“For once, you and I agree.” The smile grew even broader. “I like this side of you Caleb.”
Narweh’s English consisted only of simple words and phrases – yes, no, eat, sleep, come, and sex. His main form of communication was using a stick to beat understanding into the boys, though sometimes, he did much worse.
There were other things that went on, things Kéleb forced himself not to think about. When he was pliant he was often rewarded with food, clothing, or gifts from different men, and though he loathed what he did to get such rewards, he’d done his best to endure. When he refused, the beatings that took place were more than some grown men could withstand.
Eventually, Kéleb grew in years, height, and beauty. Armed with all these, his arrogance and quick wit were soon to follow. He knew more Arabic than English, though the English boys helped him retain a rudimentary knowledge. He soon chose his tormentors, pitting them against one another with the promise of true affection, though he was incapable of giving it. Still a child in the eyes of many and treated with little more than cruelty he understood only one thing – survival.
Each night, as he huddled close to his partners in suffering on the dirty floor of the brothel they were held in he remembered less and less the boy he had been. Worse, he no longer cared. He was Dog. It was all he had ever been. Instinct. Hunger.
He was always hungry. For food, for shelter, for power, for more… constantly more. He even learned to crave the pain. It meant he was still alive, still surviving. If he could handle the pain, control his reaction to it, make it work for him instead of against him, then he was free. And more than anything, Kéleb was hungry for freedom.
Narweh knew this. Had always somehow known. It was the reason the other girls and boys were called by alluring names to entice the patrons while he was called Dog. It was meant to demean him, to drag him to a place where he was no longer human. To make him feel less than human. It didn’t work. When Narweh looked into his eyes, Kéleb refused to lower them. And one day Narweh had had enough.
Kéleb knew he was about to be punished. He knelt on the ground and was unafraid. Narweh loved to beat him and he no longer struggled against it. He had too much pride for that.
He gritted his teeth when asked to undress. “It’s to be rape then?” he said in perfect Arabic, “Do your friends know how much you love fucking dogs.” Kéleb’s face throbbed with the slap he received, but he bore it in silence, fists clenched at his sides. He was free, he reminded himself.
Raising his calm and steady eyes to meet Narweh’s frenzied ones, he removed his thobe. Narweh’s eyes remained venomous, but now lust swirled behind the rage. Kéleb nearly smiled. Yes, he was a beautiful animal. Another slap and Kéleb forced himself to look away, but not toward the ground, never that.
There was noise behind him, he wanted to look but would not give the son of a bitch the satisfaction of piquing his curiosity. It didn’t matter, the mystery was soon revealed. A mirror. Narweh placed a mirror directly in front of him. In it he saw his bearing waver. This was too much, he couldn’t possibly watch this. And yet, he refused to stare at the floor.
“What’s the matter?” Narweh taunted, “Don’t you like looking at how beautiful you are? Vanity; it’s the plague of your entire race. It’s the reason you think you deserve everything when you deserve nothing, less than nothing. Death is all you deserve.”
Kéleb strained against every impulse rushing through his body. He willed himself to remain still, he could handle this. He could handle anything.
Narweh knelt behind him and Kéleb ceased to breathe. Anything but this. Please. Anything. He closed his eyes. “Shut them and I will make it so you never can again.” For the first time in a long time, Kéleb almost whimpered.
Lifting his thobe and spitting into his hand Narweh prepared to enter him and there was not a thing to be done. It was this or death. Kéleb dug deep into the part of him determined to be free. He took a deep breath and held it as he was entered savagely, refusing to make the slightest sound. But the mirror…the mirror forced him to see what he tried to pretend wasn’t real. He wasn’t free. Behind the boy in the glass, Narweh smiled at him. Kéleb looked at the ground.
It wasn’t over quickly. Narweh did not simply wish to use him as he had in the past, throwing him to the ground and rutting against him like a savage beast, punching and slapping him. He took his time. He wanted Kéleb to feel every moment of the urge to fight back and the moment after it when he realized he couldn’t. A sob finally broke through and he was forced to look up at the boy in the mirror. He was…broken.
Kéleb hated the boy, hated his weakness. In a rage he struck out at the mirror shattering it and tossing it to the ground. He lunged for the shards of broken glass, extricating himself as he turned on his tormentor. Narweh laughed, loudly. Kéleb flew toward him, fingers bleeding as they gripped the broken mirror.
For all his size, Kéleb was still a boy, still lanky and awkward. His strength meant nothing against Narweh. As he lunged toward him, Narweh planted his foot firmly into his stomach and tossed him over his head and onto the ground. His vision blurred and his breath left him.
Narweh stood quickly, taking swift advantage. His foot collided repeatedly with Kéleb’s ribs, genitals and chest. Kéleb rolled onto his side groping for air and Narweh’s foot. Neither aim was achieved and he blacked out as the darkness encroached around him.
The next time he opened his eyes it was to expel a silent scream as his skin was split open. Before he knew what was happening, he was struck again and again. He tried to move his limbs, to run, to fight, but he was tied down. Wet fire danced along his back and he instantly knew he would die that night. The whip landed again, another tearing of flesh. This time Kéleb managed to scream.
A rush unlike any Caleb had ever felt raced through his veins as the sound of angry gun fire and splintering wood erupted. Rat-tat-tat-tat. Creak. BOOM. The door was kicked in. Racing footsteps – theirs. Startled yelps and angry shouts – from inside.
Jair was the first one in, his warrior cry stunning their prey even further. By the time Tiny thought to act, he was cracked across the face with the butt of Jair’s weapon. Blood sprayed across the wall behind Tiny as he fell to the ground. First blood, but not the last.
The woman screamed and darted toward the hallway, screaming for someone named Kid. Caleb rushed in after her. Behind him two of Jair’s cousins were beating the other biker in the living room with Tiny.
The woman was screaming at someone. There were two doors ahead of Caleb. One to the right with a light on, the other directly ahead, door shut. Caleb fired two shots at the door in front of him. The door swung open and Caleb hit the ground. Shuck-Shuck-Boom! The shotgun blast rang out in the narrow space of the hallway. “Come get some motherfucker!” the man at the end of the hall yelled. Shuck-Shuck.
Caleb lifted his head and aimed for the biker’s pelvic area. He wanted to avoid center mass, but he couldn’t risk aiming for the knee and missing. He fired. The biker wailed in agony as the bullet hit. He dropped the cocked shotgun and clutched at his lower abdomen, blood already covered his quaking fingers and shock distorted the man’s features. Behind Caleb, Khalid laughed uproariously as he leapt over Caleb’s splayed legs to cover the second door. Caleb let out a breath. He needed to steel himself for what he might find.
He lifted himself into a crouch and hugged the wall nearest the door. “This can be very simple,” he called out. “Your friends can’t help you.” He paused, letting that sink in. “We just want the girl.”
“Fuck you!” It was the woman who spoke. She was hysterical. Unpredictable. “I’ll kill this fucking bitch, I swear to god I will.” Caleb’s heart tripped all over itself. She’s alive.
“Make her say something!” Caleb shouted back. Heavy breathing, resistance. Panicked squeals.
“I-I,” a male voice now, faltering, “I think she’s in shock or something. Look man, we didn’t have anything to do with it. I swear.” The man’s voice cracked with panic as he spoke. “Just… go and we’ll leave her here for you.”
Caleb looked at Khalid. He was poised to strike, anticipating the kill. Any second now, this could get complicated and it wouldn’t matter to Khalid if the girl was dead or alive. It only mattered to Caleb. In fact, for Jair, dead would be better. Rafiq would blame Caleb and Jair and his cousins would savor the ensuing confrontation.
Caleb thought quickly what his options were. What were the chances the two were armed? The door at the end of the hall was a bedroom and the house wasn’t very big at all. Who carried a weapon into the bathroom? Caleb took decisive action.
Everything moved in slow motion. Khalid’s footsteps as he went for the shotgun lying next to the bleeding biker. The curdled scream of the blonde as Caleb’s weapon rounded the corner of the door. The young man’s panicked yell as he clutched a bloody mass to his chest and scrambled toward the farthest corner of the small bathroom. The blonde threw herself at Caleb, clutching at his hair and clothes as she shouted like a banshee in his ear. One hard shove and she sprawled over the toilet, gasping for breath as the impact forced the air from her lungs.
Caleb knew he should shoot her, just put her down, but he was too numb to do anything. The sight in front of him took him to places he had long since tried to forget. Tehran. Blood. Whip. Rape. Blood. Whip. Rape. Staccato visions raced through his memory. His clenched fists gripping the sheets. His wails. The blood. So much blood. He could almost hear the whip cracking against his flesh, a crisp, wet sound as it landed on fresh blood. His screams pierced the air and for a moment he believed he would finally die. Finally. Then the whip fell again. And again.
“What. Happened.” His body shook with a fury he had not felt since the night he finally murdered Narweh. Caleb met the eyes of the trembling boy holding Kitten to his chest, who was trying to speak but couldn’t. “Who are you?”
“Kid,” the boy managed to get out.
Kid made sounds, but none of them coherent. Caleb lifted his gun and waited. “What…happened?” he asked again, through gritted teeth.
“Please,” Kid begged and his blue eyes gave away too much emotion, “it wasn’t me, I tried to stop them…they…” The kid swallowed and held Kitten closer. Caleb’s finger almost squeezed the trigger. He didn’t want to look at her. If he looked at her….
Kid flinched. The gun was still aimed squarely at the boy’s head. “They tried to rape her okay! They tried. But, b-b-b-but they didn’t. She fought and…and….” Tears fell from Kid’s eyes. Fear. Fear he was about die. Kid looked away and held his arms toward Caleb. “Please.” Kid whispered.
Caleb eyed the boy. Kid. The name fit. His face was baby smooth, his lips a little too full, like his own. Something perverse took root inside him. He would let this one live, the girl too. Though they would soon wish he hadn’t. Caleb finally looked at Kitten. Her face was a bruised and bloody mess. Her eyes were closed but her lips were moving, trembling violently as was the rest of her body. Her head hung awkwardly to the left, her arms straight out over Kid’s arms. Lower, her splayed legs showed bruises and boot marks where she had obviously been stomped on. Caleb swallowed. “Khalid,” Caleb’s voice was steady, “get a blanket and put it over the girl. She’s in shock. Then bring these two out to me.”
As Caleb turned, Dani was standing with Khalid in the hallway. The two men entered as he left and already Caleb could hear the blonde struggling against them. Caleb allowed the old memories to wash over him as he approached the living room, spliced together with images of Kitten beaten and shaking on the bathroom floor. They were all the fuel he needed for what he was about to do.