In the Stacks: Part 3

When Rowan and the girl got to his apartment, he was extra cautious to make sure no one saw her as they walked to his door. Not only was he worried that he was somehow being followed by the man, but he was also worried that he would be questioned concerning the girl’s health and appearance.

Luckily for them, it was an extremely hot, sunny day, so no one in their right mind wanted to be outside. Rowan was able to get her quickly inside, even with her slow, pained movements. Once inside, he told her to sit down and rest on his couch. He didn’t care that she was filthy; he wanted to make sure that she was okay. She asked scratchily for more water and possibly some food, which Rowan gave her readily.

The girl ate ravenously. Not once did she say a word, nor did she pause. She did, however, slow down after a few bites because she knew that if she ate too quickly, she would be sick.

The whole while, Rowan sat watching her. He wanted so badly to ask her who she was and what had happened to her, but he knew that she would open up when she was ready.

As soon as she finished, the girl laid down, exhausted and somewhat relieved. In minutes, she was out like a light. Rowan wandered to his bedroom to give her some privacy, the whole time wondering what he was supposed to do now. A large part of him wanted to contact the police immediately. But some smaller part, a part he couldn’t really explain, wanted to put that off until he had heard her story.

He fidgeted for about 3 hours while he waited for the girl to get some rest. In that time, he went to his closet and pulled some old clothes from a bag that he had been planning on donating. He wanted to give the girl an opportunity to shower and get those soiled clothes away from her.

When she finally awoke, the girl called out to make sure that she hadn’t been left alone. She sounded scared, so Rowan exited his room with the clothes in hand. Upon seeing him, she looked somewhat relieved, though she was still wary of him. And he didn’t blame her. After what he could only imagine she had been through, he could understand her distrust of everyone at the moment.

It occurred to Rowan that he hadn’t even introduced himself yet. He did so and got a one word response:

“Maddie.”

When he asked her if she was ready to talk about her ordeal yet, she answered no. Puzzled and frowning slightly, Rowan offered her the clothes and told her she was welcome to shower. She stood up slowly and gave him a grateful look as she wobbled to the restroom, which he had pointed out to her.

He waited anxiously for what seemed like hours, a thousand thoughts flying through his head. Why had this girl been kidnapped and kept at a library of all places? How had she managed to escape?

When she finally emerged from the restroom, she looked completely different. There was life in her eyes, and she looked rejuvenated. And the shower seemed to have been good for her energy and her voice, because she began talking to him.

“I am so glad you were there to help me when I escaped, Rowan. And part of me doesn’t want to trust you, but I have to tell someone what happened.”

She went on to tell Rowan that she had been walking home from her biology class when she noticed that a strange man was staring at her from down the way. She stepped quickly into her dormitory to escape his gaze and didn’t think of it much more after that. However, after about a month, she realized that the man had begun popping up wherever she was, and she started to get scared. She admitted that it was foolish of her not to tell anyone what had been going on.

One day, she had been studying for a huge exam on the 5th floor of the library, and she had been very much alone. No one really liked to study on that floor because it was too quiet and too far away from the small coffee shop on the first floor. Maddie had found a quiet nook in a far corner of the 5th floor to study in, her back to the isles of bookshelves to help her concentrate better. Suddenly, she remembered, something hit her on the back of the head and knocked her unconscious. When she came to, she was in a dark, wet room. There were no windows and only one small door, which she quickly found was locked. As she had looked around her, she noticed that there was a small vent directly in the center of the ceiling of the room. Unfortunately for her, though, she would not be able to fit.

As she went on, the story got much, much more gruesome. Apparently, the man had brought in three other girls, each at different times. He would bring them in through the doorway, but Maddie was never able to see past his body to see what was outside. Once, she thought she had seen a large hole in one of the walls, but she couldn’t have been sure. Regardless, whenever he would grow tired of the girls, he would get rid of them after about a week because they ‘would not last’. That whole time, he would torment Maddie. He would deprive her of food and water, only giving her enough to keep her alive. He took extreme pleasure in puncturing her skin with sharp objects, but he would never cut too deeply. There was something about the whole situation that would make him erupt in maniacal laughter from time to time.

Maddie hadn’t been sure how long she had been in that space. There was no light to tell her whether it was night or day, so time hadn’t existed to her in that room. When Rowan asked how she had escaped, she suddenly looked very grim.

She explained that, with her emaciated form, she had been able to finally fit into the vent that was on the ceiling. She used a night gown, one left by one of the other girls, tied to one of the torture objects she had hidden from the man during one of his visits. This allowed her to make a makeshift grappling hook which she first used to catch and remove the vent and then to grip a ledge around the vent to pull herself up. She had spent hours pulling herself through countless twists and turns. Many times she panicked, hyperventilating and convulsing because she would get waves of claustrophobia. When she finally came to the grate in the mechanical room, she had been almost too weak to force her way out. All of her energy had been focused on squeezing through the tight crawlspace. Luckily, there had only been two screws in at the time, placed loosely enough that she was able to wiggle them out.

Once she had crawled out, she had noticed her own blood on the edge and knew immediately that this was the man’s exit as well. Somehow, she had managed retrace the route that he would take every day.

When she came to the end of her tale, she said something that chilled Rowan to the bone. She said that the man wasn’t going to stop and that she was afraid that no one would even know where that room was. When she had first woken up, she had screamed nonstop for hours. When she had finally collapsed from exhaustion, she had lost hope. No one could hear her. And now that she was gone, he would be furious, frantic. She was genuinely afraid of what he would do now.

º º º

That night, Rowan slept on his couch, allowing her to sleep in his room on his bed. He wanted her first night of freedom to be as comfortable as possible. All through the night, though, he tossed and turned, unable to drift off to sleep. He kept wondering if the man suspected him at all. He had been the only one on that floor the day she disappeared. He planned on calling in the next morning so that he could take Maddie to the police station to file a report, but what would happen when he went back to work? Would the man still be free? Rowan was already sure that this horror wasn’t over yet and wouldn’t be for quite a while.

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