Thursday, July 2, 2015
Bywater District, New Orleans, Louisiana
Jinx LeDoux bolted upright, gasping for air, her heart pounding so hard she felt as if her chest would burst. The slightest movement sent shock waves through her head, and her stomach rolled. She felt the bile rise in her throat and took a deep breath, forcing the nausea away.
Something had happened. Something she couldn’t quite remember.
She blinked several times, trying to clear her blurry vision, then realized it wasn’t only her vision that was the problem. Wherever she was, it was almost pitch black.
Wherever she was?
She put her hands on the ground, feeling around for something familiar, something that told her she was safe in the abandoned apartment she’d been living in for the last month, but the floor she rested upon was concrete, not the aged, splintered wood she had grown used to. Slowly, she lifted her hands and reached out until her right hand connected with something hard and cool. She ran her fingertips on the surface, frowning as she felt the chilly, round metal rod. She moved her fingers to the side and felt another, then another as far as she could reach. Panicking, she reached upward and found the same bars about two feet above her head.
She was in a cage!
Then her memory came crashing back in like a tidal wave.
She’d left the docks where she’d been skating Wednesday evening and had been on her way to the apartment when she’d felt someone watching her. Jinx was only fifteen, but she had more acuity than most adults when it came to her surroundings. She’d scanned the street, looking at the shadows for movement, looking into the windows of vacant buildings for any sign that someone lurked behind one of the cracked, grimy panes, but she’d seen no one.
She’d been wrong.
As she’d reached the old abandoned drugstore, a shadow crossed the open door and inched onto the sidewalk. It was only for a second, but enough for her to know that the person who’d been watching her was inside that building. She spun around, ready to run as fast as her legs could take her, when she felt the needle pierce her neck. The last thing she remembered was falling onto the sidewalk.
That answered the question of how, but left a whole lot unanswered.
She got onto her knees and crawled around the structure, trying to determine its size and locate an exit. The door was located on the third panel she searched, secured by a heavy padlock. She tugged on the lock, but it didn’t budge. The last panel yielded nothing more than a confirmation that she was inside an iron cage, approximately six feet square. The concrete floor was completely bare.
Her wrists ached a bit and she rubbed them, feeling the indentations where they had been bound together. Sections of her skin had been burned by the friction caused by the rope. The same indentations and burns surrounded her ankles.
What the hell was going on? Who had done this? And the worst question, why?
She brought her knees up to her chest and circled them with her arms. It was at least ninety degrees outside, but she shook from the chill running through her. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she felt them spill over and roll down her cheeks as she collapsed into sobs. In the eight months she’d lived on the streets, she’d never cried.
Now she wasn’t sure she’d ever stop.