We had been driving for several hours and had only stopped once for gas. Well, we had only officially stopped once, in reality we had pulled over on the side of the road three times because Evey had to pee. By the third time, Eli had gotten pretty irritated and went out of her way to let Eve know it, by lecturing her about the importance of making a quick getaway after one has assaulted and kidnapped another human being, while she was squatting in the bushes. Eve was frustrated and tried repeatedly to explain to Eli that these were merely the side effects of being pregnant, but that only opened the door to other things Eli found pretty irritating. Finally, they both stomped off to their perspective vehicles and we were able to get back on the road.
For the most part the drive had gone smoothly. I had thought it would last forever but after glancing at the clock I realized that time had flown by. Much like the thoughts that had been racing through my mind ever since we left that train station. We had been traveling at high speeds on nearly deserted highways. I started to panic. We still had Preston in the trunk of his car and we hadn’t spent any time discussing what to do with him next. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw that Eve was still right behind us. I sighed and then turned my head towards Eli. She was sitting there stiff as a board, facing the road and staring straight ahead. Suddenly the silence that had been so comforting up until now became deafening. I couldn’t take it anymore.
“We can’t kill him.” I just blurted it out.
Eli didn’t move a muscle when she answered, “I know that.”
I had expected something more than that. “We can’t let him go either. He’ll come after Evey again… and he’ll make sure we go to jail for assault and kidnapping. With his family’s money he can bury us and then who’s going to help her?”
Still, there was hardly any reaction from Eli.
“I know that, too.” She responded in a monotone voice. I couldn’t believe her! Hadn’t she thought of anything the whole time she sat there in silence? I was depending on her. I wasn’t exactly the only one who had wound up in this predicament. After all, she had been the one with the shovel.
“So what do you want to do?” I asked, clearly getting exasperated.
Finally she turned to look at me. “I don’t know. Where are we anyway?” “Just crossed the Mississippi state line.”
Now Eli started to shift around in her seat nervously.
“Already? Okay, we need to come up with something. We can’t just take him home with us!”
I wanted to slap her, but I didn’t. “Why do you think I’m asking you? What have you been thinking about all this time? I thought you’d have a plan by now.” I had fully expected Eli to come up with an elaborate scheme. A scheme that would be effective and creative and probably not without a pending murder charge. I wasn’t expecting it to be perfect, but at least a starting point would have been nice, something I could tweak and turn into a plan we could actually use, but the expression on her face told me she had nothing.
“Me? What about you?” she shook her head at me.
It was all I could take. All the emotions I had been trying to push down since this crazy night had started, began to break through. The tears started to well up in my eyes and when I tried to speak the words came out all choked up.
“All I can think about is him holding that gun to her head…and then that makes me think of Mom. The two images just keep flipping back and forth, it’s been going on for hours now and I haven’t been able to form a single coherent thought, so I was hoping that you had been able to do better.”
Eli’s face softened and she turned her head to look out of the side window. “I’ve been having the same problem. Sorry.”
A moment later she perked up. “Hey, I have an idea. Pull off over there.”
I did what she said and took the next exit. We wound up on a small road taking us to the middle of nowhere. After a short drive, we found a dirt road that forked off into a wooded area. We followed it until it ended and then went on through the woods until we found ourselves on the edge of a swamp. There was marsh and water everywhere. It was perfect.
I stopped the car and watched to make sure that Eve did the same thing. Then Eli and I climbed out of the truck. I started walking over to Preston’s car to see Eve. Eli reached into the back of the Bronco and grabbed Preston’s gun before she joined us. Eve looked worried.
Eli took the keys from her and said “Now, we scare the shit out of him and make sure he knows to leave us alone.”
This only made Evey more nervous. “How are you going to do that?”
I flipped on the flashlight I was holding and shone the light across the water. The light that reflected from the glowing eyes of fifty or so alligators floating in the water was hard to miss. Eve took a step back.
“Oh.” Was all that she said.
Eli’s eyes met mine and I nodded at her. She popped open the trunk and we were face to face with Preston again. He was awake and he was even angrier than before. Eli had left a nasty wound on the back of his head from her shovel and he had dried blood on his ear and neck from it.
Immediately he began to shout, “You are going to pay for this!” Eli pointed the gun straight at him.
“You first. Get out of the trunk.”
He began to climb out and then stopped. “You really expect me to believe that you’re going to shoot me? You probably don’t even know how to unlock the safety,” he sneered at her.
Eli shot off a shot into the dark and then pointed the gun back at Preston. “Safety’s off. Now get out.”
Quietly he got out of the trunk. Eli waved the gun in the direction of some old tree stumps and said, “Start walking.”
Preston was starting to get scared. “Where? There’s nothing but swamp.”
Eli smirked. “That’s the whole point. Over there by those tree trunks. That looks like a nice spot.”
While Eli was busy escorting Preston, I went digging around in the back of my truck for some ropes. Once I found what I was looking for I checked to make sure Eve was okay. She was still standing over by Preston’s car watching everything from a safe distance. I walked over to Eli who had now ordered Preston to his knees and we began to tie him up. He began to panic.
“Wait. What are you doing?”
Eli stopped what she was doing and stood up, towering over him in the process. Then she said, “We haven’t really decided yet. We’re just kind of winging it.”
That was all Preston could take. He started shouting at us again, but this time his voice was shaky and it began to crack. “You’re crazy! There’s gators out here!”
I just smiled at him and said, “Yup. And snakes.”
Eli was starting to enjoy this. She could barely contain her enthusiasm, “Oh yeah, let’s not forget snakes. You know I’ve always wanted myself a pair of them snake skin boots.”
I finished tying the last knot and stood up. “Really? I didn’t know that. Maybe I’ll get you a pair for your birthday.”
Preston was speechless, but Eli wasn’t. “Really? I would love that!” The light heartedness of our conversation was really getting to Preston and it was fun to watch.
“You two are insane!” he shouted.
Eli turned to him and shook her head, “You really need to stop interrupting us. It’s so rude.”
I pulled a bandana from my pant pocket and shoved it into Preston’s mouth. “Here, this ought to help with that.”
To keep him from spitting it out we then took his tie and tied it around his face to keep the bandana in place. Placing a muzzle over his mouth, so to speak, only seemed to piss Preston off more. His attempts to yell at us or scream for help continued, but thanks to the bandana, at least the sounds he was making were muffled. We watched him flail around trying to fight his way free without much success for a minute and then we slowly walked back over to Preston’s car where Evey was.
However, Eli wasn’t done torturing him just yet. She was almost gleeful when she asked, “You think a matching belt would be too much?”
I tried hard not to laugh, “No, I think it would be cute.”
Eve on the other hand was not amused. “You two really are sick. And you wonder why I tried so hard to get as a far away from Angie as possible.”
“No offense Evey, but how’d that work out for you?” Eli snapped back at her.
I put my hand up to shush both of them. “Not now! We don’t have time for this.”
Eli agreed for once. “You’re right.” Then she raised her voice to say “You know, I’ve been thinking. Let’s just do it.”
Eve looked horrified. “Do what?”
“Shoot him.” Eli answered loud enough so Preston could hear her. Eve was frantically shaking her head.
“No. Absolutely not!”
But Eli wasn’t interested. “I say we vote on it.” She continued.
Eve looked at me pleadingly, “Emma do something.”
I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “What do you expect me to do? You know Eli, once she sets her mind on something there’s no talking her out of it. So, I vote yes. Shoot the bastard.”
Eve was shouting now. “What? No!”
By now we had become so involved in our discussion that we had turned our backs to Preston. A mistake we realized a little too late. In the midst of our arguing Eli heard something and turned back around to check on him, but all she saw was the pointy end of a gator tail as it slinked back into the water.
That was when I heard Eli whisper: “Oh shit.”
“What?” I asked as I turned my head back to her.
But Eli had already started running back over to where we had left Preston bound and gagged, yelling “Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit”, the whole way there. That’s when I noticed that Preston was gone. As well as the momentary slashing that occurred in the water nearby before the silence set in again. Eve had also realized that Preston had disappeared.
“Wait, where’s Preston. Did he get away?”
My eyes were darting all over the place trying to see what was right in front of me.
Eve was confused and starting to get angry. “Then where is he? Eli?”
Eli was busy wandering around in circles. When she finally stopped she just stood there staring out at the water. “We are in so much trouble.”