The drive to Roland’s place would have taken longer than expected any time of the day, but now that it was late at night, there was not much traffic outside. When they got to Ronald’s address, they found a small old decaying house that was probably one of the oldest houses in the area. Two shady individuals stood outside. Lesly told Alec to be careful, but he told her not to worry. He informed her that those two individuals were his contacts.
Before they left the car, Alec tried to give Lesly a list of instructions, but her attention was focused on the house to her right.
“Lesly, look at me,” Alec ordered in a serious tone. Lesly complied.
“You won’t leave my side no matter what, do you understand?”
“You won’t touch anything in that house or leave finger prints anywhere.”
“You’ll keep everything you’ll see there to yourself and not mention it to anyone.”
Lesly’s responses came out spontaneously without much thinking, but when she saw him reach out for the gun in the glove compartment, she began to worry.
Alec left the car and waited for her to do the same. One of the two individuals came to him to inform him that they locked Ronald in his own basement. They told Alec that they searched the entire house but found no traces of the boy save for his school bag. Alec was right. Ronald took Ben after school and hid him somewhere.
Alec walked in after he told his contacts to stand guard outside the house. Lesly followed him as he made his way towards the basement. Before he opened the door to the basement, he turned around to speak to her.
“Perhaps it’s better if you wait here.” He suggested hesitantly.
“You just told me that I’m not supposed to leave your side.” She challenged.
“Things are about to get real ugly.”
“I can handle it.”
“That’s not what I’m mainly concerned about.” He explained. “You might not want to be considered an accomplice in what’s about to happen. I told you I don’t play by the rules. Ronald has to talk. There’s only one way I can break him.”
Lesly did not care. She simply reached for the basement’s door with her gloved hand and turned the knob.
“Do what you have to do.” She whispered coldly before attempting to go down the stairs.
Alec kept her from going in first. She complied and allowed him to lead the way. They went down the stairs and saw the man sitting on a chair in a basement that was practically empty save for a few pieces of old furniture scattered here and there. There was an old wooden dining table that seemed to have been picked up from an old dumpster in front of Ronald. One flimsy chair faced the man, but Alec did not sit on it. He simply stood there and examined the man in front of him.
“Who the hell are you?” The man asked as he looked at Alec and Lesly with a terrified expression on his face.
“My identity is the least of your concerns right now,” Alec said coldly.
“I’ll pay you back. Soon.”
“How exactly are you going to pay me back?” Alec played along as he took a pair of leather gloves out of his pocket. He grabbed one glove with his teeth and pulled the other one over his left hand.
“I’ve got something planned. Just give me a few more days.”
Alec pulled the chair with his gloved hand, sat on the flimsy piece of furniture and slipped the other glove over his right hand. The man appeared to understand what this gesture meant. He rushed to assure Alec that he could pay his debt as promised.
“This little project of mine, it’s a guaranteed success. I already have buyers lined up.”
“You mean that little boy of yours?”
“He’s not mine.”
“Where is he?”
“You’re not…” Ronald seemed to have realized that they were not there to collect his unpaid debt. He kept his mouth shut and refused to say anything. Alec asked again coldly.
“Where is he, Ronald?”
Lesly watched the exchange between the two. Alec seemed like a totally different person right now. She could not see what his face looked like because his back was turned to her, but she could see the terror in Ronald’s face. The two stared at each other in silence. Beads of perspiration began to drip from Ronald’s forehead. Alec began drumming his finger on the table slowly and menacingly.
Suddenly and without warning, Alec got up, grabbed Ronald’s head and slammed it hard against the table. The blow was so forceful that the man’s head recoiled upon contact with the wooden table. The unexpected action coupled with the loud noise caused Lesly to flinch. Ronald released a loud cry of agony. When he lifted his head, blood flowed from his nose which was obviously broken by the blow.
“Where is he?” Alec asked as he grabbed the man by the hair and threatened to slam his head one more time.
“I’m not saying another word.”
Alec grabbed him forcefully, pulled him out of his chair and pinned his head against the table. He pulled the gun and pressed it against Ronald’s head. The man began shaking in terror, but that did not keep him for making excuses for himself.
“I have no choice,” The man muttered shakily. “They told me they would harvest my organs if I don’t pay them back.”
“So you sell your own son?”
“I told you he’s not mine. That whore lied to me and tried to rope me into taking the responsibility for another man’s child after he had abandoned her.”
“I’m sure that makes it okay to use a kid like that.” Alec shot back sarcastically as he pressed the gun harder to Ronald’s head.
“She deserves this after everything she’d put me through.” The man shouted in agony.
“So you’re settling the score with the mother by taking it out on the kid? Perfect. What else you’ve got?”
“You don’t understand.”
“No, I do understand. You’re one sick piece of shit. That’s all there’s to it. I’ll ask one more time. Where did you put him?”
Ronald said nothing. He kept his mouth shut, but it was obvious from the way he was breathing that he was frightened. Alec grabbed the gun and forcefully slammed it against the man’s knuckle causing him to release another scream of agony. Lesly flinched once more and instinctively took a step back. Her eyes examined the new injury Ronald sustained. Alec appeared to have broken a few more bones in the man’s body in his attempt to force him to speak.
“You have two options,” Alec spoke calmly over the man’s cries of pain. “One, you tell me where the boy is. You won’t be able to get out of this unscathed, of course, but at least you’ll be alive. You’ll seek the authorities, sign a statement admitting everything you have done, and then go to jail. Two, I finish you off right here, right now. If you’re worried about getting your organs harvested, I guarantee you I can make things ten times worse.”
Alec released the safety mechanism on the gun and pressed it back on the man’s head. Lesly knew then that he was not bluffing.
“You have until the count of three to make a choice. One…two…”
“He’s in a storage unit near the outskirts of the city,” Ronald rushed to inform Alec. “Take the highway that connects Redlyn to Coaling. Then take exit 162. You’ll see some old warehouses to your right. He’s in one of the abandoned storage units, unit number 451.”
Alec kept the gun pressed to Ronald’s head. Once he was sure the man was done talking, he lifted the gun slowly, but did not adjust the safety mechanism. Ronald barely lifted his head from the table when Alec grabbed him, pinned him on the table once more and contemplated smashing his face.
Lesly watched the scene in horror. The man had already given up the location of the boy. Why was Alec still pinning him? There was nothing but seething wrath in his eyes. It did not seem that he was done yet. In fact, at that moment, she was almost sure he was contemplating killing the guy. In an attempt to keep Alec from taking things too far, she hesitantly walked over to him and held his arm.
“That’s enough, Alec.” She spoke softly.
Alec released Ronald, causing him to fall to the floor. He gave Lesly a sharp incomprehensible look, and then he tilted his head towards the stairs in a sign that they should leave. Lesly complied quietly. Once they left the house, Alec unlocked the car and told her to wait inside. Then he went back to talk to his contacts. He told them to keep an eye on the guy until he had made sure that the address he gave was the correct one. Alec went back to the car after that and drove towards the location.
Lesly said nothing the entire ride there. Alec seemed so different from his usual composed self that she did not know how to approach him. She thought what she had seen from him in his apartment was the extent of his anger, but apparently, there was more to his temper than that. She had no idea why he was so triggered over this matter in particular. Surely he encountered his fair share of inhumane cases in his line of work.
Her eyes examined him in silence as he drove them to their destination. His jaw was clenched. His grip on the steering wheel was rigid. She could see from the way he was breathing that he was trying to keep his anger in check. She realized then that it was better not to talk to him until he had calmed down.
Locating the unit Ronald spoke of took a while. The area was barely lit and most of the numbers on the abandoned storage units there had faded. They did not know whether the unit had any heating in it that would keep the boy warm. They hoped Ronald cared for the safety of the boy, or rather commodity, enough to install a radiator, but it was highly unlikely.
It was sheer luck that led them to the unit. The numbers were not visible, but the lock and chain on the door seemed suspicious enough to draw their attention.
They stood in front of the door and wondered if they could break in. Lesly sat down, examined the lock carefully, and then instructed Alec to use the flashlight in his smart phone.
“What are you planning to do?” He asked as he turned the flashlight on.
“I think I can pick this lock.” She answered him before she removed a bobby pin from her hair and began bending it.
“Where on earth did you learn that?”
She did not answer him but tried to remain focused on the task at hand. The lock eventually clicked. Lesly removed it with ease and looked at Alec who failed miserably at hiding his surprise.
“So much you don’t know about me.” She said with a straight face.
They removed the chains and were about to open the door, but Alec told her to step back. He opened the door slowly and scanned the unit. It did not take him long to notice that it looked exactly like the room they saw in the live stream.
The kid was alone. No one was inside with him. He was sleeping on the bed bundled in the blanket Ronald left for him there. As expected, the bastard left the kid in the cold. Lesly wanted to step inside to check on Ben, but Alec silently motioned for her to not go any further. He walked inside slowly and tried to locate the camera. When he found it, he turned it off, pulled the plug and whispered for Lesly to walk in.
The kid woke up then and began rubbing his eyes as he examined the two strangers that just stepped in. Lesly wanted to speak to him, but before she could get any word out, he got scared and hid under the bed. Both Alec and Lesly knelt down and tried to assure him that they were there to help. He did not believe them. The terrified look on his face spoke volumes. It was perfectly justified. For weeks, Ronald tried to buy the kid’s trust with toys. It was possible that he had succeeded and managed to get Ben to voluntarily get into his car on his way back from school. The kid must have felt betrayed after what happened. He thought he was finally getting a father, but what he got instead was a predator. How could they convince Ben that they were there to help after everything that happened?
Lesly decided to remind him of the few times she paid them a visit in their apartment and hoped he would believe that she was a friend of his mother. He didn’t. In an effort to prove to him that she was telling the truth, she called his mother and put her on speaker. Alyssa spoke to him; she asked him if he was okay. He began crying tears of relief. She cried, too. She told him to trust the woman who was there with him so she could bring him back home. It took a lot of convincing to get him to come out. He crawled from under the bed and wrapped his arms around Lesly’s neck. She immediately removed her coat and wrapped him in it. Lesly rocked the crying child back and forth while whispering soothing words in an attempt to calm him down. Alec made a few phone calls, but she could not hear what he was saying when the kid was crying so loudly. He eventually squeezed her shoulder and told her that they needed to leave this place and take the kid to a hospital for a checkup.
Ben fell asleep in Lesly’s lap while they were driving to the hospital. He was still bundled in her coat. Alec took one look at her and the kid before he readjusted the heater settings in the car.
“Aren’t you cold?” He asked with concern.
“No, I’m okay” She readjusted the coat around the sleeping child and looked at Alec. He seemed to have gone back to his usual self, but not entirely. She wanted to find out if he was okay, but did not want to do it by asking him directly.
“What do we do now?” She inquired casually.
“I already spoke to Hannah. She told me she’ll send a unit to arrest that sad excuse of a father. She’ll make sure no mention of me or you will make it to his final statement. Alyssa has been notified. She’ll meet us at the hospital.”
“What about the people who participated in the bidding process? Do you think Ben will be safe after they have seen him?” Lesly asked softly so as not to wake the little boy.
“I really don’t know. My P.I. is trying to figure out who they are, but he already told me not to expect much. I’ll ask someone to keep an eye on the boy until we make sure no one will come after him.”
“What about him?”
“Who’s going to handle his case?”
“It won’t make much of a difference who does it. It’s a death sentence either way.” He explained coldly.
“What do you mean?” Lesly was alarmed. His vague answer coupled with his tone gave her the suspicion that Alec was not done with the man yet.
He did not answer her and kept his eyes focused on the road. She wanted to prod him, but did not know how to speak to this new person sitting right next to her. Her eyes examined his face, but it betrayed nothing.
His phone began ringing then. He picked it up and silently listened to what his contact had to say. When the man was done, Alec’s response came in three words that Lesly would recall with a chill.
“Get it done.”