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She Thought He Would Kill Her. Then She Complimented His Orchids.

“Suddenly, he started talking about how he cared for them, using water from his aquarium,” she said. “Suddenly, he was a completely different person.”

As she listened, he kept talking. He told her about the many cats he had also cared for but were taken away from him; about his grandparents, whom he never really got to know, but who had left him the house in their will; and about the girlfriends who had betrayed him. He also talked about his mother, who he said had a drinking problem.

Ms. Birli used that moment to tell him that she had a little baby at home who needed his mother. “I asked him to please not kill me, because the little guy needs me,” she said. “I asked him how that would have been for him to grow up without a mother.”

That brought the next turn. Her kidnapper, she said, began asking her whether she could help him.

“I told him I could help him find some friends, because it was obvious to me that’s what he was missing most,” she said. “Then I suggested we could just make the whole thing out to be an accident and say that a deer jumped in front of me and that he found me and brought me home.”

At first he remained silent. She waited. Then he agreed and began discussing the details of their story, how it would work, what each of them would say. He released her and left the house, telling her to wait while he got her bike.

Standing in the dark, freed, she realized that she could run, but she had no idea where she was. No lights from other houses were visible. “I thought if I ran away and got lost in the woods and he found me again, then he would certainly kill me,” she said.

So she waited as he tried to repair her bicycle, then loaded it into the car. She got into the passenger seat and told him where she lived. But at the main road, instead of turning toward her home, he headed off in the opposite direction.

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