Owen made sure no one saw him leave Rory’s apartment and walked back to the southern part of town, were he’d been staying with the gang, ever since they’d decided to relocate to Alexandria, after having been all over the place for two years.
In the two years he’d been undercover, he’d seen things that had made him sick, yet he had had to play along in order to gain Alexander’s trust, the leader of this human trafficking ring, and a man so smart, the cops had never been able to pin anything on him so far.
Owen’s investigation, compiled over these last two years, would be enough to send Alexander’s ass to prison. However, in order to make an arrest that would stick, Owen had to get Alexander and the man who called the final shots, The Shadow, as he was called, in the same place. If Alexander was caught, The Shadow would escape and they would’ve only caught a fraction of the human trafficking ring and not the entire operation.
Fortunately for Owen, The Shadow was about to come out of his hiding place, ever since one of the girls had escaped and had then been murdered by Nathan, afraid she had given anything of value to the police.
This part of town was known for its illegal immigrant population, which basically meant everyone minded their own business. Alexander and Nathan had taken over an apartment complex where they now ran their operations. Owen had earned their trust little by little. Those little by little moments had amounted to a year and a half, when Alexander had let him in on more than just follow orders without asking questions. And he’d now been promoted to seeker, meaning, he was now in charge of kidnapping women and bringing them to Alexander.
So far, he’d been in charge of guarding the safe houses were they kept the women, and of transporting them to different locations, where they would then be shipped inside the United States and across the border, down to Mexico. Hell was an understatement compared to the nauseating feeling of being incapable of doing nothing to prevent those women from falling into the hands of many sick bastards. Fortunately, he’d already compiled a detailed route map of all the safe houses, as well as of final destinations for these women, even going as far as identifying their final buyers.
Now, all he needed was to get The Shadow in the same room as Alexander, and take them down.
He entered the safe house he’d been assigned to, and nodded gravely to one of the other men in Alexander’s payroll. The air reeked of despair and agony, while the other men watched some mindless sitcom. The combination made him gag, so he took out his pack of smokes, a habit he was all too willing to quit, and motioned for the rooftop to one of the guards.
They had all grown used to him, even trusted him and joked around with him during their long night shifts together. Owen felt sickened by them, but they all attributed his distant demeanor to his fame of being ruthless in complying with Alexander’s orders.
“Nice walk?” Jet, an African American, who looked like a very frightening football player, asked as Owen passed next to him on the way to the stairs to the roof.
“Nothing worthy out there.” Owen shrugged, before leaving the room. Jet and some other guy laughed at some stupid joke on the T.V.
As soon as he was out in the fresh air, Owen went to the edge of the roof and braced both his hands on the wall, as he looked out onto the street, and then farther away, into the cluster of lights that was Alexandria.
Somewhere out there, he had to believe Rory was safe in her apartment.
How had the one thing he’d promised himself to uphold, her safety, had eluded him so easily and nearly cost both their lives yesterday?
He knew he had the chance to say no to his mission. That he could’ve been there with Rory, cuddled next to her in bed, enjoying two blissful years of marriage, maybe with a baby on the way. That he would’ve felt like the luckiest man on earth, for having her as his partner, his woman.
Instead, here he was, his heart sucked out of any warmth by the horrors of these past two years feeling so tired and sick, he wanted nothing more than to take out his gun, shoot those two men down there and free the women hostage in the rooms below.
Almost there, he recited once more.
But when he’d found that girl and had gotten more deep into the investigation, he’d known he had to do something. Still, was it worth it? Would it be worth it? Would he be able to live on the outside again, knowing he’d lost the one thing that mattered to him? The one thing that kept him sane to this day?
“Got a smoke, pal?”
Nathan, who’d been lurking in the shadows, came into the feeble light of the moon overhead and walked to stand next to Owen or Patrick, as he’d come to be known.
Owen abstained from scowling and simply offered the pack to the second in command after Alexander.
“Nice night out?” Nathan cupped his palm to the light from his lighter, as the tip of his cigarette burned bright red. He took one long drag and let the smoke out, as it got lost with the noise and stench from this neighborhood reeking with sex and drugs.
The undercover cop knew Nathan wasn’t only referring to his wandering out on the roof. He shrugged his shoulders and finished the last of his cigarette, before tossing it over the ledge.
Nathan eyed him silently, then he said.
“Shouldn’t be once The Shadow arrives. Alexander is getting anxious. We all are. It’s the first time The Shadow is coming to check up on us.”
That was interesting piece of information. Focused on the job now, Owen mulled it in his mind.
“So you’ve never met him?” He asked offhandedly, glad he’d hit on Nathan’s pride, as his eyes narrowed on him. When that happened, Nathan tended to over share.
“I’ve talked to him. Never face to face but there’s a reason they call him the Shadow, right?”
“Has Alexander met him?”
“Once, I think.”
“Any word on when he’s coming?”
Owen nodded, not wanting to dig for more info, making him look suspicious. It had taken him a lot to have Nathan bear with him, even if the man still didn’t trust him all the way. Fortunately for Owen, Alexander did, which had given him more insight into the operation.
“We’ll know when it’s time.”
“Waiting has never been my forte. I feel like we’re all gearing for one big show-down.”
“Should be interesting.” Nathan leaned over the ledge, and threw his finished cigarette. He leaned on his elbow and studied Owen.
“Up until that bitch escaped, everything was running smoothly, I guess he thinks he needs to make sure everyone here is loyal to him.” This time, Nathan stared directly into Owen’s shadowed eyes, which gave nothing away.
“You took care of that.” A little praise also went a long way with Nathan, even if Alexander had expressed his displeasure by having Nathan disappear for an entire month, then come looking like he’d not been lounging by some beach on a tropical island.
As if thinking the same thing, Nathan’s hand rubbed on the scar just below his neck.
“Hell, yes. Speaking of which, what happened yesterday? I thought I was taking care of business.”
Owen was very careful not to clench his fists or snap at the memory of Rory’s scared eyes, or the fact that had he not come looking for Nathan, she would’ve been lost for good. And he would’ve not known until it was too late.
“And I thought Alexander trusts me enough to decide which one will do and which one wont. Unless you have a problem with that?”
Nathan merely lifted his shoulders, offhandedly, unperturbed by the edge of temper in Owen’s tone. There was something about this man that simply put his back up, but if his boss had said he was ready, it meant Alexander trusted this man’s guts. Nathan’s had always warned him to tread lightly where Patrick Murphy was concerned.
“No, maybe you were right. The bitch was just too………well, different. I think you made the right call.”
Owen raised a skeptic eyebrow.
“So maybe it’s time I let you in on a little secret. There are some girls who are like this one, just not suited for this business. But that doesn’t meant they aren’t suited to please, just not some random idiot, but someone with better taste.”
Something inside Owen clenched and his muscles bunched in anticipation.
“What are you saying?”
Nathan took his time, took out his Cuban and lighted it up, reveling in the harsh, sweet taste before answering.
“That some girls we find for Alexander. For his…..private collection.”
This information had the gears in his mind turning, and bile rising up his throat. He thought he’d had most of the business figured out, and now, this? Alexander had his own personal collection of tormented girls to please him?
Then, the suggestion behind Nathan’s new information made his stomach recoil and his hand itch to grab the gun on his back and shoot the bastard between the eyes before he could even think of getting close to Rory. It took a super human effort to merely lean his back on the ledge and nod for the other man to continue.
“She would be ideal, and…………”
“And more than one could have fun with that fine piece of ass.”
Owen’s fist was about to act out of its own volition when one of the guards downstairs came out, saying.
“Time to roll.”
“About time.” Owen breathed out and turned to go back inside. Nathan said from behind him.
“I bet I can find her before you do.”
Owen’s back went cold with fear but he snorted instead, glancing over his shoulder.
And all through the job, all he could think of was getting Rory the hell out of here, before Nathan did find her.