Julio looked at me. “Would you like to use the bathroom?”
“Yes,” I said, relieved that he’d asked.
“Come, I’ll show you where it is.”
Caleb stepped forward. “Tell me where it is and I’ll take her.”
Julio smiled and nodded courteously. “Of course,” he said. “Follow me.”
Caleb’s grip around my arm didn’t loosen as we walked toward the entrance of the shop. Its shelves were stacked with newspapers, snacks, bottles of water and cigarettes. Julio led us to a door at the back of the shop. He pushed it open to reveal a narrow staircase winding upward.
I looked from Julio back to the man behind the counter. “Are you sure it’s okay if we go up there?”
“Sure… Pedro, it’s okay, right?”
The shopkeeper glanced up briefly and nodded toward the door.
I climbed the steps with Caleb, Julio walking up behind us. We reached a dim corridor at the top. The walls were stained and the floorboards creaked beneath us. Julio ushered us along and pointed to a grey door right at the end of the corridor.
“Thanks,” I said, continuing toward the door, Caleb still holding my arm.
Once we reached it, Caleb let go of me. “I’ll wait here for you.”
I nodded and opened the door. I stepped inside, the weight of the door causing it to click shut behind me. It was pitch black. I fumbled against the wall for a switch and found one.
But as I flicked on the light, strong hands wrapped around my neck. I choked as a thick piece of fabric was forced into my mouth, silencing me.
I strained my neck to see Luis tying rope around my hands and pinning them behind my back. Caleb must have heard the struggle because the heavy door began to shake, Caleb’s body pounding against it.
My heart almost stopped as gunshots sounded outside. Dozens of them in the space of a few seconds. It sounded like a machine gun. I heard Caleb groan, and then there was more banging and crashing.
A sharp pain erupted in the back of my neck and I sank to the floor. Luis had struck me with the end of a rifle. He bent down over me, fastening more rope around my legs. I tried to squirm and struggle, but he was too strong. He heaved me up and crossed to the opposite side of the room, where, to my horror, there was another door. He pushed it open, and it revealed another staircase leading downward.
I screamed into the gag until my throat was sore. Tears of panic blurred my eyes as he walked around the building and headed back to the truck in the parking lot.
Caleb, where are you? I was certain that he’d heard me struggle. That was why Julio had opened fire on him.
Luis wolf-whistled. His other three companions, who’d been taking a smoking break across the parking lot, came racing toward us. One of them opened up the door for Luis, who laid me down over the back row of seats and sat down next to my head. I struggled to sit up but he held me down. I struggled even more frantically as the engine stuttered to a start and the vehicle began reversing. I couldn’t see who was driving, but they were in a hurry. The truck screeched as the tires skidded across concrete.
I glared up at Luis, who had both arms gripping my stomach and shoulders, holding me in place.
“Hush,” he said. I felt his stale breath on my face as he leaned over me, his mouth barely inches from mine. I turned my head to the side and closed my eyes.
He called out something in Portuguese to the other men in the truck, and they all chuckled. He began stroking my forehead.
“Don’t worry,” he rasped. “We’ll take you to Boa Vista. And further, if you care to join us…”
His palm was sweaty against my skin, odor seeping through his pores. I tried to spit out the gag but he stuffed it further into my mouth.
“Behave yourself, my dear. We don’t want to hurt you.”
I didn’t need much imagination to guess what they might do with me. These people were probably human traffickers, or worse. I dreaded to think where they were taking me now.
I was beginning to lose all hope when a thump sounded on the roof. Luis and the men looked around wildly. Metal creaked and before I realized what was happening, two bloody fists appeared through the top of the ceiling, tearing holes right through the metal.
At first, the men all looked too shocked to do anything. But when the hands gripped the newly made holes and began tearing the metal apart, they began shooting.
Once the hole was large enough, Caleb dropped down into the vehicle. His shirt was so ripped, he might have been wearing none. His chest was peppered with bullet holes and soaked with blood. I struggled frantically against Luis, trying to knock the gun out of his hands as he aimed it directly at Caleb’s head. I winced as bullets shot into Caleb’s chest, one narrowly missing his face.
But Caleb didn’t allow the firing to go on for long. He gripped the two men closest to him by the neck, his claws shot out and he dug into their skin. He jerked his hands backward, ripping through their jugulars.
Luis and the other men paused, too stunned to even hold a steady aim, as Caleb’s fangs protruded from his mouth. Caleb felled the next man closest to him in the vehicle. Now only Luis and one other man remained. They scrambled out of the truck which had halted to a stop. Caleb leapt out after them and pounced on Luis. Knocking the gun from his hands, he pinned Luis to the ground and sank his fangs into his neck. Luis convulsed as Caleb took deep gulps of his blood until he became still.
Caleb stood up and looked after the last man sprinting away in the distance. Caleb didn’t seem to feel the need to go chasing after his cowardly ass, and it was better he didn’t. The sun was still shining and it seemed that Caleb had lost his suit in the struggle with Julio.