“What the fuck for?” James questions, his incredulity is plainly showing. “Why not have them on milk cartons already?”

“Because Norton has a campaign to run. He’s running again this November for office, and he has very high ambitions. From the mouths of his understaff, he has dreams of hitting the Oval in the next twelve years.”

“That crooked bastard?” Lucifer scoffs at the notion, but I can see it doesn’t surprise him.

“Yes, and anything that could reflect badly, or show a lack of control, is not being let out to the public. And with the way he treats his daughter, he very well could have it leaked he isn’t the greatest of fathers. Even his security staff have been heard to whisper of his iron-fisted ways.”

Makes sense. Beth and the girls were out for a night on the town. Bet they didn’t want to be caught up in the limelight that can happen when some of the semi-famous visit the central strip downtown.

“So, when it goes public they’re missing…” I start off, thinking out loud. “If the Russians don’t already know, it will either be ignored that they’re big names or it could get messy. But, they probably already know… maybe that’s why only three are being sold?”

“That’s the unknown, why they only listed three girls. I’m very interested to know what happened to the fourth.”

“What’s the security like at these auctions?” Andrew asks.

“I would liken it to having the National Guard surrounding a warehouse with the Secret Service inside.”

“Oh,” Andrew says with a grimace. “That makes things interesting.”

I can only agree. “How are we going to take this place out?”

Simon looks to Lucifer then to me. “We can’t. It would take too many men and too much time.”

My eyes widen. “There can’t be that many issues with something like this?”

“There is. And if we let the proper authorities know, it’s not unheard of for them to go dark with the auction… or throw a couple of grenades into a holding pen with all the livestock inside.”

“What do you mean go dark?” James asks.

“They skip the auction if they hear even the faintest of whispers suggesting that they are being looked at. Then it’s another couple of months before they resurface. Usually with a completely new crop to sell.”

Fucking hell.

“Okay, so what’s that mean for us then?”

“You will be going in alone. I’ve got you set up as a buyer’s proxy. The guy I tapped for this did not come cheap, nor did he want to give up his seat for a special verified virgin auction.”

Christ, this is fucking insane.

“By myself?”

“Yes. Andrew, you will be in operational control of it all. James, you will be backup in case we lose any of the girls. Peter will be backing you up with a car of his own to stop any from getting out, if possible.”

“How the hell will I get into a place like this? They probably know what I look like, you know.”

“That’s the beauty of modern day cosmetics.”

He pulls up another picture on his computer and for a few seconds I’m confused. There, on the screen, is a guy who looks a lot like me except I have blue eyes and my hair isn’t cut short like some fucking hipster.

Then it dawns on me.

Fuck that shit. The girls are going to new homes, if you ask me.

“I ain’t cutting my fucking hair, bitch boy,” I yell.

Everyone except Simon is laughing at the picture, even Lucifer.

Simon isn’t though.

“Think of Beth,” Simon says like he has a needle and is trying to stab it in my eye.

It’s six in the morning before we finally leave the office space downtown. My eyes hurt from watching the damn screen the whole time, and I still don’t have a good feeling about the whole scheme we have in place.

Especially the part of me going in solo.

Andrew has said he’ll have more guys in place to try to get me out if shit goes sideways, but I already know I’ll be leaving my weapons at the door.

This is going to be a fucking crap-shoot.

Pulling my phone out of my pocket, I dial the one person I know that can do what I need right now.

“Missy,” I say as soon as she answers. “Meet me at the bar in two hours. I need you to put your cosmetology license to work. Bring your haircutting shit.”

7

Beth

Hours and hours pass with no sign of Amanda. Sophia and I are forced to relieve ourselves in the bucket and then we share what’s left of the water.

Sitting side by side on the thin mattress, we have nothing left to do but wait and fret.

“What do you think they’re doing to her?” Sophia asks quietly, breaking the silence.

She looks to me, her eyes full of desperation. I know she wants me to reassure her, to give her some kind of hope we can get out of this situation, but I have no hope left to give.

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