Posted by: karanoel | March 22, 2020

Kidnapped

Having already written about most of the eventful parts of my life, I decided to tackle the time I was kidnapped for my writing workshop last week. So here it is!

***

“This must have been the worst day of your life,” my dad said with conviction. “Not even close,” I honestly replied. Although it certainly wasn’t my best either. I don’t think being abducted tops anyone’s list of good times.

As a reckless 18 year-old living in Hollywood, I think “drama” is the word that best describes my life at that time. With the extreme choices I was making on a daily basis, the consequences were equally so. On this particular night, my roommate, Allison, and I had decided to go to a club. Or maybe it was a rave. All I remember was that it looked like nothing more than a warehouse dressed up like a school gym for senior prom. When we entered, music was pumping a sudden, abrasive affront to our ears, as flashing lights revealed glimpses of color and people; a forced effort to set a mood that we were far too sober to enjoy. We stood there in the slight awkwardness of a young night, greeting a few people we recognized with flirtatious glances or words that couldn’t be heard, before pounding a few drinks, maybe dancing a little and then heading to a line that snaked like a river to the bathroom.

In front of us were three young guys who seemed too clean-cut for this place – more like college students than rave goers, I thought, as I took in their crisp button-downs, brightly contrasting their deep brown skin and tight, tamed curls. When they turned around to talk to us, we realized it wasn’t just conversation they were offering, but a line of coke. Heck yeah! Who in their right mind would turn down free drugs? So eventually we crowded into the restroom and did our lines before Allison and I headed off toward the music, tossing a quick “thanks” over our shoulders.

Upon our return, the stiff school dance atmosphere had morphed into something alive; sophisticated; welcoming. We belonged there, not like wallflowers watching the scene unfold, but in the middle of it all, dancing with newfound energy, reveling in the power of our youthful beauty as our long locks whipped wildly to the strong beat thumping through our young, immortal bodies.

The rest of the night is a blur. A swirling mass of faces, so recently foreign, now warm and familiar. Music that went on endlessly. Did the song even change? It could go on forever, for all I cared. I was lost in pleasure. There was more alcohol, I think; more cocaine. From those same guys? I don’t know. I didn’t care. As long as it kept coming. This was living. I was alive.

I don’t know how all the hours passed, but we didn’t leave that used up warehouse until late morning. The daylight felt harsh. My power, like a vampire’s, was drained by it. I was tired. So very tired. All I wanted to do was sleep in a dark room where day could not lord itself over me. But we had to stop at the record store, Allison said, because she needed to buy concert tickets. “Fine,” I replied. “But I’m staying in the car.”

Sitting alone, with the key in the ignition so music could mask the silence, I realized that my head was heavy. Far too heavy to keep perched atop my long, wearied neck. How nice it would feel to drop the weight; to rest. The suggestion was tantalizing. My tangled mass of curls bobbled in indecision for a split second before yielding wholly to the suggestion, tumbling with a thump onto the headrest behind. Oh yes, I sighed, with slow, deep breaths. But how heavy my eyelids now seemed. How nice it would be to close them – just for a moment. I wouldn’t lock the door, though. Just in case. Sleep fell hard on me, this I knew. No, I would leave it unlocked so Allison could get back in. “Yes, just in case…”

The sweet sensation of sleep was interrupted by the abrupt opening of my car door and the sound of hurried voices. Not Allison’s somewhat high, nasal voice like I would have expected, but the deeper, hushed sound of men’s voices. Drowsy and confused, I squinted up to see a couple guys standing above me. Before I could respond, one roughly pushed me over into the passenger seat and quickly slipped behind the wheel while another jumped into the back. Doors slammed, the engine came to life and we were gone in a moment. Something felt disjointed; wrong. But my mind was too fuzzy to identify what it was. 

Recognition came as my brain fired through the haze. “The bathroom. The coke. The guys from last night.” “Yes, I remember them.” That brought relief. “We must be meeting Allison somewhere,” I concluded before yielding again to the drugged exhaustion. Unsettled sleep wove itself between thickly fogged wakefulness, one barely discernible from the other, forming a dreamlike tapestry of jumbled colors and pictures. On we drove like this, in and out, light and shadows, for so long it seemed. But where were we going?

The car stopped, startling me with its searing silence. I sat up, suddenly sober, and looked out the window. Another parking lot, this one smaller, off a busy road, I thought. Was it a motel? Yes. But not one that looked familiar. I was ushered out of my car, escorted up a set of stairs into a room; an abandoned room, it seemed. Things were out of place, the toilet torn from the floor. I was set on the bed, not roughly, and offered another line of coke. Oh God, yes. The familiar warmth returned, chasing away the reality that was starting to settle in.

The third guy entered the room, having driven a separate car. It was the smart one, I think; the leader of this unlikely trio who had apparently followed us to the record store and taken me to wherever it was we now were. When the big one tried to get frisky with me, I swatted him away like I would any other guy with an unwelcome advance. This was not the time and I was definitely not in the mood. He took the hint and backed off. More lines of coke were offered and voraciously received. Time passed. Was it hours? I don’t know. 

There were some hushed discussions before the smart one left. My insides were getting restless. I was over the drugs. Over the experience. The hotel room. These guys. I wanted to be done now. But as the fog lifted, I was jolted into a sober awareness of my very vulnerable position. Allison wasn’t meeting us here. These guys had kidnapped me. I had no idea where I was. And neither did anyone else. 

“I need air,” I panted. “The balcony. I need to go outside.” A feigned panic attack – or was it real? After a moment’s hesitation, wishing I’m sure that his leader was there, the big one said “okay” and opened the slider, lurking just inside as he let me out. I drew in a deep breath – of fresh air and car fumes – that felt years in coming. I couldn’t go back into that room. The truth of that fact pulsed through me with every growing surge of adrenaline. It was time to get the hell out of here. And fast. Without time to plan the details, I flung my body over the rail. There were no stairs, but protruding objects – columns or a planter? – that kept me from falling too far or too hard. My feet touched ground. It felt like freedom. But it didn’t count yet. It wouldn’t go unchallenged. My car was gone. So I ran. Faster than I’ve ever run. Like my life depended on it. 

The sidewalk that caught each footfall was going opposite traffic which was fortunate because not long into my race, I saw a small blue car carrying my captors. It drove along the other side of the boulevard, watching me keenly, following at my pace. I scrambled over fences, behind dumpsters, trying to keep unseen but in motion; an animal of prey frantically trying to escape a pursuing predator. My heart beat wildly. Finally, with my legs and lungs on fire, hope appeared ahead in the shape of a gas station. I would have to risk crossing the street, to their side of the road. But I had no other choice. 

My last bit of adrenaline shot me across traffic into the parking lot, an Arco I think, where I gasped for air and let my tears freely flow. The blue car appeared just a moment later, but passed by with distinct frustration; deterred from pulling in, I’m guessing, by the inhabited police car that just happened to be sitting there. Relief. Exhaustion. 

The policeman looked at me, concerned, and asked, “Are you okay?” “Yes. I’m fine,” I replied as I walked away. It didn’t dawn on me to share my story, so full of my own wrongs, to report the abduction or ask him for help. I had no car, no purse, no money. I just wanted to be home. So I walked over to the pay phone and called my roommate collect, pleading for an answer. The ringing stopped almost immediately as Allison shouted into the phone, “Kara! Kara! Where are you???” “Arco. On Van Nuys Boulevard, I think. They have my car. I can’t get home. Please come get me.” She would come right away, she said. I needed to stay put.

I wandered over to the side of the gas station, unloading a flood of emotion, when a redneck sort of guy in a white t-shirt and an old blue pickup opened his window and kindly asked if I was okay. “No, I’m not,” I replied as I poured out the whole tumultuous story before him. “Do you want a line of speed?,” he queried. As if I were completely incapable of learning from my mistakes, I responded with a very relieved, “Yes. Thank you.” So I sat in the passenger seat of this stranger’s truck and did a line of speed on his dashboard. He offered to go to the motel and get my car back. It didn’t seem likely but it was a generous gesture, deeply appreciated in the moment, so I left him with my parents’ phone number and my genuine gratitude for the listening ear – and the speed – before saying goodbye.

Not too much later, my roommate arrived with emotional fanfare. She’d seen them drive off with me, she said, and had no idea where I’d been all this time. My parents had called, right after she’d gotten a ride home, wanting to talk to me. “They took her!,” she blurted out. She was worried for them; worried for me. She called the police but felt impotent to help. Her relief at seeing me was possibly even greater than mine. 

The news team had come too, interviewing me right there in the gas station parking lot, preserving my identity by facing me away from the camera and calling me “Linda.” I’m pretty sure the whole interview was completely incoherent, but they played at least part of it. I saw it that night on the 6:00 news, from the safety of my apartment after what, in the end, was just another day in the life.

I’d like to say that the experience was potent enough to change my course of recklessness, but it wasn’t. I’d always been stubborn; strong-willed. It would take time yet. More hard things. A near-fatal overdose on heroin just a week later. A very rough marriage a year later. And countless other precarious situations along the way. But I would come to value my life; to treasure and inhabit it instead of trying to escape or destroy it. I would become a mom and my whole world would change. I would start making wise choices and surrounding myself with truth and goodness. The drugs would fall away, unwanted and unneeded. I would marry a kind man; a loving man. My life would become beyond beautiful.

I am so grateful to the God who spared my life, probably more times than I know, so this would be nothing more than an insignificant side note in my history. My dad said that after they learned I was missing that day, he got a mental image while praying for me. It was of God’s hand reaching into a giant bowl of prayers that had been sent up on my behalf, over many years I imagine, grabbing some to cover me and keep me safe once again. I would be okay, he knew then, and I would come to know that too. I am more than okay and, yes, so very grateful.

Ps. Do you remember the kind guy in the blue pickup? Well, he went back to the motel room I described – with a lead pipe, he said – and got my car back, delivering it to my parents’ home and receiving a small reward. Because sometimes God can use even our outright foolish decisions for good. 


Responses

  1. Kara, what a story!! God has been merciful to you, drawing you to Himself. What a Redeemer Jesus is!!

    • Merciful beyond understanding!! It is pretty cool to be walking proof of Jesus’ redemption!

  2. Oh, Kara. You had shared this with me years back, but here, it brings to life so many emotions. I am so thankful God spared your life to share this story with all of us. I love you my dear friend so much!

    • I’m so grateful I lived to tell too! I love you more than you could ever know!

  3. Wow, Kari – the memories of that day followed by the memories of you being assaulted and almost dying a week or so later later are overwhelming! The panic and pain, fear and ultimate gratitude we experienced remain. As you wrote it sounded a bit like a three stooges caper when it was demons out to kill!

    And, by the way, the sweet guy who helped you charged us $1000 to get your car back!

    For Mom and me we see it as the worst week of our life – the week we almost lost you – twice. And the best week because of who and where you are now. 🙂

    On Sun, Mar 22, 2020 at 5:42 PM where waves grow sweet wrote:

    > karanoel posted: “Having already written about most of the eventful parts > of my life, I decided to tackle the time I was kidnapped for my writing > workshop last week. So here it is! *** “This must have been the worst day > of your life,” my dad said with conviction. “Not ev” >

    • Well goodness gracious, that’s not a small fee! Maybe he was charging you for the drugs he gave me too 😂. I’ll have to update that part. But thank you for all your prayers and care and love! I obviously needed them!

  4. I’m amazed by this story! Wow!!! How faithful is our God! Really there are no adequate words to quantify how precious His intervention and protection of your life are. Seriously, I’m in awe. And the picture that your dad got really speaks to my heart and tangibly encourages me as a parent. I rejoice with all my heart for how gracious He has been to you!

    • He is faithful beyond understanding! It humbles me so deeply! And his words and pictures are generous and ministering. Thank you so much for reading and responding ❤️

      • You are truly welcome, my sweet, precious sister! Amen and amen, He is!!

  5. Wow, glad you’re still with us, Kara–thanks to some quick thinking (finally), the warrior in the blue pickup, and a gracious God!

    • Thanks Mitch! So glad for all of the above – and still being around – too!


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