by Adan Ramie
Joanna cringed as the door slammed in her face. She opened her mouth to blurt out the first thing that popped into her head — “My house, my rules, you ungrateful brat!” — then clamped it shut. She took a deep breath, held it for a beat, then let it out through barely parted lips. The lock clicked, and Joanna put a hand to her throbbing temple.
“Kendal, please, talk to me.”
There was a thump from inside. Joanna pressed her ear against the door. She hopped back as Kendal’s electric keyboard sang out, amplified. Wiggling a finger in her ear, she grimaced at the door, then sighed and walked away.
It wasn’t that she didn’t care, or didn’t understand the ways of teenaged girls. This trip was important, not only for Kendal’s musical aspirations, but for her to distance herself from her increasingly temperamental ex-boyfriend. She just didn’t want Kendal exposed to the debauchery of a European vacation.
She meandered downstairs, willing Kendal to stop playing and talk to her, but the girl continued to beat the keys. Joanna walked to the mailbox.
“Junk, bill, junk, junk,” she mumbled, then stopped short on her doorstep. A plain, white envelope stared up at her. She went in to the kitchen, dropped the rest of the mail on the counter, then grabbed a letter opener from the junk drawer and sliced the envelope open.
“IF YOU WANT YOUR CAT BACK ALIVE LET KENDAL GO TO AMPSTERDAM”
Joanna felt the skin on the back of her neck crawling, and slapped at it, dropping the note on the table where it silently screamed its warning. The sense of being watched crawled into her belly, and her eyes darted around the sunlit room for an intruder.
“KENDAL!” she yelled, jogging to the staircase. “KENDAL ELIZABETH, YOU GET DOWN HERE RIGHT NOW!”
The music stopped, and the door creaked open. “There’s nothing to talk about.”
Kendal groaned and slunk out. She took a few steps, then met her mother’s eyes and stopped mid-stride. “What’s wrong?” she asked, her snarl melting into a look of concern. “Mom?”
Joanna walked back into the kitchen. She shoved the note in Kendal’s face as soon as the girl crossed the threshold. “What the hell is this?” she hissed.
As she read, Kendal’s expression turned from confusion to fear and regret. “Oh, God. Tyson has Rucifee!”
Joanna shook with a mixture of fear and fury. “Is this your doing?”
A pause. “Will he kill him?” Kendal shrugged, eyes on her feet. “Kendal.”
“I don’t know, Mom!” she said, hugging herself. “Probably.”
Joanna looked down at the note. “You know what we have to do.”
“No, please, not again,” Kendal moaned.
Joanna placed a heavy hand on her shoulder. “He’s left us no choice. Let him reap what he has sown.”
“Does it have to be so bloody this time?”
Joanna scooped the note and crushed it in her grasp. “Only if he struggles.”
Originally published 2014-08-01: The Enemy Rule – This story was created from two 2014 flash fiction prompt contests.