I stare at him. My mind has gone blank. Mother and Father are so strong. Who could hurt them? There’s urgency in his eyes. He keeps glancing around my house and then back outside. I can tell he’s in a hurry to get going. He’s an adult. I can trust adults, so he must be telling the truth, and my parents are in danger. I still haven’t grasped this impossible possibility.
“I’ll be a moment,” I say. “I need to grab something to help.” He gestures for me to be quick.
I run upstairs and rummage through my toy chest, scattering my things throughout my room. I find what I need and tug it out. It’s a wooden sword Father made last summer after he read The Three Musketeers to me.
As I’m walking down the sweeping staircase, I notice the man reaching toward the oil painting on the wall. I slow down for a moment, but I shake away any doubts. He’s an adult, and adults always do what’s right.
Father says I walk like a cat, my steps near-silent, but now I stomp down the rest of the stairs. The man is startled, but he quickly collects himself. He clears his throat and says, “Shall we go, Sam?” For a fleeting moment, I wonder how he knows my name. I tell myself it’s nothing.
His car is a couple houses down from mine. He could’ve parked it closer; it’s not as if we have guests over in the middle of the night. The man’s car is a rusty truck with two rows of seats. It looks like his clothing: old and well-used.
The man opens the back door and motions for me to get inside. I stare at him. He looks at me like I’m insane and asks, scowling slightly, “What?” He’s getting more hurried. I can tell by the way his brow is furrowed. He keeps glancing left and right.
“There’s no car seat,” I say.
“Car seats aren’t important,” he replies. I disagree, but I’m not supposed to talk back. I get into the car, but without a car seat, I can’t see out the window. It’s too high up.
We drive for twenty minutes and it seems like the man, who I’ve decided to call Blue for his clothing, is trying to hit every pothole in the road. Each bump and break is jarring and I slam against the seat belt. I shove my sword inside my jacket to protect it from the rough ride.
When we finally stop, Blue opens the car door and my eyes trace up the long gravel drive to a ghostly house in the midst of nothing. The vinyl is a putrid shade of gray, like a graveyard’s tears. I look at Blue, bewildered, and say, “This isn’t the restaurant.” My parents had taken me there with them before. It was nice with flickering candles and a sweet smell, although I never found out what the scent was.
Blue ignores me and grabs my forearm. He’s hurting me, but I fail to wriggle from his grasp. I have to half-run to keep up with Blue’s long strides as he leads me up the long gravel drive.
I stumble on the porch steps, but Blue yanks me forward. He pounds on the door, so hard I’m surprised his fist doesn’t go through the frail wood. When no one answers, he knocks on the door again, this time so loud that I would shield my ears if Blue weren’t holding my arm so tightly.
The door is opened by a glowering man who’s even shabbier than Blue. He’s narrow and he’s got long and scraggly hair that’s in dire need of a brush. When his grayish eyes find my face, the frown disappears and is replaced with a crooked grin. His teeth are extremely white and they clash with the rest of him. I decide to call him Shabby in my head.
Shabby is still looking at me and I shrink under his searing gaze. He asks Blue, “Is this the Warner kid?” Blue nods and Shabby gives him money.
Blue hands me to Shabby then heads down the long gravel drive and gets in his truck and drives away. I suddenly want him to come back. I want him to take me back to evil Emmica.