One Week Ago
Rubies and emeralds drip from the woman’s body, clasped around her curves with thin metal chains. Aside from the jewels, she’s bared completely, open to the males’ demeaning gaze.
“Going bid, two hundred thousand dollars,” the woman’s voice announces through the speaker built into my leather chair. Her voice sounds just as hollow as the woman spinning around on the stage looks.
These auctions are luxurious. The bidding area is one massive pinwheel made up of fifteen glass cubicles surrounding a small stage in the center, providing each bidder with privacy while they fight over stolen women. The glass is heavily tinted, allowing bidders to see the stage clearly, while still keeping us hidden from those looking in. Jay and I have found that the tint on them is adjustable and can allow each bidder a clear view of one another.
I plan to utilize that feature later.
Inhaling my cigarette, smoke unfurls in the confined space as I press the button, placing my bid.
“Going bid, two hundred and fifty thousand dollars,” the woman drones directly after I hit the button.
Someone else bids, and before the speaker can finish, I click the button again, prompting her to announce the bid as three hundred thousand dollars.
She will be the fifth girl I bought tonight. She’s also the fifth girl that has been auctioned. Every single girl—they will be leaving with me.
The payment is wired out of my account with each confirmed sale, but everyone will be dead by the end of the night, and Jay will have transferred it right back to me. Not that I’m hard up for it, but my money will never line the pockets of the Society.
My finger presses that button three more times before getting the confirmed sale. I inhale again, a low buzz vibrating beneath my skin as
another girl is pushed onto the stage. She stumbles but manages to catch herself in the five-inch heels before she face-plants.
She’s a mousy girl with big doe eyes and glasses that cover half her face. The others will fight over her purely because she appears young and childish. Just like the last five, she’s draped in fine jewels that cost more than what these men are willing to pay for the body beneath them.
“Going bid, fifty thousand dollars.”
“Three more girls after this one,” Jay tells me, his voice soft in my ear.
I don’t speak. These rooms are bugged, and I want their deaths to be a surprise.
“I don’t think Addie is here, man.”
I knew that already, but Jay—sweet Jay—was hoping for the best. I’m not here because I thought Addie was going to scamper on this stage where I can buy her and whisk her away from all this evil.
She’s never going to be auctioned. Claire would never risk it—not with me watching. She’s very aware I have the means to track down victims within human trafficking, so it defeats the purpose to sell Addie into a trade that I’m very well acquainted with, just for me to rescue her anyway.
She’s going to be handled differently—that I’m sure of.
It’s been over two months since Addie’s been gone. Each day that passes, the black circles under my eyes deepen and the angrier I grow.
I’ve lost my mind. My patience. My strength. Everything. The only thing puppeteering my body is sheer will and desperation.
Wherever she’s being held, it’s off-grid, and she hasn’t been moved, most likely because they know I’d find her if she were. When girls are stationary in an undisclosed location, it’s almost impossible to find them in the skin trade. If they’re not being handled through proper channels where they’re being transported or sold, then there’s nothing to fucking track. She hasn’t even been taken into town. No cameras on this entire fucking planet have seen Addie’s face since she left that hospital.
Nor have they seen Rio or Rick—two of the three people that could lead me to her. I assume her kidnappers are wherever Addie is, but Claire… she knows how to move under the radar. The few times I’ve been able to locate her, an army surrounds her, and infiltrating takes planning, which is
impossible to do when she disappears again. She’s a red herring, moving in a way that’s designed to distract me. I have every intention of taking out Claire but using her to get to Addie has only proven to waste my time and resources.
And that… that just isn’t going to work.
Which is why I’m here tonight, intent on destroying yet another facet of the shadow government. More importantly, I’m hoping one of these girls has seen Addie. Jay has identified each of the girls being auctioned tonight, and several of them are native to Oregon. Which means if Addie is still in this state—one of them could’ve come from the same household as her.
“Going bid, four hundred and fifty thousand dollars.”
I buy the next three girls, too, and though I can’t hear or see the outrage from other bidders, I can tell from the increasingly competitive bidding wars as each girl is sold. They all fold eventually, most likely with the intent to buy a girl from a different auction.
Moments after the last girl steps down from the stage, there’s a soft knock at the door.
“Jay, lock all the doors in the building and barricade the exits. No one gets out except me,” I tell him quickly before calling out louder, “Enter.”
“Got it,” Jay responds, just as Lee Morrison enters the room. While he’s not the owner of this auction house, he keeps this well-oiled machine running. His job is to escort the bidders to their rooms, make sure their accommodations are satisfactory, and oversee the women coming in and out, ensuring the auction runs smoothly and without a hitch.
“Shut the door, please,” I instruct, keeping my back turned to him.
Seconds later, I hear it click shut.
“Sir, where would you like us to transport your winnings?” Lee asks, his voice respectful, yet timid. He’s uncomfortable.
“My winnings,” I repeat. “You do know they are human beings, correct?
Just as you are?”
Lee clears his throat. “I apologize, sir. Where would you like us to transport your girls?”
“There’s a limousine pulled up to the back entrance. Make sure none of them are hurt from here on out.”
“Yes, sir,” he says.
“Tell them now,” I demand softly. “On your radio. Tell them that now.”
He stammers, caught off guard from my odd request, but ultimately, does as I say. He radios for my winnings to be transported into the limo unharmed, and once he receives the confirmation, he clears his throat again.
“Will that be all, sir?” “In that regard, yes.”
Assuming I’m done with him entirely, I hear his feet pivot on the thin black carpet and his hand jiggles the doorknob when he grips it.
“Before you go,” I assert, stopping him in his tracks. “Have you ever bought any girls for yourself?”
Lee stutters. “Well, not here, no.” “But elsewhere?”
After a beat, he says, “Yes, of course.”
I hum noncommittally, though his answer has my body tightening with rage.
“Sir, may I ask why—” His question comes to a crashing halt when I stand and turn to face him. I’m not sure if it’s my scars, or the look of cold murderous rage in my eyes, but something about my face has his words fading and his eyes widening.
Blindly, his hand reaches behind him, searching desperately for the door handle as I approach him.
As quick as a whip, my hands grip him by his throat, cutting off his shout. I lift him to my height level while he kicks and claws for me to release him, and I stare into his dilated eyes.
All I see is my own monstrous reflection.
I had told him those girls were human beings, but I never said that I was. Pulling my top lip over my teeth, I snarl at him. “How many women have you thrown onto that stage, just to be carted off to a life of misery and suffering? How many have you taken for yourself and did unspeakable
things to them?”
His face turns purple and his mouth flops like a fish, but no sound escapes from his constricted throat. I only squeeze tighter, relishing in the
way his veins pop from his forehead. I wonder if I can make them burst open.
“Come on, Lee, I know you have a wife and children. How do you face them every night, knowing that you’ve condemned people just like them to a sickening fate?”
Just before he goes unconscious, I release him. He sucks in a huge breath while I force him into the chair that I’ve been occupying for the last two hours. Purchasing women that he proudly presented to me and fourteen other men.
I deliver one punch to his face, nearly knocking him out cold. It provides me enough time to grab the black bag I had brought in with me, full of rope and tape. Of course, the two bouncers, Beavis and Butt-Head, checked my bag before allowing me to enter the building, but they had only smiled— assuming the items were for the girls I planned to buy.
I had smiled back because they’re idiots, and because they were going to die.
Quickly, I dig out the roll of duct tape and bind his hands and feet. He pleads with me relentlessly, and when that fails, he flops around like a worm on a hook, but I can’t imagine what he thinks that’ll accomplish.
Next, I fish out my can of lighter fluid and squirt some all over his body. His eyes widen, and he struggles harder, attempting to break through the tape like he’s the Incredible Hulk.
“Jay? Send them in,” I order. “On it.”
Leaving Lee to struggle for a bit, I step out to find several of my men pouring into the building, engaging in a shoot-out, and taking down security in a matter of minutes. No one is making it out of this auction alive.
While they take care of the employees and guards, I meticulously make my way into each cubicle. Jay unlocks each door for me one at a time, and I walk in, incapacitate the grimy rapist inside, then tie them up just like Lee.
By the time I make my way through all fifteen cubicles, a sheen of sweat is coating my skin. Most of them were old, but there were a few younger ones who put up a fight. A very pathetic fight—but one all the same.
Rolling my neck, I release some of the tension in my shoulders. “All the girls safely in the limo?”
“Yep, and everyone else is dead,” Jay reports.
“Have Michael set up the camera on the stage,” I command, while sliding out a cigarette and lighting it.
I’m still in the fifteenth cubicle, which is, of course, on the other side of Lee. The man bound in the leather chair is squirming, begging for me to release him. Makes me wonder how many children or women have asked the same of him.
Michael saunters on the stage with a tripod and camera in his hand. While he sets it up, I ask Jay, “Did you figure out how to turn the glass transparent?”
“Obviously,” he sasses.
“Let’s see it then, genius.”
Seconds later, the glass walls gradually lighten until all fifteen cubicles are transparent, and I’m surrounded by men strapped in leather chairs, fighting like hell to get free and failing.
Jay whistles. “Damn, dude.”
It seems all at once, the fifteen men freeze, confused, and petrified as they take in the sight of fourteen others in the same situation as them. Even Michael pauses on the stage, taking in the scene around him with a grin on his face. Eventually, I watch all their heads turn toward me.
“You see this?” I ask the man next to me. “How exciting. You get to show them their fate.”
“Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.”
I cock a brow and patiently wait as he prays for a salvation he’ll never receive.
“Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
“Do you think you’ve been saved?” I ask. “Yes,” he says with conviction.
I smile. “Nine more Hail Marys to go. I want to hear you say them even as you burn.”
He starts shaking his head vigorously, restarting his prayers as tears fall down his cheeks.
“Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee…”
I inhale one last time, then flick my lit cigarette onto the chanting man. Just like the others, he’s covered in lighter fluid, and instantly bursts into
His prayer bleeds into screams, and I’m disappointed that he couldn’t even make it through his second Hail Mary before he succumbed to the agony.
He’s a god-fearing man, but I’m confident the devil will take good care of him.
Leaving the sick fuck to burn, I make my way next door to Lee.
“Miss me?” I ask, pulling out my matchbook and lighting one up. “Pleasepleaseplease, I’ll do anything! Please don’t do this!”
“Yes! Whatever you want!”
I bend at the waist, and pin him with a devilish look. “You know what I want, Lee? I want you to feel the same pain I feel every day. I want you to fucking suffer. Can you do that for me?”
He loudly protests but it’s no match for the wails of agony that tear from his throat when I throw the match onto him, his body engulfed in flames within seconds.
Once more, I make my way into each of the rooms and set every single one of them aflame. Just as the last body catches fire, I signal Michael to start recording through the glass.
He presses play, and the camera slowly begins to rotate on the tripod, while Michael and I make our way out of the building.
The camera will spin in circles, broadcasting fifteen men burning alive on the dark web. There for all the traffickers’ and pedophilic assholes’ viewing pleasure. And there for Claire’s viewing pleasure as well.
The bitch is going to burn, too. Mark my fucking words.
“I have to admit, ladies, I’ve been in a limousine full of women before, and this… is not how it went down,” Michael announces loudly.
Ruby berates him while I smack him upside the head, which wrings out a snort from the girl sitting next to me.
Michael and I hitched a ride with the eight girls who were auctioned off tonight. Luckily, I had the foresight to bring a shit ton of extra clothing.
While I was busy catching a bunch of pedos on fire, Ruby was in the limo with the girls, reassuring them that they were safe and going home. Still, as men, mine and Michael’s presence cause them a bit of discomfort; the poor girls wary of our intentions.
Certainly doesn’t help with Michael acting like an ass.
“I actually appreciate the humor,” the girl next to me says in a heavy Russian accent. “Makes me feel less broken when people don’t treat me like glass.”
“See?” Michael mutters indignantly, still rubbing the back of his head. “Fair enough,” I concede. “He still deserved it.”
“Did you kill them?” she asks, peering up at me. She’s a pretty girl, with long brown hair and hazel eyes that remind me of Jay’s. I remember her standing on the stage while I bid, her chin tipped high and posture ramrod straight.
She’s not one to cower, that much is clear.
I arch a brow. “You mean the people bidding on you?” “Aside from you? Yes.”
“I did,” I confirm.
She pauses for a beat, then looks away. “Good.”
I turn my gaze away, too, relieving her of my probing stare. “Anyone else you want me to kill?”
She sniffs. “I can think of a few.”
“How about we trade, then. I’ll kill whoever you want me to if you can tell me if you’ve seen someone for me.”
I feel her stare once more, so I meet it.
“Show me her,” she whispers. Pulling out my phone, I bring up Addie’s author photo. My chest clenches painfully, and I turn the screen towards the Russian girl.
“Her name is—”
“Addie,” she murmurs, and my heart stops. “You know her?”
“She was in the house with me. Still there, last time I checked.” “Where?” I snap, incapable of minding my tone.
“I don’t know,” she answers, her voice hardening. “Are we in Oregon?”
“Yes. We’re in Jacksonville.”
“Then she is close. I was blindfolded on the way to and from the house, so I’ve no idea where it is, but I counted the minutes, and we were in the car no more than an hour. All I can tell you is that the owner’s name is Francesca, she runs the place with her brother, and it’s somewhere in the middle of the woods.”
I take a deep breath, briefly meeting Michael’s wide stare. Hearing that Addie could only be an hour away has my heart racing. Out the window goes my patience and discipline. My fingers are itching to search nearby towns and go house-to-house, kicking in their doors until I fucking find her.
Part of the reason I came here tonight was in the hope that someone would have seen her. But truth be told, I didn’t think I’d get this lucky.
“What’s your name?” I ask, voice strained. “Jillian.”
“Can you tell me… fuck, is she—”
“She’s alive,” Jillian cuts in, understanding my need to ask how she is but knowing the answer is obviously not good. “She’s had a hard time with one of the girls in the house—Sydney. They’re at each other’s throats, and it gets them punished a lot.”
Low tremors radiate through my limbs, gradually increasing as Jillian goes on.
“And she has a buyer already, last I heard. He’s been visiting her.”
I clench my jaw so hard, the muscle nearly bursts from the pressure. “His name?” I ask through gritted teeth.
She’s quiet, seemingly struggling to remember. Then a mousy voice pipes up, answering the question for her.
“Xavier Delano,” she says. Jillian and I turn to the girl with short brown hair and round glasses.
“That’s his name,” she reaffirms. “I-I was in the house with Addie, too.” “Thank you…”
“Gloria,” she supplies when I trail off.
“Thank you, Gloria. You need me to kill any assholes, too?”
She smiles and shakes her head no. “I have enough blood on my hands.” Funny, I feel the opposite. I’ll never have enough on mine.