Authors: Eloise J. Knapp
copyright © 2015
By Eloise J. Knapp
This book is a
work of fiction. People, places, events, and situations are the product of the
author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living, or dead, or
historical events, is purely coincidental.
the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in
any form, or by any means, without prior written permission of the copyright
owner, expect in the case of brief quotations within critical articles and
This one is for
you, David B.
The concrete wall sent a bitter chill
through my jacket, but I leaned on it anyway. I was tired. An hour gone and not
a single hit. I took a drag on my cigarette—fucking tobacco tax was almost bad
enough to make me quit—and savored the nicotine. I blew a smoke ring. It hung
in the air, gray and thick, before disappearing into the night. Even if I didn’t
make another sale, at least I had a nice smoke.
Christmas lights set the street ablaze
even though it was only the end of November. The Westlake Center tree lighting
was yesterday, and the thing towered in front of the mall entrance. Hordes of
people posed for photos in front of it, giant overpriced coffees in hand. It
was hard to believe people came to Seattle from around the state just for the
Skid emerged from the crowd to my left.
His baggy pants dragged on the ground, the hems muddy and ratted. A navy blue
knitted hat was pulled low over his forehead. Despite being a street kid,
homeless since I met him, he always had a goofy smile on his face and an
attitude that didn’t match his circumstances. I had at least ten years on him
but we got along.
Skid leaned on the wall next to me. The
passing crowd gave us an extra breadth. Two shady guys loitering was scary
business. “Got someone for ya. Looking to get some rope.”
“He at the spot?”
“Been a slow night, thanks.” I tossed my
cigarette on the ground and crushed it with my heel. “Come on. I’ll give you
your cut after. Then I gotta bounce.”
We crossed the intersection and walked to
the alley where Skid’s guy waited behind an overfilled dumpster. He was exactly
what I expected. Beady eyes set deep in their sockets, greasy skin. Dressed
nice enough to look respectable at first glance, maybe even good if you were
drunk. I fucking hated these guys.
Skid hung back while I handled the guy,
“What do you need?” I asked.
He shifted, glanced down the alley.
roofies I guess? Two of them?”
“Two huh?” I shoved my hands in my pockets
and grinned. The guy was a dabbler. Easy money. “Forty bucks.”
“That seems like a lot. Google said they’d
be less.” When he frowned, his nostrils flared wide. I gave him the silent
treatment and, as dabblers do, he reached into his wallet and took out four
I plucked them from his grubby fingers and
handed him two small plastic baggies from my jacket. “Best there is.”
The second he had the packages he
hightailed it back to the main street. I had to take advantage of a guy like
that. They were bastards, nasty and despicable. I wasn’t supposed to care about
what I sold, who I sold it to, or what would happen after. All these years in
the game, I still did. Maybe it was because I still believed this life wasn’t
mine. That one of these days, I’d remember. I’d remember everything. And get
Skid wandered back to me and we headed
farther down the alley where it exited on the other end of the block. The smell
of fresh bread from the sub shop nearby mingled with trash. My stomach rumbled.
Fuck I was hungry.
The cash from the rope was still in my
hand. I gave thirty bucks to Skid and pocketed the rest.
“Shit, E, thanks. That’s a lot.”
“Don’t worry about it. You’re a good
steerer,” I told him. “Call it a Christmas bon—”
A woman in a short pink cocktail dress
rounded the corner into the alley and slammed into me. She stumbled backward
then fell on her ass on the sidewalk. People navigated around her, going out of
their way not to look at the scene.
“Jesus, watch where you’re going lady,” I
snapped. My voice faltered once I got a good look at her.
She’d been in the dress more than a day.
The rumpled fabric had a dried stain down the front and flecks of something dark
across the hem. There was a sweaty sheen to her skin and her hair flew in all
directions. She was on a bender. I’d seen it before. Good girls got bored,
maybe had an addiction in the past. They squeezed into a little number from the
back of the closet. Had a nice little breakdown with lots of booze, sex, and
drugs. I bet she had a gaggle of friends at a bar somewhere who wondered where
she’d gone off to. No doubt they were sending text messages furiously, asking
if she’d hooked up with someone.
Then I saw bruises on her neck. Her knees
were scraped and bloodied. Makeup was smudged around her eyes and mouth.
She got to her feet. The heel on her right
shoe was missing, setting her stance off kilter. She pushed past me and
continued down the alley.
“E, should we do something?” Skid’s nose
and eyebrows scrunched together.
Doing something meant sticking around, and
sticking around was dangerous. You didn’t hang around the last place you sold.
But the look of concern on Skid’s face made me go against my gut.
“Hey, lady,” I called out. “Are you okay?
You need something?”
She stopped, already twenty feet away, and
turned around. “I need somewhere to hide and something to put me to sleep.” She
wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, then reached into the purse dangling
from her elbow. “I have money. I’ll give you everything I have. I don’t have
much time. They’re looking for me.”
“Who’s looking for you? The cops?” I used
my arm to gently push Skid back. “Get out of here, now.”
Skid nodded and booked it out of the alley
without question. He disappeared into the crowd.
“Please,” she begged. “I’m going to wake
up soon and I won’t know where I am.”
Someone had taken a sledgehammer to my
chest. My heartbeat came to a stop then raced so hard I felt my pulse throbbing
in my ears. The bottomless panic in her eyes tore through me. The dark voids of
my memory spilled into the foreground of my mind.
I won’t know where I am
My mouth went dry. Any thoughts of running
disappeared. “What do you mean?”
“I-I don’t know exactly. They took me and
to me. I escaped, but I know they’ll find me. I’m remembering
things. I remember more every time and—”
“Who took you?” I interrupted. I closed
the distance between us and grabbed her shoulders. “What are you talking
Suddenly her body tensed. Her chin tilted
up and she scanned her surroundings. Something shifted in her. She brought her
hand to her neck and felt the plum colored bruises. She winced and swayed. I
tightened my grip on her to keep her upright.
“Where am I?” Her voice was hoarse. She slapped
my hands off her and took a wobbly step back. “Who are you?”
The world was expanding and it hurt my
brain. She was acting like I did seven years ago when I woke up from my missing
time. I was totally alone, the chaotic storm of consciousness fighting to make
sense of where I was, who I was.
And with no results. It had been years
since I’d fully given up hope of discovering who I was. Years since I stopped
looking for answers, since I let the streets suck me under.
“Tell me what happened to you.” I demanded.
“Were you drugged? How much time have you lost?”
I don’t know why I’m
here.” Her confusion veered into hysteria. “I don’t know how I got here! What
did you do to me?”
Tires screeched at the head of the alley
closest to us as a black town car came to a halt. Two men sprang out of the
back seat and ran straight for us. The dim amber streetlight cast ugly shadows
on their faces. Once they entered the cover of the alley, one reached into his
suit jacket. I knew that motion. He was going for a gun.
The woman burst into tears. I took her
hand and tried to pull her into a run. I wasn’t letting her go. I couldn’t.
“Move, dammit! Come on!”
She took two steps, then her knees buckled
and she crumpled to the dirty ground. Her breaths were short and frantic. The
two men were seconds away.
Every part of me screamed not to let go.
She knew something. She’d help me. She was my only chance.
A bullet pinged off the dumpster beside
What good were answers if I was dead?
I let go of her and ran.