Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
A garden drenched in
moonlight. There were flowers growing up
columns, along the walkways, on the trees.
The air was heavy with the fragrance of thyme and mint and basil, but
Kali could only smell the memory of them.
It was distant and half-remembered.
A rustle came from the
nearby bushes. She smiled.
“You can come out,” she
said without looking at the bush. “I
know you are there.”
This time, the rustle was
louder. More violent as the boy
extracted himself from the foliage.
He knelt before Kali, his
golden head bowed. “I didn’t mean to
disturb you,” he said, voice little more than a whisper.
She reached for him. Lifted his chin so she could gaze into his bright
blue eyes. “You’re the senator’s slave. Gabriel.”
“Why are you here?”
His cheeks flushed an
appealing shade of red. Golden eyelashes
lowered. “I wanted to see you
again. My master had no need of me, and
I…” His blush deepened.
She cupped his cheek and
A jolt sent her tumbling
from the bench. Her head pounded, a
sharp pain shooting through it. The left
side of her face burned, dagger digging into her brain. Her stomach did a somersault.
The boy opened his mouth. He let out a loud honk, like a goose. It blared once. Twice.
Longer and longer and…
Kali opened her eyes, the
dream fading away. She was stretched out
on a scratchy carpet, miles of beige filling her vision. Her eyes were heavy and blurry, lashes
sticky, like she’d been crying. Her
mouth tasted rancid. Her head was a hot mass
“God,” she whispered,
trying to remember where she was. She
couldn’t focus through the pain, but she knew something bad had happened. Something…
“A crash on the
northbound 5 is slowing up traffic,” a voice said.
She lifted her head, biting
her tongue when the world swam around her.
After closing her eyes and counting to ten, she pushed herself up to
“What?” she gasped when
she raised her hand to her face. Her
wrists were bound together with duct tape.
Her ankles were taped together, too.
“There’s also some debris
on the road slowing up the interchange to the 101.”
“Wonderful,” a new voice
muttered. “Of course there’s
traffic. Why wouldn’t there be? I’m only racing the damn sun.”
That wasn’t the radio.
Kali tried to look over her
shoulder but couldn’t get a good view.
She had to maneuver herself around, rolling to see the driver.
Brown hair. Goatee.
“There was a shooting
today at a shopping center in the city of Orange,” the radio said.
He’d threatened her with
a gun. Shot the guard. And then… then things got fuzzy.
“Police say the witnesses
on the scene were unable to give a clear account to exactly what occurred. Some are speculating drugs may have been
involved. Several people have been treated
for injuries and released from the hospital.
Investigation is still ongoing.”
“Why can’t they remember?”
The driver glanced at
her. “You’re awake.”
Kali nodded, her stomach
roiling at the movement. She leaned against
the passenger seat in front of her, panting.
She glanced out the front windshield.
“Look out!” she shouted, seeing
the car in front of them had stopped.
He turned and slammed on
the brakes. The van jerked to a stop,
throwing Kali against the seat. She
hadn’t thought she could be in more pain, and yet…
She groaned. Saliva flooded her mouth.
“You all right?” he asked
“I’m going to throw up,”
“There’s a bag next to
you,” he said. Eyes still on the road,
he reached back and fumbled for it.
She was barely able to
yank it open before she threw up.
Half-digested popcorn and soda mixed with stomach acid landed in the black
plastic bag. Some dribbled down her
The van lurched
forward. She vomited again, not making it
all into the bag this time. It splashed
onto her pants, causing her to heave again.
She hacked and spat into the bag before finally pulling away.
He reached back and
twisted the bag closed. “If you feel
sick, there are more bags back there.”
“You planning on putting
my body parts in them?” she asked.
“Here.” He handed back a bottle of water, the cap
already twisted off.
Water spilled out of the
top as she lifted it to her mouth, spilling down her chin and shirt. The water washed the worst of the taste away
and helped clear her head.
“Who are you?” she asked
before taking another sip.
The name wasn’t familiar. “Why did you kidnap me?”
He didn’t say anything.
If you’re looking for ransom, you have the wrong girl. My mom’s been gone since I was a kid, so
that’s a dead end. All her relatives are
dead broke. I haven’t any clue who my
dad is, so there’s no money there. So,
um…” Belatedly, she realized that maybe
telling a kidnapper she was worthless might not be the best strategy. The chances he’d keep her alive might be
lessened by prematurely devaluing herself.
He shook his head, a
smile playing over his mouth. “I’m not
after a ransom.”
So, he was either a
killer or a rapist. Or both. “So, what? You going to, um. Rape me?” Not that she wanted to give him
“I’m not going to rape you,
Kali.” He met her eyes in the mirror, expression soft, almost like he was trying
to reassure her.
Except, he knew her
name. This wasn’t a random
snatching. And… “Are you going to kill me?”
He looked away from
She needed to escape. Get out of
the tape. Get out of the van. Run.
She tried to twist her
wrists, but the tape held them too tightly.
She cast her gaze about on the floor, looking to see if there was
anything she could use to cut through.
A shiver of realization
went through her. Her keys. She could feel them in her pocket, pressing
against her hip. She had a keychain. A
phoenix, with a long sharp beak and metal wings.
The beak and wings that
might be strong enough to cut through the tape.
She shifted so her legs
were in front of her. The world outside
was bathed in the orangey glow of sunset that reflected off the cars around
them, all stuck traffic and hardly moving.
If she could cut through the tape, she might be able to run through the
cars and get to an exit. Traffic was
slow enough. She’d be able to avoid getting
Garrison was still
looking at the road. Slowly, so as not
to draw attention to herself, she moved her hands to her right pocket.
“You wouldn’t believe
me,” he said.
She froze. “I wouldn’t… wouldn’t believe why you’re trying
to kill me?”
He shook his head.
“You’d be amazed what a
concussed girl will believe.”
“You wouldn’t be
concussed had you done as I’d asked in the first place.”
Unbelievable. “Sorry if I messed up your kidnapping
plans. I’m not exactly used to being a helpless
“No,” he murmured. “You never have been.”
She bit her lip and winced
as she tasted blood. Sucking on her
bottom lip, she started trying to maneuver her body so she could reach into her
pocket. A glance out the window showed
her that traffic was still creeping along quietly. They were one lane over from the slow
lane. One lane from freedom. All she had to do was jump out of the van,
avoid one lane of cars, and get to an exit.
And then… And then it didn’t
matter. She would be gone, swallowed
into the crowd of the city before Garrison could make his way over. She could get to the police, let them hide
The image of Garrison
calmly shooting the security guard flashed through her mind. Kali shuddered. He had killed so easily. Garrison hadn’t even paused before he’d shot
him. Would he do any differently with
But the guard had been only
one person. Plus, Garrison had known
exactly where to find her. If Kali ran
away, he wouldn’t know where she’d gone, not once she was out of his
sight. Even if he did find her, there
was no way Garrison would take on an entire police station.
He stepped on the
gas. The van rolled forward over a bump. Kali, who was on her knees, leaning backward,
toppled to the floor. Her keys slid out of her pocket with a loud clunk.
“What was that?” Garrison
demanded. He looked back.
She forced herself to
stay calm. “Just me. Trying to get
comfortable.” She slid her legs around
in front of her. Groaned as she did a sit up to get back upright. Time start working
out, she guessed.
“What are you doing?” He
glanced back at her suspiciously.
“Nothing. Just… it’s hard
to find a good way to sit. You never
answered me. Why do you want to kill me?”
He looked at her a moment
longer, eyes narrowed. Kali did her best
to look innocent.
Finally, he turned away.
“I’m not special,” she
said, fishing around for the keys. Her hand closed around them. She scooted
back, pulling her knees to her chest, shielding her hand. “Is it a race thing? You want to kill me because I’m not
white?” She’d faced her share of racism. Her mother was white. Her father was a man that Mom had met at a
party, slept with, and left without getting his name, much less country of
origin. When pressed, she’d said, “I don’t
know. Indian or Mexican or Chinese or
something,” which was absolutely no help.
Garrison shook his
head. “It has nothing to do with your
whore of a mother or bastard of a father.
Nothing to do with your race. In
fact, is has nothing to do with you in this life at all.”
This life? “What?”
He looked at her in the
mirror. “Do you really not remember, or
are you just being coy?”
“Remember what?” Her wrists ached from twisting them around so
she could slide the beak of her phoenix under the tape.
“Who you were,” he
said. “Who you are.”
“I’m Kali Johnson. I’m just… I mean, that’s all.”
“You’re more important
than that. At least, to some you are.
Or, rather, you were and will be again if I don’t stop you.”
“By killing me?” She got the beak under the tape. Tried to lift it through. “What are you stopping me from doing?”
“Dying and being reborn as the so-called goddess you once were.”
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