Then You Look At Me

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An Eye For An Eye

~Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend somewhere along in the bitterness. And I would have stayed up with you all night, had I known how to save a life~ The Fray.

Chapter Theme Song: ‘How to Save a Life’ by The Fray.

N:B: Chapter contains swearing and violence.

°°

Rainey

Aunt Valerie is sitting at Riley’s bedside, sobbing softly in her hands. At the sight of my best friend’s battered face, my heart becomes heavier.

“Aunt Val?”

She lifts her head at the sound of my voice. Her eyes are red and swollen, her lips quivering with grief.

“Rainey...” She staggers up from her seat and moves over to me, weeping as she pulls me into a hug. “Oh, dear…what are we going to do?”

I close my eyes, rubbing her back to comfort her. Riley’s Dad stands by the drapes of the window, a look of horror on his face as he watches Bailey holding onto his sister’s pale hand with wet eyes.

Ansel and Alex both have expressions of distraught as Valerie cries on my shoulder. I am trying to be strong, but her sobs are contagious. Riley has a bandage wrapped around her head and dried blood under her nose. My eyes well with fresh tears as I somehow feel that this is all my fault.

A tear escapes as Valerie pulls away and I quickly sweep it off. “She’ll be fine,” I tell her but my voice breaks, betraying the confidence I intended to have.

She nods, wiping her nose. “I hope…”

“Where did you guys find her?” I manage to ask, blinking back tears.

“She tried to call me…she tried to call me after they—” she presses a hand against her forehead, taking a moment to gather her thoughts. I rest a hand on her shoulder for encouragement. “She called and she was breathing so heavily; trying to tell me where she was, but she became unconscious right after getting the first word out. Then we tracked her cell and found her in the old warehouse on Vincent’s Street.”

“FUCK!” Alex curses aloud, pulling everyone’s attention. He angrily prowls away, kicking the door on his way out. Riley’s Dad stares at his disappearing figure; he seems a bit startled by the sudden outburst.

Ansel forces an apologetic smile. “Sorry for the profanity…he’s just mad…”

The man nods in understanding, smiling weakly. “It’s okay…”

Ansel purses his lips and leaves the room to find his brother.

“I tried calling you, sweetie. But it went straight to voicemail.” Valerie continues, as I turn my face back to her.

“I am sorry…my mom took my cell. Riley and I were texting the night before it all happened, and everything was alright but now—” I am unable to finish the sentence as my heart breaks at the memory. I press a hand over my face. “She was probably trying to call me…”

Valerie lays a hand on my shoulder as she sniffles. “It’s okay, it was out of your control, dear. I called your house phone last night and I told your Mom that Riley is in the hospital. I asked her to pass on the message. I guess she didn’t…”

I raise my head to look at her, awe transforming my features. “My Mom knew?”

“Yes…I told her. But I know she doesn’t like Riley much anyway…”

I push my hair back, exhaling heavily. “I—I can’t believe…” I sigh, burying my face in my hands.

How could my mom not have told me? How could she be so heartless?

“Don’t beat up yourself, sweetie. It’s not your fault.”

Is it really not? I know Kendra is behind this. This was her scheme to get to me, I know it. Riley got hurt because of my past.

I shake my head. “No…it is my fault. It really is.”

Valerie pulls me into a tight hug, rubbing my back. “It’s okay…it’s okay. Let us pray for the best, okay? She will wake up.”

°°

I lay my head against the window as we drive to the warehouse in hopes of finding a CCTV. Alex’s expression is unsmiling as he reaches over his dashboard, retrieving a pack of cigarettes. He fires up a stick and as the smoke invades Ansel’s nostrils, he looks over at his brother with a frown.

“Alex, come on. That is your sixth cigarette for the day, do you want to get lung cancer and die? That way you will not be able to help Riley, so throw it out.”

Alex sighs but obliges, winding his window down to dispose of the drug. “I’m gonna kill every last fucking one of ’em,” he grumbles.

Ansel pats his brother’s shoulder then glances through his side mirror. His brows furrow. “You know, I think that car is tailing us.”

I shift my head around to see a black vehicle behind ours, the glass is tinted so I am unable to see who sits behind the wheel.

“Yeah…I swore I saw that car at the hospital, didn’t we?” Alex says to Ansel.

“Do you think they have something to do with Riley?” I insinuate.

“Maybe.” Ansel glances through his mirror again before resting his elbow on the rim of the window frame. “They’re sure making our work a lot easier for us.”

“Well, we will let them eat the bait,” Alex states, turning onto Vincent’s Street. The old warehouse comes into view and Ansel bends his head to look out his window.

“There is a medicinal drug store close by and it has a CCTV. We could stop there and ask them to show us their latest camera clippings, what do you guys think?”

“Yeah, the old hardware wouldn’t have a CCTV anyway,” I add, pushing my hair back.

Alex swings into an available parking spot. We get out of the car and move to the drug store, taking notice of the black car that is now parked a few distances down. The bell dings as we push the transparent door open. A guy in a red hat and jersey stands behind the counter, swabbing the table.

“Need anything?” He questions as we plod up to him.

“Yeah…can we see your latest CCTV clippings?” Alex proposes, leaning against the counter. He immediately screws his face up and lifts his hand, discovering his elbow wet with disinfectant.

The guy stops wiping and looks among us disapprovingly. He squints his eyes. “Do I look dumb? Why would I do that?”

Okay, much harder than I thought.

I look at Ansel while Alex narrows his eyes aggressively. “Maybe because we’d fuck your face up if you—”

“Uhm because it is for a good cause and we are just trying to help our friend who is currently bed-ridden.” Ansel chimes in, knowing how short-tempered Alex is which makes him not the perfect individual to converse with.

The guy has a bored expression on his face. “You people cops or something?”

“No,” I reply, and he frowns, shaking his head.

“So why would I show you something that confidential?” He raises a brow. “I could lose my job for this. I am not about to lose my jobs for you bunch of strangers.”

Alex rolls his eyes and looks away, seeing when two men in a tuxedo pass by the glass wall, peering in at us. Alex makes eye contact with Ansel who caught onto the two anonymous men as well.

“Look I need this job for my afternoon classes and my mom is on maternity leave which means this is all I got, so if you’re not buying drugs, then I can’t help you.” The guy elaborates, turning away from us.

Ansel exhales sharply, raking a hand through his bouncy hair. “Okay, okay, what if I give you a hundred?”

I glance at him and the shop attendant quickly swings around at the mention of money. His eyes are on Ansel’s hands as he retrieves his wallet.

“No. Don’t pay him, Ansel.” I frown.

“We need this, Rain.” He tells me, and I sigh as he smacks a hundred-dollar bill onto the counter.

The guy looks at it contemplatively then moves over, scratching his temple. “Mm. I don’t know. A hundred dollars is just not worth the unemployment.”

“Seriously?” I glance heavenward.

Alex rolls his eyes and dips into his back pocket. He tosses down another hundred, his orbs flaring with irritation. “Happy now, you extortionist?”

“Mm….” The guy tilts his head. “Not quite…”

“You’re a conman.” I murmur as I grab my purse and throw in a hundred, it almost blows off the counter as he slaps his hand over it, sending us a smile of satisfaction. “Not much, but we can work with it.”

We shake our heads as he plops down onto his stool, pulling the computer toward him. “Which date is it that you’re looking for?”

“Uhm, yesterday’s date,” I tell him, tilting forward to look at the monitor.

He taps some keys and clicks a few times before the clip pops up. Alex and Ansel come in closer to watch the video as the shop attendant begins to skip through the tape. I spot a black van pulling up to the scene and request that he rewinds the video a few seconds back. He obliges but I frown when I realize there is no audio.

“Could you turn the volume up?”

“Uhm, volumes would be fifty dollars more.” The guy smiles wryly, extending his hand.

I shut my eyes and resist the urge to curse as I grab my purse and slap a fifty in his hand.

“Wonderful.” He raises the volume and the sound of the black van can be heard as it drives up to the warehouse. My heart breaks all over again when I see two sturdy guys, dressed in full black, emerging from the vehicle.

Alex grits his teeth as he slightly pales. “Those sons of bitches.”

My eyes well with new tears as the two men both drag a weak Riley from the van. She tries to resist and one of the men retaliates by fiercely slapping her across the face, yelling that they will shoot her if she does not keep quiet. I shut my eyes as my heart aches at the scene.

“Damn…This is some mafia shit. I can’t believe this was happening right next to me.” The shop attendant gasps, his eyes widening in what appears to be amusement. “That girl has to be dead though, right?”

“Shut the fuck up,” Alex warns. “She’s not dead. You’re the one who’s going to be dead if you don’t mind your damn business.”

The guy presses his lips together and says nothing else. Ansel sighs as the video proceeds to them pulling Riley into the abandoned warehouse. “These men are damn heartless.”

We cannot see what is happening inside, but after a while, the two men step out of the building without Riley. They glance down and up the street and their faces become visible. I quickly point to the screen.

“Could you pause there and zoom in?”

The guy droops his eyelids, twirling his face to me. “Zooming in would be another fifty—”

“Listen, zoom the damn clip and stop asking for money or you won’t like what we do to you,” Ansel says, his eyes darkening with impatience and annoyance.

I glance at him in admiration as the guy snaps his mouth shut and shifts back to the screen, immediately repeating the last scene and zooming it in.

“Print that.” Alex requests, stroking his chin in concentration.

The shop guy rolls his eyes. “You people are asking for too much…”

“Print the image!”

“Okay, okay…”

He gets it printed then hands it to us, frowning. “My boss normally checks the typing sheets and he’ll know that I used the printing machine without adding in the revenue—”

Alex and Ansel glare at him, and he swallows nervously, clearing his throat. “…But that’s okay, I’ll just pitch that five dollars in from my paycheck, it’s no problem.”

Ansel grabs a packet with three thumb drives off a shelf nearby, throwing it onto the counter. “Could we get three copies of that video?”

The guy is annoyed but does as he’s told since Ansel is staring at him expectantly. My eyes drift to Alex as he gazes at a teddy bear on a neighboring shelf, his fingers fondling the price tag.

In no time, Ansel retrieves the three flash drives and I offer a half-smile to the shop guy. “Thank you for doing this for us, though you may potentially lose your job…”

He fans us off. “Are you guys done?”

“We’re taking this too,” Alex announces, tucking the teddy bear he was previously staring at under his arm. He lifts his brows challengingly at the gawping boy behind the counter.

“No, you have to pay for that…”

“Not when we’ve already given you three-fifty.” Alex counteracts, as Ansel smirks slightly. “Thanks for your service. Keep our visit today confidential; for your safety,” he says.

The guy gawks at us in stupefaction as we leave the store. As soon as we step through the doors, we immediately discover two men in tuxedos leaning against Alex’s car.

“Okay…now why are those two men-in-black-looking assholes harassing my car?” Alex hisses.

“They’re obviously looking for trouble considering they trailed us from the hospital,” Ansel states, taking my hand in his as we walk. My gaze drops to the gesture, and though it is not the time for butterflies and blushes, my heart still misses a beat when our skins make contact.

“One thing I hate for sure is someone touching my damn car.”

The two muscular men leap off the vehicle and begin moving toward us. We stop in our tracks, and Ansel tugs me behind him, his hand gripping mine tightly. A look of realization dawns on Alex’s face as he glances at us in bewilderment. “Aren’t these two men the ones on the CCTV footage?”

I unfold the paper in my hand and scrutinize the slightly foggy image of the two perpetrators, discovering that Alex is indeed correct. Ansel looks at me, then at Alex, nodding his head. “Yeah...they are.”

“Oh, they’re about to pay for what they did to her…” Alex mutters, handing me the fluffy bear he got from the store. One of the men, with a huge scar across his jaw, looks at me, then Ansel.

“Hand over the girl. Our boss would like to see her.”

Alex chuckles darkly as he moves up to them, his palms tucked into his pockets. “You guys don’t know what is about to happen, do you?”

“Who’s your boss?” Ansel demands, his brows lowering at them. The two men scoff at the question, exchanging amused glances. The one with the huge scar shakes his head and begins moving toward me. I instinctively take a step back while Alex presses his palm against the man’s torso, ceasing his strides.

“And where do you think you’re going?” He raises a brow. “Do you think I would allow you to stroll on past me? Do I look stupid?”

The man quickly pulls a gun from his waist and aims it at Alex, who does not even budge as the weapon touches his nose. I swallow anxiously but Ansel seems relaxed. He is probably confident that Alex will be able to defend himself efficiently. Perhaps it is not the first time he has had a gun pointed at him.

Alex laughs maniacally, lifting his hands. “Go ahead, shoot.” He shrugs fearlessly. “What are you waiting for?”

The man’s companion grunts impatiently. “Don’t waste time, Hitler.”

At the instruction of his partner, the man cocks the gun, but Alex does not move an inch, his devilish smirk also unwavering. A small silence stretches for a few seconds, with Hitler aiming at Alex while the two exchange glares.

Before I realize what is happening, Alex swiftly smacks the gun from the man’s hand, a gunshot firing off as the weapon hits against the hard asphalt. Immediately he throws a punch to Hitler’s face and as he tumbles onto the ground, his comrade begins chasing over at his aid. Speedily, Ansel rushes forward and hugs him by his abdomen, fiercely thrusting his back into the rear end of the car. A gasp escapes my mouth as the man falls against the ground, Ansel now sitting over him, fisting him rapidly while Alex handles himself with Hitler; the two wrestling on the ground in a bloody battle.

Ansel presses his opponent’s face into the hot bitumen, repeatedly punching him in his abdomen. The man’s face contorts in pain as he attempts to free himself. My heart is at ease until somehow, the man grabs a hold of Ansel’s hand, and considering his mature built, he manages to flip him over onto the ground, now taking his place on top of him. He plunges a fist at Ansel who shifts his face, so the man ends up hitting the asphalt instead. His face screws in pain as he reflexively grips his knuckle and Ansel takes the opportunity to throw a punch to his stomach. Gripping onto the afflicted area, the assailant uses the opposite hand to reach into his jacket for a pistol. My eyes grow wide and I impulsively bolt forward, reaching for his elbow in efforts of stopping him. The man effortlessly shrugs my hand off, sending me flying against the ground. Ansel’s eyes enlarge as my back hits hard. My face scrunches up in excruciating pain as I attempt to get up.

“D-did you just touch her…?” Venom raises within Ansel and he skillfully pulls a sizeable pocketknife from the inner counter of his shoe, slicing the man’s abdomen in a swift motion. Blood spurts onto his white dress shirt and his face as the man cries out, clutching the spot in terror. I gasp at the scene, my jaws becoming slack as I stagger to my feet.

D-did Ansel just—?

He grips the man’s collar and headbutts him, throwing his weak body off him and onto the ground. He immediately gets up as the man curls in a ball, weeping as he wriggles against the ground.

Ansel grabs his gun from his weak hand and aims it at him. I watch as his finger hovers over the trigger, but a gunshut goes off and we both shoot our gazes to Alex who has just shot Hitler in his knee.

“Who do you work for?!” Alex questions, as the man bawls out, gritting his teeth in pain.

My gaze returns to Ansel as I am still in awe that he had cut a man’s abdomen so mercilessly.

This side of him is new and fearless, far more intimidating than his previous confrontation with Jace. Who is Ansel really?

He drags the man beside a puling Hitler, then he and Alex aim the guns at them, demanding answers. My back hurts a great deal as I limp over to them.

“I’m not gonna ask a second time. Who do you work for?” Alex repeats. I look at him and his gaze is dark but void, a look that is equally as scary as Ansel’s.

“We won’t tell…” Hitler stutters as he grips his bleeding knee, his hand smeared with his blood. “We won’t say…so don’t waste your fucking time.”

Ansel rolls his eyes and Alex nods his head, squatting down in front of the man.

“Okay, well will you answer this then?” His gaze is evil as he narrows his eyes. “Which one of these filthy hands did you use to touch the girl you kidnapped yesterday?”

The blood drains from Hitler’s face as Alex pulls his hand from his wounded knee, pressing his knuckle onto the ground.

“Was it this one?” He fires a shot in the man’s palm, and I cringe, turning my face away. My eyes fall shut as he cries out in pain.

I manage to pull a skeptic gaze back to the scene as Ansel squats down as well, reaching for Hitler’s opposite hand. He sinks his pocketknife slowly into his palm and the gushing blood from his flesh splatters onto Ansel’s knuckle. “Or was it this one?”

I gape at the scene, stiffening in my spot. I have watched action and thriller movies but experiencing this in real life is stomach-churning. Ansel and Alex appear like two devils, who are undoubtedly enjoying this a bit too much. It is even unbearable for me, who cracked a girl’s head open on the tiles of a classroom.

“You know…I like that girl so damn much.” Alex vents and I see the look of pain on his face as he bends his head in grief. “I like her, okay? And I have never liked a girl on this planet the way that I like her. So how dare you touch her? How dare you beat her half-dead like that…how can you—” he sighs, pressing a knuckle against his forehead, his eyes shut in pain.

Ansel exhales heavily, pushing his hair back. The blood on his knuckle catches my attention and I cannot help thinking on how scary he appears at this moment. How scary they both appear. “We will ask for the final time…who do you both work for?”

“We won’t tell you!” Hitler’s partner bellows, blood gushing from his mouth as he presses his hand against his stomach. “We won’t, so it’s better if you kill us!”

I look from him to Ansel, and goosebumps raise on my skin when Ansel’s lips rise in a chilling smirk.

“Okay, don’t think that we won’t…” Is his reply.

The brothers pull themselves up and I watch speechlessly as they aim at the men, their fingers lingering over the triggers.

They are about to kill these men. They really are about to do it.

Suddenly the sound of sirens in the distance interrupts the potential murder scene. I realize I had been holding my breath as I leap forward.

“The cops…we need to go.” I find my voice as I pull at Ansel’s hand. He snaps out of his trance and looks at Alex whose gaze is still absent. “Let’s go, Al. The cops are on their way.” Alex refuses to move away, so Ansel grabs a hold of his arm and quickly hauls him with us to the car.

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