Content warning. This story is designed for adults and mature teens. It involves sex trafficking and mentions rape, drugs, and nudity. There is no “on-screen” sex, but the aftermath of rape is on-screen, including the presence of nude, partially nude, and/or drugged girls as they are rescued by the hero. There is also violence, including bloody killings, as well as rough language.
You may view the earlier parts of the story here – http://theauthorschair.com/the-scent-of-her-soul-a-developing-story-part-2/ and here – http://theauthorschair.com/the-scent-of-her-soul-part-3/
After providing enough back story to provide the hero’s motivation, I gave him a chance to accomplish his first goal. Now readers get to see him in action along with his skills, intelligence, and manner of carrying out his mission. Readers have an opportunity to pass judgment on his methods, and they can wonder if the methods are appropriate. Readers might ask, “Would I do the same thing? Should he have done something else?” Such analysis is critical for reader enjoyment.
Readers also get a chance to see the hero’s compassion in the heat of battle. Conflicts like this one let readers see a hero perform under fire, a test all story heroes need to endure. Without such conflict, the hero is really not transparent at all.
For readers who are experienced in fighting techniques, I wrote Mike’s fighting moves as a temporary place holder for this early draft. I know they aren’t authentic. I plan to research the best way for him to take out the kidnapper and modify that portion accordingly.
After I drove about ten miles, the scent weakened. As often happens, I had passed the exit leading to Amy but didn’t realize it until the deteriorating scent clued me in. I took the next exit, returned to the previous one, and picked up the trail again.
Within another five minutes, I entered a residential area populated by two-story homes on half-acre plots. I lowered the windows, slowed the van to a crawl, and studied each house. With Amy’s scent so strong and pervasive, finding the exact source became more of an exercise in detective work than simply following my nose.
At the ninth house, a red Corvette and a blue Mustang sat on the driveway pad, both reflecting the morning sunlight. A breeze pushed swings on a rusted set in the side yard, and pasteboard within the house’s lower windows blocked any view. A light shone from an upstairs room, proof enough that someone was home and likely awake. I wouldn’t have to use my lock-pick set like I had so many other times.
I accelerated. It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that this house was the best candidate.
As I returned to the neighborhood’s entrance, I spoke to my phone. “Where is the nearest pizza delivery restaurant?”
A map appeared on the screen with a pushpin at the center labeled “Luigi’s.” A mechanical voice emanated from the speaker. “Four point three miles. Turn left on Evergreen Road.”
I glanced at the clock—8:15. The pizza place probably wouldn’t be open yet, but someone might be there getting things ready.
After texting Mahoney the address of the suspected house, I hurried toward the pizza restaurant, donning a curly wig, a thick mustache, and a prosthetic nose along the way. When I arrived, I talked the manager into baking a pizza earlier than usual. A couple of twenties helped him decide. The money seemed to open a gate of generosity. He added a reheated calzone, which I ate while the pizza baked, a welcome treat since I hadn’t had a bite in at least eighteen hours.
With the pizza in an insulated bag, I took off the disguise and stowed it in my suitcase in the rear section—one of two suitcases I kept there, a black one for my stuff and a smaller purple one filled with items I might need for rescued girls.
I drove back toward the house. A fight likely loomed, and I never felt comfortable fighting while wearing a disguise. In any case, my opponents would probably be dead by the time we finished, so why hide behind a mask?
When I arrived, I parked behind the Corvette. I touched the cross’s ribbon again and breathed, “Pray for me, Emily.”
After attaching a sound suppressor to the Beretta and tucking it and the ski mask under my coat, I pulled on my gloves, grabbed the pizza, and got out of the van. As I hustled toward the front door through a frigid breeze, I glanced at the room upstairs. The light was still on, but no shadows moved across the glow.
I rang the doorbell. It was time to put on the act.
A gruff voice penetrated the door. “Whaddaya want?”
“Pizza delivery,” I shouted. “Better hurry. It’s getting cold.”
“No one ordered a pizza. Get lost.”
“You mean Amy Horowitz doesn’t live here? I’m sure I wrote the address—“
The door flew open. A stocky bearded man grabbed my arm, jerked me inside, and shut the door. Standing at least six-foot-three and filling out his flannel shirt with taut muscles, he could be a formidable opponent.
He gave me a hard shake and let go. “What do you know about Amy Horowitz?”
“So this is the right place.” I laid the pizza on a bar separating the kitchen from an eating area—unfurnished except for a TV on a small table and an easy chair with ratty upholstery. A baseball bat leaned against the chair, apparently this guy’s brute-force weapon.
I opened the pizza and turned it toward him. “Pepperoni and extra cheese, right?”
The man took a threatening step toward me. “Look, I told you we didn’t order—”
“Sure you did.” I spotted keys to a Corvette on the arm of the chair. “You mentioned your Mustang. I saw it parked outside.”
“That’s not my Mustang. Mine’s the Cor—”
“So where’s Amy?” As I looked around, my gaze swept up a staircase to the second floor. “The guy who ordered said it’s her birthday. I have a present for her.”
“I’ll show you Amy.” The man withdrew a switchblade, flicked it open, and set it near my throat. “Tell me how you knew she’s here.”
I stared cross-eyed at the blade and feigned a frightened stammer. “I … uh … like I said … the guy who ordered—”
“Rubio?” the man shouted toward the stairs. “Did you order a—”
“Shut up!” The deep voice from the second floor sounded like a lion’s growl. A girl’s moan blended in. “You’ll get your turn in a minute!”
I slapped the blade and punched him in the face as hard as I could. As he stood there, stunned for the moment, I grabbed the baseball bat and slammed it against his neck. Something cracked, and he collapsed to the floor. Now on his back, he stared at me, apparently paralyzed in every limb.
I reached under my coat, withdrew the Beretta, and knelt next to him. Pressing the end of the silencer against his mouth, I whispered, “If you even squeak, I’ll blow your brains out.”
His wild, pain-streaked eyes told me he’d cooperate. With the gun drawn and my footfalls quiet, I ran up the carpeted stairs. A lanky, pale man dressed only in white briefs stormed out of a bedroom, shouting, “All right, Jackson! You’re up to bat.” He stopped and stared at my gun. “Who are you?”
I waved the barrel. “Raise your hands, walk backwards, and let me see who’s in the bedroom.”
His hands at shoulder level, he complied with slow steps. “You a cop?”
“You’re about to wish I was a cop.” With the way now clear, I followed the hall to the bedroom and glanced inside. In the light of a floor-standing flood lamp and the target of a small video camera mounted on a tripod, Amy sat on a bed, staring blankly with a sheet covering the lower half of her naked body. Blood smeared the sheet near her thighs.
Both arms rigid, I extended the gun toward the man. “This is your ticket to hell.” I fired a muffled shot. A bullet ripped into his chest. As he staggered backwards, I fired twice more, hitting his shoulder and neck. He crashed into the corridor’s far wall and slumped to the floor.
I slid the gun to its holster, lunged into the bedroom, and kicked over the camera. As I crouched in front of Amy, I searched her eyes—glassy and wandering. I spoke in a soothing tone. “They drugged you, didn’t they?”
I pulled out the ski mask and slid it on, then scanned the room. Next to the tripod, a pair of girls’ jeans, a green T-shirt, and ripped pink panties lay on the floor. The shirt would help, but with the injury she likely suffered, the jeans would have to wait until I could get her new panties and a pad.
I helped her put the T-shirt on, then stripped off my coat and sweatshirt. “It’s cold outside; you need something warmer.” I pulled the sweatshirt down over her head. “I saw some blood. Where are you hurt?”
After instinctively pushing her arms through the sleeves, she laid a hand over her sheet-covered crotch and spoke in an almost inaudible voice. “Here.”
Although I had already guessed the truth, rage boiled inside. As I clenched my teeth to keep from shouting, I brushed my gloved fingers across her tangled blonde locks and looked into her lovely blue eyes. “That man will never hurt you again. I promise.”
A siren wailed in the distance. No one outside the house could have heard the gunshots, though maybe a nosy neighbor was concerned about a pizza delivery taking so long. Not a likely scenario, but I couldn’t take any chances.
I threw my coat back on, disconnected the camera from the tripod, and stuffed it into a pocket. After grabbing the jeans, I scooped Amy up in my arms, the sheet around her hips. “Let’s go!”
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Categories: Story Development