Latency

Short Story / January 2017

Wednesday started like every other day for Martin. He woke up, brushed his teeth, took a shower, made oatmeal for breakfast, and started his work. Martin worked from home, and he was content. He had his daily routine, and he knew what to expect each day.

After finishing work on any given day, Martin would work out. His exercise consisted of fifty push-ups, fifty sit-ups, and thirty minutes of light jogging on the treadmill in his living room. Dinner was next, followed by a shower.

To end the day, Martin would watch his favorite webcam model’s 9 P.M. show. Her name, well username, was Bunny69. Martin didn’t care much for animals, but he thought she was cute like a bunny and found the name fitting.

He had been watching Bunny69’s webcam streams for over two years. Martin budgeted $200 every month to donate to Bunny. He never second-guessed the charge on his credit card bill.

Bunny streamed every day of the week except on Friday and Saturday. Martin would spend his Friday and Saturday nights reading and watching movies. “Time off is a good thing,” he told himself.

It was 9:12 P.M. and Bunny’s stream still hadn’t started. Bunny was always punctual, starting at 9:00 P.M. on the dot. Martin understood that sometimes things come up.

I’ll wait until 9:30 before calling it a night, Martin thought.

A couple of minutes later, Bunny came online.

“Hey, is everything okay?” Martin typed into the chatroom.

Bunny smiled and winked at the camera. There was no one else watching the stream, so Martin assumed it was for him. Bunny started by dancing to electronic music. Martin had never heard her play that particular song before. How do I search the internet for a song with no lyrics? he wondered. Martin loved to listen to the music Bunny played during her streams while he worked.

Bunny wiggled her way out of her jeans.

New music and new panties? Bunny knows how to keep me watching.

As Bunny started to take off her top, there were four loud, rapid knocks. Martin looked towards his door so quickly his headphones fell off. He then realized the knocks were coming from the stream.

Bunny jumped up. Martin put his headphones back on and heard the sound of wood snapping, followed by a muffled bang. The webcam’s viewing angle wasn’t wide enough for Martin to see what was happening.

Bunny shrieked and stepped back into the view of the webcam. Two large men followed. They were wearing balaclavas. One man had on a brown coat, the other a black coat. The man in brown had a baseball bat in his right hand.

“Where’s our money?” asked the man in black.

“I don’t have it yet, you fucking idiot. If I had it, I would have dropped it off earlier. I’m working tonight, get out of here.”

“Where is our fucking money?” asked the man in black again.

“Just give me another week, okay? One more week, that’s all I need.”

“You’re two weeks too late,” said the man in brown. Both men took a step forward. The man in brown swung his baseball bat and smashed the lamp on Bunny’s bedside table.

Bunny scrambled but had nowhere to run in her small studio apartment. The man in black grabbed her, while the man in brown tied string around her wrists and ankles and put duct tape over her mouth. All Martin could hear was Bunny’s muffled screams as the two men carried her away.

The number of viewers watching the stream skyrocketed, peaking at just over ten thousand—ten times more than on a good night, like Valentine’s Day. Bunny’s computer was still on, and the stream was still going. The chatroom was going crazy. The torrent of comments was too fast to read as they scrolled by. Martin was able to parse out one that said, “omg, someone call the cops!!”

Martin dialed 911 immediately and wondered why he hadn’t thought to do it sooner.

“911, what’s your emergency?” asked the dispatcher.

“I just saw two men break into a girl’s home and kidnap her,” Martin said.

“Hon, where did you see this kidnapping?”

“Well, I am not sure where it was. It was on a, uh, live stream on the internet.”

“Are you sure this really happened and was not on a TV show, sir?”

“I am positive. Please. Someone needs to help Bunny.”

“Sir, what’s your location? I’ll send an officer over A.S.A.P.”

Martin gave her his address.

“Stay where you are. An officer will be over soon,” said the operator as she hung up.

-

There was a knock on Martin’s door 45 minutes later.

“I’m Officer Robbins, responding to a call about a witnessed kidnapping. Sir, are you Martin Torrence, the one who called it in?”

Officer Robbins was in his forties and close to retirement. He was just shy of six feet tall, and he hadn’t hit the station gym in a few years.

“Yes, yes, that’s me,” replied Martin.

“With as much detail as possible, tell me what happened.”

Martin explained what he witnessed.

“Let me get this straight. You saw this girl, Bunny, uh, 69, get kidnapped in the middle of a video stream online? Are you sure this wasn’t a staged event to get more viewers to make some extra cash or something?”

Martin paused for a moment. “To be honest, I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Alright Martin, here’s what I can do. You give me as many details as you can: what Bunny looks like, the website, profiles of the two men, and I’ll file a report at the station.”

“Alright, I’ll tell you everything I know. Come on in.”

They sat on the couch as Martin went into detail about the camgirl website, what he knew about Bunny, and what he witnessed earlier that night. Officer Robbins took notes.

“Is there anything else I can do to help? This may sound strange, but I really care about Bunny.”

“It’s out of your hands now. I’m sorry you had to witness that, but try to get a good night’s sleep. If anything comes to light that I can share, you’ll be the first person I call.”

A good night’s sleep? What a joke, Martin thought as he got ready for bed. He fell right asleep.

-

There was a dog laying in a field. Martin wasn’t sure what breed of dog it was. He was never a fan of dogs. It was the size of a small bear, with a silver coat of hair.

“What are you looking at?” barked the dog.

“Excuse me, did you just talk to me?” asked Martin.

“Who else would it be?” replied the dog, as it gnawed on its right hind leg.

Martin tried to figure where he was. Beyond the field was a mountain range that covered the horizon. Martin turned around and saw a forest with trees as tall as skyscrapers. When he turned back around, the dog was gone.

Martin knew he was in no shape to scale the mountains, and he certainly wasn’t dressed for it in his striped pajama bottoms and sleep shirt. He decided to head toward the forest.

When Martin reached the forest, he saw the dog laying in front of a tree.

“I wouldn’t go in there if I were you,” said the dog.

“Why not?” asked Martin.

“You aren’t going to like what you see.”

Martin didn’t know what to do. He didn’t have much of a choice. He walked into the forest, and when he looked back, the dog was gone.

-

Martin’s alarm clock went off at 6:00 A.M. He hit snooze for the first time since buying the clock. Maybe it really was staged? he thought. Martin got out of bed and made it through his day.

At 9:00 P.M., Martin went to Bunny’s profile on the camgirl website. Her stream wasn’t live. Maybe she’s just running late again? he thought. Martin waited until 9:30 P.M. Bunny’s stream never started.

He tried to find the contact info of the camgirl website, but it was nowhere to be found. He searched online and found the registered phone number for the business the web domain was registered to. He dialed the number.

“Who the fuck is this, calling me at 10 o’clock at night?” asked the man who picked up the phone.

“Hi, my name is Martin. Last night I witnessed a young girl, with the username Bunny69, get kidnapped during her stream on your site.”

“Another call about this fucking Bunny? Jesus Christ! Enough about it already. You’re the tenth person today. I’ve got nothing to say about what happened other than the police are handling it.”

“Wait, before you hang up, can you at least tell me Bunny’s real name? I want to try to help her, but she never told me her name,” Martin said.

“Fuck no I can’t tell you her name. If I gave out every one of their names, I’d be put out of business. Like I just said, the police are handling it.”

“This is serious. She could be in real danger,” Martin said.

“That’s not my fucking problem,” he said.

The call ended.

“Damn it!” Martin shouted. He called the local police station and asked for Officer Robbins.

“Officer Robbins speaking, how can I help you?”

“Hi Officer Robbins, this is Martin, from last night. You know, the guy who saw the girl get kidnapped on the webcam.”

“Yup, I remember. What can I do for you Martin?” asked Officer Robbins.

“Bunny didn’t show up for her stream tonight. She never misses a Thursday night. I think something really happened. I don’t think it was a joke.”

“Martin, what did I tell you last night? It is out of your hands. The case has been filed and is under investigation. I can’t tell you anything more than that. There’s nothing you can do.”

“Alright officer, I understand. Sorry to have bothered you.”

Martin got ready for bed and stared at the ceiling until he fell asleep.

-

Martin shivered as he walked through the forest. The sunlight barely made it through the trees. He kept walking forward, following the dirt path. The trees eventually began to clear. In the center of the clearing was a circular grove.

In-between the trees laid the naked body of a young woman. The dog stood next to her, licking her left foot. The dog looked up at Martin and howled.


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