“What is the knife for?” I asked, my throat painfully dry.
“You’ll find out after,” he said. “It is for your husband. For your Salvador.” He stepped to the side and waved his arm at the camera. “And this is also for him.”
He eyed someone over my shoulder and gave a sharp nod. I heard a rip from behind and a piece of duct tape was placed over my mouth. I squirmed helplessly and the lights in the basement dimmed. The men stepped to the side while Javier went behind the video camera. A white light came off the front of it and bathed me in an eerie glow.
Javier cleared his throat, his face covered in shadow, and said loudly, projecting to the camera, “This is Luisa Reyes, former beauty queen of the Baja State and property of Salvador Reyes. Salvador, we have your wife and we have a long list of demands, demands which I know you can meet. I expect full cooperation in this matter or she dies in the next seven days. If she’s lucky. I’ll give you some time to think about what you’re willing to give up for her. Then we’ll be contacting you. Goodbye.”
The light on the camera switched off, but the rest of the room remained dim.
“I hope your husband checks his emails often. It would be a shame to have to put this on YouTube.”
There was a smirk on his face at that as he slowly walked toward me, the knife glinting in his hand. His eyes burned through the shadows then grew somber.
He held up the knife. “I think it’s only going to hurt the first time.”
My eyes focused on the silver of the blade, but the terror inside me grew too strong, and my urge to breathe through the duct tape became too difficult. My lungs seized in panic, pulsing dots appearing in my vision. I felt a hand on my collarbone, gripping the edge of my blouse, and then everything went black.
Three months earlier
“Excuse me, miss?”
I sighed and took a moment to compose myself before I slowly turned around, reminding myself to respond in English.
The man and his buddies were staring at me with that stupid ogling look they had the whole time they were here. I was happy when they finally asked for the bill, just wanting them out of the bar and back to their drunken tourist festivities or whatever the white men got up to in this damned city of Cabo San Lucas. But it seemed I wasn’t free yet.
The guy who called me, the most obnoxious of the group, wagged his brows at me and nodded at a spot behind me.
“You dropped something.”
I opened my mouth to say something but shut it. I looked down at my feet, then behind me. My pencil was on the ground. Not that I ever needed it to remember orders anymore.
“Thanks,” I said, and bent down to pick it up. Immediately the guys snorted and I quickly snapped back up. Of course they’d wanted me to pick it up—my uniform at Cabo Cocktails consisted of the shortest skirt ever.
I ignored them, not even bothering to turn around again, and made my way back to the bar. I slammed my bill holder on the counter and eyed the receipt. The little jerks hadn’t even tipped me. Not that it was customary in Mexico, but with Americans in a tourist town, you always expected it.
“Stiffed again?” said Camila.
I looked over at her as she snapped the cap off of two bottles of beer. As usual, my colleague had an impish smirk on her pixie-like face. She always got the tips, maybe because she was always smiling.
“Yeah,” I said, wiping the sweat off my brow. The fan beat overhead but it was always a bit too hot in the bar, didn’t matter what time of the year it was. I turned around and eyed the boys who were still at the table, laughing and occasionally looking my way. “Those assholes over there.”