Melba Bradley had not been out of Chattanooga, Tennessee in her life. But having just graduated from four years of nursing school, she decided to take a vacation before settling into a job and working herself to death for the rest of her life. And the place she was going to see on her first out—of-state trip ever was New York City, New York.
After all, she had family there; her father Jack’s brother Cubon lived there with his wife Eileen and their daughters Verlanda and Trina. In all of Melba’s twenty two years, it had always been the New York Bradleys that had flown down to see them in Chattanooga, but because it had been five years since their last flight down, Melba thought she’d go against the grain and fly up to see them for once. And Verlanda had assured her that once there, she was going to show her all New York City had to offer. And that was Verlanda’s intention.
Out of a vacation that is meant to last for two weeks, Melba enjoys three glorious days as Verlanda shows her all the New York City sights and introduces to her all her sophisticated friends. And one of those friends is a nail technician named Judy who works for Verlanda’s best friend Niecey’s Hair Salon, who’s a palmistry freak on the side and reads the palms of both Verlanda and Melba, telling them what to expect in their near futures. For Verlanda, she’s going on a trip, while Melba is going to meet a man-—although under very dangerous circumstances. Melba doesn’t believe that for a minute. But she wonders when they return home to find her Uncle Cubon distressed by a phone call from his mother in Philadelphia stating she had to go into the hospital for tests and needed to have someone at her home to receive a package she is expecting to arrive in a couple of days, and Cubon naturally asks Verlanda, who has no choice other than go to Philadelphia and housesit for her grandmother. Melba sees her to the bus station and returns to her cousin’s home with the promise to her to stay with her parents until Verlanda gets back in the couple of days, since the New York element can be dangerous for a tourist not schooled in its ways. Only problem is that Verlanda did not tell her that because of something she did a week before her arrival, her innocent hick cousin from the Tennessee sticks is about to walk into a trap that’s going to land her in some very dangerous circumstances. Will Napoleon be able to save her?
Melba woke up hours later to find herself in a small room devoid of everything but a small table and a chair. She sat in her coat in the chair, her hands and feet tied, her mouth bound with strong cloth tape, wondering where she was and how long she had been bound there. Better yet, she wondered who had kidnapped her and in fact who would want to.
The growling of her stomach came to remind her that it was time for a meal, Melba didn’t know whether breakfast, lunch or dinner. Thanks to her hands being tied behind her back and to the chair, she couldn’t see her watch to know what time it was and there was no clock in the small room to alert her otherwise. Which meant that she was going to have to wait for whoever had left her there to come for her and that could be another long hour’s wait, if it wasn’t the person’s intention for her to die there altogether.
She wished she could rub her neck, where a sharp pain registered from too much uncomfortable sitting. She wondered if it was Monday or maybe Tuesday, Melba had no way of knowing just how long she had been tied in the chair. If only she could scream she might be able to claim someone’s attention, alert them to the fact that she had come to, but that was made impossible by the strong tape covering her mouth. Unless....
Taking a deep breath, Melba began to force shrill sounds from her throat as she were screaming with her mouth closed. Louder, until her throat ached from the strain and she was forced to stop. Thankfully for