She stared at the door as the light just began to break the horizon. She didn’t sleep a wink, but she was warmer than last night before. She slowly untangled herself from the blanket and began to search the cabin a little. She didn’t know what else she may run into in the woods that may slow her down.
As she searched the cabinets and drawers, she found a bunch of canned food fruit, but she had no idea if they were good. But, if she needed them, then it was better to have them than not. She also had no clue if she liked the stuff or not, but she would deal with it. She continued the search and found a can opener and a brown, worn out bag.
She stuffed the can opener and canned food in the bag, and she’d make sure everything would be returned once she figured out where she belonged. She didn’t find any clothes, but she grabbed a couple of knives that seemed to be sharp and stuffed them into the bag also.
She glanced around. Nothing else seemed to stick out. Well, this was as good as it was going to get. She grabbed the blanket and stuffed it inside the bag also, just in case she was stuck outside that night. She carefully walked to the door, opened it a little, squeezed it out, and then pulled it shut. Hopefully, she’d find someone who she could trust, and they wouldn’t hurt her more.
Another woman would be the best option, men weren’t high on her list to have help her. She’d probably end up in the same place she was just at, or somewhere worse.
She glanced around her, she stepped into the stick and leaf-covered grass. At least there was light to help her see better than the night before. But it was still chilly, at least her clothes weren’t wet anymore either. She headed the direction she had been going last night.
The sticks poked her feet painfully, but at least she didn’t have to run. She just kept pushing herself. Anything was better than the continual abuse she had endured.
Justin groaned as he moved to get his things packed back up and climbed from the tree. He jumped down the last two feet, the ground solid beneath his feet. He glanced around and pulled the map out the chief had let him take. He scanned it a little, and he was nowhere close to where they had stopped searching. He huffed, putting the map back in his pocket, checked his Glock, and stuffed it into his jeans’ waistband.
He began to head deeper into the trees. If he found anyone lurking around out here, he’d probably shoot first and ask questions later. He’d just have to make sure it wasn’t a fatal shot.
The leaves crunched beneath his boots as he tracked through the trees. He pulled the baseball cap down over his face a little as he headed into low hanging limbs.
She looked around quickly and picked up the pace when a prickling feeling ran down her spine. What if Burly followed her, was luring her out here to get rid of her for good? He already didn’t mind shooting at her once, he’d probably do it again.
She willed her feet to run, she burst through some high plants and tripped over a log. She fell into something hard, but it wasn’t the ground. She was still standing up a little. Panic seized her when she felt something wrap around her. She began to struggle and tried to reach in the bag over her shoulder, but a hand gripped her wrist harshly.
She pushed back against a hard chest as she looked up, her eyes locked with a pair of smoky-gray eyes. She froze.
Justin never expected the fragile-looking woman to fall into him after bursting through the tall plants in front of him. She began to struggle against him. He pulled her up against him tightly and grabbed her wrist when it went towards the bag over her shoulder, no doubt for a weapon, “Hey, easy, I won’t hurt you.” He whispered as his eyes locked with her violet eyes.
Then he took the rest of her in, she was only in a t-shirt, that was filthy, and nothing covered her legs. He didn’t want to know what was under the shirt. Her face was bruised badly and cut up. She wasn’t even wearing shoes. She looked so undernourished as well.
“Please, don’t take me back, I can’t go back! Let me go!” her voice was high-pitched and borderline hysterical.
He clamped down on her more, “I’m not going to hurt you, just calm down for me, where do you need to go?”
“The police station, where ever that is.” She continued to try to get out of his embrace.
“Okay, I can get you there,” Justin reassured as he looked her over again. He didn’t match any of the missing girls. He was a little confused. “What’s your name?”
She froze as she stared up at him, “One six nine.” She answered briefly.
“I’m sorry? One six nine? That’s not a name.” He scoffed a little. Apparently, she was hiding something, but surely she couldn’t think he was that stupid, could she?
“Well, that’s what I’ve been called since for as long as I can remember, so I guess it is my name.” She whispered.
Justin shook his head, “So, you don’t have a name? Any family?” he asked, trying to figure out why he was just standing there chit-chatting while his niece was missing.
“I don’t know.” She sobbed out.
“Okay, easy, hun, don’t cry, come on, my ride is back this way toward the road, we’ll get you to the station.” He spun them around and slowly let go of her but slid his hand down her arm to her hand. He led the way back to his bike. How did this girl not know her name or if she had any family or not? He sighed, the sooner he got her to the station, the sooner he could get back to his search.
A tingling feeling ran over his body, stabbing at him sharply. He quickly made a move toward a tree, pulling the young girl with him just as a shot rang out.
She covered her ears and looked like she was going to start crying again.
He hauled her up in front of him and pressed his finger to his lips. She nodded.
“Oh come on, sweetheart, you’ll be safer with us!” they heard the male voice shout.
Justin felt the girl move closer to him. He tightened one arm around her and pulled her even closer to him but off to his side, freeing his other hand and grabbed his 9 mm. He heard her gasp a little, but he didn’t look at her, he just squeezed his arm gently.
He had to figure out how to get them out of there without getting caught.
“Come on, sweet thing, you’re probably hungry ad cold, I know what you left in.”
The girl shivered and clutched his white t-shirt in her hand as she dug her face into it.
He squeezed her arm more, and her violet gaze lifted a bit, Justin motioned with his gaze to a tree off to the right of them.
She looked to the tree then back to him, she nodded.
He positioned her in front of his tall, muscular body and slowly made their way to the tree. Once they got a good distance away, he’d make them run for his bike.
They got behind the next tree and stood still a for a few when another shot rang out, gliding past them and smacked into the tree in front of them.
“Damn,” Justin grumbled a little. He pulled the mystery girl back against him tightly. He could fire back, but he didn’t want to give away their precise location or that the poor thing wasn’t alone anymore. He was at a loss of what to do.
He picked the small thing up and ran for another tree that was off to the side of the one that took the bullet. He stood still for a minute, then headed for the other trees and weaved back and forth. He felt nails digging into his skin on his arm. He kept going when he didn’t hear anymore shouting or shots. He continued to weave between the trees. He finally heard the traffic, so they were now close to the road. He weaved back to where his bike was, he sat the fragile thing down beside the black beats. He jumped on and sprung it to life.
He turned back to the girl. She was in no shape to ride a bike, but what choice did they have? He reached his hand out to her, “Come on, darlin’, we’ve got to go now.”
Her hand trembled as she reached for his, and he helped steady her as she climbed on behind him. He took the hand and placed it against his chest. He pulled her closer to his back by her bare leg then took his other hand placing it beside her other hand, “Okay, hold on tight!” he shouted and kicked the stand up and reeved the bike, taking off back to town just as another bullet barely missed them.
He felt her body jerk back from him as he gunned it more, and he pulled her close again. He glanced over his shoulder, nothing was behind them. Good, he sped off, and this time she managed to hold on tightly, pressing her breasts firmly against his back.
Not a good time to be thinking like a man. He was glad when Saint Clairsville came into view. He pulled into the station sharply and cut the engine. He went to stand, but the girl was still holding onto him. He patted her hand gently, “It’s okay now, you can let go, you’re safe.”
Her hands slid from his chest, and he stood, pulling his phone from his pocket, “Iris, I need you to bring some of Marnie’s clothes to the station, and hurry, I’ll explain when you get here.” He pulled his backpack off the handle of the bike. He pulled out a t-shirt, glanced at the girl, and was longer than the one she had on but not by much.
He glanced at her again, “Do you want this shirt? It’s a little longer than that one and cleaner.”
She slowly got off the bike as she nodded a little.
He handed her the shirt, and she changed quickly in the parking lot. He then led her inside the small station.
One six nine. She couldn’t get the numbers out of her head. She shivered as her cut feet hit the cold black tile floor. The shirt the stranger gave her smelled so good, but, of course, she didn’t know what it was.
He kept his arm around her as she limped to a desk. His deep voice rumbled beside her, “I need to see Chief Michaels right now.”
She was secretly hoping it was a woman because she didn’t know how many more men she could deal with. She let out a shaky breath as the officer behind the desk rushed away.
She felt pulled into a pair of strong arms, and the panic began to set in. She pushed back from him, but he held her tighter.
“It’s okay, darlin’, we’ll talk to the chief, okay?”
She nodded a little, but she was still afraid.
“I also have better clothes coming for you.” He whispered against her ear.
She glanced up at him, this wasn’t what she was used to. She closed her eyes tightly as the echoes of yelling filled her ears, the repeated slaps and punches she received. Her body began to tremble but pulled away from the man, “I’m sorry.” She mumbled as she looked away from him and leaned against the wall.
She couldn’t depend on any man, and she couldn’t show any weakness. She already knew she had to pay for him helping her this much, and it would be expected. She stared at the floor when she first heard boots against the tile floor then a boisterous voice.
“This had better be good, P.I. This is the second time you’ve demanded my presence.”
She stumbled away, falling into a chair, hitting her hip hard.
The arms were around her instantly, “Easy, darlin’, it’s okay.” He turned to the man who yelled. “I ran into her in the woods on my search, someone was shooting at her, but she told me she was supposed to come here.”
The balding, heavyset man walked up to them and squinted his ice-blue eyes at her, “And why were you supposed to come here?”
“There are five girls, they’re in this building out there, you have to help them.” She explained quickly, glad her voice didn’t fail her.
“And who are these girls?”
“I only know one of their names, the others I only know their numbers we’re all assigned.”
“And your name?” he demanded.
“One six nine.” She whispered, feeling her fear envelope her again.
The chief burst out with laughter.
Tears pricked her eyes, and they slid down slowly.
Her savior pulled her against him, “I don’t see anything funny about this, Michaels.”
“One six nine for a name is ludicrous, what is your real name?” Michaels demanded.
“I don’t know.” She sobbed out.
“Awfully convenient you were able to escape, I’ll let one of the officer’s do an interrogation, while I’m trying to find your niece since you stopped looking when a scared, pretty girl apparently fell into your arms.”
The man holding her glared at the balding chief.
But the older man walked away and sent another younger man over to them.
The young man had a full head of black hair, and hard brown eyes, just like burly. His gaze raked over her as he walked closer. He snatched her arm tightly and yanked her from the protector she had found, and he seemed to let go willingly. Then again, who wouldn’t let her go besides the asses who kept her locked up?
She threw a glance over her shoulder but seen him coming behind them. She let out another yelp as she was yanked forward and shoved into a tiny room. She was shoved in a chair hard, and she heard the door slam shut.
She glanced around the yellow room, the other man didn’t come in with them. She bit the inside of her cheek until she tasted blood as the other man sat down across from her.
“So, how’d you get free?”
“Someone came to look at us again, I made the burly man angry because I bit the man when he grabbed me, they threw me back in the room they kept me in, they didn’t lock it.”
“What’s your name?”
“One six nine.”
The young man scoffed, “And why are you here?”
“One of the girls told me to come here to find her uncle, that you all would help me find him.”
“And who was that?”
“A Marnie Benson, I’m supposed to find a Justin Mathers,” she whispered. She jumped when she heard the loud banging against the door.
The young man let out a huff and headed to the door. He opened it, but he was shoved back when the door opened quicker from the other side.
“You’ve seen Marnie?” the man who helped her demanded.
“Is she okay?”
“She was the last time I saw her, which was the first time I saw any of them also, she told all of us that we didn’t belong there, I always thought it was my home.” She mumbled.
“I’m the guy she wanted you to find, I’m Justin,” he knelt beside her. “You really thought that was where you belonged?”
She nodded again.
“There were more, right? Do you know their names?”
She shook her head, “I remember their numbers that were hanging on their necks, two five six seemed to be the youngest, she was a blonde with green eyes, three seven two black hair, soft brown eyes, four two six blue eyes and brown hair, five six one a redhead, blue eyes, six two zero was Marnie, smoky gray eyes, and a blonde.”
“You are one six nine, God, they numbered you in the order they took you,” Justin cursed. He pulled his backpack from his shoulder, yanked out some folders and opened them on the table, “Are these the girls?” he asked softly.
Her eyes glanced to the pictures, she reached out a trembling handing, running a finger over each picture, “Yes, that’s them,” she looked back to Justin. “So you know who I am?” she asked, hope running through her.
“No, darlin’, I don’t, these girls have been taken over the last year, the chief only gave me those because they were so close to Marnie’s disappearance, we’ll try to figure it out though, okay?”
She sighed and wrapped her arms around herself. Marnie was wrong about herself, she didn’t have anyone.
“You don’t know how old you are, do you?” Justin’s soft voice broke her thoughts.
“No.” she should have tried to get the other girls out, they at least had family, she did not.
Justin laid a hand on her back, “It’s okay, we’ll figure it out, darlin’, I promise, I don’t like the idea of calling you a number though, so you can pick any name for now, and we’ll call you that until we figure everything out.”
She shook her head, a nobody like her didn’t deserve a name.
“Okay, darlin’ it is, for now.” Justin smiled at her a little.
“It’s my fault, you could have gotten to Marnie, she deserves to be saved, she at least has a family.”
“Hey, don’t think like that,” he reached up to cup her cheek, but she flinched, waiting for a blow. “Don’t worry, darlin’, I’ll make these assholes pay.” He turned to the cop in the room. “Better get your chief to start sending out a search for this area now.”
“It’s past a creek, I fell in it when I ran away.” She whispered.
Justin turned those smoky gray eyes on her, “Thanks, darlin’, we’ll have them safe and sound soon.”
The young cop rushed to get the chief.
Justin stood up, taking hold of her hand, he pulled out of the interrogation room, “Darlin’, do you know any of their names?”
“No, Burly was the worse and most violent though, he’s one mean man and huge.”
“What were they going to do?”
“The man I bit yesterday was looking at us for his boss, the lanky guy said his boss would take four of us, Marnie and I weren’t on that list,” she squeezed his hand tightly. “He said in four weeks, Justin, I hope they don’t move faster now that I’m gone, I didn’t even think about it.” She stumbled a little, but Justin acted fast and scooped her up into his arms.
He headed to one of the couches and sat down with her in his lap, “Just leave it to me and the cops, everything will be fine.” He rubbed her back.
She laid her head against his shoulder, and exhaustion finally overtook her. Her eyes closed as the feeling of safety rolled over her. She felt lips against her forehead, and then sleep encased her.