This is a work of fiction.
I’m lying on the bed that Mercy used until we sort of started sharing my bed. She still keeps her stuff in here, and her phone’s on the nightstand. The screen is lit and displaying Mercy’s apps, but I can’t reach it. I’m lying on my side, facing out into the room, able to see both the phone and the door. My hands and ankles are in cuffs, and I’m tied to the bed with sturdy nylon ropes.
I sat in the chair, my hands useless, my mind racing.
How had Victoria come back for me?
For a minute, it was the only question that mattered, and then I looked at Mercy.
Like me, she was tied up and handcuffed, but unlike me, she didn’t seem to be shocked or confused by what was happening. Her eyes were full of a pleading kind of resignation.
“Please,” she said.
Victoria didn’t answer, but reached up with a gloved hand and pulled her mask off.
The face wasn’t hers, but that of a man.
“Nice to see you’re well,” he said to Mercy. He turned to me and said, “Tell me, why’d you throw this perfectly good suit into the river?”
When I didn’t speak right away, he pulled a pistol and pointed it at Mercy’s left foot.
“Victoria,” I said in a dry whisper.
I told him and Mercy about the events I describe in Lockdown.
“So I packed everything up and tossed it into the river.”
“A vampire?” he said, raising his eyebrows. “You really mean that?”
“I don’t really believe in vampires, but that’s okay. Thanks for the suit and the gun.”
“How’d you know about it?” I asked.
“I saw you toss a bag of stuff into the river. I called somebody to retrieve it.”
He smiled at Mercy.
“Now it’s your turn. Tell him what you did.”
Mercy looked at me and said, “I’m sorry, Billy.”
“Cut the BS and tell him all of it.”
I was eleven years old. My parents had just died in a car accident, and Eva and I went to foster parents. Their names were Lizzie and Henry. She stayed home looking after kids and he worked five days a week and played with us on weekends.
I likd living with them. I was sad about my parents, but every time I mentioned them, Lizzie would comfort me and tell me they would always love me.
I was just starting to feel like doing things again, when the social worker came.
I still remember her name.
It was Fran.
The weather had been rainy and windy for a while, and it was really dark outside, even though it was only four in the afternoon.
Their conversation was supposed to be private, but the door wasn’t closed all the way.
They were in the living room, and I was at the dining room table.
Eva was having a nap upstairs, and so was Chris, a two-year-old they were fostering.
I left the table and stepped closer to the door so I could hear them. In many ways, I wish I hadn’t done it. If I hadn’t, Eva and I wouldn’t know each other, but at least we’d be safe.
“How’s it going with the kids?” Fran asked.
“Pretty good, except I’m worried about having Chris and Eva around with the new baby.”
I almost gave myself away by calling out and asking what new baby she was talking about, but I kept quiet.
“How long now?” Fran asked.
“Oh, I still have a few months, and I’m hoping Chris will stop saying ‘no!’ to everything by then!”
“He probably won’t, but I can help you with things a little bit.”
“Oh, did his mother quit drinking?”
“Fat chance. But Eva’s young enough to go for adoption.”
“What about Mercy?”
“At her age, she’s too old, but Eva’s a healthy, cute, white baby girl. Lots of childless couples want those.”
“What about keeping them together?”
“If Mercy was five or even eight, maybe.”
“You know Henry and I would keep them both, right?”
“That’s nice of you, but you’re needed to forster kids like Mercy and John.”
“Yes, didn’t I tell you? We have a twelve-year-old boy who needs a place to stay. With Eva out of your hair, you’ll have more time to spend with the others and of course, with your new baby. Do you know the sex yet?”
Back then, I thought the word ‘sex’ was so gross, but I somehow managed not to say anything.
“No. The ultrasound isn’t until next Monday.”
Fran told Lizzie all about John, who would be coming tomorrow. Henry wasn’t even there, and she just sprang him on her like that.
Did she spring Eva and me on her, too?
Honestly, I don’t remember much about what she said about John. I wanted to know what was going to happen to Eva and me.
“I’d be happy to have John,” Lizzie said.
“Great. Back to Eva. I already have a couple in mind for her.”
She sounded worried, but Fran seemed to interpret her tone as excited.
“Yep. She might be gone within the month.”
“Is there any chance they might adopt Mercy?”
“As I’ve already explained, she’s too old to be adoptable. Shelley and Dylan are in their early thirties. She makes computer software so she can work from home once Eva’s at school. Dylan’s a chef. And you know what else?”
“Dylan’s parents live just three doors down, so they can babysit.”
“That sounds good, but I still feel terrible about Mercy and Eva being separated.”
“It’s a shame she’s too old, but these things happen all the time in fostering. It’s hard to place older kids and large sibling groups without separating them. The older kids miss the younger ones, of course, but you’ve just got to deal with it. So, I’ll set up a meeting for next week so you can meet Shelley and Dylan. Is Wednesday at five-thirty good for you and Henry?”
“It works for us, but we’d need to bring the kids or find a sitter.”
“No kids, so you’ll have to find a sitter. Make sure you bring lots of pictures of Eva, but don’t include any of Mercy or the others.”
“No pictures of Mercy with her sister?”
“Right, no pictures of Mercy. Only Eva, you, and Henry should be in the shots, and try to make sure that all pictures have Eva as the focus. You want them to see how cute she is.”
It was Chris.
“I’ll be right there!” Lizzie called.
“I’ll be back tomorrow at four to bring John,” Fran called after her.
I stood there and listened to Fran leaving and Lizzie going to Chris.
Even with all the noise, Eva didn’t wake up.
“I went out,” Mercy said. “I went into the rain and walked over to the bridge. I stood there, thinking about Eva. I thought about never seeing her again. I thought about her going to Shelley and Dylan’s house and I’d never see my baby sister again. I cried and I walked and the rain soaked me but I didn’t care. All I wanted was Eva and me to stay together.”
I walked off the bridge and saw a man sitting on a bench.
I had started crying again, and he smiled gently at me and said, “Are you okay?”
“No,” I said.
He patted the bench beside him.
His voice was nice and I went and sat down beside him. Sure, he was a stranger, but he wasn’t asking me to get into his car. Lizzie and Henry would be busy with Chris and making dinner, but this nice man had time to talk to me.
“Eva,” I said, and told him about what had happened. As I talked, I cried, and he patted me on the back a couple of times, just like Dad used to.
“He told me he could help me,” Mercy said. She looked at me sadly. “Billy, I’m a kidnapper.”
“That’s right,” the man said. “Mercy and Eva have spent the last few years at my place.”
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Call me Mike. I’m planning to let you live, so it’s better you don’t know my real name.”
He left us tied to the chairs and started going through my house. He didn’t say anything until he came to the bathroom.
“What’s this?” he called.
“What?” I asked.
“In the trash. Oh, Mercy, Mercy. What is this little stick?”
Mercy didn’t speak.
“Were you going to tell Billy about this?”
“I was trying to.”
“You know the rules, right?”
She looked at me apologeticaly and said, “If you don’t use protection, you get an infection, and then you face rejection.”
“Wrong,” Mike said. “Who faces rejection?”
“Eva,” she whispered.
“Eva,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I asked. “And besides that, how’d you know Mercy and me were here?”
“I’ll answer your second question first. The little device I’ve always had in the lining of her purse. I didn’t bother listening to most of your conversations, but I heard her knocking on your door and used the GPS signal to locate your house.”
He laughed again.
“Now for your first question. Mercy left a pregnancy test in your trash. A positive one.”
Mike brought me to Mercy’s room and tied me to her bed.
“Mercy and me are leaving,” he said. “You can lie here until you die or somebody finds you. I was planning to knock you out and then leave with her, but you robbed me. Mercy’s no good to me now.”
I listen as Mike continues to go through my house. He finds the painting of Mercy standing on the bridge and tells me I’m a good painter.
Once he’s finished looking around, I hear him take Mercy into the living room.
“Before we go, I want Billy to hear about Eva.”
Mercy’s phone is right there, but I can’t reach it.
I stare at the screen and will it to call the cops, but it doesn’t.
“Eva had coronavirus while you were enjoying yourself here.”
“No!” Mercy says.
“Yes,” Mike says. “So did Maria. For Billy’s information, that’s the illegal Mexican immigrant who sometimes looks after little Eva when her sister is busy.”
“Are they okay?”
“What do you think, Mercy?”
“Maria wasn’t answering my texts. I figured she’d forgotten to charge the fancy phone I bought her, so I didn’t worry too much. I was dealing with a problem somewhere else, so I didn’t worry much until I came home and found the house dark and quiet.”
“I activated the intercomm app and called out ‘hey, is anybody home?’ My message should have resounded throughout the house, and Maria should have opened up, except she didn’t.”
Hey, is anybody home?
Hey. Hey, Siri. Is anybody home?
Mercy showed me her phone a few days ago. I learned how to use Siri, and Mercy let me play around opening apps and stuff.
“Hey Siri,” I whisper, hoping Mike won’t hear me but worried my voice won’t be loud or clear enough.
Siri comes up.
I say “call” and recite Dad’s number, since I have no idea if it works with emergency calls.
On the nightstand, the phone starts to rigng.
“I turned on the video feed, and saw Maria lying on the floor, dead. I also saw Eva.”
“Hello,” Dad says. “Who’s calling?”
“Dad,” I whisper. “It’s me. Please help me.”
“Billy, what? Can you speak up a little?”
“No. Dad, please listen and do what I ask. Call 911 on the landline and put the phones close together so they can hear me.”
“Was she okay?” Mercy asks.
“What’s going on?” Dad asks.
“Call 911 on the landline and put the phone close so they can hear me.”
I listen to Dad’s footsteps, and then I hear him pick up the phone.
Mike speaks just as the 911 operator answers.
“What do you think?”
“What is the emergency?”
“I’m not sure,” Dad says. “My son’s on the phone. I hope you can hear him.”
I say my address as quietly and clearly as I can.
“Help me,” I whisper. “I’m tied up in bed and Mercy’s in danger.”
“Tell me!” Mercy shouts.
“You didn’t talk to me like that when I helped you kidnap your sister.”
“There’s a guy here and he’s got Mercy in the living room.”
“Is he armed?” the operator asks.
“Yes. He has a pistol. Mercy’s pregnant. Please don’t hurt her.”
“The police are on their way. Is anybody hurt?”
“does anybody have coronavirus?”
“Both of us did and have recovered. I don’t know about Mike.”
“Please,” Mercy says. “Please tell me Eva’s okay.”
“I can’t do that,” Mike says. “She might not be. I didn’t go in because there was coronavirus in the house, and I didn’t want to get sick.”
“Please send the cops. I think the back door might be unlocked.”
“The police will be there very soo—”
Mona’s cry explodes from Mercy’s phone.
“I think I’d better go check on Billy.”
Mike runs into the room.
He sees the phone and smiles at me.
He reaches out, taps End Call, and my sister’s cries die.
He reaches into his pocked and pulls out the pistol. He raises it slowly.
“I’m sorry, Mercy,” I say. “I used Siri to call for help, but it’ll be too late by the time the police get here. I love you.”
“FREEZE!” a voice hollers. “POLICE!”
Mike and I both turn to stone, and somebody grabs him from behind and shoves him to the floor.
I listen as a male officer arrests Mike and a female officer talks to Mercy in the living room.
“You have the right to remain silent.”
“I’m Beatrice. Are you hurt?”
“Who is Eva?”
“Do you understand your rights?”
“My little sister.”
“Where is she?”
“She’s dead!” Mike yells. “I told you!”
“Do you understand your rights?”
“If you give me the address,” Beatrice says, “I’ll make sure somebody checks.”
Mike says, “They’ll get coronavirus, just like Maria and Eva!”
Mercy recites an address. I know the street, but not the house.
Beatrice makes a call.
The male officer unties me, tells me his name is Jackson, and then I call Dad.
“Hello?” Dad sounds scared.
“the police are here. I’m just calling to let you know.”
“Your baby distracted him pretty good while we got in,” Jackson says.
“I’ll kill all of you,” Mike says.
“You won’t kill anybody,” Jackson says.
Mercy and me sit in the living room with the two officers who were sent to Mike’s house.
The male officer, whose name is Matthew, says, “Both Maria and Eva are alive. They both have suspected coronavirus and were locked in the house.”
Fara, the female officer, says, “They’ve both been taken to the hospital. You can’t see them, but you can call them.”
“It’s all my fault,” Mercy says.
She tells the two officers what happened when she was eleven.
“You know,” she says, after she describes how she took Eva from her crib and carried her baby sister outside while Lizzie was trying to get things ready for John and also keep track of Chris, “I still remember their last name.”
“Whose?” I ask.
“Shelley and Dylan’s. I also think I know where Lizzie and Henry lived.”
She looks down at the floor.
“I homeschooled Eva with materials Mike gave us. I wanted to go back to school, but he wouldn’t let me. Maria taught us both Spanish. I wish we could go back to when I was eleven and she was a baby and get adopted by the same family.”
She smiles sadly at me.
“Then I’d grow up and we’d have gone to high school together and your parents would like me. Is it all right if I go to the bathroom before you arrest me?”
“We’re not going to arrest you,” Matthew says.
“But I kidnapped a baby, and Mike says kidnapping is a federal crime.”
“Mike is the one we’ll be accusing of kidnapping,” Fara says.
“What’s going to happen to Eva, Maria, and me?”
I pat the couch and say, “You’re all welcome here.”