Estimated reading time — 35 minutes
It was Sandy’s day off, but she decided to stop by her workplace anyway. Sandy was a pharmacist in a local chain drug store and she loved her job. Why else would she commute twenty minutes out of her way to buy laundry detergent when there was a supermarket that carried what she needed right across the street from her house? She would have made the argument that it was for her employee discount but the truth was she was ecstatic about her position.
At 23 years of age, Sandy was bursting with enthusiasm. She had just gotten her pharmacy license three months earlier, and after all those years of studying and taking tests she was finally, what she said emphatically over and over again to anyone in earshot, “official.” Finally having a foothold in a well-known pharmacy, having the opportunity to counsel patients and assist them with their prescription questions and needs on a regular basis, was what made getting out of bed in the morning worth it. She was making a difference in her community. Plus everybody at the store was like family to her. They were so friendly and fun to work with.
And, of course, there was Jeff, the store manager. That was a major reason she liked her job so much. She felt he was one of the nicest bosses she could ever have. Always understanding and never condescending to her or the other employees, Jeff was definitely a great leader and an all-around good person in her eyes.
It also didn’t hurt that she thought he was attractive.
Sandy tried on different outfits in the mirror before heading out, checking herself out from a variety of angles with great scrutiny until she decided on the most flattering blue jeans and blouse combo she could pull from her walk-in closet. Once satisfied, she applied her makeup and combed her long brown hair. She strapped on a pair of sandals, grabbed her sweater, and drove toward the store.
There was a bounce in her step as she walked down the chemical aisle and picked up her detergent of choice. She stopped midway toward the pharmacy department as she overheard two of the stock guys in the next aisle talking as they packed out the day’s truck delivery. Her name and Jeff’s happened to be spoken in the same sentence so she pretended to be looking at some fabric softener as she listened, her ears perking up to hear the latest gossip going around the store.
“You know he has a thing for her, right?” Robert, the stock boy said with certainty in his voice.
“What, are they dating or something?” James, the other stock boy, asked.
“Maybe,” Robert replied. “He spends all his time in the pharmacy talking to her every single day, pretending to go over reports and shit. But hey, I can’t blame him. Sandy is sexy as hell. If I was manager I’d be going over reports with her too.”
She couldn’t help but smile as she left the young boys to continue their adolescent banter, amused at the notion of people’s perceptions. There was, however, nothing at all between them. Jeff wasn’t like that. He was a professional, not to mention a gentlemen. Yes, she thought he looked cute in his shirt and tie and ever present 5 o’clock shadow, but the relationship she had with him was strictly that of two retail colleagues working closely together to improve the store’s earnings and profitability. No more, no less.
She did her best to suppress her smile as she approached the back of the store and saw Jeff standing in front of the pharmacy counter talking with the other pharmacist, Marcus. Her smile was easier to hide when she noticed the frowns that were on both of their faces.
“Hey, guys,” she said, ticking her eyes between both men, trying to gauge the reason for their expressions. “Why the long faces?”
Marcus, in his white lab coat, explained it immediately. “It’s Mrs. Wilshire. She just called. She said she’s not able to get her flu shot tomorrow.”
Sandy slumped her shoulders, matching the dreary demeanor and posture her coworkers shared. “What? That sucks. The deadline is tomorrow.”
“I know,” Jeff said. “She couldn’t have planned to get her hair done another day?” Jeff had both hands on his hips as he looked to the left as though thinking what to do next.
She knew the reason for Jeff and Marcus’ reaction to the news. Their pharmacy chain had a special immunization outreach program going for the past several months. It was dubbed the House-Call Outpatient Initiative. A wordy title, but a good cause nonetheless. Every store had their own goals. They had to service a select amount of people, mostly consisting of the disabled or the elderly, who were unable to leave their houses regularly. With the assistance of the Store Manager, the pharmacist would set up an appointment where the patient was visited at their home and administered any one of the different immunization shots that were available.
Mrs. Wilshire was too old to leave her home and had set up an appointment for the following day. Both pharmacists had planned the schedule so that Sandy would cover the store while Marcus and Jeff drove out to her home to administer the shot and meet the store’s quota. But Mrs. Wilshire had apparently just thrown that plan out the window, as well as any hopes for meeting the store’s goal. Sad thing was they were only one shot away from meeting it. Sandy couldn’t help being disappointed just as much as her manager.
“But it’s only one shot,” she said, trying her best to comfort Jeff. “Is corporate really going to hold that against us? We did so many house calls this year.”
Jeff sighed as Marcus walked to the register to help a customer. “That’s what gets me,” Jeff stated. “We worked so hard to get to the number we have, spending hours making all those calls and visiting all those people. And to miss it by one shot? Every store in the district is either on target or above. Not gonna look good on my review, that’s for sure.”
Sandy genuinely felt bad for him. She was well aware of all the work Jeff had done to get close to the store’s goal. She was trying to think of something to say. Anything to get Jeff’s usually chipper mood back.
Still, Jeff managed to utter a suppressed laugh as he adjusted his tie. “Listen to me. Being so selfish. Oh, well… Whatever. Maybe next year.”
“No. You deserve to get a good review. I see how hard you work every day.” Sandy admired Jeff and truly wanted to help. She immediately started to think of any way to make the situation better. The answer came to her easily.
“Could Mrs. Wilshire get the shot today?” she asked.
Jeff shrugged. “I think so, yeah. I mean, she’s probably sitting around watching soap operas right now. But we don’t have coverage for the store today. Marcus is stuck here and you’re off.”
Sandy placed the laundry detergent on the counter and pulled out her cell phone. “I’ll go. What’s the address?” She was ready to start typing it into her GPS as though it was all settled.
Jeff shook his head. “No. It’s your day off. Why are you even here anyway? You should be home relaxing.”
She shot him a look as if to suggest the answer was obvious. “For my discount. Why else?” As her eyes returned to her phone screen she regretted not being completely honest with him. There was more than a discount that had brought her in.
Jeff seemed adamant. “Still… It’s not right when you’re not scheduled.”
Sandy waved him off. “It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it. I don’t want us to lose that last shot. Tell me the address.”
“She lives 45 minutes away,” Jeff explained, still sounding as though he was trying to talk her out of it. “You’d lose like three hours of your day. Four if she talks your head off like she does to me when she’s on the phone. I’d feel bad.”
Sandy was firm with her smile intact. “And I’ll feel bad if we miss our goal because you’re worried about my social life. Know my big plan for the day?” She lifted the detergent up for emphasis. “Laundry day. All day. I can drive out there, do the shot, and be back with plenty of time to rinse, spin, and dry.”
Jeff laughed, looking grateful as Sandy raised her eyebrows. “Address please?” she said smiling confidently.
He pulled out his phone and began typing. “Fine. I’ll text it to you. It’s a bit secluded, but easy to get to.”
Once he texted her the address, a page for him to come to the front of the store sounded over the loudspeaker. They both lowered their phones as they stood only a few feet apart and shared smiles with one another. She felt good about seeing him in a better mood and was glad that she could help in that area.
“I’ll call Mrs. Wilshire to let her know you’re on the way. I wish I could join you, but I won’t have coverage for at least another six hours.” He spoke with an earnest expression present on his face.
Sandy picked her detergent back up and got in line to pay at the pharmacy register. “Stop worrying. It’s cool. I’ve got it. Go run your store, Mr. Manager.”
Jeff was beaming with gratitude. “Thanks. I really appreciate it. I owe you one.”
As he walked to the front, he kept his gaze on her as she replied with her smile clear as day. “I’ll think of a way you can pay me back.”
There was a flirtatious tone to her words, and as she stepped up to the counter a part of her wished she hadn’t said what she just had. She didn’t want to add to the gossip going around, but she couldn’t help but feel good about lending a hand. Her smile seemed indelible as the pharmacy tech finally got around to ringing her up. Once her item was paid for and bagged, she stepped behind the counter and loaded up on the immunization kit that was in one of the cabinets inside the pharmacy department. Marcus didn’t have time to talk to her because he was still talking to a customer at checkout, but she did manage to share a wave goodbye with him as she headed to her car.
The drive to Mrs. Wilshire’s house was a smooth one albeit lengthy. After two highways she found herself on a long stretch of road that seemed to narrow as she got deeper into wooded territory. The leafless autumn trees blocked out the sun as she drove blasting the latest pop songs on the radio to keep her company. She couldn’t help but wonder why Mrs. Wilshire wouldn’t decide on getting a closer pharmacy to take care of her, but with no sign of any stores in the rural Pennsylvania area she was entering, she could soon understand why. Only trees and grass seemed to pass her vehicle as she drove. And the closer she got, the houses were spread further apart.
“Must be hard to get to know any neighbors around here,” Sandy thought as she pulled onto a dirt road that led to her destination. She pulled into the driveway and turned off her GPS as she stared at the house before her.
It was an old house. The paint on one side of the gray two story colonial was faded, turning a rotted brown as several shingles appeared to be missing. Further inspection revealed the ground below to be littered with them, suggesting that general upkeep in this place was something to be desired. Sandy noticed that the windows were blacked out as though paint had been brushed over them. Seeing that, she didn’t look forward to going inside. The bushes and grass surrounding the property were overgrown and practically hid the path to the front steps. Flies buzzed all around as Sandy got out of her car.
She looked at her phone and noticed the text that Marcus had just sent about thirty minutes earlier while she had been driving. “Just heard you went to do that last shot! Thanks, Sandy!” the text read.
She couldn’t help but wish that Marcus had been the one to come here and not her. There was something definitely off about the place. The seclusion, the neglect: Who wouldn’t be put off by this house’s appearance? She even wondered if the house was possibly haunted. It sure looked the part.
Nonetheless, she had a job to do. That was the reason she was here. The sooner she did it, the sooner she could leave and actually enjoy her day off.
Sandy put the phone in her bag and grabbed the immunization pouch. After making her way through the jungle that was the front yard, she walked onto the front porch and stopped once she took her first step on the rickety floorboards. She thought she would fall through if she didn’t step carefully so she made sure to continue to the door slowly and softly. Upon reaching the door she looked for a doorbell. There was none. Only a knocker. She tapped the handle against the door.
After only one minute Mrs. Wilshire was there to greet her. “Why, hello,” the gray-haired woman said with delight pouring off her small hunched frame. “You must be Sandy. The pharmacist.”
Sandy smiled. “Yes. Hi, Mrs. Wilshire. How are you today?”
Mrs. Wilshire opened the door and gestured her to enter with the use of her walking cane. “Same as every day, I’m afraid. Not getting any better with age. Only wearing out. Won’t you come in?”
Sandy thanked her and entered the house. Mrs. Wilshire led her to the living room as Sandy took in the sights. The house certainly had that old lady vibe to it. It was very dark, barely lit by the small lamps at either end of the couch by the draped off windows. The wallpaper looked old and worn and the furniture had white doilies on every armrest. There were several black and white pictures of people that looked to be taken during the 1950s (if not older) decorating the walls. Sandy passed three cats as she neared the couch. She was careful not to step on their tails.
“I would always go to your pharmacy when I used to live near there,” Mrs. Wilshire said as she approached the couch, trailing just behind Sandy. “The staff was always so thoughtful and patient with me. I used to go back every year for my flu shot or whenever I needed anything. When I could get around easier, that is.”
Sandy smiled warmly and sincerely. “Well, luckily you don’t have to go all the way over there when we can come to you now.”
Sandy sat first and helped ease the elderly woman onto the seat next to her. Mrs. Wilshire placed the cane at her side and began to roll up her right sleeve. “That’s very sweet. So nice of you. To come all this way for little old me. I promise I won’t keep you long.”
“No worries.” Sandy noticed her struggle with her sleeve. “Which arm do you write with, Mrs. Wilshire?”
“The right,” Mrs. Wilshire responded.
As Sandy took out her hypodermic and flu vaccine vials she said, “So we should do the left arm then.”
Mrs. Wilshire switched, feebly starting to roll down her left sleeve now, having a hard time with her purple sweater still on. “Oh, okay. You’re the doctor.”
Sandy saw she was having a hard time, so she sat up and helped pull off her sweater. “Here, let me…” With the sweater off, and the left sleeve rolled up, Sandy began to get the shot ready.
“Oh, you’re so helpful,” Mrs. Wilshire stated. “I’m glad they sent you. Are you new to the pharmacy?”
Sandy used a cotton ball to sanitize the area on her arm. “I’ve been there for about three months now.”
“I see,” Mrs. Wilshire replied.
Once the needle was ready, Sandy got the hypodermic near the woman’s arm. “Now this might pinch a little.”
“Oh, I’m quite used to pain.” Mrs. Wilshire didn’t even flinch as the vaccine was injected.
Sandy smiled and wiped the minor wound clean. “There. All done. You’re a very good patient.” She placed a small bandage over the wound.
Mrs. Wilshire touched Sandy’s arm gently as a gesture of gratitude. “Such a godsend you are for doing this. Please, let me get you some tea before you go.”
“Oh, I don’t want to trouble you,” Sandy said as she politely smiled, packing up her equipment. Mrs. Wilshire seemed like a sweet old lady but the house they were in still seemed very foreboding. The darkness and cramped feeling wasn’t at all inviting. But at least its owner was kindhearted.
“Oh, please, I have some ready,” Mrs. Wilshire said as she slowly rose and headed for the kitchen. “It won’t take but a minute to heat up.”
Sandy was almost packed but she felt bad as she watched the elderly woman slowly hobble across the living room. How could she turn her down? “Okay. Maybe just one cup.”
Mrs. Wilshire turned awkwardly as though it was a slight strain to do so and smiled as she almost reached the kitchen. “Great. Ten minutes more and you’ll be on your way. I’ll see to it”
Sandy heard Mrs. Wilshire in the kitchen rustling about as she surveyed the living room. She noticed some of the pictures on the wall were missing with only stained imprints of the frames remaining. She could hear Mrs. Wilshire clanging tea cups in the kitchen, going on about the old days when she used to be able to get around. Sandy paid it little attention as her gaze became fixated on one of the cats. It appeared that one of its eyes were missing, as though it had been scratched out. All that remained in its place was a puss filled scab covering the socket. It made her wince, particularly when she noticed the second cat had the same wound.
A creepy feeling began to come over her, worse than anything she had felt up until this point. She didn’t even bother to look for the third cat and see if it had a similar issue. She stood and grabbed the immunization kit along with her bag and was ready to leave. But when Mrs. Wilshire came into the living room struggling to bring the tray of tea to the coffee table, Sandy dropped her bags and helped her set the tray down. She wanted to apologize and leave but she felt sorry that the woman had gone to the trouble. No, despite her instincts to leave the creepy old house, Sandy decided to stay and finish a cup. Perhaps only half.
Mrs. Wilshire sat next to her and reached for the tea pot. She was moving slowly to pour the tea, shaking the pot so much that Sandy thought she would spill it all over the coffee table. “I’ll do it for you,” Sandy said, taking over the pouring duties.
“Oh, you are so sweet,” Mrs. Wilshire said as she sat back and let Sandy pour two cups. “So sweet and so pretty.”
Sandy sipped almost half her cup within seconds. The sight of those cats in the corner of her eyes as Mrs. Wilshire talked and talked unnerved her. But if there was one thing Sandy was, it was polite. She had learned that in retail. Take care of the customer at all costs. So she listened to Mrs. Wilshire go on about all sorts of mundane things, nodding and smiling while sipping the tea.
After some time had passed, Sandy glanced at the nearby grandfather clock. She had sat with Mrs. Wilshire for over fifteen minutes. She looked down at her tea and saw the cup was just about empty. “Well, that was very good tea, Mrs. Wilshire,” Sandy said as she placed the cup back onto the tray. “But I really have to…”
She stopped in mid-sentence as she felt one of the cats brush against her leg. It startled her slightly and she recoiled her leg to let the cat pass as she looked down at it. It was the disconcerting knowledge that it was missing an eye that made her feel uneasy. But as she lifted her head and stood to get ready to leave, she suddenly felt dizzy. So much so that she had to sit back down.
Mrs. Wilshire kept talking, seemingly oblivious to Sandy’s loss of balance. “Well, I know you have to go. But thank you again for your service today, Sandy.”
Sandy touched her head, moving it slightly to see if there would be an improvement, but the dizziness was still there. It actually felt worse now. It caused her to feel nauseous as well. She wanted to say something about it but couldn’t get the strength to utter any words at all. She felt very sick and she couldn’t understand what was wrong.
Mrs. Wilshire leaned forward and looked concerned, the cup of tea still in her hands. “Are you all right, dearie?”
Sandy tried to stand back up but even the slightest movement made her feel like she was going to throw up. The room was spinning, though she tried as best she could to focus on Mrs. Wilshire. The only thing her eyes could center on was the cup of tea in the old woman’s hands. And the one thing that she noticed above all else was that the cup was still full. Mrs. Wilshire hadn’t taken a single sip. Sandy hadn’t noticed on account of her preoccupation with the house and wanting to leave it. She had been too busy being polite when she should have been honest.
She didn’t want to be here. Not since she first stepped out of her car. And for the first time all day, she regretted her politeness. She wished she could take back her offer of driving all the way out here on her day off to come to this bizarre scenario. To be drugged by an old lady.
Sandy was off balance as she stood, slouching her way forward as she used the coffee table to guide her as far as she could go, which was only about three steps. “What…? Why did you…? The tea…?” Her words were slurred and with every utterance she felt like her breakfast was going to come back to haunt her.
Sandy dropped to her knees. Her hands felt the wool carpet and she grabbed on tightly, wanting desperately to keep her face from hitting the floor. She could see Mrs. Wilshire, spinning in the corner of her eye as she sensed footsteps coming closer to her. She couldn’t lift her head at all, but she could tell there was a man standing in front of her. She saw his black boots. She sensed the cats as well. They seemed to be running around her. All three of them running circles around her and the pair of legs that was near her head.
Mrs. Wilshire said something but Sandy couldn’t make it out. The words were garbled. But she could sense that the woman’s voice was different now. She didn’t sound like a sweet old lady anymore. There was assertiveness in her voice. Like she had just gotten twenty years younger. There was strength in her voice now, power even. She seemed to be yelling at the man that was in the room with them.
Sandy’s body dropped to the floor, face first. The carpet smelled so clean. Like it had just been washed. It was the oddest thing to sense in the midst of all the chaos, yet it eerily soothed her somehow. She could feel the man’s shadow over her. She found enough strength to turn onto her back, or maybe it was the man that had turned her over, she wasn’t sure. But she glimpsed his face. It wasn’t a regular face. It was wrong. Like the cats, his eyes were the problem. One was bigger than the other and sagged a few inches lower than the opposite. He also seemed to have patches of hair sporadically spread over his skull.
It seemed to be protruding from within his head, as though the skin were grafting itself to the bone, trying to keep it from escaping. Yes, escape sounded nice. From this place, from this Mrs. Wilshire, from this hideous man. How could a person look like that? Did he really look like that? Was she seeing correctly with all the spinning?
She squinted her eyes first and then widened them, trying to lift her head and peer at the man’s face. But that didn’t help. The room swallowed her up in a whirlpool and she sank into darkness, feeling the man’s hot rancid breath on her forehead as she drifted away.
Sandy’s eyes opened very slowly. The blur of the room she was in took its time to come into focus. The first thing she saw were the lights hanging from the ceiling. Two bulbs barely illuminated the otherwise darkened basement she appeared to be in. The second thing she noticed was the thick pillar or support beam that loomed in front of her, casting a long shadow over her. Her instinct was to raise her head, but she could only go so far before a strangling sensation greeted her attempt. Unable to move her head much, she looked down at her body with only the rolling of her eyes.
She was on a table. Strapped to it. She tried to lift her arms but there were leather cuffs around each wrist keeping her from moving them very far from the railing along each side of the table she was now attached to. Lifting her head as far as she could go, she looked down to her feet to see that her ankles were in a similar state. With everything coming back into focus, her mind reentering the waking world, she started to writhe to see if she could get loose. The table shook from side to side. She could feel the pull from left to right which let her know that the table she was on had wheels. She realized she must have been strapped to a gurney like the ones used in hospitals to cart patients around.
Was that what she was? A patient?
The thought sent a chill up her spine. The thought of being a patient in some madwoman’s house brought imagery of being operated on into her mind. She struggled more, to no avail, and tried to cry out for help. Her words barely came out as they were blocked by the cloth that was tied in her mouth tightly. She turned her head and could feel the uncomfortably tied knot at the back of her neck. She tasted the bitterness of the cloth that was stuffed into her mouth and tried to spit it out. But it was no use. She was secured to her table, the cuffs on her wrists and ankles holding her in place along with the three straps across her body. The first strap was just below her knees, another across her waist, and the third was over her throat.
Sandy screamed as loud as she could, but every cry was muffled. Every attempt to break free, stunted by her bonds. She was trapped. A prisoner. Held by lunatics. And they were both with her down in the basement. Mrs. Wilshire stepped into sight from the side of the room, wheeling a smaller table with a tray of equipment over to the left side of Sandy’s apparent operating table. The old woman, who suddenly seemed much younger and more in control of her faculties, looked so calm, like she hadn’t just kidnapped anybody. Like she was doing simple household chores by picking up the scalpel from the tray and inspecting it with contemplative eyes.
Sandy pleaded through her gag unintelligibly. To let her go. To please spare her for whatever sick plot the mad woman had churning around in her head. Mrs. Wilshire paid her pleas no mind. She just spoke as she continued to stare at the scalpel in her hand.
“I’m glad that you’re the one that came,” Mrs. Wilshire said calmly. “You make Herman happy.”
Mrs. Wilshire pointed toward a dark corner with the scalpel in hand. Sandy’s eyes roved in that direction and noticed the figure sitting on what appeared to be a stool. The man was covered in shadows and was shaking back and forth on the stool like an impatient child waiting for his turn to do something mischievous. It was the man from the living room. The one she had seen before passing out. The man that had looked deformed.
Mrs. Wilshire smiled at the dark figure swaying in the dark. “You think she’s pretty, don’t you, darling?” She sounded like she was talking to a child.
But the man that stood up from his seat and walked aggressively over to stroke Sandy’s hair was no child. He stood at about six feet tall and had the most repulsive facial features she had ever seen. Sandy recoiled as far as her head would allow which wasn’t more than mere centimeters. She was helpless to stop him from stroking her hair with his hand which she could have sworn had six fingers on it right before he had touched her. He wore dirty overalls but no shirt underneath and she could notice the welts or large boils that covered his sweaty chest, neck, and arms. The eyes were out of place, the teeth were jagged and looked broken. His breath was atrocious. His touch was rough as he ran his fingers through her hair, pulling some strands out as he looked over her and seemed to squeal with delight as she lay helpless.
Sandy had never been as frightened as she was at that very moment. She looked away from him, not wanting to keep eye contact, which only made him lean in closer to inspect her face. His three nostrils blew hot wind on her face, and as this happened she looked desperately at Mrs. Wilshire.
“Please, please don’t hurt me. Let me go, please, please, let me go,” Sandy said, her words muffled but understood. The tears began to stream down her cheek, wetting the gag that remained tightly in place.
“Oh, but my dear,” Mrs. Wilshire said, getting closer to Sandy herself. “Do you think you’re not good enough for my boy?”
Sandy kept begging to be set free as Mrs. Wilshire looked at her with contempt. “You think just because you were born with good looks and a tempestuous body that you have the right to pass judgement?”
Mrs. Wilshire grabbed Sandy by the chin and turned her head, forcing her to look at Herman as he began to inspect her body. He poked at her arms, belly, and legs, walking slowly toward the foot of the table.
“Look at him,” Mrs. Wilshire snapped. “Herman, my sweet sweet boy. He’s as much God’s creation as you, you ungrateful bitch.” Mrs. Wilshire let Sandy go. She took two steps back and looked like she was trying to choke back tears. All this while Herman started to poke at Sandy’s right foot.
“Is it his fault that he was born the way he was?” Mrs. Wilshire was tearing up at this point, swinging the scalpel in the air as she made her declarations. “He’s a good boy. He just came out wrong, is all. He was forced to hide from everybody. Forced to endure all their taunts and cruelty.”
Mrs. Wilshire cupped her mouth with her hand to gain composure as Herman started to sniff Sandy’s right foot. Sandy didn’t know what to keep her eyes on, the obviously psychotic woman brandishing a sharp object or the monstrous man that was disturbingly caressing her foot.
Mrs. Wilshire smiled through the tears. “But now you’re here. I’ll make it so that you change your mind about my Herman.”
Mrs. Wishire placed the scalpel at Sandy’s face. Sandy could feel the steel blade press lightly against her cheek and she dared not move an inch. Suddenly the fact that Herman was trying to take off Sandy’s sandal didn’t even concern her as much as the sharp object that was so close to her eye. She saw the cats from upstairs in her mind.
“I’m gonna fix it so that you’ll be with my Herman always,” Mrs. Wilshire said, sounding maniacal. “I’ll work on you down here, make all the right cuts and rearrange a few things. Then you’ll see what beauty is. Then you’ll be just like him. You won’t have any other choice but to live with him. In the shadows. Away from the bullies and meanies that like to say hurtful things.”
Mrs. Wilshire took a step back and said calmly, “You’ll wanna be with Herman because nobody else will want you.”
Herman violently tugged hard at Sandy’s ankle cuff, loosening it as he started licking her toes. Disgusted by his action, Sandy tried to pull her foot back and found that it was easier to move now that the strap had been loosened. Mrs. Wilshire finally noticed Herman’s foot fondling and grabbed her cane which must have been leaning nearby. She walked over to him and gave him a few swats. He backed away, squealing louder as he raised his arms up in fear.
“Get off of her, you little idiot!” she screamed. “What the hell is the matter with you?”
Herman paced the room frantically, as though he didn’t know what to do, crying and grunting, babbling nonsense. Sandy shut her eyes and cried, not knowing what she was going to do either. Fearing what was about to happen to her.
Mrs. Wilshire finally held Herman in her arms and began to comfort him. “There, there. I didn’t mean it. But you know you can’t toy with her yet. She’s not ready.”
Sandy opened her eyes and stared in disbelief at the scene that played before her. This was a nightmare and she was living it.
Mrs. Wilshire looked at Sandy apologetically. “I’m sorry, dear. But my boy has a bit of a fetish, one of many. And you come in here with that bright orange nail polish on and, well…”
She began to walk the deformed man toward the stairs. “Come on, let’s take you to your room. You can rest there while I work down here. Should only be a few hours, then you can have her.”
He protested, reaching for Sandy as Mrs. Wilshire calmed him. “Now, now. You don’t want me to make a mistake do you? I might cut too deep and bleed her out like the last one, the one we buried in the backyard. I need to focus on my work and I can’t do that with you down here pawing at her.”
They began to walk up the rickety stairs as Mrs. Wilshire glanced back at Sandy. “I’ll be back, darling. Don’t you worry. Then we’ll start.”
As Sandy heard the two sets of footsteps stomp across the floor above her, she sobbed heavily. She sincerely figured that Mrs. Wilshire would return downstairs in a few minutes and cut into her with that scalpel. This lady was nuts. And she would probably end up killing her.
Sandy thought of her mother, and her family, and feared that she would never see any of them again. She focused on all of their faces as if mentally saying goodbye. She then thought of Jeff and how shameful it was that they would never get a chance to be anything more than what they were. Their relationship would never go further. Neither would her life. Not once Mrs. Wilshire got back downstairs.
Sandy’s eyes suddenly opened, wide and determined. Mrs. Wilshire was upstairs: it was an obvious thought but it was a fact she could use to her advantage. She would have to. Anything was better than allowing herself to die so easily. She wasn’t going to lay here and accept her fate. She was going to do something to change it. If she was going to die, she would go out fighting. As long as Mrs. Wilshire was upstairs, she would have time. Not much, but some was better than nothing. Hearing the two sets of footsteps go up a second flight of stairs above her was all the motivation she needed. The farther away that woman and her freaky son were, the better chance she had of surviving. She needed to act.
Glassy eyed, Sandy surveyed the room. The first thought that came to her mind was the scalpel. Maybe she could use it to cut herself free. She looked at the tray to her left but saw that it was missing. Mrs. Wilshire must have taken it with her. Only things on the table were gauze and bandages. Likely for the plentiful amount of blood Mrs. Wilshire would draw once she returned.
“No,” she thought. “Don’t think of that. Find something else sharp.”
Sandy surveyed the room to her right. There was a desk with drawers against the wall. She tried to see something sharp, something she could use to cut free, but couldn’t see anything that fit the bill. But one thing did catch her eye. Her cell phone. There it was lying in plain sight on the desktop. If she could get to it, she could contact somebody for help.
Sandy tried to shimmy her way over to the drawers by moving left and right and shaking the table she was on. It was moving, but at the rate she was going it would take too long. The thump of a door slamming upstairs was faint but alarming. A reminder that she didn’t have much time to move.
Sandy tried to pull away from her bonds this time, but found that the only limb that was loose enough was her right foot. Thanks to Herman’s pawing earlier she felt the strap give way as she yanked her foot as hard as she could. It took only three good pulls for her to get her ankle free. This allowed her to raise her leg up slightly–enough so that she could kick at something if needed. And she knew just what she needed to kick.
The pillar that was only a few feet in front of her table was her target. With all her might she shook herself back and forth, back and forth, letting her momentum along with the wheels of the table below her move her closer to the support beam. Once she was close enough, she placed the flat bottom of her sandal against the pillar and used her leg muscles to push with all her might, propelling her table toward the desk by the wall.
She felt the thud as the head of her table hit just close enough to where the phone was located. Not wasting any time, she shimmied the table over so that she was parallel to the drawers. She shook the table with her body until her right hand was near the phone. It was just near the edge of the desktop. Being securely strapped, she would need to reach the phone by arching her back up as far as she could go. She did so and the tips of her fingers managed to touch the phone as she reached her right hand as far as the cuff would allow her wrist to go. She slowly inched the phone right to the edge with her fingertips, just getting it in her loose grasp.
She heard the door slam all the way on the second floor and heard faint footsteps make their way down to the head of what she guessed was the first flight of steps. She slid the phone off the desktop carefully. She had to be very cautious because if she dropped it, all was lost. With the phone carefully pinched between her fingers, she lowered her back, just as she heard the footsteps slowly make their way down the steps from the second floor to the first.
“Oh, God, oh God,” she thought. There wasn’t time. She couldn’t make a phone call because all she had were the fingers on her right hand available. She had no voice, and no movement besides rapid texting to save her. With her hand shaking, she swiped her phone on with her thumb and pulled up the last text she received. The one from Marcus. She wanted to get in touch with Jeff first but Marcus was easier to reach at this point. Mrs. Wilshire was crossing the living room above. The footsteps were louder, right above as she typed at lightning speed.
MARCUS PLS CALL POLICE IM TRAPPD AT WILSHIRE NOT A JOKE PLS HELP
As soon as she pressed send, she flicked the phone with her wrist back to where she had picked it up and began to shimmy her table around to get her foot back into position. Sandy heard the old woman begin to open the cellar door just as she propelled herself off the desk with her foot and back to the center of the room. Frantically she twisted and convulsed her body to bring the table to more or less the same position she was in before. All this as Mrs. Wilshire came back down the stairs.
When Mrs. Wilshire got downstairs she stared at Sandy for a few seconds. Sandy didn’t dare breathe. She expected Mrs. Wilshire to do something bad to her immediately. But instead, Mrs. Wilshire walked over to her slowly, looking almost sorry.
“I wish I didn’t have to do this,” she said as she stared at Sandy. “You’ve been so good to me. Coming all the way out here to give me that shot. But my boy needs this. You understand, don’t ya?”
Sandy wasn’t sure how much time she would have left. If Mrs. Wilshire wanted, she could start cutting into her right away. But she needed to keep her captor in the mood she was in right now. The woman seemed calm and talkative. This was the key. To get her to keep talking. To stall for as much time that was needed. She had to believe that Marcus would see her message. She had to have faith that the police would be called. She couldn’t let this crazy lady mutilate her before they showed up.
Mrs. Wilshire pulled out her scalpel and approached. “Well, let’s get started.”
Sandy shook her head and tried her best to say the words, “Wait. I have to ask you something. Please, I have a question.”
Mrs. Wilshire stopped and looked at her with curiosity for several seconds. She understood the muffled words. She pulled the gag out of Sandy’s mouth.
“What do you wanna know?” Mrs. Wilshire asked wearily.
This was good. A conversation was just what she needed. Sandy licked her lips and swallowed to help with her dry mouth. Then she said, “You…you m-must love Herman…very much. He’s…lucky to h-have you.”
Mrs. Wilshire kept her mistrusting facial expression present as she stood near Sandy with the scalpel in hand. “Yes. Yes he is. And I’m lucky to have him.”
Sandy continued immediately. “What w-was he like g-growing up?”
Mrs. Wilshire stared some more. Then spoke. “He was quiet. Kept to himself mostly.”
Sandy kept it going. “M-most parents wouldn’t have…b-been ab-able to do what you did. You’re a g-good person. It takes strength.”
Mrs. Wilshire looked angry. “What takes strength? Raising a freak? Is that what you..?”
“No! No!” Sandy answered quickly. “He’s not a freak! You proved that. You got him under control so easily. He listens to you. I can see that. It’s obvious you’re all he had. You’re the most important person in his life. Imagine where he’d be without you.”
Mrs. Wilshire’s anger slowly faded. Sadness started to creep its way into her face and voice. “I know where he’d be. In some hospital. Or dead.” Mrs. Wilshire took a step back. Then pointed to her own chest and spoke with passion. “But I wouldn’t allow that to happen. Not to my boy. I protected him. I helped him this far even when no one else would.”
Sandy nodded in agreement vigorously. “And because of you, he’s lived all these years. Tell me…how old is he?”
Mrs. Wilshire smiled proudly. “He’ll be thirty next March.”
Sandy forced a smile in place. Despite her terror. “Another birthday he’ll have. And thirty is a milestone. How will you celebrate? What kind of cake does he like?”
Mrs. Wilshire started to blush as she spoke, looking off in the distance. “Chocolate cake. He loves chocolate.”
“Does he always have chocolate cake for his birthday?” Sandy asked. “What about presents? What will you get him next year?”
Mrs. Wilshire continued to talk about past birthdays that her son experienced. She was gushing over him. But Sandy didn’t listen. She just kept staring at the stairway, hoping that sometime very soon she would see several officers come down and help free her. But that would only happen if she kept Mrs. Wilshire talking. Sandy was impressed that she had managed to keep it going this far. She learned that trick from Jeff. He always used to say how he would bullshit his way through corporate visits to the store by getting the visitor to talk as much as possible. It was all about stroking the ego, he would say. The thought of Jeff was keeping her hopeful.
Until her phone rang.
Both of them stared at it, letting the ring tone go on for almost ten seconds without either moving. Anger started to grow on Mrs. Wilshire’s face during those ten seconds. Sandy only hoped the woman wouldn’t figure out that she had sent a text. That would likely provoke an attack.
Mrs. Wilshire stormed over to it and picked the phone up. She curled her lips in a rage as she stared at the caller ID and then at Sandy. “Who is Marcus? That your boyfriend?”
Sandy shook her head. “No. No he’s not. We only work together.”
Mrs. Wilshire threw the phone hard against the wall, smashing it. She stepped closer to Sandy, brandishing the scalpel. “If he is your boyfriend, he’s going to have to get used to you being gone, you hear? You would do well to forget about him. You’re Herman’s now. All Herman’s.”
Sandy saw the scalpel get near her face again and her eyes widened. “I have a secret to tell you!”
Mrs. Wilshire stopped her attempt at cutting, surprised by what Sandy had just uttered. “What secret?”
Sandy had no idea what to say. She was only stalling, hoping beyond hope that Marcus was calling to check on her after having called the police already. She needed to keep Mrs. Wilshire from hurting her for as long as she could. But how could she stall for another thirty minutes or even longer? With how secluded the house was how could she possibly keep this going? She was terrified, shaking as she tried to think of what she could possibly say to Mrs. Wilshire. But she had to say something. The old woman stood, waiting for a response. And now was the time to give it.
“When…Herman was touching me…I liked it.” Sandy was certain she didn’t sound convincing at all. She knew this was it. Mrs. Wilshire was going to mutilate her. The tears began to come as soon as the thought crossed her mind. She was as good as dead.
To her surprise, Mrs. Wilshire backed up and asked, “Did you really?”
Sandy had her opening. She nodded again. “Yes. I was ashamed to admit it. But he’s so…so strong. I admire that.”
Mrs. Wilshire had that proud look again. “It’s the house chores. He stays active. I see to it.”
“Thank you,” Sandy said as convincingly as she could sound. “Thank you so much for being the best mother ever and keeping him so strong. You feed him and take care of him and make sure he’s healthy.”
Sandy felt she sounded like a bad actor in a B movie, but to her surprise Mrs. Wilshire bought every word. It gave her the confidence to continue.
“Would you mind if I called you Mom?” Sandy asked. “I mean, that’s what you would be to me, right? We’d be like a family, right?”
A tear formed under Mrs. Wilshire’s eye. “I always wanted…” Mrs. Wilshire stopped to compose herself.
“Go on,” Sandy said eagerly. “What did you always want?”
Mrs. Wilshire smiled. “A daughter.”
“Well…I’d be proud if you were my mother.” Sandy had a hard time saying the words. Words that disgusted her. But not as much as the thing she would say next. “Can I ask you a favor?”
Mrs. Wilshire leaned forward, curious to know what favor Sandy could possibly ask. She waited attentively.
Sandy swallowed before speaking. “Could you bring Herman back down? I’d like to… I’d like to kiss him. To let him know that I admire him.”
Mrs. Wilshire’s eyes lit up. “Do you truly mean that?”
“I do. I really do. I want to cooperate.” Sandy nodded vigorously, not caring if the old psychopath would honor her request. She needed to buy time at whatever cost.
Mrs. Wilshire gently touched her arm. She was suddenly excited. “Oh, he’d be so happy if…” She headed for the stairs. “I’ll tell him what you said.”
The woman went up the stairs and a feeling of slight relief came over Sandy. But the relief was only temporary. It was all temporary until those police came barging in. She was determined to keep the conversation going until that time. If she had to kiss him she would. As disgusting as the thought was, as horrified as she was thinking that it had come to this, it was worth it to keep herself from being butchered by the lunatics that lived here.
Several minutes passed before Sandy heard the footsteps above her again. The woman was on her way back down, likely with Herman. Sandy had tried during Mrs. Wilshire’s time upstairs to break free but she couldn’t. The straps were fastened too tight. Marcus and the police were her only hope at this point. That and her acting–which she needed to keep up no matter what happened.
Mrs. Wilshire came back down alone. She was grinning ear to ear. “I told him what you said. And, now, you swear you meant it?”
Sandy kept her fake smile in place. “I did.”
Mrs. Wilshire leaned in closer. “So my boy’s happiness is important to you? You’d do anything to make him happy? Give him whatever he wants?”
“Oh, yes. I’ll give him whatever he wants. Right now if he wants it.” Sandy felt good about this. It seemed that Mrs. Wilshire would return with this news to her son, giving her more time to stall.
Mrs. Wilshire displayed an even wider grin. “Wonderful.” She then walked over to Sandy’s right foot and secured the strap. Sandy looked confused as Mrs. Wilshire then began to unstrap her sandal.
“What are you doing?” Sandy asked with worry on her face.
Mrs. Wilshire walked over to the desk by the wall. “He’s too shy to come and see you now. But there is something you can give him while I work on you.” Mrs. Wilshire pulled a large saw out of one of the drawers and turned around. “Something to satisfy his fetish.”
“No!” Sandy shook her head as Mrs. Wilshire rested the saw on Sandy’s chest and reapplied the gag.
The old woman picked the saw up and walked over to Sandy’s right foot. “Don’t worry. I’ll sew ya back up right after. Wouldn’t want ya to bleed to death while I get you ready, now would I?”
Sandy screamed as loud as she could, shaking as much as she could as Mrs. Wilshire held her foot and placed the saw’s jagged blade on her ankle. The tears clogged her vision but she could feel the sharpness of the blade against her skin. It was about to hurt. The pain was coming. She didn’t want that to happen. She didn’t want to be hacked into pieces. Terror gripped her by the throat as she choked on her own screams, feeling as though the veins in her head would burst from the energy she placed into her blood curdling wails for help.
But before Mrs. Wilshire could make the first incision, she heard the noise of several heavy footfalls at the stairs. “Get away from her! Now!” It was a man’s voice. Very authoritative. Very loud and angry. She looked to try to see who it was but her eyes were filled with tears. Everything was hazy but she could make out movement.
“I said get away!” Then came the gunshots. And then the sound of a body slumping to the floor next to her. She heard a lot of noise from the floor above her as well. Heavy footsteps, banging, crashing, yelling, and then two more gunshots from upstairs. All this while shadows hovered over her. She felt their hands pulling at her bonds. She heard their loud statements. “Get her loose. Easy, go easy. It’s okay, now miss, everything’s okay now.”
She kept crying as her hands were set free. She wiped the tears from her eyes as she sat up, relieved to have so much movement for the first time in so long. She focused her vision to see the police swarming the basement. She looked down and saw Mrs. Wilshire on the floor motionless. The police helped her off the table and after a lot of coddling and reassuring, they helped her up the stairs. She was in shock and could barely process what had just happened. The noise of officials scurrying about and talking into walkie-talkies was jarring but very welcome. They walked her through the living room of the house that looked like a hurricane had hit it. Furniture was knocked to the floor and glass was all over the place. The front door was knocked off its hinges as they walked her past it and out to the front porch. That’s when she saw Jeff.
“Sandy! Sandy, are you okay?” he said frantically, running toward her. Jeff held her by the shoulders but Sandy pulled him close for as tight a hug as she could give while sobbing uncontrollably.
“I rushed here as soon as I heard. Oh, God, I was so worried.”
It felt good to be in his arms. Safe at last.
Mrs. Wilshire was dead. Her boy had overpowered the officers and escaped. A manhunt was in place, starting with the grounds near the house. Sandy was attended to by the EMTs and questioned very briefly. She told the detectives as much as she could and after some time had passed, she was allowed to go home. Jeff volunteered to drive her and she accepted happily. She could have her car picked up at a later time. Any other time. All that mattered now was getting home as soon as possible. She was happy to have Jeff with her on the ride back. It was a huge comfort.
“You okay?” he asked as he glanced at her while driving.
She shook her head, still somewhat shaken by the ordeal. “I don’t know. Everything was so…” She couldn’t get the words out. Her throat hurt from all the screaming. She was emotionally exhausted. There wasn’t much left in her. She just wanted to go home and sleep.
Jeff took one hand off the wheel and gently stroked her shoulder. “It’s okay. Don’t think about it.”
Sandy was silent for a while before saying, “He’s still out there. Her son.”
“They’ll find him,” Jeff opined. “He couldn’t have gotten far.”
As tired as she was, she wanted to make sense of it all. “What was wrong with them? How could people live like that for so long and nobody know?”
Jeff kept his eyes on the dark narrow road as they drove past the seemingly limitless amount of trees. “I don’t know. It’s pretty crazy, for sure.”
Sandy couldn’t figure it out. “She was so nice to me when I got there, and then out of nowhere she…” Holding her head, she shook it left to right. “None of it makes any sense.”
“People aren’t always what they seem,” he said. “Just when you think you know someone…”
“Tell me about it,” Sandy added. She paused for a few seconds and then smiled faintly at Jeff. “Thank you for coming. It means a lot.”
Jeff smiled as well. “I couldn’t sit at home and do nothing. As soon as Marcus called me about your text, I had to give him the address for the police. Then I raced over.”
She was grateful he had. Sandy rubbed her eyes, letting her fingers slowly drape over her face as she continued to dwell on the madness she experienced. “I mean, was she always like that? You’ve talked to her before. Did she ever give you any signs at all that she was…crazy?”
shook his head but kept his eyes on the road. “Nope. Never thought she was that.”
Sandy was bothered, beginning to come down hard on herself. “My gut told me to leave when I first got there. I should have listened. How did I let that happen? How did I let some old lady take advantage of me so easily?”
“How could you have stopped her?” Jeff asked, his eyes not moving from looking straight ahead. “With her son there to overpower you?”
“Yeah, but I had a chance to get out before he showed up,” she stated.
“Nobody could have seen it coming,” Jeff said. “How could you have known she was going to drug your tea? Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re safe now.”
Sandy was struck by what he had said. She had never mentioned anything about Mrs. Wilshire making her tea. Not even to the detectives when they questioned her. Seeing her in the state she was in, they didn’t press for any details. They said they would get a formal statement the next day when she had rested. The ordeal in the basement was all she had mentioned and even with that she had been sparse with information. So how did Jeff know about the tea?
Sandy felt a tingle go down her spine. She looked at him carefully. His gaze was cold and distant as he kept staring at the road. His hands remained on the steering wheel firmly. His sudden lack of personality and emotion disturbed her. Was her gut telling her something now?
“How much…longer until we get…home, do you think?” she asked, trying her best not to sound nervous.
The automatic door lock sounded to her right. She glanced at it, the feeling of adrenaline rushing through her veins. She began to shake. And as soon as she turned to look at Jeff, he stuck something against her throat with his free hand. It was metal. It was burning her skin and making her convulse. She couldn’t move. Her fingers locked in place making it impossible for her to grab the door handle. She was being electrocuted by one of those stun guns. She figured that out as she passed out into blackness.
Sandy’s eyes opened slowly. She was strapped down to a hard chair in what appeared to be a small shack of some kind. It was still night out and very dark inside the place they were in. Heavy ropes cut into her body, keeping her secured to the chair. The lower part of her face was covered in duct tape. Her entire body felt numb. Like when a limb falls asleep, only impossible to wake up by moving. She tried her best. But there was no movement possible. Except for her eyes. They scoured the room to let her know she wasn’t alone. Herman was sitting on a stool in the distance. And in front of him was Jeff. He stroked her hair.
“If my mother hadn’t been such an idiot, I wouldn’t have had to come out here and do her job myself,” Jeff stated calmly, seated directly across from her. “But I’m here. To make things right”
Herman was fidgety as he sat in the shadows, preoccupied with something else other than her. He remained in place, far more behaved than he had been when Mrs. Wilshire was present. Jeff kept a very relaxed demeanor as he pulled a sharp-looking knife from out of a nearby toolbox.
“I made sure to give you a local anesthetic,” Jeff said. “You won’t feel a thing. I couldn’t do that to you. You mean too much to me.”
Jeff pulled his seat closer to her. She wanted to move but couldn’t feel any part of her body. She was trapped. The only thing that she could feel was the single tear that dropped from her eye and down her cheek. That and the pain of knowing that Jeff turned out to be the man that was sitting in front of her at the moment–about to do something terrible to her.
“And don’t worry about my brother over there,” Jeff said as he placed the knife’s blade just under her left eye. “He won’t bother you. He’s got something to keep him busy.”
She noticed the thing in Herman’s hands that he was fiddling with. It was hard to make out at first, but she could soon tell that what he had in his possession was in fact a severed human foot. Complete with orange toenail polish. Sandy’s eyes widened just in time for Jeff to stick the point of the blade into her pupil. She couldn’t even muster the strength to scream. But, as Jeff made his incisions, she did think she heard a cat meowing somewhere on the floor behind her.
CREDIT : Jayson O’Neill