NOT SO SOUTHERNLY, SOUTHERN CHARM **CHAPTER 6**

Southern Charm

As frightened as Caroline was, she couldn’t stop thoughts of Porter from infiltrating her brain- even though she was tied to a chair, covered in gasoline, and choking fiercely. Her lungs were on fire from the mixture of the fumes and her coughing fits. Her wrist and ankles were bleeding from where they tied her too tight and too roughly to the chair. She knew somewhere in the back of her head that it was silly to think that Porter would rescue her, but she had to hold on to something, or her fear would completely incapacitate her. If anyone were to get her out of this mess it would have to be her, so she was going to have to somehow keep her wits about her.

She turned her head frantically to the right and then to the left, as much as her restraints would allow, to try and figure out where she was, but again, she recognized nothing, and knew only that she was in a dark, old warehouse in the Warehouse District. As she thought about that, tears rained down her scuffed, dirty face. There was no way anyone would know where she was or how to find her. She coughed again as she tried to call out, but her voice was hoarse and the words she wanted to scream barely touched her lips, leaving her feeling even more hopeless. She tried again, then cried out as her cracked, dried lips started bleeding. There was no hope.

She attempted to think back on how she got in this situation in the first place, but the last and only thing that she remembered, before waking up in Terry and Julie Tucker’s trunk, was approaching the NOBH building to start her day of work. She remembered a cloth approaching from her side peripheral, then snaking around her face, she remembered a strange smell, then nothing…blackness. After that, she woke as she was jerked from the trunk of the car by her hair and legs, then dragged into a warehouse. Although she was blindfolded, she could still see the structure of the building. That’s how she knew what area she was in, which in no way made her feel better, but at least gave her a clue as to how and where she was going to die, she thought frantically.

 If you’re going to be kidnapped, the last place you wanted to be taken was to the Warehouse District. It was lined with old building after older building– with some occupied, but most not- and the area was dense with the empty metal buildings. If someone even realized that she was missing, how would they even know where to start looking for her? Chills once again racked her body as fear took over. She’d never been so frightened and mistreated in all of her life, she noted sadly, and this had to be one of the worst things that were ever going to happen to her, if she even lived to have more experiences.

The fumes became too much. She felt her eyes rolling back in her head. She tried to stay awake and call out one more time, but her strength was declining and she was losing consciousness quickly. She knew this was it- she was dying. Her head rolled down and to the right as Porters name left her lips one last time.

Porter was a mess. He wasn’t sure if they’d wasted time going to Julie Tuckers house or not. They did find an address to a place in the Warehouse district, but what on earth would she be doing there. What did that have to do with the shop that Terry wanted to open? All he knew was the more time that went by the worse it was for Caroline. He could feel her in his arms, smell her hair and feel her soft skin. He wanted her back with him so badly that he would kill the two people responsible for this if she was mistreated in anyway. He knew deep down that he’d do it, and so did his friend, which is why Dan kept such a close trail on Porter. He wasn’t going to let his friend do anything that would land him in jail. This had to be handled the right way, so that they all walked away from this…except for the Tuckers. They’d spend the rest of their days in prison where they belonged.

As they carefully approached the address they’d found on a scribbled piece of paper in Julie’s empty kitchen, they started preparing themselves for the takeover. Porter and Dan both pulled their weapons. Porter signaled to Dan for them to split up and meet around the back of the building. So they did. Porter went right, Dan took the other side. Porter moved quickly, gun raised, finger on the trigger, and resting in his left palm. He was ready to take out Terry Tucker, and Julie, if he had to. He would have no qualms about shooting the woman if she played any part in hurting his Caroline.

As he was nearing the back of the building he came upon an unlocked door. He knew they were supposed to check the parameter then meet in the back, but he couldn’t pass up that door knowing that Caroline could be in there. He entered. And not a moment before the door closed behind him, a shot was fired, missing his face by only a few inches. He ducked and ran for cover behind some metal shelving that was close by.

“You’re so predictable, Porter” Terry screamed out, then laughed.

Porter fake-laughed.

 “Come on Terry. Are all the dramatics really necessary? We can revisit opening your shop. Just let Caroline go. She’s innocent and had nothing to do with the decision that the NOBH made. And I know you know that.

Come on…what’s your end game? Let’s work this out together. Can we do that Terry? Work it out together?”

“Sure Porter, we can do that. I’ll let you help me.”

Porter sighed with a sense of relief he had never experienced before. The only thing…woman…on his mind was Caroline. He’d do anything to get this maniac to turn her over to him. Anything.

“So here’s my deal. You’ve got two choices, Porter. One: I can burn the east end building and rescue the lovely Caroline right as her flesh is melting from her skin, or two: I can burn it all and leave her for the fire to lick and play with until there is nothing left of your little lady.”

Nausea took over. “That’s not a deal and you know it. I won’t help you unless I get her back unharmed.”

Filled with fury because he didn’t like when his kindness was thrown back in his face, Terry fired off several shots, one bullet hitting Porter in the shoulder. He felt the hot searing pain in his shoulder, but didn’t have time to tend to it as Terry was suddenly standing over him, gun pointed in his face.

“All you had to do Porter was give me the account and none of this would have happened. This is your fault you know. When Caroline dies she’ll have you to thank for it. Too bad you won’t be able to witness her pain. That’s how I had planned for it to go down anyway, but things don’t always work out according to the pla-“

Porter heard the next shot fired and thought momentarily that he was taking his last breath when Terry dropped his gun and fell to the ground beside him. Taking short, huffing breaths, they began slowing until he was no longer breathing at all.

“I couldn’t let him do it.” Julie cried. I thought I could, but I couldn’t go through with it. She put her head down and Porter took that moment to lunge for her lower extremities and pull her down to the ground with him. She struggled, but was no match for Porter’s strength. Her muscles finally relaxed and she quit trying to escape his hold and just wept.

Porter didn’t feel bad for the woman. In fact, he would make sure she served time for her part in the kidnapping just as soon as he used her to get to Caroline.

Dan appeared, standing over both of them. “Way to meet me in the back Porter. I heard the gun shots, but couldn’t find a way in. You scared the hell out of me man.” He pulled Julie off the ground, put her in hand cuffs, then gave Porter his hand and pulled him up.

“Julie here is going to show us exactly where Caroline is.” Porter said, then nudged her. “Aren’t you?”

Julie was racked with sobs, but she nodded her consent anyway.

Pulling up to the warehouse, Porter was shaking with fury when he saw the run down building they had her locked in. The building looked like it could collapse at any minute and only God knew what kind of mold and other toxic chemicals were in there with her.

As soon as the car slowed enough, Porter jumped out of the car and took off for the open entryway. He screamed for Caroline as soon as he was in range, but he heard nothing in return. He checked the entire first floor then took the rusted metal stairs two at a time until he reached the second floor. There were holding areas in every direction. He was making circles trying to figure out which direction to go in. The longer she was locked in, the longer she was in danger.

Porter looked right and saw that one of the hallways appeared to veer off into one large room that was caged in and covered from floor to ceiling with crates. He didn’t know why, but something was telling him that that was where she was. He took off again. It was dark and musty. As he ran through cobwebs he wondered what Caroline was enduring and he wanted Terry to die all over again.

As he reached the cage, he screamed out. “Caroline. Baby, it’s me.” He tried to open the gate, but it was locked. He tried to pry it open, but the lock wouldn’t bust. He called down to Dan to bring up an ax, but he had no intention of waiting. He saw Caroline tied to a chair, head down and barely breathing from what he could tell.

He started to climb the gate wall. He reached the top, flipped his legs over, then let go and dropped until his feet met the cement ground. He felt a sharp pang in his shoulder when he landed, but he didn’t let that stop him. He ran to her and stopped in outrage once he was beside her. She was soaked in gasoline, and bleeding from her wrist and ankles where they tied her to the chair. He checked her pulse. It was beating, but barley. He didn’t know how she was breathing at all with such strong fumes. He ripped off the ropes and jerked her from the chair. He quickly took off her blouse and skirt and put his t-shirt on her. He picked her up and turned for the gate to find Dan approaching with Julie and the key in hand. Porter wanted to kill the woman. He looked at Dan and said, “Call the police and have Julie brought in now. Just get her out of my sight.”

The door was barely unlocked and Porter was pushing through it with his shoulder. He ran down the stairs, Caroline in his arms, and headed straight for the car to take her to the hospital. He didn’t know the extent of her wounds, but he knew that she needed medical attention immediately.

He thought he felt a little movement from his bundle. He looked down to see Caroline open her eyes for one moment and mumble, “Porter.”

Despite the situation, he smiled and pulled her in closer.

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