Chapter 12 ~ The Product
The time had come. As I dressed in my tailored business suit, mentally preparing for my role to play - Gregorius Mannetti - I watched her from the foot of the bed. She was inwardly fretting, I could tell by the scrunching of her face and the way she toyed with the edge of the blankets.
“Everything’s going to be alright,” I assured her, tying my tie.
“Paisley must be so terrified, I can’t imagine what she’s been through.”
“What you’ve both had to endure at the hands of these monsters is unacceptable. They will all pay,” I sneered. The words, most definitely were a promise.
“But how can I look her in the eyes knowing here I am, surrounded by all of this, with you… in love… and she’s… she’s…”
“Don’t, don’t do that to yourself, we won’t know what she’s been through until we get her back. You never know, she could very well have been kept somewhere separate, she could have been looked after - you can’t presume anything until we know the facts and her condition. You will destroy yourself if you go there.”
She lifted to her knees and shuffled towards me, I don’t think I will ever tire of seeing her in my clothes. “I love you, Arlo. I love you so much.”
I knelt down to the foot of the bed and collected her hands in mine, the deep frown lines marring her face that held such turmoil. “I love you too my goddess, don’t worry, everything is going to work out, I promise.”
She nodded, I knew she was not convinced but I had no time left to assure her, we had to get going. As we walked out, hand in hand, to the waiting vehicle, I wrapped my arms around her and she leaned into my chest. “I will miss you.”
“I will miss you too,” I replied. In our line of work there was always a possibility of never seeing another day, the thought of never waking up to her in my arms was crippling but I couldn’t think about it, I couldn’t go there, we had to focus on the here and now, otherwise our minds would go completely insane.
I gave her one last kiss, expressing as much affectionate emotion as I could before I turned away and entered the car, Zav went to get in after me but his movements were halted. “Look after yourself Zavion,” I heard Harlyn say, the tone she delivered was thick with inclination.
He pulled his leg back out and closed the door behind him, shutting off any chance of me hearing what he said to Harlyn. My eyes narrowed as I watched them both through the window. They were speaking, the sound muffled and indecipherable, then they hugged, Zavion didn’t get close to anyone, what was his fucken deal with her? My jaw clenched as the same burning fire of jealousy rose up within me, I had never been jealous before and the fact that he was hugging the woman I loved more than life, made me furious.
Opening the door again and climbing in, he flashed me a confused look, “what?” He snapped.
“Nothing,” I replied through gritted teeth, seething internally.
“Focus on the mission Cap, we’ll address your jealousy when we have rescued the girls.”
“Jealousy,” I scoffed, “you wish.”
“Yeah right Arlo,” Brady laughed, “it just got a whole lot more awkward and chilly in here and it has nothing to do with temperature.”
“Drive Blitz,” I barked, “we have fucken business to attend too.”
With the safeties off our weapons, we arrived at Pier 13, warehouse 462 as requested. There was a larger group of armed muscle, far more extensive than our previous encounter with Eddie ‘murderman’ Muntz. He was standing next to Louis Bandetta, who swung a substantial amount of keys in his hand.
“Well, if you wankers get me killed, I just wanna say, it’s been one hell of a ride.” Tam arched her brow with a playful smirk on her face.
“Well, if you wankers get her killed, I’ll be both pissed and grateful - she’s tough competition when it comes to pussy.” Brady elbowed his best friend jokingly before the humour was washed from their faces and replaced by a cold, hard, steel looks of steadfastness - it was go time.
Tamelia was the first to exit, her MK-18 rifle at the ready, followed closely by Brady with both Glock semi-automatic’s drawn and aimed at the congregation of hired goons. Next to go was Tristan, he held the faulty weapons in the duffle bag, firmly in his grasp while in his other hand sat his favourite submachine gun. Zavion was the last to exit before I would make my appearance, he was highly skilled with weaponry, so he carried an M134 General Electric Minigun, that thing pumped out rounds at 166 per second. He needed both hands just to haul it. Me, as I stepped out dripping with arrogant dominance. I straightened my back, adjusted my tie and then walked forward, all angles protected by my team. They couldn’t see but underneath my jacket, but tucked safely in their holsters sat two Glocks, a serrated metal link chain whip on my back and shurikens, accessible within the coats lining.
Blitz stayed behind the driver’s seat of the bulletproof limousine, he was not a fighter, never had been, despite our attempts to teach him - but he knew how to remain inconspicuous, relaying information to the horde of ‘Brothers’ that waited patiently for my signal to descend, should we require back up. After last times colossal fuck up, I was not risky my teams lives again.
“Fuck, you wanna lower your weapons?” Eddie growled.
“Let’s get one thing straight fucker, my right hand almost lost his life when dealing with you last time. You screw us again, I won’t hesitate to put a bullet in your head, now, do you have the fucken product or not?” My voice boomed out with fierce authority, I was not fucking around and he knew it, I could see his eyes flicker in fear.
“We got it,” Louis sneered, still swinging the ample amount of keys, cockiness oozing from him.
“Was I talking to you?” I spat menacingly, “keep your mouth shut kindergarten, the adults are talking.” Louis immediately halted his swinging of the keys and crossed his arms over his chest as if withholding all of the venomous lava about to spew right out of his body. His reasons for screwing over Carmelito were never revealed but I had always suspected it had something to do with being overlooked and treated with no value, his natural defiance and ticking jaw proved I was correct. “Right, I want them lined up for selection, we have specific requirements from our clientele.”
Eddie snapped his fingers at Louis which only riled him further, he was nothing more than minion, used and manipulated. Louis Bandetta, unlocked the roller door and rather difficulty, slid it back. When he walked inside and switched on the light, what we saw will never, even if we suffered amnesia, even if we were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, will we ever forget the scene our eyes were confronted with.
The girls were young, some just barely five, others appeared as old as maybe sixteen, but most I would guess to be around ten. I could feel my gut churning with horrific disgust. Not only were they terrified, but they were filthy, covered in dirt and grime, the wretched stench of excrement and urine hit us like a powerful tidal wave, they were being held captive in deplorable conditions. Caged like rabid animals.
I swallowed the vomit threatening to expel from my body at any moment. “Line them up,” I barked, angrier than I had ever been before.
I patted Tristan on the shoulder, the clear sign for Blitz to signal the awaiting Brothers. The moment a starved, tiny, terrified thing, somewhat matching the description Harlyn had given, appeared in the throng of children, I shook with fury.
“You can’t stomach it, you should stick to weapons,” Louis gleefully remarked, he was enjoying watching our suffering.
“I find your business disgusting, but I am a man about money. You could have a least washed them first, they are putrid.”
“You never requested that,” Eddie smirked.
Louis ordered one of the guards, his command missed by my ears due to the unbelievable sight I was witnessing. Next minute, a large hose appeared and as Louis held one end, the hose was turned on and the kids were pelted with a strong blast of water.
There was an intense standoff as we eyed each other. Waiting, watching, daring the other to move first. For several long excruciating minutes, neither one of us moved until all the girls had filed out and was hit, uncaringly, with the powerful streams of bitterly cold liquid. You could tell it was freezing by the way they shook, but one unexpected remained chained.
She was bound to a bed within the warehouse, not soiled like the others and had somewhat of an older woman’s appearance. With a gag over her mouth and her head turned to the side, she could only watch on in horror at the unfolding scene in front of her.
“There… washed… your highness,” Louis sneered with hatred.
“You forgot one,” I commented, pointing at the clearly terrified young thing.
“She is of no concern to you,” Louis bit with denigration, alarm bells ringing straight away. He had taken this unknown woman, she was going to be his plaything, I couldn’t leave her there. Shit, this had thrown a spanner in the works. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t leave her there because Zav stepped forward with his weapon, completely out of formation and the team scrambled to stay in line with him. What the fuck is he doing? Eddie had moved his position as well, closer towards Paisley.
Without warning, Zavion reacted, “get down now,” Zav screamed at the girls, unleashing a downpour of bullets causing the terrified kids to drop to the ground, just as The Brothers cars came to screeching halt as Zavion unloaded his weapon, firing away at any target he could. I broke ranks and ran straight for Paisley, unsheathing my own weapon from its holster and firing.
The hired muscle had barely time to react, pulling out guns of their own, and setting off round after deafening round in our direction. It all happened so fast that in a flash, bullets ripped through their flesh as we emptied our own barrels. Eddie and Louis were lost in the sea of chaos, high pitched screaming from the children filled the air as I leapt on top of Paisley, not thinking of my own safety but pushed by primal force to protect my woman’s sister, holding her protectively under me as the spray of death lit up the sky.
The Brothers had come in from all angles, surrounding us while bodies hit the concrete, riddled with bullet holes and blood red droplets poured as though the sky was bleeding. As the smoke cleared, I became suddenly aware there was a tiny figure below me, saturated and shivering tremendously.
“Are you Paisley Esperanza?” I screamed, deafened by Zav’s machine monstrosity. She looked up at me with terrified, tear-filled hazel eyes, the same eyes of her sister, and nodded. “I’m a friend of Harlyn’s, it’s okay, I’ve got you, you’re safe… you’re safe,” I repeated as I pulled her to my chest and held her as she broke down completely.
I heard his thunderous footsteps before his muscular form came into view. “They fucken got away!” Dad had come striding towards me with a murderous look of hostility and roaring like a lion. “Joel, get Zav to the hospital now, and the woman bound to the bed, she’s in a bad state.”
“What do you mean they got away?” I bellowed out angrily. “What the fuck happened to Zav?”
“Fucken Zavion didn’t stick to the plan, did he? Now Mum has to clean up after his fuck up. Fuck!” He roared again, “there are fucken kids dead, they have suffered enough, they deserved to be sent home to their families who loved them. This is the worst we have ever done, if Zavion lives, I swear to god I’m going to punch that dick in the face.”
“Calm the fuck down Chase, it’s not my boy’s fault,” Joel hurls back with just as much fury.
“It fucken is, now he’s bleeding out, if you want him to survive, get him to the fucken hospital Joel - I’ll deal with you later and your insubordinate offspring.” I had never seen dad like this, these men were his family, we all lived in the same fucken house for Christ sake. “Ash...” he howled, “Tamelia needs to get to Harlyn quickly, Dr Merlo has to tend to Zavion, get Brady and Tam in the fucken limo now, Tristan needs to drive, Blitz has turned white. Arlo, get your team home, I need reinforcements to clean up this war zone before the cops and press arrive.”
I collected Paisley’s shaking and frightened form in my arms and walked her to the limo where Blitz had been the whole time. Dad was right, for such a dark-skinned man, he was looking sickly pale. Tristan started the engine once we were all inside and headed for home, Brady had tears streaming down his face as he held his best friend, who was bleeding from the stomach.
“Fuck Tamazin,” he spluttered, “it was me and you girl, me and you against the world, you better fucken survive this,” Brady threatened, his face laced with worry, hurt and fear.
“C’mon B, you think I’d leave you alone with no competition?” she lifted her small hand up to cup his face reassuringly, leaving behind a smear of her own blood along his jawline. “B? I love you.”
“Cap?” The shaky voice of Blitz hit my ears as I held tightly onto Paisley, my mind reeling over everything that had just happened.
“What Blitz?” I snapped rather abruptly.
“Zav d-d didn’t move off I-I impulse,” he stuttered, clearly petrified by tonight’s events.
“What do you mean?”
“I s-s saw the g-g gun, Eddie w-w was going to sh-sh shoot P-Paisley.”
“Fuck,” I spat. “This is one hell of a shit show.”
Blitz was the first through the door followed closely by Brady carrying Tam and Tristian held open the door for me as I carried in Paisley. I could see Harlyn assessing Tamelia but as she looked up, her face paled and she bolted straight for us.
“I fucken knew this would be bad,” she screamed as tears streamed down her face. “Paiz, are you hurt?” The tiny figure in my arms shook her head side to side, indicating a no.
“Let me take care of your sister, Joel’s taken Zavion to the hospital to meet Dr Merlo, you have to help Tamelia,” Mum held Harlyn by the shoulders as she spoke.
She wiped away the tears as if snapping into the nurse she was, “Paiz, listen to me, this is Aiya and holding you is Arlo. I have to take care of Tam, when I’m done, I’ll come find you. They are your rescuers, do you hear me? We are safe here, I won’t let anything else bad happen to you.”
For the first time since collecting Paisley, she spoke, her voice was so soft and quiet, thickly drowned in apprehensiveness. “It’s okay Arly, I’m okay. Save that woman.”
Hesitantly and with regret, Harlyn turned away and moved back to Tam as Mum and I walked with Paisley in my secure hold, to the elevator and up to my wing. Once inside the room, mum ran a bath and I gently slipped her, fully clothed, into the warm soapy water, noticing her jaw shuddering. Shit, I didn’t even think she could be freezing due to the water she and the others were blasted with and the adrenaline leaving her body would have caused her to shiver more. I internally kicked myself for overlooking that detail.
Sometime later, Mum came out and joined me on the floor of my bedroom. I had left her and Paisley alone to wash, she did not need to feel any more uncomfortable with a stranger, especially a male stranger, leering at her.
“Tell me everything that happened from the beginning Arlo, don’t leave out any detail. I haven’t heard Chase like that in years, he was ropeable, and from what I can gather, there are a lot of innocent girls dead.”
I sighed with heavy regret, “mum… it all went so wrong.”