The room was poorly lit by bulbs hanging from the ceiling. Dull light came in through the cracked roof and broken windows. The electrical wiring looked rather hazardous, completely exposed as it wound along the walls. Crates were stacked by the walls along with several drums labeled Gasoline. Iziah spotted half a dozen old computers to the side and stacks of weapons. Smoke drifted through an open door to the side, and Iziah detected the scent of pot. Numerous empty beer bottles littered the wet, dirty floorboards. Rain dribbled through the faulty roof, creating rivulets beneath their feet.
Iziah’s heart pounded fast in his chest, and his eyes were wide, but he tried not to look as scared and helpless as he felt. The men’s hands dug into his arms painfully as they lugged him into the building. There were a few dozen people scattered throughout the warehouse. In one corner, a dazed group was drinking and smoking. Several people packed things into crates, as if preparing to ship it out. Others just lingered. Iziah wondered if they were here to do their jobs or if they knew what was happening. Already, their presence drew both knowing and curious stares. Gray, who had been walking ahead of them with the other man, stopped and turned around, arms folded.
The thugs holding Iziah abruptly dumped him on the floor. His chin struck the wooden floor painfully, and he tasted blood. After a moment, he heard a heavy thud behind him as they dropped Nick.
Come on...wake up, dammit!
“It’s about damn time,” Gray said in an amused tone. “We haven’t had anyone cause this much trouble in a while.”
Iziah scowled, lifting his head enough to glare at the man. From this angle, he saw the rusty nails in the floorboards, coated with mud. In places, he thought he saw traces of dried blood.
Gray crouched in front of him. “You think you can get away with killing one of our own?” When Iziah didn’t move, the man looked at Ian.
Ian began pulling the tape from around his head. Iziah winced as it ripped at his hair, and, when it was finally free, he ran his tongue over his bloodied lips – it felt as if they’d picked a fight with a buzz saw. Two weeks ago, he would have taken the opportunity to taunt his captors, but much had changed since them, and he remained silent.
“The other two kids that were with you that night. What were their names?”
Something cold seeped into the pit of Iziah’s stomach. As much as he hated Matthias, he had no intention of turning him over to the Crimson Serpents. And Harley... He couldn’t do that to her. He’d seen the way they looked at her that night. “I—I don’t know. They aren’t my friends.”
Gray sighed, leaning back on his heels. “Really? Because from what I heard, you did all you could to protect them. You wouldn’t lie to me, would you?” The man’s fingers clamped around his jaw painfully.
Iziah said nothing, beginning to tremble. A group of men surrounded them, their faces shadowed. They looked at him like he was a piece of meat. Iziah was terrified of what they would do to him if he didn’t talk, but he was more afraid of what they would do to Harley and Matthias.
“I see. I suppose we’ll have to loosen your tongue then, won’t we?” Gray stood, folding his arms, and looked to Ian. He was about to speak when someone rushed out of one of the side doors. The mousy snip of a man hurried up to Gray, a phone in his hand, and whispered, “Kanra wants to speak with you.”
“I’m busy,” Gray snarled.
“He’s threatening to involve the police.”
Gray looked at him and snapped, “What?”
“He’s threatening to involve the police if the matter isn’t resolved.”
“Give me that.” He took the phone, letting out a string of curses, and sneered down at Iziah. “Put them in the back. I’ll deal with this later.”
Although he tried not to let it show on his face, relief swept through Iziah. They had time. For once, Kanra had actually helped him, even if it was unintentional.
Ian issued an irritated sigh, then hauled Iziah to his feet.
Gray grabbed the collar of Ian’s shirt, leaning toward him. “Don’t touch him until I’m done. Understand?”
Ian snorted but gave Gray a curt nod. Gray released him and took a step back.
Another man gripped Iziah from the other side, and they dragged him away from the group.
“And kill him, while you’re at it,” Gray said, looking down at Nick’s still form. “I don’t want him waking up and causing trouble.”
Iziah’s jaw dropped, and he stared at Gray in horror. “No.”
Several men grabbed Nick and started to drag him away.
“No! No!” Iziah shouted.” No! You can’t do this!”
“Be quiet,” Ian growled.
“Wait!” Iziah thrashed with all his might, filled with desperation. Nick couldn’t die. Not because of him. “Please don’t hurt him! He has nothing to do with this! Please!”
Ian suddenly lashed out with a punch, catching him across the face and rattling his teeth. Tears welled up in Iziah’s eyes. He groaned, his cheekbone aching, as the world spun around him.
“Don’t think you’ve gotten off easy,” Ian hissed. “By the time we’re done with you, you’ll wish you had died the first time.”
“You don’t think I wish that already?” Iziah wheezed.
A grin blossomed across Ian’s face as they lugged him toward a back room.
Shawn lingered along the edge of the room, shifting back and forth anxiously, his hands knotting together. He had been there since the night before. His father was terrible to deal with in the evenings, so he often made excuses to stay out for the night. There were places to sleep in the back of the warehouse, and he utilized them often. Besides that, he had heard about the meeting and was curious to see what would happen. The warehouse had been busy that night. The younger members drank and smoked and played games of dare while more shady, older members crowded around the computers, trying to find an address.
Whenever Shawn asked questions, they just glared at him or told him to screw himself. But he’d been able to piece together what was happening. Especially after Gray returned empty-handed.
Before, Gray had simply intended to kill Iziah. But the weapons dealer, upon his second visit, had expressed concerns about the other two teens that saw him. They tried to find the two teens based on the descriptions of the men who had been there that night but without much luck. The only reason they managed to find Iziah was due to Shawn’s involvement. They asked Shawn, but he didn’t know who Iziah associated with. Frankly, it surprised him that the boy had any friends. But even if he had known who it was, he wouldn’t have told them. He couldn’t be responsible for that again.
So, the only other solution was to get the information from Iziah.
When Gray returned, one of his bodyguards was wounded. Apparently, Iziah had allied himself with a hit man named Nicolas Pierce. Since Iziah was under Mr. Pierce’s protection, Gray had tried to make a trade with him, but the meeting ended in a firefight with a mysterious third party. Shawn, though he knew he shouldn’t care, felt relieved. He went into the back room and slept for several hours, then got up and walked across town to a doughnut shop with a few of his friends. After that, they headed back to the warehouse to pick up some pot. Five minutes into their smoking session, there was a commotion in the main room.
Shawn got up to see what was happening, and his heart slunk down into his stomach. A group of men dragged in a bound, terrified Iziah and a man that he guessed was Nicolas Pierce.
Shawn felt sick. He had never wanted to join a gang that dealt in organized crime. All he wanted was to hang out with other kids, smoke, and work some excitement into his life! This was too far.
Shawn thought about leaving, but he didn’t want the group to see him, especially not Iziah. When a man announced that Kanra was insisting on speaking to Gray, he drooped with relief. The thugs hauled Iziah toward one of the back rooms, shouting and struggling, his eyes wild with panic. They dragged Mr. Pierce into another room, where they would spread out a sheet of plastic to make it easier to clean up.
Gray paced back and forth, his face twisted with rage as he listened to the voice on the phone. “How dare you threaten me. Do you have any idea what I could do to you and that little band of misfits?”
Shawn rubbed his hands against the front of his trousers, glancing around to make sure no one was watching him. He was desperate to escape this place. Kanra was angry because a shipment of drugs had been delayed. They were Kanra’s main supplier, despite their rivalry, but with all the shipments of illegal weapons coming in, they had forgotten to make their deliveries. Gray played it off like they wanted more money for the usual amount. But it was obvious that Kanra wasn’t having that, especially if he was threatening Gray with the police.
“If you involve the police, I will take you down with me, asshole. You’ll get your damned shipments when I’m ready to send to them and not before.”
Shawn glanced at the door where they’d taken Iziah. His brow furrowed with worry, but Ian and the other man emerged a few seconds later, looking disgruntled. He had to do something. This was wrong.
But he wasn’t sure how to help without getting himself killed.
After several minutes of silent deliberation, he walked into one of the back rooms and shut himself in, calling the police on his cell phone.