The Senator’s Daughter


Sarah Kolbasowski

Aaron sat on the train with his eyes fixed on the back of the brown leather seat in front of him, the choppy waters of the Atlantic laughing at him through the window. "I refuse to look," he thought, "I will not think about her, probably green at the bottom of a silent ocean, mouth frozen in an eternal scream." He shook his head and held his breath until the train passed the water, like his mother used to tell him to do when driving past a graveyard, so the spirits wouldn’t fly into his mouth. His right hand squeezed his cell phone in the pocket of his old, battered coat pocket, willing his useless girlfriend to call. This was all her fault anyway. He didn’t want to kidnap anyone, especially not a senator’s daughter, but they needed money, and they needed it bad. So, Aaron bit the bullet, and when he got tired of waiting around for the ransom money and lost his temper, little Miss spoiled college girl bit the dust.

Aaron had never been a violent person, at least not outwardly. In grade school, he used to tell himself that it would make him more of a man to walk away from a fistfight with one of the many fifth graders who picked on him for being the only Jewish kid at the stupid, suburban New Jersey school. He would often sit indian-style in the corner of the playground, marveling at the fact that he had moved from New York and all of the loudness and urgency and all of his friends to come to this boring town for what his mother called, "a better life." He didn’t see what was better about it anyway. You needed a car to get anywhere and the closest temple was a whole town over. And as he got older and made a few random friends, or acquaintances, as he liked to call them, he found that Jersey kids didn’t brown bag their beers and walk around, but rather they bought (gasp!) six-packs and hauled ass into the woods to drink, giggling when someone thought he could see his house from the top of the hill. They would sit on a dirty, flat mattress that they had dragged from someone’s garbage pile, dropping Jolly Ranchers into Zimas and pretending to inhale cigarettes. It was here that Aaron smoked a Newport for the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last.

"But none of that matters now," he thought, four stops away from his useless girlfriend’s house, or her parents' house. He had to find a way to tell Missy that he hadn’t found the money for their rent. She would come home, not to the spacious, comfortable loft that they had scored back when they were actually in love, when they had made the decision to move back to the city and forget all about dirty Jersey, but to a shell of a home, gutted of all of the lovely things that had been repossessed by the credit card company, the eviction notice shredded to pieces on the kitchen floor.

Miss Senator’s Daughter was supposed to be the answer to all of their problems.

But, Miss Senator’s Daughter was dead.

It all began on a Tuesday night, when Aaron was out getting some air, walking through the park to try to sort out his thoughts - and all of his outstanding bills and debts. His electricity was on the verge of being turned off and he and Missy had a week, at best, to pay the bill before everything was shut down and they were left in the dark. No electricity meant no computer. No computer meant Missy's thesis would be suspended in the utter limbo of a powerless laptop. Suspended thesis meant a very unhappy, very turned-off Missy. Graduate school meant everything to his girlfriend. It was her ticket out of all of the financial woes she had faced as a student. With her masters in anthropology, Missy was going to travel all over the world and be the curator of a thousand amazing museums. Missy had caught the rich bug awhile back, like an aggressive virus. She would be rich and successful. This was her goal. This was everything. This thesis was due in a week.

As he ran through all of the scenarios in his head - none of them very appealing - he noticed a tall, curvy, young woman adjusting a small pitbull's collar on the opposite side of the path. She had small diamonds in her ears and a very big one on her left ring finger, her obviously designer jeans artificially ripped in all of the right places. This woman had perfect posture when she stood up, placing her long, red hair in a flawless ponytail at the back of her head. As he stared at her, Aaron thought about how it must feel to have money, financially secure and smiling at the puppy frolicking through the dandelions on the edges of the grass. He went home smiling himself, thinking of how it could have been if he hadn't spent all that money all those years ago, on pot and beer and cigarettes, fantasizing about the BMW M3 he would be tooling around in if he had gotten straight A's in school. Mint condition.

Aaron liked the feeling he got when he walked through the park that night, even if it might have had to do with seeing that woman in the designer jeans. So, the next night, he went back, the warm breeze tickling his allergies just enough to make his eyes water. When he saw the woman again, a small frog jumped in his belly, and a goofy smile plastered itself on his face. Suddenly he felt a small nudge, and her dog galloped over toward him in pursuit of a tennis ball that had anchored itself on his old Reeboks. He couldn't believe his luck. Picking up the dirty green ball, Aaron smiled and looked straight at the woman, "Can I throw it for him?" "Of course," she said, "Howie loves to fetch the ball."

Aaron made small talk with the woman for awhile, noticing how easily she smiled, as if she actually enjoyed talking to him. Aaron went back to the park to "bump into her" almost every night after that. There was one night in particular that he asked her if she would like to drop her dog off and get a cup of coffee somewhere,and she said no. She said, "I hardly even know you and although you seem like a very sweet man, I have to meet my father for dinner - he's a senator and has very little free time." Aaron bit back his disappointment and said good-bye, preparing himself for his arrival at the loft - probably dark by now, because he still had not paid that electricity bill. And now the water company wanted money too. What was it with these vultures? Always trying to get some hard-working guy down. Always sucking the money and the vitality out of a perfectly useful man, a perfectly happy couple. Well, Aaron wasn't going to let these corporate blood-suckers get to him. He would find a way. And an idea had already begun to form in his mind.

"Daddy's a senator, huh?" Aaron thought about the woman and how she had turned him down when he had finally gotten up the nerve to ask her to coffee. She had been the only thing lately that had made him feel halfway normal, halfway human. And now she couldn't even spare the time for a measly cup of coffee. Well, he knew where to meet her every night, and he knew how to get that money.

Missy was going to be gone at her parents' house for a few days, trying to finish her thesis on a working computer in a house with actual lights. She was really furious with him and the dire financial situation they were in, and Aaron felt he had to find a way to make it okay. She would never know how he got the money, he could just make that part up, and by the time she got back, they would be buying brand new furniture for their loft, just like it had been when they were in love. And everything would be fine. He just needed some chloroform and a pair of leather gloves, and his determination would do the rest.

He spent all night going over it in his mind, his feet cold and sticking out from under the old blanket that covered him on the cold floor of his loft. Staring at the ceiling, he watched it happen, in its entirety. He would begin the conversation, his gloved hands stuffed into his pockets, his right fist gripping the chloroform-soaked Harley Davidson bandanna. And as soon as Miss Rich Girl turned to throw Howie the ball, he would fluidly slide his arm around her head, fastening the bandanna on her mouth, until her limp body slumped in his arms and he could quickly carry her back to his car, parked at the curb about a half block away. When she came to, she would be gagged and writing down her daddy's address for him to send a very short ransom note to. Perfectly executed.

The next day, Aaron readied himself for the pursuit. "It shouldn't be too hard," he thought. "She's not afraid to talk to me. I'm just a normal guy." Grabbing the chloroform and his bandanna, he hurried to his car, soon parking it in the exact spot he had pictured in his mind. Things were already going well. And everything else went exactly as planned, except for when Aaron had to drug Howie and place him behind a bush. He had forgotten about the damn dog. No matter, though, as soon as that little glitch was taken care of, he and his prize had returned to the loft, and when she came to, she was not happy.

The process of returning to consciousness was an interesting one to watch, and Aaron didn't miss a second, being that he sat across from her in anticipation, staring for over an hour. First, her right arm twitched a little, moving as much as it could manage in the confines of the bungee cords he'd wrapped around her wrists. Then, a fly landed square on her left cheek, and he saw her eyes wiggle, as if they almost knew they were supposed to be open. Finally, Aaron watched intently, as her nostrils flared just a bit and her eyelids fluttered, an utterly perplexed look lodged on her pretty face. It was absolutely priceless when she recognized him, and even better when her eyebrows inverted with fury and she tried to scream at him through the gag.

He took her shoulders in his hands and tried to calm her down. "Listen," he said when she'd gotten a little more quiet, "I'm not going to hurt you. I'm just in a really bad spot right now and I know that you probably have more money than you can deal with, so I thought that maybe you could help me out. My girlfriend doesn't even know that I've done this, and she'll probably kill me if she finds out. I just couldn't think of any other solution. So, I won't write a ransom note to your father if you just give me the money on your own and forget all about this. I'll make sure that you never have to bump into me again and we can just go on with our lives. Okay?" To Aaron, this all sounded logical and easy and the best solution to the multitude of problems that he had caused. But this woman saw it differently, and he could see her getting even more angry, wrinkles forming at the corners of her eyes,as if she were holding in tears that were absolutely desperate to come out. Probably out of some underlying sympathy for the woman who had given him something to look forward to lately, and maybe to that poor little dog, Aaron untied the gag around her mouth and put his index finger to his lips, "Ssshhh, don't be loud, or I'll have to put it back on."

She was mad. He could see the whites of her eyes turning so white he thought they might swallow the pretty green eyeballs that he had found solace in, even if for only a couple of days. She took two deep breaths, in and out of her nose, loud and long, before she finally opened her mouth to respond to his desperate plea for money. "See, honey? You should have done your research on me before jumping into such a ridiculous escapade. I have no money. It's all in an account that I can't touch until I get my Master's degree - Daddy's got it all locked up. I'm a proofreader for ‘Vogue.’ I make crap for a salary. You can have the five dollars in my wallet, and that's about it. So, why don't you just give it up? You're obviously too much of a pussy to be a real kidnapper, and my father will have your ass thrown in jail so fast, your girlfriend won't even know what hit her." She sat back with a huff, as if it took way too much energy to say such things. Aaron was aghast. A pussy? How could this beautiful, smiling woman who had been in his dreams as of late, use such foul language? It was impossible. It couldn't be. She couldn't be stripped of her money. What kind of father would do that? The woman began screeching insults at him - Pig, Bastard, Asshole, Miserable Vomitous Mass, you name it, she said it. Aaron couldn't take it anymore. He felt like Rainman, slapping his hands over his ears over and over to make the noise of her temper cease punching his brain. He took the bandanna and shoved it in her mouth with all of the strength of ten whimpy kids fighting back against the school bully, and sat down to think. "A ransom note," he thought, "that should do it. Dear Old Dad wouldn't want anything to happen to his little girl, right?"

Aaron wanted to at least be creative in his note, so he decided it might be funny if he wrote it on the back of a New York City postcard. The big, bad city beating up on the vulnerable, single woman. Perfect. Short, simple, and with only a random letter for the signature, Aaron showed the card to the woman once he had finished writing it, and since she was almost totally silent again, he removed the bandanna to get the feedback of the victim. You couldn't beat the point of view of the lady with the cords digging into her wrists.

"It won't work," she said, he thought with a slight smirk on her face. "My father would never give into such a thing. He's too smart. Just let me go, you jerk-off. You're stupid plan is not going to get you anywhere, and when your girlfriend comes home, what is she going to think when she sees the Senator's daughter bungeed to some pathetic, warped dining room chair?" He told her that he didn't have to pick Missy up for another four days. He told her she would have to wait that long to find out whether or not she would live to get that Master's. He told her that lie to make himself feel like the bully in the schoolyard.

Thursday was the third day. Aaron was running out of patience, money, and time. On Friday, he had to go pick Missy up at her parents house. She would be expecting everything to be back to normal. She would want lights and refrigerated food and hot water and maybe even a boyfriend who could take care of their finances and their lives. He was starting to lose it. He was sweating all the time - little rolling beads of cold sweat that peppered his eyes with salt. Every time he blinked, he felt like he was drowning in a calm, salty ocean in the middle of winter. The woman was crying now. After three days, even a strong woman would start to miss things, like her fiancee, her bathtub, or Howie. The whimpering was piercing his ears like needles, tiny tiny needles. It was 11:58 pm. Almost day four. She was crying. He was sweating. Missy was probably tapping her foot with worry. She was crying. Whimpering. Crying. Crying. So much crying.

He lost it.

It was gone from him.

It started with his hands on her shoulders, shaking her violently, screaming at her to stop her goddam crying. But she started getting louder and louder and louder and louder and she was screaming and Aaron was thinking about the wrinkled old man in the upstairs apartment recognizing faint screams in his hearing aid and his hands were sliding up the curve between her neck and her shoulders and her tears were soaking the hair standing up on his wrists and the louder she got the harder harder harder he squeezed. "Just some silence," he sobbed, "just a little bit of silence." And now he was begging her as he crushed down on her neck and now ... it was quiet.

Her eyes were wide open and now, Aaron removed the bandanna gingerly from her mouth. The woman's mouth was frozen in the scream of a terrified, desperate child. Her head was looped off to the side, resting on her shoulder. And Aaron's last thought before tying her in garbage bags and stuffing her in his trunk, was that the old man upstairs probably recognized his sobs over his hearing aid.

Aaron sat on the train with his eyes fixed on the back of the brown leather seat in front of him, the choppy waters of the Atlantic laughing at him through the window. "I refuse to look," he thought, "I will not think about her, probably green at the bottom of a silent ocean, mouth frozen in an eternal scream." He shook his head and held his breath until the train passed the water, like his mother used to tell him to do when driving past a graveyard, so the spirits wouldn’t fly into his mouth. His right hand squeezed the gun in his old, battered coat pocket. He thought of the look on the businessman's face sitting next to the bathroom, when a loud boom lit up the morning on the overly quiet commuter train. He thought of Missy and her thesis and how she'd be better off with someone just as useless as her. He thought of the woman, and of the poor, lonely pitbull sitting in a posh apartment on Central Park West somewhere. He thought of the Harley Davidson bandanna,

and of drowning, in a calm, salty ocean in the middle of winter.