Garstin Bastion Road, New Delhi’s notorious red-light district, came alive when its ground-floor shops closed for the day and the upstairs brothels opened for the night. Girls and women crowded the balconies enticing the men on the sidewalks to rent their bodies. A temporary transaction that allowed them access to the inside of the woman – but not her heart, mind, or soul.
Sarika Chabra sat in the backseat of the Black Mercedes, fingering the frill of her red and gold embroidered dupatta. She looked at the young man behind the wheel. “Have you seen him yet, Donnell?”
He shook his head. Donnell Brooks had worked in many occupations in his thirty years, but this was his most challenging job yet. He was responsible for delivering the woman he loved to Pranay Bal, a mobster, and extortionist who had purchased her virginity. Bal would die within minutes of taking it. While he had to live with the mental image of the mobster joined with Sarik in a way he never could.
Donnell looked at her in the rearview mirror.
“Are you nervous?”
Sarika quit fidgeting. “A little.”
“You don’t have to go through with it. We can tell Mr. Chabra that you changed your mind.”
Part of her wanted to tell him to start the car and go. To wait for another day to lose her virginity and make her first kill.
Sarika looked at the noisy, crowded street. She was born in the back room of one of these brothels. An astrologer saved her and gave her to Aravind Chabra, a wealthy man who believed the stars foretold our destinies. The astrologer told him her horoscope said she was a Visha Kanya. An infant who would be raised on incrementally larger doses of snake venom and alkaloid poisons until she became immune. The cult of female killers was legendary, going back as far as Sanskrit writings hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, back to the time when Mithridates VI was the king of Pontus.
“I must, Donnell. Papa Chabra has the right to recoup some of the money he spent raising me. He gave me the honor of choosing my first victim. Pranay Bal is untouchable. He controls the local police and preys on these poor women. Forcing them to pay him a percentage of their profits above what the pimps and whore mongers demand. The sex workers’ lives are difficult enough without men like Bal. They cannot go to the police. They are helpless. Sarika looked at the forced smiles and the pain in the eyes of the women beckoning to the men. “Anyone of these women could be my mother. I owe it to them and her.”
The eyebrows in the mirror raised. “So, we do this?”
She looked at the handsome dark-haired young man. “I want to make the world a better place. I know the mechanics of sex. Now I need to feel human flesh and a man inside me. I must know how potent I am and how long it takes me to kill.”
“You will be nothing to Bal but a warm wet sleeve to masturbate into.”
She looked out the window. “That is how it is with me, Donnell. My destiny is written in the stars. It cannot be changed.”
He thought about disobeying his orders and running away with her to a far-off place where they could live as they pleased. But she wouldn’t go because she believed the stars meant her to be here. He hated the stars. “Very well. If anyone deserves to die, it’s Pranay Bal.” He pointed to a muscular middle-aged man in a gray suit. “He is right on time for your appointment.” Donnell walked around and opened her door.
Sarika stepped out and touched her cobra pendant. You are the cobra, Sarika. Be the cobra.
Her flowing red and gold lehenga skirt and midriff exposing choli stole the young man’s words. The matching dupatta and Sarika’s dark brown hair, light brown skin, and blue eyes were all he could think of. For a second, he considered grabbing her arm and telling her no. No. Your first time should not be with a stranger. No, you are too precious to me. Let me do it. I would gladly die for you. Instead, he said. “Good luck,” and watched the graceful young woman follow the crime boss into the Ambassador Club.
The manager. A man wearing a blue and gold embroidered Sherwani, saffron pants, and polished black boots stopped her at the entrance.
“Good evening, Miss. Are you meeting someone?”
“Yes. I’m here for Mr. Bal.
His sharp brown eyes narrowed. “Is he expecting you?”
Butterflies fluttered in her stomach as her nerves caught up to her. “I have an appointment.”
The man in blue escorted her to the mobster’s table. “Your guest has arrived, sir. Will she be joining you for supper?”
Bal didn’t stop chewing as he undressed her with his eyes. “Check her for weapons.”
One of his bodyguards patted her down. They found nothing.
“She is unarmed.”
He motioned her to a chair. “You are the virgin?”
“Yes, Mr. Bal.” The nineteen-year-old settled across from him. “My name is Sarika.”
“How do I know you are a virgin?”
She lowered her eyes. “Surly, my guardian’s word is to be trusted.”
“Chabra cannot watch you every minute of the day.” He tapped the table with his finger. “If I find out you’ve been with a man, I expect double my money back.”
The young woman’s head shook. “I am telling the truth, Mr. Bal. I have no reason to lie.”
The mob boss gulped his food and several drinks while Sarika picked at her plate. He threw his napkin down and pushed away from the table.
“It is time.” He led her to a private room with French doors that opened onto a courtyard lit with strings of tiny colored lights. Wind chimes tinkled and tonkled in the night breeze, and the floor-length jute curtains swayed in time to their rhythm. The quivering flames of more than a dozen candles pushed the shadows away from a large bed with a red cover and bolstered pillows.
Sarika noticed Bal’s bodyguards stationing themselves in front of the door.
“Uh. Mr. Bal, would you mind sending your men away? They make me nervous.”
Bal looked at her and licked his lips. “Vimal, take the men and go wait in the lounge. Come back in an hour.”
The man who had patted her down asked. “Are you sure, sir?”
“You said she was unarmed. What harm can she do to me?” He pointed. “Now go.”
Bal closed the door, removed his jacket, and loosened his tie.
Sarika draped her dupatta over a chair and pulled her long gloves off one at a time. “This is a beautiful room. Do you use it often?”
“I keep it for occasions like this. The big man grabbed her.
She spun away. “Not so fast, Mr. Bal. You’ll have my virginity. But you won’t rape me. You need to be patient. I will make myself ready and be back in a few minutes.”
Her façade of confidence fell away when the washroom door closed. She talked to her reflection in the mirror. You can do this. You are a Visha Kanya. This is your destiny. According to ancient writings, you can kill a man with your bodily fluids. Your blood is poison. But your saliva and the juices in your vagina are the most accessible to a man. Sarika removed her clothes and folded them in a neat pile. I am not sweating so he can touch me. She moistened her lips. But I cannot kiss him with an open mouth or perform oral sex. I can only let Bal relieve himself inside me. She rubbed the cobra pendant to give her strength. “It is time for you to make your first kill.”
The tile floor felt cool on her bare feet as she padded from the shadows to the light. Sarika felt like a predator without her clothes. A Cobra on the hunt – if her nervousness didn’t get in the way.
Bal smiled when he saw her. “Turn around.”
She did a slow pirouette.
“You are quite lovely.” He cupped her breasts and squeezed her bottom. “I will ensure you remember this night for the rest of your life.”
His hands felt warm against her skin. “I do not doubt that I will. Let me help you undress.” She reached up and began unbuttoning his shirt.
“You are sure you are a virgin?”
She kissed him with closed lips. “You will know in a few minutes.”
Her soft touches aroused the racketeer, and his eyes burned with passion. She could feel his heat, and he tried to grab her again and throw her on the bed. She stepped out of reach. It was like a dance. A dance of lust—a tango of I want you now and be patient. The mobster’s intentions were unmistakable. Sarika continued her soft caresses and watched for any sign he might lunge.
Remember the cobra. You are in charge.
The look in the mobster’s eyes changed from yearning to hunger to need. Sarika knew he would wait no longer and rolled onto the bed.
Bal took her acquiescence as surrender and straddled her, pinning her legs open. “Now I will know if what you say is true.”
He forced himself inside her. Blood dripped onto the sheet.
He smiled. “You were not lying.” He began to move.
Her teeth clenched, and she tried to ignore the pain. It feels like I am being rubbed raw.
Bal leered down at her. “Does it hurt?”
She grunted. “A little.”
The extortionist adjusted the angle and pushed deeper.
It feels like he is tearing me apart. Sarika grimaced as Bal’s movements quickened, his
mouth opened in a silent scream, and warmth spread inside her. He pulled out. Bloody sperm covered his shrunken member.
“At least you did not lie.” The mobster got a funny look on his face and adjusted himself. “It burns.” His legs twitched. He wiped himself on the bed sheets and splashed water from the sink.
Bal’s leavings dripped down the inside of her leg when she stood. “Do you know what a Visha Kanya is, Mr. Bal? A poison maiden?”
He staggered back into a chair. “They are a myth.” He tried to stand. His body spasmed.
“That’s what I am, Mr. Bal. I am a Visha Kanya.” She looked into his eyes and stroked his cheek.
He groaned, his eyes went blank, and urine puddled on the floor as his bladder muscles relaxed for the last time.
Sarika checked for a pulse. “Goodbye, Mr. Bal.” She dressed and walked casually but quickly through the club.
Donnell opened the door when she came running across the street. “Are you alright?”
She gave a quick nod and climbed in.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Go. I don’t know when Bal’s men will find him.”
Sarika didn’t reply.
Donnell spent half the drive glancing at her in the rearview mirror. She knew he wanted her to tell him what had happened, but it was too soon.
When the car stopped in front of Aravind Chabra’s large home, Sarika thought about saying something but ran inside to find her guardian, Mr. Chabra.
The wealthy man rose from his desk when she walked into his office. “It is done?” he asked.”
“Yes, Papa Chabra. I am no longer a virgin, and Bal is dead.”
“Very well. He was an evil man. How do you feel?”
Sarika thought for a few seconds. “Sore.”
She shook and cried when she closed her bedroom door but didn’t know why. Or did she? She turned on the tub and undressed. Blood stained her panties, and she smelled the warm scent of Bal’s musk and her juices when she took them off. It was over; she felt emotionally and physically raw but had no remorse for taking Bal’s life or losing her virginity. Perhaps the girls and women selling their bodies on Garstin Bastion Road would have an easier time without him?”
Sarika looked at herself. “And this is my body. I will use it as I see fit.” The gold pendant glinted between her breasts. “I am the cobra. I am Visha Kanya.”
New York was as different from New Delhi as she was from the girl who’d lost her virginity to Pranay Bal. The gangster’s death brought her to the attention of the Indian government and the clandestine world of spies and sanctioned assassinations. Bal had survived dozens of attempts on his life until the attractive young woman had evaded his defenses. Representatives from Western and Eastern countries bid for her services until they reached a million dollars per contract.
The United States offered her a proposal she couldn’t pass up. She and Donnell received E31 Skilled Worker visas and two million dollars in cash to relocate to America. She used part of the money to buy her freedom. She and Donnell used the rest to start The Chabra Agency. Most of her contracts came from covert government agencies or countries that could afford her fee. However, her conscience wouldn’t allow her to kill indiscriminately, and she only took a commission if she knew the person deserved to die.
As she walked on her treadmill, Sarika looked at New York’s Central Park. Daily exercise and healthy eating contrasted with her poison smoothies and venom-tipped fingernails. She always pushed herself to be more deadly. The Australian Box Jellyfish toxin she used under her nails took her weeks to get used to. The short-term discomfort had a long-term benefit because a tiny scratch would incapacitate a grown man in a few seconds. It would kill in less than twenty minutes.
The phone rang.
“Good morning, Donnell.”
“Good morning, Sari. I hope I didn’t interrupt your workout.”
“I just finished.”
“You have a new contract if you want it. It’s for Clay Thomas and Coney Barrett. They and their gang kidnapped William Bramford’s daughter. They’re holding her for ransom.”
“I thought they were human traffickers?”
“Primarily, but control and domination of their victims is their principal motivation. My contacts in the FBI say they use kidnapping to raise quick money. Bramford doesn’t want to pay. I don’t think he cares what happens to his daughter.
Barrett and Thomas make a strange couple. Thomas is an incel, and Barrett is a religious zealot whose selective reading of the Bible always supports her beliefs.”
Sarika removed a bag of fruit from the freezer. “How is selling women as sex slaves and prostitutes following the Bible?”
“Coney doesn’t like how these women choose to use their bodies. If a woman doesn’t adhere to her beliefs, she must purify them through pain and humiliation until they die or acquiesce. The pharisaic woman considers it aversion therapy. The women do things her way, or she takes away the control of their bodies and lets men do as they please to them.”
“What if the woman believes differently or is not Christian? The man is just as guilty.” Sarika remembered all the men gathered in the red-light district in New Delhi.
“It makes no difference,” said Donnell. “A woman must think and behave as she does. She does not allow them to choose for themselves.”
“I do not understand,” said Sarika. “How can she treat her sisters with such contempt.”
“It is her religion. She believes she is doing God’s work.”
The Visha Kanya looked at her scarlet fingernails. “She will not tell me what to do with my body. If Bramford won’t pay the ransom for his daughter, will he pay us?”
“I’m not sure. However, a two-million-dollar reward is offered by People Against Child Trafficking if you break up the ring and kill or capture Coney and Thomas.”
She dumped chunks of frozen mango and bananas in her blender and added snake venom and plant-based poison. “Find out everything you can about them. I’ll be in the office after I get showered and dressed.”
He paused. “What if I could get an anti-venom to protect me from your toxins?”
Sarika put the bottles of poison back in their rack. “Can you do that?”
“I’ve had your blood analyzed. The researcher I submitted it to said it was possible. It would allow us to touch and kiss without you killing me. I think we could even make love.”
“I don’t know, Donnell. What if it doesn’t work? I couldn’t live knowing I killed you.”
“I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t sure, Sari.”
She looked at the frozen fruit. “Give me some time to think about it.”
“I love you, Sari. I’m not in a hurry.”
Sarika froze. “You love me.”
“I do. I followed you to America. I’ll wait until you decide. It will be your choice.”
“Thank you, Donnell.”
“Of course. Are you going to take the Bramford job?”
“I think I will. Coney and Thomas need a comeuppance.”
“Very good. I’ll start making the arrangements. Are you coming in?”
“I’ll be in at my usual time.” She hung up and pushed blend. She liked Donnell. They’d gone out a few times but had always worn gloves and been careful how they touched. Making love to someone who didn’t die in the process would be different. The blender stopped. Then again, being deadly was a good excuse for staying single. A Visha Kanya used love to kill. Being in love frightened the hell out of her.
Monica Bramford almost wet herself when the shock collar jolted her awake. If she ever caught the perverted bastard who abducted her and locked it around her neck, she’d fasten it to his nuts and keep her finger on the button. She scrambled off the ragged piece of foam she slept on and slid a plastic bucket, water bottle, and dog bowl out through a flap in the door. It locked. A few minutes later, the empty bucket, refilled bottle, and a bowl of plain oatmeal slid inside. It was always the same. Oatmeal for breakfast and canned spaghetti for dinner. Sometimes they laced them with drugs. She tested a few bites. It seemed all right, and she gobbled the cereal down.
Her plan to hitchhike through Europe vanished when a white van pulled beside her as she and her friends walked home from Tortilla Rosie’s, her favorite Mexican restaurant. Three men jumped out, dragged her inside, and knocked her out. She woke up in this tiny concrete hell wearing a cheap nightie and a shock collar made from strap steel wrapped in duct tape. She hiked the nightgown and squatted over the bucket. Her captor didn’t even give her toilet paper.
Another dull day of nothing but lying around. She added a tenth scratch to the marks on the wall and tried to get comfortable. The collar’s electrodes jabbed her in the throat. She adjusted them to the side. The padlock keeping it closed made a lump under her head. “Shit!” she screamed. “If I ever get my hands on you, I will fucking kill you.” The collar shocked her so hard that it paralyzed her larynx, and she passed out. Part of her was disappointed she woke up again.
Were her parents doing anything to get her released? Was her father? Her Mom didn’t have any money. Her Mother had traded her independence from her overbearing father for a modest monthly income and sole custody.
Her father had money but followed his divorce decree to the letter. Now that she was over twenty-one and a college graduate, his legal responsibility to her was over. She hoped he’d make an exception to paying her ransom.
The endless days of classical music and staring at the ceiling affected her. Boredom and lethargy haunted her days, and her sleep was fitful. She was exhausted from being inactive and depressed by her surroundings. Her only sensory inputs were a bare bulb in the plain ceramic socket and the music. The violin summer of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons ended, and autumn began. A familiar grogginess overcame her. They’d drugged her. Part of her looked forward to blocks of boredom disappearing into nothingness. Part of her feared what they did while she was unconscious. Her eyes closed as she waited for now to become nothing and hoped whoever was screwing her was using a condom.
A thin blue sky streaked with white clouds arched over a landscape of cinnamon-brown rocks, moss-green sagebrush, and golden weed-covered hills. Sarika steered the beat-up white Hyundai along the patched two-lane highway that ran through them. She pressed the kill switch, and the vehicle stopped twelve feet from the end of a gravel driveway. Snack food wrappers littered the passenger side floor, and piles of folded clothing and suitcases filled the car’s back seat.
A new power pole with a mailbox and video camera marked one corner of the drive and an old fence post the other. She cranked the engine over a few times, then got out and checked her cell phone.
“Can you hear me, Donnell? I’m at the end of Thomas’s driveway.” The security camera swiveled. “They see me.”
“Remember, Sari. Thomas and Coney are known for their brutality.”
Sarika looked at the miles and miles of empty desert. “What else would you expect from thugs who treat women like they do? They keep them in stalls, starve, and torture them until they break their will. Their death at my hands will be the ultimate irony.”
A cloud of dust showed at the far end of the driveway. “I must go. A vehicle is coming.”
“If I don’t hear from you in eight hours, I’m coming in after you.”.”
“Don’t worry,” she said. “You will.” She ended the call and focused on the gray pickup racing toward her. A fake smile showed on her lips, and she waved when the truck came to a stop. The man behind the wheel was Vinnie McCarthy. The man on the passenger side, Turtle McConnell. They were two of Clay Thomas’s top assistants—insecure men who got pleasure from controlling women.
Turtle wore thick wire-rim glasses, and a red ball cap. Vinnie parted his gray hair to the side. They stepped out and ogled her black yoga pants and top. Her skin crawled, and she hoped her disgust didn’t show. “Could you guys help me? My car quit, and I don’t have cell service.”
McCarthy peeked inside the Hyundai. “Looks like you’re moving.”
Sarika pivoted so they were always in front of her. “I am,” she lied. “I got a job with Home Planet Bakery. I’m on my way to Pasaroda.” She removed her sunglasses, revealing her blue eyes. “Do you have a landline?”
Vinnie McCarthy smiled and patted the auto’s hood. “We got a landline, but you don’t need that. We got a man back at the farm who knows about these foreign cars. He’ll have you on the road in no time. Hop in. We’ll take you to him.”
“We got a herd of heifers. Young cows.” Turtle McConnell gave McCarthy an if-you-only-knew grin.
Vinny walked to the truck and leaned on the door. “If you want your car fixed, you’d best get in.”
She eyed the pickup’s bench seat. “Couldn’t you bring the mechanic here?”
Turtle removed his red cap and wiped his brow. “Sorry, babe. If you want our help, you need to come with us.”
The young woman stepped back. “I’m kind of at your mercy. You won’t try anything, will you?”
“We would never do that,” said Turtle. “You’re as safe as in your mama’s arms.”
She noticed him wink at McCarthy.
How naïve do they think I am?
“You have a man that can fix this, right?”
Turtle motioned toward the seat. “Sure. Come on. You’re wasting time.”
Sarika sat in the middle, and McCarthy and McConnell squeezed in on either side. McCarthy started up the driveway and picked up the mic on a two-way radio.
“Vinnie to Coney.”
A female voice came through the radio’s speaker. “Is she armed?”
“Nah. Her car broke down. We’ll be there in a few.”
Sarika turned to the man in the red hat. “Why did she ask if I was armed?”
Turtle adjusted his cap. “It’s just a precaution.”
“We check everybody,” added McCarthy. “We didn’t bother you because you don’t have nowhere to hide a weapon.
Turtle looked down at her camel toe. “Unless you have a pistol stuck in your cooch.”
Coney Barrett put the microphone down, rolled over to the second-hand computer, and removed a DVD with latex gloves. You couldn’t identify the men having sex with the Bramford girl, but every inch of her was visible. Her father had balked at paying her ransom. Perhaps seeing her this way would spur him to action.
These women used their bodies as they saw fit, not as God wanted them to. The woman had no sympathy for the spoiled pretty princess or any other woman she helped sell into bondage. She believed that sexual servitude was their only hope for everlasting life.
She watched the camera angles on the video screen change as the four-wheel drive traveled toward the complex. The disabled motorist McCarthy and Turtle were bringing in could be an undercover agent or police officer. The FBI and half the world’s law enforcement agencies would love to claim credit for capturing them and shutting down their operation. They needed to be careful.
She changed the radio frequency. “Coney to Lind.”
“This is Lind. Go ahead.”
“Vinnie and Turtle are bringing in a stray. Have them unload her in the receiving bay.”
“Are we gonna keep her?”
“I don’t know. Just make sure the heifer is secure. I don’t want her causing trouble.”
“Will do. Lind out.”
Clay Thomas identified with Elliot Rodger and the incel involuntary celibate movement until he discovered gamma-hydroxybutyric acid. Easy lay, as it was known on the street, made it possible for him to get into most Stacy’s pants. Stacys were physically attractive, sexually active women who only allowed handsome, athletic males or Chads to enjoy their bodies: Chads and Stacys. The names came from the fashion dolls with perfect bodies and good looks that little girls liked to play with. Having sex with attractive women and making them please him was the only thing Thomas cared about— except money.
The date rapist used a hoist to lower Monica onto a sloping stainless steel embalmers table and removed her nightgown.
“It’s time for your bath, Monica. I need to keep you clean for Daddy.”
The sight of the attractive naked young woman gave him an instant erection.
“There’s nothing I like better than a Stacy wearing a dog collar like the bitch she is.” Clay removed his robe and grabbed a bottle of dish soap, a bucket, and a sponge. He washed the recent college graduate’s hair and then moved down to her body.
“I’ll miss our special time together when Papa pays your ransom.” Thomas rinsed her with a flexible hose and spray nozzle, as you would use on a dog.
“I’ve come to enjoy our time together.” He looked at the thatch between her legs. “You’re getting a little bushy.” He rolled a stand with scissors, a can of shaving cream, and a razor within reach. “Don’t worry. I’ll have you bikini ready in no time.”
Turtle placed his hand on Sarika’s upper thigh.
“Please don’t touch me. I don’t like it.”
“I’ll do what I want, bitch. You’re in no position to make demands.”
“Please,” she said. “You’re making me uncomfortable.”
He jerked a stun gun from beside the seat. “Complain again, and I’ll light you up. From now on, your body is ours to do with as we please.” He grinned at Vinnie. “I bet Trixie here is worth twenty-five grand the way she is.” The stun gun sizzled. “With a little obedience training, we could probably get fifty.”
Vinnie slowed for a corner and nodded. “We’ll try her out when we get back.” He glanced at Sarika. “Be a good little girl and do what we say.”
Turtle put the weapon against her leg. “If you don’t, things are going to get painful.”
Sarika looked at the stun gun and then at the turtle-faced man. “I’ll do whatever you want just don’t hurt me.”
A chain link gate topped with razor wire blocked the road ahead, and the truck slowed and stopped. Vinnie pushed the button on a call box.
“That you, Vin?”
“Yeah. I got a delivery. Where do you want her?”
Lind relayed Coney’s orders, and the gate slid open. He drove into a parking bay, and a man closed the garaged door behind them.
“What did you find, boys?”
Turtle jumped out. “We found us a pretty one, Lind. Slide on out, honey.” He nudged Sarika with the stun gun. “Look at those blue eyes.”
Lind tried to touch her cheek, but she moved her head.
The stun gun sparked, and Turtle’s face turned ugly. “Don’t ever do that again! You belong to us now.”
Sarika glared at them.
“Take your clothes off!” yelled Turtle.
Sarika noticed a ring of keys fastened to Lind’s belt. She slipped her top off. “What are you going to do?”
McCarthy answered from her right side. “Whatever we want.”
Lind whistled. “Look at those tits. I bet Mr. Thomas will give you a bonus for finding her.”
She removed the black yoga pants and stared at them with her hands on her hips.
Turtle smiled. “She’s the full package.” He unbuckled his belt and unzipped his pants. “Okay, boys. Who’s first?”
Sarika nicked them with her fingernail.
Turtle brought the stun gun up and then fell to his knees. His face turned pale, and he toppled over. The other men did the same. She took Lind’s keys and looked down at the three henchmen.
“You are paralyzed now, but once the poison spreads, your insides will feel on fire.” She nudged Turtle with her toe. “Your death will be agonizing.”
She reached for her clothes and then dropped them. Thomas and his goons like to tell women what they can do with their bodies. I will remain naked and show them what a Visha Kanya can do with hers.
Sarika stayed in the video camera blind spots as she made her way to a large, galvanized metal building that looked like a barn. It took her a few tries to find the right key. The lock opened with a click, and a man yelled and ran over.
“What the hell are you doing?”
She palmed the keys and played stupid. “Turtle told me to go to the barn. Am I in the right place?”
“Turtle told you to do this.” He stared at her body. “Where is he? How’d you get in here?”
She pointed over his shoulder. “Oh, there’s Turtle now.”
The goon glanced behind him. Sarika scratched him. He gave her a weird look and crumpled to the ground.
The door to the big building pushed open, and she dragged him inside.
The dark barn smelled of sweat, shit, and sex. She turned on the lights and saw women penned like veal calves. Some were in cages so small they only had room to stand or lay down. They looked at her with dead eyes like in the pictures of concentration camp survivors. Each wore a collar.
A young Hispanic woman rattled the gate of her stall. A crude belt held a blood-stained rag between her legs. “Who are you? Can you help us?”
“Yes. Give me a few seconds, and I will set you free.” Sarika tried the keys until she found one that opened the padlock on the gate.
The woman tugged on the collar. “You must take this off too, or he’ll make us submit.”
She discovered that the locks on the stalls and collars were all keyed the same and had everyone free in five minutes.
The abused women gathered around her.
“Stay here until I tell you it’s safe,” she ordered. “Barricade the door, and don’t let anyone in.”
The woman she had first spoken to handed her the man’s stun gun. “You will need this?”
Sarika pushed it away. “You keep it. I can take care of myself.”
“But how? You’re as naked and defenseless as we?”
“You will need to take my word for it.”
Monica is away from the other women, and it would waste time to search. My best choice is to find Clay Thomas and have him tell me where he is keeping her. She ran from building to building until she arrived at a large home resembling a Mexican villa. A small trailer offered concealment. Video cameras covered every entrance.
Coney thought she saw a woman sneak through the villa’s back gate. She keyed the radio’s mic. “Turtle or Vinnie? Coney to Turtle or Vinnie?” There was no reply. She changed the frequency. “Lind, are you there? Lind?” No answer. “Ted? Can you hear me?”
“I hear you, Coney.”
“Is that you, Matt?”
“What do you need?”
She looked out the window. “I think one of the heifers went behind the villa. I want you to check it out.”
“Give me ten minutes. I’m burying a washout.”
“Don’t worry about that. Something strange is happening, and I need you to check it out.”
“Okay, you’re the boss.”
Sarika stood in the doorway when she turned from the window. “Hello, Coney. I’d like to see you try and control my body.”
The plain pale woman stared at her. “You’re not one of the heifers. How’d you get in here?”
The younger woman smiled. “You could ask those bastards Turtle and Vinnie.” She laughed. “If they could answer.”
A tractor with a dead pregnant woman in the bucket parked in front.
Sarika peeked out the window. “What happened to her?”
“It was God’s will.” Coney lunged for a desk drawer. Sarika spun. Four scratches appeared across the back of the warped woman’s neck. She crumpled to the ground.
Sarika opened the drawer and removed a stun gun. “What else would it be?”
Footsteps walked to the bottom of the stairs.
“Coney, you up there?”
Sarika hid around the corner with her finger on the trigger.
The footsteps stopped.
They started up the stairs. The man from the tractor stuck his head through the doorway and rushed to the fallen woman.
Sarika stepped forward and stunned him. He fell, and a brown stain spread down his leg as he shit himself. It took him a while to open his eyes.
“Where’s that pervert, Thomas?”
The man blinked but didn’t speak. Sarika held the electrodes in front of his eyeballs. “I said, where’s Thomas?”
“His playroom. He’s in his playroom!”
“How do I get there?”
“It’s in the little building behind the house.”
Sarika put the nail of her index finger against his cheek. The jellyfish toxin worked perfectly.
Now to rescue Monica and exterminate that evil bastard, Clay Thomas.
It looked like a guest house—a small building in the same style as the large one. The first room looked like a doctor’s waiting area—the second was a scene from a horror movie. One section of the second room’s wall had chains and straps connected to the ceiling. Another area had paddles, whips, cattle prods, and other torture devices hung on hooks. A wooden platform with metal rings and eyes for fastening ropes and chains stood in the room like a demented altar. She heard a sound and noticed a naked and erect Thomas washing Monica Bramford.
Sarika stepped out where he could see her.
“Is she drugged?”
Thomas covered himself with a towel. “Who are you? How did you get in here?”
“Don’t cover up. I thought you and I could have some fun.” She moved closer. “Monica’s not injured, is she?”
He shook his head. “No, she’s fine.”
Sarika examined the drugged girl. Her pupils were glazed but moved to look at her. “What did you use? Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, flunitrazepam, or something else?”
The insel rinsed the hair and foam from the razor. “Who are you? And how did you get in here?” He pushed the intercom. “Coney? Coney? Lind? Can anybody hear me?” He opened a drawer, removed a stun gun and walked toward her. “Now. Who are you, and how did you get in here?”
“I’m Sarika.” She watched his eyes travel over her. “I’ve heard a lot about you, Mr. Thomas. I’d like to know you better.” She did a slow turn. “You can see I’m unarmed.” She pointed at the weapon. “You don’t need that. I won’t cause any trouble.” She reached out and cupped his genitals and stroked him. Thomas jammed the stun gun into her stomach and pulled the trigger.
Sarika woke up with her arms and legs shackled to the block. Thomas stood over her, wearing a white surgical gown and rubber gloves, holding a scalpel. “Ah. I am glad you are awake. It seems you’ve done a lot of damage to my organization. I think turnabout is fair play. Don’t worry. I am quite skilled as a surgeon.” He laughed. “It is the lack of anesthesia that should concern you.”
Donnell hung up his cell phone and pressed the accelerator of the Hummer to the floor. Eight hours had gone, and he’d had no word from Sari. He’d called in every favor ever owed him to get real-time spy satellite surveillance footage of Sarika’s attack. She never came out of the small building, so he was going in after her.
Her poison blood was useless against Thomas’s latex gloves. “You are a perfect Stacy.” The scalpel sliced into her skin. “You will not look so perfect without your breasts.”
Sarika tried not to scream but did anyway.
Donnell used a sawed-off shotgun to blow the lock off the door of Thomas’s playroom. He used it again to gain access to the second room. Sari lay chained and unconscious, and Thomas had blood on his gloved hands. The insel ran when he saw him. Donnell let him go, looked down at Sari, and staunched the blood flow using squares of gauze and paper towels. He added more layers as it soaked through.
Her eyes opened, and she whispered. “My blood will kill you.”
He looked down at her. “Hang on. Help is coming.” Dizziness overcame him, and he slumped against the block.
Sarika woke up surrounded by white curtains and lay on a hospital bed. A nurse in scrubs and a mask came in. “You’re awake. Dr. Roan will want to talk to you.”
She cleared her throat. “Where’s Donnell?”
The nurse paused. “He’s not here.”
Sarika tried to rise. “Where is he?”
The nurse checked her bandages. “Dr. Roan will explain everything.” She left through a gap in the curtains.
How would she live with herself if her blood killed him? The curtain opened, and a woman in a white coat with a stethoscope over her shoulders stepped through. “How are you feeling?”
She ignored the question and checked her bandages. “We saved your breasts. But your bloodwork is way off the charts.”
“What about Donnell?”
The curtain parted, and Donnell rushed in. He paused and then kissed her.
She turned her head away. “You will die.”
He looked at Dr. Roan. “I had an anti-venom developed against your poisons. As you can see, it worked.”
The doctor stepped forward. “Do you like to be a Visha Kanya?”
Sarika looked between the doctor and Donnell. “It is written in the stars.”
Doctor Roan shook her head. “The stars are in the sky, Miss Chabra. Science can help you if you want to change. It’s your body.”
Sarika looked at the doctor. “I can change?”
“Yes, Miss Chabra. It is your body. It is your choice.”
She looked at Donnell. “It’s my choice?”
He nodded. “I will love you either way, Sari.”
She smiled and took his hand. “Perhaps I can change my stars after all.”