By Jess Charle
My wife was kidnapped. She was gone for 56 days. I can’t describe the worry that overwhelmed me that first week. Every second an agonizing hell. After a month I became jaded. Worrying for her life was just another part of my day.
After 32 days, I had to go back to work. My co-workers looked at me with sympathy, asked me how I was.
Not great, I’d say before taking my mug of mediocre office coffee back to my desk.
On the 56th day I was sitting at my desk working on nothing, just as I had the day before and the day before that. No one seemed to care what I did anymore.
“Oh Jim? Yeah, his wife went missing in June. He hasn’t been the same since.”
My cursor hovered over one of the grey boxes of my hundredth minesweeper game of the day.
Should I click? Is it worth the risk?
With the subtle pressure of my pointer finger a bomb goes off.
My phone rang and I recognized the number – Detective Barrow.
“She’s such a nice lady,” my mother-in-law said. Her eyes glazed with a homemade concoction of Prozac and Vicodin.
My heart skipped a beat and my stomach twisted in on itself.
“Jim, we found her. She’s alive. Meet me at Saint Mary’s.”
The woman lying in the hospital bed definitely looked like my wife, but her eyes stared out into nothing.
It was another 11 days before she spoke.
“I never knew blood was that hot.”
They didn’t find her. The police. The well-wishers and self-proclaimed saviors. The amateur rescuers and treasure hunters looking for the high of finding the helpless damsel in distress. But no one found her. She found them.
On August 8th, 56 days after Abigail went missing, a grey van skidded into a Tesco parking lot. A woman in her late thirties, brown hair, 5’5″, and 120lbs exited the van from the driver’s seat and entered the gas station. She wore a tattered yellow dress covered in fresh blood.
She told the cashier to call 9-1-1, though the order was wholly unnecessary.
There were five women in the van with her. All five women were severely dehydrated and suffering from malnutrition along with signs of prolonged torture and rape.
Two of the women remain unidentified, one completely comatose and unresponsive. One with her tongue removed. The doctor’s hope she’ll be able to write her name down at some point. Or that someone will recognize her from the photos that plaster grocery store bulletin boards and the 3 o’clock news.
One of the women is Carol Higgins. 23. Missing for 2 years.
Samantha Rosenberg. 22. Missing for 4 years.
Natasha Lang. 26. Missing for almost 8 years.
“He said he didn’t realize how old I was when he took me. He avoided women that old because they were harder to control. He said he was pleasantly surprised at what a good mistress I was.” Abigail’s lips curled into a wicked grin. “People should be careful who they trust.”
Carol and Samantha are able to speak, but they refuse to discuss their missing years. They both unconsciously rub their pocked arms as they talk. The burn marks, cuts, and old scars tangible memories of a hell they can’t really escape from.
Natasha was willing to tell the police everything. Maybe after so long her abuse became normalized to her, so she could describe it. Maybe she had been waiting to tell her story for so long, she couldn’t help it pouring out.
Paul Stein was your stereotypical psychopath: a loner who crept out the kids who worked the local gas station, but who had a clean legal slate. He worked construction jobs, but nothing steady or stable. No one could stand to be around him for very long. His basement had been finished into a prison/torture chamber.
So far there is no evidence that he ever murdered anyone. Just tortured them for the best years of their life.
Natasha described how Abigail immediately submitted to him. My headstrong wife of 14 years did everything that psycho asked of her. She watched what he did to the other girls, but at least she never helped him. Never participated. Luckily he never asked.
I could taste bile in my mouth as Detective Barrow told me over a beer. Strictly off record, but I had to know and I think she had to get it off her chest.
And then day 56 rolled around. At this point, Paul saw Abigail as a friend. A lover, even. And Abigail saw her opportunity.
It was done with a crowbar. One moment, Paul was bent over cleaning a grate and the next there was a crowbar through the back of his neck, into the roof of his mouth, and ending right above his left lower orbital muscle. One of the on-scene cops told Detective Barrow, Anne, that you could see the end of it through his eyeball.
“Is that even possible?”
Anne shrugged. “Maybe he could see its shadow through the membrane? Maybe the eye was ruptured? I don’t know honestly. I’ve… never had an opportunity to see a weapon through a dead man’s eye.”
Abigail missed his spine. Somehow.
“At that angle, you’d almost have to be purposefully avoiding it.” Anne’s gaze was dark, her eyes focused on her barely touched pint.
“Like she wanted him to live through the pain and horror? How long did it take him to die from that?”
Anne looked up. “He didn’t die from the crowbar.” We stared at each other for a moment before she continued. “Internal bleeding.”
“Not from the crowbar?”
She shook her head. “Your wife shoved a pair of pruning shears up his rectum.”
Abigail is getting better. She’s talking more and sometimes it seems like she actually sees me. But she’s a shell of the woman she once was. Not my Abigail, but a soulless creature that looks like her. Though even her appearance is beginning to shift.
I have to take care of her as if she were a child. I think back to those 56 days of worrying she was dead and wonder if that was really worse than this. I still sleep in our bed with her. But last night, she just felt so cold. Her body tense and unnaturally still. As if she were pretending to sleep. Or pretending to be dead.
I slipped out from under the covers to move to the guest room.
“Where are you going?” Her body was still motionless, stiff.
“I’m sorry. I just… I can’t sleep here. Not tonight.”
“It’s because I don’t have a soul anymore.” She said.
I stood still, unsure how to respond.
“He didn’t take my soul.”
“Honey-” I started before she interrupted, her eyes glinting in the dim light of the room.
“I killed it. I ripped it out and threw it away as I felt his skin split and his body break beneath me.”
I stood motionless as the thing that was my wife turned onto her side and went to sleep.