I couldn’t give up Julia’s location. I wasn’t going to sell her out and put her back in the monster’s clutches, the way one of the kids on the street had done to me when the cop flashed his badge and demanded to know where I was. The other runaways knew Nassir had been looking for me and that he’d sent Stark to flush me out. All the dirty cop had to do was promise that whomever ratted me out would get a get-out-of-jail-free card. Since I had a backbone and was far more loyal than that, I was going to die. But not before the dirty cop who nearly electrocuted me put his hands all over me.
He’d been circling around for the last two weeks. Letting his hands linger. Pinning me with his eyes and taunting me with his words. Goddard told his goons I was off limits until they had a location for his stepdaughter, but they only behaved when he was in the room. When he was gone, they threatened, they touched, they intimidated, and they harassed. My cheek was swollen from being smacked around. My scalp was raw from yanking my head out of grabbing hands, and all my fingernails were broken and bloody from clawing and fighting off unwanted advances. I was disgusted by being pawed and abused, even if I was achingly used to it. The look in the cop’s eye was one I was sadly familiar with. He liked it when I fought back, and he was waiting, not so patiently, to get the go ahead from his boss that I was no longer off limits. He’d been telling Goddard that there were other ways to find Julia, that I was just a street-rat without connections to keep the girl hidden for long. He had a very specific way in which he wanted to make me talk, and if Goddard had given him the okay, I would have killed myself before letting him have his way with my body.
I swore to myself when I left home that I would never, ever be powerless like that again. Luckily, the software I set up with basic, pre-recorded responses from Julia meant I could keep the Mayor guessing and the dirty cop on a leash for a little while. I didn’t actually know where she was. I never knew. It was safer that way in case something like this happened. I didn’t want the temptation to give away information to protect my own self-interest, so I took precautions. But my time ran out today. There were no more distractions and no more delays. Goddard wanted answers I couldn’t give him . . . so I was going to die.
For the last two weeks, I’d been trussed up, hands bound behind my back, and confined to some trashy motel that rented rooms by the hour. It was in the heart of the Point—the very worst part. The dirty cop and another guy, who looked like a tired, worn out litigator, took turns trying to cajole me into spilling my guts. The balding, older man, who looked like he gave up on life years ago, made promises I knew he wouldn’t keep, and the cop resorted to using his hands. My nipples had been pinched and my ass was squeezed more in the last two weeks than in an entire decade spent living on the streets. He’d tried to poke and prod between my legs, but old memories and long repressed panic gave me the kind of strength he didn’t expect me to have after days of eating nothing but crap from the motel’s vending machine. Little did these two fools know that life had handed me worse when I’d survived on less.
Even with my hands zip-tied behind my back, I still managed to smash his nose with my forehead and take a chunk out of his cheek with my teeth. It was gory and grisly, bloody and brutal, but after he was done beating the shit out of me for the assault, he left me alone. Goddard was none too pleased when he showed up and saw that I was so battered I could barely speak. I refused to make the fake call to the recorded software for the next two days and flatly told the Mayor if the cop touched me again I was sending his precious package as far away as I possibly could. He didn’t know that there was no way for me to get a message to Julia, but I was a good enough liar that he believed me, and the cop had kept his hands to himself . . . until today.
Both he and the skinny, older man showed up in the middle of the night. The crappy motel door was locked from the outside with a padlock and all the windows were lined with bars that couldn’t be broken loose. I’d tried the first night they left me alone in this hovel. No one cared if I screamed my fool head off. In fact, the room next to me seemed to be producing even louder, scarier noises. There was no housekeeping, no security. I was well and truly trapped and trying to escape had left me with nothing more than bruises and a raspy voice. I’d gotten used to sleeping at a weird angle because my bound hands wrenched up behind me, making my shoulders stiff. I’d never been much of a heavy sleeper—you couldn’t afford to be when you slept under the stars, and I couldn’t risk it when I slept under the same roof as my older brother—so I heard my captors outside the door before it swung open.
I sat upright on the ratty bed and blinked against the sudden invasion of neon light from the motel sign. I was going to ask what was going on; however, before the words were out, the nasty cop pulled out something that looked like a black burlap sack and shook it in front of me.
“Boss says it’s time to go.” He took a step toward me and caught my ankle as I tried to scoot across the bed and away from him.
I screamed as he pulled me across the mattress, evading my kicking feet and chuckling at my protest. The older guy sighed and rubbed a hand over his face.
“Can we hurry this along? The guy God paid costs a fortune and he doesn’t like to be kept waiting. We don’t have time for you to play with your food.”
My eyes went wide as the cop wrapped his hands around my neck and started to squeeze. It made me gag and I kicked and wiggled even harder in his relentless hold. I felt his cheek, the one that needed ten stitches after I bit him, next to mine. He laughed in my ear and his voice sent shivers racing down my spine when he muttered low enough that only I could hear, “That’s right, you little bitch. The boss called in a pro. A guy who can make you bleed on the inside so that the pain lasts for hours. You’ll be begging to talk by the time he’s done with you.” I felt him press into my hip as he pulled me up and forced me to my feet. I gagged harder and tried to pull away when he ground his arousal into me. I struggled to get an elbow in his gut, but there was no traction, and I screamed when he pulled on my tied hands. The nerve endings and joints in my arms and shoulders burned from being locked in an unnatural position for so long. “I’m going to ask for an hour with you before they finish you off. The last thing you’ll remember is my face.” He pressed his ravaged cheek into mine. “The face you fucked up.”
I had to breathe through my mouth so I didn’t pass out. I was scared. I hated that I couldn’t see, but more than anything, I hated that I had no control, no say in what was happening to me or where I was going.
I was no one’s rag doll.
I wasn’t a thing that could be manhandled and tossed around.
I fought back. That’s what I always did. That’s all I could do.
I dragged my feet. I refused to stand under my own power. I wiggled across the floor when the cop dropped me. I tried to get up and run. I had no idea where I was going but I had to get away. I screamed and screamed and screamed. The older man begged me to keep quiet while the cop laughed and drove one of his boots into my ribs.
I went silent on a gasp and was lifted up and thrown over a shoulder. It dug into my gut. I bounced mercilessly around as I was hauled out of the filthy room and down a set of stairs. The lawyerly looking guy was complaining about the noise and making a scene. The cop placated him by saying he would flash his badge, if necessary. They were so casual about abduction and torture that it made me even more resigned to the fact that this really was the end. They didn’t care if anyone saw what they were doing to me because I was about to disappear off the face of the Earth. It didn’t matter that they brought in a professional to wring and torment the truth out of me, because I was dead whether or not I talked. I was going to suffer needlessly. I snickered because it wouldn’t be the first time. I spent my entire life fighting against people who thought they could break and control me.
My captors tossed me in the trunk of a car like I was luggage and slammed it closed. The cramped space smelled like gasoline and blood, which made my stomach turn. Behind the suffocating hood, I closed my eyes and started to work through my options. Everyone in the Point knew that if someone snatched you, you were far more likely to end up dead if you let them move you to a new location. Well, there was nothing I could do about that. We are on the move and I had no way to stop it. I also knew that I was supposed to look for a release latch or try to kick out one of the taillights and signal for help. The hood prevented me from knowing if I was up or down and my bound hands kept me from maneuvering around. I kicked my legs out in front of me and leaned on my side, groaning as my newly injured ribs screamed at me. My stiff shoulders also protested, but I made contact with something solid and kicked it with my boot. I moved a few inches and tried again. Metal thumped against the sole of my shoe.
I kept kicking, making my way in a half circle when the car suddenly stopped and sent me rolling. I shrieked in surprise and tried to lift myself upright when the trunk was pulled open. Immediately, hard hands latched around my throat and started to shake me. I gagged involuntarily and tried to pull back, but I was stuck firmly in that punishing grasp.