Jessica’s Friend

At first, Jess thought the tiny white things floating down from somewhere above her head were dust motes, but then she realized her mistake. They were spiders. Baby spiders, newly hatched and drifting down to settle in her hair. She would have frantically brushed them away while leaping up to take a shower, really piling on the shampoo in order to make sure all the disgusting little things were gone, but she couldn’t.  She couldn’t move.  Except for her eyes—she could move them a little bit, enough to know she was in deep trouble.

She’d had a stroke … she knew that much.  She recalled her boyfriend telling her so, the man she’d met online at, whom her mother was so ecstatic about because he was ohmygoshadoctor! If her mother saw her now, she wouldn’t be so approving of young David Matthew Burnley, M.D. who, along with being handsome and single, was completely insane.

“Can you hear me, Jess? Nod if you can,” she remembered David saying, bending over her where she sat in the leather chair by the front window in his condo, unable to move, not even to wiggle her toes or twitch her fingers. She tried to blink, but nothing happened. Inside her head, she was screaming Help me! Get me to a hospital! Don’t just stand there looking at me with your eyes narrowed like that!

“You know, Jess,” David said, conversationally, “I think I know what’s wrong. You told me you wanted to take a break from our relationship, maybe see other people, and God punished you by giving you a stroke.”  He straightened up and folded his arms across his Turnbull & Asser custom-made shirt.  “Good thing I’m a doctor and know how to take care of you.”

David’s version of taking care of her involved slinging her over his shoulder and carrying her out through the kitchen and into the garage, where he dumped her in the back of his SUV.  He drove, not to a hospital as she’d been praying he would, but to this place, which seemed to be some sort of abandoned building.  That was days ago—Jess didn’t know how many.  David came and went, returning periodically to check on her.

“You’ve got locked-in syndrome.  I put a tube in your nose that goes down into your stomach … that’s how I’m feeding you,” he told her, doing something she couldn’t see, off to her left.  She heard rustling and felt something cold slide down the back of her throat.  David continued, “If you’re worried about peeing yourself, don’t be.  I’ve got that covered with a catheter.  The other business is messier. I put disposable diapers on you, wasn’t that considerate of me?  Pee-yew! You really stink!”

Jess wanted to yell, to kick him, punch him, anything, but she couldn’t move.  David put moisturizing drops in her eyes while gently brushing Jess’s hair from her face.  “Let’s put some lipstick on,” he said, taking a tube of red lipstick from his pants’ pocket and smearing it across her mouth, making a grotesque smile.  “There you go! Happy smile!  I say you’re never fully dressed without a smile, am I right?”

He left after that, and Jess was alone, except for her friend, who came out from a hole in the skirting board when the room was quiet again.

She’d gotten used to her friend.  He watched her from the corner of the room with unblinking black eyes.  She wished he could talk, or go for help, but he couldn’t.  At least he was company.

The next time David returned, he had a card from her mother, and her cell phone.  Holding up the phone in its Wonder Woman case so she could see it, he said, “I just texted your mom.  She sent you a greeting card with a cat on it.  I’ve been going to your apartment and collecting the mail.  It wouldn’t do to have it piling up—the letter carrier might get suspicious and call the police.  We can’t have that.”  He put more drops in her eyes, as Jess waited, feeling panicked.  What had he told her mom?

As if he’d read her mind, David smirked, and said, “I told her—writing as you, of course—that I was feeling kind of down. Your boyfriend the doctor is busy with his work, and you suspect he’s no longer into you. You’re feeling like life is meaningless … get my drift?”

Jess did.  He was making it look like she was going to commit suicide.  He was going to kill her—possibly by leaving her here to starve to death—then get rid of her body by burying it somewhere in the woods.  The perfect crime.  No one would suspect nice Dr. Burnley.

David was so pleased by his cleverness that he did a little dance, a sort of boot scootin’ boogie.  He backed into the corner and bumped against the wall, causing Jess’s friend to shoot out and latch onto his leg, about six inches above his polished John Lobb loafer.

“Snake! Oh, God! Snake!” he screamed hysterically, shaking his leg.  The snake, a timber rattler, wasn’t happy being whipped into the air, and bit him twice more before zipping back into its hole.

David scrambled across the floor and picked up the phone from where it had fallen. He hurriedly pressed 9-1-1. “Snakebite! Help! You have to send help!” he blurted, before clutching his chest and toppling over.

Jess suspected he’d had a heart attack.  Hopefully a fatal one, the kind they called a widow-maker. She hoped they’d be able to trace the call and send an ambulance.  She also hoped it would take a while to find the exact location. She could hang on, but with a heart attack, every minute counted.  She said a silent thank you to her friend and waited.