I really fucked up this time.
I’d made my fair share of stupid decisions, but this one took the cake.
As I ran through the dark streets of Chicago with a bag full of contraband strapped to my back, my assailants quickly diminished the distance between us. There were three of them. All tall, beefy men with ugly scars and even uglier faces.
Robbing them had seemed like a good idea at the time. They’d been loading up dozens of bags filled with what I could only assume was cash into their black SUVs. I didn’t think they’d miss this one so bad. I was in too deep to back out now. In fact, I was pretty certain if I surrendered, I was as good as dead.
“You’re dead, bitch!”
Yep. That just about summed up my situation. I kept pushing, forcing my legs to keep pace.
I hadn’t always been this way. I was actually pretty smart and would have been successful if I hadn’t had to escape my old life and go into hiding. A string of reckless decisions ensued thereafter, and before I knew it, I was a petty thief, stooping lower than I ever had to ensure my own survival.
Starvation did that. All morals went out the window when you hadn’t eaten for three days. Hence the reason I ran for my life now.
There was no shortage of crime in The Chi. You name it, we had it: bank robbers, bookies, drug dealers, gang bangers, and mobsters. I’m not sure what drew me to this place but seeing as I had run out of money in my travels, I had no choice but to lay low and make do.
These city streets had been my home for the past year. It was surprisingly difficult to get a job that didn’t involve selling work for some crime lord or whoring myself off on the corner. It only made matters worse that I couldn’t use my real name without risking being found.
There was no fucking way I was ever going back. Not alive, at least.
My heart was pounding out of my chest and my lungs were literally on fire. The harsh cold pressed down on me like a heavy weight, sucking what little heat my body provided in the tattered old jacket I wore. My long hair was pulled back into a ponytail and my baseball cap was low over my face – the visor obscuring my features from prying eyes.
One man addressed another. “Just shoot the bitch already.”
My mouth went dry and a fresh dose of adrenaline was deposited into my bloodstream. I doubled my speed, feeling my instincts kick in harder than ever.
“Pretty little thing like her? I prefer them at full strength – it’s more satisfying when they fight back.”
Now I just felt sick.
“You hear that, bitch? When we get our hands on you, we’re gonna take turns fucking that tight little ass.”
Bile rose in my throat at the very thought. Violent images flashed across my mind – memories I’d thought I’d suppressed a long time ago.
“And when we’re finished, I’m gonna put a bullet between your eyes,” another man barked. All three burst into laughter.
A wave of fury crashed through me and before I knew it, I reached for my switchblade and swung around to face them.
“Sure you wanna do that?” I spat, ignoring the voice in my head that told me to haul ass and get the heck out of there before these assholes made good on their promises. “It might not be so enjoyable when I sever your tiny dicks from your bodies.”
They slid to a halt, the largest of the three flashing me a sinister smile. The street lights flickered above them, illuminating half their faces as the tall buildings cast shadows over the rest. My fist tightened around the hilt of my blade and I swallowed the sticky lump that had formed in my throat.
What the hell are you doing, Cal? Run!
“Drop the bag and we might let you live.”
Like I would fall for that. “I think I’ll take my chances.”
A phone rang loudly, making me jump in place. The one in the middle gave me a look full of hatred before addressing his comrades.
“Keep the heat on her. It’s the boss.”
The other two pointed their pistols at me while the tall one slid his thumb across the screen and answered the call. Rather than greet the person on the other line, he remained silent – his soulless eyes locked onto mine. I strained to hear the voice on the other line but the harsh wind together with my thrumming heart drowned it out.
The shithead grinned, his eyes full of malice. “You got it, boss.” Sliding his phone into his coat pocket, he continued to stare at me as he addressed his fellow creeps. “Boss will be rolling in any minute now. Orders are to tie her up.”
My eyes widened. No way was I letting them apprehend me. I leaped to the side and high-tailed it down a narrow alleyway, suppressing a scream when shots fired. A dumpster came into view ahead and I hopped behind it, peeking over the edge and watching my attackers turn the corner and come into view.
I pressed my back up against the cold metal, trying to slow my breathing so I could think of a plan. I had only a few seconds to make a move, the sounds of their heavy footfalls getting louder as they approached my location. If I darted straight down the alley, they would shoot me. The brick buildings on either side of the narrow path would do little to hide me from view.
If I remained where I was, they would see me as they passed. Either way, I was fucked. I had no choice but to fight back and hope I could inflict enough damage to steal one of their guns and get away. Removing the backpack from my shoulders, I quickly shoved it between the brick wall and the back of the dumpster, concealing it while giving myself relief. I already felt lighter, more agile.
Crouching down, I held my knife firmly in my hand, ready to strike the moment they reached me. It wouldn’t be my first fight against a man, but it would be my first against three. I was well-trained in self-defense, having taken classes back home in secret until the opportunity to escape presented itself.
I prayed to God those classes came through for me now.
Their footsteps slowed as they finally approached the dumpster. The moment a large black boot came into view, I stabbed him in the back of his knee. The thug fell down hard, his cries of agony filling the night air. Grabbing him by the collar, I pulled his heavy frame in front of me, using him as a shield when the tallest shot at me point blank.
My personal armor screamed, blood filling his mouth as his lungs were pierced by the barrage of bullets from his friend’s Glock. He slumped against me, spitting crimson all over my worn-out brown jacket. Prying the gun from his right hand, I aimed at the shooter and pulled the trigger three times. He dropped like a sack of potatoes.
That left me with one more.
The remaining henchman recovered from his shock quickly, aiming his pistol at my chest and pulling the trigger. “You stupid cunt!”
I leaned to the right, hoping to avoid the bullet. No such luck.
The lead struck me hard, piercing through my shoulder. I bit my tongue, tears welling up in my eyes. It was agonizing. I felt the cap tear through flesh and muscle, lodging itself deep into my rotator cuff.
I aimed at his head, the gun still in my hand, and squeezed the trigger. The round penetrated his skull, just above his left eye. I watched his brains splatter all over the ground.
I yelled in pain, finally having a moment to myself. Falling back against the side of the dumpster, I pulled my left sleeve off. Wincing, I inspected the damage I had taken. The wound pumped blood freely, the fluid leaking all over my gray T-shirt.
Dragging myself to the back of the dumpster, I pulled the backpack from against the wall. I hoped there was something inside (besides the money) that I could use as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.
Pulling the zipper open, I wasn’t surprised to find wads of cash stuffed inside. A breath rushed from my lungs as I registered just how much money I was staring at. There had to be at least close to a hundred grand in there.
A fuzzy black ring formed around my vision and I felt my energy leaving me. Knowing there was no way I would survive unless I secured my blood loss, I used my knife to cut the strap off the bag. I tied it tightly over my shoulder and under my arm, making as tight a knot as I could using my teeth and good arm.
I instantly felt blood flow return to my head and leaned against the wall, taking a moment to satisfy my hunger for oxygen.
I had to move.
Their boss had been on his way to meet them, expecting to find me with my hands tied behind my back and my knees pressing into the tarmac.
I’d sooner die.
Pushing onto my feet, I swung the remaining strap of the book bag over my good shoulder and trotted through the alley, coming out on the other side. The moment I stepped onto the street, three large cars rolled up, their tires screeching as they surrounded me on every side.
A total of a dozen men jumped out of the vehicles, fully armed with automatic weapons that were all pointed at me. A car door opened to my right and a pair of shiny black shoes swung over the edge before touching ground.
A tall figure stepped out from the SUV, his broad shoulders and black suit visible beneath the flickering street lamps. His face was obscured by shadows, but a menacing aura seemed to roll off him and fill every corner of the intersection. His designer shoes tapped against the pavement as he approached.
A sense of dread fell over me.
He lifted his right hand and flicked his wrist in my direction. A few of the men broke off and came toward me. I tensed, taking a few steps back, readying myself to make a run for it.
“Where are my men?” His deep voice cut through the darkness, hard and emotionless.
“Dead by the dumpster, like the trash they are,” I bit out, already reaching for the gun I stuffed into my right pocket. “Unless you want more to join them, I suggest you call your thugs off.”
His men continued to close in on me. I wrapped my fingers around the gun handle, ready to pull it out and shoot the first motherfucker that touched me. I didn’t even know how many bullets were left, but I was willing to take a risk to save myself.
The men immediately froze where they stood, instantly obeying the mysterious stranger’s commands without question. That could only mean one thing.
He was the boss.