I opened my eyes unaware of my surroundings. My eyes darted back and forth as I looked for something familiar. I recognized the paintings on the wall and the surrounding furniture. It was Janna’s room. I tried to call for her but my throat ached, and my voice was only a whisper.
I rolled onto my side, and my body exploded in pain. The tears welled up, and I fought them back as I felt around the injuries. As I moved my fingers around, I found cuts and gouges on my legs and torso. There was a gash above my left eye. I felt the warmth of the blood oozing from it, and the crimson covered my hands as I moved them away from my face.
I rose from the floor and became overwhelmed with an immediate sense of urgency. Where had Janna gone? I walked around the room still unable to call her in more than a whisper. I entered the kitchen and noticed two half-full cups of coffee on the table.
As I gazed at the cups, the memories came flooding back, hitting me like a ton of bricks. The men from the coffee shop had followed us home. They had been obnoxious in their efforts to convince her to leave with them instead of me. They even had the nerve to cat-call her and whistle at her as if she was a trophy. It took every bit of strength to walk away from them without making a scene.
Janna shook it off as if it was nothing, joking that they were ugly and rude, but I was still fuming when we returned to her apartment. I didn’t understand how she could make light of such vile men and swore in secret to do something about it.
We had been sitting at the table enjoying our coffees and discussing our plans for the day when there was a soft knock at the door. She went over to answer it, and they threw her against the wall when she opened the door. I had jumped up and tried to run to her, but the bigger man blocked my way. He hit me twice and then everything went black.
My hands curled into balls, and I slammed them on the table knocking over both cups of coffee. I listened to the liquid drip onto the floor but didn’t register the mess through my anger. They must have taken her. What did they want with my sweet Janna? I had to find her.
My body moved on instinct. I tore out of the apartment so fast I didn’t notice I wasn’t wearing any shoes or jacket. I didn’t see that the blood was still oozing from the gash above my eye or that my once white shirt was now crimson red.
There was no need for hesitation. I knew where to look first. The men sported a logo from a bar downtown on their jackets, and that was where I intended to go. I walked through the hall of her apartment building and took the steps two at a time. The urgency boiling in my body left me with no patience for the elevator.
I exploded out the front door and stood confused for a second as the blinding light flooded over me. After a minute my vision cleared, and I found my bearings. I ran through the street forcing the pain from my mind and ignoring the stares and kind offers of help from strangers as I went. I wiped the blood from my eyes several times as I ran. My feet pounded the ground with a loud thud as I made my way to the bar.
Before long, the building appeared. I slowed my sprint and made my way to the front door. Among several signs sporting the brands of beers and vodka offered inside there was a great big one in the middle of the door. It read, “No Shirt, No Shoes, No service,” in bold black letters. When I glanced at my body, I saw that I forgot to dress. I had no shoes and no shirt. Confusion set in as I was not sure where the shirt had gone but I didn’t remember taking it off. The only thing I had on was cargo shorts and both fresh and dry crusted blood to cover my bruised body.
It was just a sign I told myself as I walked in the door. They couldn’t refuse me after what they had done. After all, this was a bar. I was positive they had people way worse off than me in here and besides a dollar is a dollar as far as they’re concerned. Right?
The second I opened the door a big, bulky man stepped in front of me and blocked my way. I tried to speak but still no words came out of my mouth.
“Didn’t you see the sign kid?” he asked as he stuck his hand out and pointed towards the door. “Clean yourself up before you return. What kind of place do you think we’re running?” He turned to a group at the bar and chuckled.
My mind raced. I scanned the room and headed towards the door. One man seated at the bar looked familiar, and I swore he was with the men that had attacked Janna and me. Janna! The thought reminded me of her, and I felt an instant determination set upon me. I had to get inside no matter what the cost.
I walked out and went to the side of the building. There had to be a back door. I scanned the building and found nothing. I ran to the other side and found nothing. Out of desperation I dashed to the back of the building and found the door. Several husky looking men stood around it making it impossible for me to sneak in unnoticed.
I cursed under my breath and backed up around the corner. I crossed my fingers in hopes they hadn’t seen me as I continued to look for a way into the building. It has to be the right place. I knew my Janna was there I had to get to her, who knew what they could be doing to her in there. Visions of men waiting in line to put their hands on her flooded over me, and the desperation rose inside of me.
I fell to the ground and leaned against the building. How could I get inside with men surrounding the entrances? How could get through them to save my sweat, Janna? Hopelessness washed over me, and I cradled my head on my knees.
Then it hit me. I knew what to do. Feeling determined, I got up off the ground and crept around back being careful and quiet. I ran around the side of the parking lot, staying in the shadows of the vehicles and avoiding the row of bikes at the front of the lot. As I went, I scanned the parking lot looking for a rope.
Having no luck outside, I peered in the window of the vehicles. After seven cars I found something. In the back of a beat up old blue pickup truck, I found a large coil of rope. It would work beautifully.
I grabbed it from the back of the truck. Ducking behind the truck, I held my breath waiting for any sound of someone approaching. When I heard silence, I went to work. I moved with speed and stealth I didn’t understand, considering how careful I had to keep from being seen. I wrapped the rope from bike tire to bike tire and up and around each set of handle bars.
Halfway through the row of motorcycles a door slammed and poked my head out. The men had gone back inside the bar. I moved faster, running from bike to bike. My heart was racing, and I felt it pounding throughout my body. My palms were sweating, and I dropped the rope several times.
After what seemed like hours, I finished. I had each bike attached to the next. There was just enough rope left to make it back to the truck where I found the cord. I tied a knot around the trailer hitch, looping and tying more than once to make sure it held.
When I was confident it was secure enough, I crept back around the side of the building and waited. It might take hours for the truck owner to leave and I prepared for a long wait. Exhausted, I sat on the ground and tried to catch my breath.
Thoughts of Janna flooded over me. I thought of the day we met and the first time we went out. I thought of how much I loved her and regretted not asking her to marry me. Then I thought of everything I’d do and say to her when we got out of this mess.
After a while, I felt myself doze off to sleep and pinched myself over and over to keep myself awake. I was unsure how much time I’d have when my plan went into motion, and I needed to be alert. My legs were asleep, and I banged them off the ground to get the blood flowing.
I didn’t know how much time had gone by. I wondered if the truck owner would ever leave the bar. To keep the sleep at bay, I picked at the dirt beside me and pulled the grass from their roots. I wondered if I wasn’t as smart as I thought and what would happen if my plan failed.
Suddenly the door swung open, and my body froze. I held my breath and prayed for it to be the right person coming out. The drunken chatter of an old man started, and I debated risking a peek around the corner. I decided against it and continued to wait.
I listened to every painstaking step the old man took. With each step, I was surer that it was the right person. I willed him to move faster and after several painstaking minutes the truck’s engine rev as he started it. I breathed a sigh of relief and edged my way to the end of the building.
As I reached the corner, the door of the bar opened again. A bubble of giddiness welled inside me as I realized a few bikers were coming out for a cigarette. The excitement grew as things worked out perfect.
I braced against the edge of the building as the truck moved. It moved slowly at first but picked up speed as he neared the edge of the parking lot. I heard a loud creaking sound, and the rope strained against the weight of the bikes.
Seconds later, the drunken old man hit the gas and tore out of the parking lot. The noise was deafening as the bikes jerked and crashed into one another. As the driver got farther away, the row of bikes moved out of the parking lot and down the road. Sparks flew as the metal scraped the concrete followed by a horrendous screeching sound.
The men cursed and shouted. One ran back inside, and one ran after the bikes. Seconds later a dozen men ran from the building and went running after the stolen motorcycles. Now was my chance. As the last one ran from the building, I crept inside the door.
I noticed the smoke first. It was like walking into a cloud. Only this cloud was full of poison from cigars and cigarette and who knows what else. My eyes took a minute to adjust, and I made my way down the hallway. A few men yelled, and I braced myself for a fight. I would do whatever I needed to get Janna back, even if that meant getting my ass kicked.
When I neared the end of the hall, I took a deep breath and puffed my chest out, standing as tall as possible. I stepped from the dark hallway into the dim light in the main room of the bar and froze. Several things grabbed my attention.
First, there were the decorations. There were tons of them, streamers and balloons and signs that read, “Congratulations.” The second thing was Janna, standing right at the front of the bar, dressed in a stunning red dress, arguing with a large hairy man. Last, I noticed the people. The room was full of my friends and family. They all wore cocktail dresses and tuxes.
I stared at them in utter shock. My brain struggled to process what was happening, but it was impossible. After a few minutes, Janna noticed me standing there and ran towards me. The large man also saw me and walked towards me, but a few of my friends blocked his path.
Janna was furious and yelling as she approached me, but I stared at her. I was in a complete daze. As I gazed at her, I could see her lips moving but heard no sound coming out of them. I still didn’t understand what was happening. Suddenly, my face exploded in pain as she slapped me.
“Jason, can you hear me? What the hell are you thinking? Why would you do that?” Her face was red with rage, but I could understand her words. The daze cleared, and I tried to speak.
“Janna, I…” I was at a loss for words. I stuttered and stared at her. “You’re okay? Janna, I’m so sorry, I don’t know what’s happening. I thought they kidnapped you. I was trying to save you.”
She threw up her arms and walked away from me. I reached out for her but pulled back before I touched her arm. My best friend Steve came over and put his arm around me, directing me away from the crowd.
“Jason, calm down buddy. Everything is fine, just relax,” he whispered
“Steve, what the hell is happening here? Who are those guys and why are you here?” I was desperate for answers.
“Don’t you get it, man? It was a big ploy to get you here. Everyone knows you hate parties. So we had to get creative. Those bikers are buddies of Janna’s from college. She convinced them to act like they were trying to take her away from you so you would come here to rescue her.” He chuckled. “You weren’t supposed to trash their bikes, though. That wasn’t part of the plan.”
My head swam with confusion as I tried to process what he was saying.
“It was a trick,” was the only reply I could manage.
“Yea buddy. It was just a big ploy to get you to a surprise party.” Steve said with a heavy sigh.
“But, how could you think this was a good idea? You don’t understand what I’ve been going through the last few hours. I figured they kidnapped her. I thought they would hurt her and do unspeakable things to her.” The anger built as I spoke. The more I thought the more furious I became as I realized it was a setup. Janna was never in any real danger. She convinced these men to deceive me.
Then, I could take no more. I stormed off and left the building. I didn’t look back once.