This is this kind of story I call horror of a different type, as it tells the story of a little girl learning the hard way that stranger danger only accounts for 1% of all child adductions. Its based on that line from Criminal Minds, and my own indoctrination of “Stranger Danger” from school, where they mostly taught us to not take candy from a stranger.
I heard a line once in a show that the concept of stranger danger had made people aware of the man in the white van, but that was only 1% of all abductions. That most children knew those that took them. I certainly did.
He wasn’t a friend, or a family member, or even a teacher. He was the dude at the park. I know on the surface that this makes it sound like he was a stranger, but he really wasn’t. His name was Charlie, and he lived a few streets over from me. He worked at the same place as my dad for a while, until the lay offs. Thats where I first met Charlie, at a fourth of July party that the company was throwing in their heyday, when the money was still flowing.
Then it stopped flowing, and they let most of the staff go. My dad managed to stay on, he worked at the warehouse, and coordinated the shipping, before from the production, and after from the imports. I didn’t get what that meant at the time, but I could always repeat it to people.. All I really understood was that it wasn’t great, but it was a job, and that was what was important, I guess. He worked a lot more hours after the lay offs, Mmom too, at the time I thought they were just really busy, but looking back dad must have taken a pay cut.
Anyway, Charlie had gotten a few part time things, I saw him around a lot, but nothing stable, because the guy spent a lot of time in the park. The other kids refered to him as the dude at the park, but since I knew him, they never really told anyone about it because Charlie wasn’t a stranger.
He was also, a lot of fun. He brought things to the park for us kids, shovel and kites, and trucks, and sometimes snacks. We all quickly learned that a day where Charlie showed at the park with a big bag of stuff, was going to be a great day.
I think it’s why I wasn’t even remotely suspicious of him when he asked for help picking up some goodies for the day. My friends weren’t there yet, and I was SO excited to see what he was gonna get us ,that I got in the back of that car and did up my seat belt myself.
I knew Charlie, Charlie was fun, and he gave us treats all the time, so I took the juice-box without question. It was my favorite flavor, because unlike Dad, Charlie was great about remembering that kind of thing. He always brought each and every one of our favorites, no matter how weird they were.
I dozed off in the car, and it was something I did a lot back then, I didn’t even realize something was wrong when I did wake up. I wasn’t sure where we were, and it was the same amount of bright out. It felt like I had been sleeping a long time though, and when I looked down I realized I was wearing different clothes. I tried to open the window, and the door, but I couldn’t the handles didn’t move. Even my seatbelt was stuck on, and when I tried to kick I realized my feet were tiedd down. I screamed and cried, and Charlie said nothing.
I finally wore myself out, and just stared out the window a while. It was okay, someone would find me, it hadn’t been that long. That’s when I saw the sign “Welcome to Fort Worth, TX”. I remembered seeing it on a map once it school, when my teacher drew a big circle showing hour far away you could go in a day if you drove the entire time, and my heart sunk. It had been a day, and I was very far from my home, and Charlie didn’t show signs of stopping any time soon.
Eventually I whined I was thirsty, hoping he would stop, but he just gave me another juice box, and I drank it thirsty, and hungry. I felt myself getting sleepy, and I realized that the juice had tasted a little funny, the same as last time.
When I woke up this time, I was in a basement. Later I would discover that we were in San Ysirdo, in south San Diego. I didn’t leave the basement for a long time. Charlie home schooled me, called me his little girl, and taught me to be good.
I did get good enough eventually, to be allowed out. I went to high school there, and Charlie even let me go to South Western when I graduated. There were two rules, I was Shelly Wright, and I had to live at home.
I miss them, from time to time, my birth parents. I think they would be happy for me here though. I had a good life with Charlie, he took care of me, and I loved him like a Father. I wasn’t part of the 1%, but things turned out well enough for me.
Weird add on to this, about the “taking candy from a stranger” thing. In high school, two of my friends actually did get into a strangers van for candy. They were lucky, because this person ended up being a parent, making a donation of candy to the school for Halloween, but I often think back on that, and think how badly two fifteen-year-olds getting into a stranger’s van could have ended…