Captive in the Dark by C. J. Roberts

reason than I didn’t want anyone to know my real one. “Nobody fuck with her,” he looked at me lasciviously, “unless she wants to be fucked with.” Still silence, except for the long version of November Rain blasting through crappy boom box speakers. I shrank further inside Caleb’s coat, another comforting whiff of him, another regretted decision. This whole fucking thing was twisted irony. Tiny turned to me, finishing the introductions, “Jessica this is Joker, Smokey, Casanova, Stinky, Boston, Abe, Hog, Kid, and his bitch, Nancy.”

Who the fuck cared? I sure didn’t. I just stared blankly at all of them, at none of them.

Nancy just gave a snide look, as if I called her a bitch as a greeting.

I said nothing. Growing up poor and in LA taught me something. You can’t look weak, but you can’t look too defiant or someone could take it as a challenge. And fuck with me. I flicked my gaze around, holding only a few of the eyes briefly before just staring off, not responding and just giving an indifferent and vague nod of acknowledgment. I wish Caleb had taught me something more valuable than how to withstand a strong hand on my ass. I almost laughed, feeling hysterical for a moment, and bit down on my tongue. I was not going to freak out, not when I needed to be aware.

“Nancy, why don’t you take Jessica here and get her something to eat before we pack up and ride out. I want to make it to Chihuahua by night fall.”

Nancy rolled her eyes at Tiny and then looked at me for a moment before saying, “Well come on then.”

Nancy and I walked down a small hallway into another little room. Inside, a few dirty airbeds and small piles of clothes that seemed to also serve as sheets and pillows lined the floor. She angrily kicked at the clothes in her way and headed toward the corner of the room to the bed covered in clothes, make-up, hairspray and individually wrapped condoms. I looked away, saying nothing.

“Listen here girl. You better either pay me for this food or replace it cause I don’t have money to throw away on anyone.” I didn’t say anything, just a tad shocked. So much for us females sticking together or some sympathy. Then I realized that was asking for way too much. Caleb had taught me not to expect sympathy, even if he’d shown me some from time to time. Or at least what passed for it considering the source. I had to stop thinking about the son of a bitch.

She picked up a pair of cut-off jean shorts and a skimpy leather top that laced up the front. I couldn’t help it, I winced at the whore-ware. Suddenly my chest suffered a direct hit and a small pile of snack foods dropped to my feet. I gritted my teeth. She responded with a sneer. Bitch. I picked up the bag of chips and two protein bars. Yeah, I’d be sure to reimburse her for these delicacies. She continued to give a stiff upper lip as she kicked more clothes into a corner.

“Well, are you gonna just stand there or are you gonna sit down and eat?”

I looked at her, incredulous. Then loud voices drifted in from the other room.

“Are you fucking crazy?!?”

Eruption of a lot of voices arose.

“Bringing that bitch in here is a mistake man,” said someone.

“Jesus Christ, Tiny, you should give her back while you can,” said another.

“When did you become such a pussy?” said Tiny.

“What’s going on?” Nancy shot daggers at me with her eyes. I cast my eyes toward the floor. She grabbed me by the elbow, squeezed and easily pushed me out of the room before she left to join the argument. As Tiny told the real story, the shouting escalated. It went back and forth for about forty-five minutes, and then most of the guys decided to leave and avoid ‘The Shitstorm’.

Nancy returned, livid. I found a corner to hide in while they packed, not wanting anyone to see me and start yelling at me. They packed pretty quickly, most of them just throwing a few handfuls of clothes in a backpack – obviously all they came with. I watched, not feeling anything, just learning names I didn’t care about. I was just so tired and scared. I wanted…I wasn’t sure what I wanted. The fear and terror drained me, took my energy and hope. Despair in, hope out. Repeat. Repeat.

“Come on Kid, let’s just go.” I heard Nancy. I lifted my gaze toward the fighting twosome. The way she was clinging to him, I was assuming he was the boyfriend.

“You know I can’t do that, I’m not leaving Tiny alone. Besides, I ain’t afraid of no fucking pervert. Let him come, Tiny’ll put that fucker down for good.”

They argued. “Baby please, let’s just go.”

A few tense moments later Kid replied, “No.”

“Fine,” she said lowly, seething. And then she stormed out of the room.

When it was all said and done, only Joker, Nancy, Abe, and Kid stayed to keep Tiny and me company. I had to admit, they didn’t seem like the nicest guys and Nancy I already knew was a huge bitch, but at least I was headed home in the morning. They decided we would spend the night.

It was late, I didn’t know the time, but it was dark. I stayed in my corner a long time while they all sat around drinking beer and laughing loudly. I think I sat there for so many hours that they may have forgotten I was there. No one slept, and I couldn’t stomach anything.

I just waited for night to fall, and sat in my corner, listening to the time tick away. But toward what, I had no idea.

***

Ransomed. She’d been ransomed. Javier’s family huddled in a corner, Javier himself just a limp body, barely breathing but still alive. The motherfucker was going to get a cut of the ransom if he helped smuggle what was his.

He chanced a glance in their direction and instantly recognized the pitiful pleading expression on the woman’s face. Kitten would look at him like that when she was terrified of what he’d do next. In some ways, he imagined that look had softened. As he kept staring at the woman, Javier’s wife, something inside him twisted and he had to look away. It was a good thing he had decided to come alone. It was also a good thing Javier’s wife and child were at home with him. They were the reason Javier would live after tonight. He would never kill a man in front of his child, but Jair and the rest would do so with too much pleasure.

Caleb walked toward a coffee table and picked up a short pencil and a pad of paper resting near a phone. Kitten had used that phone, today. She had touched all these things, but there was no sign of her now. He thought of her smell, still embedded in the pillow on his bed, some of her hair too. At the time he had felt anger, now….

He dropped the pencil and pad next to Javier. “Direcciones. ¡Ahora!” Directions. Now. Javier sputtered and wept, bloody drool dripping from his quivering lip as he forced himself to write. Caleb looked on dispassionately. Ransomed. If they were holding her for ransom, if they didn’t care about the law, about getting back to the U.S., then what else could they be doing to her at this very moment? Rage ripped through him and he fought the strong urge to kick Javier. Emotions were only useful to control, survive and succeed. He was apparently re-learning that lesson he thought he’d mastered.

Caleb collected the piece of bloody paper. The biker’s weren’t too far away, but he also knew he couldn’t go in alone. He would have to return to the house and gather Jair and a few more men along with weapons. The bikers were armed. To his shock, it wasn’t his own safety he was concerned with. That girl, that damn stupid girl. He had to get her back.

Caleb couldn’t wait until he saw the bikers.

***

I got up and ran to the bathroom to throw up. I heard their laughter in the background and Kid saying they were assholes. My arms wrapped around the top of the toilet, and probably touched piss, but with no food in my stomach and getting high off the heavy pot fumes, I couldn’t really do too much about it.

They laughed at me. Assholes. I should never have let my guard down. I should never have trusted anyone. I should have run away from Tiny, and I definitely should not have fallen asleep in the bathroom. But the gagging and dry heaving had worn me out further and I was exhausted. And high.

It started out simply at first, my skin felt warmer and that was nice. Little tingles spread throughout my body and I stretched out. My thoughts felt liquid and surreal, like nothing was what it was, like I was falling, but it was okay to fall, and so I did. I felt enveloped. Then the softness became rougher and the warmth hot and uncomfortable. I jerked, my body confused. My buzzing head. My eyes began to flutter, but I couldn’t open them all the way and suddenly I had the odd sensation my nipples were being tugged through my dress by something blunt but firm.

Instinctively, I pushed at the pressure, of hands. When I realized it was someone, I pushed with my sluggish and weak arms and then I attempted to protest, scream bloody murder but my head felt huge and my tongue felt dead in my mouth. When I felt a mouth on my breast, sucking harder, a yelp escaped my lips. I finally broke through the haze. And I woke up.

“Shhh, you don’t want to wake everybody up.” The voice was feminine – Nancy’s. What the…fuck…was going on? I tried to scream and a hand covered my mouth. Too heavy and large to belong to Nancy. I tried to scream louder, beyond the hand. And still, I heard another voice. Three. But who? It was too dark to tell.

“Hurry up man, she’s wakin’ up.” I swung my arms wildly, surprised when feminine hands grabbed them and held them down. Fabric ripped and my chest was suddenly bare. The man on top of me wasted no time in sucking my breast into his mouth, scratching me with the stubble of his beard. With his free hand he pulled at my dress, trying to raise it up. I kicked wildly, but he forced his way between my legs and his naked chest lay on mine.

“Don’t be shy baby, I know what you are. You’re a whore aren’t you?” And then he let out the shrill laughter that finally gave away his identity – Joker.

“Flip her over,” said the other man.

“I can’t man, if I move my hand she’s gonna start screaming.”

“Don’t be such a fucking pussy dude, I’ll let you go first, pass her here.”

Eyes wide and somewhat adjusted to the dark, I watched in horror as Joker grabbed his shirt that was lying nearby and shoved it into my mouth as Abe pushed me forward onto Joker’s chest, so that I straddled him. My arms, posing no seeming struggle were pinned high on my back. I cried and screamed pitifully, my cries falling on uncaring ears.

“Why are you letting them do this?” I screamed at Nancy who despite the shirt in my mouth could probably understand me. She looked panicked, but it seemed to stem from anger or excitement. Her eyes were wild, frenzied. She was enjoying this as much as the men.

Joker lay back onto the floor and held my arms as I was bent into an impossibly uncomfortable position. My mind sober, flashed with horrific scenarios which did nothing to formulate a way out of the situation. Behind me Abe pulled down his pants and pressed his penis against me, searching for any way in.

“Oh my god you feel good baby.” I pulled as far away from him as I could and strained my arms so that they almost came out of their sockets. My struggle only served to bend me more impossibly.

Finally, I worked the cloth out of my mouth and in one quick movement bit into Joker’s shoulder so hard his blood seemed to squirt into my mouth. He howled and it rocked my head. The next moment I flew through the air, my ribs landing across the toilet.

“What the fuck? What the fuck? What the fuck?” Abe yelled over and over as Joker continued to scream and curse.

“You fucking bitch!” Joker yelled. He grabbed my hair and I heard the awful crunch of his fist connecting with my face. I choked on both my blood and his.

“Oh my god man, what the hell are you doing!” Nancy finally yelled.

But she could do nothing to stop her associate from kicking me repeatedly in the ribs. My breath protested and all I heard was Crack. Crack. Crack.

The yells and screams coming from the bathroom must have scared everyone in the house, because the door burst open.

“Oh my god!” Kid yelled.

“You fucking idiot, what did you do!” hollered Tiny. Then I remember nothing because my body was shaking, and I was drifting away.





TWELVE : Blood. Lots of it. It mixed with the fine dust of the ground and created a mixture inside the boy’s mouth. He cried. He’d never been hit so hard. Above him the strange man was yelling again, but he didn’t understand. The words were too fast for him to piece together and even if they weren’t, he’d never heard those kinds of words before. He wanted to go home.

He closed his eyes and for a moment, he was there. He was drawn up in his mother’s arms and she was kissing his neck, making him giggle. He was her ‘Handsome Little Man’. His small legs flailed as he squealed with laughter, but his mother held him tight, she wouldn’t let him fall. Tears burned his eyes. Everything burned.

“Sukat!” said the man. The boy knew that word, it was what the man always said when he cried or screamed. The boy forced his mouth shut, trying to breathe through his nose and swallowing all the blood that drained into the back of his throat because of it. He was no longer hungry. His belly was full of blood now.

His hunger had led to this. Every morning Narweh placed a scarce amount of unleavened bread and water on a small table in the room, eyeing the boys wickedly as he left. There were six of them in all; two English boys, one Spaniard, two Arabs, and the boy.

At first they shared it in equal measure, but as the days wore on and hunger set in, it became a battle that ended in a full belly for one or two, and a bloody nose for those that challenged. The boy was often the victor in such battles, but on more than one occasion the collective strength of the others was used to rob him of his spoils. Such had been the case that day.

When he’d smelled the food, he hadn’t been able to help it. It had been two days since his last won meal. The water had been hot and the bread cold, but he’d savored it all too quickly. Not enough. The plate on the table had lots of things, he thought he smelled chicken. He was still young enough that all meat was ‘chicken’ to him. He sat at the small tableand picked up the meat. It burned his mouth, but he didn’t care, the tingling tickle infusing his lips, tongue and throat wasn’t enough to overpower the deliciousness of his stolen meal.

The boy hadn’t seen the blow coming. One moment his mouth was filled with delicious chicken and the next, blood and dirt. He didn’t even know what he’d been hit with. He didn’t really know why he’d deserve it, just that he wouldn’t do it again.

“Ghabi! Kéleb!”

Something hot and wet collided with the side of his face. His eyes were really on fire now. His small hands rubbed at his eyes but it only made matters worse. He screamed, gurgling sounds bubbling out of his blood filled throat. Still, in the grips of his agony, he could taste the savory food sliding into his mouth. He swallowed. Eyes tightly shut against the burning pain of the spices he dragged the food out of his hair and across his face into his mouth. It burned twice as much as before because there were open cuts in his mouth. But he was, apparently, still too hungry to care.

Kéleb, the man continued to call him, then grabbed him by the nape and dragged him across the floor while he struggled to crawl on hands and knees.

The boy cried.

Screamed.

Begged for his mother.

She never came. He hated her.

***

The air was thick. Tangible. Filled with an all-consuming excitement for things to come. She wasn’t far. His fingers curled tighter around the steering wheel of the SUV. Stroke her, or strangle her? He still didn’t know. He only knew he wanted his hands on her. He gripped the wheel tighter and pressed farther down on the gas pedal. Jair gave him a bemused look from the passenger seat. Fuck him.

“How did she get away?” Jair accused. Caleb shot him a look he hoped could murder him where he sat. Jair only smiled. “She must be good. I look forward to having a taste after Rafiq learns she’s ruined.”

Caleb said nothing, focused instead on controlling the rage running rampant through his veins. This time was critical. He still didn’t know Rafiq’s purpose in Jair and reacting would only lend credence to things that weren’t true. Caleb’s loyalties remained intact, even if his resolve had wavered for a fraction of a moment. “Touch her and I’ll cut off your hands,” he grated. Stupid. “We’re here.”

Caleb parked the SUV some distance from their intended target. The house hadn’t been difficult to spot. It was the only house with any lights on and the only one blaring music. Still, he didn’t want to risk losing the element of surprise. “Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.” One of the very first lessons in Sun Tzu’s,The Art of War.

The second car containing Jair’s cousins pulled up behind them and cut the engine. The three men exited the vehicle and immediately walked to the rear of the SUV to retrieve their weapons. Caleb’s hand sought his S&W Model 29 revolver with its powerful .44 magnum cartridges; it was enough to blow a hole through a door. Or a face. Whatever. He looked at Jair, resisting the urge to shoot him in the head and just be done with it, but he managed to restrain himself. Jair still had some uses.

Caleb looked at the revolver. He hadn’t fired it in quite some time, but already a familiar feeling was making its way through his fingers, up his arm, spreading through his chest and forcing his heart to speed. His head swam with adrenaline, and three feet below that he grew semi-erect at the thought of killing and taking back what was rightfully his.

Jair checked his AK-47 and Caleb observed how he stroked the weapon. He understood Jair in ways he rarely did. Blood lust and that shared understanding, that there was any commonality between them, made him feel nothing but disgust. Jair snorted and spat on the ground near Caleb’s feet. Caleb drew his weapon, checking its functionality and watching Jair. Both their fingers curved around the trigger of their weapons. “Well?” Jair challenged, when Caleb said nothing Jair continued, “Let’s go retrieve your little whore.”

He wasn’t afraid. Fear was reserved for those who had something to live for. Caleb was long over fear. As his gaze swept from Jair to his cousins, he let them see. He let them see there was nothing inside, and each man looked away, hiding his own fear. Jair sneered. Caleb turned his back on them, his way of letting them know who was in completecontrol, and to follow.

The trunk was closed with a soft click, but to Caleb it’d exploded, a feeling cutting through him. He didn’t look back. Jair and his men eventually followed. Their steps crunching against the dusty, pebbled ground resonated in the stark stillness of pre-dawn. Up ahead the lights grew brighter, the music louder and finally Caleb heard voices. Loud, angry, hysterical voices. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong and again, that foreign sensation – it stirred and bloomed. His heart stuttered. His steps faltered and he paused to regain control. A deep, calm breath. Another. And another. A sound, feminine and angry traveled down the distance. Before he knew it - he ran. The men followed quietly behind.

Caleb pulled up short as he neared so that none inside would even realize they were there. He took cover beneath a small window.

“You are such a dumb fuck! What the hell are we supposed to do with her now?” a man yelled inside. Caleb’s heart slammed in his chest and he was rendered nearly deaf by the sound thundering in his ears. He fought to control his breathing. What had they done to her?

“The fucking bitch bit me, what did you want me to do!” another man replied. Caleb carefully lifted his head and looked through the window. He recognized the biker from the bar, the one who called himself Tiny. He was a big sonofabitch and he only looked more so as he paced the small living room in his clunky biker boots. He pushed his hand through his long, greasy hair and spoke again, “What the fuck were you assholes doing in there to begin with? I told you not to fuck with her.”

A petite blonde appeared from an area behind the two arguing men. Street trash, Caleb thought, too much makeup and too little clothing, and hungry, always starving for something. And unpredictable. “We were just messing around Tiny. She’s the one who got crazy.”

Tiny pointed – nothing but menace in his eyes. “You stay out of this bitch. I know what you were doing there.”

Caleb tried to assess how many combatants were in the house by sight and sound. It wasn’t a large house but big enough and sounds carried in a bare space. And where was the girl? It took every ounce of self-control for Caleb to remain where he was. He needed to know what he was up against. If the girl was still alive he needed to make sure he could get to her before the shooting started. If. If she’s alive…if. He pressed against the trigger of his weapon. One thing he was certain of, if any of them had hurt her….

The one with the lanky black hair had done something to her. He had hurt her, possibly raped her…killed her. Caleb swallowed past the dryness in his mouth. He was going to kill that motherfucker and he was going to make the blonde watch, giving her a preview of things to come.

“Fuck you Tiny,” the blonde retorted, “Blame Abe and Joker, they’re the ones who couldn’t keep their dicks in their pants. Not. Me.”

Caleb bit the inside of his mouth until he tasted blood. The men behind him shifted their feet in the dirt as they waited for Caleb to give the signal.

“This is the only entrance,” Jair whispered, breaking through his murderous thoughts. “How many inside?”

“Two men and a woman in the living room, at least one more in the back. There could be others.” It was time. The girl could be dead or dying and Caleb didn’t have time to wait for the rest of the gang to emerge.

“There’s five bikes out here,” Jair pointed out.

Caleb gave a nod. “Two missing. Jair, Dani, the two of you bust in the door and the rest of us will come in behind you. I’ll head toward the back with Khalid and find the girl.” He glanced over at Jair and the man smiled. “When it begins, make them feel it. I don’t want it to be quick.”

“For once, you and I agree.” The smile grew even broader. “I like this side of you Caleb.”

***

Narweh’s English consisted only of simple words and phrases – yes, no, eat, sleep, come, and sex. His main form of communication was using a stick to beat understanding into the boys, though sometimes, he did much worse.

There were other things that went on, things Kéleb forced himself not to think about. When he was pliant he was often rewarded with food, clothing, or gifts from different men, and though he loathed what he did to get such rewards, he’d done his best to endure. When he refused, the beatings that took place were more than some grown men could withstand.

Eventually, Kéleb grew in years, height, and beauty. Armed with all these, his arrogance and quick wit were soon to follow. He knew more Arabic than English, though the English boys helped him retain a rudimentary knowledge. He soon chose his tormentors, pitting them against one another with the promise of true affection, though he was incapable of giving it. Still a child in the eyes of many and treated with little more than cruelty he understood only one thing – survival.

Each night, as he huddled close to his partners in suffering on the dirty floor of the brothel they were held in he remembered less and less the boy he had been. Worse, he no longer cared. He was Dog. It was all he had ever been. Instinct. Hunger.

He was always hungry. For food, for shelter, for power, for more… constantly more. He even learned to crave the pain. It meant he was still alive, still surviving. If he could handle the pain, control his reaction to it, make it work
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