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Jane got the shopping cart with the wobbly wheel. It veered to the right and she had to keep pulling to the left to stay straight in the aisle. Why did that always happen? More importantly, why didn't she get another cart? But she had already chosen this one, and something of her dogged determination in the face of difficulty made her keep it. She was almost done with her shopping anyway. How long did it take to buy the few items she needed? Food didn't interest her; she ate to stay alive, and her choices reflected her lack of enthusiasm--frozen vegetables, a bag of carrots, two cans of peaches, some pre-formed hamburgers, a plastic bag of buns, a jar of instant coffee and a quart of milk. Plain food for a plain girl.
Now Jane pushed her lank pale hair back from her forehead with one hand while she unloaded her cart onto the conveyor belt. A pimply-faced boy rang up her purchases, looking bored, not noticing Jane at all. No one noticed Jane. That's what she thought. She was wrong.
"That's the one, Robert. She's the one." The tall woman gestured by jerking her head in Jane's direction. Robert, not quite as tall as his wife, but large and strong, looked in the direction she pointed.
"The skinny girl? Why her? She looks so, I don't know, boring!"
"Look in her cart. She's definitely buying for one. Lives alone. No ring. No makeup, no hairstyle to speak of. No one to try and impress. Alone, Miss Lonely Hearts. Perfect."
Robert stared a moment longer and then nodded approvingly, a slow mean smile spreading on his fleshy face. "Yeah, you're right, babe, as usual. Yeah." They hung back, watching Jane payfor her paltry purchase, watching as she took the two plastic sacks she had packed herself, watching as she carried them out to her car, a Ford Escort with a dented back fender. Abandoning their cart, the pair followed her into the lot and Robert said, "You're on, Brenda."
Brenda swung her dark auburn hair back, smiled and headed confidentially toward Jane. As she approached Jane's car, Brenda knit her brow and assumed a troubled expression. When she was close enough, she called out, her voice trembling slightly, "Excuse me, ma'am?"
Jane didn't turn around at first as she fumbled with her car key. She was still hoping that whoever it was wasn't talking to her. But Brenda came closer and said, "Um, miss, excuse me?" Jane looked up reluctantly, her mouth pursed uninvitingly.
"Yes?" Jane's voice was cold.
"I'm so sorry to trouble you, ma'am, but my car ... It won't start and it does this sometimes. I was hoping maybe if you didn't mind giving me a jump start ... My husband will kill me if I'm late again. He, um," she bit her lip and real tears sprang to her eyes as she finished in a whisper, "he drinks and sometimes he gets, well, you know..." She trailed off, looking so miserable and embarrassed that Jane suddenly felt horrible for being so rude. She hated strangers approaching her for any reason. But this poor woman was in a jam. That was clear. It wasn't like Jane had anywhere to rush off to. Just her little apartment and a boring night with the T.V.
"I guess I could help you," Jane said, smiling tentatively.
Brenda sighed histrionically with relief and then gushed, "Oh thank you so much! It won't take but a second. My car's over in the next lot. If you wouldn't mind, we could ride over together."
Jane looked unsure, but Brenda's eyes filled again. "Oh, well, I guess I could do that."
Brenda suppressed a grin, climbed in next to Jane and directed, "Just in that next lot, around the corner there."
With her direction, Jane ended up behind a small building. Brenda's car was the only one in sight. It flashed through Jane's mind for an instant that it was kind of odd that this woman should have parked in such an out of the way place. Just as she was considering asking her about this, there was a sharp rap on her window. As Jane turned in surprise at the sound, Robert pulled open the driver door.
"Out you go, girlie!" he said, grabbing Jane's arm and roughly hauling her out of the car. Jane was so startled she barely had time to squeal as Robert shoved her into the back seat of an old station wagon, circa 1972, with bald tires and rusted paint. He slid in next to her, still keeping an iron grip on her arm. Brenda grabbed Jane's keys from the ignition, her purse from the floor of the passenger side, and scooted out to take her place in the driver's seat of the old car. It all happened in seconds.
Brenda was already driving out of the parking lot when Jane finally managed to sputter, "What's going on! What is this? My God, let me go!" Her voice was pitched high with fear and confusion.
Brenda laughed and said, "We got you! That's what! We did it, Robert! We got little Miss Lonely Hearts! She fell for it, lock, stock and barrel! We're almost home free. Go ahead, do it now. Just gotta do the trade off with the car and then the fun begins!"
"You are so right, Brenda. This little cunt is going to work out just fine." He pulled Jane closer to him, still holding her arm in his meaty, strong grip. She tried to wrestle herself free, panic rising in her like an acid balloon, but with his other hand he grabbed the back of her head and pulled her face to his, kissing her roughly on the mouth, forcing his tongue between her teeth, shocking poor Jane into terrified silence. His breath was sharp with stale cigarettes.
Finally he let go, forcing her head down onto his lap so her face was mashed into his zipper. Holding her still with little effort, he laughed and said, "I think she liked that, Brenda! The little frog was just waiting for a prince like me to kiss her!" He laughed loudly at his own joke. Brenda rolled her eyes but smiled indulgently at her husband. She concentrated on the road, driving carefully so as not to attract attention. She was eager to get home so they could play with their new toy.
Still holding down his squirming, squealing charge, Robert got out the chloroform-soaked rag he had prepared for this moment. He had kept it in a zip lock bag, which was waiting at his feet. Holding her by the back of her neck, Robert placed the rag over Jane's nose and mouth, forcing her to breathe in the noxious fumes. After just a few moments, he felt her go limp in his arms.
They pulled in at the abandoned factory on the edge of town. Luck was with them as they parked behind the dilapidated old building. A lone car waited, out of place in the parking lot now overgrown with weeds. Parking the old car next to a new shiny Lexus, Brenda moved from one car to the other. Robert got out and managed to heft Jane's now limp form out of the car and into the back seat of the second car. If anyone had seen them leave the supermarket parking lot, they would be looking for an old junk heap, not Robert's new model Lexus pride and joy.
Once they were driving again, Robert adjusted Jane so her head was lying on his lap, her eyes closed and a peaceful expression on her face. "She doesn't look as ugly when she's sleeping. I would say from the looks of her that she hasn't been getting any for quite some time! If ever!" Again the cruel laugh. He spoke now to the unconscious woman. "Well, your days of waiting are over, cunt. You have just been selected to be our sex slave, our love tool, our personal piece of ass." With one strong hand he grabbed Jane's blouse and ripped it open, causing the buttons to spray against the soft leather of the car seat. He used his pocketknife to slice through the practical cotton bra that covered Jane's smallish breasts.
He held the silver blade close to her neck, fantasizing for a moment about slicing through the jugular, watching the blood spurt in a stream from her throat. Almost reluctantly, he closed the knife and slipped it in his back pocket. If he killed her now, they would have to find someone new. And anyway, he would never do that to his new Lexus.
Instead, he focused his attention on her chest. "Ah," he said, as he stared at her naked torso, the little nipples a dark pink against white skin. He could see pale blue veins through her porcelain flesh. Brenda glanced in the rearview mirror at the scene in the back seat. She drove faster, wanting to get home quickly so she could join in the fun.