Three weeks before my twenty-first birthday, I was kidnapped on my way out of the 7-Eleven. Whatever preconceived notions I had of ever being ripped away from the life I was living were all promptly thrown out the window, because what happened after they took me was much worse than anything I’d conjured up, even in my vilest of nightmares.
They tossed me into a cab of a pickup truck in broad daylight. Although people walked in and out of the busy convenience store, nobody cared enough to do anything.
Hands came from everywhere, touching me in places I reserved for invitation only. Initially, I fought to get away. Each time I did, the man with the tattooed face hit me with his closed fist. After being punched in the face repeatedly, my desire to escape dwindled to nothing.
As they drove me to a house in one of Oceanside’s drug-infested neighborhoods, the smell of my own blood amalgamated with wafts of sweat, beer, and the sheer filth that already inhabited the cab of the truck.
I kicked and screamed, but they dragged me inside the house by my hair anyway. In the distance, I heard a car trying to start. The smell of something burning momentarily replaced their repulsive scent, but it didn’t last. I heard children talking, but couldn’t see them.
They tossed me inside the revolting smelling home, and I was left to wonder how everything had happened to me while so many people looked on.
The beating I got in the truck was nothing compared to what happened inside the house. The man with the tattooed face punched me in the stomach so hard I vomited. Then, he hit me until I collapsed on the floor.
I remained still, hoping the beatings would stop, but what came next was worse. There were four of them inside the house, the man with the tattooed face, another man who was short and muscular, and two grotesque piles of filth that looked like twins.
I was pulled to my feet by my hair, and while I was groped by so many hands that I couldn’t keep track of what was happening, the sound of laughing, shouting, and crying filled the air.
The man with the tattooed face cut off my shorts, but he wasn’t careful when he did it. The tip of the blade sank into the skin of my thigh as he slashed at the fabric.
I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t allow me to simply get undressed, but later decided it must have been part of the process of breaking my spirit.
In just moments, I felt like a week’s time had passed, and once again, I was on the floor.
But this time I was naked.
And incapable of resisting much more.
The filthy twins masturbated on me while the other two men laughed and drank beer. I tried to wipe their release from my skin, but was kicked in the ribs for my effort.
Then, the muscular man forced me to suck his dick.
What begging I had done was met with a quick fist, so I complied, all the while relying on the little strength I could muster from my repeated prayers.
I closed my eyes and wrapped my lips around his flaccid shaft. He didn’t speak English, but through repeated slapping and hand gestures, I realized he wanted me to keep my eyes open.
I couldn’t force myself to look at his dick, or at his face. I fixed my eyes on his hip, and with reluctance, took him into my mouth. As he became more aroused, the smell of filth began to secrete from his pores. Soon, it seemed to loom over me like a thick cloud.
After he hardened, he pressed his hands against the back of my head and forced himself deep in my throat. With each thrust of his hips, his putrid flesh smashed against my nose. The smell of his cheap cologne mixed with the odor of his existence all but suffocated me. Each forceful shove made me feel more helpless, less like Alexandra, and, for some strange reason, guilt was overtaking me.
In a matter of minutes, he pounded what little hope I clung to from my grasp. As much as I continued to tell myself it was okay, it wasn’t. Not even a little bit. It wasn’t sexual, nor was it sensual. I tried to force myself to find a way to accept it, but I couldn’t and I knew I never would.
The forceful blowjob lasted for what seemed like an entire lifetime. It was as if the clock turned at a much slower speed once it all started.
Then, as I laid lifeless on the floor, I was sure that it was finally over. But, it wasn’t. The man with the tattooed face snatched me to my feet by my hair. With the barrel of his gun pressed to my temple, he forced me to suck his dick.
With my spirit crushed, and my ability to reason gone, I had no mechanism left to mentally fight against what was happening to me. So, I complied.
I felt like I was another person, one outside of my body who was watching the former me as she performed these vile acts while the real me was elsewhere.
Surreal wouldn’t come close to describing it.
I may have been scared, but I don’t really know. Not really. I was covered in their cum, their scent, their sweat, and my blood. I don’t remember feeling anything but dirty. It was the kind of dirty that sticks with a person for a lifetime.
The kind of dirty that causes a person to stand in front of the sink and scrub mercilessly in hope of somehow cleansing themselves of the filth that they would later find out had become a part of their very being.
The kind of dirty that soap could never wash away.
I was tossed into a room with windows that were boarded shut, a door that only had a handle on the outside, and a bucket that sat in the corner for seven of us to share as a bathroom.
Other than a few blankets, there wasn’t anything else.
We had no clothes.
No toilet paper.
And, no hope.
Several days after they abducted me, the eighth girl joined us.
Somehow, she made it into the room without being sexually assaulted, but had been scared and humiliated to a degree that left her stuttering every time she tried to speak. Later, on the night that she came, the man with the tattoos on his face opened the door and demanded that she come with him.
Cowering in the corner, and in fear of what they were going to rip from her, nine-year-old Marbella clung onto a sliver of hope – and my legs.
Yes. She was nine.
I offered myself in her place, but he only grew angrier.
So, I offered to suck his cock. When he said no, I insisted on it. I told him I craved it. That I loved feeling him pound himself into my throat. As I spoke to him, I fondled my tits in hope of luring him to accept my offer.
Eventually, he agreed.
While he lowered his pants to his thighs, I knelt in front of him with the splinter of wood I’d peeled away from the doorframe cupped tightly in my hand.
As I took him into my mouth, I swung the tip of the wooden spike deep into his thigh.
The butt of his pistol against my skull knocked me senseless for a moment. According to the others, he stumbled away with the promise of returning for Marbella, but that time never came.
Minutes later, there was a gunshot. And then another. I counted fifteen more, and then they stopped.
The bedroom door opened.
A tall muscular man with a shaved head and a beard stood in the doorway.
I glared at him. As the other girls sought shelter behind me, I mentally prepared to do whatever I had to do to protect them from the new monster.
“Don’t be afraid,” he said. “I’m not here to hurt you.”
He knelt on the floor and let out a sigh. I looked at him with jaded eyes, but then a tear rolled down his cheek. It was then that I knew he was not a monster.
“In a moment, you’ll hear a terrible thunder,” he explained. “But don’t be afraid. The men who come with the thunder? They’re angels.”
Ten minutes later, there was a horrendous thunder. A thunder so powerful that it shook the walls and the floor.
Then, one after another, the angels came.
Many of the men in the MC didn’t have jobs. They hustled for their money. Debt collectors, bail bondsmen, skip tracers, custom bike builders, and thugs for hire were some of their careers. Although I was completely devoted to the club, I chose to work for a living, and owned my own company.
Purchasing a home in southern California wasn’t cheap, or easy, but I was getting there one kitchen remodel at a time.
I pointed at the corner of the ceiling. “You see that gap in the crown molding?”
Steve nodded. “You can see it looking straight at it, but from the side, it’s barely–”
“It looks like shit. Redo it.”
He looked at the imperfection and shook his head. “That’ll waste sixteen feet of molding, and that shit’s expensive. You don’t even see it if you’re not looking for it.”
“Fix it. It’s either right, or it’s wrong. And that’s far from right.”
He let out a sigh. “Jesus. Fine. I’ll replace it.”
I looked around the kitchen. “Rest of it looks good as fuck, huh?”
He nodded. “Big change from when we started.”
After eliminating an interior wall, we’d replaced the cabinets, the flooring, the countertops, and fitted new tile for the backsplashes. What started as a dark and dated kitchen was now bright, open, and inviting.
The owner was away on vacation, and was scheduled to be home in two days. It was my hope to have the job completed before she arrived.
“She’s gonna be happy when she gets home.”
He looked around the kitchen. “She ought to be. This fucker looks like it should be in a magazine.”
The doorbell rang.
Steve and I exchanged a look. He shrugged.
“Fix that molding,” I said. “I’ll answer that on my way out.”
I sauntered to the door, pulled it open, and was surprised to see one of my old neighbors at the door. It wasn’t just any neighbor, it was Lucy.
She still looked every bit as beautiful as she did the last time I saw her, and it had been more than ten years since that day passed.
I had a severe crush on her for what seemed like forever. She was tall, had long lean legs, and was built like a brick shithouse. Even though she was ten years older than me, I crushed on her hard all through high school, and until she moved away a few years later.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Lucy?”
She stood on the porch, clutching her purse and nervously rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet. She forced a smile, and then broke down in tears. After an awkward moment of me not really knowing what to do, she looked up and apologized.
“I’m so sorry to… I hate to bother you,” she said between sobs. “But your…your mother said I could find you here. I uhhm. I don’t. The police, they won’t do anything…I can’t…”
“Slow down.” I reached for her shoulder. “What’s going on?”
She looked up and wiped her eyes. “Lex.” She gulped a breath. “Someone’s taken her.”
I was lost. “What?”
“Lex.” She exhaled heavily. “She was at the 7-Eleven. A bunch of people were there and saw it, but the police haven’t done anything. I just…I thought maybe…you were the only person I could think of…”
Still confused, I reached for her other shoulder, steadied her shaking body, and looked her in the eyes. “Breathe. Just slow down. What’s going on?”
She took a deep breath, held it, and then exhaled. “You remember Lex?”
I shrugged. “No.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “Your little sister.”
“She’s not my sister.” Her eyes fell to the porch. “She’s my daughter.”
Now I was really confused. “Alexandra’s your daughter?”
She looked up and nodded. “Yes. And, someone has taken her.”
“What do you mean?”
“She was at the 7-Eleven.” She brushed her hair away from her tired eyes. “And, she was uhhm. She was kidnapped. While she was getting in her car.”
“Holy shit.” I released her shoulders and crossed my arms. “Did you talk to the cops?”
The last time I had seen Alexandra, she was eight or nine years old. The thought of her driving didn’t quite register.
She nodded. “The cops are a bunch of idiots. The guy at the register saw it all, and he gave a description. I just. With your connections…you know, to the gangs,” she stammered. “I thought maybe…I thought you could…”
“I’m not in a gang anymore,” I said. “Well, not really.”
All the air shot from her lungs. “You’re not? Oh God. I–”
I wanted to comfort her, but didn’t really know what to do. As I considered hugging her, she all but fell against me.
I wrapped my arms around her and held her close. “Tell me everything you know. I’ll see what I can do.”
“Do you think you can–”
“Did you get a good description of the car? Of the guys?”
“Uh huh. They were Mexicans, and they all had tattoos. The guy at the register got a good description of everything, even their tattoos.” She reached into her purse. “I’ve got a copy of the police report.”
If they were Mexicans and had tattoos, my guess was that they were in a gang. If they were, I could find out who they were. I didn’t want to give her any false hope, though.
“I’ll see what I can do,” I said.
She leaned back, wiped away her tears, and then looked at me. Even with her make up running down her cheeks, she was beautiful.
“Thank you,” she said.
I looked her over, and couldn’t help but smile. In ten years, she hadn’t aged a bit. It was sad that her daughter’s disappearance brought us together, but I wasn’t about to complain.
Hell, maybe after I found her daughter I’d take the time to tell her how fucking beautiful I thought she was.
Standing up to our abductors wasn’t possible. Their overall treatment of us was proof that they wouldn’t hesitate to kill us if we challenged them.
As I was the eldest of the group, I felt obligated to take charge and attempt to protect the others from the wrath of the monsters who held us at their mercy. With limited resources, I had only one bargaining chip.
Offering myself any time the man with tattoos on his face wanted someone for sex.
I reached a point that it didn’t matter. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, because I did. But it no longer mattered.
I wouldn’t allow it to.
I decided I wasn’t going to allow them to cause me any more harm. So, what they did to me didn’t matter.
I was done feeling. And, when I was numb, I could protect my captive family.
The minutes clicked passed one by one and managed to eventually shave an hour off the clock. The hours merged into one another, with us whispering stories of who we were and where we were from, and when it finally got quiet, we knew another day had passed.
With each passing day, as the girls went to sleep, I prayed. Not for freedom, for food, or for better conditions, but for strength.
I knew it was going to take a miracle for us to be freed, and I prayed for the strength to live long enough to witness it.
We memorized each other’s names, addresses, and telephone numbers, repeating them over and over while humming a song we made up. If one of us escaped, we were going to tell the authorities each of the other girl’s names and addresses.
We made a pact.
To pass the time and keep everyone’s spirits up, we spoke of what we were going to do when we broke free. Our conversations typically included where we were going to eat, who we were going to see, and what being in that horrid place caused us to miss about the freedoms associated with living our day-to-day lives.
The list of the things we’d taken for granted was unbelievably simple.
Taking a walk.
Going to the bathroom.
Not having to ration water.
Making simple choices no longer existed, and we were well aware of it. If freed, I told myself I would never again complain about the tag on my tee shirt causing me to itch, or how southern California’s sun baked my pale skin. I’d never again complain when my mother asked if I wanted to meet for lunch or go shopping.
Although I took part in the talks, I had very little concern with what my first meal was going to be, or how much I missed my family. My only real concern was survival, but I wasn’t about to share that with the other girls.
Somehow, be it a result of fate or by my insistence that he choose me first, none of them were abused after I was abducted. As a result, they all looked at me as their guardian.
In that type of situation, a person needs something to hold onto. Something that offers hope. A photo or a good luck charm would have been nice, but we had nothing but each other.
So, every night when it got quiet, we huddled in each other’s arms.
And, I prayed.
To live long enough to see the miracle.
The rotten stench of the adrenaline-laced sweat that leeched from the pores of drug dealers and their prey lingered in the air. Two stoned Hispanic men who looked like they hadn’t showered in a month were seated on the filthy tan sofa that was shoved against the far wall.
Beside the couch, a broken-down recliner that appeared to be stuck in the recline position sat empty – short of the half-eaten bag of chicharrones that sat on top of the pile of dirty clothes that littered it. The coffee table in the center of the room was covered with the previous night’s beer bottles, money, an electronic scale, a box of granola bars, and enough cocaine to get San Diego high for a year.
In the hallway to my left, a muscular Hispanic man wearing a stained dingy wife beater and khaki-colored Dickies leaned against the wall.
Directly in front of me stood a strung-out shirtless man who was covered in jailhouse tattoos all the way up to and including his shaved head. The tattooed script tattooed across his muscular chest clearly identified the gang he was in.
My eyes darted around the room, taking inventory of the threats. As I sized up each of the four men, the one in front of me grabbed a bottle of beer from the coffee table. As he lifted it, I made note of two things:
One, he was left-handed. And, two, there was a cigarette butt floating in the beer.
He took a few steps toward me, limping slightly as he walked.
The fingers of my right hand twitched, and I hoped he didn’t notice.
If he did, he wouldn’t know what it meant. But I knew. It was one of those tells that a professional poker player must hide to prevent the other people at the table from knowing when he’s bluffing.
Not that I was bluffing.
Because I wasn’t.
But my right hand wondered how I was going to get out of the room alive. I’d been in worse situations, I was sure of it. For the life of me, however, I couldn’t remember any of them.
With his eyes locked on mine, he lifted the bottle of beer to his lips, took a drink, and then spit it onto the floor in disgust. He glared at the bottle, and then looked at me.
He cocked his head to the side. “Quien te envio?”
Who sent you?
“No habla espanol,” I said.
It was a lie. I spoke Spanish fluently, but at least one of them spoke broken English, I was sure of it. Speaking something other than their native tongue would keep those who didn’t speak English a few steps behind, and I needed all the help I could get.
He tossed the bottle onto the floor beside the table. As it belched out the remaining contents onto the carpet, he cleared his throat, and met my gaze.
His eyes fell to my boots, and then slowly rose the length of my frame. “Who seent jew?”
I locked eyes with him. “El mero chignon.”
No one had sent me. My response was a risk, but a minimal one. Within the ranks of Hispanic gangs, there was always an “el mero chignon.” In Spanish, it meant the head motherfucker, the one in charge, or the top dog.
He grinned and nodded his head, revealing a tattooed lower lip and teeth much whiter than I expected. “What jew want, Homie?”
I took a quick glance at the man in the hallway, and then shifted my eyes back to the shirtless man. I debated on whether to tell him the truth or a lie.
A lie would buy me a little time, but eventually I’d either have to beat the shit out of all of them, kill them, or tell them the truth and hope we could work out some sort of agreement. Regardless of my boxing experience, beating them with my fists– and succeeding – wasn’t really an option.
I brushed my left hand along the tail of my shirt until it was alongside the pistol that was tucked into my waist band and prepared to tell him the truth.
I locked eyes with him. “I’m here for the girl.”
He stared right at me for what seemed like forever. The lack of reaction from the other men led me to believe none of them spoke English.
His eyes went thin. “The girl?”
“Yeah. The girl,” I said flatly. “I’m taking her home.”
He spit out a laugh infused with insanity, and then reached behind his back with his left hand. His movements – at least for that instant – seemed to be in slow-motion.
Maybe it was because it was three in the morning. Or it could have been that he hadn’t slept in days. It very well may have been that he was just that confident that I wasn’t armed.
Regardless, his lackadaisical approach to producing what I expected was a gun left me plenty of time to react.
I pulled my pistol with my left hand at the same time I swung my right fist toward his temple.
My knuckles slammed against the side of his skull, knocking him completely off his feet.
“Que nadie se mueva!” I shouted.
The man leaning against the wall spun around and began to run toward the back of the house. Letting him get away wasn’t a risk I was willing to take.
I took aim and squeezed the trigger. A thunderous boom expanded throughout room, making the space seem smaller with each passing second.
The would-be escapee fell into a pile in the hallway at the same time the shirtless man crumbled onto the floor at my feet.
I pointed my pistol at the two wide-eyed idiots on the couch.
The one seated on the right nodded toward the table. “Tomo lo que quieras.”
Take whatever you want.
I pressed the sole of my boot against the shirtless man’s neck and tilted my head to the side. “Alexandra! Get out here!” I shouted. “I’m taking you home!”
The silence that followed left me wondering if I was too early, too late, or had somehow managed to get the wrong house.
With my eyes still fixed on the two couch dwellers, I yelled her name again. “Alexandra!”
The man beneath my boot started to writhe around. As he did, the two men on the couch began to look around the room nervously.
The shirtless man moaned. “Mataré a toda tu puta familia.”
I’ll kill your entire fucking family.
There was no doubt in my mind that he’d follow through with his threat. I stood with my foot pressed against his thorax, wishing he would have simply remained quiet.
If asked, the men in my MC wouldn’t describe me as killer. At least not immediately. It wasn’t that I was incapable of it, or that I was unwilling. It simply wasn’t my answer to the majority of the problems I’d faced in my life.
Fighting was my preference, and I was good at it.
But, when someone threatened my family – be it blood or my brothers in the MC – it earned them a one-way ticket to meet their maker.
I pointed the barrel of the pistol at his chest and pulled the trigger.
My eyes shot to the two nasty fuckers on the couch. Wearing what at one time may have been khakis and moldy wife beaters, they looked like living hell. As the air between us thickened with the taste of cordite, I pressed my tongue against the roof of my mouth and swallowed hard.
I pointed the pistol at the man on the right. Greasy strands of jet black hair were plastered against the sides of his face. He wiped his eye with the heel of his palm, and then blinked.
“Donde esta la chica?” I asked.
Where’s the girl?
He shifted his eyes toward the hallway. “Estan al final del pasillo.”
They’re at the end of the hallway.
The response of they instead of she took me off guard.
I raised the barrel of the pistol to his face. “Cuantos?”
He shrugged one shoulder. “Cinco o seis?”
Five or six?
My jaw tightened. I had hoped to find Alexandra. I wasn’t prepared – physically or emotionally – to encounter five or six women.
He gazed at the floor, let out an exaggerated sigh, and then looked at me. “Uno es nueve.” He shrugged. “Uno es once. Los otras? Quizas dieciocho.”
There were fifteen rounds left in the magazine. Upon hearing his response, I pulled the trigger repeatedly, shooting each of the men until all of the bullets were spent and the pistol’s slide stayed locked open.
The thought of them having a nine-year-old girl held captive caused every muscle in my body to tense. I released the empty magazine, loaded a full one, and stepped over the dead man sprawled out in the hallway. When I reached the far door, I paused. After taking a deep breath, I grabbed the handle and pushed it open.
Dear fucking God.
An otherwise naked girl who was partially covered with a bedsheet stood with her arms outspread as if protecting the girls who were huddled behind her from harm. She was the tallest, and appeared to be the oldest of the group. Her hollow eyes and bruised face were a testament to the brutality she had witnessed during the living hell I was sure she’d endured.
The room, void of any furnishings, reeked of urine, shit, and the scent of sex. I swallowed the bile that was rising into my throat and pushed my pistol into the waist of my pants.
I looked at the half-naked protector. She looked just like Lucy, only younger. There was no doubt in my mind that she was her daughter, Alexandra.
Before I could speak, she locked eyes with me. “Fuck you,” she hissed. “You’re not taking her. Take me.”
Obviously, she didn’t recognize me, and thought I was one of them. It came as no surprise, I hadn’t seen her in more than ten years.
I raised my hands in the air. “Don’t be afraid. I’m not here to hurt you,” I muttered. “Your mother sent me. I’m here to help. I’m going to get you out of here – all of you – but I need to call for some help.”
I had to turn away. Seeing a room filled with petrified pre-teens was far more than my boiling emotions were capable of concealing. I reached into my pocket, pulled out my phone, and made the only call I knew would do any good.
He answered on the third ring. “What’s shakin’, motherfucker?”
I struggled not to vomit. After swallowing repeatedly, I responded. “Peeb, I need some help. I’m at Fourteenth and Bush in Oceanside. Bike’s out front. I need six – no make it seven – of the fellas here as quick as possible. Tell ‘em each to bring a spare helmet and glasses. They’ll uhhm. They’ll each have a rider on the roll out.”
“How quick’s quick?”
“It’s a 9-1-1, Brother.”
“Headed out now,” he said.
The club required us to wear kuttes if we were riding, but I didn’t want anyone to be able to identify the MC. Retaliation for what we were doing would be swift if anyone found out who we were.
I glanced into the room. “No kuttes,” I said. “No exceptions. Tell the fellas. If they don’t want to come, I understand. And, another thing. I’m gonna need you to toss some of Tegan’s clothes in your saddle bags.”
I tried to respond, and almost broke down. After prying my eyes away from the room, I gazed down at the floor and struggled to speak.
“Anything, Brother. I just…I uhhm…”
I knew saying too much on the phone wasn’t a good idea, but I wasn’t satisfied that I’d said enough. Regardless of my desire to continue, doing so wasn’t easy. “It’s a uhhm. Bring some…bring enough clothes to get…to dress eight teenagers,” I muttered. “It’s…I uhhm. They’re all naked, Peeb…I uhhm…I just need some help, Brother.”
I couldn’t say any more. I wanted to, but I simply couldn’t. The lump in my throat wouldn’t let me.
“Hold tight, Brother. Be there in ten.” he said.
All of the men in the MC were my brothers, but there was only one who I knew I could count on with no exception, and without question.
Our Sergeant-at-arms, Pee Bee.
I hung up the phone, stepped into the room, and lowered myself to the floor. I glanced at each of the girls, half of which appeared to be Hispanic.
“Habla Ingles?” I asked.
Eight heads nodded.
Undoubtedly scared, but optimistic that whatever was next would be better than their current situation, they looked back at me with eyes filled with hope. I fought against a tear that tried to wedge its way out of my eye, but didn’t succeed.
“In a moment, you’ll hear a terrible thunder.” I opened my arms and widened my eyes. “But don’t be afraid. The men who come with the thunder? They’re angels.”
Although many would argue that statement to be false, I knew better.
And, I was pretty sure in ten minutes, the eight girls in front of me would agree.