Colette was on the couch in Harry’s den, having her lunch, chicken salad on lettuce and tomato, watching a soap opera called General Hospital, when she heard the doorbell, stood up still watching the television, looked out the front window and saw a white van parked in the driveway. It said Acme Carpet Cleaning on the side in brown letters. The doorbell rang again. Harry didn’t mention anything about having his carpets cleaned. Maybe they had the wrong address.
From the back hall Colette could see a man in a red cap through the glass panes in the door. He saw her and waved but she sensed that something was wrong. Colette moved into the kitchen, picked up the phone and dialed Harry’s office number. She heard the side door open, and the sound of footsteps. Heard Harry’s secretary say, “S&H Scrap Metal Recyclers, how may I direct your call?” The phone was taken from her and replaced in the cradle. There were two of them. They picked her up, carried her into the living room and rolled her up in one of Harry’s antique rugs, legs pressed together, arms pinned to her sides. She couldn’t move, could barely breathe, started to panic.
They never said a word, picked her up and carried her outside. She could feel a cool breeze blow through the open ends of the rug and it calmed her a little. They slid her in the back of the van and closed the doors. Colette heard them get in the front, heard the engine start and felt the van move, backing down the driveway. All she could think—it had to be retaliation for the article she had written about Hess. But how would anyone know she was staying with Harry? She didn’t tell her editor, didn’t even tell her mother.
Colette was on her side. She could smell dye on the fabric and taste the dust. She sneezed a couple times. Her nose itched. She bent her head forward and rubbed it against the coarse fabric. She smelled cigarette smoke, and felt the sway of the truck and felt herself sliding. Heard the twangy chords of country music on the radio, and the sounds of traffic outside the van. They were moving at a steady speed now.
She tried to take her mind off what was happening, pictured herself skiing with her mother in Courmayeur, the Italian-side of Mont. Blanc, going down the mountain, skies buried in deep powder, leaning back, her mother slaloming down the mountain in front of her like a teenager.
Colette heard cars passing the van going in the opposite direction and then the whining sound of tires on asphalt. The van slowed and made a left turn and a right and came to a stop. The rear doors opened and she was lifted out and carried, felt the rug tilt up as they went up a couple steps, entered a room and put her down. Then she was spinning as they unrolled the rug. Colette, dizzy, trying to focus, seeing white walls and a brick fireplace. She was on the dusty wood floor, in a house, shades covering the windows. The two men were dark shapes in the dark room, the sour smell of sweat and cigarette smoke clinging to them. “Sprechen sie Deutsch?” she said.
Peter Leonard is The Story Plant’s Author of the Month. This means we are offering sensational deals on all of his works. You can learn more at our website.