7 hours earlier……
Time had come to a standstill. Nothing made sense anymore. The warm rays of the sunshine streaming in through the window did nothing to keep the gloom at bay. I was rooted to the spot where Thomas had held me close, promising that we would see each other again. How could ten minutes apart feel like an eternity?
In truth, I did not care to know the answer. The voice of reason, that had never failed to condemn my peculiar feelings towards him, was slowly fading into the background. A new need was taking its place. The absolute and terrifying pull to be back in his arms, safe and loved. Love? Did I really think that?
The distant sound of knocking broke through my bleak reverie, tuning me back to reality. I blinked, unsure if I had just imagined it, my mind still hovering between the realm of thoughts and conscious existence.
Straining my ears towards the door, I blocked out the loud city in the background, waiting in silence to confirm if I had indeed heard something. Two loud raps suddenly hit the front door making me jump out of my skin, the sound vibrating through the entryway and into my body.
It took about a millisecond for my muscles to kick into action, my heart suddenly lifting at the thought that it could be Thomas who had decided to return. Rushing towards the door, I couldn’t help the smile that was beginning to spread across my face. Hurriedly unlocking it, I threw it open and instantly felt my smile slip and my heart drop in disappointment.
However, the obvious disappointment didn’t last long. Confusion and curiosity quickly took over as I eyed the two tall men in dark suits standing in front of me. Feeling slightly intimidated at the proximity, I took a step back, retreating to the safety of my flat while observing them cautiously. The one to my right, who was eyeing me with open interest, had bright red hair and very sharp features. He appeared to be younger than the other one, who had patches of grey streaks mixed in with his dark hair.
“Sorry to bother you Ma’am but we are detectives with the NYPD.”
Turning towards the voice to my left, I looked at the dark-haired man who had an indifferent look plastered to his stern face. He flashed his badge while continuing in a gruff tone.
“I’m detective Hoyt and my partner here is detective Mason”.
The ginger-haired one pulled out his badge and held it out in front of him, a small smirk appearing at the corner of his mouth before speaking up, his voice holding an undercurrent of complacency.
“There has been a report of a break in and assault in this building that we are investigating. We are questioning all the residents about anything suspicious that they might have seen or heard. Can we come in?”
What the hell! An assault? Here? How did I not hear about it? Pushing my confusion to the side, I looked at the two waiting on my answer. Wanting to be helpful, yet not entirely keen on letting these men into my flat I responded politely. “I’m happy to answer any questions right here if that’s alright”.
The dark-haired one sighed before muttering under his breath “We don’t have time for this”.
“I’m sorry? What did you- ”
There was no time to react as my words were cut short when he moved with lightning speed and launched a fist in my direction. And as it connected, a sharp pain erupted on the side of my face, the force of it sending me hurtling backwards onto the floor in the entryway. Landing on my back with a heavy thud, I groaned, my head spinning upon contact with the hard ground.
Instinctively, I wanted to shout for help. But to my horror, I realised that I could barely open my mouth. Every time I tried to move it, I was left in agony, the pain travelling along the jawline to my head, making me wince. The men quickly entered the flat before shutting the door behind them.
Desperately wanting to get away, I tried to crawl backwards but was quickly held down when the dark-haired one climbed on top and used his entire weight to hold me down. I punched and kicked, however, my efforts to push him off stopped when he roughly grabbed my bruised jaw between his fingers, making me yelp out in pain. “Listen up lady. I don’t want to hurt you but if you continue to struggle, I swear that I will not hesitate to knock you out. The people who want you did not specify anything about not hurting you. So, if I were you, I would shut the fuck up and do as I was told. Do. You. Understand?”
My heart screamed inside my chest, terror pulsing through my veins with every beat. My mind still trying to grapple with the fact that this was really happening and that it wasn’t some kind of morbid delusion. His face was inches above mine, the smell of cigarettes heavy on his breath as he stared down at me with a dangerous look in his eyes.
I didn’t realise that I was crying until I felt something wet slide down my cheeks. Was it from the pain or from the shock, I wasn’t sure. But staring back into his dark eyes, I was certain of one thing. I had no idea what these men wanted from me, but I believed him when he said that he had no problem hurting me.
I nodded my head once, showing my willingness to cooperate. He held me for a few seconds, searching my face intently before letting me go with a satisfied grunt. Rising up with his knees on either side of my hips, he pulled out a pair of handcuffs and jangled it in front of my face.
My breath hitched in fear as I understood the gesture. But having no other option, I slowly brought my hands forward and held them out for him. He quickly cuffed me before rising to his feet and looking back down at me on the floor. Just for a fleeting second, a look of regret seemed to cross his face before it was replaced with a cold detached look.
Moving his gaze over my head, he spoke to the younger one standing somewhere behind me. “Did you find her phone and copy everything?”
“Good. Call Chávez later and tell him to get rid of it and also clear the security tapes in this building”.
Listening to them speak, my mind was racing with thoughts. Who were these people? Clear security tapes? What had I done to bring this on myself?
The dark-haired one glanced at his watch, an anxious expression breaking through his cold demeanour. “We don’t have much time. We need to leave now. They said that the jet will be ready and waiting.”
What the fuck! What did he mean? Were they flying me somewhere? Something in me warned that the minute I got on that plane there would be no turning back. Ignoring the searing pain that shot through my jaw, I pleaded, tears flowing unchecked. “P-p-please. Let m-m-me go. Why...are you doing this?”.
The dark-haired one glanced back down, his face revealing nothing before he reached into his back and pulled out a gun.
I had never been so scared in my life as I stared at the mouth of the barrel pointed directly in my face. Everything seemed to stop as my heart began to gallop and my gut tightened to the point of pain. “Listen carefully. We are going to leave now and head down to the car. If you try to scream or do anything to make this difficult…”
His finger moved and a click sound echoed in the entryway as he flipped the “safety” off on the gun. “…I hope you get the picture”.
Two minutes later, I was hoisted to my feet and we were out of the flat and walking down the corridor. Heading towards the fire exit with the ginger-one who had his arm draped around my shoulders as if we were a couple, my anxiety was running rampant. I didn’t know how I was going to escape. Not with my hands cuffed and two men walking beside me with guns. And I certainly couldn’t fight them.
My hope of running into someone was also dashed when I found the hallway deserted. Realising that I was out of options for the time being, I decided that the best thing to do was to bide my time until I could work something out. So, I quietly walked down the stairs and into the basement parking where a squad car was waiting. So, they were real cops? What the fuck!
The ginger-one opened the back door and held it out for me. Hesitating for a bit, I slid into the seat and moved to the opposite corner as he got in after me. Driving through the streets, I watched the familiar shops and alley ways go by. A pang went through my chest as I realised that I may never see my beloved city again.
“What do you think they want with her?” I turned around to see the ginger-one staring at me while holding the gun in my direction. He smiled as I made eye contact, my hand itching to snatch the gun and shoot that smile off his face.
But before I could act on my foolish whim, the dark-haired one spoke up from the driver’s seat, responding with a mild tone of exasperation. “I know you’re new to all this, but I have been doing this for 17 years. So, trust me when I say that the less you know the better. We don’t get paid to ask questions. This goes all the way up the ladder.”
“So what? We just hand over one of our kind to those freaks? Take orders from animals? We are meant to protect our own not betray!”
Our kind? What was he talking about?
The one at the front sighed loudly before answering. “We humans don’t have the privilege of sitting at the top of the food chain. We haven’t for a very long time. The best we can do is cooperate and coexist and make sure that the public doesn’t know about the shitshow that goes on. It is why our division was created in the first place. But you will learn soon enough how this world operates. So until then, don’t let anyone hear you say things like that”.
What the fuck are they on about?
Leaning forward, he flicked a switch while flooring the accelerator. “Now, shut up and let’s get this over with.”
With the siren blaring overhead, the traffic cleared a path as the car sped down the streets, taking me further away from everything I knew and loved.