Brynn double checks the contents of her messenger bag. Three pairs of clothes, check. Beef jerky, check. Crackers, check. Water bottle, check. Entirety of her allowance amounting to $127.38, check. Small pouch of toiletries along with any other necessities, check. It's not a whole lot but it's as much as she can take with her without anyone getting suspicious. It'll just have to do. At least until she gets somewhere far away from here. Maybe she can find a job at some diner. They're more likely than other places to higher sixteen-year-olds. Then she can start building a new life. But first she has to escape. She slides into a black zip hoodie over her blue V-neck shirt and jeans, tightens the laces of her Converses, and slings the strap of her bag over her shoulders. She checks the bag again. Licks her lips nervously. She can do this, she knows she can. But her hands are shaking and if anyone notices her anxiety then she's caught before she ever makes it out of the house. A hand rises to her ribs, ribs that are still black and blue from the last time her father got angry. It wasn't even anything she had done this time. Someone had failed on a job and he took it out on her. She breathes in as deeply as she can without it hurting. This is why she is leaving. She doesn't want this life, not anymore. She's getting out.
Closing her eyes, she buries her fear in the back of her mind until it is nothing but annoying static. When she opens them again they shine a brilliant green, filled with determination. She can do this. She can. Chin raised, she opens the door to her bedroom and casually walks out, down the carpeted hall, past paintings that cost thousands of dollars, and down the gilded staircase. Dotted sporadically around the house are men in black suits with bulges in their jackets where guns are strapped to their sides. Brynn walks past each of them, never making eye contact, pretending that they aren't there until she gets to the study of Mr. Wolfe, the owner of the house.
She knocks three times on the thick wooden door. "Enter," a deep, gruff voice says and she does as she's told, opening the door and slipping inside.
Bookcases line the walls on either side of the room with the far wall entirely made of glass, a window looking out at the backyard of the mansion-like house. And right in front of the window sitting at the large oak desk is Mr. Wolfe, writing something in a ledger in front of him where he records his business dealings. He's a large man in the sense that, even beneath the expensive suit, it is easy to tell that he is quite strong and not someone to be taken lightly, even though most of his short, dark brown hair is now gray and a pair of glasses are perched on his nose. He doesn't look up when she enters and she waits for him, standing completely straight in the middle of the room looking out through the window behind him. A large grassy lawn spreads out behind the house and she can see the pool from here. A little further out she knows there is Mr. Wolfe's own private golf course. And all around there are more guards. She clutches her hands together behind her back. She needs for her plan to work. It's the only way she's getting out of here.
After a few long, terrifying minutes Mr. Wolfe finally puts his pen and glasses down and looks up at her, folding his hands together on the desk. "Why, Brynnley, what can I do for you on this fine morning?"
"I would like to go out, Mr. Wolfe," Brynn says, her voice not sounding nearly as nervous as she feels. This has to work. It has to.
"Oh, really? And where would you like to go?"
Alright. Go time. "I need to go to the library in order to do some research for a paper I have to write for school."
One thick brow arches curiously. "And you can't do your research here, on your own computer?"
"No, sir. My teacher is requiring we use at least two resources not found on the internet. They have to be books."
Mr. Wolfe sighs, rising from his leather chair and circling the desk to stand in front of her. He places his hands on both of her shoulders and she wills herself not to tense at his touch. "Brynnley, you know I don't like it when you leave the house for things other than school. I worry about you."
Her jaw clenches. More like he wants to keep her on a tight leash. "This is for school, Mr. Wolfe. If I don't do this paper, then I could fail the class. It's a big part of my grade."
He sighs again, backing away from her to lean against his desk. "Very well, if you must." He nods towards the door. "You may go. I want you back no later than six though."
"Thank you, Mr. Wolfe." She turns, heads towards the door.
"Oh, and Brynnley?" he calls after her.
She stops, hand on the doorknob, and looks over her shoulder.
"Remember, this is my city. Your mother may have liked to let you do as you please but this is still my house and if you don't abide by my rules there will be consequences."
Her hand tightens on the knob. "Yes, Mr. Wolfe."
He nods and then turns to go back to his desk. She takes this as her cue and leaves the study and all but runs out of the house, not stopping until she is at least five blocks away. Yes, she knows of Mr. Wolfe's consequences. Her mother paid that price with her life when she tried to get out herself, taking a seven-year-old Brynn with her. But Brynn will be successful. She will get out, no matter what.
She continues on foot, knowing there won't be any taxis in this part of the city where there are mostly just rich people with their expensive houses and abundance of cars. She needs to get further into the city, but it doesn't take long. Soon enough there are tall buildings and people and traffic all around her and she breathes it in. She's always loved Las Vegas. The life in this city is so different than what she feels in her own life. It is exhilarating and exciting and all of the things she wishes she could be. It's sad that she's going to have to leave it all behind now in order to get out of Mr. Wolfe's reach, but maybe she can return, one day. Surely they'll stop looking for her eventually.
A hand suddenly grabs her arm, yanking her into the shadows of a nearby alley, and another hand covers her mouth before she can call for help. She looks towards the mouth of the alley with wide eyes but no one even glances her way. One of the vices of a big city is that everyone has their own places to be and their own cares to worry about. No one is going to care about her.
Brynn is shoved to the ground, her back hitting a dumpster, and she looks up into the face of Sebastian, a bald man with dark, sinister eyes, and a malicious grin. One of Mr. Wolfe's men.
"Well, well, well," Sebastian says, reaching into the inner pocket of his suit and pulling out a knife. He likes knives. A lot. When her father wants to punish her, sometimes he'll let Sebastian cut her. "What do we have here? Little miss Brynnley out all alone."
"What do you want, Sebastian?" she says, pushing herself to standing but her legs feel shaky. "Mr. Wolfe said I could go out today."
"Oh, I know he did." He stalks closer, pressing the edge of the blade against her cheek. "Did you really think Mr. Wolfe doesn't have eyes on you at all times, his little pet? He always knows where you go and who you talk to. And Brynnley?" Sebastian steps even closer, until his foul breath ghosts against her ear causing shivers to go down her spine. "The library isn't in this direction."
The knife bites into her skin and she hisses in pain. An image of her mother, screaming as she's shoved into the trunk of a car, begging Brynn's father for mercy, flashes in her eyes. She doesn't want to end up like that.
The knife then disappears, flinging out of Sebastian's hand to smack against the far wall and drops to the ground with a clang.
"What the hell?" Sebastian asks in surprise.
"Back away from her immediately," another voice says and the two of them look towards the mouth of the alley where two teenagers stand no older than Brynn, a boy and a girl. They both have blonde hair so bright it's almost white, the boy's short, the girl's long, and they have the most striking blue eyes. The resemblance between the two is so similar that they definitely have to be siblings but not exactly twins. Fraternal twins maybe? "Back away from her," the boy says again, his voice cold, hard, "now."
Sebastian chuckles darkly, sauntering closer to the twins. "Or what? You really think you can take me on, little boy?"
"We will if we have to," the girl says, completely calm despite facing off with a homicidal psychopath, "but it is in your best interest to leave without any conflict."
"I don't think so." Sebastian raises a fist, swinging the punch straight for the boy's face, but the boy raises a hand and Sebastian's fist hits the boy's palm without making it budge an inch. And by the boys stony face he isn't hurt at all. Instead, Sebastian howls in pain, clutching his hand to his chest. Brynn blinks in surprise. How did the boy do that? It's as if Sebastian just punched a brick wall instead of the boy's hand. Sebastian lets out a string of curses. "I won't be forgetting this." He throws a dark glare at Brynn but then he's gone, running into the crowd of people again.
"Are you okay?" the girl asks as she and the boy walk closer to Brynn.
She nods. "Yeah, thanks. You couldn't have come at a more perfect time."
"Why was that man threatening you?"
"I…He was trying to make me go back home."
"But you do not want to?"
"No, I don't. Not ever."
The girl's brown wrinkles in concern. "Do occurrences like that happen often in your home?"
Brynn swallows thickly. "Yeah, a lot. That's why I'm running away."
But can she really get away? What if Sebastian isn't the only one watching her? And what if Sebastian gets back to Mr. Wolfe before she can make it out of the city? Then the entire gang will be looking for her. No one leaves without Mr. Wolfe's permission. No one.
"Who is Mr. Wolfe, Brynnley?" the girl asks and Brynn blinks in surprise again.
"How do you know that name? How do you know my name?"
"Is he the one endangering you?" the girl asks, ignoring her questions.
Brynn sighs. Maybe she just heard Sebastian talking. "Yeah, he is, and if I don't get out of Vegas before he finds me, then I'm dead."
"You could come with us," the girl says hopefully.
"No," the boy snaps, glaring at the girl. "Bringing this girl with us will only jeopardize the mission."
"But, Seth, she needs help. She does not believe she will make it out of the city before more of Mr. Wolfe's men find her. If we do not assist her, then her life will be in jeopardy. Besides, we are in need of help, too. Perhaps we can help each other."
"If you help me get out of the city, then I swear I'll do whatever you want," Brynn says, jumping at the chance. This could be her ticket out of here. "I'm not good at much, but I'll do whatever I can to help you."
The boy and girl stare at each other for a long time seeming to have an entire conversation with only their eyes. Brynn shifts back and forth on her feet nervously. These two can definitely handle themselves. If they can just go with her part of the way, it would help a lot. Then she'll be fine on her own.
"Fine," the boy grounds out after a while. "She may come with us. But our mission still takes priority."
The girl looks at Brynn with a huge grin. "Excellent. My name is Sara and this is my brother, Seth."
"Well, my name's Brynnley, as you already apparently heard, but I prefer Brynn." Brynn holds out her hand. "It's nice to meet you."
Seth and Sara look at her hand in confusion. "What are you doing?" he asks.
"Offering my hand," Brynn says like it's the most obvious thing in the world. And it should be. "You know, you shake it."
"Because that's what people do when they meet each other?" she says, more of a question than a statement. Have they seriously never heard of shaking hands before?
Sara looks at her brother and then shakes Brynn's hand. Seth follows her example, though his touch is so light it's like he barely touches her.
"Okay then." These are definitely the strangest people she has ever met. "So what do you need help with?"
Both twins turn serious. "We are in need of transportation," Seth says.
"So you're headed somewhere?"
"Where to? How far is it?"
"It is a location outside of the city," Sara says with a soft smile. "So if you help us find transportation it will be beneficial for you as well to come with us."
Brynn smiles. Yes it will. Looks like she's getting out of here after all. "Do you guys have any money on you?"
"Yes, as soon as we entered the city we retrieved some of this world's currency."
"Uh, right." They sure do talk funny. "Okay. I have some money too, so between the three of us we should be good. There's a taxi lot not far from here. We can catch a cab as they're leaving."
Together the three of them exit the alley and Brynn leads them down the streets of Las Vegas, now more paranoid than before. She had no idea Mr. Wolfe has been having her followed wherever she goes, although that explains the feelings of being watched she sometimes got. Any minute now another one of Mr. Wolfe's men could grab her and drag her back to that house. Things certainly haven't gone according to plan but she has to get out before she ends up like her mom. And she surely will after this escape attempt.
Sara moves to walk right next to her, taking her hand. "Do not worry, Brynn. I am certain we were brought together for a reason. Everything will be alright."
"How could you possibly know that?" How could she know any of that, or that Brynn was even worrying about it?
Seth comes up to walk on the other side of her. "That is too complicated for your understanding."
Sara looks at her brother disapprovingly. "What my brother is trying to say is not to worry and to please trust us. We will do our best to assure your safety along this journey."
Brynn squeezes Sara's hand. "Well, you guys practically saved my life already so I guess I can go out on a limb."
They round a corner and there is the car lot where a bunch of taxis are parked. One looks about ready to leave but it is being blocked by a black SUV. They are too far away to hear, but the driver of the taxi, a big, Hispanic looking man with a shaved head, seems to be arguing with the owners of the SUV, two men in suits who Brynn immediately recognizes. Brynn comes to a halt as fear grips her chest, keeping her from moving another inch. The twins stop next to her.
"Do those men work for Mr. Wolfe as well?" Sarah asks.
Brynn swallows but her mouth feels like sandpaper. "Yeah, they do. How did they find me again so fast?"
"Do not worry, Brynn. They are not here for you. They are here for that man." Sara points to the taxi driver.
Brynn looks at her in surprise. "How do you know that? Can you read lips or something?"
"Something like that," Seth says defensively. "Come, if we are to acquire transportation we must move quickly."
Before Brynn can protest Seth and Sara move cautiously towards the taxi, keeping low so as not to be spotted by Mr. Wolfe's men. They make it to the car, opening the door and Sara slides inside. Seth looks back at her and motions for her to follow before getting inside himself. She hesitates for a moment, afraid of getting caught, but they seem to be thoroughly occupied by the taxi driver so she hurries to the taxi and climbs in next to Seth, closing the door softly behind her. The three of them buckle up as the driver slams the heads of the two thugs down on the hood of the taxi. Brynn hums to herself, impressed. Mr. Wolfe's thugs aren't exactly pushovers, making her wonder who this guy is. They look ready to fight back though, one of the men reaching for his gun, but then a cop pulls up and forces the two men to get in their car and move along. Once gone, the taxi driver gets into the cab and pulls out. But when he glances up at the rearview mirror he slams on the brakes, turning in his seat to look at them in surprise as cars behind them honk angrily.
"Where'd you come from?" he asks.
"O-outside," Seth answers, confused as to why the man is confused.
"Yeah, I figured that part out on my own," the cabbie says, starting to get annoyed. "How'd you get in the car?"
"Through that portal," Sara says and both she and Seth point to the door they came through. Brynn tries not to laugh. She can't tell if they're being sarcastic or serious in their responses but the guy is not amused.
"I am Seth and this is my sister Sara-"
"And this is our friend, Brynn," Sara cuts in with a smile and Brynn leans around Seth to smile back. Even though they just met Sara called her a friend and seems to genuinely mean it. It's been a while since someone considered her a friend. Everyone at her school knows who her father is and keep a wide berth from her because of it.
Seth continues as if his sister didn't speak and it makes Brynn wonder if he doesn't consider her a friend at all. "We require your transportation services immediately."
"Really?" the cabbie says, getting more annoyed with them. "Well, I require-"
"A currency transaction," Sara finishes for him.
Seth digs into his bag and pulls out a wad of cash to hold out to the driver. Brynn's eyes widen. Holy crap, that's a lot more than what she brought with her. It looks like they have enough money to drive them to Paris. "Will this amount suffice?"
The driver looks at the money and then at the three of them suspiciously. "What did you do, rob a bank?" He only sounds like he's half-kidding.
"Is this acceptable, Jack Bruno?" Sara asks.
Jack's brow furrows. "How'd you know my name?"
Brynn's wondering that too, it's like how Sara knew her name before she introduced herself, but Sara just wordlessly points to Jack's taxi permit where his name and picture are printed. Brynn feels like she should have known it already herself. The name and the man's face are both really familiar to her, she just can't place them.
"If we have a deal for your services," Seth says, "we must move forward rapidly. It is urgent we get to our destination without any more delay." He casts Brynn a glare at that last part and she shrinks away from him a little. Was helping her really that much trouble? Where is it that they're going that's so important?
"Seth," Sara chastises in a whisper. "It was your idea to help her in the first place."
Wait, if it was his idea, then why is he so mad at her? Is it because Sara insisted on bringing her along after saving her?
Seth ignores his sister, looking back to Jack. "So will you take us?"
Jack looks out the windshield, debating briefly with himself, and then he says loudly at the honking cars, "Alright, alright, I'm going." He looks back at them one more time and then gets the cab moving once again. "Where to?"
Seth pulls out a strange device from his bag, messing with the buttons and screen as if he's searching from something. What is it, some kind of fancy GPS?
"I need an address," Jack says impatiently.
"We must travel in that direction," Sara says, pointing forward and slightly to the right.
"We're going to need something a little more specific than just 'that direction.'"
Seth finally finds what he's looking for on the device and reads, "We must locate latitude 40.54 cross-intersecting longitude-"
Jack holds up a hand to stop him. "We're just going to stick with 'that direction.'"
With at least a direction, if not an exact destination, now set, Brynn sinks back into her seat, watching the city go by for the last time in what will probably, hopefully, be years. She was born and raised in Las Vegas, and the idea of never seeing it again is something that she can't quite get her head around. This is her home. It's all she knows. Will she really be able to build something new for herself, by herself? But then she sees the sign at the end of Vegas, "Drive Carefully, Come Back Soon," and they're passing it, and then it's gone. It's all behind them. She turns in her seat, staring out of the back window, watching her home get smaller and smaller, further and further away.
"This your first time leaving Vegas, kid?" Jack asks and it's that one word, "kid", spoken in his voice that gets to her, that draws the memory forward from when she was little and her mother was still alive, of a man behind the wheel of a fast car doing deliveries for Mr. Wolfe. He was nice to her. He gave her a mint as he past her by to go into Mr. Wolfe's office. "Hey, kid, I've got something you might like. Here you go."
Jack Bruno, the one man who actually did get out, and who Mr. Wolfe has been trying to get back ever since.