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There were twelve of us at first, all dragged from the deepest depths of the dirtiest streets. I was with my older brother when they found me. We were walking home from school, our backpacks hanging heavily from our shoulders, when he pointed down a deserted alley and claimed that it probably went back home faster than the usual way. I trusted his judgment, so we went down it. It wasn’t until we were halfway down the alley that I noticed the gray van waiting on the other side.
“Get out, all of you!”
We tumble out of the van, all twelve of us, one after another, into the darkness. The Raiders line us up in a row from tallest to shortest, our hands clasped behind our backs and our gazes focused on something invisible in the distance. We are all dressed in shapeless white gowns that fit awkwardly to our bodies. Mine itches. The cold, bitter wind nips at my skin, burning my cheeks a rosy pink. We wait.
I hear a car pull up to the road.
A door opens. A person steps out. The man that stumbles into my vision is young, obviously wealthy. He holds a bottle in his left hand and, after tipping his head back to take a long swig, tosses it to the side. I hold his green-eyed gaze when it lands me. I know what will happen to the girls that are chosen—but the alternative is far worse. He approaches me slowly, like a coiled snake preparing to strike, with a toothy grin on his handsome face and a look of uncontained desire ablaze in his eyes. I wonder if he can hear my heart beating wildly in my chest.
“What lovely hair you have,” he says, wrapping one of my untamed, golden locks around his finger. Our faces are in close proximity, so close that I can smell the alcohol on his warm breath, can feel it fan out across my face. I shrink back, cursing myself when he drops his hand.
“What’s your name, doll?”
“Bonnie. Ooh, I like it,” he murmurs. Seizing my hand in his, he says, “Bonnie, darling, you’re coming with me,” and tells the Raiders to put the charge on his tab. He chooses two more girls, a little one named Grace and another named Peyton. The Raiders herd us into the back of the man’s limo, but not before we hear the cacophony of bullets enter the air, followed shortly by nine pained screams.
The man immediately demands a bottle of champagne to commemorate his purchase the moment we pass the threshold of his gigantic mansion, but his plan is thwarted by a young maid who guides him to a room upstairs that I can only assume is his bedroom. A Raider clasps his hand to my shoulder and shoves me in the opposite direction, Grace and Peyton close behind. They throw us in a small room with no windows and lock the door. It’s dark; I can hardly see my hand in front of my face.
Grace was taken from her yard. They stole Peyton at a baseball game. I tell them how two Raiders beat my brother to a pulp while another chased me down the alley. With their company, I can almost forget that we are trapped in this room with nothing to eat or drink. Almost. Grace constantly worries that he’ll hurt us and I must reassure her that he wouldn’t dare; he paid too much to do anything like that.
I was wrong.
Grace is the first one to go. The door flies open, spilling bright yellow light into the room, and I hurriedly bring my trembling hands up to protect my eyes. A bowl clatters to the ground, sloshing with a chunky brown substance that smells like refried beans. My stomach growls, but I refuse to unglue myself from my corner to inspect it. Peyton eyes the food warily too. It is Grace, thin and ravenous, who falls for the trap. She lunges towards the food and shoves fistfuls of it into her tiny mouth, gnawing and slurping like an animal, until the man stands before her, grinning, with an empty bottle of wine in his hands. He motions for the Raiders to remove her. One of them grabs her by the hair and yanks her to her feet.
They drag her, kicking and screaming, out of the room and the door slams shut behind them. Her screams persist ceaselessly for what seems like hours, only dwindling into pitiful sobs long after. Peyton and I press our ears to the door, struggling to eavesdrop on the outside world. There is yelling followed by the harsh sound of glass shattering. Then all sound stops.
“Did he—?” Peyton’s voice comes out small and tremulous.
“I think so.”
We never see Grace again.
Peyton won’t stop crying, and consequentially, she is next. He stalks into the room covered in blood, all over his shirt, all over his hands. Grace’s blood. I hold on to Peyton, begging him not to take her, but the Raiders easily rip her away from me. When the door slams shut, yet again shrouding me in darkness, I scream until I taste blood slide down the back of my throat. I take the bowl and throw it at the door. It clatters to the ground with a hollow, metallic thud.
“I broke my toys, Bonnie.”
He comes to the room alone this time, and I don’t know whether to be relieved or scared. I watch him warily as he enters. His hands are balled into tight fists by his sides and his gaze is cast downward. Is he angry? Remorseful? I want to ask him what he has done to the others, just to confirm, but I don’t know how much he has had to drink, and how it will affect him. I’m afraid that he’ll break me too. We are both helpless, hopeless prisoners to his alcohol addiction—he just doesn’t realize it yet.
He falls to his knees and twines his fingers through my hair. He smells like a brewery. “Bonnie. My Bonnie. You won’t break like the others, will you? Come play with me.”
And the door slams shut.