All last month, the Manatee County Public Library System hosted a unique online event: It was a collaborative writing project that gave our patrons the opportunity to write a story as a community online. Using a free site called Penflip, people logged in and wrote as much or little as they wanted. What emerged was a harrowing tale of a young woman being kidnapped and the mystery that unfolded.
Here are some excerpts from the story/project:
Twice a week I ride this bus route with Kayla, but she doesn't notice me. She relaxes in her seat and scribbles furiously in a notebook. I think about starting a conversation, but the bus screeches to a halt and I'm thrown onto the teenager next to me.
Four hefty men in ski masks rush onto the bus. Three of them hold us at bay while the fourth grabs Kayla and hauls her outside. Her notebook drops and slides under my seat. It was the longest minute and a half of my life. They pushed Kayla into a black SUV and take off. I grab her notebook.
The first few pages read like a novel, but I fear it's actually her memoir. "I haven't stopped being afraid since the shoot-out." She wrote. "I keep seeing it in my dreams. Oh, sure, they kicked the money bag over to me and I ran with it. So I need to lie low and stay unnoticed."
The cops arrive and wobble down the aisle. "Stay calm and remain in your seats," they tell us. "Did the victim or the kidnappers leave anything behind?" I take a sharp breath in as the other passengers murmur in the negative. The teenager next to me narrows her eyes but stays silent. We hold our breath until the cops leave, and then the teenager and I get off at the bus. She stops me. "I think you owe me a good cup of coffee and a chance to see that notebook."
"That's fair," I tell her. "You can call me Jack. What do I call you?"
"Well, it's Charlotte, but I really prefer Karla, if it's all the same to you."
Karla and I find a café and call in sick to my job and her school. While munching brownies, she looks at me with her intense dark eyes. "So" she says sitting back and mopping up brownie crumbs. "Are we going after the girl?" She narrows her eyes, "or the money?" . . .
We find Kayla's apartment and see the front door had been forced opened and then closed again. Inside are two people lit by the green glow of multiple computer monitors, flashing strings of some type of code. One is a disheveled older man, and the other is Kayla's coworker who we questioned earlier. "It's you!" she yells at us. "What are you doing here?"
Karla smirks "I was about to ask you the same thing, "Gina."
"Freeze," someone shouts behind us. All heads turn to the door as the newcomer flashes a badge. "Special Agent, Sarah Fradkin. FBI."
If our talented patrons have you hooked and you just have to find out how this all turns out, head on over to the library's website (http://bit.do/CoStory) to read the entire 5,000 word story.