This story is by AkiWrites and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Ray’s emotions were all over the place as she frantically looked for bright crimson hair and a pair of cerulean eyes, painfully reminiscent of her own bloodshot ones.
She shivered, hands clenched tightly in her trenchcoat pockets and trained eyes surveying the mass teeming for teenagers to be sold for their entertainment, but she didn’t dare lose her cool as she was in disguise. So she braced her rampant nerves, coached her expression to be as blank as possible, and took her seat just in time for the auction to begin.
It definitely took a lot out of her to remain seated and not burst into tears of frustration as the anchor spouted nonsense of how these teens and young adults were fulfilling their duties as they were supposed to, all with his eyes glimmering in pure malice, cause they were just kids for god’s sake and they’re supposed to be out there, staying in their respective homes doing what they love, and simply living their lives to the fullest; not becoming hostages and being bought like livestock.
She had half a mind to commit a massacre and kill everyone here in cold blood, with the exception of her team and the victims, but instead of succumbing to her destructive aspirations, she brushed her iron-curled red hair, quickly press her transponder and signal her team to be alert for anything using a special code they taught one another at the garrison four years ago. She thanked the heavens above for such a phenomenal crew of individuals working alongside her at the NCA, and if that hadn’t calmed her prejudices about the possible outcomes of this operation, she would have gone insane from fear.
Soon after, the host presented the first victim to be marketed on stage, and they barely looked older than 16. Ray did her best not to let her true emotions bleed onto her face and played her role as a prospective buyer to perfection. Despite her mind constantly reminding her to look for Dante and running through nightmare scenarios of how he might not be alive anymore, she was successful in acquiring the terrified teen.
She managed to get the next person in line as well, and she could already detect malevolence in the whispers that encircled her like a cloak. Paranoia gripped her like a vice as Dante was gradually dragged onto the platform, and she had to stifle her sobs. From where she sat, she could see the resigned look in his eyes and gait, as if he had accepted his fate and had given up on his dreams of becoming a professional photographer. Panicked breaths escaped her, and it took her more than a few minutes to figure out what was going on. The crowd appeared to be in a frenzy over who could “buy” him first.
Ire coursed through her, but she resisted the urge to act rashly. She pretended to be indifferent and waited until the highest bidder hesitated to confirm their price of 10 billion pounds. At that moment, she lifted her number plate up and announced, “60 billion pounds.”
Silence reigned for quite a while, and she took her chance at letting Dante recognize who she was as pandemonium broke loose. Warmth filled her as his eyes began to slowly resemble the way they used to be before all of this nonsense, and she promised herself that she would never allow something like this to happen again.
Nonetheless, the happiness she felt, fleeting as it was, was replaced with alarm as she heard footsteps approaching her. That was all it took for her to relinquish control of the situation and return the kids to safety. She dashed out of the room and leaped off the stairs, landing on the platform.
“We have to leave right now!” she cried, latching onto Dante’s too-thin arms as tightly as she could without hurting him, self-loathing and concern taking over her mind. She knew unanswered questions lingered in both their minds, but those would have to wait till they were out of danger.
Contacting her right-hand officer Sybill assured her that all of the victims had exited the building and were being cared for by paramedics. She let a small grin grace her face as they exited the cursed mansion, but she kept her guard up until the bidders were all cuffed and gone.
She turned to evaluate her brother’s condition when she found herself with her arms full of him, trembling uncontrollably but still alive. Ray threw her own arms around him, unable to hold back her own tears as they sobbed onto the ground. They were finally going home.
Sybill ended up escorting them both to the paramedics because really, Ray scratched herself, she ‘did literally drop herself from the top of the two-story-high stairs like a discount Spider-man to get rid of the people tailing her,’ even as she dismissed their worries by saying, “Ay Dios mío, it’s nothing serious, hermanito, it’s not even bleeding!” but ended up giving in to their insistence and Dante’s mother-henning.
They sat in comfortable silence on the way home, not too close or too ready to be apart after being apart for two weeks. Dante dozed off halfway through the ride, his head resting on Ray’s shoulder and body curled up like a cat. Ray was exhausted too, but she had to be prepared to report in later, and something told her that the worst was yet to come. Thinking back to how her father would be fumbling about in the kitchen assembling tamales and her mother making sure all the pictures Dante took were in order was enough for her to relax and smile a bit.
Dante ripped open the door like the heathen he was as soon as the taxi pulled up to their front yard, only to be tackled down by Maddie, who barked sweetly while she licked his face. Mr. Tibbs had also made his way outside, wrapping his fluffy body around Ray’s ankles, mewling softly, and nipping at her. For a fleeting second, the air was immersed with muffled squeals and laughter.
Despite how endearing the whole thing was, she came to acknowledge that the house was too quiet. And it was at that moment that the siblings concluded, horror gradually making itself known, that their parents were nowhere to be found.
She was aware that they won’t be anywhere other than at home after 7, and that they would’ve informed her if they were out. She walked through the front door, quietly opening it and securing the hinge with some tape she always carries with her. Dante’s look told her he was going to check the backyard and the neighbors. Mama and Papa’s slippers were missing, suggesting that they were still in the house. She went up the stairs, but it was too late as she came across her unconscious parents being held hostage by an unknown assailant.
No, no. This can’t be happening. Who is this? Why do they have Mama and Papa tied up? This makes absolutely no sense!
These thoughts raced through her mind as the person finally noticed her presence, and she had to suppress a scream of disbelief as she recognized the voice, “Mi bonito sobrina! Look at you! All grown up and las la belleza! Making me feel all old, aren’t you?”
“Tío Connard? What’s going on? Why are mother and father tied to a chair? And why do you have a gun?!”
“Take a deep breath, sweetheart, and relax! You must be utterly confused. After all, you never knew why your parents quit their jobs, did you? Worse, you have no notion who they worked for~”
Dante arrived at that precise moment, flinching at the sight. “I won’t be able to calm down until you’ve put the gun you have pressed against Papa’s head down.” she gritted out, the firm grasp Dante had on her wrist grounding her.
“Oh, Dante!” Uncle Connard dismissed her request, staring at her brother with a smile that never reached his eyes. “How was your stay at my mansion?” Ray felt her eyes widen as her uncle said those words. His mansion?
“I figured as much.” her uncle continued.”See, your parents were the ones who paid my men to take Dante because they defied Father’s orders and left the trafficking business after giving birth to you two. They wanted to reclaim Father’s respect.”
“Amaryllis, I’m going to give you two choices now.” He threw his gun to Ray, who caught it with ease despite her whole life crumbling down. A sharp intake of breath behind her, and she turned to see another man having Dante at point-blank.
“You can kill your parents and save your brother and yourself, or let me kill the three of them and take you with me.” He smiled, taking out another firearm as Ray’s legs gave out beneath her, prompting her to hit the floor, numb hands clutching the heavy gun tightly.