I guessed he thought that I didn’t speak Spanish. Or, more likely, he didn’t care whether I understood him or not.
The door shuddered again as another bout of knocking broke out, more forceful this time. A man shouted in Spanish. “It’s Camilo. Open up.”
“I don’t care what he was promised,” Aurelio said, his voice quieting. “Just take him away.”
He slammed the phone down. I avoided his gaze as he took a seat opposite me. I heard footsteps outside. Then low mutterings in Spanish. It sounded like there was a scuffle, but then footsteps drew further away and the banging stopped. I wished that it had continued. Now that I was alone here with this man, my hairs stood on end.
“Stand up.” Aurelio spoke in English now, his harsh voice slicing through the silence.
I stood up as best I could, being chained to the chair. He stood up himself and walked over to me, his arms folded over his chest as his eyes roamed me.
Brody’s words echoed in my ears. “Do all you can to get on that boat.” He’d advised me for my personal safety. But I knew that if there was any chance I would see Caleb again, it would be on that boat and that was what spurred me forward more than anything.
“I want to join Camilo’s circus,” I said, fighting to keep my voice steady.
There was a loud banging outside the door.
“Aurelio, enough of this. Open up or I’ll break in,” a voice shouted in Spanish. Camilo again. He must have managed to break free from the other men.
Aurelio scowled. Wetting his lower lip, he walked to the door and opened it. A tall, dark-haired man entered the room. He looked almost identical to Aurelio. They're twins.
Camilo’s brown eyes settled on me as he strode into the room, a cap in his hand, shades in the other.
“So this is her?” he said, still in Spanish. Once he’d finished eyeing me over, he turned on his brother. “I want her to join me. She will help to tame that freak you gave us.”
A rush of relief spread through me. So Caleb is still alive.
“Find another way to tame him,” Aurelio said. “She stays here.”
Camilo shook his head. “Then your gift will have been worthless. It’s going to be too much of a time investment without her. What is it you want her for so much anyway?”
Aurelio frowned at his brother. “It should be obvious what she can bring me. A teenage North American. Unassuming. Pleasant to look at. You know we’ve been running low on recruiters for months. If enough time is put into her training, I predict she’ll double the Colombians’ results within a week.”
Camilo reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigarette. Lighting up, he drew in deeply and blew out, still eyeing me unashamedly. He looked me over as if I was an object.
“Then if you keep her, how am I to use the man? He’s wilder than any animal we’ve brought in and doesn’t respond to punishment. You may as well have him back, or just get rid of him altogether.”
“You haven’t given it long enough. Starve him for a few days, if you have to. But we keep the girl here.”
Although Camilo looked frustrated, he didn’t argue with his brother. I got the feeling that Aurelio always won in arguments, even though they were twins. It seemed that Camilo had a certain sense of how far to push his brother. He stared at me as he finished his cigarette.
“Well, we’re leaving at dawn,” he said stiffly to his brother and turned to leave the room.
My heart palpitating, I lurched forward and gripped Camilo’s arm. “Please,” I said. “Please, take me with you. I want to join the circus. I’ll do anything.”
Camilo looked down at me, then back at his brother. His lips parted, but then closed again beneath his brother’s steely gaze. He cleared his throat, shook me off him and left the room, shutting the door sharply behind him. I stood frozen in my spot, horror filling me as his footsteps disappeared down the corridor.
Aurelio walked back over to his desk and picked up the phone. “Send up Jorge and Marisa.”
Marisa and Jorge—a short, thickset man—entered the room three minutes later. Marisa’s face set into a deep scowl as soon as she laid eyes on me. As for Jorge, he walked up to me and gripped my arms while Aurelio removed the handcuffs. I tried to knee Jorge in the groin, but he twisted me round fast so that my back was facing his chest, his arm round my neck choking me.
“Careful not to bruise her any more,” Aurelio said sternly as we left his office. “She needs to look clean. Like a tourist.”
As soon as we were outside, Marisa tugged on Jorge’s arm, pulling him to a stop, and with her wide palm slapped me across my face. My eyes watered from the pain.
Jorge scowled. “Didn’t you hear what Aurelio just said? You’re going to get both of us into trouble.”
Marisa’s eyes bored into mine. “I know how to punish without causing bruises.”
They stopped with me before we reached the first staircase. My stomach clenched as the man’s cracked lips brushed against mine while he tied a rag around my eyes. His hands took a detour around my body as he wrestled me to the ground and fastened my hands and legs with ropes.
“I still think she would have been good as one of Eleni’s girls,” he muttered as he lifted me off the ground. “But this suits me.”
Jorge hurled me over his shoulder. He began hurrying down the staircase, each bump bringing me closer to throwing up. A part of me hoped that I did, because it was the only way I could retaliate now that I was bound.