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Her Pained Blue Silence by A.J. Downey (1)

Prologue

Everleigh…

He was crazy, I didn’t know what he was talking about. I couldn’t talk. At least, not really. I mean, I only talked to him, when it was quiet, when we were alone, when I was calm and felt safe… and since he had started using, I hadn’t felt safe in a very long time.

“You fucked up, Silence,” he said, leaning against his bike, lighting his blunt. He looked at me over the glowing red coal and sucked the smoke deep into his lungs, holding it and saying, his voice strained with the effort, “You fucked up big-time.”

I felt my eyes go wide, pleading silently my innocence, but it didn’t matter; King believed wholeheartedly that I’d done something and I was filled with dread over what he might do.

“Boys,” he intoned soullessly, and I was seized by either arm. I cried out wordlessly, and looked frantically from Joker to Rebel as they dragged me, unresisting at first, towards the trees. It took a second for my fight reflex to kick in, but it wasn’t any use anyway as I writhed and twisted between them trying to get free. Even if I did, it wouldn’t do any good. There were six of them and only one of me, and I don’t think I would have been able to outrun them, no matter how hard I tried.

They forced me to my knees and slipped a loop of cord over each of my wrists and lashed me between two trees that were close together. I struggled against the bonds, the slipknots catching and tightening, the cords strangling my wrists and cutting off my circulation. I stopped, panting, and begged King with my eyes to please, please not do this.

“Silence, Silence, Silence,” he chanted, using the road name he’d given me. He sighed and dropped the last of the blunt to the forest floor, grinding it out carefully under his heavy boot. “You didn’t think I’d figure out it was you?” he asked.

I wept. I hadn’t done anything! I didn’t know what he was talking about! I couldn’t speak. It was not that I didn’t want to, I couldn’t. What did he want from me?

“Never trust a bitch,” King said. “Thought you were perfect. Pretty, hot, can’t speak? Gotta love that. Almost perfect for a guy like me, but you lied to me, didn’t you?”

I shook my head back and forth. He shook his, too, and called out, “Whiskey, you wanna patch in?”

The prospect perked up and looked over. “You know I do, King.”

“Prove it. Show Si here what happens to traitors to the Knights of Crescentia.”

Terrified, I struggled against my bonds anew as King dug into one of his saddlebags. He came up with a hammer and two long, wicked-looking nails.

He held them out to Whiskey, who marginally relaxed. I wasn’t relaxed. I wasn’t relaxed at all. I prayed, I wept, and I hoped against hope that any second, King would start laughing. That he would say ‘Just kidding,’ but I knew that look in his eyes, the cruelty in them. I shuddered and sweat dripped down my back between my shoulder blades.

Whiskey spit on the ground and plucked the hammer and nails from King’s hands. When Whiskey had first shown up, I had thought he was handsome, cleaner than the rest of the guys, even King. Now I was forced to face him as he stalked with assurance in my direction, the hammer in one hand, nails in the other, his tread dull against the earth, each hollow thump of his footsteps ominous. My heart raced, the blood rushing in my ears, as I pleaded with my eyes and wept, my tears slicking hot down my face tightening my skin.

I clenched my fists and keened wordlessly from behind my gritted teeth when all I wanted were the words, Don’t! Please stop! I didn’t do whatever it is you think I did! I would give anything to speak them, but that’s not how it worked. I couldn’t. Just trying left me feeling like I was choking on my own tongue.

Whiskey stuck the nails in his back pockets and dropped to his knees by my left hand. I hyperventilated as he forced my fingers to uncurl and flattened the back of my hand against the rough bark. I shook my head back and forth, back and forth, begging with my gaze for him not to do this, and I swear I saw it reflected back in his eyes, the sorrow that he had to.

I swallowed hard and tried to prepare myself, but there was no preparing for it.

The pain was sharp and immediate, and I screamed, long, loud, and wordless. Each strike of the hammer reverberated through my palm and out through my fingers. I felt sick, nausea sweeping over and through me, and it was only made worse when I looked at my mangled hand, bleeding, the nail through the palm and into the tree.

I looked up at him, agonized, the expression on my face hopefully telegraphing Why?

He looked grim, his mouth set in a hard line behind his beard, his gaze hooded as he unfurled my other hand against the opposite tree.

I shook my head weakly and sobbed, damning my inability to speak in front of people. The overwhelming fear and anxiety all but paralyzed my vocal cords, my tongue failed to cooperate. I couldn’t speak, but I was aware that, even if I could, it wouldn’t matter.

I screamed again as the second nail bit into my flesh and Whiskey pounded it home. I choked on my own sobs. I dry-heaved, but, mercifully, didn’t throw up, as the guys stood around laughing and chatting like they would if we were simply out here for them to shoot, which was the impression I’d been under when we’d left that morning.

I raised my head and looked at King, who stalked up to me and grabbed me by the back of the hair. He jerked my head all the way back and stared down at me coldly, indifferent to my suffering.

“Think I’m gonna put that mouth of yours to good use one last time. For old time’s sake, what do you say?” he asked, a cruel smile flickering to life at the corners of his mouth as he worked at his belt.

“Might not want to do that, King,” Whiskey called out. The rest of the guys looked a mix of uncomfortable and eager. I cast a grateful look at Whiskey for this small mercy but my hopes in a softer side in him were dashed when he continued, “You plan on leavin’ her here to die, you don’t want to leave any DNA behind.”

“Good point,” King replied. “Any of you fuckers got a condom?”

I guess I was finally fortunate to some degree. Heads shook and there were negative sounding grunts and ‘No’s sweeping through the men standing around watching our little tableau.

“Guess I’m out of luck, then,” he said, tucking himself away. He let go of my head and I sagged with relief.

“You got a few hours to think about what you done, before either the animals come and get you or the cold does overnight. Personally,” he sniffed, “I hope it’s the latter.”

I looked up and a new terror seized me.

“See you around, Silence. Probably in Hell,” King declared, throwing his leg over his bike. He turned back to Whiskey and said, “Welcome to the Knights of Crescentia, Whiskey.” He looked past Whiskey and said, “Rebel, give him his colors.”

They left me there after that. They left me there alone, and terrified.

I didn’t want to die.

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