Jesse James Hollywood
"I'm Going to Get You Home"
On the evening of August 8, Nicholas was starting to relax.
The past 48 hours had been bizarre. He'd been terrified when his brother's nemesis and two other guys jumped out of the van and started hitting him. But after Hollywood left the scene, things relaxed a bit, and Nick was free to wander around the houses where he was being kept, to raid the fridge and watch television. Sometimes it felt like he was more of a guest than a captive. They gave him booze and pot and it all seemed like a surreal party. He could have walked away from it all several times, but he was certain his big brother, whom he adored, show up anytime and drive him back home.
One of his abductors, Jesse Rugge, reassured him over and over again: "I'm going to take you home. I'll put you on a Greyhound... I'm going to get you home."
Nick made the mistake of believing him.
At the Lemon Tree Inn, Nick swam in the hotel's large outdoor pool and flirted with girls. It was a night of teenage debauchery, the sensual atmosphere thick with pop music, rum-and-cokes, cigarettes and pot. A breeze played through the palm trees circling the illuminated blue pool. Nick was the center of attention, and he enjoyed it.
"He seemed happy," one teenage girl later told the grand jury. "I talked to him about it, and he said that he would tell his grandkids about it someday."
Another girl asked him why he didn't simply leave. After all, it was dark, and there were tons of people around — the hotel was located on Santa Barbara's main thoroughfare. He could tell the hotel employees or adult guests what was happening, and they'd take care of him, she suggested.
"I've taken self-defense and stuff. It's not like I couldn't do anything right now. I just don't want to," he responded. "I don't see a reason to. I'm going home. Why would I complicate it?"
Perhaps his budding male ego was bruised by the suggestion that he couldn't protect himself. Perhaps he wanted to appear tough to impress a sympathetic audience of teenage girls. But for whatever reason, Nick stayed put in a situation that was growing more treacherous by the moment.
The girls eventually left the party to meet their curfews and return to the safety of family life, and a short while later, there was a sharp knock on the door of the hotel room where Nick was being held.