I still can’t quite describe Captain to tell you how terrifying he was. His feet were non-existent — just two tall poles standing in the middle of the clearing at the bottom of the hills. The torso was a combination of duct tape and bloody animal pelts. Probably from real animals, I hoped not real dogs. His arms were made of more mismatched fir and feathers to make him appear larger, I guessed. Then there was Captain’s head.
Atop his makeshift body was a massive realistic German Shepherds head. This was the most bizarre thing I had ever witnessed in my life. The people seemed to be worshipping this made-up figure. Then I saw the man who I had met earlier. He approached me and said nothing as his dark eyes seemed to look right through me.
He walked in a circle around my eyes, glaring at me. I worried if he may kill me on the spot.
As I was having this thought, he raised his fist to the air and began howling at the top of his lungs. Then the women in the cages began to bark and howl as well. It would have been hilarious if they weren’t taking it so seriously. It was menacing to be amongst what I now knew was some sort of cult.
The man tapped me on my shoulders, and then he ordered two of the other girls to undo the chains from my feet. I dared not run or make any sudden moves at this point. I needed to work out a plan to get out of here and save Brianna.
He slowly walked me back towards the storage container I had been in and looked me dead in the eyes as he shut the door on me.
He never said anything, but I got the impression that I got Captain’s approval.
I turned around, and they’re behind me was Brianna.
She was sleeping in the corner of the storage unit. She had been stripped of her clothing as well. She was granted use of an old stained white t-shirt, and her feet looked muddy. She had blood on the side of her forehead and in her knees. I walked over to her and gently shook her to wake her.
When she opened her eyes, it took her a moment to realize that it was me. She sat up, hugging my shoulders.
“Brianna, what did they do to you?”
She looked down and wouldn’t look me in the eyes.
“Ellie .. there’s a girl who says she’s our sister, beat me while the others watched. They took off my clothes and the man he um,” she stopped, and I knew with a sickening feeling he hurt her. I was hoping he hadn’t.
“I met her too. She’s not Ellie.”
“She has her eyes, Jack. It hurt to look at what they did to her! What she’s become!”
“Brianna, she’s not Ellie. If she was, she’s not now. I want to kill them for what they did.” I whispered as I choked back my tears of anger.
“I’m okay, Jack. We need to find a way out. They took our phones and our clothes. How will anyone find us? I mean, what is all this?”
I looked at my baby sister’s wrists and saw what looked like burn marks from a rope.
I knew then I was going to kill them. I was going to kill them all.
“It’s a cult,” I said solemnly.
“I don’t know about a cult. I know they appear to sell the girls to men for money to keep the place from getting attention. They probably sold our phones and kept our clothes for their use. They live like scavengers!”
“How do you know about the girls?” I asked, recalling all the strange phone calls I had received.
“The girl who says she’s our sister told me that I’d be needed soon because I’m the type they like. There’s a guy that likes them around my age like 17, and he will buy me, but I’m 18 now, so I don’t have a lot of time. She said they pack the girls in the storage containers, and a truck comes to get them. She said they couldn’t put too many marks on me, or they wouldn’t heal in time. The man comes on Fridays.”
I took a deep breath. I tried to think of a plan. There were at least two of us now. We could tag team whoever came in this unit once they decided to go back.
“Why did they put me in here with you?” Brianna asked me.
There was a banging coming from outside the storage container before I could answer her. Then I heard the door swing up almost on cue. The dark-eyed Charles Manson look-alike came in and pulled Brianna’s hair dragging her out of the door. I tried to stop him, but he pulled out a gun and held it to her head.
“Don’t even think about it! I’ll blow her brains out.”
“Look, man, you don’t have to do this. Let her go. You can keep me! I’ll do anything you want me to!”
He looked at me then began to laugh. He was dragging my sister out the door.
I sat looking at the door, knowing I needed more than ever to get out of here. I hit my head with my fist out of frustration. Fuck! I had to get her now, no matter what or die trying.
Thirty minutes or so passed, and the door to the storage unit opened again. He tossed my sister back in next to me as he adjusted his pants.
I heard Brianna holding back a sob.
I slowly put my arms around her small frame, and she cried.
“Did he um..” I couldn’t even manage the sentence.
She shook her head, furiously. “No, but I think next time he will. He made me look at him while he-” “You don’t have to say it.” I continued to hold her I didn’t want to think about him touching her or committing lewd acts on my sister.
“At least he only looked at me this time. He didn’t touch me or hit me.”
“We have to kill him,” I retorted.
“Maybe I can somehow keep him from hurting us. I can”
“NO.” my word was final.
An hour passed, and I still had no confirmed plan. There was no weapon in the room. I wasn’t sure I could stop more than one of them in case there was more than one.
Praying on young girls and women in this way made me sick to my stomach. I wondered how many others there were out there. This crew of degenerates couldn’t be the only ones out there doing shit like this. It was so simple. See a lost dog poster go up, call the number on the sign, and then wait. How many were even really lost dogs? This whole thing was so much bigger than a few people.
“Oh look, they left real food this time. I’m starving!” She walked over to I looked down at the other side of the room. I hadn’t noticed it before, but there was fresh food. I dared not touch it.
“STOP!” I yelled. She dropped the bread that was in her hand. “Why? It’s just bread.”
“It could be poisoned.”
She dropped it and wiped her hand on her thighs.
There was a loud banging sound, and the door slid upwards again. I couldn’t see because there was a giant spotlight behind them. It was two girls. I expected the Charles Manson look-alike to be with them, but he wasn’t this time.
Instead, it was the girl who said she was our sister and a girl I had never seen before.
“We came to see if you ate your dinner.” said the girl that looked like Ellie to me in her high pitched voice.
“No, not yet,” Brianna said meekly.
“Oh, well, you better eat it!” she slammed the plate of food in front of our faces. She pulled out a large gun from behind her back. I wasn’t even sure if it was real because it was so big. It was almost cartoon-like.
“I’ll make sure they eat.” said the other girl.
She had short black hair, and her dark skin had scars up and down her back as though she had been beaten very harshly, and it had healed over and over between beatings.
The girl who called herself Ellie took her gun and then locked the other girl in with us.
“Okay, we haven’t much time, but whatever you do, do not eat that food!”
I knew it was tainted.
“Who are you?”
“My name is Traci. That is the name they gave me here. Look, I know about Amanda Kline. I know you are the guy she called.”
“It is a long story, but we are given daily tasks. Some of us are in charge of finding food, so we go out and look in dumpsters, rob people of petty cash, and it is our job to bring it back here to “Captain.”
“What is that about?”
“I don’t know myself. I only know that if we don’t complete tasks, that is when bad things happen, and girls go missing. Rat says we are a pack. Amanda said you found her clues and were going to help get us out of here.”
“It wasn’t only Amanda I talked to.”
“Probably wasn’t. Someone knew she was leaving clues. She hung up posters that had nothing to do with lost dogs. She made them at this guy’s house, who paid her for helping sell pills. Rat got a cut of it, but it gave her access to a computer with a half-decent printer. No one knew she was making them. She would hang them up randomly around town, hoping that if an officer saw a poster of a missing girl, the police would get involved. It almost worked. Then she got caught.”
“How did they find out?”
“I dunno. It could be one of the newbies trying to make herself catch a break. Amanda would get the new girls to help, sometimes not knowing what they were doing. Rat had us help with recruiting others. Stupid stuff like ‘oh hey, we are models you should be too.’ It is incredible how easy it is to kidnap girls. Especially with Instagram and how everyone wants their 15 minutes.”
“What do you mean she left me clues?”
“She started hanging up photos of girls that were already here or were dead. She was hoping someone would put two and two together. Then they did, only now you’re here.”
“Can you help us? We need to get out of here.”
The light on the camera in the corner of the room popped on and began blinking.
I looked at it and took a deep breath.
“Don’t worry about that. It doesn’t work. It hasn’t in years. Rat just uses it as a way to control new girls. If they think they are being watched, like you right now, they don’t try to escape. It’s one big mind, fuck.”
“They use mind control, which isn’t that hard. They would come back and take Brianna to induce trauma so that she would be easier to control. Right now, they will let Brianna think she was safe and happy and give her the illusion she would be okay, but then when she wasn’t, they would do it all over again. Even friending a girl who looks like her sister.”
“I knew that wasn’t Ellie.”
“When she comes back, I have a plan,” Traci said.
“How can I trust you?”
“What do you have to lose at this point? I want to go home too.”
“How long have you been here?”
“Why didn’t you or any of the other girls run away when you got out to do tasks?”
“Fear. I don’t know. We were told that everyone is part of the pack. Rat said we had spies. It could be your mailman, doctor, any random stranger. That isn’t true, though. I believed it was until I tried to escape once a few years ago. That is why my back has so many scars. Rat made sure that everyone knew I wasn’t to leave their site. One wrong move and the girls would tell on me. That is why it was so crucial that Amanda found you. We are getting out of here!” she patted my shoulder.
I nodded, and we made a plan.
It took a little while, but after about thirty-five minutes, Traci began banging on the door to get one of the others’ attention.
“Come get me these shits won’t eat!”
Finally, after a few tense moments, the door to the storage unit was lifted.
“What is all the commotion about?” it was Ellie.
“They won’t eat. We need to take them to Rat and let him deal with it.”
“He doesn’t like to be interrupted when he is entertaining guests,” she said through gritted teeth.
“I know, but this is important. Dan comes tomorrow to take them.”
“Tomorrow? Shit.” She looked genuinely worried now; there was something about her I had not noticed before. She was missing two of her teeth. There was something about her that reminded me of Ellie. Ellie used to have a little scar on her chin.
I didn’t know what that meant, but I played along.
“No, I”m not going anywhere with you two bitches!”
“You will if you know what is good for you.” Traci pretended to be angry and grabbed the gun from Ellie.
That was the cue. I quickly stole the gun from Traci and hit the girl who called herself Ellie in the back of the head with it. I could have shot her, but I figured it wasn’t necessary.
Traci ran with us out of the storage unit, and we got as far as the middle of the property when I saw him. It was frightening and took me off guard.
The makeshift statue of Captain had red glowing eyes that blinked on and off in the dark of night. It wasn’t real, but there was still something otherworldly about it. It was as if it was coming to life, which should have been a warning.
There was a loud sound of barking and howling from some of the girls in the cages as they watched us running away for our lives. A gunshot rang out, and Traci was on the ground. I stopped and tried to pick her up, but the sight of blood coming from the center of her forehead in between her eyes gave me pause. Our only hope was dead.
How were we going to escape? She was the only one that knew the way out.
The property was a massive maze of cages most empty except for the few that were near me. Deep woods and barbed wire fencing surrounded the compound. In the dark, it would be even harder to get out of here.
I looked to the opposite side of Brianna, and I had found a hiding spot. She motioned for me to follow her. I slid into a space between two of the metal storage sheds.
I knew it was only a matter of time before one of the other prisoners saw us and told us where we were hiding.
I still had the gun. I had to try.
I watched Rat coming at us, and this time he was dressed in long black jeans and a polo shirt. He had dressed for the occasion I thought rolling my eyes. With him were two men both much larger than him.
They didn’t seem to have weapons, but I figured it was now or never.
I aimed at one of their knees, and I was happily surprised he was on the ground writhing in pain before any of them knew what had happened to them.
I was a pretty good marksman for only having used a gun maybe twice in my life, and I was pretty sure my two trips playing paintball didn’t count. It was sheer luck, and I hoped my success would not run out.
I shot a second time, this time at the second man who was now pulling out a gun. Aiming the gun in my direction, I ducked as best I could. A bullet nearly missed my right ear. The rush and exhilaration I felt were fleeting because I felt something cold hitting the back of my neck.
It was the girl who looked like Ellie. She had a crowbar and hit me on the back of the neck. She was trying to beat me with it. Luckily for me, she didn’t notice Brianna, and Brianna had grabbed a large rock and went up behind her hitting her in the back of her head.
The girl who said she was Ellie fell to the ground. Brianna hit her several more times with the rock smashing the woman’s face. Blood covered both of us now. Little splashes that hit my cheeks just from being near the murderous action. The girl was still alive to my amazement, and Brianna, in some sort of daze, wasted no time at all in finishing the job.
“Stupid bitch,” she muttered.
“Brianna,” I said, looking on in shock.
She looked at me and then she looked past me. Her eyes had a strange glimmer in them that I couldn’t figure out. She smiled wickedly, and I expected her to go after Rat, who was now behind me suddenly. I stood to my feet and went to shoot him, but the other man shot my hand as it held the gun. Dropping the gun, I saw my hand explode in tissue and blood. I could see a piece of my finger still attached but barely hanging on. I screamed.
“Ain’t ya gonna finish the job Peaches?”
Rat was now standing face to face with Brianna. He placed his arm around her waist, and he kissed her full on the mouth. She began kissing him back. Then she stopped long enough looked at me. The grin on her face was unexpected.
Was I going blind?
“I wanted to have a little more fun, baby.” “He costs us time, and he costs us money,” he said as he nuzzled in her cheek.
“Like him?” she looked at the heavy man who was standing next to Rat.
Rat let out a deep sigh. “Baby, I told you it is temporary. As soon as we send off the next shipment, we are in the clear. Captain will be so happy with us. Then we can go to that little island in the Caribbean.”
“I hate his face. It isn’t trustworthy,” she said disgustedly, looking at the heavy man again.
This completely blindsided me.
“Brianna, what is going on? What are you doing? Get away from him. He’s dangerous.” I held onto my hand, desperately trying to keep it together.
“Do you want me to tell him?” asked Rat looking from Brianna then back to me.
“This is how we get out of this shitty town, big brother. Captain is going to help us.”
She had to be joking.
“Captain? Captain isn’t even real!”
“Oh, but he is. He sees everything we do. He sees your head and your heart.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Captain is our salvation. The more they believe, the more money we make.”
I was slowly coming to life. She meant the other girls. If they believed Captain was some sort of fake deity, they’d bend over backward to please him. Hell, they would even if they didn’t believe it was real because they had to be out of their minds after the trauma. My sister had to be out of her mind. I walked towards her, still clutching my hand.
“You don’t have to stay here. Rat is brainwashing you.” Rat let out a hearty laugh. “He doesn’t understand,” he turned towards my eyes smiling. “This was your sister’s idea. When she met me two years ago, I didn’t want anything to do with it, but who knew beauty and brains could be in one body.”
“That is right. You can help us, Jack. Help us with this thing, and we can make some serious money.”
“Human trafficking? What is wrong with you?”
“I never wanted to live here. This town is shit, and our parents work their shit jobs to live their shit life. Working like dogs, pardon the pun. What do they have to show for it? Rat and I have an empire! Rat found me at the local mall. Back then, he was some rich guy young and cute. I figured he was a freshman in college. He was super into me, telling me how pretty I was. I ate that shit up, and I was 16. Then he and I started to hang out meeting in secret at the mall every other day after school. One day he didn’t show. Then I saw him with another girl he was shoving her into a white van. I knew then what he was about. So when he called me again, I made him an offer. I’d help him get other girls as long as there was a cut for me.”
“Yeah, but she was the one calling the shots.”
“Did you hurt Ellie?”
“She was a liability,” Brianna said coldly.
“You killed our sister?”
“I tried to help her too, but she wasn’t having any of it. She was going to tell someone. So I had to stop her. I make too much money off this to have anyone interfere. Enough talking. What is it going to be big brother?”
I looked on the ground for the gun. I grabbed it as quickly as I could and shot the other man with the gun. He fell to the ground, and I wasn’t sure if he were alive. I didn’t care.
I was getting the hell out of here.
I still couldn’t grasp that Brianna had been doing these things. I ran away from them, but Rat had me by the waist knocking me to the ground. I was on my back, still bleeding from the hole in my hand. He had his hands around my neck choking me. I tried to stop him and used all of my strength, even the hand with a hole in it. Blood was smeared all over his face as I struggled. Blood spewed from it in my struggle to free myself.
Brianna came up behind him and shot him in his back. Rat fell to the side and was now unconscious. I hoped he was dead.
I sprung to my feet as quickly as I could. I grabbed my sister by the hand, dragging her with me as I ran from the spot we were in.
“Quick in here!”
I followed her into a white shack. Once inside, she grabbed towels and helped me clean up my wounds. I was still shellshocked at all of the things I saw.
Brianna helped me wrap my hand after cleaning the wound as best she could. I looked into her soft brown eyes, trying to understand.
“What happened back there?”
“What do you mean? I’m sure Rat was becoming too controlling. I had to get rid of him. Now I have you.”
“We need to get out of here.”
“Oh yeah, there’s a road, and we will leave together once I know we are okay.”
“I think I will feel better once we get out of here and can get some help.”
“You mean with your hand?”
“Yeah, and help get these girls out of here. Brianna, I had no idea that he was doing all of these horrible things to you.”
“No, but he was. We have to get you out of here and get you some help.”
“I don’t need any help. What I need is to call Dan and tell him there has been an issue with getting the shipment out on time.”
I looked at her. She was serious.
My stomach had an ache in it, and I wasn’t sure if I were hungry or if I were about to be sick. Some of those girls couldn’t be more than high school age or maybe younger.
I saw her reach for one of the disposable cell phones in Rat’s office. I knew then she was a cruel and despicable human being. If that is even what I could call her.
I didn’t even think. I knocked the phone out of her hand and hit Brianna in the head with it.
She fell onto the floor.
I was going to make sure this sort of thing never happened to anyone ever again. My sister was never going to pray on another victim ever again.
She woke angrily as I expected. The rope I tied her with was tight enough. Ten years of boy scouts, and I still knew how to tie a knot even with a broken hand.
“What the hell is this?”
She squirmed, but I didn’t give her a chance to escape. I looked her in the eyes and realized she was gone. She probably had been for a while after her first encounter with Rat. I was sure if he had never met my sister, things would be the way they were before. The three of us, Ellie, Brianna, and myself, Jack.
Things weren’t that easy in real life. Brianna had made her decision, and one by one destroyed her entire family. I tried not to think of my parents now as I looked at her.
I wanted to slap her face, but I didn’t. I couldn’t hit her, nor could I kill her.
“Tell me why you hurt Ellie. Hurting strangers fine, you made money, but she was our blood.” I had tears in my angry eyes as I looked down at her.
The sun was coming up just over the hills behind the tree she was tied to.
I stood over her waiting for her to answer. Instead, she spat at me, laughing in my face. Her dark brown eyes were nearly black in the light.
“Let me go!” she screamed.
“Not until you tell me why you hurt our sister!”
“What if I don’t what will you do, kill me?”
I grew furious and bent down, shaking her, and even as her head hit the trunk behind her, she didn’t waver. There was no soul inside of her.
“She didn’t deserve this!”
I had wanted to be angry at someone, to lash out at Ellie’s killer for so long. I had no idea it would be someone so close to me and so very young. Brianna was only a year older than Ellie. Looking at Brianna in disgust, I left her alone. I walked into the compound and looked at the girls. I didn’t have the key to let them out. The only thing I could do was show them I wasn’t there to hurt them.
I knocked over Captain kicking the stilts; it called legs until it fell to the ground. Grabbing the mask, I walked back up the hill towards the woods where my sister was tied to that tree. I held up the dog head mask of Captain; maybe that would get her to tell me more.
I thought it would shock her back to her senses, especially if she had been traumatized to the point of believing in Captain.
Instead, she only laughed again.
“It’s a stupid mask, Jack. I know that. Just a tool like you.”
“I hate you for what you have done!”
“What will you do now leave me for dead?”
“No! I’m leaving you with your conscious.”
I grabbed her head and turned it towards her right shoulder. I moved the other body towards her. I pushed her head towards the woman’s body. The one who called herself Ellie. The one that had missing teeth so the police could identify the woman’s body. The pretty girl who had that scar on her chin like Ellie.
The girl that was, in reality, Ellie. She had pulled her teeth to stage the body so no one would go looking for her. They both had been taken from me now. I had watched her smash her own sister’s face in like it was nothing.
There was no remorse in Brianna’s face. I was sick of looking at it. I put the dog mask over her head.
I smiled evilly as I took out a hammer and nail I had found in Rat’s office. Just above her head, I nailed a poster that said “LOST DOG” above it and then left her.
I found a working cell phone and made sure to call Detective Phelps. By the time he saw the girls, some of them no more than fourteen, had forgotten where they had come from.
I was sick, but if it hadn’t been for Amanda Klein or maybe it was my curiosity. The rest of them would have never been found.
They never tracked down Dan, and when they found Brianna, she tried to say I was the one that had hurt her. There were so many witnesses to the contrary.
Because she is eighteen, she will be serving time in a women’s correctional facility for the rest of her life.
My family will never be the same. I will never be the same after the horrors I saw. Detective Phelps thinks I have a future in law enforcement.
I don’t know.
One thing I can’t shake is whenever I see a Lost Dog poster, I still wonder. Something so simple and yet so sinister right there in plain sight.
Whatever you do, be careful out there.