“Don’t be such a fucking pussy dude, I’ll let you go first, pass her here.”
Eyes wide and somewhat adjusted to the dark, I watched in horror as Joker grabbed his shirt that was lying nearby and shoved it into my mouth as Abe pushed me forward onto Joker’s chest, so that I straddled him. My arms, posing no seeming struggle were pinned high on my back. I cried and screamed pitifully, my cries falling on uncaring ears.
“Why are you letting them do this?” I screamed at Nancy who despite the shirt in my mouth could probably understand me. She looked panicked, but it seemed to stem from anger or excitement. Her eyes were wild, frenzied. She was enjoying this as much as the men.
Joker lay back onto the floor and held my arms as I was bent into an impossibly uncomfortable position. My mind sober, flashed with horrific scenarios which did nothing to formulate a way out of the situation. Behind me Abe pulled down his pants and pressed his penis against me, searching for any way in.
“Oh my god you feel good baby.” I pulled as far away from him as I could and strained my arms so that they almost came out of their sockets. My struggle only served to bend me more impossibly.
Finally, I worked the cloth out of my mouth and in one quick movement bit into Joker’s shoulder so hard his blood seemed to squirt into my mouth. He howled and it rocked my head. The next moment I flew through the air, my ribs landing across the toilet.
“What the fuck? What the fuck? What the fuck?” Abe yelled over and over as Joker continued to scream and curse.
“You fucking bitch!” Joker yelled. He grabbed my hair and I heard the awful crunch of his fist connecting with my face. I choked on both my blood and his.
“Oh my god man, what the hell are you doing!” Nancy finally yelled.
But she could do nothing to stop her associate from kicking me repeatedly in the ribs. My breath protested and all I heard was Crack. Crack. Crack.
The yells and screams coming from the bathroom must have scared everyone in the house, because the door burst open.
“Oh my god!” Kid yelled.
“You fucking idiot, what did you do!” hollered Tiny. Then I remember nothing because my body was shaking, and I was drifting away.
Blood. Lots of it. It mixed with the fine dust of the ground and created a mixture inside the boy’s mouth. He cried. He’d never been hit so hard. Above him the strange man was yelling again, but he didn’t understand. The words were too fast for him to piece together and even if they weren’t, he’d never heard those kinds of words before. He wanted to go home.
He closed his eyes and for a moment, he was there. He was drawn up in his mother’s arms and she was kissing his neck, making him giggle. He was her ‘Handsome Little Man’. His small legs flailed as he squealed with laughter, but his mother held him tight, she wouldn’t let him fall. Tears burned his eyes. Everything burned.
“Sukat!” said the man. The boy knew that word, it was what the man always said when he cried or screamed. The boy forced his mouth shut, trying to breathe through his nose and swallowing all the blood that drained into the back of his throat because of it. He was no longer hungry. His belly was full of blood now.
His hunger had led to this. Every morning Narweh placed a scarce amount of unleavened bread and water on a small table in the room, eyeing the boys wickedly as he left. There were six of them in all; two English boys, one Spaniard, two Arabs, and the boy.
At first they shared it in equal measure, but as the days wore on and hunger set in, it became a battle that ended in a full belly for one or two, and a bloody nose for those that challenged. The boy was often the victor in such battles, but on more than one occasion the collective strength of the others was used to rob him of his spoils. Such had been the case that day.
When he’d smelled the food, he hadn’t been able to help it. It had been two days since his last won meal. The water had been hot and the bread cold, but he’d savored it all too quickly. Not enough. The plate on the table had lots of things, he thought he smelled chicken. He was still young enough that all meat was ‘chicken’ to him. He sat at the small table and picked up the meat. It burned his mouth, but he didn’t care, the tingling tickle infusing his lips, tongue and throat wasn’t enough to overpower the deliciousness of his stolen meal.
The boy hadn’t seen the blow coming. One moment his mouth was filled with delicious chicken and the next, blood and dirt. He didn’t even know what he’d been hit with. He didn’t really know why he’d deserve it, just that he wouldn’t do it again.
Something hot and wet collided with the side of his face. His eyes were really on fire now. His small hands rubbed at his eyes but it only made matters worse. He screamed, gurgling sounds bubbling out of his blood filled throat. Still, in the grips of his agony, he could taste the savory food sliding into his mouth. He swallowed. Eyes tightly shut against the burning pain of the spices he dragged the food out of his hair and across his face into his mouth. It burned twice as much as before because there were open cuts in his mouth. But he was, apparently, still too hungry to care.
Kéleb, the man continued to call him, then grabbed him by the nape and dragged him across the floor while he struggled to crawl on hands and knees.
The boy cried.
Begged for his mother.
She never came. He hated her.
The air was thick. Tangible. Filled with an all-consuming excitement for things to come. She wasn’t far. His fingers curled tighter around the steering wheel of the SUV. Stroke her, or strangle her? He still didn’t know. He only knew he wanted his hands on her. He gripped the wheel tighter and pressed farther down on the gas pedal. Jair gave him a bemused look from the passenger seat. Fuck him.
“How did she get away?” Jair accused. Caleb shot him a look he hoped could murder him where he sat. Jair only smiled. “She must be good. I look forward to having a taste after Rafiq learns she’s ruined.”
Caleb said nothing, focused instead on controlling the rage running rampant through his veins. This time was critical. He still didn’t know Rafiq’s purpose in Jair and reacting would only lend credence to things that weren’t true. Caleb’s loyalties remained intact, even if his resolve had wavered for a fraction of a moment. “Touch her and I’ll cut off your hands,” he grated. Stupid. “We’re here.”
Caleb parked the SUV some distance from their intended target. The house hadn’t been difficult to spot. It was the only house with any lights on and the only one blaring music. Still, he didn’t want to risk losing the element of surprise. “Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.” One of the very first lessons in Sun Tzu’s, The Art of War.
The second car containing Jair’s cousins pulled up behind them and cut the engine. The three men exited the vehicle and immediately walked to the rear of the SUV to retrieve their weapons. Caleb’s hand sought his S&W Model 29 revolver with its powerful .44 magnum cartridges; it was enough to blow a hole through a door. Or a face. Whatever. He looked at Jair, resisting the urge to shoot him in the head and just be done with it, but he managed to restrain himself. Jair still had some uses.
Caleb looked at the revolver. He hadn’t fired it in quite some time, but already a familiar feeling was making its way through his fingers, up his arm, spreading through his chest and forcing his heart to speed. His head swam with adrenaline, and three feet below that he grew semi-erect at the thought of killing and taking back what was rightfully his.
Jair checked his AK-47 and Caleb observed how he stroked the weapon. He understood Jair in ways he rarely did. Blood lust and that shared understanding, that there was any commonality between them, made him feel nothing but disgust. Jair snorted and spat on the ground near Caleb’s feet. Caleb drew his weapon, checking its functionality and watching Jair. Both their fingers curved around the trigger of their weapons. “Well?” Jair challenged, when Caleb said nothing Jair continued, “Let’s go retrieve your little whore.”
He wasn’t afraid. Fear was reserved for those who had something to live for. Caleb was long over fear. As his gaze swept from Jair to his cousins, he let them see. He let them see there was nothing inside, and each man looked away, hiding his own fear. Jair sneered. Caleb turned his back on them, his way of letting them know who was in complete control, and to follow.
The trunk was closed with a soft click, but to Caleb it’d exploded, a feeling cutting through him. He didn’t look back. Jair and his men eventually followed. Their steps crunching against the dusty, pebbled ground resonated in the stark stillness of pre-dawn. Up ahead the lights grew brighter, the music louder and finally Caleb heard voices. Loud, angry, hysterical voices. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong and again, that foreign sensation – it stirred and bloomed. His heart stuttered. His steps faltered and he paused to regain control. A deep, calm breath. Another. And another. A sound, feminine and angry traveled down the distance. Before he knew it - he ran. The men followed quietly behind.
Caleb pulled up short as he neared so that none inside would even realize they were there. He took cover beneath a small window.
“You are such a dumb fuck! What the hell are we supposed to do with her now?” a man yelled inside. Caleb’s heart slammed in his chest and he was rendered nearly deaf by the sound thundering in his ears. He fought to control his breathing. What had they done to her?
“The fucking bitch bit me, what did you want me to do!” another man replied. Caleb carefully lifted his head and looked through the window. He recognized the biker from the bar, the one who called himself Tiny. He was a big sonofabitch and he only looked more so as he paced the small living room in his clunky biker boots. He pushed his hand through his long, greasy hair and spoke again, “What the fuck were you assholes doing in there to begin with? I told you not to fuck with her.”
A petite blonde appeared from an area behind the two arguing men. Street trash, Caleb thought, too much makeup and too little clothing, and hungry, always starving for something. And unpredictable. “We were just messing around Tiny. She’s the one who got crazy.”
Tiny pointed – nothing but menace in his eyes. “You stay out of this bitch. I know what you were doing there.”
Caleb tried to assess how many combatants were in the house by sight and sound. It wasn’t a large house but big enough and sounds carried in a bare space. And where was the girl? It took every ounce of self-control for Caleb to remain where he was. He needed to know what he was up against. If the girl was still alive he needed to make sure he could get to her before the shooting started. If. If she’s alive…if. He pressed against the trigger of his weapon. One thing he was certain of, if any of them had hurt her….
The one with the lanky black hair had done something to her. He had hurt her, possibly raped her…killed her. Caleb swallowed past the dryness in his mouth. He was going to kill that motherfucker and he was going to make the blonde watch, giving her a preview of things to come.
“Fuck you Tiny,” the blonde retorted, “Blame Abe and Joker, they’re the ones who couldn’t keep their dicks in their pants. Not. Me.”
Caleb bit the inside of his mouth until he tasted blood. The men behind him shifted their feet in the dirt as they waited for Caleb to give the signal.
“This is the only entrance,” Jair whispered, breaking through his murderous thoughts. “How many inside?”
“Two men and a woman in the living room, at least one more in the back. There could be others.” It was time. The girl could be dead or dying and Caleb didn’t have time to wait for the rest of the gang to emerge.
“There’s five bikes out here,” Jair pointed out.
Caleb gave a nod. “Two missing. Jair, Dani, the two of you bust in the door and the rest of us will come in behind you. I’ll head toward the back with Khalid and find the girl.” He glanced over at Jair and the man smiled. “When it begins, make them feel it. I don’t want it to be quick.”