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This can't be happening, Karen thought incredulously. This is impossible!
Though her head still throbbed from its violent encounter with the stove corner, the intensity of the pain seemed to be lessening. As this occurred, Karen found herself becoming aware of other areas of discomfort. The twine with which Betty's companion had tied her wrists and ankles was cutting into her badly, and her hands, which had been secured behind her back, were numb from the weight of her body. The dish towel pressed cruelly against her injured mouth, and her bones ached from her fall to the kitchen floor.
How long were they planning to leave her here? Karen wondered. What could the purpose behind all this be? If it was to rob the Center, it was unlikely that Betty and her friend would be returning before evening. The parents paid when they picked their children up at night, not when they brought them in, and there was never much money in the cash drawer in the mornings. When it came to that, there was little money there at any time; most of the Center's clients were regulars who paid monthly by check.
It simply didn't make sense. If this couple had decided to rob a business establishment, there were any number of more promising prospects. A bank or a store or even a video game hall would have more cash on hand. They had managed to learn everything else about the Center--who was employed there, who the director was--even the schedule of the bus that Karen rode to work in the mornings. It was inconceivable that they could be stupid enough to believe that there would be enough money at a day care center to be worth the risk involved in robbing it.
Again, Karen found herself experiencing the feeling that she had missed something. Carefully, she reviewed every word she could remember. First, she and Betty had talked in the car. Then, the man, Jed, had entered the picture. He had dragged Karen into the apartment and called her a "wildcat." "Surprise, surprise!" Betty had said. "She doesn't look much like one, does she?" What else had she told him? "Tie our little friend up, and let's get going. You did get gas, didn't you?"
Hold it a minute! What was that about the gas?
Karen slowed the pace of her mind and centered it upon that item.
"You did get gas?" Betty had asked--yet she had been the one who had been out that morning. If gas for the car had been needed, she would have bought it. The gas she was referring to must have been for the van. Did that mean that she had expected to drive the van to the Center? That didn't seem reasonable. It would have looked strange for Karen's "Aunt Nancy" to have arrived in a laundry truck. What was it, then, that the van was to be used for?
As she reviewed the conversation, Karen remembered that there had been a second part of it. After asking about gas, Betty had mentioned needing a road map. That had to mean that after the robbery, the pair was planning to head immediately for some place far enough away so that they needed a map in order to plan their route.
And, that must mean--
Dear God, Karen realized with sudden horror, they're not coming back here!
They were not going to release her--and why on earth should they? A return trip to the apartment would gain them nothing.
I'm going to be left here! I won't be discovered until next month's rent is due! Karen shuddered convulsively. How long can I stay alive?
She had read articles about people who had been marooned in wilderness areas, set adrift in lifeboats, or stranded in the desert. Some of them had survived for weeks without food, but in all cases such as those, there had at least been water. Food was important, but water was more so. No one could live very long without liquid intake.
I've got to get out of here--but how?