It’s a hollowed-out school.
Two floors. Endless rooms, supply closets, narrow interior hallways. There are bathrooms, small offices, dismantled and decaying furniture, unstable floors, caving ceilings.
So when the power is suddenly cut to the shell of a building - the little light that had remained connected for the demolition crew – it turns the behemoth into a death trap.
Especially now that the bullets have started flying.
There are six other members of her squad in here. They had all paired up. They all have backup.
But she works alone these days.
It’s been over five years since she’d been required to have a partner, and maybe they’d only promoted her up the ranks because they had given up trying to tie her to anyone anymore. She’d always had a two-year rule, and everyone knew she requested a new partner on the second anniversary of meeting the last one, no matter how good they were. It had been sixteen years of shuffling – eight partners – before they’d finally cut her loose for good.
Truth is, even now, in a blackened corridor, hearing the gunfire, she’d rather go it alone.
Olivia flattens herself against the wall, trying to slow her breathing so she can hear the trajectory of the bullets. She’s got to make a move soon, or she’s going to be a target, even in this oppressive darkness. Her Sig is cupped in her hands, her vest is on. Her hair is pulled back in a ponytail, and what the hell, what the hell is she doing crosses her mind. She’s gonna have her ass handed to her by the brass. They keep telling her a Captain stays out of the goddamned field.
She’s got three dead girls – all rape vics, pumped full of fentanyl-laced cocaine or Purple Magic as soon as the attack had been over so they couldn’t say a word. One-and-dones, as they’re known on the street. Sold, slaved and slaughtered. It’s these narcotic-trafficking motherfuckers she’s after now. Only this cartel isn’t based in Mexico City or Columbia. It’s based here, in East Brooklyn, ravaging the streets of Brownsville. Narcotics and Vice hadn’t helped her unit, they had told her to stand down. They had a bigger case to worry about.
She doesn’t need their approval. Not when they had intel there were two girls – the next up in the trafficking queue - in here tonight. She outranks the majority of those dipshits, anyway.
Only the footsteps are coming at her from the left and the right now, where she knows from memory her hallway T’s with other snaking corridors. She can’t fire indiscriminately, her team is out there, too and she can’t see a thing. She prays to a God she doesn’t normally talk to that they all listened to her and stayed in two’s.
Her left hand stretches out and feels along the cinder block wall behind her, she starts shifting left. Slow and silent step by slow and silent step, she creeps, holding her breath. She knows there is a door a few feet down, she’d counted them as she’d entered. Her earpiece is dead silent, no one will dare to even whisper to each other now. She turns it off, unwilling to risk even the slightest escaping sound that would give her location away.
It feels like an eternity before she feels the frame of a doorway. Her fingers curl around it, and she tries not to flinch at the sound of a man, one hallway over, going down. The gunfire is fast, a staccato burst. It’s an automatic none of her team would have. She hears the victim’s surprise, the thud of a body hitting the ground.
Please, don’t be one of hers.
She feels the nausea lurch in her stomach. If she loses any of them, if her decision costs any of them, she will set her badge down for good. She blinks because emotion has no place here now.
Not if she’s going to survive and be able to help anyone else.
The footsteps are coming closer. It’s pitch black, but she knows the moment they enter her hallway. They are heavy, paced, too sure of themselves. She wonders if they are the one responsible for the unknown body going down.
They’re ten feet out from her, and she’s got to move. There is no way to remain undetected now.
She moves fast, flipping her body to the left and reaching for the door handle. If it’s locked, she’s dead, she’s dead – and if she’s too slow she’ll take a bullet before she can make her way through. There’s no guarantee she’ll even be able to hold the door closed.
The door miraculously opens and she’s crashing through, but she isn’t fast enough.
A human wall of concrete slams into her from behind, and her face hits the wooden door, her gun clanging against the surface. She tries to draw it up and protect her weapon, but he’s faster than she is, and his fingers manacle her wrist, stopping her. His grip is brutal, and he doesn’t move, he just holds her ruthlessly in place with the sheer size of him.
He’s muscles and sheet rock, she can tell that even in this cloistering dark.
Fear finds her, and it is a rare emotion. He’s too big, his movements are too fluid. This isn’t some random, out of shape, drug dealer or street thug. Her pulse skyrockets: she has to just fucking think.
She’s going to have to go back hard against him, it’s her only choice. He’s got a few inches on her, so she’ll use the top of her head against his mouth and chin. She’ll slam her elbow into his ribs, she’ll lock her leg around his and sending him hurtling backwards. If he gets her gun, she’ll pray he fires into the vest.
Her mind tenses, prepares for the fight. She lets her body go slack, to make him think she’s giving in.
Only he does the unexpected.
His facial hair brushes her right cheek, and he chuckles softly, a shift of unhurried, heated air against her ear. “Don’t even think about it.” He’s not even winded, instead he sounds amused. “Cute though, you thinkin’ you could take me.”
His grip on her wrist tightens, his thumb presses into her veins until it is nearly debilitating. She wants to swear and promise him death, but she stays silent, willing herself to endure it, to just hold onto the gun. The last thing she needs is for more of these fuckers to hear her and come running down this hall.
“Let it go,” he coaxes softly. “I’m not gonna hurt you.”
Like hell, He’s hurting her now. And she doesn’t know if he just killed someone - one of hers – down the next hallway. “Screw you. I’m a Captain with the NYPD, you’re fucking with the wrong person,” she hisses softly. Only the pain is intensifying, and now he uses his left hand to cup her cheek from behind. He doesn’t choke her or incapacitate her, even though he could. Instead, his finger presses into a spot behind her jaw and she could black out from it, the nausea rises fast. She knows this pressure point; she knows it could kill her. But he’s careful to control the pressure, until it’s merely a warning. She tries to thrust back but his body insistently slams forward until she’s flattened between him and the door.
“You make a sound and we’re both dead. I don’t gotta death wish, so calm the fuck down.”
He’s starting to sound irritated, and she realizes the physical battle isn’t an option. She goes slack again, and he releases the grip on her jaw.
“There we go,” he murmurs against her cheek. “Good girl.”
Fuck him. She will goddamn destroy him when this is done. For now, though, she must let him think he’s won. She stays silent and rigid, but he must take that for acquiescence, because he moves his left hand from her neck and wraps it around her waist instead.
Her back is pressed up against the front of him, and he’s armed at the waist. She shifts her leg, brushing up against his calf. Beneath his jeans, he’s armed at his ankle, too. She’s outsized, outplayed and outarmed.
“Give me the gun,” he commands.
She shudders, but she knows she doesn’t have a choice. She loosens her grip on her weapon, and his fingers take it. He must tuck it into the back of his jeans, while somehow simultaneously tightening his grip on her, because she doesn’t hear it hit the ground or it sliding across the floor.
She questions all her choices when she feels him expertly start to undo the Velcro of her vest.
She can’t make a sound. She can’t be afraid. She can get herself out of this. If this is what he wants, she’ll let him think he’s getting it, and she’ll take him down when he’s most vulnerable.
Her vest is loosened, and he only gives her enough slack to let it drop before kicking it aside and out of the way. His hand goes to her pullover shirt, his palm flattening over the material so that he can span her stomach.
Down the hallway, the gunfire spurts again. There are two of them incoming – three of them – and their voices are coming closer. They are yelling directives in both Spanish and English, racing closer again.
“I’m gonna tug this out,” he rasps. “You’re gonna hide that fucking badge. I’m gonna pull your hair and you’re gonna cry out, like I’m hurting you. Do you understand me?”
Her mind is racing, trying to process the fight in her with the logic of what he’s saying. How he’s talking to her. She talks to victims like this when they are terrified, explains what is coming in detail to give them a chance to absorb.
He’s telling her, so that she isn’t afraid, and it doesn’t make sense.
She nods. It’s not like she has a choice.
And then he’s on her. The assailants are closing in on them, and he’s yanking her back by her belt. He’s all efficient movement. Her badge is shoved in her pocket, his hips slam into her ass. One hand splays over her bare stomach, his mouth fastens on her neck, and he’s rough as hell.
But he doesn’t physically hurt her.
Her forehead is pressed against the door, and the scrape of his beard is harsh against her skin. She shudders, she wants to ruin him, to pummel him, to scream and rage. But her mind can’t wrap its head around his choices. He doesn’t use his tongue, he doesn’t slide his hand down into her pants, he doesn’t grab her by the breasts.
There are men close now. A few feet away from the door. She can see the beams of light, their flashlights swirling around the linoleum floor to her left.
“Cry out,” he growls against her.
He fists her hair with one hand, pulls her body back against his with the other. But he doesn’t grind into her, he leaves an inch of space. It’s all theatrics.
She cries out in protest, hating the false note of fear in the sound. She isn’t afraid of him, and it’s throwing her responses off.
They have an audience. Harsh breathing, there are three of them. Through the slight illumination, she sees their faces.
“Quien diablos es ella?” the first one spits disgustedly. His automatic rifle is cradled in his hands.
The man behind her shifts. She can hear the animalistic, irritated snarl of warning escape him, and her heart drops when she sees the resulting flash of fear in the smaller man’s eyes. “Quieres morir?” His voice is a dark menace now, drastically different than the amused arrogance and direct orders he’d been giving her.
Then the unexpected happens.
The three smaller men break into leering smiles. They nod, one even nudging the other with his elbow. “Este gillipollas,” he laughs. This asshole. He says it with reverence, as if in awe and ready to obey. “Morirá con la polla en una mujer.”
He will die with his dick in a woman.
Christ. The benefit of the doubt she was starting to give to the brutal bastard behind her fades. He outranks the others in whatever hell they live in.
Whatever it is, it buys her time, because they move on. No doubt searching for the rest of her team, dismissed by the sonofabitch holding her.
They’re barely gone when the man behind her leans into her ear again. “Jesus Christ, I can feel the fight in you.” It’s an exhale, a reverence. As if he’s surprised by her will to stay focused, to make choices, to keep her shit together. His hand is hot against her bare stomach, one of his rough fingers shifts slightly, and then he stops all movement as if it had been involuntary. As if he’s apologizing. He lifts his palm away, lets her shirt fall and holds her still over the fabric.
She’s shaking, and she hates herself for her reaction. He’s wrong, he’s all wrong, yet he hasn’t hurt her, not really. She can’t wrap her head around the vile truth. He’s probably saved her life. He’s dominated every minute of this situation, and he’s risked his own life and she dreads anyone knowing she’d ever let him get the best of her.
His face drops into her shoulder. He’s breathing hard. His lower body is kept from touching hers. “When I let you go, you head right this time. Ten feet down is a bathroom. There’s a window in there, it’ll open and you can get through it.”
She tries to pull back and lift her forehead off the door, but the crown of her head ends up pressed against his mouth. She needs a goddamned shrink again, because she feels safe, and the thought is the deepest betrayal of everything she’s ever known.
Her instincts say she’s safe and she can’t seem to shut them up.
Christ, this might be the end of her career. She can’t do this job if she can’t see right from wrong.
“I want my gun,” she says flatly, conjuring steel in her tone.
He laughs again, softly. “Goddamn hellcat. You gonna shoot me with it?”
She grinds her jaw, stares straight ahead into the blackness around them again. “Maybe.”
She feels him move, and then her gun is pressed flat against her stomach. Her hand closes over it, accidentally brushing his in the process. She’s on fire, and she attributes it to the adrenaline, the coursing rage and indignation that surges through her. It makes no sense that he would just hand it back to her.
It makes no sense that he’s peeling his body from hers slowly, and she feels cold. As if it is a loss.
“You’ll have to catch me first, sweetheart.”
The blackness is thick around them. She grips her gun, feels the wind of him disappear. She spins, determined to crack her pistol across his face.
Only just like a ghost, he’s gone.
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