Fallen Daughter #1
I saw the black sedan waiting on the corner. I knew they would come. There was no way around the inevitable no matter how much I had hoped otherwise. There was no escaping Oz, especially when he felt betrayed and penance was due.
I could run. Self-preservation kicked in as my eyes darted from side to side looking for an escape route. Yes, I could run… and I would be caught. Running from Oz only made things worse. I knew this.
Fuck. I knew this.
Penance was due.
Lifting my chin, straightening my spine, and taking a deep breath to steady my nerves, I approached the vehicle. In order to survive, I would need to face the monster head on. Maybe if I showed no fear, I could mask my guilt with bravado. Charm and grace had worked wonders for me in the past, and there was always hope that those same attributes, when utilized correctly, could work again.
As I approached the driver’s side of the car, the tinted window lowered to reveal a man with a rigid jaw, dark eyes, and about two days’ growth of facial hair. I didn’t recognize him, but I didn’t need to in order to know he worked for Oz. People who looked cold and emotionless all worked for Oz. All employees seemed to be the same. No friends or family really. Loners. A past that made them not care about the future. I should know. I was one of them. I was no different than the man sitting behind the wheel.
“Get in the car,” he ordered. His tone was flat, firm, and just like his appearance, void of life.
For a split second, the thought of running attacked all my senses again, but I pushed them to the depths of my being, opened the back seat door, and climbed in. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. I kept hearing the words of my mother when I was a child telling me to never get into the car of strangers. Never speak to strangers. Never do what I was doing.
Before I could fasten my seatbelt, the car took off. “Where are we going?” I asked. My voice sounded foreign to my own ears. It quivered and sounded weak and helpless. I swallowed hard and tried to chase that cowardly woman away. I wasn’t her. I was a fighter. A powerful woman. A motherfucking queen. I had battle scars to prove it. “Did Oz send you?” I asked, willing myself to sound much stronger this time.
The man didn’t answer, but I saw his eyes look back at me in the rearview mirror. He diverted eye contact quickly, and it was then that panic set in. No one wanted to connect with a dead man walking.
Make wise choices, my mother used to say.
I clearly didn’t listen.
I should have resisted the pull of money. Any job that paid as well as Oz did was too good to be true. Working as a bookkeeper for the notorious Oz was either a death sentence or a prison sentence. I was a smart woman. I knew that no matter how good I was at running the books for Oz’s multiple shady companies, the government would eventually catch on. But if I didn’t do it Oz’s way—which in his world was the only way—then death would be the only outcome. The pay was excellent, but the risk was deadly.
Staring out the window at the passing scenery, I wondered what would have been better. When the Feds came charging into my office, I thought prison was the worst option so I was willing to squeal like a pig. I was scared. Terrified of taking the fall for an infamous man who would somehow be able to walk away with his hands clean. It was I who would have gone to jail unless I cut a deal.
Yes, I was going to cut a deal.
Bile formed in the back of my throat as I watched us drive hours into the abyss, further and further into the woods—out in the middle of nowhere. Someplace that no one would be able to hear the bullet shot through my head, or my cries for mercy as they tortured me first. We were driving so far out of the city that my body would never be found. My fate was sealed.
Prison or death?
Clearly, Oz was making that decision for me.
The car turned down a narrow dirt road, and my heart stopped. This was it. This emotionless man driving, who didn’t say a single word, planned to escort me to my death. Would he be the one to kill me? Or was Oz waiting to do it himself?
It didn’t take long for me to see something unexpected. A large manor loomed in the distance. Dark, gray, ominous, and it appeared as if the devil himself resided within the walls. It was so large that I wondered if it maybe was once a boarding school, or owned by some wealthy oil tycoon who had more money than even Oz. Though, with maybe the once opulence of yesteryear, the structure now looked nearly abandoned cast against the setting sun. If it weren’t for the cars parked in the massive circular driveway, I would have thought the house completely deserted and haunted by all the spirits of murdered souls.