Julian Pryde was not a man you wanted to cross. He ran the largest underground drug empire in all of New York City and was very rich and extremely powerful.
Unlucky for Matias , he had been caught stealing money from Julian.
With a sack over his head, Matias was dragged into Julian’s office where he was placed in a chair and handcuffed to the arm rests. He cried from inside the bag, pleading to be released, when the sack was pulled off his head and he saw Julian sitting at his desk, staring at the traitor. Matias fell silent.
There was a moment of silence between the two men before Julian finally spoke. “I’m going to give you five seconds to explain yourself before Georgie here,” he said, nodding to the 6 foot 3 man to his left, “puts a bullet between your eyes.” He leaned back in his chair. “Well, go ahead, Mr. Lawsen. Explain why you stole 7 million dollars from me.”
“Julian please,” Matias begged, “you have to understand.’
“Five,” Julian said, counting down.
“I was going to pay you back, but I needed the money. My wife is sick.”
“She’s dying and I lost my job. We have six children I have to feed.”
Looking towards Georgie, Matias saw him pull a revolver out of the holster under his jacket.
“I spent every penny we had to pay for my wife’s medicine. We had nothing left and, my kids, I couldn’t let them go hungry.” Tears started dripping down Matias’ face as he begged and pleaded.
“Two,” Julian continued, still not feeling any sympathy towards the thief.
“Julian, please,” Matias cried. “I would never steal from you! I will pay you back everything I took. You wouldn’t let six innocent kids starve to death. Even you aren’t that cruel.”
“Please!” Matias cried louder than before as Georgie spun the cylinder of the revolver, lining it up with the bullet inside. “No, Julian please! My wife! My kids! They’ll die.”
Julian looked towards Georgie and nodded. Georgie stepped out from around the desk and stood right in front of Matias as he continued to cry and plead. He raised the gun to Matias’ eyebrow.
“You can have my daughter!” Matias screamed.
“Hold it, Georgie,” Julian ordered.
Georgie lowered the gun and stepped back.
Matias breathed a quick sigh of relief now that he wasn’t looking down the barrel of a gun.
“What did you say?’ Julian asked Matias.
“My oldest daughter,” he began, “she just turned 18. You can have her.”
Julian leaned back in his chair. “I already have a wife I am committed to. What would I want with an 18 year old girl?” he asked him.
“She could work in your home, she can clean, cook,” Matias listed as he desperately tried to save his own skin. “I have a photo of her,” he said, gesturing his head down to the pocket in his pants where he kept his wallet.
Georgie looked towards Julien who nodded. With the help of the two men who had brought Matias to the office, the men untied Matias and stood him up off the chair. One man continued to hold him, as Georgie pulled the leather wallet out of his pocket and went through the contents of it. There wasn’t much inside, a few crumpled bills and some photos. Georgie placed the photos on Julian’s desk and he began looking through each one.
“There’s a picture of three girls sitting on a park bench. She’s the oldest.”
Julian found the picture he was speaking of. Clearly the girls got their looks from their mother because they looked nothing like Matias. The photo was of three blonde haired girls. The youngest one was maybe 8, the second one a little older than that. In between both of them was a beautiful 18 year old girl. Her blonde hair curling around her face and down past her shoulders. She had beautiful green eyes and a perfect smile.
Julian meant what he said, he was committed to his wife, but he was able to think of another use for Matias’ daughter that didn’t involve her cooking or cleaning.
“Okay Matias,” Julian said. “You will deliver your daughter to me, and she will work for me for free as payment for what you stole from me.”
The man holding Matias released him and Matias fell to the floor. He got up as quick as he could and approached Julian’s desk. “Thank you, sir. You are a gracious man.”
Julian didn’t respond to Matias’ compliment. “I will give you three days with your daughter. At the end of the third day, you will bring her to the Columbus statue in Central Park at midnight where you will hand her over to one of my associates. From there, she will be mine. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Matias responded. “Yes, Julian. I understand perfectly.”
Julian signalled for the two men who had brought Matias. “See that Mr. Lawsen is taken home safely,” he instructed them.
One of the men approached Matias from behind taking him by the arm and leading him to the door.
“Oh, and Matias, one more thing,” Julian called out.
Matias and the man stopped and he looked back into the room.
“If you try running, or if I catch you stealing from me again,” he began, “I will kill your whole family in front of you, then kill you slowly and painfully.”
Mara was bent over the stove stirring noodles in a pot of boiling water when her father came home from work.
“Daddy!” Braylee, Mara’s youngest sister cried in excitement, seeing her dad. She ran to him and wrapped her arms around his legs.
“Hi baby,” Matias said, kissing the top of Braylee’s head. He hung up his coat then walked into the kitchen of the small apartment where Mara was cooking. “Hey sweetheart,” he said, kissing Mara on the cheek.
“How was work?” she asked him.
“Fine. What are you cooking?”
“Noodles and sauce,” she answered, gesturing to pot on the second element that was heating up canned spaghetti sauce.
“You didn’t have to get dinner started,’ he told her. “I could have started it when I got home from work. Don’t you have homework?” he asked her.
“Yes,” she nodded. “But the kids were hungry so I thought I would just start it,” she explained.
“Well, thank you,” Matias said, giving his daughter another kiss on the cheek. “I can’t believe how mature you’ve become in the last little while.”
Mara smiled shyly. “Just trying to do my part around here.”
“Well, I am very proud of you,” he told her, squeezing her affectionately then turning to the tiny kitchen table where two of Mara’s other siblings were doing their school work.
Mara’s head came up from the textbook she was reading and looked towards the door of her bedroom where her father was standing.
“What are you still doing up?” he asked her. “It’s nearly midnight.’
“I’ve got a big test tomorrow,” she explained.
“Well you should put it away for the night and try to rest your eyes,” he told her.
“Just twenty more minutes,” she said, not closing the textbook.
Matias looked at his wrist watch. It was 11:36 PM.
“You know what might help,” he offered. “Why don’t you and I take a walk through the park?”
“What?” Mara said, puzzled.
“It helped me all the time when I was your age. It would help me clear all my thoughts and I could come back to my studying or go into a test with a focused mind,” he explained. “Come on,” he said, holding his hand out to her. “Let’s give it a try.”
“Isn’t it a little late to be walking through the park?” she asked him.
“Hey, you got your pop with you,” he told her. “We’ll be fine.”
Closing up her textbook, Mara smiled. This may actually be really helpful, plus it was a cool June evening, it would be nice to get out of the crowded and tiny apartment they lived in for a while.
Turning off the small lamp she had been using for light, Mara grabbed her hoodie and smiled as she headed out with her dad.
The walk through the park had helped Mara a lot more than she thought it would. She found herself smiling as her and her father walked down the paths of central park. He had encouraged her not to think about the test tomorrow or her studies. He asked her about her friends at school, TV shows she had been enjoying and her new hobby of playing piano. Though they didn’t have a piano at the apartment, she was only able to practice on the one at school. She was so preoccupied telling him about how the band teacher was going to give her lessons after school every Thursday, she hadn’t noticed how often Matias had been checking his watch. She also hadn’t realized what direction of the park they had been going in until they arrived at the statue of Christopher Columbus.
“Let’s stop for a minute,” Matias said. “Then we’ll head back home.”
“Okay,” Mara said, sitting down on a bench that faced the statue.
As they sat down together, Matias checked his watch for the 100th time. It read 11:59. He began looking around, but no one was in sight.
Mara continued telling her father about all the sheet music her teacher had loaned her and how she had been practicing at home on a piece of paper where she had written up all the keys.
Knowing that these were the last moments he would have with his daughter, Matias tried to listen and be interested in what she was saying, but he was also nervous as the seconds ticked by and no one had come yet for Mara. Was this the right day? Was he a day early? A day late?
As he continued listening to Mara, while still looking around the empty park, from the shrubs and trees behind them, a hand holding a white cloth covered Mara’s mouth.
Mara gasped as the cloth was held against her mouth and another arm held her down so she was unable to move as she struggled. She looked towards her father who just stared from her to the stranger behind them. She cried into the cloth as she slowly started feeling dazed and woozy, and after a few moments, she was asleep from the effects of the chloroform from the cloth.
The stranger stepped back and walked around to the front of the bench where Matias continued sitting. He hadn’t moved or said a word since the man came out of the shadows.
Putting the cloth into the pocket of his suit jacket, the man picked the unconscious girl up into his arms, then looked down at Matius.
“If she is reported missing or if you go to the police, she will be killed,” he told him. “Do you understand?”
Matias nodded. It was the only movement he was able to muster up and he found himself still unable to speak.
Without saying another word, the man turned away and walked off into the darkness of the park, carrying Matias’ oldest daughter away from him forever.
Slowly coming too, Mara began to wake up, feeling groggy. She had never been drugged before so this was a whole new feeling she wasn’t used too. As she slowly tried to open her eyes, a light blinded her and made everything blurry. She blinked a few times, over and over to get herself used to the light before the picture of where she was, was clear.
She was sitting in a chair, in front of her was a large wooden desk with a handsome man, probably her father’s age sitting behind it. On either side of him were two muscular and tall men wearing casual suits. Both of them had earpieces in their right ear and sunglasses covering their eyes even though they were indoors.
Mara attempted to move but came to discover she was tied to the chair. She struggled, pulling at the ties for a moment, the rope digging into her wrists. After a minute of pulling and getting nowhere, Mara finally gave up and looked towards the three men in front of her.
“Where am I?” she asked.
“You’re in my home,” the man sitting at the desk answered.
“Who are you?” Mara didn’t even try hiding the fear in her voice. She felt defenseless and was terrified.
“My name is Julian Pryde,” he said.
“Why am I here? What do you want from me?” she cried.
“Don’t cry, child,” Julian told her. “You are perfectly safe as long as you do as you are told.”
“What do you want?” she asked him as a tear rolled down her cheek.
“You were offered to me,” he began, “and I am giving you to my son.”
“What?” Mara cried, her voice changing from fear to confusion. “By who? What does your son want with me?”
“Please,” Julian said, calmly. “Calm down, you’ll only hurt yourself.”
Mara stopped pulling at her wrists and breathed in and out, staring at Julian.
“What do you want from me?” she asked again.
“Like I said,” Julian continued, “you were offered to me as a form of payment.”
“Payment for what?”
“A man was caught stealing from me and he offered you to me to make up for what he took. Though I don’t think you are worth what was taken, your time here and your service should eventually make things even out.”
“Who offered me?” she asked, though she was terrified of the answer.
Before Julian could answer her, there was a knock at a door. Julian turned his attention towards it and Mara heard the sound of the latch as the door opened.
“Oh good,” Julian said, sitting up in the chair and smiling. “Please come in.”
Mara turned her head and saw a young man had just come into the office. He looked at if he was a few years older than she was, maybe in his early twenties. He had dark brown hair, similar to Julian’s and had been cut short in a stylish way.
As he walked into the room, he didn’t even look at Mara as if it was a normal thing to see young girls tied up.
“Eli,” Julian said to the young man, “this is Mara.” He gestured to Mara and Eli looked down at her. “She is yours.”
Eli stared down at Mara for a minute. Mara looked up at him with pleading and begging eyes as tears continued to roll down the side of her face. It was as if he was taking in every inch of her face, from her hair to all the faint freckles on her cheek.
Finally, after what felt like ages, Eli looked back towards Julian. “Have her brought to my room,” he said, then turned and left the office without another word.
Mara turned her head back to Julian. Julian had turned towards one of the men standing at his side.
“Have her brought to Eli’s room,” he instructed the man.
Immediately, the man walked towards Mara.
“What?” Mara cried. “No!” she screamed as the man began undoing her restraints. Though she fought and struggled as hard as she could, her thin 5’2 figure was no match for the man who towered above her. He was able to get her up and out of the chair, tie her hands up behind her back and begin leading her out of the room without breaking a sweat. Meanwhile, Mara screamed and pulled her body and arms in all directions trying to get him off of her.
“Please!” she screamed at Julian as she was led out of the room. “Please let me go!”
But Julian was done with her. He had already picked up a cell phone and had started making a call as Mara’s was led away and the door to the office was shut behind them.