we have work to do.”
Yup , Jesse thought as he packed away his supplies and picked his Stetson off the floor. But the sixty-four thousand dollar question was, when? He had no doubt Quinn would take his good ol’ time about releasing them.
Well, he’d just see about that. By hook or crook—probably crook, which was just fine by him—he’d get his hands on those medical records ASAP. Then, depending on if he found what he suspected he’d find, he’d have to take the issue to Gabe.
Bryson rolled over in bed and something hard snagged his wrists. He jolted awake, opening his eyes into the darkness of his bedroom.
No, not his bedroom. Enough ambient light from somewhere illuminated the concrete block walls and a metal staircase descending into the middle of the room from the floor above.
“Wha…?” Blinking, he looked at his caught wrists and at first didn’t understand the steel bracelets. Except for his wedding ring, he wasn’t the jewelry wearing type. Why would he be wearing…
Bryson screamed, jackknifing on the mattress. Oh God, Oh God, Oh God, this wasn’t happening. Dreaming, he had to be. A horrible nightmare he’d soon wake up from and—
His stomach revolted and he rolled off the pallet only to discover his feet and waist chained to the concrete wall. Vomit surged up his throat, stained the front of the thousand-dollar suit he still wore. Distantly he heard a door open and footsteps rattle the stairs. Voices.
“What the fuck’s wrong with the gringo?” someone asked in Spanish, his voice the squeaky, immature sound of a teenager not yet through puberty.
“It’s the ether,” a deeper voice replied. He remembered that voice. Jacinto. “Made him sick.”
Oh God, the limo. He remembered now, in such vivid detail, the memory seared. The dizziness, the panic, the sleepiness. Jacinto wearing a bug-eyed mask and telling him to let it happen, that nobody would hurt him, that he was worth too much money. He’d been gassed. Kidnapped.
Bryson puked until there was nothing left in his stomach. Dry heaved until tears streamed down his face and his ribs screamed in pain from the violent, useless spasms. Then he collapsed, wishing he’d slide back into the comfortable oblivion of unconsciousness.
“Señor Van Amee,” Jacinto said.
Bryson felt a boot nudge his side. Something pressed to his ear.
He tried. Couldn’t do anything but moan.
“Get him up.”
A pair of hands hauled him upright and his head spun, kicking off another round of dry heaves. Again, Jacinto pressed something to his ear and ordered, “Talk!”
“Bryson?” Chloe’s tear-choked voice was like a balm, soothing over the worst of his pain. “Bryson, baby, are you there? Are you okay? Talk to me, baby. Please.”
He opened his mouth, found his tongue was like sandpaper as he tried to wet his lips. “Chloe.”
“Oh God.” She broke down crying. “We’re going to bring you home, baby. We’re going to pay anything they want, okay?”
Pay them anything they want. It was the logical thing to do, but God, it pissed him off. These cretins took him from in front of his own apartment building, scared his wife and kids and probably his sister, and now they were demanding money from his family? And after they got his money, they’d just kill him—he wasn’t a stupid man and knew they’d never let him go. He’d seen their faces, could identify them. And after they dumped his body somewhere, they would do it all over again to someone else.
No. No, they wouldn’t. It ended here.
“Don’t pay…them a…dime.”
“I mean it. Not one—”
Jacinto swore in Spanish, yanked the phone from his ear, and backhanded him so hard his vision flared white and stayed white for a long five seconds. Pain exploded through his face and blood spurted from his nose, over his lips, the coppery taste of it filling his dry mouth.
“Chloe, listen to me!” He didn’t know if