bathroom around here. We need to hurry back inside.” Aaliyah’s shoulders slumped. All she could think was it would be longer until she could see her brother.
Shuffling forward, Aaliyah stopped in her tracks. Darrius! Her heart swelled. Tony nudged her arm to get her moving again. Her brother sat in the back of the cargo van, his head bowed and his arms bound before him. He wore the same clothes he had on the day they were abducted. A long-sleeved, red striped shirt and a pair of loose jeans. He looked thinner. She wondered how much weight he had lost. And what they were feeding him. An overwhelming sense of hopelessness consumed her. She tried to think of something positive to fight off all the negative thoughts racing through her head, but she could only think of one. He still had his clothes on, unlike herself. She didn’t dare speak. Instead, she mentally willed her brother to look up, but he did not. Not even when she entered the back of the van. Tony pushed her down on a bench across from her brother. Why wouldn’t he look at her? She needed to see his beautiful little face. Needed to know he was okay. Of course , he wasn’t going to look up. He was afraid. A closer glance and she could see his legs shaking. What had they done to him to instill this fear? Whatever they’d done, it had taken the fight out of him. Just the thought was enough to enrage her. How could they hurt someone so innocent? None of this made any sense at all. Darrius was such a sweet soul. He did not deserve to be ripped away from his family and friends. Tony backed out of the van and slammed the door shut without another word. She briefly wondered if she would ever see Tony again. Not that it mattered. He hadn’t exactly been kind to her, but he hadn’t been cruel like Dasvoik and the bald man. And he never touched her inappropriately. A stream of light filtered under the door and a sour smell caused her nose to itch. The window was tinted but the streetlights cast an eerie glow. “Darrius,” she whispered. “It’s okay. We’re alone.” His body tensed, but he kept his head bowed. “Please. I need to see your face. Look at me.” Slowly, he tilted his head up, and she gasped. His eyes were swollen shut and the right side of his jaw didn’t look right. Hatred coursed through her body like none she had ever known. If Dasvoik were standing in front of her right now, she would kill him with her own bare hands. Despite the chill in the van, a bead of sweat trickled down Aaliyah’s brow. How dare they harm her little brother! Somehow she would find a way to make them all pay. “I’m so sorry,” she moaned. Her chest tightened. It felt as if she couldn’t breathe. “My poor Darrius.” She had to calm herself down. Allowing Darrius to see her anguish would not help anyone. She stood up and crossed the van, thankful that her legs had not been bound and eased down next to him. “Can you talk?” she asked in a whisper. “Yes.” His voice sounded hollow, broken. Certainly not the voice of an eight-year-old. Not the mischievous little boy she knew and loved so much. They might not have had much growing up, but at least they had been happy. Could her brother ever be happy again? The thought angered her. Yes, of course he could be happy. They just had to figure out how to get out of this god-forsaken place. And soon. Maybe they would be rescued. If they were moving and Dasvoik was obviously worried, there had to be a reason. There must be a chance he could get caught. She glanced at the door as if waiting for the police to come to burst through at any second. She wondered what the merchandise was they were talking about. More than likely drugs. It didn’t seem to matter what part of the world you were in, drugs always played a big role. It made no sense to her. Even in America, where they had everything you could wish for, there was a huge drug problem. If there were