Authors: Lorelei Confer
“Well, what did he say?” she asked as she stood.
“Boss said we hafta drop the girl in
by Tuesday at midnight. He didn’t wanna hear ’bout no problems. We just gotta have the girl there by then,” he answered without turning around to look at her.
Amanda began screaming. “What have you gotten me into? I want out of this right now. I don’t even want any money!”
“That ain’t gonna happen, and you know it. You knew exactly what you were gettin’ into from the start. Boss knows you’re workin’ this job with me and are gettin’ a cut. When he pays for somethin’, he ’xpects to get what he pays for. Iffin he don’t, he don’t need you
me no more and he’ll get ridda’ us before you can spit. You’ll be iced and floatin’ in the ’
, or what’s left of ya will be.”
Amanda ran at Joe, her arms flailing, fists ready to do battle. She screamed, “What are we gonna do? This is all your fault, you fool.”
“Shut up, you bitch,” he said as he restrained her by holding her head back with one hand. “Just sit down and shut the hell up. I can’t even think with your caterwaulin’.”
Joe turned around to face her and backed her onto a nearby bed. She sat and put her head down on her arms and rocked back and forth.
“We gotta get that particular girl—not just any girl. It has to be the girl boss picked out. And we have to get her to
on time, just like boss wants. You know how picky he is. He has to get exactly what he wants when he wants it, and that’s what he’s payin’ us for. If we screw up this job, there won’t be no more jobs ’cause we’ll be dead. So if you’ve got any ideas, now’d be a good time to hear ’em?”
Amanda lifted her head, pointed her finger at Joe, her lips tight, her face red with anger.
“I risked gettin’ caught and goin’ to jail for this job, man, I need the money. And now, thanks to you I’ve got nothin’. No deal. No girl. No money.”
”Like I toldja. It ain’t gonna’ matter. Boss’ll see us dead ’fore he pays either of us the first red cent. We have to deliver the goods or else.”
Unflappable and composed, Joe sat in one of the two chairs in the house, crossed his legs, and lit up a cigarette. “We hafta come up with a way to find this girl. If we don’t, we’re dead. That’s our only choice. I know Boss. There’s nowhere to run or hide he won’t find us. Iffin we don’t deliver to Boss what he wants, we can’t run far or fast enough to get away from him.”
They needed to come up with a plan. They needed it to be foolproof. They needed it now.
* * * *
Money. The one thing she needed the most, she didn’t have. Money, or the lack thereof, continued to haunt her and was the main reason Amanda had gotten involved with Joe in the first place. Big, big mistake!
Her minimum-wage job barely paid the rent on the lavish condo she lived in, let alone the necessary utilities. She had felt overwhelmed with hopelessness, at a dead end. She didn’t think she would ever be able to get ahead.
She had met Joe at a bar they both frequented and only knew each other by name and face. Neither had talked to the other at length about anything except maybe the weather before he finally sat at her table one night while she was nursing a poor-poor-pitiful-me beer.
When Joe approached her about making some good and easy money for doing a couple of simple jobs, she got excited. She could almost begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The jobs sounded easy enough, and she was confident she could handle them. All she had to do was make friends with certain girls Joe picked out, invite them over to her house, and Joe would take care of the rest. She would make a bundle, pay off her credit cards, and maybe even be able to buy a newer car.
She couldn’t stop thinking about everything she could do with all the extra money and how relieved she would feel—no more debt collectors calling or embarrassing, harassing moments with her landlord. After a few weeks of great consideration, she decided to do one job and evaluate the results or any negative consequences.
But after working the first couple of jobs with Joe and receiving the much-needed extra cash, she was able to pay some past-due bills. Since it was “untraceable cash” no one knew anything about it, she supported Joe and his activities one hundred percent.
She didn’t really think about getting caught even though she knew it was wrong and breaking the law. Eventually somewhere down the line, before the law could catch up with her, she was going to quit. Move away and change her identity. But for now, she still had so many unfulfilled dreams that she wasn’t ready for it to end. She loved the money. But now, thanks to Joe and his mistakes, she really needed to be careful since this particular job had just gotten too careless, too complicated, and they could both be in big trouble.
Amanda tossed and turned all night trying to come up with a plan to help her put an end to all the secrets and lies of which had become her pitiful life. This simple job should have gone so smoothly. Amanda had done her part. She had made friends with the girl Boss or Joe picked out, took her wherever whenever he said. That’s how it had worked with previous, similar jobs. When Joe delivered a girl or kid to Boss, Boss paid Joe and Joe paid her.
But Boss’s plans had changed. Instead of getting the girl a week ago in
, he had suddenly left town. They had to take the girl all the way to
in order to make the delivery.
She even considered aborting the whole plan, cutting her losses now, getting back to her condo, and settling down. She wanted out. She didn’t want Joe breathing down her neck, telling her who to make friends with, who to keep asleep, and who to keep awake. She wanted to go straight for a while, try to get a better job with a regular paycheck, try her best to get by and stay clean.
She didn’t think Boss would agree to let her just walk away. She knew too much about Boss and his organization even though she’d never met him. Even if Boss did let her out of the deal, she wouldn’t get any money for this gone-bad job. She wouldn’t be able to get back to
without transportation or money for transportation. Maybe she’d already been gone too long.
Isabella woke up in the early morning hours. It took a few minutes for her eyes to adjust to the darkness, for her to recognize her surroundings, to remember where she was and how she had gotten there. She had hoped to wake up from this nightmare to find herself in her own bed, that she had only been dreaming but no such luck.
Now she needed to find a bathroom. She vaguely remembered the large house and had no idea where one might be located. She tried to recall her hurried run-through a short time earlier but couldn’t remember seeing a bathroom along the way.
She lifted her head and noticed Wyatt asleep in the recliner. She warily glanced around, then got up and tiptoed to the stairs. Her feet throbbed with pain with each and every step she took, and she winced, looking back to see if Wyatt had moved. He hadn’t.
At the top of the stairs, she turned left into the kitchen. She tried to remember if he had said anything about a wife. She couldn’t recall. If he did have a wife, where was she? Or maybe he had a girlfriend. Why did that trouble her? And why did she even care?
She rounded the corner into the dining room to the open staircase leading upstairs, which probably led to the bedrooms, and bedrooms always had bathrooms nearby.
Fumbling through the dark, she got to the top of the stairs, stopping in front of a set of closed double doors. To her right were three closed doors; to her left, the open railing overlooking the dining room, foyer, and a darker room, possibly a living room according to the faint moonlight coming in the windows.
She decided to be quick about it since she really had to go, so she opened the double doors straight ahead. She walked on smooth and cool wooden floors toward the dim light coming into the room from the left.
Finally! A bathroom! A well-equipped one too, with a big bathtub and a huge separate shower. She exhaled after realizing she’d been holding her breath. What she wouldn’t give to take a long, hot, soapy bath? She felt dirty, sweaty, and so stressed. She would love to relax, let the feelings of hopelessness and anguish wash away down the drain with the dirty water. Running her fingers through her matted short hair, she found short sticks and leaves poking out everywhere. The corner of her mouth hurt too.
When she looked at her feet, she saw they were caked with dirt, covered with scratches and dried blood from the briars and bushes in the woods. She took a closer look at the large multiple sprays in the shower. She knew the pulsing hot water would feel so good on her aching muscles.
She couldn’t wait any longer. Before she could talk herself out of it, she removed the remnants of her clothes and jumped into the shower. As the hot water began running over her, she relaxed. Closing her eyes, she relinquished her body to the hot water, running her soapy hands over her sore muscles, melting away the aches and pains. She washed and rinsed her hair and relieved her feet of the dirt and caked blood. She breathed the moist air deeply into her lungs, savoring every second—she didn’t want it to end.
Fatigue soon overwhelmed her. She grew tired and wanted to lie down. She quickly got out, found a big fluffy towel nearby, and took advantage of every inch of it to dry off her body and hair. The scrapes on her feet and ankles had begun bleeding, so she had to take extra time to stop the bleeding with tissue paper.
She didn’t want to put her dirty clothes back on, so she searched the bathroom and found a soft, white terry bathrobe hanging on the back of the door. She thought it would be okay to borrow for a short time so she slipped it on. It was too large for her: the sleeves hung down to her knees and the bottom almost reached the floor, but it felt so cozy that she decided one night wouldn’t matter. She opened the door and walking precariously on her heels or toes, limped out of the bathroom.
From the dull bathroom light, she could see a large, king-size bed in front of her.
If only I could get a good night’s rest. It would feel so good after my relaxing shower, too.
She decided to lie down a moment, just to think in the quiet of the night. Closing her eyes, she listened to the sounds of the leaves rustling in the trees and the bugs making their various noises. The open French doors leading to a balcony allowed a light breeze to gently sway the sheer curtains carrying them across the bed. With her arms propped behind her head, she breathed deeply and relaxed her entire body. Her thoughts spun as she tried to wrap her mind around the possibilities, of her recent experience.
She dreamed about the handsome man sleeping downstairs, and wondered what it would be like to feel his security, his strength, and his warmth lying next to her.
A light sleeper, always attuned to his surroundings, Wyatt automatically woke up when Isabella moved on the couch, and was at full attention before her feet hit the floor. He lay watching her every move through his slit eyes. Once she reached the top of the stairs, he sat up and listened to her soft footsteps as she made her way up to the third floor. He heard his bedroom door open and close. He owned some valuable artwork, silver, a coin collection, but nothing of public knowledge or worth breaking-and-entering charges. W
hat could she be up to now?
He stood and started up the stairs. When he heard the shower water running in his bathroom, he decided to wait it out in the kitchen until she made her next move, and hoped it would not be out the front door. Whatever she was planning or had planned for him, he would be ready. He sat in the moonlit breakfast nook staring out into the woods while thinking about everything she had told him, what he had found out during his limited research on the computer, and what his next steps would or should be at daylight. But first, he could use a few more hours of sleep.
The bright moonlight shining through the big windows made the room appear as if a soft light had been turned on. He hadn’t heard the water running for a while nor had he seen or heard her come down the stairs. He decided it was time to investigate her whereabouts on his own.
Tiptoeing up the stairs, he walked into his bedroom and came to an abrupt halt. The moonlight streaming in through the open French doors illuminated the room, spreading its light across the bed, spotlighting where she lay. The sight took his breath away, her appearance ethereal, chaste, and virtuous.
She lay on her back with her arms flung aside. She had put on his robe after her shower and it had ridden up, showing her beautiful, shapely legs. He could see her soft feminine curls between her legs where the robe had slid open. She was beautiful, and with her tussled dark hair a contrast on the white pillow case, and her soft, now-clean milky skin she reverberated sexy. He wanted to touch her, to kiss her, to do so much more: he simply wanted her. He couldn’t believe the feelings coming to the surface, feelings he hadn’t had in too long, feelings only a man can feel for a woman he desired, feelings he couldn’t and didn’t want to hide.
Trying not to disturb her, he gently lay down on the bed beside her. She shifted onto her side toward him and put her hand on his chest. Expecting a response, he lifted his head to look at her, but her eyes remained closed in sleep. He stared at her fingers splayed across his chest, it felt good, somehow right. He laid his head back down, put his hand on top of hers, and slowly drifted off to sleep.