The Ramada Plaza Hotel of north Columbus, closed in 2015

I’d heard the rumors. Some of the guys on the force think it’s funny to try to scare the female officers. But, I would say, after seventeen years of experience, women police are far more difficult to rattle than male.

We probably have more fears than our male counterparts, but we simply cannot show them.

Dan was trying to bait me, no doubt. Our afternoon assignment was to clear out the squatters in the abandoned Ramada Plaza hotel. The property owners had security, but once a month, they’d ask for a sweep. And we drew the short straw that day.

“Patterson, code 4.”

The hotel was supposed to be on a low-use power setting, operating hallway lights, exit signs and the fire system 24/7. But even this seemed to be faulty, as I exited the 2nd floor and jogged down the steps in the dark, my feet spotlighted by my Maglite.

“Please answer me.”

My ears rang with the bang of the door behind me as I exited the stairwell and jogged over the matted, thick carpet between peeling wallpaper and doors marked with large, gold plated numbers in the one hundreds. My whispered pleas where only met by the squelching of the carpet beneath my shoes.

“Officer Patterson, please respond.”

The crackle from the two way echoed through the first floor hallway. No power on this floor either. I stopped and started to close my eyes. But the silence around me begged for my full attention.

He’d said we should stick together, but I wanted to get in and out and had felt the vile, moldy stench infecting my uniform before we were even inside. No one in their right mind would sleep here, breathing normally was impossible.

I thought we’d be out in fifteen, so I’d decided to split up.

But as I had kicked around crack pipes and used condoms in my twentieth empty room, there was a laugh through the two way, a gasp and a sigh. Then, complete silence.

Half an hour later, I wished I’d listened to his sorry, lazy ass.

“Dan, please. If this is a prank, it’s over. I’m calling for back up.”

I stood at the front of the damp, putrid lobby, praying for his laugh to bark through the speaker at my shoulder.

But the only sound I heard was my own breath. And the pop of electricity as the lobby, too, went black.

Reeling into the daylight felt like being born. The front door swung open so easily, I half expected to find Dan standing by the cruiser, eating one of those God awful protein bars his vegan wife makes for him.

But the car was empty.

I fought back tears as I sat in the drivers seat. Pressing insubstantial buttons on the laptop screen, stomach acid rising in my throat and my skin itching with some combination of the late summer heat and the layer of mold spores that must be invading every pore. I could not give myself the opportunity to second guess. It had been nearly an hour.

“Better not be fucking with me.”

I cleared my throat and took a deep breath, closing my eyes to the setting sun glaring across the windshield.

“Tango Echo, officer needs assistance at 4900 Sinclair.”

I waited, an odd light grabbing my attention from behind the glass inside. Green and hollow, like a hot air balloon, but as it grows brighter, I’m fascinated by it. I stand and move toward the door, the dispatcher’s voice chirping over the call, asking me to repeat. The sun seems to be setting too fast.

Stopped, halfway to the door, I felt the ground beneath my feet shudder. The vibration was electric in it’s intensity, invading my skin, penetrating my tissues right through to my veins and nerves.

My vision swam, the light changed, became all I could see.

It is twenty three steps to the door.

I know this because I fought my own feet for 22 of them.

I heard the sirens blaring up the highway that zoomed across the back of the hotel. My puppeteer maneuvered my body as though I truly was held up by strings. I couldn’t stop staring at the light. I wanted to be in it. Under it.

I needed to.

When I found him, in the center of the basement, the light pouring from his pores, I understood why.

But by then, it was too late.





Forest by gazo via
Forest by gazo via

Out of breath, arms braced against a tree, I raise a hand to cover my mouth. To silence myself.

The night air nips at my skin and the ground bites at my bare feet beneath me. The silence and stillness of the leaves and branches around me makes it nearly impossible to hide.

The snap of a twig sends my heart into my throat, but I dig into the bark with my fingertips to keep myself from bolting. I turn my body slowly toward the noise and peak around the tree. I don’t see him, so I shift around the other way, careful not to make a single sound while I listen intently.

I tiptoe from one tree to the next, trying to find the edge of the treeline. I don’t know these woods, but I know there is an edge and I know the clearing well. I push myself in one direction. If I can find the meadow… If I could just find the meadow…

There’s a rustle from forty feet away, but this time, I don’t wait to try and see him. I run.

I run faster than I thought I could, fast enough that I almost don’t feel the scrapes from wood and stone or the slippery slime of rotted foliage decaying on the forest floor.

I turn to look behind me and slip on a root, but collect myself quickly and continue forward, ignoring the burning sensation and warm wetness trickling from my knee. My lungs burn from the effort to escape and I eventually have to surrender to my body’s need for rest at the base of a steep hill. There is an opening in the trees at the top of it, and I wonder if that is the clearing.

I work to catch my breath as I slowly make my way around the bottom, looking for a path up that isn’t so steep. And just as I find it, he finds me.

I clamber upward, racing against his much longer strides. His fingers circle my ankle at one point, but the blood from my knee must have made me slippery, because he loses his grip. I worry for a moment about the wound, but force myself to climb faster, and then run harder.

I can see the field. I have to get there. I trip on a rock and as I right myself, his hand is in my hair.

I fight him with all my might. I can make it. I just have to get away. But all too quickly, I feel my wrists trapped in his hand and he’s pushing me back, against a tree, and stuffing something in my mouth to muffle any sound I might be able to make. It wouldn’t matter, because I’m miles from anyone who might hear me at this hour.

I keep my eyes closed, continuing the fight until my wrists are cuffed behind me, around the base of a smooth, tall beech tree. His fingers wrap around my throat.

“Open your eyes.”

I look up to find his dark gaze running the length of me. Up and down. Up and down.

A giggle bubbles up from my chest, unbidden.

“You almost made it, didn’t you.”

I swallow and pull at the chain locking my wrists behind me.

“Hurt yourself though.”

He tuts, letting his hand fall from my neck, and glide down my front, unbuttoning my dress slowly and pressing his fingers into my skin between each one. I shiver and look out into the clearing, silently cursing my clumsy feet.

He kneels and pulls a handkerchief from his back pocket, and brings it to his lips. I watch him wet the surface with his tongue, then wipe away the streaks of red from my ankle and shin. I swallow again as he lifts the hem of my skirt up and away from my knee, holding it lightly between my thighs. He looks up as he presses the cloth against my knee and pushes his thumb upward, beyond the fabric of my dress.

He tugs my feet apart, despite my efforts to shut him out, and slips his thumb along my moist, shaved flesh. The ball of his thumb finds what it was searching for and works around and against me with a knowing that is simply unfair. Imprisoned by his bonds and my own flesh, I try desperately to block out the sensation, to evade his beautiful brand of torture.

But it’s wasted effort.

My jaw aches from clenching my teeth together around the makeshift gag, but soon, my sighs turn to moans and he reaches up to pluck my panties from my mouth.

“But… I didn’t win…”
“I know you didn’t baby girl.”
“The rules… I had to make it to the clearing… I’m supposed to be giving you a reward.”

His dark eyes meet mine as he pushes me beyond the edges of reason.

I smile as he stands and brings his lips to mine, his breath tickling me before he lets out a low, feral growl.

“Oh, believe me baby girl. You ARE my reward.”

His fingers dive deep inside me and his hand closes around my throat, once again.

“And I’m just getting started.”