Kidnapping Anna

Rather than wax poetic about how great Kidnapping Anna is, we thought we would let you read the first chapter in its entirety. Enjoy!

 

1: Conspiracy Theory

May 31, 2005

Seventeen-year-old Anna Wodehouse, a junior in high school for just another few weeks, sat at her kitchen table in an immaculate kitchen, in an immaculate house, in a perfectly mediocre neighborhood in Brooklyn. She put her pencil down, sighed, and leaned back in her chair. The cushion sagged a little as she pushed against it, stretching her back and neck. The smell of disinfectant told her that her father must have had a bout of neat while she was out. Her math homework was done and now she was five chapters ahead of Mrs. Moran. She mentally congratulated herself, closed the book, and opened history. There was no way for her to get ahead in history. She was usually three to five chapters ahead of the class, but Mr. Dougherty had his own list of assignments and there was no way for her to do them ahead of time since she didn’t know what they were. Pre-calc and physics were a snap; the exercises were right in the book.

History. Reading and waiting and taking notes. History was so boring! There were so many other interesting things to do and the sooner she got her schoolwork done, the sooner she could go do them.

Her neck felt hot, but the rest of her was fine. Her orange t-shirt did a good job of absorbing her sweat, and her jeans felt so comfortable she almost lived in them. Her Converse sneakers felt hot, but she would get rid of them later. She pushed a lock of curly black hair behind her ear and tugged at the neckline of her t-shirt with her left. The air-conditioner kept the house at a decent temperature, though she was pretty sure she could program the thermostat to be a little more understanding of her preference for cold weather.

Read, read, take notes. Read, read, take notes.

Where was Dad? Her aggravation level rose with her inability to cool down. She had a question about the mobile phone app she was working on and she needed to talk it out. Her dad was annoying, but at least he would listen to her. And she needed to ask him about the class trip. Anna hated class trips, but this one was to the Smithsonian and even though he already told her it was out of the question, she knew she might be able to get him to relent.

It was the Smithsonian! Glamorous Glynnis! Skylab! Maybe they would even see the Pentagon from the highway.

He never let her do anything. School trips, sleepovers, movies with some of the kids from school (well, she didn’t like them anyway), but even school-sponsored trips to the movies were off-limits. At least he took her to the planetarium every few months. Ever since they moved to New York, he was a little more lenient. The other places they lived were black and white by comparison.

Maybe she could find a meetup.com group of high schoolers her age who were into computers and science the way she was. She found a blog for the Secret Science Club in Brooklyn, but you had to be at least twenty-one to attend. Four more years! She was counting down the days. Maybe, just maybe, she might give a talk there one day.

In the meantime, there had to be a way for her to sneak in.

The phone rang. The antique on the wall. She answered it just to stop the tinny sound from piercing her eardrum. “You are in so much trouble, Outhouse.”

God! Not Jennifer again!

She hated being called Outhouse, but she hated fighting over it more. “What do you want, Banana?” She stopped a sigh before it escaped. Jennifer’s Reign of Terror against Anna seemed neverending and getting worse.

“You are in so much trouble.”

Heard that part.

“You forgot to feed the animals.”

“Oh, go to…” A crash startled her out of her disdain. The front door smashed open and a blur of armed blue figures stormed into the house.

“Police! Don’t move!”

Anna put her hands up and dropped the phone, her eyes wide, as two helmeted figures in full tactical gear ran over to her. Each roughly grabbed an arm and dragged her out of the house. I’m going to kill Jennifer! The words POLICE and SWAT were in large white letters on their chests and backs. A dark blue blur of other figures went through the hallway, backs against the walls, turning into the doorways. They called out someone’s name, but she couldn’t make it out. Where was Dad? She wanted to call out to him, but everything was happening so fast. Daddy!

The two officers pulled her through the narrow doorframe of her row house into the bright May afternoon sunlight. The air was still a little chilly. Her feet barely touched the ground as the two officers swung her around the various cars being used as barriers to the two police vans that were at ninety-degree angles to each other.

The neighborhood outside her drab, green vinyl-sided house was a cacophony of squad cars, SWAT vans, ambulances, and black SUVs. The lights and sounds overwhelmed her and she closed her eyes and put her hands on her face as the two officers stopped behind an ambulance. There were people everywhere. Spoke into radios. Took pictures. The neighborhood was out in full force. What did she do? How much trouble was she in?

“Are you alright?” One of the helmets bent down to meet her at eye level.

She leaned against the ambulance and slid down onto the cold polished chrome step. His words were just sounds, phonemes entering her ear, but not translated into anything she could comprehend.

A man in a suit came running over.

“What did I do?” she asked. Her hands trembled, her eyes scanned all around looking for something to latch onto, something to stabilize her. She looked down. The charcoal gray ground. Cars covered in grime. Exhaust fumes from the van’s diesel engines.

“What?” the man in the suit asked.

“This is a mistake. One of the kids from school…” Her head was heavy. The sounds around her muffled. Her eyes darted back and forth. She was in trouble this time. What was she going to tell her father? She would never go on the trip now!

The man in the suit had a file in his hand and had to yell above all the noise. “Who else is in the house with you? Anyone? Do you know this man?” He held out a piece of paper.

Was that a helicopter overhead? Omigod, those are news choppers. “What’s going on here?” Anna asked.

“What’s your name?” The wind picked up. The man looked at her.

What did he want?

“What is your name?” he asked again.

“Anna!” She was yelling at the top of her lungs. Her throat was dry. “Anna Wodehouse.”

“Do you live at 1836 76th Street in Brooklyn?”

“You just finished breaking into my house.” Is this guy kidding?

“Please, answer the question.”

“Yes, I do.” Her hair fluttered onto her face.

“Do you know this man?” He clutched the folder at the bend to stop the papers from flying away.

She looked at the photo he held in front of her. Why wasn’t he using a tablet? “That’s my father.” Anna wrapped her arms around her chest. Her eyes were starting to tear.

“What’s his name?”

“Marshall…”

“What?”

“Marshall Wodehouse.” Was she betraying him? Was this the moment he was so afraid of? That she used to tease him incessantly about? Conspiracies? Unknown men around every corner? Delusions of grandeur?

The man looked away and waved at someone. “His real name is Arnold Dashman.”

Anna gaped at him. There had to be a way out of here. This couldn’t be happening!

“Anna,” the man put his hand out as if to hold her left arm, but he held it just out of reach, “your father, this man, is wanted for kidnapping.”

She wiped a half-formed tear. The noise was making it hard to think. “I…I have to get back to my homework.” A sob escaped her lips.

“I’m sorry they had to go in there and take you like that, but we were afraid of what he might do if he suspected anything.”

An officer came through the doorway of her one-story violated home. “Clear!”

“You people are crazy! My dad is the most boring person on the planet. He didn’t…” The words stuck in her throat. Her stomach was a mix of anger, fear, and anxiety. She jumped when she felt something on her shoulders. An EMT had just put a blanket on her. She pulled it off and threw it on the asphalt. “Who could he have possibly kidnapped?”

“You, Anna.” He put his hand down. “He kidnapped you.”

Are you kidding me?

She grabbed the folder from his hands and pushed him out of the way. She saw a squad car in front of her. She threw the folder off to the side and jumped onto the hood of the car, and then onto the roof and, as her voice echoed through the streets of her neighborhood, yelled, “Run! Run, Dad! Run!”