Authors: Sara Schoen
Left for Dead
Guarded Secrets, Book Three
Left for Dead
Copyright © 2015 by Sara Schoen
All rights reserved.
First Print Edition: January 2016
Limitless Publishing, LLC
Kailua, HI 96734
Formatting: Limitless Publishing
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.”
Life can throw everything at you all at once. It starts to feel overwhelming after a while, as if the world is against you, but if nothing happened you would be bored and begging for something interesting, good or bad. Just remember when life seems to slam doors in your face, you have other doors open for you that could be better.
Table of Contents
Gorod, Russia—my home, our heritage, and its people, was all under my father’s rule. We lived in a small town in the proud country of Mother Russia, but my father’s reach went far and wide. He had been given the land by his father, which had been passed down for generations. To outsiders, we would seem like a last holdout of the former Soviet Russia. We kept with tradition, but we didn’t make the same mistakes we did in the past. We chose our sides carefully, and my father made sure we would end up on the winning side so we wouldn’t take a hit in our economy or lose soldiers. To do that, he ruled with an iron fist. Any treachery to our people was dealt with swiftly, and anyone who attempted to take away my father’s power never lived long enough to do anything else. The land my father controlled was covered by the stench of many deaths—from starvation, the cold, and of course, the blood of those he murdered. In short, it meant those who opposed him were dealt with and those who appeased him lived. No one was immune to that, not even my mother and I. We were nuisances to my father as he rose to power, but he kept up a front for his followers. They wanted a family leading them, someone to look to for guidance and be a prime example. They looked past the killings and deals to think we had some semblance of control. We didn’t—everyone did exactly as my father told them without question. I rarely left our home, and when I did my father’s bodyguards Nikolai and Alexander took me where I needed to be, as they did today.
My father had requested to see me at his warehouse near the Lena River. My great grandfather had settled our mafia here years ago because of the isolated location—it was difficult to sneak up on—and for the scenery of the mountains and river in the distance. If he had put the building closer to the river, about four miles from its current location, it would run red year round. I preferred to avoid this place if I could, but it wasn’t unusual that I was called to my father’s office. Though I knew today was different; a heaviness hung in the air. It weighed down on my shoulders and forced me deeper into the backseat of the car. I couldn’t move under its weight, which brought forth a feeling of dread as I was eventually escorted to the car by Nikolai. I couldn’t place where these feelings were coming from. Nikolai didn’t seem out of the ordinary, but Alexander was tense, his shoulders tight and his ever-ready hand close to his gun in case he needed it.
Something has happened
, I thought as I glanced away to avoid Alexander’s gaze but turned to meet Nikolai’s cold dark eyes. I paused momentarily, attempting to look unaffected, but as I stared into the dark abyss of his eyes I realized why my father had requested to see me today. I wanted to banish the thought from my mind, but I couldn’t help but wonder if he had somehow found out. I looked away from Nikolai and mentally shook myself to regain my composure. My father couldn’t know my mother had escaped. It wasn’t possible, we had been too careful. She had only been gone a few hours; there was no way he could already know she was gone. She’d escape, and she’d come back for me.
I had grown up with my father at my side, I should have known better than to underestimate him. He always had a way of knowing who betrayed him.
Nikolai led me to the back door of the car shortly after exiting our home. He opened the door for me and gestured for me to get in as usual. He shut the door, but then Alexander opened the door and shoved my mother into the seat next to me. I froze as she fell into the seat. Her head hung down in shame, but I could see the bruise on her face. I didn’t know if it was from whoever found her and dragged her back here or if she struggled against Alexander. I reached out and grabbed her hand as Alexander slammed the car door shut and the locks clicked into place. I wished I could offer her comfort in some other way, but it was clear what was going to happen to her—to us. Attempting to escape my father’s rule was seen as treason, and treason only had one punishment—death. I should have known from the guards he sent—his personal guards. They rarely left his side unless they were ordered to do something more important, which involved retrieving me only a handful of times in twenty years, and capturing traitors.
“Mama,” I said, regaining her attention. She cast me a sorrowful glance, silently begging me to forgive her. She knew I would; she was the one who raised and cared for me.
“Katya, we don’t have much time. There’s a lot I have to tell you, but first you must know that I love you and I greatly apologize for getting you into this. It’s my fault.” She quickly explained how my father’s men had found her about an hour from town. They didn’t believe her lie about how she was visiting her sister, even though she had one who lived near Moscow, but they knew my father would never approve the visit, so here she was. “I’m sorry, Katya,” she muttered in broken English in hopes that the men in the front of the car wouldn’t understand the new language. It didn’t matter; Father had started working closely with American cartels for more trade options. They would know what we said no matter the language. She explained, turning back to our native tongue, that I was now being charged with treason for helping her. We would both suffer the consequences of her actions, no matter what we had to say on our behalf, because I assisted her with treason. There wasn’t a way out for either of us.
Tears began to slip through my eyelashes as I took in the severity of our situation. My mother squeezed my hand as we drove through the freshly fallen snow with ease. Even the deep snow wouldn’t prolong the inevitable. It would be the last snowfall I’d see, the last shred of daylight I’d be graced with, and the last moments with my mother. The car came to a stop and we were quickly ordered out of the vehicle.
I tried to remain calm as I was forcibly removed from the car, ripped away from my mother, and presented to my father. I watched a brief exchange between the guards and my father. From what I could hear they were explaining that I hadn’t known what was going on, but my mother had filled me in on the way over.
“What should their punishment be?” Nikolai asked, turning to give my mother a knowing look. She let out a sigh, knowing that they had understood everything she said. I wasn’t surprised, I continued to watch as my father looked us over, and I prayed for whatever amount of humanity that remained in him to take pity on us and let us live. That hope was dashed as he uttered our sentence—drowning.
I knew the process would be long and painful, if not excruciating, until I was finally put out of my misery. I had seen his victims struggle in a futile attempt to get free, fighting against the man who held their head under the water, but in the end they would all fail as the air slowly left their lungs. They were at his mercy; just how he liked it, but none of them would experience compassion. They knew only death as my father drowned them, then left them to freeze in the frigid Russian air. I almost laughed at the irony of it all; growing up I had seen him murder countless others the same way and now I’d be able to experience the same slow death I had watched innumerable times.
Now my father had the perfect excuse to finally get rid of us. We were traitors, no one would think anything of it, and he got us both out of the way permanently.
I let out a scream as Nikolai roughly picked me up and forced me toward the river. “Mama!” I cried, even though I knew she was in the same predicament and wouldn’t be able to help.
“Katya!” my mother responded as she was plucked from the ground and brought toward the river.
We continued to scream for each other as the men tore us further apart. I knew they wouldn’t keep us close together for fear of us lashing out and cooperating, but I wanted her by my side in our final moments. When I didn’t stop calling for her, Nikolai beat me. He punched my stomach, causing me to double over in pain as the breath left my lungs. While I was down he hit the butt of his gun to my face. I crashed into the snow as he landed a few more hits anywhere he could reach until I gave up fighting. I knew it would be useless, I had seen it so many times, but what I hadn’t understood then was the sheer desperation to survive. I knew it was futile, that I wouldn’t escape, but I
Once he stopped beating me, he lifted me off the ground easily and without a fight. I cried out in pain, and dark blood spilled from my mouth onto the ground beneath me. It spoiled the purity of the fresh snow with the blood that ran deep in the veins of our homeland—my family’s blood.
“Oh, you’re bleeding. Let’s clean that off for you,” Nikolai said with a smirk as he dumped me to the ground in a heap and proceeded to dunk my head into the ice cold river. I panicked. The cold water caused me to tense and fight against his hold as he held me below the water’s surface. I was losing air quickly as I tried to fight him. The water rushed past me, the cold water racing over my head before he pulled me up momentarily. I had enough time to get one breath in, but Nikolai shoved my head back into the river and slammed my head against a rock just below the surface.
My vision blurred from the blow, I could see the blood rushing through the water, and soon I lost control of my breath. The last bit of air left my lungs as they ached for oxygen. A pain threatened to cave my chest in as my lungs filled with water. My vision turned black, and suddenly I felt nothing as Nikolai gave one last push to shove me under the water for good measure. Silently I prayed that there was a better life after this one before I gave up completely.