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The warehouse is silent except for the sound of my converses against hard concrete floor and the occasional rat scurrying across an empty hallway or abandoned room. It’s so quiet I can even hear my breathing as I make my way through the seemingly endless corridors. My heart is beating so fiercely, I’m positive when I hear the footsteps sneak up behind me it’s going to burst through my chest. A hand reaches out and covers my mouth to stop me from screaming. For a moment, I struggle to break free, throwing wild punches and kicks. Suddenly, I’m not in a warehouse anymore. I’m underground. It’s dark. I can’t see it, but I know it’s there. Surrounding me. The Cage. And the voices around me are deafening. I need to win. I need to win. Win or die.
“Stop you idiot!” Jeb whispers frantically. “It’s me.”
I whirl around, ready to attack. The heat, it burns my skin, my eyes, my face. It’s so unbelievably hot. The Fiery Hot that never lets me down. That always helps me win. Win or die. I have to win. Win or die.
“Jay, what’s wrong?” Jeb’s voice is what brings me back to reality. To the present. I stand there, fists raised, arms shaking. I’m not in the Cage. I’m in a warehouse, with Jeb. Jeb, my boss. Jeb, my friend. I have to swallow the anger threatening to explode from my chest because I was so close. So close to letting it out.
And Jeb would have never stood a chance.
“Don’t ever do that again.” I whisper furiously.
“Believe me,” Jeb rubs his hand over his jaw where my fist collided with it. “I won’t.” He pauses a moment, tucking a gun back into the waistband of his pants. For some reason this makes me nervous. Not because he could have used it on me, but because he felt he needed to bring it in the first place. “How did you get in here anyway? The door was locked.”
“Climbed through a window.”
“Shoulda known.” He mutters under his breath. “C’mon, Drum will be here any minute.”
Jeb leads me through countless narrow hallways until we finally reach the loading garage. It’s dark, but not as dark as the rest of the warehouse because of its high windows that let in streaks of moonlight from outside. There are numerous piles of boxes scattered randomly throughout the enormous room.
“What do we do now?” I ask.
We don’t wait for very long before I hear the hum of a car as it drives up to the loading docks. I hear several doors slam shut before an army of footsteps marches towards the warehouse.
“How many people did you say we were meeting again?” I ask curiously.
I turn to look a Jeb. He scratches his chin. Normally a person would not have taken this to be a sign of anxiety, would not have noticed that his hands, though seemingly steady, were actually shaking. But then again, I wasn’t a normal person. I can hear Jeb’s heart beating frantically; I can smell his perspiration beneath layers of clothing, despite the fact it’s freezing outside. But worst of all, I can sense his fear.
“Would it help if I told you I can take on three by myself?”
Jeb shakes his head. “He’s bringing seven.”
“Well crap Jeb, you shoulda warned me.”
“It doesn’t matter. There’s not going to be any trouble if he keeps his end of the deal. I just need you to, you know, make sure he ain’t lying to me. I don’t like getting cheated out of my money.”
Jeb’s lying. He brought me here because he knew there would be trouble. I could sense his deception, but I didn’t work like a magic trick. I couldn’t pull an explanation out of thin air. But that’s okay. I too knew there would be trouble. Jeb’s not the only one entitled to his secrets. “C’mon Jeb, I’m no good to you if you’re gonna lie to me.”
“Trust me Jay, it’s better this way.”
I have no choice but to believe what he tells me. I’ve come to learn that with Jeb my . . . skill wasn’t always perfect. And I’ve known him long enough to know Jeb would never put me in danger. Well, serious danger. He didn’t save my life just to watch me die later.
Suddenly, I hear the doors to the garage space lift open. The sound echoes throughout the entire warehouse. Jeb shifts nervously next to me. I hear them before I see them. Seven heartbeats. Seven, just like Jeb said there would be. They walk over to us slowly. The one in the middle must be Drum. His face is covered in numerous wicked looking tattoos. The group stops short ten feet away from us.
“You know, Jeb” Drum says somewhat amused. “If you thought you needed a bodyguard, I would’ve gone for someone a little taller.”
“She’s not my bodyguard.” Jeb replies coolly. “Although to be perfectly honest if I had to choose, my money would be on her.”
Drum’s laugh booms throughout the entire garage. “I bet it would be, Jeb.” Drum’s smile disappears from his face and suddenly he’s all business. “Now, I believe we made a deal.”
Jeb clears his throat, nodding. “Do you have my supplies?”
“That depends. Do you have my money?”
“I have your money, Drum. Let me see my supplies first.”
Drum hesitates a moment. “How do I know you’re not lying to me?”
“You don’t. But there’s only one way to find out.” Jeb says a little more fiercely.
“Right.” Drum pulls out a cellphone and dials. “We’re coming.” He hangs up the phone and shoves it in his pocket. I hear a car in the distance rumble to life. Something is off. It was a fluke. There were no supplies. Then I sense it. Deception.
“He’s lying.” I whisper to Jeb so low only he can hear me.
“He’s lying. He doesn’t have your drugs.”
Drum turns and looks at me suspiciously. “Did you say something pretty lady?”
I shake my head.
“Because I coulda sworn you just said something.”
“No, I swear.”
“She’s just a little nervous, Drum. C’mon, lead the way.”
Drum gives me another look before turning and leading us back outside. There’s a huge van waiting for us by the docks. Everything about the situation is screaming at me to run. Drum was lying about the drugs and that was proof enough it was time for Jeb and I to get as far away from here as possible.
“What kind of crap is this, Drum?” Asks Jeb angrily. “Where’s my drugs?”
Drum turns, but when he talks, he’s not looking at Jeb. “New deal. I take the girl, you keep your life.”
“What?” Jeb asks surprised. “What do you want with her?”
“Hans wants his girl back, Jeb.” Drum replies. “He wants his Niña de Fuego.”
For a moment a stand there horrified, unable to believe what I’m hearing. Because no matter how far I ran, no matter how far I hid, he always found me. No matter how safe I thought I could be, Hans always found his FireGirl. I force myself to relax. I had a plan. I always had a plan so why was I getting nervous? And everything was going according to plan. Just like Jet said it would.
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