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Sam shivered. It wasn’t the cold.

It wasn’t pleasure, either, like the last shiver caused by Rita Kamkath blowing gently in his ear. They had been entangled on the couch, making out in her parent’s living room long after curfew, when he found himself getting very excited. Her blowing in his ear – so soft like a gentle sighing that travelled all the way to his toes and back up again lighting up every nerve ending along the way – was an unspoken promise of good things about to come his way. Unfortunately, Chewy, her dad’s overweight, chocolate-brown lab, lumbered into the darkened room letting out a gut wrenching howl, and awakened the entire household. Mr. Kamkath burst into the living room wearing nothing but his tidy whities and wielding a baseball bat. Turning on the overhead light and seeing his daughter in a compromising position on the couch, he turned an ominous shade of dark red. Sam never found out what good things were to come from Rita as he adjusted his clothing and ran for the door. Now, as he cowered next to the heavy wooden workbench with his back pressed against the warehouse wall and his knees pulled up under his chin, another shiver ran up his spine.

There was movement from another room on the other side of the wall but Sam couldn’t determine how far away it was. All he knew was the man who had brought him into the building was close. Sam wished for some kind of miracle save but he was alone and certain no one knew his predicament. No one could possibly know that after escaping Rita’s house with the very explicit directions never to return if he wanted to keep his manhood intact, he would be trapped in something so deadly.  A sweat bead trickled down his back.

He had been in a perfunctory mood after leaving Rita’s house when he stopped in front of Mary’s Diner on County Highway H and picked up the hitchhiker. He hadn’t given it too much thought. The guy looked harmless enough – one of those college types wearing glasses, a red hoodie sweatshirt, jeans, sneakers and carrying a blue canvas backpack. The guy said he’d take a ride as far as Sam was willing to go.

As he shut the door and settled into the front seat, the college boy pulled out a small handgun from his backpack and directed Sam to the abandoned warehouse.

No amount of pleading or cajoling elicited another word from the armed hitchhiker until they arrived at the building where he simply instructed Sam to “Get out.” Then he took the keys from the ignition and threw them out into the darkness. Sam watched them disappear and then looked up at the broken metal doors and strained to see what awaited him in the blackness inside.

As they moved deep inside the building, he guessed the stranger was playing some sort of twisted game and he had no choice but to play along. The right hook that caught him on the cheekbone when he hesitated at the threshold had convinced him of that. He didn’t know how skilled his pursuer was but the silent stranger acted lethal. As they started what was going to be a murderous game of hide and seek, Sam pushed all thoughts of Rita and pleasure out of his mind.

The hitchhiker gave him a minute head start and Sam stumbled his way through the building, in large workspaces and around abandoned machinery. He could not remember the way back to the entrance and had found himself at a dead-end in a workroom.

From his left, Sam heard the soft tap of a rubber sole on the cement floor. All he could think of was that the howling of that stupid, fat canine had put him square in this predicament and he wished he could wring Chewy’s neck. As Sam pulled himself into a tighter ball at the side of the workbench and buried his face down into his chest, he heard the cold, metallic click of the hammer of a gun just above his ear. He shivered one last time.