“Don’t say that to me again, Lawrence. You know exactly why we’re here. And now that your partner’s out of commission—”
“I swear to you, I—”
“Ain’t believing this. Motherfucker wants me to take him apart.”
“Put away the knife, Isaiah. He’s gonna talk. I can feel it.”
“That true, Larry? My man Stu know some shit I don’t?”
“This is just a huge—”
“Yeah, a huge—”
“Oh no, no, no. All right, Lar. After I slice off your thumbs, we’ll continue this—”
“No, I think I better go ahead—”
“We have to go to Emerald House.”
“Big mansion up the trail?”
Abigail opened her right eye. It took five seconds for the darkness to sharpen into focus. She sat with Lawrence, Emmett, and June inside one of the ghost town’s structures, her hands bound behind her back. It all looked familiar—the archways, the collapsed staircase, the climbing rope still dangling from the second floor. Three men—she assumed they were men—dressed in night camouflage and face masks busied themselves packing an assortment of equipment into black backpacks.
Under the archway leading into the lounge, Scott lay holding his abdomen, moaning softly. She wondered if Jerrod’s body had just been left in the street.
Didn’t I shoot someone in that old house?
She leaned into Lawrence, whispered, “What’s happening?” As he turned, she saw that his right eye had been closed from a vicious blow.
“I don’t know yet, but . . .” One of the men finished zipping his backpack and walked over, crouched down in front of Abigail.
“Dirty Harriet,” he said, grinning a big mouthful of straight white teeth through a slit in the face mask. She recognized his voice. It belonged to the man who’d threatened Lawrence. Isaiah. “Bad with that little Ruger, ain’t you? You’d have killed my man, Stu, if he hadn’t been sportin Kevlar. Nasty cut over your eye. Needs stitches.” He pulled a roll of medical tape from his pocket, tore off a strip. “But this’ll have to do.” She groaned when he pinched the gash above her left eyebrow closed and slapped on the tape. Then Isaiah and his partners donned black parkas and trousers over their coveralls, each man also wearing black neoprene gloves and Gore-Tex-lined leather combat boots. One of them pulled a fifth of Ketel One out of his pack, unscrewed the cap, took a long drink.
“Stu, what the f**k?”
“You want my hands to shake? Besides, my ribs are killing me. Might be cracked.”
“So take a f**kin aspirin.”
Isaiah came and squatted down, facing June, Emmett, Abigail, and Lawrence.
He looked them over, said, “In a minute, we’re gonna cut your nylon restraints. You’ll be free to move, but I would advise you to follow my orders. To. The. Let. Ter.” He held up a machine pistol. “Let me tell you about this work of art. Custom Glock Eighteen. Automatic. Supressor. Aimpoint. Thirty-three cart mag. We each have one, and we won’t hesitate to aerate your ass if you deviate one millimeter from our directives. Ain’t gonna be no love tap from a Taser, you f**k up again. You feel me?” Nods. “Can I get a ‘yessir’?”
He pointed the machine pistol at June.
Then he aimed it at Emmett.
“What about Scott?” Abigail said, nodding toward the archway.
“Motherfucker look like he can walk to you? He had a seizure before you woke up.” Isaiah leaned in toward Abigail, their faces barely an inch apart. His breath smelled of cinnamon chewing gum.
Two years ago, while waiting to catch a cab after a Christmas party in the East Village, she’d felt something push into her back, followed by low, menacing words in her ear: “Wanna die tonight, bitch?” She’d never seen his face, just listened to his footsteps running up the sidewalk thirty seconds later. He’d taken her purse, earrings, necklace, and left her with something that ruled her even to this moment—the ever-present knowledge of how fast a normal day, a normal evening, could turn into her being raped and bleeding out on the sidewalk. No such thing as safety or control. The worst moments of your life you never see coming, although she had to admit something had seemed wrong about this trip since the previous morning at the trailhead, when she’d caught that look between Scott and Lawrence. Had they known this was coming?
The man called Isaiah still spoke to her.
“That your boyfriend? Y’all f**king? What?” She shook her head. “I poked him in the gut. Be dead in an hour. Maybe less. Painful way to go. But if you’d rather stay with him”—he slid a Fairbairn-Sykes from an ankle sheath and pressed the knife point under her right eye—“I’ll be happy to leave you here, because the truth, bitch, is that I don’t need you.”
Abigail stared into his large white eyes through the holes in the mask. They reminded her of eggs. She felt his sweet breath on her mouth, the cold of the blade against her cheek. She shook her head again.
“That’s what the f**k I thought. Now, I didn’t get my ‘yessir’ from you.”
The orders were brutally simple. Walk. Keep quiet. Step out of line, you get shot. Lights on at all times. They’d even given Abigail fresh batteries for her headlamp.
Isaiah led the way, the four captives following single file, his partners bringing up the rear. Abigail walked between Lawrence and June, snow already accumulating in the grass and on Abandon’s splintered remnants. With her hands free, she’d managed to scrape the dried blood out of her left eye. She could see now, but her head still throbbed like hell and her bones felt weak and jittery, her nervous system torqued from the Taser.
They passed their campsite on the outskirts, the llamas huddled between the tents. Abigail lusted after the cell phone in her pack.
Soon they’d left Abandon, gotten a half mile up-canyon, the ruts of the old wagon trail filling with snow and nothing to see but the flakes passing horizontally through the headlamps’ beams, tiny planets of light in that galaxy of darkness and wind. Abigail heard June struggling to stifle sobs. She reached back, felt June squeeze her hand, tears gliding down Abigail’s face now as she tried to comprehend the murder of Jerrod, Scott tied up alone as he bled to death in that degenerated hotel, and how in God’s name she was walking at gunpoint through a snowstorm in this secluded canyon, too horrified even to contemplate what their captors intended to do with them.