I tried to turn around, but he grabbed a handful of my hair and yanked my head back so fast and so painfully I thought a piece of my scalp would tear off. My heart slammed against my ribcage, and blood roared in my head. I willed my legs to kick out, run—to do something, anything—but I couldn't make them move.
"Yes, Annie, that's a gun, so please listen carefully. I'm going to let go of your hair and you're going to remain calm while we take a walk out to my van. And I want you to keep that pretty smile on your face while we do that, okay?"
"I—I can't—"I can't breathe.
Voice low and calm against my ear he said. "Take a deep breath, Annie."
I sucked in a lungful.
"Let it out nice and easy." I exhaled slowly.
"Again." The room came back into focus.
"Good girl." He released my hair.
Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. I could feel the gun grinding into my spine as he used it to push me forward. He urged me out the front door and down the stairs, humming a little melody. While we walked to his van, he whispered into my ear.
"Relax, Annie. Just pay attention to what I tell you and we won't have any problems. Don't forget to keep smiling." As we moved further from the house I looked around—somebody had to be seeing this—but no one was in sight. I'd never noticed how many trees surrounded the house or that both of the neighboring homes faced away.
"I'm so glad the sun came out for us. It's a lovely day for a drive, don't you agree?"
He's got a gun and he's talking about the weather?
"Annie, I asked you a question."
"Yes what, Annie?"
"It's a nice day for a drive." Like two neighbors having a conversation over the fence. I kept thinking, this guy can't be doing this in broad daylight. It's an open house, for God's sake, I have a sign at the end of the driveway, and a car is going to pull up any minute.
We were at the van.
"Open the door, Annie." I didn't move. He pressed the gun to my lower back. I opened the door.
"Now get in." The gun pressed harder. I got in.
As he began to walk away, I yanked the door handle and pushed the automatic lock repeatedly, but something was wrong. I rammed my shoulder into the door. Open, GODDAMMIT!
He crossed in front of the van.
I pounded the locks, the power window button, tugged at the handle. His door opened and I turned around. In his hand was a keyless entry remote.
He held it up and smiled.
As he backed down the driveway, and I watched the house get smaller, I couldn't believe what was happening. He wasn't real. None of this was real. At the end of the driveway he paused for a second, checking for traffic. My lawn sign advertising the open house was missing. I glanced into the back of the van and there it was, along with the two I'd placed at the end of the street.
Then it hit me. This wasn't random. He must have read the ad and checked out the street.
He chose me.
"So, how did the open house go?"
Fine, until he came along.
Could I pull the keys out of the ignition? Or at least press the unlock button on the remote and throw myself out the door before he grabbed me? I slowly reached out with my left hand, keeping it low— His hand landed on my shoulder, and his fingers curled over my collarbone.
"I'm trying to ask about your day, Annie. You're not usually so rude."
I stared at him.
"The open house?"
"It was…it was slow."
"You must have been happy when I came by, then!"