M A X
The car ride home was silent, and I was grateful for it. My head was throbbing with tension, my eyes sore from crying.
"I'd ask if you're alright, but I know you're not," Andy pulls up outside my apartment, cutting the engine.
I feel hollow, images of my sister trapped somewhere against her will filling my mind. Or even worse- she is dead.
"I'm so sorry, Andy," I breathe, leaning forward to cup my head in my hands. "This is not how I imagined tonight going at all."
"Hey, it's alright. Let's get you home."
I liked how Andy took charge whilst still remaining gentlemanly throughout; opening the car door for me, holding my hand as we walked back to my apartment.
"I'd ask you to come in but your dog needs you," I say, my fingers scraping in my bag for my keys.
"I know, I understand. If you want you can grab some things and stay at mine? I don't mean to be forward," he adds hastily. "I mean if you don't want to be alone."
"Thank you, but I think I'll just climb into bed and try to sleep. Can I call you?"
Andy nods, opening his arms out to embrace me. I rest against him, thanking my lucky stars that he was as understanding as he was.
"Anytime. Keep me updated on Alex, and if you need anything, Max… just call me."
He dips his head towards me, and I turn my head, not wanting to kiss him goodbye. I was too worried to be kissing anyone.
But didn't I kiss Cain earlier?
If Andy is disappointed, he doesn't show it. He waves as I walk into my apartment, locking it firmly behind me.
"I thought he'd never leave."
I whip my head around, my heart in my throat at the sound of the voice echoing from the darkness.
"Max, your sister Alex owes me a lot of money. Judging by this apartment, I'd say you can't afford to pay it back for her."
The sound of a match striking against a matchbox made me flinch, causing a flame to flicker in the darkness. My eyes focused on the burnt orange fireball as it lit a cigarette, the end burning bright yellow. The smoker shook the match, extinguishing the flame entirely.
"Who are you? Why does my sister owe you money?"
My voice sounds stronger than I feel, but then my fingers brush against the light switch, giving me a rush of adrenaline. Would it be better to see the intruder, or try and escape into the hall outside?
Trembling, my fingers move in an upward motion, filling the room with a soft yellow glow. My stomach twists when I see a man perched on my kitchen stool, smoking. His gaze travels over me as he leers openly. He was dressed down, but the glint of gold in his mouth when he smiled told me he had money.
His hair was shaven, and a scar ran down his left cheek, like someone had slashed him.
"You can call me Yan," he ran his soulless black eyes up and down my body as he spoke, filling my apartment with his disgusting smoke. I tried not to react, my instincts telling me that the smoke in my apartment was the least of my worries. "Your sister worked for me. Past tense, of course."
"It's a business," Yan winked, causing me to shudder. "Your sister and I had an agreement. She broke it. It cost my business thousands."
"Where is she?" I almost don't want to hear the answer, but I have to know.
"Earning money, of course," Yan shrugs, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. "My question to you Max, is simple. Can you pay her debts? I will give you twenty four hours to tell me. If not, I'll make her pay her debts, then kill her."
"How much?" I grit my teeth as he stands up, walking over to me as he sucks on his cigarette. His eyes narrow, blowing the smoke into my face as I cough and splutter.
"Well, if you want to share that sweet ass of yours I'd be tempted to knock it down by a few hundred."
I feel bile rise in my throat, but I'm grateful when he doesn't touch me.
"No? See, I've been watching you for a while now, and I thought that maybe you were on the game or some shit. Two guys in and out of here like it's an all you can eat buffet. No room for me, bitch?"
He stares into my eyes then, and I shake my head. All I can think of is my sister.
"I've had you all watched," he continues, chuckling to himself. "Your policeman was with another bitch earlier. She was fine. Better than you."
Tears sting my eyes then, and he nods, pleased he has a reaction.
"Twenty four hours. Twenty grand."
"How do I find you?"
"I'll find you. Whatever you do, don't get the pigs involved. Twenty. Grand. Or you'll never see your sister again."
He leaves then, whistling as he walks away. I immediately lock the door, running from room to room to make sure no one else was hiding anywhere. It was only when I knew it was secure that I let out a sob, sinking to my sofa in dismay.
My head was spinning. Who could I call? I racked my brains, thinking of my savings. I only had five or six thousand saved, and I knew my family certainly didn't have any more than that.
My fingers itched to call Charlotte, but I knew I couldn't hide this from her. I dragged my phone out of my pocket, yelping when it buzzed in my hand.
"Max? Listen, I'm heading over to yours now-"
"Don't," I whisper, trying to hold back my tears.
I shake my head, tears spilling down my cheeks as I remembered Yan's words.
Whatever you do, don't get the pigs involved.
Your policeman was with another bitch earlier. She was fine. Better than you.
He could be lying. He could.
"Because I know you were with another woman earlier," I snap, hoping this stops him in his tracks. If I see Cain, he will instantly know that something is wrong. Then Alex is at risk.
Cain is silent, and despite everything my heart drops.
"I haven't got time for this. Did you find anything out about my sister?"
My tone is cold, but my body is racked with sobs. I'm not even sure how I'm holding it together.
"She was seen here last week but nothing since. Max, please-"
"Cain. Please leave me alone. Unless you have any information about Alex, don't call me again."
I end the call, my brain bursting with mathematical sums. I can't think about Cain being with another woman right now; I have to think of my family. Whoever that bonehead was, he came to me for a reason. Had Alex asked for me?
I compose a text to my brother and my sister, asking them to wire me any available money they have, and not to ask why. I never asked them for anything, so I knew that anything they had would be within my account within the next twelve hours.
Next, I called my father.
"Dad, do you trust me?"
I took a deep breath as he mumbled that yes, of course.
"I've had a ransom for Alex. Whatever you do, don't tell anyone else."
My father and I were the strong ones in our family, and it went without saying that he would give me anything. His voice was thick as he asked me the question I didn't know the answer to.
"Is she alive, Max?"
I have no option but to answer honestly.
"I don't know, Dad. I'll need twenty thousand to find out."