Leland came back about an hour later. He seemed to have calmed down. He looked at Marley and grunted, shook his head.
“Shit!” Leland said.
Marley watched him, having to breathe through her mouth. Her face ached where he’d struck her, her hip throbbed from being kicked. One of her eyelids twitched. *I’m going to kill you for this.*
“Don’t know why I get so worked up over them goddamn games,” Leland said. “Ain’t like I got money on ’em or nothin’. The Tide wants to fuck up the whole season, shouldn’t be no skin off my ass.”
“Is that supposed to be a fucking apology?!” Marley said. Her voice sounded strange to her because of her broken nose.
Leland frowned. “I didn’t say I apologized for nothin’,” he replied. “You ought not been lookin’ at me that a’ way, you didn’t wanna get smacked.”
“Fuck you!” Marley said. She made herself hold his gaze.
Leland grinned. “You tickle me,” he said. Then, after another moment, “I sure did fuck up that pretty face of yours.” He shook his head.
“You know, I’d figured on goin’ into town tomorrow, anyhow, it bein’ Miner Days,” Leland said. “Want me some of them canned preserves. Maybe while I’m at it I’ll get you a present. You know, to make it up to you. Would you like that?” He grinned. “I know. I’ll get you somethin’ pretty to wear.” He laughed.
Marley waited, thinking. *He’s leaving tomorrow?* She knew that would be her best chance for escape. But how? How could she get free of that chain?
“But first things first.” Leland went into the other part of the trailer, came back carrying another roll of duct tape. He came towards her, tugging loose the strip.
“Lay down on your belly, like you did before,” he instructed. “Arms at your sides.” When Marley hesitated, “Move!”
This time he sat down on her hips. She groaned, sore from his kick. He pulled her arms behind her and began to tape her wrists together. After he’d finished, he stuck the roll of duct tape into the wide pocket of his coveralls. He scooted forward and undid the chain around her neck.
“You got blood all over you,” he announced. “You need a bath.”
He pulled her up by her arms to her feet. Her legs trembled and threatened to buckle at the knees. She hadn’t stood since he’d first chained her to his floor.
“Come on,” Leland said. He grabbed a handful of her hair, guiding her ahead of him. He opened the door for her, pushing her outside. “Watch your step.”
Marley blinked in the sunlight. It felt hot on her skin. Her gaze flitted over the yard, the road. Leland led her around the side of the trailer, past a derelict truck perched on concrete blocks, into the back yard. Marley noted a smaller building, where he kept the rabbits, maybe, and a trash pile. The woods beyond that, pine trees and hardwoods already stripped of their leaves. A clothesline.
The latter had been constructed of railroad ties, mounted upright in the ground some thirty feet apart, with strips of two-by-fours nailed flat across each top, a pair more each at diagonals to support them. Some sort of cable stretched between the two poles from the ends of the two-by-fours. The contraption looked like a miniature set of power lines.
Leland paused. “Hmm.” He switched hands, grabbing her hair with his left. With his right hand he rummaged in the pocket of his coveralls, pulling out a case knife. Flipping open the blade, he cut the tape around Marley’s wrists. He tightened his grip on her hair, keeping her at arm’s length.
“Now don’t you try nothin’ stupid,” Leland said. He refolded the knife and stuck it back in his pocket.
“Awright,” he said. “Hug that there post. Lace your fingers together.”
Her arms around the railroad tie, Leland pulled her hands together by gripping her middle fingers. He dug the roll of duct tape from his other pocket, wrapping it around her wrists. He tore the strip loose with his teeth.
Leland went to the back wall of the trailer, where a garden hose attached to a faucet that stuck out of the underpinning. He unrolled the hose from the pile where it lay coiled like a dirty black snake. He turned on the faucet.
“Scrub a dub dub,” Leland said. He squeezed the trigger handle on the hose, squirting Marley in the face with a jet of water. It hurt like a second punch and she groaned. Water got in her mouth and made her cough.
“Stand still,” Leland ordered. He sprayed her head, her hair, water filling her ears. Then he began to hose down her body. The water was so cold it took her breath away. He moved in closer, using the stream of water to invade her underarms, between her breasts, her private areas.
“There now,” he said after a few minutes. “Squeaky clean.”
He turned off the water and rolled the hose up in a mound. He splashed through the muddy backyard to the clothesline post, pulling out the knife again. He cut the tape from her wrists and grabbed her hair.
“Awright, back inside.”
They took a step and Marley elbowed Leland in the groin with all her strength. He gasped, loosening his hold on her hair. Marley tore free, leaving a tangle of wet, dark hairs in Leland’s grip. She ran.
She rounded the trailer, heard Leland running after her, sounding like a horse at full gallop as his work boots stomped the ground. He wheezed and puffed, cursing. She made it to the road and kept running.
*Don’t stop!* The gravel road hurt her feet. *Don’t look back! Keep going!*
The rocks stabbed into the soles of her feet, slowing her. Marley turned to her right, towards a field surrounded by a barbed wire fence. She didn’t have the time to try and squeeze through the three strands of wire or go under them. She grabbed the top strand, put her foot on the middle one and jumped. She cleared the fence, but one of the steel barbs tore into her leg and tripped her up. She landed hard on her side, got up and ran again.
Naked and bleeding, covered in welts and purple-green contusions, still wet from the garden hose shower and now starting to cry, Marley ran. She ran for a distant line of trees and the swelling hope for escape. Her mind raced ahead of her. Go into the woods, then back at an angle towards the road. Bound to intersect a highway somewhere. Flag down a car. Get away!
Behind her, the engine of Leland’s van rumbled to life, like an angry beast woken from its slumber. *Must’ve already had the keys in his pocket.* Marley didn’t look back. Not until she heard the van plow through the fence. The van pulled steel posts up from the ground, snapped the barbed wire like piano strings, bouncing across the field after her, plowing tall grass and brush under its tires. She looked, saw Leland’s face through the windshield, contorted in rage, mouth working as he cursed her.
“No!” Marley shrieked. She tripped, almost fell, kept running. The van came nearer, nearer yet. She could hear the growl of the engine getting louder.
*He’s going to run me over!*
Briers tore at Marley’s legs; she bled from a dozen scratches and scrapes, the gash the barbed wire had torn open in her lower leg. A wooden stub, the broken stem of some sapling, punctured her foot, unseen. She went down and rolled. Getting back up, she slipped on grass wet with her own blood and fell again. She looked up to see the van bearing down on her. Marley closed her eyes, waiting for the impact.
*Please, don’t let it hurt.*
The van slid in the grass, churning up the ground. It veered sideways and stopped a few feet from her. The driver-side door flew open and Leland jumped out. Marley tried to get up, but he tackled her, driving her to the ground. His weight crushed the breath from her.
“You goddamn fuckin’ cunt!” Leland wheezed, his breath hot in her face. “You’re gonna pay for that! Pay big!”
Marley looked up at him, trying to get a breath. She blinked back tears.
“Bitch!” Leland drew back his fist. “Fuckin’ cunt!”
He hit her, and Marley neither saw nor felt what he did next.
* * *