To Win, Freedom (Original Short Story)

Kevin Connor hummed cheerfully as he tapped his calloused fingers on his steering wheel. The windows were rolled down and the music was blasting and this brand-new graduate’s only deficit to complete contentment was the lack of Angie Win.

Kevin stopped humming for a moment and focused on the road before him, trying to suppress memories of his dead best friend’s missing sister. The muscles in his forearms hardened as he tightened his grip on the steering wheel.

“She’s dead. Dead. Stop fanta—”

As he drove down the two-lane road, he passed a redhead running in the opposite direction.

“Angie!”

Kevin braked so hard that his truck slid across the road into a sand dune. He could hardly untangle his seatbelt, and he was halfway out the truck door before he had unbuckled himself.

He called her name, but his cry was lost in the sea breeze. The flash of Angie’s face over the dune seemed like a mirage in the fading sunshine. Kevin looked around wildly, but he saw nothing that even resembled another human being.

Wait! There she was! A girl with sunny orange hair sprinted across the graying sand. Kevin took off after her. He had longer legs by far, but she had always been the faster runner. She disappeared around a lichen-covered cliff.

Sand sprayed into the air as Kevin skidded to a stop. He didn’t stop quite in time and bounced off the pudgy security guard.

“You lost, son?” The security guard’s voice was like a chainsaw’s growl.

Kevin remained on his back in the sand. Behind the security guard was a large Victorian house. The drapes were all closed, but one of Angie’s tattered tennis shoes lay on the front steps.

“I’m looking for my friend. I saw her running this way.”

“You saw wrong, son. Ain’t no girl come runnin’ this way.”

Kevin picked himself up, beginning to protest. The curtains in the front window moved. There was a flash of orange hair, but the figure was yanked back.

“What’d ya see?” the security guard asked, his eyebrows scrunched together above his opaque sunglasses.

Kevin shook his head silently and walked back to his truck. The radio still blared; the engine grumbled impatiently. Kevin climbed in and closed the door. He waited for darkness to fall.

Once it did, Kevin tried again. He made it into the house through an open window. The house was quiet except for the sound of awkward scuffling upstairs. Kevin found the stairs quickly. The arthritic footsteps had moved now. Kevin crept to where the scuffle had been. Muffled sobs led him to a plain door. He rattled the doorknob, but the door refused to budge.

“Angie?” He said is as loudly as he dared. “Is that you?”

A confused grunt filtered through the wood. Kevin planted one foot beside the door and yanked—hard. The doorknob broke and Kevin sprawled backward onto the carpet. The doorknob flew out of his hand and over the stair railing. When it landed in the foyer, the sound echoed even in the upstairs hall. Kevin cringed.

The door swung gently open, revealing a cramped linen cupboard. Angie looked out at him, her twilight blue eyes wide with shock above the gray duct tape covering her mouth. “Mn’n?”

“Angie!” Kevin yelled it before he could stop himself. He scrambled to his feet. “We have to get you out of here!”

Angie turned slightly. “Nm-nm-nm?” Her arms were tied.

“Oh, sorry,” Kevin said, pulling the duct tape from her mouth and helping her to her feet. “Can you walk?”

Angie gasped for breath, nodding wildly.

An angry voice echoed through the upper hall. “Angelica, what was that?”

“Get me out of here!” Her plea was breathy and low.

Kevin fumbled with the ropes. “Oh, forget it! Let’s go!”

Angie slid down the stair rail. She stumbled across the foyer; gravity propelled her into the door. Kevin didn’t get there quite in time to catch her, and she landed in the middle of the welcome rug with a muffled whump.

Kevin pulled her toward the door. The security guard! Angie gasped, drawing back instinctively. Kevin moved between them.

“Where are you going, Angelica?” said the gnarled man upstairs. His silvery head jutted menacingly over the rail.

“Nowhere, Uncle Edgar,” Angie said. Tears were beginning to fill her blue eyes again. “I’m right here.”

Kevin glanced left at the security guard and right at Angie’s uncle. He saw the umbrella stand against the wall. Angie started to move toward her uncle. Kevin grabbed her shoulder.

“Where are you going?” He almost screamed it.

Angie turned dewy blue eyes up at him. “Where can I go?”

Kevin grabbed the umbrella stand and hit the security guard over the head with it. Uncle Edgar started down the stairs. Kevin shoved Angie through the open door. Behind them, a loud curse followed by multiple thuds signified that Uncle Edgar had tripped and fallen down the stairs.

Kevin gave Angie another push. “Run!” They made it to the truck a full thirty yards ahead of the dazed security guard.

Angie writhed in impatient agony. “Go! Go!”

Once they were mostly on the road, Kevin floored the gas pedal. The sand sprayed up in all directions. Angie sat quivering next to him as the lichenous cliff grew smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror. She began to cry. Kevin looked at her, confused, but she smiled through her tears.

“I’m free.”

***

This story can also be found at hanateligeshortstories.wordpress.com. I’ll be posting other short stories there from time to time.

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