Patty worried her loose front tooth and sucked at her swollen lip, salty and sweet from blood mixed with whiskey, and listened to her captor mumbling in the living room.
The punch had knocked her to the floor, sending her and the old tubular dinette chair skidding toward the refrigerator. Her face was raw where his rough knuckles had torn her skin. And as if the bruises and scrapes hadn’t been enough, he’d dumped his glass of whiskey on her and that still burned. Of course wasting perfectly good booze had just made him madder. “Who the fuck is ‘Patty?’ I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing Diana but get this straight: you’re going to tell me where the key is.”
That was the last thing her captor had said before storming out of the kitchen. Patty had lain on the floor for an hour or more since, wondering if she’d live to see the morning. Her shoulder was numb from supporting all her weight and she was pretty sure she’d broken a couple of fingers when she hit the floor but she choked back the tears and remained as still and silent as the night outside. The only sounds were her captor’s ongoing conversation with himself and the occasional clink of an ice cube. Patty tried to hear what he was saying but couldn’t pick out any words, just the rhythm of his mumbling. It sounded like he was debating with himself but the pace kept getting slower with each glass he poured. “Great,” thought Patty. “He’s an unstable, violent drunk. It’s like I’ve been kidnapped by dear old dad.”
The compressor on the old refrigerator kicked on with a thud, shocking Patty and causing her to lurch. When she did, she felt the left leg of the chair bend. The old welds must have been weakened when she toppled to the floor. Seeing her chance, Patty tried moving her leg but couldn’t get enough leverage. Trying a different approach, she started rocking back and forth and got more torque against the chair leg. She felt it give a bit more and rocked faster. Then she noticed how much noise she was making and stopped. She held her breath and shut her eyes to focus but couldn’t hear anything over the whine of the refrigerator. She could wait for it to shut back off or risk it. She told herself if she couldn’t hear him over the motor, he wouldn’t be able to hear her either and started rocking again.
Patty didn’t immediately notice when the leg came loose. One second it was attached and bending freely and the next it was separated from the seat. She still wasn’t free but was one leg closer and quickly and quietly rolled over to work the other chair leg. The second one went much more quickly and she was able to stand but her arms were still securely tied to the chair and she was bent over at the waist. The mumbling from the living room got louder and more insistent as though his debate with himself was turning violent. Patty knew she had to get out before he came back to the kitchen or - she didn’t even want to consider that alternative - but she couldn’t run, couldn’t use the phone to call for help, and couldn’t do anything with her hands bound to the chair. She’d have to get free.
She couldn’t reach the knife block on the counter but standing on tiptoe she could just open the silverware drawer and reach inside. She felt around behind her back with her fingertips, balancing as best she could, until she found the wooden handle of the steak knife she’d stashed in her purse the last time she’d eaten at Murphy’s. She clawed at it, pulled at it, and finally gained purchase between two of her fingers. She lifted it out of the drawer and dropped to her knees. If she could get out of the chair, she might just make it.
The refrigerator kicked on again and the knife slipped out of her grip and clattered on the linoleum.
She held her breath for half a minute, waiting for the hulking presence to fill the doorway but he didn’t come. She exhaled and grabbed the knife again. He’d obviously grabbed the old rope from the garage and it didn’t take long for the knife to saw through the dry fibers. She got her injured hand free and made quick work of the loops holding her good hand. Her left hand throbbed and the ring finger was an ugly deep purple but she was free. “Now what?” she thought.
“If I open that door, he’ll be on me before I get to the street. I guess the only way out is up.”
Patty took a few deep, calming breaths and prepared to creep past her tormentor and to her nightstand.