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.
This is a continuation of a rest sequence in which readers learn more about the protagonist’s character traits. He is a crusader, vengeful against men of evil, yet kind and loving toward the victims of evil.
This sequence also shows more of his mode of operation and connection with Mahoney. It gives us insight into his attitude about his missions. Although he tried to convince himself that every girl is unique, the last line here tells a different story. Was Spokane really just another job? Can he really leave what he has done in the rear view mirror? Will the job that lies ahead finally bring fulfillment? Or is he trapped in a crusade that will never end, one that is destroying his family?
Please let me know if you have questions or comments.
I stared at the phone. The Candyman! This clue could be my chance to find him. When I tapped on the contact entry, a message window demanded a password. Guessing it was probably out of the question.
I barked at my phone, mounted on the dashboard. “Call Mahoney!”
Seconds later, he answered. “What’s up, Mike? Did you sprout wings and fly to Seattle?”
“I wish.” I looked at Jackson’s phone screen. “I need password help. I found a contact on the perp’s phone, but it’s locked. The entry says The Candyman.”
“The Candyman! That’s hot. I get the connection.”
“Well, prince of passwords, what do we do?”
“Can you overnight it to me? Send it to the office instead of the drop box. If I can’t guess the password, I have the tools here to break in.”
“Sure, but get this. The creep texted me. Threatened me and sent a nude pic of Amy. Said he’d post it on the net.”
Mahoney grumbled something inaudible before replying. “Send everything to me. I’ll figure out a way to crush that cockroach.”
“Can you keep Amy’s photo off the net?”
“No way, my friend. The first place he posts it, the pervs will download it to their local drives. It’ll be in a thousand places in under an hour. But if I find one, I can search for the file name and get as many scrubbed as possible.”
I heaved a sigh. “Thanks, Mahoney. You’re the best.”
“Speaking of the best, your wife called.”
“Deb called you? What happened?”
“No emergency, or I would’ve texted you right away. I guess she just got upset about something and tried the hotline.”
“What did she say?”
“Mostly she tried to find out who I am, but I didn’t give an inch. She ended with saying she needed you to come home to stay.”
The words drove a familiar dagger into my heart. “Yeah … that sounds like Deb.”
“Just thought I’d tell you. She seemed pretty calm when she said that part.”
I closed my eyes and fought back tears. “I guess because she’s said it so many times.”
“Or maybe I calmed her down. My baritone is legendary.”
“Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back.” My eyes still closed, I set Jackson’s phone on the passenger seat. “Look for the phone and camera in the morning. I’ll forward the texts now.”
“I’m ready to rumble. Just be careful. You’re already trending on Twitter. Apparently Amy’s parents are burning up the Internet praising you, and you’re at folk-hero status in Spokane.”
“Why should I be careful about that?”
“Seattle police might not take as kindly to killing perps. The trafficking network is huge there, and they want the pawns to squeal on the kings and queens.”
I put on a sarcastic tone. “So I’m sure that’s working great for them, right? Sex trafficking is way down.”
“You’re preaching to the choir, but Seattle’s chief of police isn’t exactly the head of your fan club. No vigilantes on his watch. Dead bodies make him squeamish. You know the type.”
“Too well.” I opened my eyes, disconnected the call, and pulled the phone from its mount. After forwarding the Candyman’s messages, I searched the GPS for the location of the closest FedEx office and drove there in a hurry.
When I arrived, I put Jackson’s phone and the video camera into the purple bag with the heirlooms and walked inside at a casual pace, stealthily checking for security cameras. A small one hung at a corner, its lens aimed at me. I kept my face turned away. I wouldn’t give anyone a reason to view the transaction, but dodging all media had become a habit.
Avalon waited on me, an attractive young redhead in her early twenties. She set the bag and bubble wrap inside a box, addressed it to Sunshine Family Dental as I instructed, and filled out the paperwork on the service counter. A small eagle tattoo graced her left wrist.
“Does that mean something?” I asked, pointing at the eagle.
“It’s kind of a courage reminder.” She enclosed a hand around the eagle. “I’m supposed to cover it up, but someone broke my watch. I usually use the band to hide it at work.”
“Broke it? What happened?”
“Well …” A tear sparkled in her eye. “A couple of guys jumped out of a car and tried to grab me. I fought and screamed. Some people looked, but no one did anything. Finally a man riding a bike stopped and beat them away with a stick he carried to ward off dogs.”
As she told the story, my blood began boiling. I hissed through clenched teeth. “The thugs were dogs. Worse than dogs.”
“You got that right. They broke the watch band, but …” Biting her lip, she averted her eyes. “That’s not what they really wanted.”
“Definitely not.” I raised my brow. “Where did it happen?”
She nodded toward the door. “Right out there in the parking lot. Day before yesterday.”
I looked at the lot and imagined the scenario, then glanced at her clothes. Her beige slacks and navy top were form-fitting, but not revealing at all. I dared not ask what she was wearing that day. I had been accused of victim blaming too many times. “What kind of car was it?”
“A red Corvette. New model, I think. The police took a report, but they never called me.” She shrugged. “Guess they got away.”
“It’s tough tracking down a single car. Like a needle in a haystack.” I drew a new mental picture of the cowards running away from the bicycle man like scared rabbits. It couldn’t have been more than a few hours later that they decided to prey on someone younger—a twelve-year-old who couldn’t fight back.
Battling tears again, I extended my hand. When Avalon shook it, I said, “The eagle is a perfect symbol for you. You’re a survivor. Always fight back.”
“Thanks. I will. I’m just glad that guy stopped to help. I don’t know where I’d be if he hadn’t.”
“Probably chained to a dirty bed waiting for a customer.”
She cringed. “Well, that’s a disturbing image.”
“All too real, though.” I withdrew my wallet to pay for the service. “Do you have a way to contact the bicycle man?”
She nodded. “Why?”
I slid out a hundred dollar bill and set it on the counter. “Keep the change. Use it to take him out to dinner.”
Without waiting for a reaction, I strode toward the door, again keeping my face turned from the camera. Once outside, I hopped into the minivan and drove away. In a puff of exhaust vapor, I left Spokane in the rear view mirror—another job finished, another girl restored, more cowardly dogs executed.
But what else lay to the east, much too far away for the mirror to show? Home. Deb and Tommy. The end to this never-ending crusade. And peace? Rest?
I shook my head. The circle had been broken. Peace and rest could never visit our home. Not until Emily walked safely through the door, or maybe when the clown who snatched her lay in a pool of blood while smoke rose from the barrel of my gun.
Categories: Story Development