Destiny Interlude: a Summer Cruise - Cover

Destiny Interlude: a Summer Cruise

Copyright© 2021 by Lumpy

Chapter 3

The stairs into the basement were narrow, and lit only by the light from the room above and a dim glow from the basement area. I moved down the creaking stairs, listing for any indication that there were more guys in the basement, other than the two I had already shot.

Thankfully, there were no other armed men in the basement to deal with. I breathed a further sigh of relief, when I realized I had found what I had been looking for. Charlie was propped up against a wall, staring at the stairwell. His hands were behind him, with his shoulders pulled at a weird angle. Most likely, his hands were handcuffed behind him. One eye was swollen shut, and he had yellowing marks on his face that would be nasty bruises in a day or two. We made eye contact as I entered the basement, and the look of relief that passed over his face was damn near palpable. His eyes drifted down to my right hand that was carrying the gun I had lifted from the guy on the couch, and widened in surprise. I could imagine it was difficult to put together the image he had of me on the boat, with the person standing in front of him. I had some blood on my gray shirt and on the side of my face, blowback from when the guy on the couch was hit. I must have made an interesting picture.

I saw Sandy off to one side, away from Charlie, curled into a ball. I was concerned about her, both because abuse at the hands of guys like these isn’t something I would wish on my worst enemy, and if she was catatonic it would make getting them out of here much more difficult.

“I can’t believe you’re here,” Charlie said as I walked towards him.

I had decided that I needed to free Charlie first, so he could help me with Sandy. Other than the ordeal with Zoe the previous year, I didn’t have any experience with rape victims, and I didn’t know how she would react.

“Eddie made it back to the resort, and told us what happened,” I said.

I knelt down beside him and with a hand on his back, indicated he should lean forward, so I could get to his bindings. When he did, I was glad to see he was held by zip-ties and not handcuffs. Handcuffs would have meant going back up and searching the bodies of the guys at the top of the stairs, to find a key.

Considering all the gunfire, I didn’t think we had enough time to deal with that.

“Did you come with the police?” Charlie asked as I stood up and started looking for something to cut the zip tie.

“No. The police would have taken at least ‘till tomorrow to get to you, if then. I didn’t want to leave you, and especially Sandy, in their hands that long.”

I found a small knife sitting off to the side on a table with a few other tools. There was a random assortment of things in the basement, including a bunch of zip ties, so I assumed this is where they normally held people they had grabbed for ransom.

“Wait, you’re all alone?” Charlie asked.

I went back to him with the knife, kneeling down again to get to the zip ties.

I cut through the plastic bands with a flick of the blade and said, “Yeah. I didn’t want to wait for anyone else. The girls know what’s happening, and they will call the American consulate and notify authorities in the morning if they don’t hear from me.”

Charlie stood up and rubbed his wrists. He had probably been in that position for a while and I would imagine he was feeling stiff and a little raw. I could see red lines where the zip ties had cut into his skin as he shifted around.

“But, how did... “ he started to ask.

I was actually surprised it had taken him almost a minute to get to this question.

“Let’s get Sandy untied first, ok?” I said, interrupting him.

I didn’t need to get into a whole thing about how I was able to rescue them, while we had a ticking clock over our heads. I was still going with the assumption that reinforcements would be along very soon, and I wanted to get us on the move as quickly as possible.

He nodded once, and we went over to Sandy. It was hard to tell the extent of what had happened to her. Her clothes were still mostly on, but were badly torn in places ... especially her shirt. But, she seemed to still be wearing her underwear, which would rule out one of my worst fears for her.

She had been awake, also, and was staring at us; but gagged, so she couldn’t say anything. Which was strange because Charlie had not been gagged. While I cut off the restraints holding her limbs, Charlie removed the gag from her mouth.

Her mouth freed, she sucked in a gulp of air, and choked for a minute. I had never experienced it myself, but I could imagine how uncomfortable that gag was. With her arms and legs freed, she also began rubbing the chafe rings left by the zip ties as she sat up.

She started to speak but I interrupted her and said, “Let’s go. The gunfire might have brought their friends. We need to get out of here before they show up.”

They were a little slow in following, probably stiff from hours of captivity, but followed me without argument. They both stopped after stepping over the bodies at the top of the landing, looking at the three dead men in the room, the smoking ruin of a TV, and the array of bullet holes.

“How...” Charlie started again.

Again, I interrupted him to say, “Later. Let’s move. NOW!”

The both seemed to steel themselves, although Sandy looked a little pale as she stared at the man with the bullet hole in his forehead and his chest. We were just out the door and to the gate when it swung open. A kid who looked to be closer to Tina’s age than mine was coming through the gate carrying a handgun.

Seeing me he started to bring the weapon up, but thanks to my faster reflexes and the fact that I had been half-expecting someone to come through the gate at any moment, I was able to grab hold of the firearm and twist it out of his hand.

Simultaneously I brought my weapon to bear on him ... and stopped.

I couldn’t bring myself to shoot him. He seemed fairly harmless now that he was unarmed, the alarm had already sounded apparently, and he was just a kid. I dropped the clip out of his gun and tossed the body of the weapon well over the wall to our right. He would find it eventually but it at least limited the damage he could do.

I reached into my pocket and grabbed the wad of pesos I had exchanged during the shopping trip earlier in the day, and offered them to him.

“Go home,” I told him.

He looked at me dumbly. I could imagine he was having issues catching up with current events. Just seconds before it probably seemed certain he was about to be shot in the face by a stranger coming out of his gang’s house. And then the stranger offers him a wad of money that was most likely his family’s average monthly earnings.

“Go home,” I said again. “Stop working with this gang. Go be with your family.”

He didn’t need to be told twice. Either out of fear or greed, he grabbed the money and high-tailed it out of the yard, and down the street. Charlie, Sandy and myself followed suit, heading into the warren of streets, trying to get away from the house before more gang members showed up.

“What the hell is going on, Cas,” Charlie asked as we started in the direct of the church. “All those bodies. Then you give a wad of money to that kid.”

“It’s not so complicated, Charlie,” I told him. “You were kidnapped and I rescued you. Simple as that.”

“But, how did you do it?” he asked.

“Luck, and a little bit of training; but mostly luck. These guys weren’t paying attention, and had no one really watching. They are kings of their neighborhood, and never expected anyone to come after them, so they had their guard down.”

“But you shot three guys,” Sandy said, sounding a little freaked out.

“Only two actually. They shot their friend on the couch trying to get me. I didn’t have a choice, it was a me or them thing. Or rather, it was an us or them thing, since had they killed me, it would have been at least a day before the police came looking for you. If they bothered to do that at all.”

“What do you mean, if they came at all?” Charlie asked.

I shouldn’t have been surprised at their naïvety, considering how they ended up in this mess in the first place, but I was.

“That’s just the way it is. Even in the US, there are places the police tend not to go, unless they have overwhelming force behind them. Places where gangs are in control. Its like that here, only worse. Do you have any idea what the murder rate in this country is? The cartels go after politicians, the police and the judges more than you would imagine. Maybe with pressure from the US consulate they would have come for you, but that would have taken days. Then there is the other thing.”

“What other thing,” Sandy asked.

I could see the steeple of the church from where we were, and I started to pick up the pace. I really wanted to get us off the street.

“A lot of the police and officials here are on the take. There was every possibility that someone on the gang’s payroll would have tipped them off that the cops were coming, and you would have been moved. No, there were just too many variables to be relying on the police, and time was a major factor.”

As we walked by a trashcan, I pulled the clip out of the gun, and dumped it into the bin. Thankfully, Sandy didn’t ask me why there was a time factor. I didn’t know if she realized what might have happened to her, but it was a subject I wanted to avoid if I could.

We walked in silence a bit further, with both college kids lost in thought.

When I wiped the gun down with my shirt and dumped it in another trash bin Charlie asked, “Why are you getting rid of the gun?”

“We’re going in here,” I said, indicating the small church we were approaching, “and it doesn’t feel appropriate to carry a weapon in there. Also, Mexico has some pretty strict gun laws. The criminals may ignore the law, but I prefer to stay out of a Mexican prison if I can avoid it.”

I was glad to find the church empty when we walked inside. The priest I had spoken to before, hustled over when he noticed us.

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