After her new friend Bill barked out the words “Dallas police,” Wendy McKee—sitting in the front seat of the Lincoln still parked outside the drug house—promptly swallowed her three caps of cocaine.
But this was like none of the more than 20 arrests she’d ever been through: With a gun to her head, Wendy’s hands were cuffed behind her back. Bill stuffed a gag in her mouth and shoved her to the floorboard of the front seat. Wendy didn’t try to reach the knife in the waistband of her pants. She knew he wasn’t a police officer. Who was this Bill? Was that really his name?
After driving for what seemed like hours, Wendy felt the car pull into a garage and heard an automatic door shut. Bill got out of the car, came around to her side, and put cuffs on her feet. He used a bandanna as a blindfold, then stood her outside the car and propelled her inside the house. As he pulled off all her clothes, her buck knife fell to the floor; Bill put it in a drawer. Then he recuffed her hands and feet.
Bill took her down a short hall and opened a closet door. Her feet felt heavy plastic on top of soft carpet. Carpet and plastic also lined the walls. An O-ring jutted from the ceiling, another from the floor. He raised her arms and attached the cuffs to the O-ring, then fastened the ones on her legs to the floor. He pinched clothespins on her nipples. Then he slammed the door.
Fifteen minutes later, he came back and took off her blindfold. Bill was holding a neon-green light by his heart so that it shone up on his face. “Somebody’s out to kill you,” he said in an eerie tone. “So you have to stay here with me—the great spirit. I’ll keep on saving your life. You have to trust me.”
“It was like he wanted me to think he was God,” she says. He uncuffed her feet, then shut the door. Then she heard music in the distance. Strange, heavy, and throbbing music.
Wendy doesn’t know how long she hung there. It seemed like hours. Blood was running down her legs. She was menstruating, and Bill had taken out her tampon. “I’m sweating, I’m smelling myself,’” Wendy says. “It was terrible.”
She was scared and wanted answers. Why was she there? Was he going to rape her? Was she about to die? Was this the end of her life—a life that had often been painful, even torturous?
Since the age of 12, Wendy McKee had been using marijuana, alcohol, speed, cocaine, LSD. At 19 or 20, she’d started using heroin as well.
At age 15, she’d spent four and a half months in a juvenile drug-rehabilitation program in Grand Prairie. A week before accepting the ride with Bill, she’d hitchhiked to Fort Worth and voluntarily checked herself into Cenikor, a tough, three-year drug program. But she lasted only six days.
“If you leave, something bad will happen to you tonight,” a counselor warned her. She’d laughed and walked to the highway. She could take care of herself. After all, Wendy had been on her own since dropping out of the seventh grade. She’d sold drugs and driven shipments of speed across the state in 18-wheelers. She’d been shot, beaten, raped, stabbed, thrown through a second-story plate glass window. Now she was hanging naked in a closet.
Wendy screamed for help several times, but no one came. She decided to try to fight her way out. Slowly, she wriggled her hands out of the handcuffs, scraping off the skin. But when the closet door opened again, she changed her mind. The way out of this was to go along, she decided, to give this man whatever he wanted.
Clearly surprised she had gotten out of the cuffs, Bill demanded that she get back in the closet. She refused, and the fight was on. She slugged him, he punched her. They fell so forcefully it made several holes in the Sheetrock. She grabbed a phone and tried to dial 911. He yanked the phone cord out of the wall, wrapped the cord around her body, then around her neck, pushing her back in the closet.
Bill stood her on a stool, then wrapped a chain around her neck and attached it to the ceiling O-ring. Wendy would hang herself if she slipped. “Now you’re going to die, you bitch,” Bill told her. “Now, I have to kill you.” Then he slammed the door.
Maybe 30 minutes or an hour later, Bill took the chain from her neck, but hung her arms back up and cuffed her feet to the floor. Her hands and shoulders turned numb.
The music continued to throb. She lost track of time. Eventually, Bill reappeared and laid her on the floor of the closet. Later, he uncuffed one hand and one leg and threw half a sandwich on the bloody floor. She ate it, then slept.
Bill finally took her out of the closet. Slipping a black sleep mask over her eyes, he walked her to a hot tub in the back yard. After washing the blood off, he took her back inside.
Then, Bill introduced Wendy to The Mantra: She must repeat over and over, “I will obey, I will obey.” The first time, while standing straight. Then, while bowing as if to Buddha. Finally, she had to say it while sitting naked in a chair, legs tied apart.
Thus began a routine of sorts. Five or six times a day, she”d assume whatever position he told her, then repeat the mantra for 45 minutes to an hour. If she made a mistake, she’d have to start all over.
Wendy was always naked and always blindfolded. When in the house, she was either chained in the closet or to O-rings screwed into the floor in various rooms. She slept chained to his brass bed or the couch.
Bill finally explained his purpose. “He wanted me to be a model person,” says Wendy. “He wanted to transform me from a junkie into a beautiful, highly intelligent woman. He took cigarettes away from me. He took dope away from me. He took everything.”
In an odd sense, Bill became his captive’s servant. He brushed her teeth and washed her hair. He filed her nails and bathed her in the hot tub. Every night, he put a different perfume on her skin. He cooked her shish kebabs and steaks, and gave her calcium and iron pills.
There were also mind games. Bill sat Wendy in a recliner and hooked her fingertips to a biofeedback machine. It made a high-pitched sound when she was anxious. Bill taught her how to use self-hypnosis: when she relaxed, the machine’s high pitch came down to a quiet, humming sound. Bill had another gadget he called an ISIS machine. He placed goggles over her eyes, which pulsed light in time to a sound like locusts, supposedly moving her brain waves to zones more receptive to his ideas.
Like a twisted version of Rex Harrison’s character in My Fair Lady, he began working to improve her mind and her language. Bill read to her from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Alice in Wonderland. He taught her about yoga, about meditation. He taught her to do complicated math problems in her head.
He read another book to improve her memory. “He’d name 40 different things,” Wendy says. “And I’d have to repeat it back to him without forgetting anything.” She was good at that. She began to use the technique to remember other things—like where the O-rings were located and what the tops of the houses beyond the back-yard fence looked like when she peeked beneath the mask.
She couldn’t tell how much time had passed: four days, five days? Bill’s brainwashing was working. She looked forward to the lessons, pleased that she could learn. He was pampering her; she’d never been pampered. He frequently told her he loved her. The night they cooked shish kebabs, she was feeling good about herself. She asked Bill for her pack of cigarettes. As he watched, she tore them up and threw them in the trash. Later, she showed him where she had hidden the syringe in the car. She broke the point and threw it away.
“I felt I was never going to leave,” Wendy says. “He was giving me a purpose to live. It felt great.” Bill even promised that he would put her through college when she got her “ego right”—when she learned to obey.
But another part of her hated him. “I wanted to be a success, but not a slave,” Wendy says. And Bill never let her forget she was a captive, that he controlled her every movement. “Just do what I tell you to, and you’ll be OK,” he told her.
Though he was constantly touching her body and masturbating while she did the mantra, Bill hadn’t raped her. But she was still frightened and thought about escaping. That seemed impossible. If he left for two or three hours, he chained her to the bed. A video camera on a tripod was focused on her; he would know if she tried to wriggle out of the cuffs again. Occasionally, he chained her naked to the sun deck, first oiling her down with suntan lotion. But he told her he had surveillance cameras watching the back yard, which was surrounded by an 8-foot fence.
Over and over, day after day. she had to do the mantra. At times, he took her outside, and while she was saying, “I will obey,” he put insects on her body and let them bite her. “He said if I was doing what he told me to do, then I wouldn’t feel them biting me.”
Wendy felt the stings. But she had decided on a strategy. She let Bill think she was grateful to get this chance at transforming herself into a better, more beautiful woman. She told him she felt nothing.
After five or six days, Bill was confident enough of his training to start taking her out of the house for drives, dressed only in her T-shirt, blindfold over her eyes. They picked up pizza at a drive-through. Once they drove for hours in the country; Bill promised to take her camping.
Occasionally, she would scratch her nose or touch her face to move the blindfold a little. She could tell they were in a red Nissan 300 ZX with a gray interior. But she never saw the front of his house or learned his last name.
Wendy had lived on her own since she was 14. She’d sold drugs and driven shipments of spreed across the state. She’d been shot, beaten, raped, stabbed, and thrown through a second-story plate glass window.
She’d been there a week or so when he announced they were going jogging. In the middle of the night, he took Wendy—dressed in his underwear and shorts—up and down the road in front of his house. Still blindfolded, she was forced to hold on to his arms while they ran.
One night, Bill tested his transformation; while she had one arm and one leg chained to his bed, he asked if she was still scared of him. “I just don’t want you to hurt me,” Wendy told him. “Are you going to hurt me? Are you going to make love to me?” So far, he hadn’t forced her to have intercourse.
Not if you don’t want to, Bill told her. “I don’t want you to,” Wendy insisted. She could tell he was upset. Not angry, but deeply hurt.
The next day was June 1. She’d been held prisoner for two weeks. Her captor seemed very depressed. He asked if she wanted to go to the store. She was elated. But first, he demanded she do the mantra.
For 45 minutes, while she repeated, “I will obey,” Bill told her to imagine she was out in a field of daisies, a shawl wrapped around her. “You’re tranquil, you’re free. Nothing’s going to hurt you just as long as you obey me.” Over and over, she droned. Then, she had the vision: God and Jesus, coming down on a cloud.
Wendy fell to her knees, convinced it was a sign she was going to get away, but said nothing to Bill. He dressed her: her own T-shirt and shoes, his underwear, pants and socks. He put two cloth squares over her eyes, then secured them with duct tape and led her to the car.
They drove to a store, and Bill led her down the aisles. He told her they were at Home Depot, and he picked up an item and told her to smell. It was chlorine. He paid, and they left. No one seemed to pay any attention to the man leading around a blindfolded woman. She was afraid to scream or attract attention, unsure if Bill was carrying his gun.
Next stop was a Kroger grocery store. He guided the basket as they walked down the aisles. Wendy’s hands were sweaty. She kept asking for her favorite foods, trying to buy time to get up her nerve.
At the checkout, Bill asked if they had forgotten anything. Wendy realized it was now or never. She asked for a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. He told her to stay put. “I love you, Bill,” Wendy said. “Just hurry up.”
When Bill took his hand off her arm, she started counting: One, two, three, four, five. She yanked the tape off her face. Barely able to see after two weeks of darkness, she jumped the counter, ran to the courtesy booth and started hammering on the door. “Let me in!” Wendy screamed at the astonished clerk. “I’ve been kidnapped!”
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