Then he almost laughed. Amazing what becomes amusing in these situations. The boniest portion of his left knee scraped against the rusty floor of the trunk as the car clonked over a bump. Crandall was no longer amused.
He blamed the fireman. Or more accurately, the guy posing as a fireman, pretty convincingly too. Outside the kids’ bookstore on Mississippi, the fire engine had pulled up, and the crew were showing the tots all the shiny, immense hardware. Crandall struck up a conversation with the trim, middle-aged fireman (or fireman poseur), whose chiseled face and sandy pompadour sure said fireman to Crandall. And all was well, until Crandall noticed an unmistakable stoning up of the fireman’s face as he glanced over Crandall’s right shoulder. Crandall himself turned just in time to see the tail end of a light blue Chevy out of the corner of his eye. At least he thought that’s what it was. Older, boxy. He didn’t get a good look; it was already cruising on its way south by the time he wheeled around.
Crandall thought little of it. He wrapped up with the fireman-ish person and found Camilla, who was by the curb chatting up a three-year-old and taking phone pictures, two activities that made her smile.
And that was about the last thing he remembered until he woke up in the dark in this moving box, knees folded towards his chest at an agonizing angle, head throbbing. His instincts told him he was in the back of the Chevy he had partially seen, that the fireman wasn’t a fireman, and that he, Crandall, now had a big fire to put out. That all rose to the level of annoyance. But he also realized he had no idea what had happened to Camilla after he had been tossed into the boot, and that fact tightened his chest muscles in a very uncomfortable way.
He blew out a deep breath and took stock. The car was going very fast, and it was loud in the trunk. It had to be an older car, Crandall figured, because there was no glow-in-the-dark release handle to pull, the kind they put in modern cars in case a kid locks himself in. And there was a spare tire, a big one. Crandall knew this because it was wedged against the back of his head, very near the bump that had arisen from whatever the thug du jour had used to pummel him.
His arms were folded too, and he felt like a pretzel. He took a couple breaths of the rusty air and thought, trying to stay calm. No telling when they would stop. Or where. He could not hear anything being said in the car; he wasn’t even sure if there was someone other than the driver.
There was one bright spot: nothing bound his hands. Clearly, on the side street where he had been thumped and thrown in the car, there was enough possibility of being discovered to make his assailant hurriedly shove him into the trunk without zip-tying his wrists. But Camilla…
He thought some more, trying not to get frantic. Moving his arms to release some of the tension, he found he could extend them a bit. His hands bumped the left rear wheel well, and the knuckle impact made a brittle sound.
A brittle sound. Hm.
Crandall arched his neck back, trying to look and extend his arms more. He began to poke with his first two knuckles. Hard steel there. And there. Not as hard there. And then…flaky. Flaky like metal pastry. He pushed his knuckles harder into the wheel well wall.
They went through.
Crandall gasped. A rush of cold air and a tiny shaft of light came into the trunk; he drank the air despite its rubbery smell. The wheel, obviously, was very close. He listened to the now-louder highway whine.
It took about fifteen minutes, but soon Crandall had a hole in the rusty wheel well about the size of a golf ball. Whatever debris there had been had fallen out unnoticed by the driver. Now, to make some use….
Crandall re-curled himself, shoving his hands between his knees. He felt around with his fingers, under the spare tire. And sure enough, there it was: a good, old-fashioned tire iron, a rod of steel with a flanged end. That would do. Just needed some luck now.
He wasn’t sure it would ever come. The car drove on, never changing speed appreciably — it must be highway. Crandall may have even fallen asleep for awhile. When the light had stopped coming in the hole for a good while, he suddenly felt the car slow and drift right. An exit ramp?
Indeed, it did stop shortly after, and in the absence of road noise, Crandall could listen. One door. Two. Slam, slam. Voices receding; couldn’t make out what they were saying among sounds that suggested a truck stop. Bite to eat or pit stop? Either way, Crandall decided to work fast.
Sliding the flanged end of the tire iron through the whole he had made, Crandall shifted it around until he felt like he had lodged it in the rubber of the tire, but against the inside rim. Careful not to let the end move, he shifted himself in the trunk to get as much leverage as he could. With great effort — and the knowledge that this would earn him a serious neck kink — he pushed the bolt-driver end of the tire iron as hard as he could.
Please, please, please let them have parked out of sight. The car rocked slightly with his effort. But soon, the end gave a little, and there was a “pop,” the sound of which was likely lost in the noise of truck air brakes and country music on outdoor loudspeakers.
Crandall felt the left rear end of the car settle. Good. Real good. He then pulled in the tire iron, gripped it in both hands, set his jaw, and waited. — Adam Barr
Copyright 2011 Adam Barr