As Penny gradually woke up the room came into better focus, but she couldn’t see much with the lights off. Her hands were cuffed behind her back. Daisy sat next to her, trembling. The blonde was handcuffed too, with her right arm laced through the crook in Penny’s left elbow, hitching the girls side by side. Jodi was handcuffed and chained to Penny’s right. All three girls had been handcuffed with elbows interlocking, strung together like so many paper dolls. Their legs were bound at their ankles with duct tape, their mouths taped shut. Penny tried to wriggle her wrists through the cuffs, grunting at the pain. Daisy gave it a try too, with similar results. After all three girls squirmed and writhed in vain they soon gave up, realizing this was not a problem so easily weaseled out of. Penny leaned her back against the closet wall. Think, dammit, think. What do you know about handcuffs?
Nothing. No wait, there was that weirdo kid who used to play with cuffs all the time. A little Houdini, he could pick those things with an undone paperclip. Little Creepy Casey, all the girls called him. She wished she could summon him now. She didn’t have any paperclips, or wire. Wait, not true. She had her keychain, with the one little wire loop dedicated to her laundry room key.
She wormed her bound hands to her right pocket, jolting Jodi and Daisy along with her. The girls grunted in protest, thinking her friend’s struggles were pointless. Penny had no way of explaining what she was trying to do, so she ignored their unintelligible groans while she tried to at least hook one finger into her front pocket. After a couple of tries she managed to just stick her pinkie into her keychain ring. She tugged hard until she yanked the keys out of her pocket. She had about a dozen keys on the chain. One of them, her little laundry room key, was on its own, flimsy wire hoop for easy access. Awkwardly she pried the hoop from the rest of the keys with her fingers. She then straightened the hoop out into an inch long piece of wire. She stuck one end of the wire into the keyhole of the left cuff, the girls looking on curiously.
Penny had never tried this before and had little hope it would actually work, but she had nothing else to do and nothing to lose. She wormed the wire into the keyhole over and over, hoping to catch the latch. Over and over again, nothing happened. Jodi and Daisy eventually quit watching and stared straight ahead, losing faith.
Suddenly, to Penny’s own shock, the left cuff unlocked and her wrists split away from each other. She let her aching arms drop, feeling like the Tin Woodsman after a fresh can of oil. Her friends squealed delight and smiled beneath the tape, which Penny soon ripped from their mouths.
“Penny, thank God. You’re a genius, know that?” Were the first words from Jodi’s mouth. Having ungagged her friends, Penny got to work unwrapping their legs. “I’ll try and free you girls in a minute,” she told them, pulling the last of the tape off their ankles. She stood up and went to the storage closet door. It was locked, but luckily the door could be undone from the inside by slipping a penny into the screw on the other side of the lock. Penny stepped out into the empty Ranger station and rummaged around for a handcuff key, finally finding one in the same cabinet from which the evil ranger pulled out the dart gun.
“What’s our next move,” Jodi asked while Penny unlocked her
“Well, we need to get help, and there’s only one place to get it.”
“You mean that other Ranger station?”
“But what about that witch of a Park Ranger?” Daisy asked, looking on.
“So we’ll have to be real careful, and there’s three of us,” Penny said, undoing Daisy’s cuffs.
The newly-freed girls walked out of the closet, rubbing their wrists. When they went outside they saw a Ranger Jeep parked in the gravel driveway. There were no keys inside. The searched the ransacked cabin but found nothing that even looked like car keys. They did, however, find a map of the park. They were able to locate the next closest ranger station, which appeared to be five miles up the road. As they went back outside, Penny had a thought, “That Jeep. It’s got a radio.”
“And?” Asked Daisy.
“I mean a two-way radio, a CB. Maybe we can reach someone.” The young women went into the jeep. Penny flicked the radio on and picked up the microphone. “Mayday, Mayday, can anyone hear us? We’e at Ranger station 17…Mayday!” She let go and waited for a response, but none came. She went channel to channel, sending out pleas for help, but nothing but dead air was the answer.
“Is anyone out there?” She sighed.
“Guess we should just keep heading to the next station.”
“But that’ll take close to an hour, unless you guys are world class runners. Who knows where the skyjacker or that bitchy Ranger could be by then.”
“What else can we do?”
“I got an idea,” Penny suggested, “You two go on ahead. I’ll stay here on the radio, maybe I can get somebody. If not, just have somebody come back here and fetch me when you get to the station.”
“Sounds good,” Jodi said. The two girls walked north on the gravel road that was to take them to the next Ranger station, as Penny kept calling out, “Mayday, Mayday! Can anybody hear me? Is anyone out there?”