Photo by Mustapha Muhammed on Unsplash
Until Death Do We Part
by Kelly F. Barr
Jillian sat on the damp concrete surrounded by darkness and the musty odor of wet earth. Even without the blindfold, she could see nothing. She walked around, hands groping along the concrete walls in search of a door. She found one—cold steel and locked from the outside.
Stupid, stupid, stupid! Jillian knew better than to converse with strange men on social media, but she was so sick of being stuck in a marriage in name only. Oh, it hadn’t started out that way, but after the first five years, things changed. Her husband became harsh—demanding, critical of everything she did. She could never please him no matter how hard she tried. A few months ago, she’d grown tired of trying.
She had longed for someone to pay attention to her, treat her kindly, have conversations with her, and show her some affection. That’s how she’d fallen to temptation, and ultimately, into this basement … hole in the ground … whatever it was.
Conrad Brandt, if that was even his real name, seemed so sweet when he’d sent his first message through MyCorner, the latest popular social media site. She posted a couple pictures of herself on her MyCorner page.
Conrad’s first message: “Hello, beautiful lady.”
Jillian’s heart had skipped a beat as she read that line. His profile picture exhibited a handsome, aristocratic-looking gentleman with dark brown eyes and a cleft chin.
Jillian’s response: “Hello.”
Things went on from there: Conrad took an interest in Jillian’s work and things she liked to do for fun, and he continued to flatter her.
Then the conviction hit her. The Holy Spirit speaking to her heart. Jillian, you know this is wrong. You’re a married woman. You made a commitment—until death do you part.
But she liked how Conrad’s interest and flattering words made her feel, so she suppressed the conviction—ignored it. Now “until death do you part” was too close for comfort.
How had he found her? She’d never given Conrad her address or phone number. She’d kept everything limited to MyCorner’s messaging board. He must be some kind of computer hacker.
What was he going to do with her? To her? So far, he’d kidnapped her, blindfolded her, and dumped her in this cold, dark room. She knew it was him by the use of his pet name for her, “Beauty”.
A sudden pang of terror shot through her heart. “Beauty”. Did that make him “the Beast”? This didn’t feel like a “happily ever after” fairy tale. She trembled and her stomach groaned. How long had she been here? It was impossible to tell as no reprieve from the darkness came. There were no windows in this prison.
Had Lucas noticed she was gone? Did he care? Would he look for her? How long until he realized she might be in trouble? After all, none of her clothes were missing from the closet.
Metal clinked against metal and a key turned in the lock. Jillian rose to her feet and felt her way to the door. If she could get there and press herself against the wall, maybe she could slip out the door behind Conrad when he entered the room.
The door opened outward and a bright beam of light sliced through the darkness, scanning until it came to rest on Jillian, who used her arm to shield her eyes from the flashlight’s glare.
“Ah, there you are my beauty. I’m sorry these accommodations aren’t worthy of you, but it won’t be much longer. Then you will be surrounded by the luxury and comforts you deserve.”
“Wh … what are you g… going to do with me?”
“Beauty, you aren’t afraid of me, are you? Surely you know I mean you no harm. I have rescued you from the beast who held you.” He reached out and brushed a lock of her brown hair from her face.
“Here, I’ve brought you some food.” He handed her a bag—McDonald’s—not exactly a meal for a princess.
Footsteps sounded on wooden stairs and a beam of light shown from behind Conrad.
“Let the girl go.” A deep, commanding voice ordered.
Jillian spotted the red dot shining on Conrad’s chest, a split second before he grabbed her, pulled a knife from his back pocket, and held the blade to her throat.
“Let me out of here, or I’ll slit her throat wide open.”
Jillian could now see the man on the stairs—a S.W.A.T. officer. There were more officers above them. Apparently she’d been held in an underground bunker.
With eyes opened wide, she whimpered. Would this be her “’til death do we part”?
A shot sounded, the knife clattered from Conrad’s hand to the ground, and Jillian was jerked backward with Conrad’s falling body. Conrad hit the cement floor of the bunker and acted as a cushion for Jillian, except for her right elbow hitting the concrete.
That was Lucas’s voice, but she couldn’t see him. She couldn’t get out from under Conrad’s arm, and he wasn’t moving. She held her breath to see if she could sense his, but even his chest was still—no rise and fall.
“Sir, stay back. We’ll get her and bring her up to you.” The same deep, commanding voice instructed Lucas.
Then the man with the deep voice was kneeling next to her. “Ma’am, are you hurt?”
The tears started flowing down Jillian’s cheeks. “Just … just my right elbow.”
“Okay, well, I’m going to remove that arm from around you and help you up.”
She nodded as the tears broke into full-fledged sobs.
The S.W.A.T. officer helped her up, wrapped his arm around her back, and guided her up the steps. She was sobbing with full-blown hiccups when she stepped onto the ground above the bunker, the S.W.A.T. officer’s arm still supporting her.
“Jillian!” Lucas rushed toward her.
The officer raised his hand to stop Lucas. “Sir, she’s in shock. She needs medical attention. She needs a gentle touch.”
“Of course. I understand. She’s my wife!”
“I know, sir. That’s why I’ll help her over to the ambulance crew. You’re too emotional right now, sir. Take some time to calm down. She needs you to be strong for her.”
The officer led Jillian to the ambulance crew, Lucas trailing. A man in an ambulance uniform placed a blanket around Jillian’s shoulders and a woman helped her sit just inside the ambulance. The pair checked Jillian for injuries. When she flinched and cried out as they touched her right elbow, the woman gently probed it as Jillian gritted her teeth. Her sobs subsided to sniffles and an occasional hiccup. The woman said, “I don’t think your elbow is broken, just badly bruised. I’m going to put a sling on it, to cradle it in front of you, then I want you to lie down on the litter to rest for a while, okay?”
Jillian widened her eyes again, and Lucas stepped closer to the ambulance woman. “Would it be okay if I sat with her while she rests and, maybe, hold her hand? I’m her husband.”
The woman looked at Jillian who nodded, then turned to Lucas. “That would be fine, but we need to keep her warm and calm. That will help bring her out of the shock.”
The woman helped Jillian into the back of the ambulance and onto the litter, then she climbed down, and Lucas moved to sit by Jillian’s side. He took her hand in his and stroked the back of it with his thumb. When he looked at her face, she offered a small smile.
“Jillian, I’m so sorry. I know I haven’t been the kind of husband I should be. When I saw that man stuff you in that van and drive off, I was terrified.”
Jillian tried to rise. “You saw?”
Lucas gently pressed her shoulder to keep her flat. “That’s how we found you. I called the police. I thought I’d lost you, and I realized how much you truly mean to me. I hope you can forgive me and give me another chance. I promise I’ll be a better, more attentive, loving husband.” A tear slipped down his cheek.
Jillian squeezed his hand and tears slid down her cheeks as well. Why did it sometimes take tragedy to bring about lasting change? She saw love and concern in Lucas’s eyes again, for the first time in thirty years. She offered a silent prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord, for protecting her, for bringing about Lucas’s transformation, for not allowing this to be their “until death do we part”.