© Copyright 2011 - Jo - Used by permission
Storycodes: Solo-F; M+/f; capture; gag; tape; net; package; kidnap; transport; nc; X
Jodi was in the trees - literally. Had been for over ten miles. She had taken a short cut. Instead of riding the interstate fifty miles south then seventy northwest the map showed a two-lane state road that cut the corner. With luck she'd be in her hotel room, and more importantly, in a nice hot bath, in an hour instead of three. She relished the thought of calling Steve and giving him a piece of her mind. Imagine sending her to this Godforsaken place on Christmas Eve! Still, Jodi entertained herself with pleasant thoughts of what she'd do with the bonus money he'd promised. A trip south. Definitely a trip south. Someplace warm. Maybe a nice Caribbean cruise.
But now it was just her and the trees. The only sign of life was a sign a couple of miles back. Carson's Christmas Tree Farm, it read. It wasn't lit, but there was a dirt track next to it that looked used, muddy tire tracks on the tarmac. She drove on.
The car lurched, then settled to the left, then came that all too familiar thump thump thump.
Jodi fished her cell from her purse, flipped it open. No signal.
Oh great! Just frickin great!
Ten miles into the shortcut she had ten to go. The exit she'd taken held only a small convenience store with two lonely gas pumps. Better to keep going forward. Maybe there'd be a house around the next bend in the road. But still, what about the tree farm? It was only a couple of miles back and if no one was there she could just turn around. Maybe there'd be a building with a phone that she could break into.
She tucked her keys in one coat pocket, slid her wallet into the other, grabbed her mittens and stepped from the car. The left front tire was flat all right, as if she expected otherwise. Jodi shivered then zipped her long, down coat. It reached the ground and her thick boots reached her knees. She was not a cold-weather person, not at all. She flipped the hood up over her head and cinched the cowl around her face. She wrapped her scarf twice around her head until only her eyes showed. Finally, Jodi tugged on the huge, thick mittens.
Better, much better.
She headed back up the road.
Muddy tracks cut through the snow beneath the sign. She could see no one, no vehicle, no buildings, but she thought she caught a hint of noise, some kind of machinery.
A couple of hundred yards in she crested a hill and there, below her, was a shack. A light shone through the window. There was a truck parked next to some machinery where two men were working beneath a string of bare bulbs. As she drew closer she realized that they were wrapping trees. One man fed the butt end of the tree into a tube of some kind and it came out the other about a quarter of it size, tightly engulfed in plastic mesh. The other man picked up the tree and laid it in the truck bed.
That's odd. It's Christmas Eve. Shouldn't they have delivered all the trees by now?
Pushing the thought aside, she headed down the hill.
They had their backs to her and didn't hear her approach. She noticed that the feeder slid a package of some sort into the branches before shoving the tree into the tube. It took her brain a second to process what she had seen and she had just started to turn when one of the men looked up. They both froze. The second man noticed and now the three of them just stood there.
Jodi cleared her throat. "Uh, hi!. Uh, I wonder if you can help me. I got a flat." She gestured over her shoulder. "A couple of miles back that way. My cell won't work. Do you have a phone I could use?"
The men closed on her. One circled around to the side. Step by step they herded her toward the shack.
"Listen, it's cool. Okay? If I could just use a phone, or maybe one of you could change my tire, that would be great! And I'll get out of your hair."
The first man entered the shack, stuck his head back out the doorway and gestured them forward. The second man gave her a shove and she stumbled up the steps.
A fat man sat at a table. There was packing material, a scale, bags and wrapping material, a roll of duct tape - and a container of white powder.
"You havin' car problems?"
"Uh, yeah, uh, listen, I don't want any trouble-"
"Neither do we...but we seem to have found some."
"No, really, please! It's cool. Really. I, uh, I like to get high myself, sometimes."
"High? What are you talkin' about? Gettin' high? The trees are headed south and we're just includin' a bit of snow. Ya know? Make it kinda festive. Bring a little bit of holiday cheer."
One of the other men snickered.
The fat man pushed himself off the stool and stepped over to her. He reached for her face. Jodi took a step back, but two hands grabbed her arms, held her.
"Let's see what we got here." He yanked down the scarf.
"Hm, not bad. Not great, but not bad."
He tugged the zipper down, pulled her coat open.
"I seen worse. At least she got all the right pieces in the right places, tits are a bit small." Then he laughed. "Hey! check it out. It's Christmas Eve and we got ourselves a gift from Santa Claus!"
The men joined in the laughter.
"Please, please don't do this."
He ignored her. He fished her keys and wallet out of her pockets, flipped open her wallet.
"Jodi Benford, Phoenix," he read. "You're a long way from Phoenix, Jodi, a long, long way from home. What are you doing up here?"
"A client. I'm going to meet a client. He, uh, knows where I am. I called him just before I got he flat. He knows where I am. My phone has GPS."
"Thought you said your cell didn't work," one of the men said.
The fat man laughed. "Nice try, but there ain't no phone service out here, girl." He gestured at the black, push-button phone on the table. "Even the land line is out more'n it's in."
Jodi's teeth were chattering.
"Not a winter person are you, Jodi? Well, that's not a problem." He smiled a crooked smile and winked at the men. "See, we're headed South. An along the way, we'll warm you up."
That brought another snicker.
"Here's the deal. You're comin' with us. I'm not gonna risk turnin' you loose and havin' the troopers on us five miles down the road. Can't leave you here. Carson might come by. So, we're gonna take a trip and when we get where we're goin' we'll turn you loose. No harm, no foul. An along the way, you're gonna provide a little, let's call it Christmas cheer for three lonely bachelors."
That brought a chuckle.
The fat man checked his watch. "Okay, let's get this show on the road. I got, maybe, fifty more. I want us out of here in a hour. I don't expect Carson to come by tonight, but you never know."
"Please! Please let me go. I won't tell anyone. Honest!"
"Well, you got that part right."
He picked up the roll of tape, peeled off a length.
He grabbed Jodi's chin, jammed her mouth shut, and pressed the tape over her lips. He did this again and again until her lower face was covered in a thick layer of tape.
He zipped her coat. "Gonna want you stayin' nice an cozy until we get someplace warm. Might take a coupla days." He wrapped the tape around her chest several times pinning her arms. He added more wraps to her knees and ankles.
"What are we gonna do with her? There ain't no room in the truck, no space behind the seat I mean."
The fat man thought for a moment then snapped his fingers and laughed. "Run her through that gizmo! I want her wrapped real good. Then put her in with the trees. Like you said, there ain't room for us an her in the cab. She can ride with the trees. Got it?"
"Oh, an no names. I plan to turn her loose when we change vehicles. I'm a doper and a thief, but I'm not a killer, but we got too much at stake here. If she knows our names, someone's gonna die."
"Name? You got a name? I didn't know that. I always called you fat man and him shorty an people call me slim."
That brought another chuckle.
Jodi found herself being picked up and hoisted over a shoulder, walked across the lot. and laid on the conveyor. She saw him reach for the big, green button.
God! No! Oh God!
In a flash Jodi shot through the tube. Plastic netting gave under protest to her girth. The machine cinched the ends, sealing her in the mesh. The feeling of being trapped terrified her. Every inch of her body yielded to the powerful squeeze of plastic. Even inside her padded coat she could feel the bite of a thousand strands.
"Run 'er through again."
Oh no. Please! Not again. Please, no.
A moment later she shot through the tube a second time, the ends of the netting cinched, the pressure increased making it hard to breathe.
The man picked her up and laid her in the truck. Jodi watched as they cleared a space in the trees for her. They wedged her in, then piled more trees on top of her.
"Not too many. We don't wanna crush her. Maybe just a couple. We'll pack the rest around her and no one'll ever know she's there."
There was the sound of the machine. The slight jolt as each bundle was tossed into the truck.
And Jodi lay on her back, looking up at the stars, deep in the trees.