It was very apparent to me that Travis was enjoying my not being able to interrupt him.
I got the impression that he was a man who sometimes had difficulty getting his words in edgewise around women. We can be a chatty lot, I must admit.
But now he was able to take his time, gather his thoughts, and not feel pressured to fit his monologue into a too-brief period of time.
He was leaning forward on my sofa, his fingers intertwined, thumbs twirling slowly. Even his thumbs knew enough to relax, because this was going to be a one-way conversation indefinitely.
Unless you consider a two-way conversation to be a man talking and a woman rolling her eyes, sighing, and making occasional grunting sounds of anger and frustration.
In that case, we were having ourselves quite a repartee.
Travis and I were in our second month of dating. We met at the marketing firm where we both worked. It started with lunch among a small group of co-workers, and I hadn’t thought much about him. He was cute and all, but my life was too busy to consider a man.
My name is Lauren Montgomery, by the way.
I was working two jobs—full-time as a market research analyst and part-time as a bartender—plus my sister paid me to watch her six-year-old son on Sunday afternoons didn’t leave any room for eating and sleeping, much less a relationship.
But damn, Travis was cute, and so when he asked me on the way out to our cars after one of the group lunches if I wanted to grab a drink after work that night, my resistance weakened and I agreed.
One little drink wouldn’t hurt.
That little drink led to a dinner date, then another, then another, and before I knew it Travis was my boyfriend, for lack of a better word, despite my crazy schedule.
Soon enough I found myself getting used to the idea of being his girlfriend, though neither of us knew where this was going. We were just having fun.
One little drink led to all that.
But then, sadly, it led to my current predicament, taped to one of my kitchen chairs in my front room, totally double-crossed by my “boyfriend”, who turned out to be a hit man who wanted to use my home to stakeout my neighbor across the street.
So Travis was now trying to explain this startling turn of events, which included a little somethin’-somethin’ dropped into my glass of wine, served to me by him as I was under the impression that he was going to cook me dinner and enjoy a quiet evening at home with him.
Well, the “quiet” part was dead-on, when it came to yours truly.
When I awakened from my drugged stupor—I don’t know what it was in my drink but it put me out like a light not long after I took only a few sips of my wine—I found to my consternation that I couldn’t budge all that much. Like, hardly at all.
Travis went bonkers with the duct tape. I guess he thought he was taping up King Kong or something.
It was everywhere—lashed around my waist and above and below my breasts and to the chairback. Around my ankles. Fastening my wrists to the armrests. Above AND below my knees. Around my calves.
He must have used most of a new roll on me. I don’t even know where he got it from, not that that was important, or relevant.
And, a bunch of it was plastered over my mouth.
Not the best way to wake up.
I awoke groggy, with a slight headache, and my tummy was a little upset.
It was summer, and my windows were closed and the central air was humming, keeping my house at a pleasant 72 degrees, despite the near-90s going on outside. It was mid-July, after all.
We weren’t going out, so I was wearing a pink t-shirt with the ironic words “Semi-Tough” splayed on front. It was a gift from my little brother. I’m 27, by the way, and Jeremy is 18. Again, not terribly relevant, but there you are.
The shirt did the midriff thing on me because it shrank after a couple of years of wear. And it clung to my 38C bust rather snugly.
So it was just the t-shirt and a pair of denim cut-offs, which went mid-thigh. That, and panties. No bra, and I was barefoot—which I usually was inside my house, regardless of the season. I was never one of those women into shoes. I only wear them because I have to. They’re always the first things that get removed when I come home.
Travis wanted to get me a new pair of shoes, for work, for my birthday that fell a few weeks after we started dating, but the thought didn’t really interest or excite me. Poor thing—I could tell that he was genuinely amazed that a woman showed such a lukewarm interest in new shoes!
I rather detest shoes, truth be told.
So after the requisite time to come back to consciousness, clear my head, and assess my situation, i.e. thrash and bounce in the chair and scream bloody murder, Travis plunked his backstabbing ass on my sofa and began explaining—which was the least he could do.
My eyes narrowed at him as he sat down and regarded me. My freshly-manicured hands (French manicure, in case you want to know, to match my French pedicure) balled into fists reflexively.
The first thing out of his mouth—and I’m not making this up—was, “Hi.”
Now, OK—so you don’t know exactly what to say to a woman who woke up taped to a chair and gagged, but “Hi” isn’t likely to be on anyone’s list, I wouldn’t think. But that’s what Travis said to me.
I tilted my head questioningly at his odd choice of greeting, and tried to speak, foolishly.
When I had thrashed about and screamed moments earlier—at least my reaction was consistent with the situation—I wasn’t trying to form words; I was just trying to make a lot of noise, because I was beside myself.
It was all very muffled, of course, but what he had done to my mouth wasn’t fully evident to me until I tried speaking to him after his “Hi.”
He hadn’t just taped my mouth shut from ear-to-ear, he had shoved something inside it, too.
Screaming is a different vocal operation than talking. You don’t need your tongue to scream. I have done a little singing in my time—briefly took vocal lessons several years ago—and I know some things about utilizing your lungs and abdomen to maximize projection of your voice.
None of it needs your tongue.
But forming words needs the tongue to be able to touch the upper palate, and mine couldn’t do that, as I discovered.
Something fat and spongy was sitting on my tongue, crammed behind my teeth.
I prayed to God that whatever it was, was at least clean before it was stuffed into my mouth.
Travis is a good mind reader, because when I tried to speak—I was asking him, basically, WHAT THE FUCK??—he saw my confused look when it came out, “Wumm imm unnh?” Then he answered my unasked question—the one that I was probably asking with my eyes.
“It’s a sock—a clean one,” he said, referring to what he had shoved into my mouth. To emphasize its cleanliness, Travis then reached to the side of the sofa and produced a freshly-opened package of white tube socks—with one missing.
I looked at the package, looked at him, rolled my eyes, and sighed.
“Well, it’s better than a dirty one, right?”
Yeah, but not better than no gag at all!
With the new knowledge that the obstruction in my mouth was a sock, I felt it again with my tongue. Yep, felt like a sock, alright.
I had to hand it to Travis—the combination of the rolled up sock in my mouth and the many strips of tape sealing my lips made this girl awfully quiet. I couldn’t form anything close to real words, and when I had screamed my head off soon after waking up it made me blush, how terribly muffled my tirade was.
But why had he gagged me?
Actually, that’s a stupid question. Why would a man in his situation want to have to deal with a chatty girl while he’s trying to engage in a stakeout?
So Travis made sure there would be no verbal interruptions on my part, save for the occasional grunts, growling, and unintelligible speech that I was offering up.
Like I said, I’m pretty sure he enjoyed my silence.
“I’m sorry,” was what he said next.
My eyes narrowed again.
“I suppose I owe you an explanation.”
The king of the understatement—that’s my Travis.
Then he paused, maddeningly. I growled and stomped my bare feet into the carpet. The resulting thud seemed to startle him into continuing.
“First, my name really is Travis. But my last name is different than what you think. And that’s all you need to know about my name.”
I sighed and arched my eyebrows in a signal for him to keep explaining. I was dying to hear this one.
“I will tell you that I have been hired to do harm to your neighbor across the street.”
My eyebrows crinkled as I thought of who it might be. I only had three neighbors across the street, as I lived toward the end of my block.
Again, he read my confused mind.
“Earl Battey,” he said flatly.
I cocked my head, puzzled. I didn’t know an Earl Battey—at least I didn’t think I did.
“Mmm?,” is what I “said”—my vocabulary reduced to about 1% of its normal size, thanks to the clean sock and fresh tape.
“Maybe you don’t know him by name. He’s about 60, gray hair, former Marine.
“That ring a bell?”
My eyes widened as it clicked.
“MMMM!” I said, nodding vigorously.
“OK. Well, he’s a bad man, Lauren.”
Another confused look from me. Another “Mmmm?” from where my mouth normally would be.
“It’s not important that you know. But I was hired to…take care of him, Lauren.”
I felt as if I’d been slugged in the gut. I watched enough TV and movies and read enough novels to know what that meant.
Suddenly, Travis wasn’t so cute anymore. Or so attractive. Or such a nice guy.