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Chapter 3

"Get him up."

Shawn woke with a start. He winced as his head erupted in pain and his eyes cracked open. Someone had just dropped him onto solid concrete. Shawn shut his eyes, cringing from the throbbing headache. He was confused. He couldn't remember what happened. Everything was a painful blur.

"Get up."

Shawn felt a sharp kick to his back and he opened his eyes again. He was lying in the middle of an empty parking lot, the cold concrete almost soothing his pain. Everything hurt. The world was spinning. Somehow, memories cascaded in his mind, piecing themselves together. Cab. Juan. Accident.

"Were we followed?" a man's voice asked.

"No way to be sure," another man answered. "Could have been."

"We better do this fast, then."

Shawn coughed. The ground seemed to be shifting beneath him. Shawn looked cautiously up, and realized he was surrounded. Three men stood around him, arms crossed, fury clear in their eyes. The man who kicked Shawn—the obvious leader of the three—was rearing back to kick Shawn again, and Shawn held up a weak hand. "I'm—I'm awake," he whispered. His voice was strangely breathy and he cleared his throat. His head felt heavy and his mind was cloudy and transparent.

"Who are you?" demanded the man.

A sharp pain rushed through Shawn's skull and he clamped a hand to his forehead, as if he could stop it. Why did his head hurt so badly? Where was he?

What happened?

Something told Shawn that he knew what happened… but the memories just seemed to disappear as quickly as they'd come. He blinked, looking up at the three men. How long had they been standing there?

"Who are you?" the man repeated. He wasn't the one who kicked him; this man was shorter, less built, had dark, tattoo-covered skin. Shawn could read the impatience in his eyes, but the danger just didn't seem to resonate in Shawn's mind. Not that it usually did. Danger was usually the last thing that Shawn considered. Fear wasn't something Shawn let himself succumb to. He didn't let it control him.

He didn't let fear win.

"I—uh," began Shawn, looking uneasily at the men. "I don't have much, but I have fifty bucks in my wallet. It's—it's actually not my fifty bucks—it's my partner's—but I'm sure he wouldn't mind—"

Shawn grunted as the man—the leader of the group—kicked him, this time in the small of his back, nearly knocking the wind out of Shawn. The man's voice dropped an octave, danger lacing his words. "Who. Are. You."

"M-my name is… S—" began Shawn, but even through the concussion, something told him that giving these men his real name would only make matters worse. "—Sawyer," finished Shawn, using the first name he could think of.

"Your name is Sawyer?" asked the other man, the only man holding a gun. He seemed unconvinced. "Sawyer? Like the guy who painted the house?"

"That's Tom Sawyer," corrected Shawn weakly. "And I'm pretty sure he painted a fence—"

"Shut up!" the leader growled, and Shawn flinched involuntarily, half-expecting the man to kick him again. Shawn's heart slammed against his rib cage. The leader glared at Shawn. "Who are you?"

"Nobody!" said Shawn, as another sudden wave of pain erupted, and Shawn clamped a hand to his forehead again. He quickly realized that the wetness on the side of his head was blood. How hadn't he noticed that moments ago?

Right, Shawn thought sluggishly, concussion.

Shawn wiped the blood off his face, examining his hand, as if he were wondering if the blood was actually his. Turning his head, Shawn examined the parking lot. There was almost nothing in sight. The building in the parking lot was long-since abandoned and much too far away for Shawn to even think about taking cover inside. Civilization didn't seem to exist over here. Briefly, Shawn examined the three men. He suddenly noticed that all three men were wearing ripped jeans and cheap, faded sneakers.

These men were broke.

"What were you doing in the car?" the man demanded, snapping Shawn out of his thoughts. He slowly bent down, grabbing Shawn's chin, tilting Shawn's head roughly toward him, "How did you know Juan? You working for him?"

"Working for him?" asked Shawn, cringing through his headache, trying to shake the man's hand loose."No! I don't even know the guy! I—I was just getting a ride to the airport!"

The airport.

A pain much stronger than the concussion suddenly pulsed through Shawn's veins. Lassiter's wedding. His jacket.

Juliet.

All the energy suddenly drained from Shawn's body. Suddenly, his kidnapping seemed so dull, so mundane. Somehow… none of it mattered half as much as losing Juliet did.

The men laughed humorlessly, the leader letting go of Shawn, and standing back up. Shawn shook himself mentally, reminding himself of his reality. The leader leaned against the black SUV, parked behind him. The SUV. Shawn hadn't even noticed it had been parked there. He was really out of it. The man with the gun raised an eyebrow. "Heading for the airport, huh? Sure you were. Trying to make off with our money."

"Money?" asked Shawn. What money?

"I lost their money! I swear it was at the cab station… maybe someone switched the cabs.."

Shawn hesitated. Juan took the money these men wanted. But... what did Shawn have to do with it?

"Look," said Shawn. He tried to push himself off the ground, but the leader's foot lashed out with surprising speed—or maybe Shawn's vision was just a few steps behind—and Shawn was kicked back to the ground. He bit his tongue as he hit the pavement, a new welt on his back. His head throbbed harshly. Shawn tasted blood in his mouth. "Look," said Shawn, blinking his eyes open. "I don't know about this money, all right? I was just trying to get a ride, man! That's it!"

"He's lying," said the man with the tattoos. "He's got to be. Juan wasn't even a real driver."

Not a real driver? Shawn shut his eyes, kicking himself. This was the last time he was calling the first cab station he found on the Yellowpages.

"Juan—he wasn't a real driver?" asked Shawn.

The men looked down at him. "Of course not. But you know that. Don't try telling us that you 'didn't know' about the taxi scam. We know what happened. Juan was a middle man. He was supposed to deliver us our money yesterday morning, and he never showed up. The rat bastard tried pulling a fast one, and you expect us to believe he was playing 'cab driver' all of a sudden?"

What the hell did I get myself into? Shawn asked himself.

"Where is my money?" demanded the man, ready to kick Shawn for a third time.

"I—I don't know!" exclaimed Shawn, eyes scanning the empty parking lot for some sort of escape, as if he was waiting for Juliet, Gus, or even his father to come out of nowhere and rescue him like they always did. But there was nothing in sight. Nothing at all. Vaguely, thoughts sifted through Shawn's mind. Juliet wasn't speaking to him. Shawn hadn't returned a single phone call to Gus. No one knew Shawn was missing, and no one would until it was too late.

Shawn was on his own.

"See, Javier? I told you we shouldn't have killed Juan," said the smaller man, glaring at the man with the gun—Javier.

"Shut up, Trent," snapped Javier. "I was pissed. He deserved it."

Juan was dead? Shawn shut his eyes. "I don't know anything, all right?"

Javier suddenly cocked the weapon and aimed it at Shawn's head. "Then we're just about done with you."

Shawn's eyes widened, pure fear nearly clearing his blurry vision. "Okay—okay!" exclaimed Shawn, his mind searching for words. Anything to say. Anything at all. "The money's at the cab station! In one of the other cabs!"

The men exchanged glances with each other. The leader grinned. "That's more like it." He reached down and grabbed Shawn's arm, pulling him roughly to his feet. A wall of vertigo struck Shawn from the transition and he nearly fell. Two of the men caught him.

"Look—" said Shawn weakly, trying to yank his arms out of their grip. "That's all I know. Just let me go—"

"You're not going anywhere," said Javier. Despite his efforts, the men dragged Shawn toward the SUV, and threw him into the back. Shawn slammed into the wall, and his vision swam violently. He slumped to the ground, too dizzy to get up. Javier slid in beside him, placing the muzzle on Shawn's head.

"You'd better be right," Javier said. "Because if you're not… well, even I don't want to know what my boss will do to you."

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