Jacob had never been so scared in his entire life.
The girl had been unable to say anything – both of them had duct tape over their mouths, and their hands were tied tight behind them – but she had gazed into his eyes so steadily that he had been able to calm down, and to believe that maybe there was a way out of this.
He had never seen the men before, or their van. He didn’t understand why they had grabbed him. He had tried to get away, but they were so much bigger than him, and no one was anywhere around to hear him screaming.
But once they had tossed him into the van, he saw the girl there – she was a grown-up girl. She was tied up too, and her face was white like a ghost, but she kept looking at him and she didn’t seem scared, at least not as scared as he was.
The men were driving the van and weren’t looking into the back where Jacob and the girl were. The girl began looking toward the back doors of the van and then back at Jacob. He realized she was telling him that they could get out those doors. How? he wondered. We can’t move very fast. They’ll see us moving.
But the girl was bigger than him – taller. Her longer legs swung out all of a sudden and kicked at the back doors. On the second kick, her foot hit the paddle that released the doors, and they swung open.
The man driving the van slammed on the brakes, and the van slowed nearly to a stop. The girl pivoted back on one hip, hooked one leg around Jacob, and pulled him toward her. She wrapped both legs around him then, and rolled with him to the back of the van. Jacob panicked for a moment when she rolled over the top of him, because it pushed all of the air out of his lungs, but he clamped his ankles around hers and tried to roll with her.
They tumbled out of the back of the van, and the girl scrambled to her feet. “Nnnggh!” she cried out, her voice muffled by the layers of tape. Her head was bobbing forward, and Jacob understood that she wanted him to run away.
The men had jumped out of the van.
“Ggunnggggh!” the girl screamed through the tape. Jacob burst into tears and began running as fast as his legs would carry him. Behind him, he heard the girl’s muffled voice screaming; he didn’t hear her running behind him.
The van doors slammed, and Jacob heard it drive away. He wanted to look behind him, to see where the van was, or where the men were, or where the girl was. But he just kept running, until he couldn’t drag enough air in and out of his nose to keep him going. He collapsed onto grass, and cried, and tried and wriggle his wrists out of the restraints.
He heard more doors slamming, and for a horrible second he thought the van had found him. But it was other people – good people – coming to help him.
A woman knelt down beside him and began tugging at the cords around his wrists. “It’s okay,” the woman kept saying. She pulled the tape away from his mouth. “What happened?” she asked him but didn’t wait for him to answer. “It’s okay. It’ll be okay.”
“The girl!” he cried when he had caught his breath. “They still have the girl!” He began sobbing. “She saved me! We have to get her!” He repeated this over and over, giving few other details, until police and an ambulance arrived, and bundled him off to the hospital.
“What’s your name, sweetheart?” a policewoman asked him, pushing his hair gently away from his face. “Do you know your family’s phone number?”
“Jacob,” he said, still crying. “We have to get the girl! They still have the girl!”
He wouldn’t let them forget about her. He wouldn’t forget about her.