Jessie woke up in a van. Of course, at first she wasn’t really aware of where she was. At first she was barely aware she’d woken up. Every time she took a breath there was a lancing pain high up on her right side near her armpit. It felt like a chunk of glass was lodged in her skin. It felt so much like it that the first thing she did when she regained enough sense to move was swipe her hand over the spot. She found nothing; she thought something might be broken.
Waking up a little more she realized she also felt sick: nauseous, feverish, and fuzzy headed. It was as though she’d been poisoned and her body wanted to rid itself of the source of the problem. The motion of the car was making it worse.
She opened her eyes then groaned as the light hit them. Seeing caused another lance of nausea to tighten her stomach.
“Where am I?”
“You’re with me, and we’re riding back to see the boss.”
As answers went, that was stunningly uninformative. The speaker was the bounty hunter from the previous night. She didn’t understand; she’d gotten away from him. “How?”
“I got you with a tracker spell. I followed it back to that cute little no-tell motel your boyfriend was holed up in.” The bounty hunter trailed off for a minute, “He was a little bit slippery. But we’ll get him soon.”
Jessie looked around. She was sitting in the back of some sort of van. The vehicle was new, but cheap and hard used. The seats were vinyl that wasn’t making an effort to look like any fancier material. They’d been ripped in a couple of spots allowing foam to show through from beneath. The windows were heavily tinted. Most notably, a rigid wire mesh separated the passenger compartment from the driver’s compartment. Two people sat up front. There was the bounty hunter she recognized and another similarly attired man she did not.
Jessie leaned back in the seat and closed her eyes again trying to fight the nausea. They were on one of those stretches of road where expansion joints had been built into the pavement, so the bumps came regularly. Each bump made her stomach jolt, and each jolt made the nausea worse. She looked up and opened her eyes again. Out the window she could see a stretch of land she was familiar with. She wasn’t far outside of the city. They could have reached this spot with less than 45 minutes of driving, maybe 30 under the new faster traffic rules. She hadn’t been out long.
“Guys, we gotta stop.”
The bounty hunter she thought she recognized was apparently the designated spokesman of the two because he was the one that responded. “How do you figure?”
The sign for the rest stop she knew was coming rolled by out the window. It was five miles away. “Because, I’m going to be sick.”
“Get sick then. If we stop you’ll try to run. I don’t feel like chasing you.”
They hit another bump. Jessie almost heaved and had to breathe through her mouth for a moment to fight the sensation back down. When she’d recovered enough to speak she said, “I don’t see any air sick bags, and this isn’t a trick. How about we pull over before it stinks in here?”
Neither of the men replied to that. For a couple of minutes Jessie struggled with her stomach in silence. The one who hadn’t spoken looked over his shoulder at her. A bump hit and Jessie swallowed hard. “She looks pretty green.”
“I don’t know, I’ve hit people with the stun stuff before, it makes some people sick.”
Another sign for the rest area passed. It was less than a two miles. “I’m not faking. But look, there’s a rest area, let me go to the restroom there.”
“That’s exactly what people who fake sick want! Why would I let you go there?”
Jessie had to breathe through her nose for a few seconds more before she replied. On the up side, she was feeling totally alert. The physical discomfort had pushed any remaining shreds of sleep away. “I know the restrooms in these rest stops. They’re cinder block rooms with only one entrance. It’s basically a prison cell with a toilet in it. We’re better off stopping here than anywhere else. What am I going to do? Flush myself down the toilet?” That was true, as far as it went.
The navigational system of the car chose that moment to enter the argument on Jessie’s side. Something happened in the traffic in front of them, a tire burst or maybe something fell off a vehicle. It was never apparent what caused the problem, but all the cars on the road locked their brakes and decelerated as rapidly as possible. Jessie was thrown against the seat belt which, fortunately, she was wearing. Cars to their right accelerated opening a small gap. The van swerved right tossing Jessie sideways. That motion was just in time to get them around a stopped semi-trailer.
It was also too much for Jessie’s stomach. She barely had time to turn her head to the side before she vomited. A thick slurry of half-digested food, and stomach acid sprayed out onto the window of the van, and the seat beside her. She fought to keep herself clean, and mostly managed, but it got in her nose and made her cough and sputter. After the food was gone she spent another few minutes heaving uselessly. Oddly it also made her feel much better. Her chest still hurt, but her nausea was gone. When she looked up she realized they’d pulled in at the rest area.
Jessie considered saying “thanks,” but decided social niceties weren’t really required when you were being kidnapped. In fact, dwelling on the small kindnesses for too long was probably the road to Stockholm syndrome.