Still groggy from the drugs in her bloodstream, Sarah felt the floor spin beneath her in the darkened room. She heard a car door slam, followed by the sound of tires spinning on gravel. Vaguely aware of what had happened to her, she remembered being carried off a boat before she passed out. She also remembered the scent of cigar smoke, the same smell now wafting through the gap under the door across from her.
Coping with a pain in her lower abdomen, she tried to stand. Wobbly at first, she used her hands to feel along the wall until her confidence in her legs came back. A light switch illuminated the small room with its single boarded window and no furniture.
Squinting from the bright light above her, she recalled the man with the needle and the forceful prick in her arm; the sting from another injection intended to make her sleepy.
She tried the door but found it locked. She could hear screaming, followed by shouting in Spanish. She recognized the words, but she couldn’t make out the translation.
Keys jingled in the lock, prompting her to move backwards as two men entered, dragging the battered body of Chloe Johnson between them. Sarah recognized the girl from the boat before the men dropped her like a bag of mulch and retreated, slamming and locking the door behind them.
“Are you okay?” she said to the broken teenager. “What happened?”
Chloe Johnson crawled against the wall and assumed the fetal position. Her frazzled hair hung down around her face. Her torn shirt exposed her shoulders and the purple bruise marks on her arms.
Sarah touched Chloe’s cheek where a star-shaped impression had been hammered against her skin. “It’s all right.”
“Who are you?”
“What’s your name?”
Chloe jerked away from Sarah’s touch, shielding her face with her hands. “Chloe.”
Sarah stared at Chloe’s bruises. “Where are we?”
“But we’re still alive.”
Chloe wiped her face with her hand. Snot oozed from both nostrils. “They’ll come for you next.”
Sarah shook her head, afraid to imagine what horrors awaited. “They’ll have to kill me first.”
Chloe repositioned herself with her back against the wall and her knees drawn up to her chest. “They won’t.”
“How did you get here?”
“They killed my family. My brother. Then my father.”
Sarah thought about Mom and Steve. “Are we still in Mexico?”
“I think so.”
“How long have we been here?”
“Can you walk?”
Chloe rubbed her legs. “It hurts.”
“You have to try. We have to find a way out of here.”
Sarah touched the boarded window. “Help me find something to pry with.”
Chloe relaxed herself from her curled position on the floor, pondering on the girl’s words. Escaping from her captors would remove her from their physical presence, but the pain they’d already inflicted would follow her for the rest of her life. She’d no family to run to; no mother and father to rescue her and punish the men who hurt her. “It won’t do any good. They’ll find us.”
“No they won’t. Not if we run and hide.”
“They’ll find you. And they’ll kill you just like they killed my brother and my parents.”
Sarah pressed on. “What’s outside of here? Are we near anything? Somewhere someone might be able to help us?”
“I think we passed a hotel.”
Chloe rubbed her jaw. The swelling in her face had worsened since the men brought her back. “I can’t remember. It looked old.”
Sarah dug her fingers between the wood and the bottom of the window opening. She used her legs to push against the wall while she tugged on the wood plank nailed in place. “If we can get to a phone—”
“They’ll catch us first.”
“Not if we move fast.”
Chloe heard the words coming out of the girl’s mouth, and wondered how the silly bitch could believe what she was saying.
“How many men are there?”
Chloe stared at her hands. She pictured the men’s faces in front of her. On top of her. Breathing on her. Touching her in places they shouldn’t. Shouting and laughing with one another, then at one another. She remembered the pop of broken teeth in her mouth. “Four, I think.”
“Are you sure?”
“Four attacked me, but I heard other voices outside.”
“How far away is the hotel?”
“How far? A block? A mile? Ten miles?”
Chloe shifted her gaze to the ceiling, trying to recall what she’d seen on the ride to the house. Men’s faces kept blocking her thoughts. Mean, hateful faces, men on top of her, beating her, hurting her again and again. “It’s a long away. I heard music in the car when I saw the hotel. The song ended when we got here.”
“How fast were you going?”
“I don’t know.”
“How fast did it feel?”
Sarah ran a calculation through her head. If an average song plays for three minutes and the car averaged sixty miles an hour, the distance traveled would be roughly three miles, assuming a constant speed. “We can make it if we run.”
“How can you know that?” Chloe moaned. “The hotel could be hours from here.”
“Maybe. But it’s a chance we have to take.”