"To Protect And Save With Valiance, Vigilance, and VALOR"

© By Katherine Bryan August 2015

Chapter One

Supermodel Nicole Edge was going to die in a place that smelled like years of horse shit and old leather. She didn’t want to die, and she sure as hell didn’t want to die in some abandoned bangtail barn.

Graffiti-smeared plywood boarded the windows and a sickly fluorescent light flickered feebly overhead making it impossible to see more than a few feet in any direction.

Wrenched above her head, her arms pulsed with pain, and her wrists bled where a rope anchored her to a thick chain hanging from a rafter. Her feet barely touched the dirty concrete floor.

For the last couple of hours, she’d been diligently trying to work one hand loose. Just a little bit more and maybe, finally, she’d be free.

If DeMeneo didn’t kill her first.

Stripped naked from the waist up, sweat trickled down her neck, back, and chest, trailing fire as it seeped into the lacerations crime boss Sal DeMeneo had made with the razor end of a box cutter. Ten cuts down each side of her back. Five on each breast. Two so far on the right side of her ribcage. DeMeneo knew how to torture without killing, and the agony he’d inflicted so far proved it. Her torso was covered in blood, and with every breath she took, rage coursed through her.

“This is business,” he’d said earlier. “Nothing personal.”

“Bullshit.” It was her body dripping blood all over the floor and every excruciating cut felt personal as hell.

“I ain’t scarring your face, bitch. That’d be personal.”

She kept working her hand. By the grace of God, if she somehow got out of this horrifying mess alive, DeMeneo was going to die. And not just Sal. Oh no, his father would pay too. For the atrocities he’d committed against her brother alone, Sal DeMeneo would suffer an agonizing death. For giving the order, Vince DeMeneo would learn the meaning of vengeance.

She’d make damn sure of it.

Her brother, Doug, sat tied to a steel chair a few feet away. His hands were secured behind his back and his legs were tied to the chair at the ankles. A rope around his neck tethered him to another chain hanging from a wooden crossbeam.

Beaten without mercy, his swollen face was bloodied and slick with sweat. Bolt cutters had already taken two fingers off one hand. His left foot had been crushed with one blow of a sledgehammer. He’d been in and out of consciousness for over an hour now and God only knew how he’d stayed alive this long.

DeMeneo had a cordless drill in his hand and he raised it, squeezing the trigger. “We can play this way all night, Dougie. Ain’t gonna bother me a bit.”

Hatred blazed from Doug’s eyes. He said nothing.

“If that’s the way you want it, fine by me, dipshit.” DeMeneo shook his head.

“Stupid Fed.” He patted Doug’s cheek just before he drilled another quarter-inch hole through Doug’s right foot.

Her brother’s screams echoed off the walls.

Revolted, Nikki’s empty stomach retched until she dry heaved. She gagged over and over until bile dripped from her chin.

Doug slowly lifted his head and looked at her, a world of pain and sadness in his gaze. Blood, sweat, and tears glimmered off his swollen face. “God, Nik. I’m so sorry. I’m so fucking sorry.” His head lolled forward.

Fear, sudden and urgent, choked her and a ragged sob broke from her chest. “Doug! Don’t die, you hear me!” Her voice trailed off into hoarse little whimpers. “Doug, please...” She was openly crying now as fear battled with fury--and a soul deep hatred. “Tell him, Doug. Tell the bastard where the film is.”

DeMeneo pressed the trigger of the drill, revving it like the engine of a fast car. “Yeah, Dougie, tell the bastard where the film is. You do know I’m a bastard, right, jerk-off?”

The overhead light flickered, casting just enough light to show the malice shining in the black depths of DeMeneo’s eyes.

Tears dripped off her chin, and she wiped her runny nose against her bare arm. “Doug, listen to me. Tell him. Maybe he’ll... maybe he’ll let us go.”

“Fuck him. He’s gonna kill us, Nik.”

DeMeneo paced between them, narrowed black eyes at Doug and swiped the blade of the box cutter across another one of her ribs.

Her cry of pain cut through the silent stable. She sucked air in through her teeth. Trying to breathe through a haze of hate, her teeth clenched.

DeMeneo raised the box cutter. Red glistened against silver in the dim light. “I’m gonna keep cuttin’ her till nothin’s left, you stupid punk. You’re gonna tell me where the film is, or your bitch sister’s gonna bleed to death. Real slow.”

Doug’s head swayed from side to side. He wasn’t going to be able to take much more of this before he passed out again. Or died.

She wriggled her hand. Almost free. Please, Doug, hold on. Just a little bit longer...I’ve almost got it…

“Look under your big wop nose you dumb-ass Guinea fuck,” Doug said, spitting a mouthful of blood at Sal’s shoes. Then out of nowhere he burst out laughing. “Hey, Sal? You know what I could really go for right now? A double one-eighty and fine glass of red.” His head bobbed against his chest. “That’s a...real lark, right...Nik?”

“Has he lost his fucking mind?” DeMeneo slapped her hard across the face.

The room blurred out of focus. “I don’t know!”

“I’m getting tired of your shit, Dougie.” He slapped the razor against his palm. “I’m sure your sister is too.”

Another quick swipe, this time across the middle of her stomach. She cried out as heat seared along every nerve. “God,” she sobbed, “please, I don’t know!”

“Take a pier to the square prison bridge…” Doug was mumbling, rambling on, barely coherent. “You want...all that too, don’t you, Sal?” He laughed again, but then his laughter broke into one long sob. “I love you, Nik.”

“Shut up!” DeMeneo waved the bloody razor. “Where’d you stash the negatives, you fucking dipshit!”

Doug raised his gaze, hate blazing. “Fuck you. Let my...sister...go.”

With a cruel twist of his lips, DeMeneo smiled and slowly pulled a gun from inside his suit jacket. “Sure. But you go first, Dougie. You’re goin’ straight to hell.”
“No, wait,” Nikki yelled, “I...I have money! L-lots of it.” Frantic, she kept working her hand.

“Money ain’t gonna keep my father outta prison, you stupid bitch.” DeMeneo walked up behind Doug, pressed the gun against the back of Doug’s head.

Hysteria and panic almost choked her. “I know how you can make him talk!”

DeMeneo paused, looked at her with those flat black eyes and her stomach rolled.

“Shoot me. Shoot me in the knees. He’ll squeal like a pig. Come on, asshole, shoot me!”

Incredulous, Doug glared at her. “Shut up, Nik! Jesus!”

“Both of you shut up!” DeMeneo moved to stand between them, raised his arm, leveling the gun at Doug’s head. “Fuck it. I’ll find the film myself.” His finger tightened on the trigger.

At the same instant, Nikki tore her wrist free. Grabbing the rope with both hands, she lifted herself up, high kicked DeMeneo in the face. Her heel connected with his nose and he screamed, staggering backward.

The gun fired, dropped from his hand and went skidding along the cement floor.

Adrenaline, terror, and hatred gave her just enough strength to pull her remaining hand free. She lurched for the gun, slipped in blood, fell.

Just as her stiff fingers made contact with the gun, DeMeneo launched himself at her legs. She tried kicking but he held fast.

Her fingers tightened clumsily around the butt of the pistol, and she twisted, raising the gun.

Stretched out flat, still holding her legs, DeMeneo looked up, came face to face with the barrel of the gun. His eyes widened in sudden, complete fear.

“Eye for an eye, mother fucker.” She fired point blank.

He collapsed, his skull bouncing against the cement.

Sobbing, she heaved Sal off her. Finally free, she ran to her brother and threw herself down beside his too-still body.

DeMeneo’s bullet had hit its mark.

Right in the middle of Doug’s forehead was a neat round hole.