"I don't know," Craig managed to get out in a high-pitched voice, coughing.
Cynthia squeezed harder, enjoying the look of fear and pain in the man's eyes. "Where. Are. They? And don't play dumb. It'll just get you more pain."
"Please. I don't know. I wish I did."
Cynthia finally believed him and loosened her grip. Just a little. "Okay then, what can you tell me?"
"I hired someone. I didn't want to know what he was going to do. I didn't care as long as they were gone. Out of my life. For good."
"How do I get in touch with this Kralik person?"
Craig hesitated and Cynthia gave another squeeze to remind him who was in charge. "Phone," he cried out. "555-5455. That's all I know."
Cynthia removed her hand and stepped away. Craig slumped down on rubbery legs, pain shooting through his body. The office door burst open and the same mousy shrew who had originally tried to stop Cynthia stood staring at her boss, her mouth open and her eyes wide. Blood was still running down Craig's face, pooling on his white Van Heusen dress shirt.
Cynthia tossed her head and straightened her blouse. She passed the older woman, stopped and said, "Your boss seems to have had an accident. I think his nose is broken. You might want to get him some medical attention. He really needs to be more careful."
Buttoning her suit jacket to cover the few spots of Craig Taylor's blood on her blouse, she quickly, but calmly, walked to her car, got in and drove off. She didn't want to chance a meeting with the threatened security guards. Several blocks away she pulled into the Q-Mart parking lot and made a phone call.
"Daph? It's me. Meet me in the parking lot at the Q-Mart on Buckley. By the gas station. I have some information."
Brian wasn't sure how long they had been riding, but it seemed like a long time. His left arm was numb from lying on one side the whole time. He tried to stay alert to the van movements, but it was harder than he thought. He heard a train whistle, but they had been stopped at a railroad crossing so he wasn't sure what that meant. He was pretty sure they were out of the city now as the sounds of other cars were few and far between. And they were on an open road as they didn't have to slow or stop like for stop signs or signal lights. But he wasn't sure how much good that would do as he didn't know which direction they were going in the first place.
Justin had stopped whimpering as soon as he realized Brian was in the van with him. At least he knew Brian was alive, that was the main thing. They tried talking but each time a deep voice commanded them to be quiet. They had to be content with what bodily contact they could manage.
The van slowed and made a right turn onto a dirt road. The uneven surface rocked the vehicle and branches scraped along the sides. Wherever they were was pretty isolated. Brian was beginning to think he had underestimated just how badly Craig Taylor wanted to get rid of him and Justin. Surely he couldn't want his own son dead, could he?
Brian leaned as close to Justin as he could. "I love you," he whispered, hoping it was loud enough for his husband to hear.
He was relieved when he heard a quiet, "I love you, too," back.
A short while later, the van came to a full stop and the engine was shut off. The boys heard the front doors open then slam closed again. Seconds later the back doors opened and someone got into the back with them. Brian felt Justin being pulled away from him.
"Where are you taking him?" he yelled.
"Quiet!" shouted the man as he kicked at Brian, connecting with his chest. "I didn't tell you to talk. You'll find out soon enough."
Working purely on instinct, Brian flung his long legs out wildly. He heard a sharp cry as his booted foot made contact with human flesh leading to a thud as something big landed on the dirt. He let himself break out into a self satisfied smile, thanking his high school soccer coach for helping him to develop his talent. The bag on his head made it impossible to see where the man was and how badly he was hurt, but several seconds went by without another sound from him, so Brian was hoping he was knocked out. Taking the chance, he scooted himself to the edge of the truck floor and heaved himself up to a sitting position. A few seconds told him that no other people were nearby.
"What now?" he said to himself. "Think. Justin is in trouble and it's my turn to rescue him."
The two women sat in Cynthia's car as Cynthia related her visit to Craig Taylor.
"So what do we do now? Go to the police?" Daphne took a sip of her cinnamon cappuccino. She couldn't believe what Cynthia had done to Justin's father, but would have loved to have been there to see it.
"They're probably looking for me as we speak, to charge me with assault. That is, if Taylor wants to admit he was beaten up by a woman." She laughed at the little joke, then got serious. "Whatever happened to Brian and Justin...they've had a good head start on us. I just hope it's not too late."
"I know one of the detectives. Carl Horvath. He's sorta dating Debbie, Michael's mother. We can trust him. At least I think we can. We don't have much choice."
"Let's go, then." Cynthia set her cup in the holder and started the car. Neither woman said a word on the ride to the station. Neither one wanted to verbalize her fears, afraid they might be true.
Carl sat across the desk from the two women, having listened to their story. He picked up a folder that had been put on his desk just an hour before. The contents were disturbing, because he knew one of the parties involved and added to what Brian's assistant was telling him, he had no doubt Brian and Justin were in deep trouble.
Daphne stared at the detective. "You don't believe us. Cyn, he doesn't believe us. Brian and Justin are in trouble and he doesn't believe us."
"Ladies, I believe you," he said, fingering the folder. He took a deep breath. "I got this earlier this morning. Brian's car was found by the railroad tracks on Saw Mill Road. It was empty and the driver's side window was broken. We searched the area, but we didn't find anything. Or anyone." Without waiting for a response, he added, "Now what else can you tell me? And don't leave anything out."
Justin was pushed down onto a hard wooden chair and his hands were tied to the back. He was resisting at every turn, a fact that was making the hired goon very angry. He didn't expect this little bit of a man to be so tough. Fag or not, he had to admire his spunk. The bag was pulled off his head. The light was dim, but Justin quickly took in as much as possible of his surroundings.
It was your typical weekend cabin, rustic, yet comfortable. He wondered who it belonged to. His eyes came back to the man standing in front of him. "Where's Brian?" he asked, trying not to let the panic he felt be heard in his voice.
"My friend is taking care of him, so don't you worry. You'll see each other again. Eventually. Just don't expect it to be in this world."
The evil laugh sent chills up Justin's spine. He'd heard that laugh before and not so long ago. His mind flashed back to Greenhills and the drug induced sleep that he endured. Recognition dawned on his face.
"That's right. Now that we understand each other, I don't want any trouble from you."
Justin wasn't sure why people always underestimated him. His captor expected him to just cower like a scared child, but that wasn't his style. He managed to escape from Greenhills and he would do whatever was necessary to escape from here. Wherever `here' was. He looked around for anything that could be used as a weapon. The fireplace utensils were a possibility if he could reach them. There was some sort of rock, a geode, probably, on the end table. He sighed. "Okay," he thought to himself, "this may not be quite as easy as I thought."
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