By Claire Riley
Sunday / October 27th / 2:42 AM
“F**k you.” I shout, barely audible above the blasting music.
Any of the other pushers around the scene bail like cockroaches from an exterminator, knowing what’s about to go down.
Judging by the confident look on Simon’s dumb, punch-able face, I can tell that he’s got at least three of his guys ready to strike with a clear path to any of my body’s vital areas.
“I’m out, man. For real.” I said, puffing up my chest, ready for a butterfly knife to my throat, if it comes.
Simon lets out a snuff of a laugh from his nose like I’m telling him a sh***y joke. His minions take aim but he puts a hand up and they disappear into the crowd again. He closes the space between us an his smile vanishes.
“You’re not out until I say you’re out.” He says, eyes narrowed. “You wanna take that kind of s**t on?”
The rage bubbles up in my stomach. My brain is telling me to knock this a*****e in his perfect face, but my body restrains me. The second I touch him, I’ll have a ton of his lackeys on me, so I curl my fist and gouge my fingernails into my palm.
Simon’s operation has got a body count of about 25 people. Because of his ‘methods’, a lot more people seem to be coming in than they do going out. That’s because in order get out of it, you need to pay a bigger price. You need to be able to withstand beatings from every person in the gang.
One after another. No holding back. If you survive, you’re out. If you don’t, well… The last condition of getting jumped out is complete and total disownment from everyone still in. Say goodbye to your friends, because they’ll act as if you never existed. It’s a death sentence, but it’s the only way out.
When I break eye contact, his smile returns, and stretches out of proportion like a Dr. Seuss character. “That’s what I thought.” He laughs and I lock down on my jaw. “Now, run along.”
I feel humiliated and terrified at the same time. I turn and take Melanie’s hand and drag her out of the eye of the storm.
When we get outside, I start dragging her down toward where the driveway and the cul-de-sac meet. As I replay everything in my head, she stands firm, snapping me out of it. I look back at her inquisitively. And her look of disbelief reminds me that this isn’t normal for her.
“What the hell just-!?” She yells, untangling her hand from mine. “Was that… he was… Y-you-!”
She stomps her wobbling high-heeled foot on the pavement, mind racing, and keeping her from forming a sentence.
“Start talking!” She yells and puts some space between us.
“I-” I start, but she interrupts.
“Are you telling me the person that just kidnapped me, took my clothes and brought me to a stranger’s home is the same guy that threatens and beats you on a regular basis?”
“Yeah-” I say, interrupted again.
“And did I just watch you threaten a DRUG LORD, almost get shaw-shanked by the men that work for him, and then just walk the f**k away like it’s no big deal?”
I let out an involuntary laugh at her tone. Mel is more observant than I thought to notice that the men were armed. She stomps toward me again and socks me in the chest.
“This isn’t funny, Adrian.” She says, knitting her brows together in concern. “He used me as a show of force.”
Her serious face smothers my smile. “I know, I know, this is bad.”
She’s lost in thought for a second but then speaks at the volume of a whisper. “He knew where I was. H-He knows where I live..! My parents… my family.” I see tears flood her eyes and a sharp pain runs through me. “I’m involved now, Adrian.”
Her breath catches and I can’t bear to hear it. I grab her and pull her into me as she comes out of shock from the night’s events. I may not be able to get myself out of my mess, but I will find a way to fix this.
No matter what it takes.
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