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Chapter One

“Sit down right here. Don’t move. Don’t make a sound! Your life depends upon your cooperation right now. Do you understand?”

Abby nodded, but her eyes darted to the door that had disappeared once he shut it behind him. There were no windows in the room, and once he turned off his small flashlight they were in the dark. Abby felt her eyes fill with tears. She was frightened to her very soul, and she honestly did not know what to do. Life in rural Ohio had not prepared her for the situation she now found herself in.

Things started going very wrong when she got lost in Manhattan. When she realized she must have missed her subway stop, she got off and sought out a cab. She gave the driver the address she wanted, and after he drove her around for half an hour he admitted he didn’t know where that street was located, and he pulled over and told her to get out. Abby asked him to take her back to someplace that seemed safer, but he shook his head and said he was going home. He once again told her to get out, and when she refused, he asked her if she wanted him to put her out. Abby got out of the cab, making damn sure she got the company’s name and his cab number. She would have the satisfaction of reporting him, that is, if she lived through this mess she was in!

Abby started walking, and just as she rounded a corner she saw a man pull a gun from his pocket and shoot another man. At that point things seemed to turn into slow motion. The killer turned to walk away and stopped in his tracks when he saw her standing there with her mouth hanging open in shock. He raised his right arm, pointed the gun at her, while she stood motionless, taking the time to scream when she should have tried to get the hell out of harm’s way. She got a good look at the man before she was jerked out of the way and told in a harsh voice to run.

Abby had no choice. The owner of the voice was dragging her along like she was a very small, crying child, throwing a tantrum in a store because she wanted a toy she couldn’t have. They ran, and they ran, and when she was too tired to run any more, she dropped to her knees. He promptly jerked her to her feet and slapped her bottom hard enough to leave a large, burning handprint. “You keep running, woman, if you want to live.” In that second she knew that he was every bit as dangerous as the killer.

“I can’t!” she insisted, but he curtly told her to shut up and stop whining. So, they ran and ran and she forgot about anything else but putting one foot in front of the other so she wouldn’t fall down. The smarting handprint on her butt gave her the incentive to do what he told her. She didn’t want him to strike her again. It hurt.

After running for what seemed like an eternity, they came to an old, dilapidated house. He rushed them inside and whispered, “Hurry, woman. He’s right behind us!” To her surprise, the house was meticulously clean on the inside in spite of the way it looked on the outside. They rushed through several rooms and into a large library upstairs. He pulled on a bookcase filled with books, and then shoved her through an opening in the wall.

A couple of minutes later she heard footsteps on the other side of the wall, and she understood why he’d put her in the corner. If the killer somehow made his way into the dark room, the man who brought her here wanted her out of immediate danger. He was stationed by the secret door, and ready to fight.

“I know they came into this house,” they heard the killer mumble to himself. “Where the fuck are they?” He obviously kicked something, and then stomped through the house, looking in every nook and cranny while Abby huddled in the corner, reliving the killing over and over again in her mind.

They finally heard a door slam, and Abby was ready to get to her feet when she heard him whisper, “Stay put; stay quiet. He’s still here.” She wondered if he hadn’t heard the door, and was about to ask him when she heard a noise.

“Damn it all to hell!” They heard the killer swear. He must have taken out his cell phone to make a call, “Hey, Pop. I have a problem. I took out Grubbs like you said, but some bitch saw me do it. I had a bead on her when some man jerked her away and they took off running. I kept up with them for a while, but there were too fucking many people around, so I couldn’t get off a shot. I thought for sure I saw them come into this abandoned house, but they must have slipped out the back when I was comin’ in the front.” It was quiet for a moment. “Pop, I swear to God I didn’t know the whore was there. She probably took her john to a bedroom she’s got fixed up around here. I sure as hell wouldn’t have shot Grubbs in front of her if I’d known she was watching. Hell yes she got a good look at my face! Why the fuck do you think I’m so damned freaked out?”

It was quiet again. “Florida?” Bobby whined. “Why not Hawaii, Pop? I like it there.” More silence. “Yes, Pop, I know you’re in charge, and yes, I realize what you would do to me if I wasn’t your son. Pop, I didn’t mean to fuck up, and I will fix it if you let me stay?” he offered in a respectful tone of voice. “No, sir. I’ll head for the airport right away and get out of town until this goes away. Yes, I have enough cash until you can set me up. I won’t use my cards, Pop.” They heard him walk away, still talking on his cell phone, and this time when the door shut, Abby knew he was gone.

She slowly let out the breath she didn’t know she’d been holding, and then she got to her feet. “Okay, he’s gone. Let me out of here.” She kept her voice quiet, unwilling to be heard outside the house in case the killer was listening.

“I told you to be quiet.” His voice came out as a harsh whisper.

“I do not have to obey you; now let me out of here so I can get out of here.”

“Do you have any idea who that man was, woman?” His whisper sounded even harsher and Abby could tell he was furious.

“No, I don’t. Why should I know someone like that?” she hissed, her temper responding to his attitude. “And don’t call me ‘woman’ in that ill-bred manner; I don’t like it!”

“Then what should I call you?” he demanded.

“Oh no. You are not going to trick me into giving you my name. I might not be from the city, but neither am I some ignorant hick without a lick of sense.”

“So what were you doing following Bobby Fabrizi?” he asked in disbelief.

“Who? You mean that killer? I wasn’t following him. I was trying to find a cab.”

“In this area? Woman, women who walk the streets in this part of town are really walking the street, looking for business.” In the next instant a searing pain scorched the side of his face as she slapped him with more force that he would have suspected from such a tiny female. “That was a big mistake.”

Abby gasped as he grabbed her. She suddenly went flying through the air to land over his bent knee. “Let me go or I’ll scream!” she threatened, only to gasp in pain as his hand landed on the seat of her expensive designer jeans. “Ouch!”

“Be quiet, woman. You asked for this, and now you’re going to get it.”

Abby feared she was going to cry as the heat built up inside her jeans as he continued to spank her. She shouldn’t have slapped him, but for him to accuse her of being a prostitute was just too horrible to bear. “I am not a prostitute, and you deserved that slap for calling me one!” she declared. “You owe me an apology.”

“Woman, I did not call you a prostitute.” The man stopped spanking her long enough to say. “I said that women who walked the streets around here were really walking the streets, looking for business. I was not implying that you were a working girl.” He resumed the spanking, making her thighs his new target.

“Stop!” she yelled. “Stop!”

“You need to learn to control your temper, woman. Slapping men two times larger than you is not a smart thing to do. What if they retaliated and started beating on you with their fists?” he scolded.

“Men where I come from wouldn’t dare do such a thing,” she insisted, knowing it wasn’t true, but wanting to put him in his place. “Let me go. I only hit you once. Please,” she added.

“Not until you’ve learned your lesson, and we aren’t there yet.” He knew it wouldn’t take much longer as he targeted her sit spots. It was obvious to him that the woman hadn’t been spanked in a very long time, or she would have known what he was waiting to hear.

“Please stop!” Abby begged. “I’m sorry I slapped you.” She finally said what he was waiting to hear. “I’m sorry.” She started crying in earnest, and all of the fight went out of her. Witnessing the murder, the mad dash through the streets with a killer chasing them, and then being enclosed in a dark, hidden room in an old house. It was just too much, and Abby wasn’t even aware when the spanking stopped, or when the man sat down and cuddled her on his lap and wrapped his arms around her to comfort her.

“Shhh. Honey, it’s all right now. You’re safe. I won’t let that creep hurt you, I promise.” The woman wasn’t nearly as confident as she tried to pretend to be, and what she was doing in this part of the city was a mystery to him. Tourists didn’t usually end up on these streets. “We need to get out of here. Come on, honey. Try to calm down. This place is going to be overrun with the Fabrizi soldiers any second now. We have to get out of here while we can.”

“Why are you helping me?” she asked, confused.

“It’s what I do,” he said, and then showed her his badge. “I’m going to leave you here for a few moments while I have a look around. If I don’t come back, you sit here until it is dark outside, and then try to get out of this neighborhood. Stay away from the main streets, and once you can call for help, do it. Don’t trust anyone. I will be back soon.”

Abby was left alone in the dark and she did her best to pull herself together. She’d witnessed a man kill another man in cold blood and she would have to testify as to what she saw. Her daddy would expect her to step up and do the right thing, no matter how scared she was. Murder was simply wrong and against everything she had been raised to believe.

Time slowly passed, and while she waited for the lawman to return, Abby rubbed her stinging bottom with her hands. My goodness, she hadn’t been spanked since she and her friend, Mindy Lewis, wrote love letters between their teacher and the school’s janitor. When they were found out, her dad and Mindy’s dad were called to the school. Her dad came home and said that what she did may have sounded funny to a twelve-year-old, but it was hurtful and embarrassing to the two people. Abby had to write letters of apology to both of the adults, and that was while sitting on a sore behind. Her daddy used a paddle and he used it well. But, this man didn’t need a paddle. His hand was as hard as any board, and Abby didn’t know if she would be able to sit down, provided she survived this crazy mess she was in.

The little room flooded with light and the man stood there looking at her rubbing her butt. He frowned. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you that there is no rubbing after a butt warming?”

“It’s my butt and if I want to rub it, I will! You had no right to spank me, mister.”

“No, I didn’t. You didn’t have a right to slap my face, either.”

Her brown eyes automatically went to his cheek and she felt guilty when she saw the vivid red handprint on his face. “I am sorry I struck you; it was uncalled for and I don’t normally go around hitting people.”

“Neither do I,” he said gruffly. “We need to get out of here, fast. We won’t have long before this place is searched, and while Bobby Fabrizi isn’t the brightest tube of lipstick, there are others who will find this room. We need to be gone when they do.” When she nodded, he added, “If I give you an order, you obey me instantly. Don’t ask questions, don’t argue, just do what I say. Our lives depend on it.”

“I understand,” Abby told him, and then said, “My name is Abby.” She felt small for not giving him her name when he asked.

“Abby, my name is Gage. He took out a card and scribbled a number on the back. “If something happens to me, you call this number. Tom is my partner and he will protect you. I have trusted him to have my back for seven years now. Okay?”

She took a deep breath and looked like she was going to cry, but she shook it off and nodded. “Got it. Let’s get going and I’ll do my best to keep up.”

“Good girl.” He took her hand, then led her downstairs and out the back door. They jumped over the back fence and walked between some buildings and into an alley, where they remained hidden. Ten minutes later a car pulled up right in front of them and Gage jerked open the door to the back seat and hurried her inside, jumping in after her. “Get us out of here, Tom,” he ordered, pushing Abby down where she couldn’t be seen by other drivers. “We’ve got Bobby Fabrizi, Tom. Both Abby and I saw him kill Lenny Grubbs.”

Tom, who was in the front seat driving, gave a low whistle. “Neither of you are safe. Fabrizi’s henchmen are all over this section of town.”

“Bobby chased us all over creation. I barely got us to the DuVray house and hidden before Bobby popped inside the door after us. If he’d been any smarter, I probably would have had to kill him to keep him from killing us. His old man is sending him to Florida. He needs to be picked up at the airport before he gets out of town.”

“This is the break we have been waiting for. We can get a search warrant and go through cars and houses. If we can get Bobby to roll over on his family we can find where those girls are.”

“We’ve got to get him in custody first, Tom. His old man will order a hit before he lets Bobby rat out the others.”

“I don’t give a damn about his killing Lenny Grubbs; I want to know where those girls are!”

“What girls?” Abby asked, trying to stay calm.

“Who is she, Gage? And how do we know we can trust her?” Tom asked sharply.

“I’m not exactly sure how Abby ended up where I found her, but she had a front row seat for the murder, and if I’d reached her just one second later, she would have been killed, too.”

“Were you there with Bobby Fabrizi, girl?” Tom demanded sharply, twisting to try and see her in the back seat.

“Keep your eyes straight ahead and on the street, idiot! If Fabrizi’s men are looking for us, you’ll tip them off, and then we’ll have to take a stand and shoot it out with them, and the boss will not be happy.”

“Hell with that; I want answers,” Tom growled.

“Just get me to a place where I can catch a taxi,” Abby said with quiet dignity, looking at Gage. “I have nothing to say to that jerk, and I have business of my own to take care of.”

“Abby, calm that temper,” Gage warned. “You aren’t going anywhere right now.”

“How much do you want to bet me I’m not? If you don’t stop this car and release me right now, I will have you both arrested for kidnapping me.”

“Abby, I’m warning you; settle down and listen to me. We can’t let you go. Fabrizi’s men would find you before dark and kill you. Donny Fabrizi is the head of the Fabrizi mob family, and he is a mean bastard at the best of times; you are a threat to his only son and he will spare no money to find you and kill you so you can’t testify in front of a jury.”

“He won’t know where to start looking for me,” Abby reasoned.

“Keep her down and don’t breathe,” Tom whispered without moving his mouth as he looked straight ahead. “We’re being followed.”

Abby closed her eyes in fear as Gage pulled his gun and took off the safety. She simply couldn’t believe that a simple trip to New York had turned into such a nightmare. Gage was right about one thing; she wouldn’t stand a prayer of defending herself against a ruthless crime family. She needed his help.

“What’s around us?” she heard Gage ask. “Something with a lot of people?”

“No, just a couple of convenience stores. I’ll keep driving for a bit, and if I see something that looks good, I’ll turn in. Just stay ready.” Tom was quiet for a moment, and then said, “Okay, we’re coming up on a church and they’re having something tonight. Some sort of festival. I’ll turn in and see if they follow us.” Tom turned into the parking lot, and the car following them picked up speed and hurried on its way. “Okay, they moved on. That car had four of the Fabrizi family in it. They must be looking for you to be on foot. Let’s get the hell out of here while we can.”

“How do you know they are part of the Fabrizi family?” Abby asked curiously, suspicious of Tom.

“We are new here, Abby. We spent a month doing absolutely nothing but studying the folder on the family and their hired help, and learning the city. They haven’t realized yet that Tom and I are on the job. We change agents when it is obvious they can spot the ones assigned to flush them out.”

“Don’t sugar coat it, Gage. They killed the last two guys on the job,” Tom said bitterly. “Gage and I are going to take them down, and you can bank on that. And, if you have anything to do with them, we’ll take you down, too!”

“Tom, you owe Abby an apology. She is not part of this; she’s innocent.”

“How can that be? Why would Bobby Fabrizi let her get close enough to watch him do a hit if she wasn’t with him?” Tom demanded.

“If you don’t stop this car right now, I am going to file charges!” Abby was furious.

“Why are you in such a damn hurry to get away from us? Most witnesses are happy to have the FBI protect them! Can’t wait to get to Bobby, can you?” Tom sneered.

“I’m in a hurry to get away from you because you are insufferably rude, obnoxious, and a pain in my ass!” Abby was screaming now, and she looked at Gage and said, “May I please borrow your gun? I promise to give it back minus one bullet!” She was tired of hovering in the leg space of the back seat of the car. “Move!” she roared, pushing on Gage’s chest and managing to push him over the hump in the middle. She immediately rose and sat on the seat where she was a bit more comfortable, except for her poor bottom. That part of her anatomy was still stinging and sitting hurt. “Damn you, Gage! It isn’t bad enough that I have been frightened out of my mind by that damned Fabrizi moron, insulted to the point of wishing I had a gun myself to use on your idiot partner, but you had to make sure I couldn’t even sit comfortably! That is against the law, isn’t it? Police brutality, and now kidnapping?” she angrily scolded, and her brown eyes filled with tears she refused to shed.

“There is a big difference between brutality and a spanking, Abby,” Gage said softly. “How much further is it, Tom?”

“Less than five minutes, depending on this fucking traffic and the lights.” Tom answered. “Gage, tell me you didn’t put your hand to this woman.”

“Yes, he did. What are you going to do about it?” Abby demanded of the man.

“I’m thinking of pulling over and watching Gage do it again!” Tom muttered. “Damn it, man. You know better. Why the hell would you do that?” Tom demanded.

“Because she has a sweet butt,” Gage replied, and then chuckled when Tom cursed.

“I slapped him,” Abby admitted. “You don’t need to worry that I will tattle, either. I don’t need any complications in my life, and that is what tattling would incur. I will give a sworn statement about seeing Bobby Fabrizi murder that other guy, and I will show up for the trial, but I didn’t come to New York today to have my plans thwarted. I’m here to look for my cousin. She came here a week ago, and no one has heard from her since. Aunt Kara asked me to come and find her, and bring her home with me. I didn’t think they should have permitted her to come at all. Not at her age, but I had no say, and now, like usual, I am the one who needs to fix it.”

“Abby, you are a witness in a high profile case. Donny Fabrizi will put out a contract on you, and every crook in this city will be trying to find you. You will need to remain in protective custody.”

“No f-ing way!” she said, making her feelings quite clear.

“Watch your language, woman.”

“Don’t call me ‘woman’. I don’t like it.”

“Very well, Abby. No more bad language. It’s just plain nasty coming from a sweet girl such as yourself.” What the hell was he saying? Gage scolded himself. He couldn’t afford to get involved with another female. The last time was nothing short of a disaster, and he had the scars to prove it.

Abby looked at Gage in disbelief, and reminded herself that her daddy often said the same thing. Her dad would love Gage, and he would understand him. It was his voice she heard in her heart, telling her to trust Gage and do what he said. Oh, how she missed her daddy!

“Don’t cry, Abby. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” Gage insisted, reaching out to wipe the tears from her cheek.

“You didn’t, Gage. It was a private moment of grief.”

“Who are you grieving for?” he asked, wondering if she’d been married, or in a relationship with someone.

“I lost my dad a few months ago. He didn’t approve of my swearing, either,” she admitted, smiling. “He wore a badge for over fifty years,” Abby proudly stated.

“Then what the hell were you doing with the likes of Bobby Fabrizi?” Tom asked, his voice full of exasperation. “Girl, you are going to be nothing but trouble!”

To be continued…


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