Return to the Unknown
By Kimberly Rose Johnson
Kate knew the moment she stepped off the plane this wasn’t LAX. She frantically rushed through the bustling airport in search of an information booth. Finally, she spotted one. “Excuse me, could you please tell me what airport this is?”
The middle-aged woman behind the counter flashed a smile. “PDX.”
Kate staggered backward.
“Are you okay, Miss?” The woman reached for a phone and spoke in a hushed tone.
Kate did a hundred-and-eighty-degree turn, taking in the sea of unknown faces. How did I end up in Portland, Oregon? I should be in LA.
The woman looked over Kate’s shoulder and pointed to her.
Kate’s heart pounded. “Um…I…”
“Please come with us.”
Kate jumped and shrunk away from the officer as he took her elbow. “I didn’t do anything. I’m a little confused. I’m not supposed to be in Portland.” She pressed the palm of her hand to her forehead. “I’m supposed to be in LA, and I can’t understand how I got here.”
The officers exchanged a look and continued to lead her away.
Kate’s voice rose in pitch. “You aren’t listening to me. I haven’t broken the law. I’m just confused. Please let me go!”
One of the men whispered into her ear. “Keep it down. You’re going to draw attention to yourself.”
She ripped her arm out of the man’s grasp. “You two are doing a good job of drawing attention. I wouldn’t worry about me.”
The other man spoke up. “Kate, control your temper. We’re only trying to help.”
He knows my name. How? She eyed the man more closely. Dark curly hair, about six feet tall, with a lean build. “How do you know my name?”
The two men exchanged looks again. “This is worse than I thought. We better hurry before her memory is permanently wiped out.”
Kate froze. “I am not taking one more step until someone tells me what is going on!”
“Sorry.” The tall man put his hand on her shoulder.
Kate awoke with a pounding headache. She closed her eyes and lay back against the headboard. A rustling sounded in the room. She jumped and her eyes flew open. “Who are you, and where am I?” The man remained silent and left the room. Great, now where’s he going?
The door opened and the tall man from the airport entered the room. He walked over to the bed she was on and handed her two pills.
Kate eyed the pills. “What are these?”
“Aspirin, I suggest you take them before your headache gets worse.”
He handed her a glass filled with water.
Kate took the glass and sniffed, touched the tip to her tongue to the pills, and wrinkled her nose—definitely aspirin. She tossed them to the back of her throat and swallowed. The water cooled her parched throat. She finished it and handed the glass back to the man. “Since you know my name, it’s only polite that you tell me yours.”
The man snickered. “You might have a point. My friends call me Slim.”
Kate rolled her eyes. “Very original. They couldn’t come up with something more imaginative?”
Slim shrugged his shoulders and walked out of the room.
Kate struggled to sit up. She needed to escape. Her eyes scanned the room. One window hung on the north side of the room, with the only door on the west. She tiptoed quickly to the window. Yes! Unlatching the lock, she slid up the window. Being careful to not make any noise, she removed the screen and placed it on the floor. She took a peek out and gulped. The ground had to be at least ten feet down. She looked to the sides of the window for a support; nothing.
Like the whisper of a gentle breeze she swung one leg over the side. Twisting her body, she brought her other leg outside the window to dangle. Her fingers gripped the window sill. Kate’s breath came out in short puffs and she closed her eyes. One—two—three. She released her grip and free-fell to the ground, crashing into the hard-packed earth with both legs. Wincing, she hobbled to the bushes a few feet away. Kate peered between the bushes at her surroundings. A tall, barbed-wire fence surrounded the house. All hope of escape vanished. Unwanted tears streamed down her face and she swiped them away. She would not cry like a little child, but her body screamed at her.
“Kate!” A man called.
She held position and slowed her breathing. She refused to be found. There had to be another way to escape. An unmarked white van sat parked in the driveway. Bingo! If she could get to the van undetected, she could hide and wait until the van is driven off the compound. Her captors were getting nearer, their voices grew louder.
“Kate, there is no way out of here. Let us help you!”
Two pairs of black boots walked past the bushes where she hid. She let out the breath she’d been holding.
Kate waved at the cat to go away, but it just came closer. Great, a friendly cat. Her captors were heading back in her direction. They’d heard the animal as well. She made a small hissing sound at the cat. It sprang out of the bushes, landing on the boot of one of her captors.
“Well, look what we have here.” The man reached down to pick up the feline.
“What’s the matter, little fella? Did grouchy old Kate scare you?”
Kate caught her breath at the mention of her name.
“We know you’re in the bushes. Come out now!”
Kate was not yet ready to give up, but she was trapped. If they put me back in that room, I’ll have to escape through the door. I can’t jump from the window again. Instead of revealing her location, she crawled on hands and knees under the cover of the tall bushes.
The sound of the twig snapping beneath her hand sounded like an explosion in her ears. The men caught her within seconds.
“You really should cooperate. You’re going to hurt yourself.”
Kate looked down at her bleeding hand and stood to face her captors.”Why are you keeping me here? Who are you? What do you want?”
The man called Slim answered. “You’ll understand all of this when the time is right. But for now you need to trust us.
“Trust you! I don’t even know you and you want me to trust you?” She spat at his feet.
Slim’s face turned the color of radishes. “Put her in the study downstairs,” he barked. “And post a guard in the room with her. I’ll be back shortly.” He strode away, leaving her alone with her unnamed captor.
Kate watched Slim drive away in the white van and resolved to be gone before he returned. In a sugary-sweet voice, she spoke to her other captor. ‘I promise to be good. It’s such a nice day, maybe we could walk around outside for awhile.”
Yes! Now maybe I can figure out where I am. Kate observed her surroundings. A long dirt driveway wove through a grove of old oak trees. The compound appeared to be isolated from the world. No other structure stood in sight. Kate’s shoulders drooped. Defeat washed through her. “What’s your name?”
“You can call me Bull.”
“Bull, huh? You and your partner sure do have odd names.”
Bull smiled. “You didn’t think our names were so odd when you gave them to us.”
Kate stopped short. “What do you mean, I gave them to you?”
Bull’s face paled. “I…I…shouldn’t have said that. Slim will explain everything when he gets back. Don’t worry, this will be over soon.” Bull led her to the study and sat in a chair beside the door. Time seemed to drag. Kate estimated it to be at least four in the afternoon. Would Slim ever return? Her stomach growled. When had she last eaten? It must’ve been before she’d boarded the wrong flight.
“Bull, do you think I could have a little something to eat?”
“Sorry. You’ll have to wait for Slim.”
Kate jumped when she heard the door slam. Slim must be back—finally! She could hear the fall of footsteps on the wood floor. The door opened and Slim walked in holding a hypodermic needle. Kate shook her head and stumbled to her feet. “No! Stay away from me,” she screamed.
“Calm down. You need this to get your memory back.” Bull circled around behind her and flung his arms around her shoulders locking her to his chest.
Her heart pounded. She kicked and tried to wiggle free, but Bull hung on and took her abuse.
Slim raised the needle and pierced her skin.
With clear eyes, Kate took in her surroundings and relaxed. “What are the two of you staring at?”
“You had us worried,” Slim took her wrist and checked her pulse.
Kate narrowed her gaze on Slim. “What’s going on?”
“I need you to answer a couple of questions. What’s your name and who do you work for?”
She rolled her eyes. “Special Agent Kate McAllister, FBI.”
Slim rocked back on his heels and grinned. “Welcome back. We almost didn’t get the antidote into you in time.”
“What are you talking about? What antidote?”
“You’d better sit.”
Kate shook her head. Whatever he had to say she could take standing.
“Suit yourself.” Slim handed her a file. “Two days ago you were kidnapped, and your memory was wiped out by some drug. Our guy on the inside was able to sneak you out and get you on a plane bound for Portland, where we intercepted you and brought you here. The antidote had to be recovered and administered within forty-eight hours of your memory loss. We barely made it.”
“Whoa. I don’t remember any of that.” Kate placed a hand on Slim’s arm. “I hope I wasn’t too much trouble.”
Slim chuckled and rested his arm across her shoulders. “Partner, you have no idea.”