Winona settled into her sleeping bag under the Aurora. Elmer, laying under his ratty wool blanket, muttered quietly to himself as the murmur of the traffic slowly ebbed into the night. A nearby cricket serenaded her with its shrill scratching. The sound of the friction blotted the ambient noises of the city above them. A breeze caught the lip of her bedding and temporarily filled her cocoon with cold air. She tightened the top of the sack and rolled away from the glare of the streetlights to face the darkness of the cement.
She imagined Cliff wandering downtown Seattle, telling his stories and scrambling for shelter. Image scraps of hairy hands in her pants, sweaty stubble scraping her face, fat bellies smashing her stomach and clumsy, smelly men invading her at night flooded her memory. She felt herself perspire and the familiar tingle alight the space between her legs. Closing her eyes, she could feel Cliff’s lips against hers.
She tried to suppress the feeling. She clenched her legs to stop the wetness from setting off her overactive nervous system. Next to her, she heard Elmer rustle under his covers. Her entire body electrified with hyperactive nerves and she felt the need to satiate.
Shame and frustration competed with the physical impulse that took over her body. She reached for Elmer. The wetness that lubricated her felt dirty and gritty, like old, standing water in a sewer. She reached under her own dress and tried to wipe it away.
She pictured Cliff again, his soft smile and calm demeanor temporarily easing her nerves. The vision scattered, replaced by the memory of going down on a younger, thinner officer Leonard Hutchinson years ago in the private room at the Little Darlin’s club. The memory barely stood out among all the others.
“I am a worthless whore,” she thought to herself. “That’s why I’ll always be alone. Just me and them dead bodies night after night.”
She reached further toward where Elmer lay rustling restlessly.
“Damn, dirty shelter,” she complained out loud to nobody in particular.
“Shitholes,” Elmer replied, stirring and rolling to his back. “Ain’t nothin but them leaches lookin for them handouts. Ain’t nobody wants to work in this country. All a buncha freeloadin fuckers takin the dole while the rest of us break our damn backs building up this country to make it the best friggin place in the world. Don’t go fuckin with America or we’ll kick your ass. Just ask them Brits, or the Nazis or the Commies…”
“All right, now,” Jackson said, poking out of his sleeping bag. “We already bombed them enemies to hell. You can sleep now and quit keeping us up with your noise.”
“Whatcha gotta go getting him all riled up for?” Duff asked Winona. “Can’t y’all just leave alone and go to sleep without running your mouth. One motor mouth round here’s more than enough.”
“I thought you guys took off?” Winona said.
“Started raining, so we come back,” Duff replied. “But get old Elmer running his mouth again, and we might leave for good.”
“Dude puts me right to sleep,” Winona laughed. “Like the sound of the ocean.”
The screech of tires breaking abruptly echoed through the underpass. Headlights flooded the dark space, illuminating Winona, Duff, Jackson and Elmer. Winona sat upright and shielded her eyes, straining to understand the commotion.
A shadow parted the blinding light from the dark vehicle and moved toward them. They all scrambled to sit up and defend themselves. A second figure emerged from the car obscuring the headlights.
“You bums can’t stay here,” Winona recognized the fake military voice of officer Hutch. “City property. You’re all loitering. Find somewhere else to pollute.”
Hutch and Peters approached with their Billy Clubs drawn.
“Don’t make us use these puppies on your skinny little legs,” he continued. “I know how easy bones break when you don’t get your vitamins.”
Jackson and Duff grumbled as they collected as many of their possessions as they could.
“Shoulda stayed away,” Jackson complained to Duff. “Let’s go back. Let’s go back. It’s dry under there. Lotta good it did us.”
They stuffed clothes and shoes in their ripped suitcases, slipped into their boots and grabbed a bundle of blankets under each arm.
“We been here for months and you never gave us no guff,” Duff shouted over his shoulder as he made his way down the incline.
Winona huffed as she tossed her items into the plastic garbage bags that she and Cliff had acquired. Elmer mumbled in a disoriented fog. Peters moved swiftly to Winona’s side and clutched her under the arm. Hutch grabbed her other arm and moved his mouth right up to her ear.
“The crazy dude can sleep wherever he wants,” he said. “You’re coming with us.”
Danny rubbed the butt of his gun against his forehead. A sparkle of perspiration reflected the light of the sun. Alex sweat more profusely, leaning against the stolen Ford Taurus with his hands tied behind his back.
He watched Kumi’s athletic frame sprint along the bank of garage doors to the main office by the entrance.
“We don’t know nothing about no brick,” Alex said. “We were told to come pick up the car. That’s all we did. We didn’t even open the trunk and look.”
“Who sent you to get the car?” Danny spit while leaning into Alex’s face. “Let’s start there.”
Alex closed his mouth and looked away.
“Damn it, a girl’s life depends on what you say and do right now,” Danny moved menacingly closer, only inches from Alex’s turned cheek. “We find a single trace of DNA, you’re on the hook for kidnapping plus whatever else happens to her.”
“Jesus Christ,” Summer glared at Alex. “His name’s Julio De La Cruz. He lives in an apartment on 67th and Sycamore. He’s a real asshole.”
“He gave you the instructions to come here and pick up this car?”
Alex looked away but could feel Summer’s gaze bore through the side of his face.
“Him and Edeyo; Edeyo Okeke,” he said.
“You need to pick your friends better,” Danny pointed at him as he wrote the names in a palm-sized notebook.
“Tell me about it,” scoffed Summer.
“How do you play into this?” Danny asked Cliff. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”
Cliff explained the sequence of events, how he decided to leave the bridge and return to the Pike Street area, how he worked the train and how he ran into Alex along the way. Danny’s eyes saddened.
“You were just going to leave Winona behind,” Danny said. “That’s pretty cold, man?”
Cliff flared his eyes and nodded his head toward Alex, causing Danny to squint at him in confusion. The instinct to tell Danny about the chilling experience with officer Hutch and Peters at the old power plant crossed his mind. But fear gripped him and he kept his mouth closed.
Kumi trotted from the office. They stepped aside, but Cliff could hear most of their conversation.
“Cameras don’t work,” Kumi said. “We got nothing there. But I got the name of the customer who rents the bay. Name’s Romeo Balseca.”
“Balseca?” Danny said, reaching for his phone. “I know him. Bad news.”
“Also,” Kumi continued. “Manager says a small truck pulled up about ten minutes ago.”
“Dodge Ram; older model,” Kumi said. “Was there a minute or two, then took off. Shows up about once a month.”
“Matches our pattern,” Danny said. “With traffic, it could still be nearby.”
“I got them pulling traffic cameras, looking up Balseca and tracking down the credit card.”
“Call Benson,” Danny said, glancing at their three bound captives sitting with their backs to the SUV.
Kumi’s phone buzzed. She held it to her ear.
“No time,” she barked. “We gotta move. They’ve got the van. It’s less than a mile away.”
Officer Hutch sat in the back of the cruiser next to Winona as Peters drove through town. His stale, musty smell bothered even Winona who hadn’t showered in a week since visiting Kipp’s home.
“Nice dress,” he said to her, the stench of his breath hot on her cheek. “Kinda flowery for a streetwalker?”
Winona ignored the brute and stared ahead.
“Where’s your boyfriend, bitch?”
“Split,” she replied. “Left town. Happy?”
“Maybe you should join him?”
“What do you want with me?” Winona asked.
“You been hanging out with little girls?” he asked, the fake playful edge leaving his voice completely. “We saw you on video.”
“What girl?” she asked. “What do you need a girl for when you got each other?”
“Kidnapping’s a serious felony offense, with prison sentences of 20 or more years,” Peters said from the front seat. “We know she’s at her house in Crown Hill now, thanks to you. And, we know you got plain clothes watching her.”
“Right,” Winona said. “Cause, I give all the orders down at the police station.”
“We just want to know about your conversation with Child Services and Internal,” Hutch continued. “Just because you turned her in, doesn’t mean we can’t make the case you took her in the first place.”
“You kidnapped the girl,” Peters said. “Threatened her. Scared the shit out of her. Gave her some fake story to stick to. Then chickened out and called Child Services.”
“No jury believes the word of a homeless scumbag,” Hutch added.
Peters maneuvered the car along a narrow road, not typically designated for street vehicles. Joggers ran past and waved cheerfully at officer Peters. People walking dogs and laying on blankets dotted the rolling grassy park adjacent to the rusty, old, run-down plant.
Peters moved the car through a gate and parked inside a metal storage garage. Hutch remained in the back seat with his arm slung menacingly and almost flirtingly around Winona’s shoulder as Peters pulled down the metal garage door and sealed them in relative darkness. Only the light from the dashboard and a window facing the Seattle skyline brightened the interior of the cruiser.
“You got it all figured out, don’t you?” Winona sassed. “Calculate all that with your tiny little brain?”
“Talk big, whore,” Hutch said. “You’ll figure out quick enough you’re not in control of this situation What’d you tell Child Services?”
“I don’t kiss and tell.”
“You don’t want to talk, we can go after your boyfriend with the long hair,” Hutch sassed right back. “He don’t want to talk, we can just cut off his balls and let him bleed out. How’s that sound?”
Officer Peters flashed a long-serrated hunting knife and held it against the cage between the driver’s seat and the back.
“We can do this the easy way, or the hard way,” Hutch said, grabbing her by the shoulders. “Why don’t you just share with us what you said? Or, should I get the knife and visit your buddies. We can go one by one, starting with the crazy dude and work our way through the two potheads. Just cause your boyfriend left town, doesn’t mean we can’t find him and have our way with him.”
Winona felt an object brush against the outside of her thigh. It rotated inward and grazed the upper edge of her groin.
“Is that a gun?” she asked. “I know you can’t get your dick that hard.”
Officer Peters stood by the doorway to the garage looking out the window while Hutch caressed the inside of Winona’s crotch with his gun.
“You got a big mouth, bitch,” he said. “I don’t know what you saw that night. But you know you got nothing on us. And, your boyfriend’s a coward, dumping you and skipping town.”
“You sound pretty nervous to me,” she continued. “You should be, since you were looking for the girl as soon as you saw that trunk popped open. You just magically knew she was missing and wanted to find her before the other cops showed up.”
“So, you gonna talk about how it went down with Child Services?” Hutch’s voice belied his waning patience. “Or we gonna get physical. My piece’ll fill you up just as good as it can fit up his ass.”
Winona formed a sarcastic response, but with the mention of Cliff, fear crept into her mind. She decided to cover for him and keep him out of their path.
“I spoke with Child Services,” she said. “You’re right. He was passed out and didn’t see shit, ok. That’s it. That’s the end of the story. I said we found her wandering the street. They didn’t ask no questions and that was the end of it.”
“They didn’t ask no questions,” he imitated her.
“Nothing that pointed at you, alright,” Winona’s voice cracked as her inner thighs started to tremble. “Honest. You’re off the hook.”
Hutch leaned back for a second, before pressing his lips right to within an inch of her ear. She could feel the warmth of his breath on her neck.
“You think I’m a pig,” he whispered to her. “But Peters and I are saving this town from deteriorating into the slumhole that it is down in the south. Gang hits; violence on every corner; rapes; abductions. There’s no law and order down there. Cops’re afraid of the gangs. They let them do what they want. We can’t have that up here.”
Winona flinched as the moisture from Hutch’s breath wet her ear.
“You know I grew up right around the corner from here,” Hutch continued. “Up West Woodland, 8th and 51st. Played football at the high school. Trained in the academy right here in Seattle. I love this part of town and won’t let nothing happen to it. And, if we gotta appease the gangs down south with the occasional gift, that probably don’t belong here anyway, so be it. We’re saving lives.”
Winona could feel sweat run between her breasts as hutch’s shoulders pressed against hers.
“We keep them happy down there,” Hutch continued, almost pleading for her to believe in his nobility. “They stay put. They keep to their territory. We keep them out. Don’t you see. We pay a small price for the peace and safety of keeping our beautiful part of the city free from the gangs.”
“Unless you’re a 12-year-old Asian immigrant,” Winona replied. “Who don’t speak the language too good.”
Hutch leaned and laughed, before edging closer to her, his thigh practically on top of hers. She felt his gun thrust upward to the crease between her leg and her crotch, just to one side of her genitals.
“You don’t think they’d be taking who they want, when they want, they come up here? This way, we can control it. We pick and choose. Protect our own.”
Winona shuddered at the vile attitude. But, at the same time, she felt her disorder as a series of flutters. She detested the sweaty brute who increasingly weighed on her leg and shoulder. But her mind and her nerves didn’t always coordinate with each other.
As much as she had no interest in being assaulted by her degrading tormentor, she dreaded the undercurrent, deep in her stomach that fluttered beneath the disgust in her conscious mind. She felt a bead of sweat form between her legs where the cold, dirty gun rested. She wished she hadn’t cast away her underwear. But, that uncontrollable corner of her mind that she hated, was glad.
As much as she feared what Hutch might do to her, her bigger apprehension focused on what she might do in response. Despite her nauseating situation, she knew she had a problem. She never acknowledged it to herself, but she knew her demons could eventually give in to the danger and degradation he threatened. It wasn’t emotional, just physiological. But, a powerful, mental disorder all the same. She feared what Hutch might do. But the biggest worry she struggled to resist was that driven by her uncontrollable compulsive condition, she might decide she actually liked it. She fought to resist the impulses, but also she knew she had gotten off on worse in the past.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” Hutch whispered with mock sexual heat. “I just want you to come…”
He paused dramatically.
“…to an understanding,” he continued.
Winona felt her breathing synchronize with his. The flutter in her stomach expanded. She felt blood rush to her face, warming her cheeks and forehead. Her armpits broke out in a sweat. The gun moved back and forth, just beyond where she could feel its full girth.
“You don’t talk to nobody about us,” Hutch continued to whisper in her ear. “We’re not looking for a homicide case here. But, we’re not above it. You just forget you ever saw us, and we can all live together in peace. We got you on video with the girl and you got nothing but your unreliable word that nobody’ll believe. We can send you to prison if that’s how you want to play it. Or, we can send you to the bottom of the Bay.”
The fear for her safety mixed with the automatic reaction her body put her through as a result of her compulsion. The school counselors had discussed her condition with her right around when her first periods began. She pushed the memory of those confusing conversations out of her mind. Her vision blurred, and she started to see spots. Her mind went dizzy. She could feel the urges formulate between her stomach to her knees. She worried she might involuntarily move her hips in and out of Hutch’s grip. Just a bit of a shake, a wiggle; the feeling would numb her. She could lay back and let her nerves explode in temporary lonely pleasure. She could escape her fear, her stress and the physical pain of her assault.
“You be a good girl,” he continued his verbal abuse. “And maybe we leave the little girl alone.”
She closed her eyes and concentrated on fighting her disorder. Mention of young Amaya helped her snap her trance and dispel the sexual flutter. She felt her nervous energy convert to anger. She found a spot in the car - the green light next to the phone charger - and stared blankly at it, clearing her mind from any impulses she might encounter.
“Do we have a deal?” Hutch said, louder into her ear, nudging the end of his gun another quarter inch forward. “You don’t talk to anyone. You don’t mention our names. You don’t remember anything about that night. Or next time, I get my gun nice and wet…”
Winona blinked and stared catatonically forward. Knowing Hutch expected an acknowledgement, she nodded as he finished his sentence.
“…and pull the trigger.”