They waited in the dark. If the light came on it was because another was joining them, they waited, not knowing what the future would bring.
She waited until he was gone, then opened the door, and chose two. Only two of hundreds, perhaps with only two he wouldn’t notice when he returned. One in each hand, she led them to the dumpster where they were to hide. She told them to be quiet, very quiet.
“Someone will come for you,” she said. She reminded them that if discovered they would be returned to the room that had been their prison all these years. They said nothing, unable to speak. Others had tried to escape. The pickup delayed, they had been found, and returned to their place in the dark.
He never mistreated them, he sometimes talked to them, recounting what it was that brought them to this place and how someday soon he’d find a way, a reason, to let them return to their previous life.
He probably could have ransomed them and recovered some of the expense of keeping them, but he didn’t. He was comforted just knowing they were there. Now they were gone, spirited out on a Monday after he left, and picked up Tuesday morning before he returned. They were free. It wasn’t until later when he unbolted the door to the room, and turned on the light, that he discovered them missing.
“Where the hell is my lawnmower,” he said, “and my shovel.”
“They were worn out, you never used them,” she said. “The handle on the shovel was broken. Remember, you bought a new one, you just didn’t throw out the old one, and the last time you used that lawnmower it was spewing black smoke and making a clanking sound.”
“They were fixable,” he said. “They had some good years left,” he said.
“I know,” she said, and laid her hand on his shoulder, “but it was time to let them go.”