Realizing what must’ve happened and my instincts finally catching up to me, I force my body onto my back so that I can see the rest of the room. So I can find the American who I know brought me here, wherever here is.

He tied me up. Oh no…he tied me up.

When I notice him sitting in a chair on the other side of the bed, it startles me and I yelp and fall off the bed and onto the floor, my hands and legs bound tight so I can’t do anything to brace for the impact. I hit the floor hard and pain shoots up from my hip and through my back. “Oww!” I moan loudly. In no time I’m trying to twist the fabric loose from my wrists as I squirm around on the floor.

The American stands over me like a ghost come from out of nowhere.

“Why did you tie me up?” I’m shaking so bad I hope he doesn’t notice. I don’t want him to know the true level of my fear.

He leans over and picks me up from the floor and lays me back on the bed. I try to kick and hit him until I realize how stupid that is because the only thing it might do is cause me to fall and hit the floor again. Without answering, he goes back around to the other side where he was sitting and puts his hand in a bowl of water on the night stand. He wrings the water from a rag and brings it toward my face, but I try to pull away from him. It doesn’t faze him. Nothing ever seems to, really. I know I’m not going anywhere right now so I just lay here very still, staring directly into his eyes even though he’s not looking back into mine.

I want him to see me, to see the anger in my face, but he doesn’t care to look.

“You punched me?” I can’t believe it, but then again I can.

“Yes.” He dabs the cold wet cloth over my left eye and around the bone.

“So you’re a murderer and a woman beater.”

His dark eyes finally look directly into mine and his hand stops moving as if my accusation struck him the wrong way.

He looks away and goes back to dabbing my face.

“I don’t hit women,” he says, “unless they have a gun pointed at my head.”

I don’t respond to that. He makes a notable argument, if it can be called an argument.

“Do I have a black eye?”

“No,” he says, pulling the wet rag away. “I did not hit you that hard. Just a little swollen.”

I look at him like he’s crazy. “No? Yet you hit me hard enough to knock me unconscious the whole night?”

He stands up from the bed, his tall height looming over me, and walks over to his coat hanging over the back of the chair. He reaches inside one of the pockets and pulls out a bottle of pills.

“You woke up shortly after I knocked you out,” he says as he twists the cap off the bottle. “I had to drug you.”

I blink back the stun.

He shuffles a little white pill into the palm of his hand and holds it out to me. I’m still looking at him like he’s crazy, maybe now even more-so.

“You drugged me? What is that?”

I want to slap him. If my hands weren’t bound I would.

“Sleeping pill,” he says, putting the pill to my lips. “Harmless. I take it myself. You, on the other hand, only need half of one, I know that now.”

I spit the pill onto the yellowed sheet beneath me.

“I think I’ve slept enough.”

“Suit yourself.” He slides the bottle back inside his coat and moves toward the door.

“Where are you going?”

He stops at the window instead and pulls the curtain closed the rest of the way but remains at it watching out through a crack in the thick fabric. With his back to me, I try quietly to work my wrists free.

“Nowhere at the moment,” he says and then turns around again and I stop struggling with my bonds in an instant so that he doesn’t notice.

“Okay…well then what are we doing here and why am I tied up?”

He looks right at me. “Waiting on the men Javier sent here to get you.”

I just swallowed my throat. Tears spring instantly from the corners of my eyes. I start to thrash around, trying my hardest to get my hands and legs free, but to no avail. He tied me better than they tied the pigs back at the compound.

“Please! You can’t let them take me! I’m begging you….”

“It is out of my hands,” he says looking back out the window. “It is why I offered the pill. I thought you’d prefer to be unconscious when they arrive.”

I feel like I’m going to be sick. My heart is beating too fast, my insides are stiffening and I feel like I can’t breathe. I force my body to sit upright and I throw my legs over the side of the bed and try to stand.

“Sit down,” he says turning to look at me again.

Tears barrel from my eyes and I raise my bound hands out toward him. “Please…,” I choke on my tears, my chest shuddering and jerking with fast, uneven breaths. “Don’t let them take me back there!”

“I will ask you one more time,” he says turning to face me fully. “Do you want to be awake for what is about to happen?”

“I don’t want it to happen!” I scream.

I pull my arms up and try working the fabric loose from my wrists with my teeth. The American ignores me and moves over to a long black flat suitcase of sorts sitting on the floor propped against the far wall. Carrying it by the handle he places it on the end of the bed near me and flips the latches to raise the lid, blocking my view from what’s hidden inside.

A sharp glint of reflective sunlight beams against the back of the curtain and the sound of squeaky brakes outside twists my stomach into knots further. I freeze on the edge of the bed, my teeth still clenched around the fabric, my eyes wide and fearful. I look to and from the door and the American who stands at the foot of the bed twisting a long metal thing on the end of a slick black handgun. And then so fast, yet as casual as an early morning walk, he closes the suitcase and slides it underneath the bed and out of sight.

He comes toward me.

I try to kick him again but my bound ankles keep me from doing anything but nearly causing me to fall off the bed.

“No! Leave me alone! Please don’t do this!”

With his free hand he grabs me by the elbow and pulls me harshly to my feet, the gun pointed at the floor in his other hand and then he walks me awkwardly across the small room and toward a tiny restroom.

There is a knock at the door but the American pays no attention to it. He drags me into the restroom and practically pushes me into the disgusting tub. I think my head is going to hit the side but he holds me by the fabric on my wrists and lowers me in the rest of the way safely.

“Stay down low. Don’t raise your head and don’t move.”

“What?” I blink back the confusion. I’m so scared I feel like I’m going to lose control of my bladder any second now.

“Do you understand?” he asks, looming over me. The seriousness in his eyes is palpable.

I hesitate because, no, I don’t understand, but then I just nod in fast, jerking motions.

He reaches around to the back of his pants and slides a knife out from somewhere. My eyes grow wider as the sharp silver moves toward me. Just when I think he’s going to cut me, even though I don’t know why he’d go through all of this just to kill me, he cuts the bonds from my ankles.

“Stay down,” he demands one last time.

And just like that he leaves the restroom and shuts the door behind him.

Frozen in shock, it takes me a moment to get my head together. I gaze down at my unbound feet and I wonder why he did it. Why keep my hands bound but allow me the use of my legs again so that I can run away? It doesn’t matter. I need to free my hands, too. I bite down on the tight knots again, working at them furiously but only getting frustrated. I barely lift my head from the tub to get a better view of the restroom, looking for anything that might work as a knife or scissors so I can try cutting it away instead. Nothing. Just a bone-dry deep plastic industrial-type sink with paint, oil and dirt stains and a disgusting toilet with no lid.

The door opens to the motel room and I hear voices inside.

“Where is she?”

Oh no…that’s Izel’s voice!

My heart speeds up so fast I feel lightheaded as the blood rushes quickly to my head. I bite down on the fabric even harder, twisting the impossible knots with my teeth until it hurts.

“Javier wonders why you didn’t just bring her back yourself,” Izel adds with her trademark sultry, sarcastic tone.

There are more voices, male, speaking Spanish among themselves while Izel talks only to the American. Their voices are muffled. I can’t make out what they’re saying.

“Have a seat,” the American says calmly.

“We didn’t come here to visit,” Izel refuses. “Give me Sarai…or—.” I can picture her walking toward the American like the slithering snake she is. “Or, you and I can be alone together for a while first. I would like that.”

Her voice stops abruptly and her seductive tone disappears in an instant. “Fine! Fine! Fucking puto. You’d rather shoot me than f**k me?”

“Yes. I would rather,” the American answers.

“Bring her out here,” Izel demands, her voice laced with contempt.

“Sit first,” the American says.

Suddenly I hear guns cocking and instinctively I lower my body back into the tub as flat as I can make myself. I’m beginning to understand why he forced me in here like this.

“There are five of us and one of you,” Izel says venomously.

Then a shot rings out and I stiffen against the hard plastic beneath me. More shots. Bullets pepper the walls; two move straight through the wall into the restroom where I lay huddled. I hear glass shatter and what sounds like bodies stampeding through the room beyond me. More shots ring out and Izel screams curses over the chaos. The walls shake all around me, knocking thick layers of dust from the exposed light bulb hanging from the water damaged ceiling above. I hear a loud crunch and then the sound of the large window in the room shattering as if someone or something was just pushed through it.

Everything goes silent. All that I can hear now is my heart beating so fast and violently. I’m so scared I can’t even manage tears anymore and my body has stopped shaking. I’m paralyzed with fear.

The acrid smell of gun smoke lingers in the air.

Is the American dead? It’s all I can think about. Maybe they’re all dead and I can get out of here alive.

I go to climb my way out of the tub but then I hear Izel:

“Fuck you. I won’t tell you shit!”

There is a brief bout of silence and then I hear the American say calmly, “You’ve already told me most of what I need to know.”

“How is that?”

“If Javier wanted me alive to kill Guzmán your men never would have drawn on me.”

“He did want you to kill him.”

“So then your men are simply stupid.”

Izel says nothing in response, but I can picture the expression she wears: sour mixed with evil.

Quietly, I crawl out of the tub, careful not to make any abrupt movements and I reach out for the door handle. It comes open the second my fingers touch it as though it hadn’t been shut all the way before, though I know that it had. It must’ve been jarred loose when I heard someone bash against it during the fight.

Tags: J.A. Redmerski In the Company of Killers Book Series