchen.
"Geez, what do you think you're doing? If you try anything like that again, I'm really gonna hurt you. Just cooperate for a little and I'm out of here and you're safe, do you hear me?"
"Yes, but please don't hurt me. I'll behave, I swear."
"You'd better, if you know what's good for you. Sit in one of those kitchen chairs."

John pushed her toward a chair but not too harshly. He might be a thief and a fraud but he wasn't a mugger or murderer. He just wanted to get the keys and cash and be on his way.

John started pulling counter drawers open and inside of one he saw some cord. He pulled it free of the junk inside and thought it would work just fine to tie her arms to the chair. He kept an eye on Marlene who sat rubbing the sore wrist he had twisted to subdue her. He told her to put her arms behind her and she complied. He tied her arms securely to the chair. Then he knelt from the side where she couldn't kick at him and tied her legs to the chair legs. He admired her figure but stayed on task. He was a thief, not a pervert.

He rose and took a look at his handiwork. Not too bad, not too bad at all.
"Ok, where do you keep your cash?"
Marlene said "You'll find some in the cookie jar on the counter."
John took the jar and removed the lid. Inside he found a fat roll of twenty dollar bills. "Man, you have some sweet tooth on you, darlin'." He looked around the kitchen, saw the fridge and pulled the door open. Inside he saw several bottles of imported beer. He took one, twisted the cap free and tilted his head back for a long pull on the cool brew. The thirst he'd been enduring backed off several notches. He set the bottle on the counter.

Looking again into the drawer that had held the cord John saw part of a roll of duct tape. He took it out and pulled off about 6 inches.
"Lady, this is going to hurt when the cops take it off, but I have to do it. Hold still."
True to form, Marlene started whipping her head about to avoid the tape, but John had had enough of her games. He grabbed her hair with one hand, forcing her head back where he could apply the tape with his other hand. Before he put the strip of tape across her lips he asked her "Where are the keys to your car?"
"They're still in the ignition."
"Good, I hope so. It's going to hurt really bad if I have to come back inside and ask the question again. You be a good girl and sit tight while I go find some clothes. If I hear anything I'm coming back. I won't be happy when I get here." He tried his best intimidating voice, but he was pretty sure it didn't impress her. It hadn't impressed him either.

He slipped down the hall toward the main house, moving quickly. He found a bedroom and a closet with mens clothing. He took a polo shirt and a pair of shorts. He stuffed the pocket of the shorts with the roll of $20s. He lucked out and found a pair of tennis shoes which were just a little large, socks, and even a belt. He shucked out of the jail house gear and felt almost human again. He wished he had time to hit the shower, but he knew he was already pushing his luck. John returned to the kitchen. Marlene was where he had left her.

"Good girl. I'm going to live up to my end of the deal now. I'm going. I'll call the cops in a few hours but not too soon. I need to put some space between me and here before I make the call. You'll be fine, just stay calm and everything will be cool. I got what I came for and nobody got hurt. Thanks for the help." He didn't think she looked very grateful as he took another pull from the beer on the counter. He opened the fridge again and took out another bottle. "One for the road, sugar." John tipped Marlene a wink and rummaged through the drawer yet again. He found a pen and a slip of paper. He jotted down the number from the phone then headed out the door, exiting the way he had entered. Marlene faintly heard the sound of the car engine fire, heard the sound of it getting fainter as John made his escape.

She tried the bonds but John was quite thorough in his efforts at restraint. Instead of ruining her skin in a vain attempt at escape she decided to wait it out. That guy hadn't hurt her other than to force her inside and when she'd tried to get away. She realized he could have done anything to her, even murdered her, but he hadn't. He had in fact been rather gentlemanly for a thief. He probably would call the cops, she thought wryly. If he didn't, Brad would be along before too late.

Two hours passed and Marlene thought she heard something. It was the sound of a car. She hadn't worn herself out in struggling to escape but she had worked herself into a state of being highly angry at the indignity of being tied up and left in her own kitchen.

Brad pulled his Mercedes Benz convertible into the driveway, wondering if Marlene was home. He didn't see her car, but it was probably in the garage. Maybe she was in town shopping or visiting her gal pals. Maybe she was in town visiting that jerk Tony, her tennis pro. Brad knew what the deal was between Marlene and Tony but had never gone to war over it. A divorce would cost him half of everything he'd worked so hard for, and the price was far too high to pay just to be self righteous. It wasn't as if he'd been a choir boy himself.

He parked the Benz and started to enter the side door by the garage. He stopped when he saw it was partially open. He paused and listened, hearing nothing. He pushed the door open while standing slightly to the side just in case someone was in there with a gun. He peeked inside and saw Marlene's car was not there. He stepped inside and crossed to the kitchen entry. he turned the knob, senses fully awake. Marlene not home and the house unlocked. "Not good, not by a long shot", he thought. As he pushed the kitchen door in, he looked down and saw the bright spattering of a few blood drops, starting to darken as they dried on the tile. He paused again, this time hearing a muffled sound inside, coming from the kitchen. He pushed the door open and slowly entered, ready to retreat instantly.

Inside he saw his wife Marlene sitting in one of the kitchen chairs, tied hand and foot, tape across her mouth. He entered and came to her, circling around to where she could see him. he whispered "Is whoever did this to you still here, Marlene?" She shook her head in the negative. He whispered "Ok, but you be still and I'm going to check the house to make sure." She nodded in the affirmative this time and sat still.

Brad left the kitchen and went on a search and destroy mission through the house. His mind raced, thinking of what was going on here, what it might mean for him. He found the house empty. Brad returned to the kitchen and Marlene started making noise, obviously wanting the tape on her mouth removed. Brad stopped in front of her, then slowly walked around the scene, surveying the situation. He went to the garage and returned with a battered briefcase, one of his cast offs from the past. He set it on the table and opened it, keeping the contents from the view of his wife. He reached inside and removed a pair of surgical gloves which he put on. Only then did he start to work the tape free of Marlene's mouth. He said "Marlene, I put these gloves on so I won't destroy any fingerprints which may be on the tape. Stay calm and I'll be as gentle as I can." He worked a corner free and see-sawed the tape, working it loose. It looked like it hurt like hell. "Too bad", he thought to himself. Finally the tape was free and Marlene said "Hurry up and get these ropes off of me, Brad."
"Not so fast, dear. First I want to know some things. What happened here?"
"I came back home from town and this guy broke in, forced me to give him cash and the car. He's an escaped convict. He tied me up and left."
"Is that all? He didn't take anything else, do anything else?"
Marlene couldn't contain the sarcasm in her tone.
"No, Brad, he didn't do anything else. Now will you please get me loose from this and call the police?"

"Let's not be too hasty, dear."
"Hasty? Brad, are you out of your stupid mind? Get me out of these ropes!" Her volume had escalated in a most unbecoming manner.

"Marlene, where did the beer bottle come from? You would never lower yourself to drinking my beer, now would you? You're fine wine, all the way. What's with the empty beer bottle?"
"The guy drank it. Don't ask me why, maybe he was thirsty. Ask him, why don't you? Oh, that's because you haven't called the police so they haven't caught him yet. Maybe you can get around to making the call after you untie me."
"Honeybuns, it might be a while. I have some more questions. Where did the drops of blood on the floor by the garage entry come from? You're not bleeding, not a drop. Did you injure your guest?"
"He wasn't MY guest, you stupid jerk. I tried to get away and he scraped his arm on that door facing you haven't fixed. Serves him right! He left some evidence for the cops."
"Yes, he did, didn't he? Bloodstains, and fingerprints on the beer bottle. Fingerprints on the fridge handle too. How very considerate of him, helping the police."

Brad took a kitchen chair and spun it around, the back of it facing Marlene. He straddled the chair and looked speculatively into her blue eyes. He looked at her the way a lion looks at the fawn of a gazelle. The voice inside Marlene's head whispered "This is the first time we've really looked into each others eyes in months." She shivered. Brad reached to the table, casually spun the old briefcase around. Marlene saw inside no papers, folders, or files. Inside was a pair of handcuffs, a large roll of duct tape, more cord which matched the cord used by her earlier abductor, a ball gag, and a knife. Marlene's eyes widened as she recognized the significance of the contents.

"Marlene, let's play. I'm sure Tony will miss you. There won't be a lot of blood. It's too messy and the evidence would be too hard to control, the evidence of what that terrible escaped convict did while I was away from home", said Brad as the festivities began.

The Night's Plutonian Shore: The 2007 Halloween Horrorquest

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