Soon after I woke from my unintentional dark sleep. I promptly felt the sprouting throb in my left leg, between my ankle and my knee.
I locked my drowsy eyes shut, trying to withstand the inordinate agony. I then sensed someone watching me with irate eyes. My eyes rapidly fluttered open, doubtful of what to anticipate.
I saw before me the contour of a tall figure in blinding light; my eyes stole a few seconds to adjust to the vivid radiation.
I upturned my head, then perceived that I was positioned in a seat with my wrists bound with hawsers in the very house I had tried to leave.
Using my straining eyes, I sighted a woman dressed in a blue uniform - a cop's uniform, to be precise.
The miniature title on the mid-blue outfit was Stein, which matched the name from one of the boxes I had previously opened.
I then registered that "Joan Stein" was shining a flashlight into my face.
"Good, yer awake," the woman said to me.
I knew that anything I said would likely put me in deeper trouble, so I remained still.
"Ya gonna talk, or just sit there all yer life?"
I peeked up at her, still not speaking. "Joan" glared at me and walked inside the room with the map and dead body of the actual Joan Stein.
I started to try to wrangle my hands free of the ropes, but there was no point. The ropes were as tight as possible, so I hadn't any prospect of getting free alone.
A few minutes later "Joan" came back to the entry room with something in her hands - a belt.
My face dropped as she laid the leather strap down on what was left of the floor in front of the chair I was in.
"See that? That's what's gonna smack ya in the nose if ya don't start talkin'," she said.
I looked from her, to the belt, to her again. "Fine.
What do you want me to say - that you stole the identity of Joan Stein, or that you shot me in the leg?!" I asked, now more cross than I was intimidated.
She looked at me with tranquility, as if everything I had just said went straight over her small head. "What do ya mean? I didn't steal the identity of nobody."
I looked at her with utter disgust. "Are you actually going to lie about that when I saw the body you killed under the bed?"
"I said I didn't kill nobody!" the woman shrieked as she picked the whip up from the floor and beat me on the top of my legs.
"Ahhh! You're crazy! You're a crazy, messed up woman with a messed up brain! Let me out of here!" I yelped in affliction.
"I am not crazy! Stop sayin' that! If ya say that one more time I'm gonna kill ya with this whip!" 'Joan' wailed, now with tears running down her face.
I glared at her with horrified eyes - she must have a mental disorder to be acting like this. Either that, or she's an absolute psychopath.
"Ya gonna listen good, or ya gonna be dead. Ya hear me?" the woman disclosed.
I nodded hurriedly, not sure what else to do.
The fake Joan Stein looked at me with anger and then started to tell me her story, "Ma had died when I was three from lung cancer. I was sixteen years old when Pa departed.
He had died in a car crash not far from here - o'er by Elm's Creek. He ran into ta side of the bridge one day when he was high and the bridge broke, an' he fell in the water, stuck in his car.
I went by his grave every day; I still do. That's where I was when ya were snoopin' in here, where ya shouldn't!"
'Yes, I learned that the hard way,' I thought.
She continued, "I became a cop not long after, makin' sure no one had to much liquor. Not long after, a new cop came in. Her name was Sally Hill.
She was a couple years older than me, but I was betta, and Sally knew it.
She always acted like I was rude to her, but I wasn't! I knew there was somethin' off 'bout her, but every time I tried to talk ta 'er she ran off sayin', 'Get away from me!
Stop braggin' 'bout yourself!' I mean, ya, I was great an' all, but why'd she have to be so mean ta me?
I would've been jealous of me, too, but I would've been friends with me, since I'm so kind an' generous."
'Yes, so kind to shoot me and hold be captive,' I thought. I didn't risk saying one word to the mad woman and having her whip me again.
"But Sally had so many friends; it was like all my friends turned on me for 'er! I was furious, so I tried to keep my distance from Sally.
But she just kept comin' back! Every corner I turned, she was there. I eventually quit; I managed to steal my uniform without them noticin', but I had to buy my own gun.
I stayed up here since it was abandoned and near Pa's grave. Soon after I moved here I started noticing strange things outside, like noises an' stuff.
I looked outside one day and saw Sally stompin' all over the flowers I had outside and whackin' the fence with a metal rod!
I knew that I couldn't call the cops; they had all joined Sally's side.
I grabbed my pistol and put it in my back pocket, I ran outside and yelled to Sally, 'Hey, what are ya doin' on my property?
Ya get away from here or yer gonna pay!' Sally started runnin' up to me, screamin' and pointin' that rod at me. I took out my gun and fired at 'er. I wasn't gonna die because of Sally Hill."
I finally got the nerve to ask Joan a question, "So you're actually Joan Stein?"
"Yes, I thought I made that pretty clear," Joan said.
"Wait a second...that map in the other room - what's it for?"
"Why, I have the jail I worked at marked! I still wanna know where it is and what's goin' on. I plan to go back there someday, now that Sally's dead.
I just killed 'er yesterday!" Joan said, excited by the fact that her sworn enemy was gone. "Now that ya know my story, I wanna know yers!"
"Oh, I'd rather not.
I'm trying to complete something, and any second I stay here, I might lose something very important," I responded,
trying not to tell a former cop that I was planning to dispatch four people - on top of the three I already did.
Now that Joan told me her story, it seemed like she wasn't a crazy woman after all.
"Oh, come on! Tell me what yer tryin' to do or I'm gonna whip ya again!" Joan told me.
I sighed and began to tell her my mission, "My sister's going to die in jail if I don't help her get out. In order to help her escape, I have to...get rid of a few people, you know?"
"I know what 'get rid of' means!"
I trembled, realizing I just told her I had to kill people.
"What people do you have to kill?"
"Oh...um...just a few...cops," I said hesitantly.
"Which ones?" Joan interrogated me, making me wonder if she really was crazy.
"The list is in my car," I replied.
"Okay," Joan hurriedly said as she ran out the front doorway and toward my car.
I immediately started to get out of the ropes again, twisting my hand every which way but still couldn't make them budge.
"She sure can tie knots," I said to myself, disappointed by the fact that I couldn't escape.
After a few minutes Joan came running back with the list in her hands; her face lighted up when she saw one of the names.
"Oh my goodness! Steve Johnson's name is on here! Yes! He's one of the cops who took Sally's side! I can finally get revenge!
" Joan said in excitement as she looked at me with her brown, almost black, eyes.
"I imagine Sally paid him; anyway, he deserves to die! Let's go get him right now - that way I can also go back in the prison and see everybody!"
I couldn't believe it; the woman who trapped me was actually going to help me. "Okay, let's go!" I said to her, ready to get my sister out of prison as soon as possible.
"Alrighty, then!" Joan said as she started cutting the ropes off of my hands with a knife she got from her pocket.
I smiled, happy to stretch my legs and arms. "Ahhh!" I screamed in pain as I remembered the bullet in my leg. "You shot me! I can't walk!"
"Oh, you'll be fine. I dug the bullet out when you weren't conscious. If yer lucky, it'll leave a scar!"
This woman was crazy. But I had no other choice but to go with her to the prison. Maybe I could even get my sister out without killing everybody else.