You know, Doc, you’re not the first shrink I’ve seen
since I got back. The one my family doctor recommended right after
I came home was a real prize. The guy actually tried to act like he
didn’t know who I was, but that was a pile of crap ---
you’d have to be deaf and blind not to. Hell, it seems like
every time I turn around another asshole with a camera is jumping
out of the bushes. But before all this shit went down?
Most of the world had never heard of Vancouver Island, let alone
Clayton Falls. Now mention the island to someone and I’m
willing to bet the first thing out of their mouth will be,
“Isn’t that where that lady Realtor was
Even the guy’s office was a turnoff --- black leather
couches, plastic plants, glass and chrome desk. Way to make your
patients feel comfortable, buddy. And of course everything was
perfectly lined up on the desk. His teeth were the only damn thing
crooked in his office, and if you ask me, there’s something a
little strange about a guy who needs to line up everything on his
desk but doesn’t get his teeth fixed.
Right away he asked me about my mom, and then he actually tried
to make me draw the color of my feelings with crayons and a sketch
pad. When I said he must be kidding, he told me I was resisting my
feelings and needed to “embrace the process.” Well,
screw him and his process. I only lasted two sessions. Spent most
of the time wondering if I should kill him or myself.
So it’s taken me until December --- four months since I
got home --- to even try this therapy stuff again. I’d almost
resigned myself to just staying screwed up, but the idea of living
the rest of my life feeling this way…Your writing on your Web
site was sort of funny, for a shrink, and you looked kind --- nice
teeth, by the way. Even better, you don’t have a bunch of
letters that mean God only knows what after your name. I
don’t want the biggest and the best. That just means a bigger
ego and an even bigger bill. I don’t even mind driving an
hour and half to get here. Gets me out of Clayton Falls, and so far
I haven’t found any reporters hiding in my backseat.
But don’t get me wrong, just because you look like
someone’s grandmother --- you should be knitting, not taking
notes --- doesn’t mean I like being here. And telling me to
call you Nadine? Not sure what that’s all about, but let me
I have your first name so now I’m supposed to feel like
we’re buddies and it’s okay for me to tell you stuff I
don’t want to remember, let alone talk about? Sorry,
I’m not paying you to be my friend, so if it’s all the
same to you I’ll just stick with Doc.
And while we’re getting shit straight here, let’s
lay down some ground rules before we start this joyride. If
we’re going to do this, it’s going to be done my way.
That means no questions from you. Not even one sneaky little
“How did you feel when…” I’ll tell the
story from the beginning, and when I’m interested in hearing
what you have to say, I’ll let you know. Oh, and in
case you were wondering? No, I wasn’t always such a
I dozed in bed a little longer than usual that first Sunday
morning in August while my golden retriever, Emma, snored in my
ear. I didn’t get many moments to indulge. I was working my
ass off that month going after a waterfront condo development. For
Clayton Falls, a hundred-unit complex is a big deal, and it was
down to me and another Realtor. I didn’t know who my
competition was, but the developer had called me on Friday to tell
me they were impressed with my presentation and would let me know
in a few days.
I was so close to the big time I could already taste the
champagne. I’d actually only tried the stuff once at a
wedding and ended up switching it for a beer --- nothing says class
like a girl in a satin bridesmaid dress swilling beer out of the
bottle --- but I was convinced this deal would transform me into a
Sort of a water- into- wine thing. Or in this case, beer into
After a week of rain it was finally sunny, and warm enough for
me to wear my favorite suit. It was pale yellow and made from the
softest material. I loved how it made my eyes look hazel instead of
a boring brown. I generally avoid skirts because at only a hiccup
over five feet I look like a midget in them, but something about
the cut of this one made my legs look longer. I even decided to
wear heels. I’d just had my hair trimmed so it swung against
my jawline perfectly, and after a last-minute inspection in my hall
mirror for any gray hairs --- I was only thirty-two last year, but
with black hair those suckers show up fast --- I gave myself a
whistle, kissed Emma good-bye (some people touch wood, I touch
dog), and headed out.
The only thing I had to do that day was host an open house. It
would’ve been nice to have the day off, but the own ers were
anxious to sell. They were a nice German couple and the wife baked
me Bavarian chocolate cake, so I didn’t mind spending a few
hours to keep them happy.
My boyfriend, Luke, was coming over for dinner after he was done
work at his Italian restaurant. He’d had a late shift the
night before, so I sent him a can’t-wait-to-see- you- later
e-mail. Well, fi rst I tried to send him one of those e-mail card
things he was always sending me, but all the choices were cutesy
--- kissing bunnies, kissing frogs, kissing squirrels --- so I
settled on a simple e-mail. He knew I was more of a show than tell
kind of girl, but lately I’d been so focused on the
waterfront deal I hadn’t shown the poor guy much of anything,
and God knows he deserved better. Not that he ever complained, even
when I had to cancel at the last minute a couple of times.
My cell phone rang while I was struggling to shove the last open
house sign into my trunk without getting dirt on my suit. On the
off chance it was the developer, I grabbed the phone out of my
“Are you at home?” Hi to you too, Mom.
“I’m just leaving for the open house ---”
“So you’re still doing that today? Val mentioned she
hadn’t seen many of your signs lately.”
“You were talking to Aunt Val?” Every couple of
Mom had a fight with her sister and was “never speaking to
“First she invites me to lunch like she didn’t just
completely insult me last week, but two can play that game, then
before we’ve even ordered she just has to tell me your cousin
sold a waterfront listing. Can you believe Val’s flying over
to Vancouver tomorrow just to go shopping with her for new clothes
on Robson Street? Designer clothes.” Nice one, Aunt
Val. I struggled not to laugh.
“Good for Tamara, but she looks great in anything.”
I hadn’t actually seen my cousin in person since she’d
moved to the mainland right after high school, but Aunt Val was
always e-mailing just- look-what-my-amazing-kids-are-up-to-now
“I told Val you have some nice things too. You’re
“Mom, I have lots of nice clothes, but I
I stopped myself. She was baiting me, and Mom isn’t the
catch-and-release type. Last thing I wanted to do was spend ten
minutes debating appropriate business attire with a woman who wears
four- inch heels and a dress to get the mail. Sure as hell
wasn’t any point. Mom may be small, barely five feet, but
I was the one always falling short.
“Before I forget,” I said, “can you drop off
my cappuccino maker later?”
She was quiet for a moment, then said, “You want it
“That’s why I asked, Mom.”
“Because I just invited some of the ladies in the
park over for coffee tomorrow. Your timing is perfect, as
“Oh, crap, sorry, Mom, but Luke’s coming over and I
want to make him a cappuccino with breakfast. I thought you were
going to buy one, you just wanted to try mine?”
“We were, but your stepdad and I are a little behind right
now. I’ll just have to call the girls this afternoon and
explain.” Great, now I felt like a jerk.
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll get it next week
“Thanks, Annie Bear.” Now I was Annie Bear.
“You’re welcome, but I still need it ---” She
I groaned and shoved the phone back in my purse. The woman never
let me finish a goddamn sentence if it wasn’t something she
wanted to hear.
At the corner gas station, I stopped to grab a coffee and a
couple of magazines. My mom loves trashy magazines, but I only buy
them to give me something to do if no one comes in to an open
house. One of them had a picture of some poor missing woman on the
cover. I looked at her smiling face and thought: She used to be
just a girl living her life, and now everyone thinks they know all
The open house was a little slow. I guess most people were
taking advantage of the good weather --- like I should have been.
About ten minutes before it ended I started packing up my stuff.
When I went outside to put some fl yers in my trunk, a newer
light-tan-colored van pulled in and parked right behind my car. An
older guy, maybe mid- forties, walked toward me with a smile on his
“Shoot, you’re packing up. Serves me right ---
saving the best for last. Would it be a huge inconvenience if I had
a quick look around?”
For a second I considered telling him it was too late. A part of
me just wanted to go home, and I still had to get some stuff from
the grocery store, but as I hesitated he put his hands on his hips,
stepped back a couple of feet, and surveyed the front of the
I looked him over. His khakis were perfectly pressed, and I
liked that. Fluffing my clothes in the dryer is my version of
ironing. His running shoes were glaringly white, and he was wearing
a baseball hat with the logo of a local golf course on the brim.
His lightweight beige coat sported the same logo over his heart. If
he belonged to the club, he had money behind him. Open houses
usually attract neighbors or people out on Sunday drives, but when
I glanced at his van I could see our real estate magazine sitting
on the dash. What the hell, a few more minutes wouldn’t kill
I gave him a big smile and said, “Of course I don’t
mind, that’s what I’m here for. My name’s Annie
O’Sullivan.” I held out my hand, and as he came toward
me to shake it, he stumbled on the flagstone path. To stop himself
from falling to his knees, he braced his hands on the ground, ass
up. I reached for him but he jumped to his feet in seconds,
laughing and brushing the dirt from his hands.
“Oh, my God --- I’m so sorry. Are you
Large blue eyes set in an open face were bright with amusement.
Laugh lines radiated from the corners, leaked into flushed cheeks,
and were commas to a wide grin of straight white teeth. It was one
of the most genuine smiles I’d seen in a long time, and a
face you just had to smile back at. He bowed theatrically and said,
“I certainly know how to make an entrance, don’t I?
Allow me to introduce myself, I’m David.”
I dropped into a quick curtsy and said, “Nice to make your
We both laughed, and he said, “I really do appreciate
this, and I promise I won’t take up too much of your
“Don’t worry about it --- look around as long as you
“That’s very kind of you, but I’m sure you
can’t wait to go and enjoy the weather. I’ll make it
Man, was it ever nice to meet a prospective buyer who treated a
Realtor with consideration. Usually they act like they’re
doing us a favor.
I took him inside and chatted him up about the house, which was
your typical West Coast style with vaulted ceilings, cedar siding,
and a killer ocean view. He made such enthusiastic comments as he
trailed behind me, it was like I was seeing the house for the first
time too, and I found myself eager to point out features.
“The ad said the house is only two years old but it
didn’t mention the builder,” he said.
“They’re a local firm, Corbett Construction.
It’s still under warranty for a couple more years --- which
goes with the house, of course.”
“That’s great, you can never be too careful with
some of these builders. You just can’t trust people these
“When did you say you wanted to move by?”
“I didn’t, but I’m flexible. When I find what
I’m looking for I’ll know.” I glanced back at him
and he smiled.
“If you need a mortgage broker, I can give you some
“Thanks, but I’ll be buying with cash.” Better
“Does it have a fenced backyard?” he said. “I
have a dog.”
“Oh, I love dogs --- what kind?”
“A golden retriever, purebred, and he needs a lot of room
to move around.”
“I totally understand, I have a golden too, and
she’s a handful if she doesn’t get enough
exercise.” I opened the sliding glass door to show him the
cedar fencing. “So what’s your dog’s
In the second that I waited for him to answer, I realized he was
too close behind me.
Something hard pressed into my lower back.
I tried to turn around, but he grabbed a handful of my hair and
yanked my head back so fast and so painfully I thought a piece of
my scalp would tear off. My heart slammed against my rib cage, and
blood roared in my head. I willed my legs to kick out, run --- to
do something, anything --- but I couldn’t make them move.
“Yes, Annie, that’s a gun, so please listen
carefully. I’m going to let go of your hair and you’re
going to remain calm while we take a walk out to my van. And I want
you to keep that pretty smile on your face while we do that,
“I --- I can’t ---” I can’t
Voice low and calm against my ear, he said, “Take a deep
I sucked in a lungful.
“Let it out nice and easy.”
I exhaled slowly.
“Again.” The room came back into focus.
“Good girl.” He released my hair.
Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. I could feel
the gun grinding into my spine as he used it to push me forward. He
urged me out the front door and down the steps, humming a little
melody. While we walked to his van, he whispered into my ear.
“Relax, Annie. Just pay attention to what I tell you and
we won’t have any problems. Don’t forget to keep
smiling.” As we moved farther from the house I looked around
--- somebody had to be seeing this --- but no one was in sight.
I’d never noticed how many trees surrounded the house or that
both of the neighboring homes faced away.
“I’m so glad the sun came out for us. It’s a
lovely day for a drive, don’t you agree?”
He’s got a gun and he’s talking about the
“Annie, I asked you a question.”
“Yes what, Annie?”
“It’s a nice day for a drive.” Like two
neighbors having a conversation over the fence. I kept thinking,
this guy can’t be doing this in broad daylight. It’s an
open house, for God’s sake, I have a sign at the end of the
driveway, and a car is going to pull up any minute.
We were at the van.
“Open the door, Annie.” I didn’t move. He
pressed the gun to my lower back. I opened the door.
“Now get in.” The gun pressed harder. I got in and
he closed the door.
As he began to walk away, I yanked the door handle and pushed
the automatic lock repeatedly, but something was wrong. I rammed my
shoulder into the door. Open, GODDAMMIT! He crossed in
front of the van.
I pounded the locks, the power window button, tugged at the
handle. His door opened and I turned around. In his hand was a
keyless entry remote.
He held it up and smiled.
As he backed down the driveway and I watched the house get
smaller, I couldn’t believe what was happening. He
wasn’t real. None of this was real. At the end of the
driveway he paused for a second, checking for traffic. My lawn sign
advertising the open house was missing. I glanced into the back of
the van and there it was, along with the two I’d placed at
the end of the street.
Then it hit me. This wasn’t random. He must have read the
ad and checked out the street.
He chose me.
“So, how did the open house go?”
Fine, until he came along.
Could I pull the keys out of the ignition? Or at least press the
unlock button on the remote and throw myself out the door before he
grabbed me? I slowly reached out with my left hand, keeping it low
--- His hand landed on my shoulder, and his fingers curled over my
“I’m trying to ask about your day, Annie.
You’re not usually so rude.”
I stared at him.
“The open house?”
“It was…it was slow.”
“You must have been happy when I came by, then!”
He gave me that smile I’d found so genuine. As he waited
for me to respond, his smile began to droop and his grip
“Yes, yes, it was nice to see someone.”
The smile was back. He rubbed me on the shoulder where his hand
had been, then cupped my cheek.
“Just try to relax and enjoy the sun, you look so stressed
out lately.” When he faced the road again, he gripped the
steering wheel with one hand and rested the other on my thigh.
“You’re going to like it there.”
“Where? Where are you taking me?”
He began to hum.
After a while he turned down a little side road and parked.
I had no idea where we were. He shut off the van, turned to me,
and smiled like we were on a date.
“Not much longer now.”
He got out, walked around the front of the van, then opened my
door. I hesitated for a second. He cleared his throat and raised
I got out.
He put an arm around my shoulder, the gun in his other hand, and
we walked to the back of the van.
He inhaled deeply. “Mmmm, smell that air.
Everything was so quiet, that hot summer afternoon kind of quiet
when you can hear a dragonfly buzzing ten feet from you. We passed
a huge huckleberry bush close to the van, its berries almost ripe.
I started bawling and shaking so hard I could barely walk. He
wrapped both of his hands around the upper part of my arms, holding
me up. We were still walking, but I couldn’t feel my
He took his hands away for a moment and opened up the
van’s back doors. I started running. He grabbed the back of
my hair, spun me around to face him, and pulled me up by my hair
until my toes grazed the ground. I tried to kick him in the legs,
but he was a good foot taller and easily held me away from him. The
pain was excruciating. All I could do was kick at the air and pound
my fists on his arm. I screamed as loud as I could.
He slapped his free hand over my mouth and said, “Now, why
did you go do something silly like that?”
I clung to the arm that held me in the air and tried to hoist my
body up, to take away the pressure from my scalp.
“Let’s try this again. I’m going to let you
go, and you’re going to get inside and lie down on your
He lowered his arm slowly until my feet touched the ground. One
of my high heels had fallen off when I tried to kick him, so I was
off balance and stumbled backward. The van’s bumper hit the
back of my knees, and I landed on my ass in the van. A gray blanket
was spread out on the floor. I sat there and stared out at him,
shaking so hard my teeth chattered. The sun was bright behind his
head, turning his face dark and outlining him in light.
He pushed me hard on the shoulders, pressed me onto my back, and
said, “Roll over.”
“Wait --- can we just talk for a minute?” He smiled
at me like I was a puppy chewing on his shoelaces. “Why are
you doing this?” I said. “Do you want money? If we go
back and get my purse, I can give you my PIN number for my bank
card --- there’s a few thousand in my account. And my credit
cards, they have really high limits.” He continued to smile
“If we just talk, I know we can work something out. I Can
“I don’t need your money, Annie.” He reached
for the gun, now tucked into his waistband. “I didn’t
want to have to use this, but ---”
“Stop!” I threw my hands out in front of me.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it, I just
don’t know what you want. Is it…is it sex? Is that what
“What did I ask you to do?”
“You…asked me to roll over.”
He raised an eyebrow.
“That’s it? You just want me to roll over? What are
you going to do to me if I roll over?”
“I’ve asked you nicely two times now.” His
hand caressed the gun.
I rolled over.
“I don’t understand why you’re doing
this.” My voice cracked. Damn. I had to stay calm.
“Have we met before?”
He was behind me, one hand on the middle of my back, pinning me
“I’m sorry if I did something to offend you, David.
I really am. Just tell me how I can make it up to you, okay? There
has to be some way…”
I shut up and listened. I could hear small sounds behind me,
could tell he was doing something back there, preparing for
something. I waited for the click of the gun being cocked.
My body shook with terror. Was this it for me? My life was going
to end with me face down in the back of a van? I felt a needle stab
into the back of my thigh. I flinched and tried to reach back to
touch it. Fire crawled up my leg.
Before we wrap this session up, Doc, I think it’s only
fair I fill you in on something --- if I’m going to climb
aboard the no bullshit train, I should ride it to the end of the
line. When I said I was screwed up, I actually meant royally
fucked. The I-sleep-in-my-closet-every-night kind of fucked.
It was tricky as hell when I first got home and was staying in
my old bedroom at my mom’s, slipped out in the morning so no
one knew. Now that I’m back in my old place, some shit is
easier since I can control all the variables. But I won’t set
foot in a building unless I know where the exits are. It’s a
damn good thing you’re on the ground floor. I wouldn’t
be sitting here if your office was any higher than I can jump.
Night…well, night’s the worst. I can’t have
any people around. What if they unlocked a door? What if they left
a window open? If I wasn’t already waltzing with crazy, then
running around checking everything while trying not to let anybody
see what I’m doing would guarantee me a dance. When I first
got home, I thought if I could just find one person who felt the
same as me…Dumbass that I am, I looked for a support group.
Turns out there’s no such thing as SAAMA, no Some Asshole
Abducted Me Anonymous, online or off. Anyway, the whole concept of
anonymity is bullshit when you’ve been on magazine covers,
front pages, and talk shows. Even if I did track down a group,
I’m willing to bet one of its wonderfully sympathetic members
would be cashing in on my shit as soon as she walked out the door.
Sell my pain to some tabloid and get herself a cruise or a plasma
Not to mention, I hate talking to strangers about this stuff,
especially reporters, who get it ass backward often as not. But
you’d be surprised how much some of the magazines and TV
shows are willing to pay for an interview. I didn’t want the
money but they keep offering it, and hell, I need it. It’s
not like I could keep doing real estate. What good is a Realtor
who’s scared to be alone with a strange man?
Sometimes I go back to the day I was abducted --- replaying my
actions up until the open house scene by scene, like a never-ending
horror movie where you can’t stop the girl from answering the
door or walking into the deserted building --- and I remember the
cover of that magazine in the store. So weird to think that now
some other woman is looking at my picture, thinking she knows all
Excerpted from STILL MISSING © Copyright 2011 by Chevy
Stevens. Reprinted with permission by St. Martin's Press. All