There was a strange moment of silence and I concentrated hard, trying to hear more than the obvious. They were all waiting. Waiting for the order. Waiting for the man in charge to speak.
It came from the left of me. His voice was cool, calm and collected. I didn’t have to see to know who had taken me. The man I’d heard so much about. The man I’d been taught to fear.
“Gentleman,” he said and I could almost feel his infamous eyes on my body, “remove the bag.”
There was a rustle and my face was immediately met with cool air that seized my lungs and bright lights that blinded me. I scrunched up my face, afraid to look, to see. Now it was all so real and I wanted to stay in the dark.
“Who did this?”
Suddenly cool hands were at my swollen cheek and I flinched.
“Who did this?” my captor repeated, an edge to his level voice, his cigar-laced breath on my face.
“Sorry,” Franco mumbled. “It was the only way to quiet her.”
A heavy pause filled the room like deadweight. Finally the fingers came away from my skin and my body relaxed momentarily. I felt the man stand in front of me, bending over so he was in my face, the spicy scent of tea and tobacco emanating off of him.
“Look at me Luisa Reyes.”
Chavez, I thought to myself, I will always be Luisa Chavez.
“Darling, aren’t you curious to where you are?”
“My name is Luisa Chavez,” I said. I opened my eyes to see golden ones staring right back at me. It was like looking at an eagle. “And I know where I am. I know who you are. You are Javier Bernal.”
He raised his brow in amusement and nodded. I’d seen his picture before, on the news. There was only one and that was his mugshot but even in that photo, his eyes made an impression on you. They saw right into your depths and made you question yourself. He was one of the men whom Salvador feared, even though Salvador had more power. He was the one I had been told to watch out for, the supposed reason why I’d always been locked in the compound or escorted by the local police to go shopping.
And yet here I was, tied to a chair in a cold, leaking basement with nothing in it except five cartel members, a video camera and a knife that lay on top of a stool in front of me.
All of that for nothing. I could escape Salvador but I could never escape the cartels.
I had asked for this fate.
“You know why you’re here,” Javier said with deliberation, straightening up in his sharp black suit. He walked over to the stool, swiping up the knife, and glancing at me over his shoulder. “Don’t you?”
I could only breathe. I wanted to look at the others, at Este, at Franco, at the two other mystery men, but I was frozen in his gaze like a cow in headlights.
“What is the knife for?” I asked, my throat painfully dry.
“You’ll find out after,” he said. “It is for your husband. For your Salvador.” He stepped to the side and waved his arm at the camera. “And this is also for him.”
He eyed someone over my shoulder and gave a sharp nod. I heard a rip from behind and a piece of duct tape was placed over my mouth. I squirmed helplessly and the lights in the basement dimmed. The men stepped to the side while Javier went behind the video camera. A white light came off the front of it and bathed me in an eerie glow.
Javier cleared his throat, his face covered in shadow and said loudly, projecting to the camera, “This is Luiza Reyes, former beauty queen of the Baja State and property of Salvador Reyes. Salvador, we have your wife and we have a long list of demands, demands which I know you can meet. I expect full cooperation in this matter, or she dies in the next seven days. If she’s lucky. I’ll give you some time to think about what you’re willing to give up for her. Then we’ll be contacting you. Good bye.”
The light on the camera switched off but the rest of the room remained dim.
“I hope your husband checks his emails often. It would be a shame to have to put this on YouTube.”
There was a smirk on his face at that as he slowly walked toward me, the knife glinting in his hand. His eyes burned through the shadows, then grew somber.
He held up the knife. “I think it’s only going to hurt the first time.”
My eyes focused on the silver of the blade but the terror inside me grew too strong and my urge to breathe through the duct tape became too difficult. My lungs seized in panic, pulsing dots appeared in my vision. I felt a hand on my collarbone, gripping the edge of my blouse and then everything went black.
With her USA Today Bestselling The Artists Trilogy published by Grand Central Publishing, numerous foreign publication deals, and self-publishing success with her Experiment in Terror series, Vancouver-born Karina Halle is a true example of the term "Hybrid Author." Though her books showcase her love of all things dark, sexy and edgy, she's a closet romantic at heart and strives to give her characters a HEA...whenever possible.
Karina holds a screenwriting degree from Vancouver Film School and a Bachelor of Journalism from TRU. Her travel writing, music reviews/interviews and photography have appeared in publications such as Consequence of Sound, Mxdwn and GoNomad Travel Guides. She currently lives on an island on the coast of British Columbia where she’s preparing for the zombie apocalypse with her fiance and rescue pup.
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