He set up a lit candle on the kitchen table, closed the doors in and out of the kitchen, and loosened the propane connection to the stove until he heard the hiss of escaping gas. Picking up Kathy’s stack of files, he and Shadow ran to the barn. He remembered a kerosene lantern sitting near the trap door and broke it near a stack of boxes and old lumber. Giving the kerosene a minute to spread, he threw a match into the oil and ran out the door, leaving it open to create a draft to feed the fire. Jack and Shadow joined Kathy and Jody in the crowded Cherokee and said, “Go!” By the time they were almost out of sight, Jack saw the kitchen blow. He and Kathy exchanged looks and Kathy gave him a thumbs up.
When Lou dropped the Brandons and their newest houseguest off, Kelly and Sally had not yet arrived. Jack helped Jody in the house, while Kathy ran ahead with Shadow to arrange a room for Jody and to alert the Minhs a new guest with special needs was arriving. Kathy and Mrs. Minh helped Jody to her room on the main floor. Kathy helped her undress and get into the bath Mrs. Minh had run for her. When Mrs. Minh saw her naked body, she gasped and said, “It has been many years since I have seen anyone like this. Only a prison or a famine can do this. I will bring Jody a tray. To eat too much too soon will make her sick. First soups, tea, and a little rice.”
Jody settled in the tub and started to cry. “This feels so good. I dreamed about this moment. Getting clean, food available, and good people around me. I’ll get better as fast as I can. I don’t want to be a burden.”
“Not a problem, and no need to force things. Tell me, does any one know you were missing?” Kathy asked.
“Not really. My parents died years ago. I have no siblings. A few friends but I doubt anyone is looking for me or reported me missing.”
“How did those terrible people get you?”
“I was taking some classes at the University of Richmond at nights and working as a fitness instructor at a local health club. People like me come and go at jobs like that. They were probably upset that I gave no notice. Nothing beyond that.”
“Keep talking and I’ll give you the first shampoo you’ve had in a while. How did they grab you and when?”
Jody started talking and the door eased open. Kathy thought it was Mrs. Minh. Instead Gideon pushed into the room. Jody smiled and said “who are you?” Gideon stuck his head over the edge of the tub and licked Jody’s shoulder. She started to cry again. “Even the dogs are kind here. What is he?”
“You’re looking at a six-month-old Bouvier des Flandres. To know them is to love them. The big dog that was with us and found you is also a Bouvier. He found the pit under the barn floor and he has saved our lives more than once. I trust that dog more I could ever tell you. But go on with your story, at least part of it. We can talk in more detail later. Being a fitness instructor you know what you need. Rest, nourishment, exercise, and time. I don’t know about the mental part. An experience like you had leaves scars, unseen scars. So for now just the facts.”
“I was taken on my way to talk to my course advisor at the university. It was on the 15th of April.”
“My God, girl! You been a captive for more than six weeks. What do you remember about the kidnapping itself?”
“I parked in the student section of the parking lot, used by most night school students. On the way back to my car two men came up quickly, one on either side. I was startled but felt I could fight my way out. I hit the man on my left a hard blow to the throat. Then I felt a sharp pain in my left upper arm. I tried to keep fighting but lost strength and the ability to coordinate my actions. My last memory is losing consciousness and starting to fall. When I woke up I was in that damned pit in the barn.”
“That’s enough for now. Soak as long as you want. Push the call button when you want out. I’ll come and help you. Your hair looks a lot better. You are a blonde. Mrs. Minh will bring a tray down when you get in bed. Don’t worry. She loves taking care of Jack’s friends. She’s worked with his family as a house staff and friend for forty plus years. Please do not try to get out of the tub by yourself. At any time if you feel sick call someone. The intercom is always manned. Bye, see you tomorrow morning. Call anytime for anything. Jack and I are just down the hall.”
“Thank you. I’ll be your friend for life. Where did your husband come from? He’s wonderful. When he was holding me in that terrible cellar I felt safe for the first time since I was kidnapped. Is he some kind of a super hero?”
“I think so. But, he’s too humble to play the super hero role.”