The man in the overcoat walked conservatively to the basement window, as the sounds of raindrops tapped against it. A storm was coming. He pulled his collar high up to his nose giving himself a more mysterious appearance, and walked back to the only light source in the basement. It was a small lamp that sat on the corner of a table in the middle of the room. The mist from his breath was strong evidence of his methodical breathing. He could almost taste the moist carpet smell, from the wet floor under his feet. Sitting down at the chair next to the table, he picked up an old tape recorder. It played outdated cassette tapes. The man held the tape recorder up looking at the screen; and how its lamented film reflected the light. He stared at a corner in the room, blanketed by a shadow
"What do we have here?" he said, in a low whisper. Muffled sounds of constraint came from the corner. There was another person in the room, tied to a chair. The person in the chair tried to motion a sign to the man in the overcoat that he shouldn't listen to the tape recorder. He flirted with the idea. He thought about burning it and throwing it away; he was afraid of its content. The man in the overcoat knew once he started there was no going back. He pressed the play button anyway. Static and buzzing noises came out of the tape recorder, at first. It sounded like an analog radio, trying to tune into to a station. Then a distinct sound. A woman's voice.
A long sigh was made. It sounded like a woman trying to gather herself.
My name is Joanna Smith... “sniff”. Today is June 7th of 2012. I am 36 years, and I have a message that I need to tell. If you are listening to this now, then I am already dead, and hopefully in a better place than the world I made for myself. The main reason why I am making this; is to prevent anyone from making a mistake that I did. And secondly, I hope that someone smart enough will find this tape recorder, and lock up the monster that killed me. Who happens to be the man I married.
The day I met him, he was so different. I wish he would have stayed that way, but I guess I never saw who he really was. I'm getting upset just thinking about it. I am a strong educated woman, and he saw right through me. He knew exactly what I wanted, and gave me the fantasy I dreamed about.
I met him at a coffee shop right next to the forest preserve, Starbucks coffee. I wanted a break from the office; I wanted to get away from all the paper work that came piling in. So I went to get myself a nice cup of coffee, then I was going to go for a little stroll, to clear my head. All my life I have worked so hard to get through school; and I finally did, quite quickly too. An unsocial life was the price I paid; all my friends I made through school were only for my benefit. My friendships were held together by strands of convenience, and once the convenience went away, they fell apart with them. I would be lying if I said, I didn't see that coming. At first I thought this was more beneficial, but then I slowly started to notice a gap inside of me. This hole in my heart. I wanted more; I started to want a family, a little girl I could spend time teaching her life lessons, as I combed her hair in the mirror. I guess I did get want I wanted.
When I saw him there, standing in front of me in line. He was a tall man, I saw him talking to the girl at the counter in the coffee shop. She was laughing at whatever he was saying. He smiled at her, and she smiled back. I wanted him then. He was so confident the way he talked, he knew exactly what he wanted. He turned around after he was done purchasing his coffee. When he faced me, I quickly glanced away, trying to pretend like I wasn't a little mosquito flirting with a blue light. He must have known what I was doing. He took a couple of purposeful strides in my direction. Watching him peripherally, my eyes grew wide. He was walking right towards me, I tried my hardest not to look like a girl with a high school crush.
"Hey, are you working for FLC?" he asked me.
"Um, why yes, how do you know?" I replied back.
"I saw you walking from one of the business meetings. I'm sorry my name is Jacob Ramsey" he said, while sticking he hand to greet me. As I was shaking his hand, I couldn't help but notice he smelled like the same brand of after shave my father wore. It kind of brought me back home. The suite he was wearing made me never questioned if he was a business man or not. The way he greeted must have been from one of his sales pitches. I was sold. This was the first time I ever looked at his face, his smile was so warm. Even if I didn't want to, I couldn't help but smile back. I started to panic. How long have I been staring at him without replying? I thought.
"Ugh, I'm so sorry, I'm Joanna Smith, I can't help it. I came here to get my mind off work. I'm sorry if I seem a little frazzled" I said. And yep, I said frazzled, I felt so stupid for saying it, but it was the only word that came out. I was panicking.
"Yea, I'm a little out of my head too, you should come and sit down with me. I'm on a little break myself. I promise I won't mention anything work related unless you do," he said. It didn't seem harmful.
"Yea, sure," I said, trying my hardest not to sound desperate.
I can't tell you how long we sat there. And I can't remember a time when I laughed so hard. It felt like everything that came out of Jacob's mouth was funnier than the last thing he said. I was more nervous than anything, and my nervousness caused me to laugh harder than usual. I didn't have a problem with that. It's been awhile since I laughed that hard. We exchanged numbers of course. My company at the time was helping his get their feet off the ground. We rarely saw each other at work, and when we did we both didn't act like we knew each other, except for the occasional wink he would send my way. Once his company was up and running that was the last time I saw him at work. We saw each other for another four months, he would show up to my work with flowers, and the thoughtful cards on days like valentine’s day, and some days would show up for no reason at all. Those days were my favorite.
He would tell me things like, "We have so much in common,” Or "I could never live with someone else beside you, anything else would be settling". Then he finally said it. The "L" word. He looked at me with such intense eyes; when it rolled off his lips so eloquently. I didn't say anything, at first. I sat there closed my eyes and let it sink in. I haven't heard that word directed toward me since my mother was alive. It felt too good to hear it again. The word held so much weight when he said it. It nearly knocked me off my feet. Then I said it back. It was hard for me to say the word, but I needed to let him know that I cared for him.
After the meeting in the coffee shop, we got married six months later. Then six months after that I took maternity leave from work. It was a baby girl. I can’t tell you how many times I thanked God for her. She was so beautiful. She looked just like me, except for one thing. One thing she took from Jacob. His eyes. Her eyes were so much more beautiful than mine. Two little "blue lagoons," I would call them. They were so full of life. When I was feeding her, I would catch myself just lost in them. She was so gorgeous. I named her Elizabeth.
After Liz was born, Jacob lost his job, or got laid off. I don't know if he actually worked for that company at all. He just stayed at the house, sitting in the four season room reading magazines all day. He started to change. Jacob was becoming something different, a person I didn’t know. I had to start going back to work. We weren't getting any sort of income. But what really started to scare me about Jacob was, he never looked at Elizabeth. Not once. She was inside her car seat in the house. I was trying to grab a couple of things before I put her into the car, and Liz started to cry horrifically. I watched Jacob eating a bowl of cereal right next to her.
"SHUT UP!" he yelled at her. I couldn't believe it. She just wanted somebody to hold her. He wouldn't even do that. Something was wrong with Jacob. So, I hired Raine Meyer as a baby sitter for when I went to work. I asked her what she thought of Jacob.
"He's really creepy, I don't know how long I can do this. He just really creeps me out," She said. But she stayed with her until she was in pre-school. I asked Jacob If he would take her to pre-school since he was just sitting around the house.
"No, I starting an online website with one of my buddies, I'm going to be a stay at home dad," Jacob said.
It wasn't till this year, when Liz was starting the first grade, when I asked Jacob to leave the house. I couldn't live like this anymore. I didn't want Liz growing up and figure out who her dad really is. He was sitting in his chair when I asked him.
"Jacob, you need to leave the house," I told him. He just sat there and acted like he didn't notice me at first.
"Jacob, If you don't leave the house I'll call.... I'm going to call somebody" I restated. He was sitting in the chair facing the other way. He carefully got up and turned to look at me.
"You don't mean that sweaty?" he said, while squinting his eyes, trying his best to look sincere. He did look sincere, but I have lived with him too long. I knew what he really wanted. I couldn't believe how long I let him live off me like this. I lost everything I felt for him finally. I didn't need a formal break-up. I wanted him to disappear.
"Baby c'mon, where am I going to go, you can't just kick me out like this," He stated, at the end of the statement a lump started to develop in his throat. His bottom lip fluttered, holding back his coming tears. I knew what kind of tears he was making, not the genuine kind. He was so good at making himself seem authentic. I am still amazed at what he can do to people. I just stood there and stared at him, waiting for his next move. He stood up, and started walking towards the hallway.
"Joanna please don't do this to me, I'm your husband" he said.
"I don't want you to be my husband anymore, please just leave, and never come back.... please just leave Jacob," I told him.
"Joa...," he started to cry. His eyes were filled with tears. The crying got even louder when he was standing next to the hallway toward the bedrooms. I walked towards my cell phone. I was about to call 911. Then Liz walked out of her room. She hugged Jacob around his knees
"Mommy! don't make Daddy leave!" she cried out. I dropped my cell on the floor. The glass on it shattered. My heart stopped. I couldn't believe he was using Elizabeth. I was done after that, I wanted to kill him. I've never wanted to even harm anybody before.
I couldn't tell Elizabeth what was going on. So I let him stay. The same night I asked him to leave; I was sleeping in my bedroom, after I drowned myself in tears. I was half awake when I heard the slight screeches from the door hinges to my room. I looked up, and there he was. I was out cold before I knew it. He knocked me out with a bat, and dragged me down to the basement. It is so cold down here. He sent Liz with the baby sitter for the next couple of days. I have been sitting down here waiting ever since. It's been two days, I have no idea what he is planning for me, but I don't believe he wants to keep me alive. That is why I am making this recording. If I live through this, I will destroy this audio record; but if you are listening to this now then I was not able to stay alive. One last final thought before I end this, please lock up Jacob Ramsey, and prevent him from doing what he did to me, from anyone else...
Static, and buzzing noises started to play on the tape recorder.
The man in the overcoat was still sitting at same table. He paused for a moment, to gather himself. Then he walked over to the person in the corner, who was still muffling. He pulled the bag off the person's head. Sandy unkempt locks of hair fell down on to her shoulders.
“So, Joanna. You think I'm going to kill you?" Jacob said, while leaning down to her head level. All Joanna could make were muffling sounds, because of the duck tape that sealed her lips. Jacob wanted to hear what she had to say. So he grabbed one side of the tape, and began to slowly peel it from one side to the other. She was so weak, salt marks lined vertically from her eyes. Joanna was so dehydrated her body couldn’t cry anymore.
“Jaco… Jacob, please. Stop doing this,” she pleaded
“Please! You’re the one that did this to us!” Jacob replied. He slapped her across the face, knocking her and the chair on its side. The chair busted, but Joanna did her best not to let Jacob know what happened.
A sound echoed from the front door on the main floor. Jacob quickly turned around to face the stairs. His eyes widened, as the anxiety in him started to increase. Foot steps from the floor above made their way across the basement ceiling. Two sets of footsteps, one was more like quiet shuffling.
"Mommy!" it was Liz's voice. She came back with her Raine to check to see if they got back from "vacation". That’s what Jacob told them anyway. After hearing the familiar voice, Jacob's eyes started to squint. Then his memorable smile started to split his face. Jacob walked up the stairs slowly, making sure every step was unheard.
"Hey Jacob, how was your little vacation?" Raine asked. Jacob didn't reply. He just looked at the both of them, and started to grab for little Liz. Then a bat collided on the back of Jacob’s head. He fell unconsciously to the floor; and Joanna came into view behind him, holding baseball bat in both hands. She gave the swing everything she had, everything. The swing exhausted all of Joanna’s energy. She Fell to the floor, and collapsed.