“Careful, Mads. We’re kind of precarious here. I can’t see what I’m standing on, but it feels like loose tiles.”
“One second. I think I see the switch. It’s a breaker box. I’m gonna need both hands. Hold this.” She handed him the flashlight, but he fumbled and dropped it.
“Hurry, Mads. I can’t hold you much longer.”
“It’s really stiff.” With great effort, she threw the switch.
The lights blazed on. Maddie dropped from Clayton’s shoulders. He pressed her behind him, suddenly tense.
Two men stood opposite them, about fifteen feet away. They flanked Gabe, who was tied to a chair.
Ramon’s goon held a gun, leveled at them. Ramon’s pistol pressed to Gabe’s temple. Gabe’s face was bruised and bloody. One cheek was laid open to the bone. Blood oozed down his face. He forced a smile, trying to appear brave. It pained him and he winced. He sat in a battered chair, secured with duct tape.
“Get over here,” Ramon gestured to Maddie with his pistol.
Clayton cleared his throat. “Let the girl go, Ramon.”
“You call me Jefe!” he yelled. “She’s my insurance you won’t do something stupid. Once we tie you up, we’re gonna have some fun with her. You can watch if you want.” He leered dangerously.
A scream rose in Maddie’s throat. She tried to contain it by clamping her hands over her mouth, but she couldn’t. It burst forth as Ramon pointed the gun at Clayton.
“Get the damn girl,” Ramon ordered his flunky. “Tie them up. We’ll have some fun later.”
“You won’t!” Maddie yelled, taking a fighting stance. “I’ll bite off your balls, cabrón!”
Ramon yanked Gabe’s head back. The gun pressed into his neck, just below the ear.
“Maddie, not helping,” Clayton muttered.
“He’s gonna kill us all anyway,” she yelled. “But first, he’s going to rape me. You think I’m going to stand here and let him?”
The goon moved toward her. Clayton shielded her with his body, but she moved to his side, wielding the flashlight like a billy club.
“Try it, perro. You’ll be missing your teeth.”
“Maddie, no,” Gabe groaned.
Ramon cuffed him. “Shut up, or the girl dies.”
“Better death than sex with you,” Maddie spit at him. “Is that the only way you get a woman? Threats and violence? I bet that turns you on. Or are you gay lovers with your butt buddy over here? You did prison time. Maybe you found a special someone there?”
The goon glanced at Ramon uncertainly.
“Oh, my God, I’m right!” Maddie laughed.