I didn’t turn to face Ryan as I heard him close and lock the door. Instead I stood there with my eyes closed thinking, “This is it. This is how I die.”
Ryan walked around me and I opened my eyes as I heard another door open. He was giving me a very strange look and my feet that had betrayed me before were now frozen in place.
“There’s a restroom back here if you need it and I can get you something cold to drink.”
Oh great, at least I won’t die thirsty.
Ryan motioned for me to go through the door and like a good little prisoner I did. He closed and locked that door too.
I was surprised to see that we were standing in the service area of the gas station and it was actually very clean and modern. There were even a few very expensive cars parked inside the bays.
Ryan opened a double door sub zero refrigerator and grabbed a bottled water. He handed it to me and pointed toward another door. “There’s the restroom over there, if you need it.”
“Thank you,” I said as I walked toward the closed door.
Once I was inside the bathroom I tried to open the window only to learn that not only was it painted black so that no one could see in or out, but that it had also been nailed shut. I quickly prayed to God and anyone else that might be listening, asking that they help keep me alive. I didn’t want to give Ryan reason to be angry or to come looking for me, so I pulled myself together and walked out of the restroom.
I looked around and didn’t see Ryan anywhere, but there was a backdoor opened to the outside. I walked toward it hoping it would be a means of escape for me. I couldn’t believe what I saw as I exited the gas station! The back of the gas station opened onto a beautiful, landscaped area with an Olympic sized pool. This was all included inside the fence that surrounded the house, so it was hidden from the irregular, lost car that happened to travel out this way. Ryan must have heard me gasp as I looked around, because he looked up from the gas grill where he was cooking a very large steak that smelled wonderful.
“You’re one of only a handful of people that have ever seen this area. I hope I can trust you to keep quiet about it. I don’t have the time or the patience to deal with the cops and looky-lous that would come by if they knew just how I live.”
Before I could say anything, I heard a car horn blowing in rhythm and Ryan closed the lid on the grill.
“You better get inside now. Go into the bathroom and close the door. I’ll let you know when it’s safe to come out.”
I stood there confused and frozen in place as Ryan yelled “Go!”
I backed into the service bay again, but I didn’t go into the bathroom. I wanted to figure out what was going on. So, I stood out of sight and peeked around the door into the yard. I watched as Ryan hit a button on the fence that was hidden behind some plants. Part of the fence opened up and two cars pulled into the yard. One was a beautiful black BMW that looked brand new and the other was a red sports car.
A young, well dressed guy got out of the sports car and shook hands with Ryan. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but my guess is that Ryan was explaining the rental car that I had left out front. Apparently, the guy bought whatever story Ryan was telling him because he motioned toward the BMW and Ryan hit another button that caused a garage door to the service area to open.
I ran into the bathroom, closed the door and left the light off. I heard Ryan and the guy enter the gas station and heard muffled voices. I held my breath as I heard the sound of the BMW entering the garage. I heard several car doors open and close. I heard the men talking and laughing, but still couldn’t tell what they were saying. I heard things being moved and then I finally heard the red sports car start up and drive away.
About five minutes passed, before Ryan called out that it was safe to exit the bathroom. I slowly opened the door and found him putting groceries away. There were three large boxes filled with food sitting on the table and Ryan encouraged me to help put the cold things away as he went outside and checked the grill.
I grabbed a box and opened the fancy fridge to put the food away. I was lost in thought, trying to take in everything I had seen since arriving here when Ryan walked back in carrying the cooked steak on an oversized platter.
“I’m sorry, but this is over cooked. I didn’t know the guys would be getting here so soon or I would have waited to start the grill.”
“Oh, that’s fine. It really smells great.”
He set the plate on the table and rubbed his hands on his overalls. “Well, I’ll go get cleaned up before dinner. Would you mind putting together a salad? You should be able to find everything you need in here.” Ryan motioned toward the fridge and the boxes that were still on the table. Then without another word, he turned and walked out.
I put the groceries away and made two small salads. As I sat down at the small table, Ryan walked back in looking like he had showered and changed his overalls. He was even wearing a shirt.
Ryan smiled at me, but didn’t say anything as he cut the steak he had cooked in half and placed each piece on a separate plate. He placed the plates on the table and grabbed two more water bottles. Then he opened a drawer to dig out some silverware, grabbed a roll of paper towels and came back to the table.
“Sorry I’m not the best cook around.”
“Hey, I wasn’t even expecting a meal. Thank you for sharing this one with me.”
“Well, if I remember right you didn’t like your steaks well done.”
I couldn’t help but smile. “So, you do know who I am?”
“Yeah, I wasn’t sure at first, but I remember you now.” Ryan smiled shyly and lowered his head. “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other. I’m surprised you remember me at all.”
“I remember you.”
“You worked construction back in the day, what made you change to auto repair?
“Nothing made me change. It’s just how my life turned out.”
“Well, you must be good at what you do, cause these are some expensive cars people have trusted you with.”
Ryan gave a short laugh as he said, “Yeah, I’m good at what I do.”
“Why did you build your business out here? It must be hard for customers to find you.”
Ryan looked up at me and waited a minute before he spoke. “The people that need to find me know where I am.”
“But….Oh my God! Are these cars stolen?” I dropped my fork and pushed my chair back from the table.
“Stay where you are.” Ryan hadn’t raised his voice, but I knew that I would be better off staying put. “There are some questions that you won’t want the answers too.”
I stood there shocked and speechless and Ryan went back to eating his dinner.
Once Ryan figured out that I wasn’t planning on sitting back down to dinner, he stood and cleared the table. He washed the dishes without saying a word. Then without even turning to look at me he said, “It’s dark out now and you don’t need to make the drive back into town. You won’t be able to see and you may get lost in the dessert. Besides, it hasn’t been that long since my partners left and I don’t want to run the risk of having you cross their paths.”
I hadn’t spoken or moved since he told me to stay put. Ryan finally looked at me and motioned for me to follow. “I’ll show you where you can spend the night then in the morning I suggest you leave and forget that you were ever here.”
I nodded without saying a word and followed Ryan out of the gas station and into the little house. I was amazed by what I saw. The outside of the house looked like an abandoned shack, but the inside was beautiful and filled with intricate wood work and handmade furniture.
“Did you do all of this? It’s amazing!”
Ryan nodded as he led me to a door off the living room area. “You can sleep here tonight. The windows don’t open, but you’ve got a private bath and you can lock the door here from the inside. You‘ll be safe here.”
I walked into the room and Ryan backed away closing the door as he left. I sat on the bed and quickly dug into my purse for my cell phone.
No service. Figures! Well, who would I call anyway?
I stood and walked toward the door. I placed my ear against it but heard nothing on the other side. I locked the door then sat on the bed determined not to sleep. I wasn’t even going to close my eyes.