Bebe looked around the room that had been her prison and her only home for over three years. For the first time in almost two years, she felt a tiny ray of hope that she would soon leave this place.
She and Mercy had not been able to really talk. While Consuela Garcia spoke only Spanish, she was never sure the woman did not understand English. So, they had only exchanged a couple of whispered sentences in the kitchen. It was enough for her to know that others had come for them.
Would it be enough? Even the Rex guy, whoever he was, admitted that they were not prepared for the Garcia and Dominguez cartels’ combined forces. She knew better than anyone what would happen to all of them if they failed. Or worse…
“Hey, sugarcakes, how you doing?”
Her feelings for Esmerelda was complicated. The woman styled herself as a mix of the madame from some musical movie that Bebe never had of and the house mother from another television show about an exclusive girls’ school. The truth was that she was just another whore like the rest of them.
But a smart one, who had seduced Diego Garcia himself, and convinced him that she was an invaluable asset to this place. If she were honest with herself, once she had lost all hope of returning to her old life, Bebe had emulated this woman. Hoped to make the life that had been forced on her easier to bear.
“What do you want, Esme?”
The woman wrapped her arm around Bebe’s shoulder and drew her closer. She smelled of expensive perfume and sex. Had Garcia made one of his rare visits? Had Esme indulged in her womanly needs as she called the rare occasions when she chose to take a client, usually a young, handsome one? Perhaps the hot guy that she had seen outside the cantina earlier? Or was ‘business’ so robust that Diego had forced the woman to accept clients as well?
“I’m sorry, sweetie. You know I had high hopes for this to all work out for you, too.”
Yes, the woman had encouraged her infatuation and plan to seduce Roberto Garcia. Esmerelda had slept her way to the top of the dung heap, and she had groomed Bebe to replace her – someday.
In the woman’s fantasies, usually when Diego’s weak and long-suffering wife finally died. Then, the man would realize that he loved her and bring Esme to the compound. But she forgot one thing, or rather one person – Consuela Garcia. That woman was not having her sons messing with common whores. She had made that perfectly clear tonight.
“Whatever. If there’s nothing else, I better get to work.”
The woman’s hand took hers. Bebe felt something pressed into her palm. Thick and papery. For a moment, she thought perhaps her benefactress was offering her money to help escape. But when she opened her hand, Bobby’s warning rang in her head. So, this was it. How it ended for her?
“I know that you got yourself clean. You know how proud I am of you for doing that. But I know these next few days are going to be hard, sugarcakes. This is just a little something to help you get through it.” She fingered a strand of Bebe’s curls and smiled.
For a moment, Bebe considered overpowering the woman. She knew she could. Forcing whatever poison Consuela Garcia had given her down the woman’s throat. But honestly, she felt pity as much as anything for Esme.
She was, after all, just another one of them. A young runaway lured to this place with hopes and dreams of a better life only to wake to a nightmare. Bebe could not blame her for making the best of the situation. Wasn’t that what she had been doing these last months?
Besides, it was probably easier and quicker to just take the package of drugs laced with god knows what poison. “Thanks,” she closed her hand back around it.
The woman lingered. Had Esme been told to make sure that she took it? “I’ll use it. But Jose said a client was waiting for me. I’ll just take care of him first.” She smiled and hoped that the woman accepted the excuse.
Esme hesitated as if trying to come up with something more to say, but she smiled and turned to leave in the end. If Bebe had any doubts, the way the woman paused and turned back to look at her dispelled them. “You know, Bebe, you’re as close to a daughter as I got. I just want you to know that.”
But obviously, that pseudo-maternal love was not enough to overcome whatever scruples Esme had about Consuela’s plans. She could not bring herself to respond with some lie. So, Bebe just smiled, “Send in my client.”
“It’s one of Dominguez’s guys. One of his generals, in fact. If you please him, who knows what might come of it?”
Once upon a time, she would have grabbed onto that sliver of opportunity. Tried to please the man enough that he would consider taking her with them. It was not unheard of. Just as rare as Cinderella’s slipper.
But staying close to Roberto Garcia was no longer her top priority. She was not even sure she could trust him to keep his promise. He had already broken the most important one – that they would be together one day.
Feeling sorry for herself was not the best use of time or energy right now. Getting out of here was. That meant she needed to get back to Mercy and the others. And maybe, Consuela and Esme had unknowingly helped her with that.
Bebe reached for the bottle of wine that sat on the bedside table. She poured the white powder into the bottom of a glass. Of course, they had intended for her to snort it. But it was not the effects of the drug that she was interested in. It was the poison she was certain it was cut with.
Would the wine weaken its effects? But even if it just knocked the man out or made him sick, wasn’t that good enough? She poured the wine into the glass and swirled it around for a moment until the powder dissolved.
The door opened. She was not surprised by the man who was older than her father. He was not particularly tall, but he was stocky. It was the look in his eyes that frightened her, though. So, Consuela had a backup plan.
Bebe smiled and sent a prayer to her Grandmother as she held out the glass of wine. “Come in, handsome. Get comfortable.”
The man hesitated for a moment. So, he was an assassin. The question was – had Consuela told him about the drugs and poison? If so, then getting him to drink the wine might be impossible. And she could never hope to overpower this man. But she was beating that the old woman would not have shared her full plans with either Esme or this man.
Now, she just had to use a bit of seduction to convince the man to sample the goods before he did the job he had been sent to do. She stood up with the glass still in hand and sashayed over to him.
She almost vomited at the snippets of memories when she lay her hand on his chest. He was not the first. By now, she should be used to the horrors she saw every time she touched someone. Even Bobby.
Until she had been kidnapped, Bebe had only allowed a handful of people to touch her. From the time she was a baby, her mother told her that she did not like to be touched. Not even by her father. Only her mother, grandparents, and cousin had been allowed. Sensory Processing Disorder was the label that the doctors had finally stuck on her. Only her Grandmother knew the truth.
That had been almost as hard as the rapes. Seeing into the souls of these violent and perverted men had nearly driven her insane. Esmerelda was right. In the beginning, she had abused drugs. It was her only chance for escape. While it never took the visions away, the drugs deadened the pain. Back then, she would have welcomed this opportunity for the ultimate escape from it all.
But now, she had a reason to live. And a small hope of escape. She was not about to give that up now. Instead, Bebe forced it all to that dark corner of her mind and pressed her body against the man she knew was a murderer, a rapist, and the worst type of pedophile. She just had to get through a few more moments. Or so she hoped. Because the alternative did not bear consideration.
She held up the glass, “Wine?”
The man continued to stare at her, but he accepted the glass into his pudgy, blood-stained hands. Bebe stepped back, and relief flooded her. She held the man’s gaze as she began to undress. He just watched.
She was beginning to lose hope. If she could not engage this man, then it was she who would not be leaving this room alive. She almost wished she had that wine back. Whatever death Consuela Garcia had in it would surely be better than the sick tortures in this monster’s mind.
Bebe was down to her underwear. She knew that she was too old now, her body too developed, to stir this man’s desires. She was running out of options fast.
Then he brought the glass to his lips and swallowed it all. She could only hope now. Hope that whatever was in it acted quickly. And was strong enough to incapacitate a man that was almost three times her size. She was counting on Consuela’s desire for vengeance and overkill.
The man made a face. If someone this large fell, everyone would hear it. She took his hand, and felt fear and death this time. For once, she hoped that hell was as hot and vicious as her father claimed it was. This man deserved it…and more.
She pulled him towards the bed. He fell face down on to. His body actually bounced. But she hoped the noise was not too loud. After all, bouncing beds were a way of life here. Surely no one would think of it.
She had to get out of here. Bebe left the man where he was. Whether he was dead or just passed out, she did not care. As long as he stayed that way long enough for her to escape.
Bebe dressed quickly. She threw the long silk robe with a hood over her dress. It had been one of Bobby’s presents to her. She cracked open the door cautiously. But there was no one. The stairs were at the other end of the hallway. And those led back into the cantina. Diego had designed this place well. Only one way in and one way out. At least from the second floor.
She crept quietly down the stairs. The cantina was full of other ‘customers,’ drinking, laughing, and playing cards. She saw Esme in the corner with the handsome young man she had seen earlier. Was he one of them? The people who had come to help. With Dominguez’s men and Garcia’s, how could she tell? Without walking around the room, touching them all. And that was a stupid plan.
She huddled beneath the hood and prayed that Esme did not look her way. She would recognize the robe for sure since the woman had made such a big deal when Bobby gave it to her. The front door always had at least one guard on it. That left the kitchen.
She had turned that way when she felt the hand on her arm. There was blood on it too. But it was the other memories that stopped her. Regret. And hurt. Pain as deep as her own. This man understood. He knew and carried that shame too. He blamed himself also. Thought it was his own fault.
He was here for them. For her. “Through the kitchen.” She pulled him with her. She smiled at the toothless old hag and a couple of young boys that worked there. “The other one fell asleep in my room. It’s so busy that Esme told me to take this one outside.”
Whether the woman believed the lie or not, at least, Bebe had given her a believable story. She could only hope that Garcia would believe it. She liked Maria and her grandsons. The old woman nodded her white head and gave her a toothless grin.
They came out at the foot of the stairs that led to the apartment where Mercy and Will had been staying. She pulled the man by the hand up them. She was not sure she was ready to face her cousin, but she had run out of time to come to terms with it all.
She did not need to worry about it, though. The room was empty. She turned to the man. “Who are you?”