The oppressive heat and humidity weigh down on my body like a heavy, wet blanket. Every breath draws hot, muggy air into my lungs, offering no relief. It’s more like drinking in soup than breathing, really. Sitting in the thick, lush vegetation soaked with the recent rainfall doesn’t help things, but it provides me the perfect vantage point to stalk my target. Complete cover where I can blend into the landscape and from which to deliver death.
He hasn’t spotted me once since I began to follow him over a week ago, stalking him around town, assessing his every move, noting his patterns to find the perfect opportunity to strike. I could have killed him a thousand times, taken a shot that would end his life and make him pay for what he did to Evangeline. But I waited and bided my time for this exact moment. Because I knew that fuckerwas up to no good and that he wasn’t up to it alone.
Nervous and excitable, the man practically screamed, “Look at me! I’m doing it again,” over the last few days. It matches the intel Cutter and Preacher provided me, suggesting he has repeated his new business venture since selling off his fiancée to human traffickers. He’s found a new and easy way to make big money, and he’s milking it for everything he can.
But waiting has paid off more than I ever could have hoped and opened the door for me not only to take out the fucker who betrayed Eva but also several of his contacts here in the islands responsible for the trafficking ring.
It’s a win-win situation.
What more could I ask for?
This meeting place is ideal for what I have in mind to initiate his eternal punishment. The man doesn’t deserve a quick death. Not when he put Eva and countless women since her through this kind of vile agony.
No, tonight he’s going to pay for what he did in a way far more fitting.
First, I need to take out his buddies, the ones acquiring all the girls and selling them into their sinister version of Hell. I sight them all in my scope where they stand, talking near the rear of Danilo’s car. One of them motions to the trunk and laughs.
I have to bite back a growl because I know what’s in the trunk. I know what my mark put there…or I should say who he put there. That poor girl he nabbed off the street only two hours ago before driving up here into the isolated hills to make the handoff to these assholes.
Confirmation that he’s still up to his old tricks. The fact that the douchebag is still doing what he did to Elijah’s girl makes this even easier. A true justification for what I’m about to do. Removing scum from the Earth has always been part of the job, but this one will taste especially sweet.
It’s time for all these fuckers to meet the Grim Reaper.
I fire off five precise shots so fast the men don’t even have time to react as their friends’ heads explode and they crumble to the ground around each other. Danilo is the only one left standing, covered in the gore left by his soulless counterparts as they met their maker.
Surprise, you worthless piece of shit.
It takes him a moment to react. Long enough that I police my brass and am already on the move down the hill toward him before he finally manages to pull his phone from his pocket frantically. I reach into mine and press the button on the device that will jam the cell phone signals for miles around us.
He isn’t getting help from anyone. Not up here. Not ever.
The man is so engrossed in trying to get his phone to work that he doesn’t see me coming until it’s too late. His head jerks up just as I reach him, and I grab him by the throat and pin him against the car.
His phone clatters to the ground as he scrambles and scratches at my arm, and I calmly lower my rifle to lean it against the car. His resistance doesn’t faze me, barely even registers against the type of pain I’m used to enduring.
I meet his terrified brown gaze, his eyes free of any remorse for what he’s done or empathy for the woman he has in this damn trunk. Only concern for himself fills them.
The desire to tighten my hold, to watch him gasp and claw at me while he struggles for a breath he’ll never take again, surges through my veins. But that isn’t the plan. I need him conscious enough to understand the message I’m about to deliver before taking his life.
I plaster on a wicked smile, the one I so enjoy using before I take the life of someone who doesn’t deserve to have it. “Hello, Danilo. Eva sends her regards.”
His eyes widen slightly, and he shakes his head, still clawing at my wrist, his nails digging at the flesh there.
I lean in to him and sneer. “There’s no use fighting this. It’s time for you to get what you deserve.”
Truthfully, even this is too easy for a man like him—for any of these men. But I don’t have the time to do what I really want, to break him down over days, tear him apart physically and mentally, draw out the death he knows is coming until he’s literally begging for it.
So, this will have to do.
I grab my Yarborough knife from my boot with my free hand and drive it into his stomach in one smooth motion, then saw the blade back and forth as I pull it up and out, ensuring it does optimal internal damage and causes the most pain possible.
He opens his mouth to say something or to scream, but all that comes out is a strangled gasp and groan. I loosen my hold on his neck slightly, enough to allow him to take in a tiny breath.
“If-if you let me go, I’ll tell you where you can find the others.”
His words send ice shooting through my veins and goosebumps spreading across my skin despite the warmth of the night air.
Of course, there had to be more girls somewhere. An operation as big and well-put-together as the one that held Eva captive wasn’t just some small upstart. It was established.
I’ve been hoping Danilo would lead me to any women being held here during the time I’ve been watching him, but it seems he’s just a street supplier and not privy to any of the major workings of the organization behind this. So, I highly doubt he would have any useful information.
“Bullshit. You don’t know anything.”
He nods his head against my hold on his throat. “I-I do.” He struggles to get the words out. “I heard them talking.”
“Tell me.” I shove my knife into his stomach again, ensuring the pain remains fresh and extreme as an incentive to be honest.
Another nod and gasp are all he can manage. “New York. Russians. Some club. I don’t know the name.”
“Russians?” I glance at the five dead men on the ground. “All your friends here are Filipino.”
He gives a quick nod. “They-they’re the suppliers. Get the girls onto the boats. But they work with these Russians from New York. And I also heard maybe some Albanians out of Chicago.”
I growl and slam him against the car again, my anger flaring to life and heating the blood rushing in my ears.
These fuckers will create ties with anyone for a price, it seems.
That second part fits with what Cutter told me when he called to ask me for this favor. His crew had raided an Albanian boat on Lake Michigan filled with women who had been trafficked on their way to Chicago to be sold to the highest bidder. While Cutter assured me they took care of things on their end with the head of the family in Chicago to get things shut down there, this mission to locate Danilo and anyone on this side of the world who may have been involved fell to me.
But the Russian twist is unexpected.
It creates a new wrinkle in my plan. The mission was just supposed to be to take out this fucker, to make him pay for what he did to Evangeline, and maybe save a few more here in the process. But I can’t stop knowing there are other innocent women out there, ones potentially being held and sold on US soil. Not when I can do something about it.
I jab my knife into him again, twisting and slicing, and he cries out, the sound echoing through the still night air. But out here, there isn’t anyone to hear him. No one to hear the shots I took. No one to discover the massacre, perhaps for several days. Their choice of remote meeting spots sealed their fates tonight even though I’ve had them marked for death for far longer.
“You…said…you wouldn’t kill me…” He barely manages to get the words out around the blood flowing out of his mouth.
I grin at him and stab again. “I said no such thing.” Rage fills me as I spit in his face and watch it slide down over his blood-stained mouth. “You’re getting what you deserve.”
The second I release my hold on him, he crumples to the dirt, and I make my way to the trunk and pop it open. The girl lies bound and blindfolded, trembling, still in the school uniform she was wearing when I watched him lure her into his car back in the city before I followed him up here.
I reach out a hand to her arm, and she kicks out violently with her bound legs, some fight still in her despite what she’s already been through at the hands of this monster.
“Huwag kang magalala.” My Tagalog is absolute shit, but I hope she understands what I’m trying to say to her, my assurance that she’s okay and that I won’t hurt her.
She freezes and turns her head toward me even though she can’t see anything. Her bottom lip quivers, and tears slip from beneath the blindfold covering her eyes and down her cheeks.
I gently lay my hand on her arm. “Do you speak English?”
She offers a tiny nod.
“I’m gonna lift you out of the trunk and set you onto your feet. The men who took you can’t hurt you anymore. You understand what I’m telling you?”
Even in the trunk, she must have heard the shots that took out Danilo’s buddies, and she likely caught some of what I said to him, even if it was only muffled bits and pieces.
The girl is right to be scared of me.
She nods, trembling uncontrollably despite how suffocatingly hot it must have been in the trunk.
“Good.” I reach in and scoop her up into my arms like she weighs nothing.
Her entire body vibrates so badly that when I set her onto her feet, I have to use my hand to steady her for a moment before she can get her balance. Using the same bloody knife that killed Danilo to cut the bindings at her ankles and wrists feels almost poetic, but when she reaches up to grab the blindfold, I capture her wrist with my free hand.
“Leave it on. Count to 200. Then get into this car and drive to the first police station you can find. You understand?”
I can’t take the risk of her seeing me and describing me to the police. I’d never get out of the country if they were looking for me. She seems to understand exactly what I’m saying without having to explain it further, though. Perhaps she can sense she’s been saved and wants me to get away clean, even knowing what I just did.
This poor girl can’t even comprehend what would have happened to her had I not been watching and planning this already. If I had come next week, she’d be on a ship bound for only God knows where a day from now.
My heart tightens in my chest, and I release a deep sigh. I rest my hand on her shoulder, and she flinches. Rubbing gently, I lean into her. “You’re going to be okay. I promise.”
It isn’t a promise I can make and definitely notone I can help keep in any way—that’s one hundred percent on her and how she lets what happened affect her long-term—but I hope it’s true. Like Eva, I pray she’s able to move past what’s been done to her and find a normal life with someone who loves her.
Not that we all get that. Some of us never will.
I glance at Danilo’s cell. “There’s a phone on the ground right near you. In case you need it. Tell them it belonged to the man who took you.”
The man I came to the Philippines to kill lies bleeding out on the ground, gurgling and gasping for breath.
He won’t last long enough for any help to arrive, but it’s still too good a death for him. It would have been nice to have a few days or even a week with him, to make him suffer and take him apart piece by piece. But I’ll take this win, even if it isn’t exactly how I wanted it.
Things rarely are. I’ve learned to accept that they never will be.
I give him one hard kick in the stomach. He cries out, and his former captive flinches and shifts away from the sound slightly but starts counting. “One. Two. Three. Four…”
I never meant to scare her more, just needed to get in one last good one before I grab my gun and make my way back out across the small clearing to disappear into the darkness of the jungle.
It’ll be like I was never here.
Get in. Get out. Nothing but bodies behind.
By the time she’s done counting, the carnage will be the only evidence I was ever here.
A reaper on a mission to right this particular wrong.
It’s the only thing I’m good at.
Except, it seems this is only the tip of the iceberg. Next stop—New York.
You can buy Dead Reckoning at
Gwyn McNamee is an attorney, writer, wife, and mother (to one human baby and two fur babies). Originally from the Midwest, Gwyn relocated to her husband’s home town of Las Vegas in 2015 and is enjoying her respite from the cold and snow. Gwyn has been writing down her crazy stories and ideas for years and finally decided to share them with the world. She loves to write stories with a bit of suspense and action mingled with romance and heat. When she isn’t either writing or voraciously devouring any books she can get her hands on, Gwyn is busy adding to her tattoo collection, golfing, and stirring up trouble with her perfect mix of sweetness and sarcasm (usually while wearing heels).
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