At the Hands of a Stranger

At the Hands of a Stranger by Lee Butcher Read Free Book Online

Book: At the Hands of a Stranger by Lee Butcher Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lee Butcher
abductor had stopped somewhere in Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area to camp for the night, and she had spent the night without sleep. Emerson had intended to hike on Blood Mountain with her dog, Ella, for just a few hours and had brought no heavy clothing and had carried only a few necessities in a fanny pack.
    She was bloody and sore as she shivered inside the ratty sleeping bag, which her abductor had provided for her. It was colder than usual. The temperature that time of year was usually fairly mild, but it had turned bitterly cold, dropping to eleven degrees, equaling a record low set there in 1940.
    So far, Emerson had done everything she had been taught to fight against being abducted and how to behave if she was abducted. Getting into an abductor’s vehicle increased the odds that things would end badly for the victim, and she had resisted as hard and as long as she could, using everything she had learned about self-defense in her judo and karate classes. She kept fighting, even when she thought she had no strength left, because getting under the abductor’s control was the last thing she wanted.
    But she had failed. He was too big and too strong and the blow to her head from a tree limb sent waves of pain and shock through her so that she could no longer resist. Then she had been chained and tied inside the abductor’s dirty van and made to lie or sit on hard, lumpy cargo bags. She had been forced to listen to his manic voice and his vulgar and obscene railing against anything and everything, and she felt the lash of the vile names he called her.
    Emerson was trying to stay alive because people would be looking for her. Before she left to go hiking on New Year’s morning, she had left a note on the chalkboard, where she and her roommate, Julia Karrenbauer, used to leave messages for one another. Emerson had written a note telling Karrenbauer that she was taking Ella for a hike, and she tacked on a personal note about the New Year’s Eve party Julia had attended: Hope you had a good time.
    Karrenbauer would be expecting her to return during the evening of New Year’s Day. Her friend would not wait long to get word out that Emerson was missing, and then a search would soon be under way. People might already be looking for her. Emerson was doing her best to buy time, to give searchers a chance to find her. She had given her abductor false PIN numbers. When no cash came out, she convinced him that he had not entered the correct number. After several failed attempts to get cash, Emerson started telling her abductor that certain cards only worked at designated ATMs.
    â€œYou better not be lying to me, cunt,” he said in his strange, chilling voice. “I’ll shoot your ass.”
    The abductor looked mean and angry, and he had cold blue eyes with small pupils, which made him appear sinister. The eyes were colder than icicles and his face was frozen in an expression that was both menacing and without pity. How much longer could she keep him running from ATM to ATM before he decided to go ahead and do whatever he intended to do with her?
    The Blood Mountain hiking area swarmed with an unprecedented number of people trying to find Meredith Emerson. Officials for more than a dozen federal, state, county, and city agencies—aided by scores of volunteers—looked for anything that might lead to Emerson’s whereabouts. Although it was only a day after Emerson had been reported missing, word of mouth and a short newspaper notice had spread the news like wildfire.
    Police departments throughout northern Georgia were being flooded by calls from people telephoning to report seeing Emerson, an older man, and two dogs matching Dandy and Ella on Blood Mountain.
    Adam Linke told Special Agent Casey Smith that sometime between 1:45 and 2:00 P.M . that he and his father-in-law, Dr. James Frazier, encountered a hiker named Seth Blankenship, who passed them on the trail going up Blood

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