Today’s photo prompt is for our collaborative mystery, part 3. If you want to read part 1 of the mystery, click here. For part 2, click here.
If you are new to this kind of writing prompt, here are the rules:
- I’ll write two or three sentences in the comments to start the next section of the mystery.
- Anyone who wants to may write two or three more sentences.
- Please no graphic content.
- Next week, I’ll take the last sentences in the comments from this week and repeat them as the lead sentence for the next photo prompt.
- By the end of the month, we’ll have a story!
I grab the photo and note, stuff them in my jacket and look back toward her retreating figure. It must be the photojournalist in me, or maybe the father in me, imagining Geralyn’s parents when they are reunited with their daughter. I run after her, continuously calling her name, letting her know I just want to help. The girl has obviously been living on meager rations of food, and she soon runs out of energy, allowing me to catch up. I find her ducking between a dead tree and another rusty clunker car. “Did somebody hurt you? Your parents, everyone, they’ve been looking for you,” I say between breaths. She shivers.
“You shouldn’t have found me. They could get us all now.” Her eyes are wide.
“Who could get who now?” I want to turn on my voice recorder, take pictures, really interview her, but I’m afraid she’ll bolt again, so I take the casual, concerned adult approach.
“I saw you take the note. It explains as much as I know.” Huh? I retrieve the note from my pocket, taking a discreet glance at the torn picture at the same time. Looks like a break-up. Hormonal teenagers. I hold up the note and read. Oh this is not what I expected.
Written over and over in spidery cursive are three words: “Alive and dead”.
I say, “Who are these people in th photo?”
Jamming her hands in the pocket of her dirty sweat jacket, Geralyn says, “I don’t know. I just know they sent me that note and photo, then kidnapped me from school. I escaped from the car before they could take me anywhere. I’ve been hiding out ever since.”
“Why didn’t you go to the police?’
She pulls a long strand of dark hair from her cheek. “I didn’t want to endanger my family.”
“But why would–”
The woods darken. The fog burned off in the morning has rolled back in.
“Come with me.” I say. “The cops can protect you and you family.”
“No. They can’t. How can–”
Leaves rustle. Geralyn leaps to her feet and takes off.
I spin in the direction of the leaves crunching under footsteps. A figure emerges from the fog.
“Dad!” I recognize my sixteen-year-old son’s voice.
I spin toward him and nearly collapse, my heart beat thumping in my head. “Don’t scare me like that again. Run after her!” I point toward Geralyn’s direction of escape.
“What? Who? Are you still taking pictures out here?” He asks questions like he’s still three.
“That missing valedictorian girl, Geralyn. She’s here!” We start to run together.
“You saw her?! What’s she doing? Is she okay?” Again with his nonstop questions.
A new voice stops us in our tracks faster than when Scamp catches the scent of a squirrel. “The real question is, what are YOU doing?” We slowly turn on our heels and see a hairy guy who could take on a bouncer. I gulp and nudge Tyler behind me. The bouncer guy walks toward us, obviously aware that his presence is all he needs to scare us into his control.
“Two choices,” his voice booms. “You can follow her and I take you all captive, or you can stay here and I take you all captive. Plus your wife,” his gaze penetrates me. “502 East Oak Street, correct?”
What is going on? I glance back at Tyler and I inhale sharply when I see what he’s about to do.