Don Niederfrank


Man and Woman (Kidnap) by Ilka Gedő

It’s not my rug. None of the rugs in his apartment were this soft. None this color. The left side of his head throbbed mercilessly, the side away from the soft rug. It’s a pretty shade of green though… Teal.

His right eye was open. He tried to open his left eye. It wouldn’t. He brought his hand up to the eye.

“He’s moving.” A familiar woman’s voice.

“He’s not going anywhere.” An unfamiliar man’s voice.

He felt his eyelid. It was swollen. He touched the side of his face. Everywhere was tender and painful. He swallowed. Even that made the side of his head hurt.

“Where am I?” he whispered.

“Fifty-four Fifty-six South Cornell,” The man said.

He lived in Hyde Park, but not on Cornell. He rolled over on his back. He could see a man sitting on a cocoa suede couch. “What happened? Who are you?”

The woman spoke from behind him. “I’m your keeper. I am your shade on your right hand. Only I have smote you by day on the left.”

Psalm 121? He turned his head. He recognized her. He met her last night in a bar. She spent the night with him. She sat on a straight-backed chair at a small dining room table. A brunette in her thirties. A little under average height but very strong he remembered. He had been impressed with her strength. She was still wearing the green plaid flannel shirt and tight black jeans.

“You hit me?” He felt his face again. “Jesus, what did you hit me with?”

“Your cast iron skillet. I think it was a twelve-inch Lodge. Nice heft to it. I have one just like it.” Her voice was calm, matter-of-fact.

Al rolled over on his stomach and put his palms on the soft rug.

“Don’t get up,” the man said. “Just lay there, so we don’t have to do anything else to you.”

“I need a doctor. I think you fractured my skull.” He rolled onto his back. The ceiling rotated slowly. He closed his eyes.

“I may have. I broke your cheek bone and one or two around your eye. You certainly have a concussion.”

“I need a doctor,” he insisted. “A hospital.”

“I am a doctor,” the woman said. “That’s why I knew how to hit you.”

A wave of nausea flowed up from his stomach. He turned his head and vomited on the rug. Oh, God, my head hurts. He squinted at the yellow-brownish liquid. Well, that’s unfortunate. He rolled away from the vomit and pushed himself to a sitting position.

“Hey, hey. Don’t get up I said.”

“I’m not. I need to sit. Tell me what’s going on.”

“You know something someone needs to know,” the man said.

His head throbbed in sync with his heartbeat. “What do you want to know?” He turned to the woman. “You could have just asked.”

She pulled a pack of cigarettes from a large Louis Vuitton bag on the floor next to her. “You want one?” She offered him the pack.

“No. What do you want to know?” A doctor who smokes? He touched his cheek again and tried to pull the swollen flesh away from his eye.

She exhaled smoke through her nose. “We don’t want to know anything. Someone else does. We were told to bring you here.”

“You could have just asked me to come with.”

She blew smoke in his face. “This was more fun.”

“If you’re a doctor, can I have something for my head. I’m in real pain here.”

She laid her cigarette on a white saucer and leaned near him. “Let me see what I can do.”

She brought her hand close to his face and gently brushed the swelling beneath his eye. “I’ll bet that hurts.”

He watched her curl her middle finger and then grasp it with her thumb. Before he could move, she flicked her finger hard against his face.

“Ow! Fuck!” He leaned away from her. His right eye teared, and he wiped at it with his sleeve.

She sat back and took a drag off her cigarette. “Took your mind off your headache, didn’t it?” She grinned.

The door opened and a tall red-haired man wearing an expensive light grey suit stepped inside. He nodded at the man on the couch. “Jake. Been awhile.”

“Good to see you, Ansel,” Jake said.

Ansel squatted down and stared at Al.

“Dr. Chelsea,” Ansel said. “What did you do to him?”

“I hit him with a heavy, blunt instrument.”

“Has he told us anything?”

“Not yet,” Jake offered. “But we haven’t asked him anything.”

“Look,” Al said. He tried to stare at Ansel with his functioning eye, “I don’t know anything. I don’t know what you want.”

“Let’s start with this,” Ansel said.

The slap was hard. Al fell back on his right elbow. He vomited onto the rug again.

Ansel grabbed his shirt pulled him close. “We need two names. We need the name of the driver and the name of the shooter. You, Mr. Garmen, are now going to tell us.”

Al raised his left hand. “My… My name isn’t Garmen. I—”

The second slap wasn’t as hard. Ansel held onto his shirt and turned to Jake. “Did you check his ID?”

“No. We—”

“Fuck.” Ansel pushed Al back and rolled him over. He took Al’s wallet from his jeans. “Jesus fucking Christ. He’s some guy named Alvin Turner.”

Al rolled back over and sat up. He couldn’t help smiling though it hurt. “You—”

This time it was Ansel’s fist. The room darkened and he fell backward. He stared at the ceiling, afraid to move. He heard the three stand and walk toward the door.

“How the fuck does this shit happen?” he heard Ansel ask.

The door closed behind them.

He struggled to a seated position and looked at the brownish-yellow vomit beginning to dry. At least it’s not my rug.


About the writer:
Don Niederfrank is a retired clergy person who delights in the companionship of his wife, the wit of his friends, and the forgiveness of his children. His short story “A Number of Problems” was published in the May 2020 issue of Ariel Chart.

Image: Man and Woman (Kidnap) by Ilka Gedő (1921-1985). Oil on canvas. 80 x 66 cm. 1982. By free license.