“Oh, Cade, stop it. She has been alone with him before. She will be fine.” This is the first time I’ve heard of that. “Besides, he didn’t want you to bring her. He doesn’t think you would fit in there.”
“That’s because the guy is a fucking lunatic. Christ! She begged me to go with her, told me that she hated him.”
Please, Cade. I don’t want to be there by myself, I really don’t like him very much… Her words replay back in my head, and my gut clenches when I think about how scared her voice sounded.
Suddenly, I’m plagued with the feeling that something is very wrong. Bolting into my room I throw on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt, then quickly grab the sheet of paper that I wrote down the address on, before charging back into the kitchen. I stick my hand out to Maria. “Give me the keys to your car, now!”
“What? No, I have to go to work soon. And watch your tone when you’re talking to me. Charles is right; I should send you to a boot camp. You have no respect for me.”
The darkness I feel sometimes starts to fester inside of me again, mixing in with dread and hysteria. I back her into the counter, and she must notice the shift in me because her eyes widen with fear.
“You don’t want to fuck with me right now, Maria. Give me the keys to your car.” She swallows nervously, but doesn’t make any move to hand them over. I sense my time is running out and my patience snaps. “NOW!” I slam my fist down beside her, making her jump.
She tosses the keys at me. “She is fine, Cade, you will see.”
“She fucking better be. Because if she’s not, he won’t be the only one to pay.”
“If you think anyone in that compound is going to let you in, when you look like you’re about to commit murder, you better think again. He runs that place and everyone is very loyal to him.”
Good to know. Walking away, I head into her room and ransack her closet until I find the gun my old man kept there. The one he used to pretend was loaded while he held it to my head and pulled the trigger, as some part of a sick game.
Racing out of the house, I hop in my mom’s beat-up, piece of shit car and haul ass. Not caring if the cops stop me, almost wishing they would, because then we would get to her faster. Even though I’m not old enough to have my license, I have been driving since I was twelve years old. Mainly for when we needed food and Maria was in no shape to go get us any.
My anxiety spikes harder and faster the closer I get. Shit… I need to calm down. She has to be okay; she would have told me if something was going on, right?
Fifteen minutes later, half the time it should have taken me, I arrive at the compound. I spot a bunch of vehicles in the distance, trailing behind each other in a long line as they leave the entry of a big, black gate. Noticing it’s about to close, I speed up and make it in just before it does.
As I drive through, I spot the church down the street, on the right hand side. I briefly register the wooden made houses, and a couple women who are dressed like they’re from Little House on the fucking Prairie standing outside. They stare at me like the outsider I am. Parking in front of the church, I slip my phone in my pocket and grab the gun. I keep it low beside me as I get out of the car.
“You can’t be here, you must leave,” a young female voice says.
Turning, I rear back in shock when I see a chick who looks to be about my age, with a giant, fucking pregnant stomach. What. The. Fuck. I quickly realize this place is even more fucked-up than I thought. My stomach twists and my hysteria rises.
“I’m here for my sister, and I want her now.”
It’s obvious she knows who I’m talking about. When she doesn’t answer I raise my gun at her. Fear sparks in her eyes but I feel no sympathy, all I care about is getting my sister out of this screwed-up place.
“I’m not leaving here without her. So you better tell me where she is, or I will fucking shoot you where you stand.” I’m hoping she takes my threat seriously, because the truth of the matter is, if it comes down to this chick’s life or my sister’s, it will be my sister’s.
“Just tell him, Helga.” Another girl, that looks even younger, saddles up next to her, and is shaking like a leaf.
“You cannot change what is God’s will. God spoke to Charles about your sister, she is where she needs to be.”
Her words have my panic escalating. Flicking the safety off, I shoot the ground right next to the crazy bitch’s feet. Both girls scream and jump back. “Fuck you and fuck your god. Tell me where my sister is right fucking now!” My arm begins to shake from desperation, and fear, like I have never felt, seizes my chest.
“She’s in the back of the church, in his sacred room. Third door to the right,” the younger one finally replies.
Without a second thought, I race up the steps of the church. Another girl runs through the door ahead of me and I haul ass to try to catch up to her.
“Father Charles, there’s trouble!” she yells, pounding on the door.
I push her out of the way as soon as I reach her and attempt to open the door, but it’s locked. “Mia!” I shout, “Are you in there?”
Putting my ear up to the door, I hear muffled curses and shuffling. Then I hear something that has my chest constricting with despair: small, quiet sobs. My sister’s.
Backing up, I kick the fucking door open. The sight that I’m met with has bile rising in my throat and my heart pounding in my ears. I blink a few times, thinking what I’m seeing isn’t real… it can’t be real.
My sister is tied to a fucking bed and is wearing a white dress that’s hiked up to her hips, baring her most private part. Two men hold towels that are soaked with her blood. Fear is written all over their faces as they stare at me and my gun.
Looking around, my gaze lands on Charles S. Winston, the guy whose pants are still undone and is covered in my sister’s blood.
“Now just stay where you are, son. This is God’s will and you cannot change what he wants!”
For the first time in my life, that darkness that has never surfaced, unleashes. “You motherfucker!” I charge at him and take him to the ground. My gun flies out of my hand from the force of my body slamming into his. I start raining blow after blow to his face, and suddenly I feel like I’m on the outside looking in, like I have no control over my body as rage and despair fuels my violence.
Hands quickly grab me and lock my arms behind my back, giving the asshole the opportunity to strike me back. I don’t feel his hits though; I feel nothing but the fury and adrenaline that rushes through my veins. I manage to rip out of the arms that hold me, and land beside my gun.
When I see the asshole walk back over to my sister, I don’t hesitate. Grabbing the gun, I point and pull the trigger, shooting him in the back of the head. After what feels like minutes, but in actuality is only seconds, he drops to the floor. I quickly get up and train my gun on the two other guys. “Don’t fucking move or I will shoot you too.”
My sister’s quiet, weak sobs quickly snap me into motion. I rush over to her while keeping my gun trained on the other two. When I look down at her, my heart shatters at her tear-streaked, pale face, and fear replaces my rage when I see the amount of blood surrounding her.
Whipping out my cell phone I call 911 and give them the address of the location, and vaguely tell them what happened. The two guys flee the room, but I don’t care and I don’t try to stop them. The lady tries to keep me on the phone but I hang up, wanting to give all my attention to my sister.
Untying her wrists, I get on the bed beside her and pull her up between my legs. I cradle the top half of her tiny body to my chest. Her labored breathing tells me things are bad.
Leaning down, I kiss her forehead. “Hang in there, kid, everything is going to be okay. Help is on the way.” Tears fall onto her small, pale face and mix with her own. That’s when I realize I’m crying. I haven’t cried since before my dad died. I clench my teeth from the pain that’s slicing through my chest like a hot blade. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I grind out.
“I’m sorry, Cade,” she sobs weakly, “he said he’d kill you if I ever told.”
She was scared for me; she kept the secret to protect me. Guilt strikes me hard and fast, mixing in with all the other painful emotions pulsing through my body. I didn’t think my heart could pull any tighter than it already was, but it does. The agony ripping through my chest is making it difficult for me to breathe.
I pull her in closer to me, thinking if I hold her tighter she won’t be able to slip away from me, but I was wrong. That day, before the ambulance had even arrived, my sister died in my arms. And the moment she took her last breath was the exact moment ice froze over my heart. It was the same day I stopped living and only existed.
Ten years later – Iraq
Trudging through the trees and dry patches of grass, I make my way to the location I have been coming to for the past three nights, and I immediately know she’s there again. Because the most beautiful voice that I’ve ever heard hits me and, like always, the sweet, soft sound of it is like a blow to my chest.
Seriously, why the fuck is that?
As I come up to the wide, grassy clearing, I spot her. She’s sitting cross-legged, strumming her guitar and singing what I think is country… shit I would never, ever listen to. But if I knew I’d always hear it from her voice I’d gladly listen to it every fucking day of my life.