I was kidnapped when I was 14.
I can’t recall much details surrounding the moment he grabbed me; it all happened so fast. I do remember the way he smelled: a strong, musky blend of spices and citrus. I’d imagine it was a pleasant fragrance, if I hadn’t linked it to an extremely traumatizing event from my past. I also remember what he whispered to me the second he threw the bag over my head:
“Someone is following your little sister right now. Cooperate or we’ll just take her.”
That was more than enough to shut me up as he threw me into the backseat of his car. I sobbed quietly as he bound my wrists and ankles with zip-ties and tightened the string around my hood, so it would remain in place. I didn’t think much about what was going to happen to me, only about my sister and the danger she might be in. We drove for what felt like an hour before stopping. He opened the door and cut the zip-tie on my ankles, whispering to stay quiet. He led me out of the car and walked me down a long flight of stairs, stopping at the bottom to open another door. I was ushered through and forced into what felt like a dog cage, before he whispered to leave the hood on and walked away.
The next thing I remember was a young boy calling out to me from somewhere nearby. I lurched awake and began crying.
“You okay?” the boy asked in a shaky, dry voice. “Don’t worry; he’s not here right now.”
I could also tell our captor had left the room because his accompanying scent had dissipated. I finally managed to subdue my hyperventilation and reply to the boy.
“Is he going to hurt me?” I asked.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I’ve been here for a few days now and he hasn’t touched me. Just comes down every few hours to feed me and let me use the toilet.”
“What does he want with us?” I started sobbing again.
“Your guess is as good as mine; you’re the only other person I’ve seen him bring here.”
The boy fell silent for a while; I assumed he was sleeping, and I thought about how worried my parents might be. It had been several hours since I was taken, maybe they didn’t even realize it yet. The odorous kidnapper returned not too long after to let me and the boy use the bathroom, escorting the boy first. I heard him ask our captor what he planned to do with me. The man whispered: “practice” before telling the boy to shut up in the same quiet tone. He opened my cage and grabbed me by my wrist binds. I fought the urge to struggle, confident that he was much broader and stronger than me. I gagged with fear and panic as the putrid wash of clove and lemon assaulted my nostrils.
“What do you want me for?” I begged as he cut the zip-tie and shoved me forward.
“Practice,” he whispered before shutting a door. “Put the hood back on when you’re finished.” His soft voice was muffled, leading me to assume he was on the other side of said door.
I pulled the cord around my neck and removed the hood. I was in a damp, filthy restroom the size of a broom closet, that didn’t have any windows. A single plate of bread and cheese was on the sink basin. I was too distraught to eat and had just finished relieving myself when he began banging on the door.
“Times up,” he whispered through the door crack, “hood on.”
I timidly obliged and was led back to my crate where he refastened my wrists and tightened the cord around my neck again. This went on for 60 days.
The other captive boy and I would talk every time the man’s scent had gone, trying our best to encourage each other through this nightmare. His name was Lyle, and he was visiting America from England with his family before this. He said they stopped at a gas station on their trip, and that he tried to sneak in a cigarette behind the dumpster, that’s when he was grabbed. The man hadn’t hurt him so far and hadn’t really hurt me. He even begun giving me longer bathroom/feeding breaks. Every time I questioned his need for kidnapping us, his reply was always the same: “practice”.
The police raided the place we were kept on the morning of the 61st day. I was freed from my cage and that blasted hood, finally able to see Lyle’s face. He was a handsome boy with bright blue eyes, and we were the only two captives. The police led us up the stairs separately, where both our families were waiting, blubbering piles of crying relief. I was comforted to see that my little sister was safe from the monster that did this. Lyle was immediately tossed into his frantic parent’s car before I could wrest free from my parents to talk to him. They drove away with my kidnap buddy waving through the back windshield at me. I waved back and finally got to go home.
My parents told me all about the news coverage on the case; how the police knew absolutely nothing about the kidnapper, and that we were only found through an anonymous tip. The place Lyle and I were held was an old bunker, located under a barn that belonged to a man who was acquitted of any involvement with the case. He apparently didn’t even know the shelter existed.
Four years have passed since we were freed from captivity. I just started my first year of college and have undergone heavy psychotherapy to process what happened. I know I didn’t really have it that bad (in comparison to many other kidnappings) but I had trouble getting over some of the specifics, especially that god-awful scent. I can’t even be around a spice rack without bawling my eyes out. Lyle reached out to me on Facebook a few days ago; he was coming back to visit for his 19th birthday and wanted to see me. I honestly couldn’t wait to give him the hug I didn’t get to four years ago. His constant reassurance and support, while being captive, is the only reason I didn’t give up hope or lash out and so something that could’ve upset our captor. In a strange way, I felt like Lyle kept me safe. He picked me up from my dorm and we immediately rekindled the bond we had formed through hardship; he was the only one who understood how I felt.
“What have you been up to since you went back to the UK?” I asked coyly, still a little shocked and enamored to see his handsome face.
“I’ve been traveling A LOT,” he replied as we continued our drive into the countryside. “But I never stopped thinking about you.” I blushed at this and wove my hand into his.
“Me neither,” I was in love! “What did you do while traveling the world?”
“Practice,” he whispered as his facial features went flat.
I yanked my hand away and cupped my mouth in shock, immediately assailed by that horrific smell. My world shrank as he turned the car down a dirt road I’ve never seen before. I lunged for the door, but his hands were quicker to engage the lock. He stopped the car in a field and grinned:
“Time for the real deal.”