Authors: Lorelei Confer
Raising his hand ready to smack her, Joe bellowed, “I said shut the hell up, damn it! One more word outta you an’ I’ll knock your teeth out.”
Amanda walked toward Isabella pointing a finger at her. “Shut up and stop your bawlin’. I’ve been workin’ on you for over six months now for the boss, so just shut up. Do what you’re told, and no one gets hurt.” Her words were sharp, crisp through her tight lips.
Terror ripped through Isabella, her hands fisted, her chin trembled in disbelief. She withdrew from Amanda’s imposing form, curled into a protective ball on the bed, and wept.
Betrayed. Alone. Trapped.
* * * *
Isabella struggled to listen to the whispered conversation in the kitchen.
Why would Amanda do this to me? What would make her do this to another woman who was her friend? Was she poor and needed to make some big bucks to live the fancy lifestyle she wanted? Or had she been kidnapped and given money for a new identity of wealth and affluence.
* * * *
What seemed like hours or days later, Isabella opened the door to the bathroom and was surprised to find an attractive blonde woman about her own age inside. The woman held her finger to her lips warning Isabella to be quiet and pulled her inside shutting the door.
“Shhh! They hear everything,” the woman whispered.
“What’s your name?”
“Megan. What’s yours?”
“Isabella. We have to get out of here.”
“There’s no way out. Believe me, I’ve tried.”
“How long have you been here?”
“About a week, I’m not really sure. They keep telling me they’re waiting for some kind of ‘word’ and then I can leave. I’m so scared,” Megan said through trembling lips.
“So am I. Why haven’t I seen you before?”
“I’m usually across the hall, but my shower is broken today so they let me come over here to ‘get ready,’ whatever that means.”
“Where are you from?”
“Right here in
Both seemed a little stunned.
The door burst open, almost torn off its hinges. Joe reached in, grabbed Megan by the arm, and jerked her out the door.
“Stop, you’re hurting me,” she screamed, but Joe only covered her mouth with his hand as he slammed the bathroom door shut.
Isabella could hear Megan’s muffled screams, her kicks against the floor as she was pulled across the room. She stood unable to think of something she could do to help, the pounding of her heart in her chest deafening in her ears.
Suddenly, without a plan in mind, except to come to the aid of Megan, she sprinted after them and jumped on Joe’s back when she caught up to him. Hitting, biting and scratching anywhere she could find skin. Surely, between the two of them, they would be able to fight him off and escape.
While holding Megan around her waist with one arm, Joe loosened his hand on her mouth long enough to take a swipe at Isabella. She grasped hold of his lower side as his solid fist hit her on the side of the head. She lost her hold and fell to the floor in a dazed heap.
I didn’t see that one coming!
“Run, run, get away, get help, Isabella. Go! Go! Run!” Megan screamed.
Hearing Megan’s cries sent a shot of renewed energy through Isabella. Her heart lurched in her chest, and sweat beaded on her upper lip. She ran ahead of them, out the door, across the porch, down the stairs into the street, and came to a screeching halt.
What to do? Which way to go?
She looked up and down both sides of the street. Each looked the same, rows of tall narrow houses, similar in size and shape, color being the only main difference. Long skinny alleyways three to four feet wide separated the houses. Large oak trees spanned the street from yard to yard, making a canopy covering the street.
She glanced behind her. Amanda, not Joe, was now struggling with Megan, dragging her kicking and screaming to the van parked nearby.
Isabella made a quick U-turn running through the alleyway toward the back of the house. Her knees weakened, and breathing became more strained as she ran down the lengthy passageway. She stumbled and fell on the loose stones covering the ground. With the gravel embedded in the scratches, she didn’t risk taking time to brush them off. She crawled for a few feet, then got back up and resumed running. Limping, with her knees bleeding, she slowed down in hope of catching her breath. She took a chance to look behind her.
Good, no one followed.
She stopped and leaned over, resting her hands on her knees while she tried to catch her breath. When she turned her head around and squinted upward, she gaped straight at Joe’s bull-like face.
Without a word, he grabbed her by the arm and started dragging her back the way she had come. He continued to tow her over the gravel, even after she fell to her knees. Since she only wore a T-shirt and running shorts, the loose stones and pebbles scraped skin off her arms, knees, legs, and ankles.
She screamed out as pain tore through her, “Let me go! Help! Somebody, please help me! Stop, you’re hurting me.”
He covered her mouth with his other stinking hand, muffling her words. Reaching down, putting a tight hold around her waist, he picked her up. She squirmed, trying to wrest herself free, trying to pull his fingers from her waist and mouth.
As soon as he got her inside the apartment, he slapped her across the face knocking her to the floor. She felt something hot, stinging at the corner of her mouth. Her tongue automatically flicked the spot and she tasted blood mixed with salt. She shook her head to clear it while touching her mouth. When she took her hand away, it was covered in blood. Tears of pain, anger, and frustration ran down her cheeks.
She turned her eyes on Joe. “I’ll make you pay for this, you son of a bitch!”
He lifted his hand to hit her again. She flinched and rolled into a ball to protect her face from the next punishing blow. It never came.
Instead, she heard Amanda yell, “Stop it, Joe, right now. Boss’ll really be mad and won’t pay us, ’specially if we deliver damaged goods. We need the money, man. We need this job.”
Amanda helped Isabella off the floor, none too gently, and pushed her onto a bed. She felt a pinprick sensation in her arm, followed instantly by that old familiar woozy feeling. Isabella drifted into a deep, dreamless sleep.
* * * *
Isabella sat up, shook the cobwebs from her head, and looked around. Everything appeared muddled, obscured, her mind bewildered. She turned her head to one side. Joe stood beside the bed with some clothes and a pair of sandals in his hands. He threw them at her.
“Get up and shower,” he ordered crisply, “and then put these on. Right now. We gotta get a move-on.”
She stood, staggered, and paused to steady herself. “I said, get moving,” he bellowed. “Now! We got things to do, and remember what I tol’ you.”
She stumbled into the bathroom, not because he told her to but because showering and washing her dirty body and matted hair would make her feel better. The cuts on her body weren’t serious, but they stung like the dickens when the water hit them. She dressed in a T-shirt, jeans, and sandals, and towel-dried her hair. She walked out of the bathroom refreshed, more human, and ready to do battle if necessary. With a clearer head, she felt more confident than she had in quite a while.
Eagerly, she focused on her dilemma, concentrated on finding a solution. She had to get away from this hellhole. Get away and put this horrific experience behind her. Get away before she spent the rest of her life sleepwalking.
Isabella struggled as Joe held her left arm. The two of them went through the open door, crossed the front porch, and went down a few steps. She took a fleeting glance around, looking for anyone. She had to get someone’s attention. She had to find someone, anyone, to give some kind of signal to for help. Getting away, far away, from Joe and Amanda stayed foremost on her mind.
As if he read her thoughts, Joe put his hand into his jacket pocket. A sharp pain slammed into her side as he pushed a hard, blunt object into her ribs. She yelped, jumping away from him.
He jerked her arm brutally back toward him and pulled her close against his side. He shook her. “Look at me. Look at me, girl, and keep your mouth shut or this gun will go off.” His eyes were dark, his lips stiff, as he thrust the gun against her ribs.
She swung her head around coming to an abrupt halt in front of his face.
“If you think I’m bluffin’, just try me,” he snapped at her. “I’ve been itchin’ to take you out anyway. Remember, keep your eyes on me, no lookin’ round. You understand? First time I find you lookin’ somewhere else, I’m takin’ you out. Right here. Right now. You got that? We’re gonna take a little walk in this beautiful park.” He growled low in his throat as he jabbed her, hard in the ribs, again with the gun, to make sure she understood.
She winced, nodding in understanding. She crinkled up her face, tried to breath in air away from his putrid exhaled breath. She trembled and her knees wobbled as Joe pushed and pulled her along.
Where is he taking me? What is he going to do with me?
She had to walk sideways as Joe held her close to his side but slightly in front of him as a shield. He pushed her along with caution, his eyes darting around, into every nook, every alley along both sides of the street, even on the rooftops, as if someone might be watching them or looking for them.
After a block or so, Isabella felt the warmth of the sun on her face and closed her eyes to savor the moment. Her mind strayed when a fresh breeze with a lingering sent of clover wafted past, and she took a deep breath. Ah, fresh air. It smelled so good and felt wonderful as it ruffled through her hair.
Another sharp jab in her ribs brought tears to her eyes and back to reality. When she turned her nose away from his face for a clean breath of air, he jammed the gun harder into her side, which made her wince in pain.
“Come on. Move it!” He dragged her along. “I’ll be glad to get rid of you, that’s for sure. I never had one like you give me so damn much trouble.”
She watched his eyes leave her face looking beyond her. The corners of his disgusting mouth turned up into a smile. “Well, look here, and right on ti…” he muttered, his hold on her arm relaxing but then retightened.
He looked away from her while his hold loosened once again. When he didn’t turn to look back at her right away, she chanced a glance. She wanted to see what made him smile without drawing his attention. Keeping her head still, she moved her eyes to the side. A sleek, shiny black limousine made its way toward them.
“Oh, shit,” Joe mumbled as he pulled her into nearby bushes at the entrance into the park.
She looked up in time to see a police car pulling in at the curb right behind the limo. Joe stared back and forth between the limo and the cops. He slackened his hold on her arm a little more each time his attention lapsed until he had let go of her arm completely. He started to cross the street toward the limo.
And then it happened. Joe wasn’t even halfway to the limo when it suddenly started to move. It moved ahead and turned the corner and left, the police car following close behind, leaving Joe left standing in the middle of the street, his hands held out to the sides.
As soon as Joe left her side, Isabella saw her window of opportunity open, and expand. And she captured it.
No way was she going to run to the cops for help. She had to depend on herself for survival. If her father had done that, he would probably still be alive today. There were just too many dirty cops, and she couldn’t trust any of them. Not anymore.
She took off running for some woods on her right side. She ran, trying to be as quiet as possible so no one would hear her while hoping to get a good head start. It felt great to be running again, but because she had been lying around for so many days, her lungs and leg muscles soon began to burn, to cramp. She slowed down, slouched behind a tree, and took in big gulps of air while clutching at the stitch of pain in her side. She sank to the ground, listened for and heard the sounds of trampling brush behind her.
She heard Joe hollering to Amanda. “She went ov’r here, this way. We hafta find the bitch before she gets away. Hurry up! Boss is gonna kill us if we lose her.”
Isabella knew she had to run and keep on running in order to get away, no matter what. She didn’t know where she was or where she was going but she wasn’t going to let them catch her, not this time. She began running in the opposite direction of the sound of their voices, crawling and jumping, scrambling over and under fallen trees, shrubs, and bushes. Her shirt caught on a bush and ripped along the side, but she kept running. She fell, tearing her pants in the knees, but she didn’t care. She scrambled up and started running. Her lungs burned, and her side felt about to split. She was unable to take a deep breath. She kept running.
Eventually she slowed her pace and listened to the sounds behind her. The sounds were farther away, but she could still hear twigs shattering under stomping feet.
Exhaustion began to set into her tired, burning muscles. Her mouth pursed tightly as her tongue swept her dry mouth. She could barely swallow. She felt as if she had been running for hours.