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Kill Switch


Rochester, July 1989

You could tell a thunderstorm was close. The air was thick with humidity, the clouds approaching from Lake Ontario an angry gray. Though Upstate New York was known for its long, harsh winters, any Rochester native will tell you a summer storm can wreak more havoc in ten minutes than a foot of snow falling over ten hours. But these were the dog days of the summer of ’89. The two eightyear- old girls jumping rope in the driveway of a large white colonial at 55 Burt Street in the Park Avenue district hadn’t noticed what was coming.

The dark-haired girl who lived in the house saw the car first—a gleaming white BMW speeding toward them. It suddenly screeched to a stop in front of the driveway. A man in his late forties, wearing a polo shirt and shorts, jumped out, obviously agitated.

The man said his name was Mr. Winslow and he needed to talk to them. The dark-haired girl blinked, taking a step back, sensing something was wrong. Mr. Winslow turned to Amy, the dark-haired girl’s friend. He said he worked with Amy’s dad, and in one excited breath Mr. Winslow told Amy her father had been in a terrible accident. He was driving through the construction area to rebuild the notorious “Can of Worms” interchange when a concrete piling crashed down onto his car. He said that her father was rushed to Strong Memorial Hospital, and he’d come to take Amy there.

Amy started to cry and follow Mr. Winslow to his car. But the dark haired girl sensed something she couldn’t explain. Before she even knew she was saying it, she asked Mr. Winslow who had sent him.

The question caught Mr. Winslow off guard. He gave the dark- haired girl a look and told her his boss sent him to pick up Amy. Amy assured her friend it was okay. Mr. Winslow wasn’t a stranger.

But the dark-haired girl couldn’t shake the feeling in the pit of her stomach. She remembered the warnings from her mother, who said she asked too many questions, a habit that was going to get her into trouble someday. But the dark-haired girl had to know more.

So she asked Mr. Winslow why he wasn’t wearing a suit like Amy’s father did if he had come straight from work. Mr. Winslow answered that he’d been at the driving range when the boss called him there.

Then she asked how he knew Amy was at this house and not her own.

Mr. Winslow let out a deep breath, then said his boss had called Amy’s mother. She told him about their playdate. He then quickly opened the passenger door. They had to get to the hospital.

But the dark-haired girl’s questions now bothered Amy. She said she was going inside to call her mother.

The dark-haired girl turned and raced up to the house. She assumed Amy was behind her until she heard a sudden rush of footsteps.

She turned back just as Amy screamed. Mr. Winslow had picked Amy up and was shoving her into the front seat of his car.

The dark-haired girl’s screams were drowned out by a succession of thunderclaps and the downpour that followed. As the rain soaked through her clothes, she was too scared to move. All she could do was stand there and watch the BMW drive away.

Kill Switch
by by Neal Baer and Jonathan Greene