Every Little Piece of HimBy: Debra Kayn
The sound of barking dogs outside the cinder-block walls caused tension in the room. Anders wrapped a short piece of rope around the knuckles of his hand, made a fist, and held his arm out for Will to tie the ends.
At any moment, if they were lucky, Joney would be brought back into the room after fighting the dogs, and they'd put their long-planned escape into motion.
"We have to do this now. It's our only chance." Two-crow pressed his back against the cement wall and scrambled to his feet. "The next one who gets called out will never survive. They're egging on the dogs, and they're getting thirstier for blood."
For two years, the six of them lived in the cement block room with only blankets to protect them from the roughness of their surroundings. One toilet and sink sat in the corner, no walls, no privacy. Food came twice a day—usually tortillas and beans.
The only time they were let out into the sunlight was when the men holding them captive took them to the barn to train the dogs and get them ready for the ring.
Anders had no idea where they were living. Though Quint believed the men who'd taken them out of state care delivered them to a foreign country. The men at the barn were dark haired, dark skinned, and darkly possessed. Everyone spoke a different language, only shouting the names of the men in charge in English.
The others remained nameless, but their faces and hands were branded in Anders' head, he'd be able to spot them out of a crowd.
Will paced the small room. "What if Joney doesn't come back?"
Mark sat on the floor and rubbed his eyes. "He's been gone a long time."
"They'll bring him back, and if they don't, we'll find him." Anders flexed his fingers, staying alert.
At seventeen years old, he had a man's body. With a lot of time stuck in the room, he exercised to build his strength and plan for the day they could escape. They all had.
"What if they sic the dogs on us?" Quint tucked in his threadbare shirt that appeared almost brown rather than white. "We'll never make it out of here."
"That's why we're going to get the boss-man first. He won't be able to alert the others," said Anders, sweeping back his hair. "We all have to attack him when he brings back Joney. If one of you bails and they get control or more come, they'll kill us."
"Where are we going to go?" Will hitched his jeans higher.
"We run to the right of the barn toward the trees. If the others come after us, we'll have to split up." He looked at each of them, feeling their fear penetrating the room. "We need to pick somewhere to meet up if we go in different directions and lose each other."
"Montana," said Two-crow.
"Why there?" asked Will.
"Because no one will know us. None of us came from that state when we were kidnapped. Nobody will be looking for us. We can finally be free. The Bitterroot Mountains are there. We can hide and live off the land." Two-crow undid the knot at the bottom of his braid.
Anders studied the others, wondering if their destination was the right one or if the Louis L'Amour book that Two-crow had in his back pocket when he was taken had to do with picking Montana. "If we get split up, we'll meet there."
"The mountains are huge. Aren't they?" asked Quint.
"Don't worry, we'll find each other," said Anders.
He hadn't set foot inside a school since he was fifteen years old and was removed from the boys' home for orphans because of behavioral problems. The wilderness therapy program he was assigned to was his last chance before going to juvenile detention hall until he turned eighteen years old.
Instead of being thrown in the woods to survive and learn coping skills, he was blindfolded, handcuffed, and taken to where he was ordered to train dogs to fight inside a ring to their death. Lately, the men in charge forced him and the other boys to stay in the ring and defend themselves against the dogs when they turned on them.
He ran his hand over his chest. When the dogs got a whiff of blood, they could no longer see the difference between human and canine, and he had the scars to prove it.
"What if we're really in a different country?" whispered Quint.