DW is a veteran, a father, a husband, and a teacher. He's published 9 YA/NA novels thus far. The story you're reading might be next.
Five female college freshmen in Cancun for their first spring break threw caution to the wind and enjoyed a hard night of partying with their new local friends. The next morning, they awoke, one-by-one, in a dank cell still wearing the clothes they’d had on the night before. As best they could tell, none of them were hurt, except for the throbbing in their heads from epic hangovers caused by the drinks they’d overindulged in and whatever drug had been used to knock them out.
The girls’ situation began sinking in as the grogginess in their heads cleared.
“Where are we?” Susan, the tall, toned, brown-haired girl, asked. “Did we wind up in jail or something?”
The room they found themselves in was a fifteen-by-fifteen-foot cement block cell, devoid of furniture, with one barred window fifteen feet above the floor. The narrow window allowed in very little light and no breeze. In the opposite wall was one heavy, solid, steel door with what appeared to be a hatch at eye level.
Ella, of medium height, light brown hair, and an ample bosom, pulled herself off the floor and staggered over to the door. Pounding with all the strength she could muster, she hollered, “Hey! Is anybody out there!?! Let us out of here!”
From the other side of the door came a reply in rapid-fire Spanish that none of the girls could understand.
Abby, tall like Susan, but blond, and with a more womanly figure, turned to Maria, the shortest girl in the group - with jet black hair and a gymnast’s physique - and asked, “Did you understand any of that?”
Maria, the only girl in the group who spoke decent Spanish - her father’s parents were from Columbia; her mother’s were from Argentina - shook her head. “He went too fast, and he has a funny accent.”
Tessa, the oldest of the girls - her twentieth birthday was only a week away - tried to keep calm. “If we are in jail for some reason, now that they know we’re awake, someone should be coming to tell us what kind of trouble we’re in.”
Tessa’s attempt to sound reasonable did little to stem the rising tide of panic in Ella’s gut. “What makes you so sure this is a jail!?! Maybe we’ve been kidnapped or something! I’ve heard about things like this! OH MY GOD! We’re going to be sold off as sex slaves or something!”
“Don’t say that!” commanded Susan. “That’s not going to happen.”
A deep male voice thrummed out of the darkest corner of their cell, “Don’t be too sure it’s not going to happen.”
You can call me Mort
All five girls screamed at once and scurried toward the farthest corner from the voice.
“Who are you!?!” Ella screamed. “What do you want!?!”
The girls cowered, waiting to hear the answer.
“You can call me Mort,” the voice said.
Scuffling sounds from Mort’s direction caused the girls to bunch tighter into their corner. When Mort spoke again, his voice was coming from higher up. Susan realized whoever Mort was, he must have stood up.
“As to what I want,” Mort continued. “I’m here to collect.”
Susan, the only girl able to find her tongue, asked in a shaky voice, “Collect what?”
“What’s due,” Mort said simply. “But don’t worry. You girls aren’t the ones who owe.”
Into the dim light stepped an imposing figure of a man. Susan guessed him to be several inches over six feet tall. If he had hair, Susan decided it must be cut very short because none of it showed under his well-worn wide-brimmed black leather hat. Mort’s hooded eyes looked to be as black as his hat.
Ella took one look at Mort and whimpered. “Please don’t hurt us.”
“You,” Mort said, gesturing to include all the girls, “have nothing to fear from me.” Then he turned his menacing gaze on the door.
“How did you get in here?” Susan asked. “I’m certain you weren’t in here when I woke up.”
“I’m always close when it’s time to collect,” Mort said.
He turned toward the door - his ankle-length leather duster swirling around him like a black shroud, his steel-toed biker boots scuffing the stone floor - and took a deep breath.
A feeling came over the room like the air during a storm just before lightning strikes. Susan, the only girl who kept her eyes open, saw Mort reach out towards the door.
All the girls heard what happened next. The solid metal door was wrested from its frame with the agonized shriek of rent steel and flew down the hall with the force of a hurricane wind. It was only when it hit the wall at the end of the hall with a sickening wet thud that they realized the guard who’d responded to Ella’s pounding earlier had been picked up and propelled into the wall along with the door.
“That’s one,” Mort said quietly. He turned and looked at Susan with those black-in-black eyes. “Stay here until I return.”
“No freaking way are we staying here,” Susan said.
Mort’s thin lips pressed into a tight line. For the first time, Susan noticed his mouth was framed by a graying black goatee.
“You can stare at me all day,” Susan challenged Mort. “But ain’t no way we’re staying here.”
Mort pulled his hat down lower over his eyes. “Then stay behind me. Don’t interfere. I’m not here for you, but I won’t let you keep me from collecting what’s due.”
Susan stepped up next to Mort, and asked, “What are you here to collect?”
“You’re so intent on following me,” Mort said with a snort. “See if you can figure it out for yourself.”
Susan turned and told the other girls, “C’mon. We’re getting out of here.”
Ella sniffed, and pointed at Mort, “Are you sure we should go with him?”
“Would you rather stay here?” Susan snapped. “Cause I ain’t staying. No way in hell.”
Maria and Abby nodded in agreement.
“Let’s go then,” Susan said. She turned to Mort.
Mort’s hands were no longer empty. Susan, no stranger to firearms – her dad taught her to shoot as soon as she could hold a pistol, recognized the weapon Mort gripped firmly in his hands as a semi-automatic, pistol-grip, twelve-gauge shotgun.
“Whoa, wait a minute!” Susan exclaimed. “Where’d that come from?”
“I never leave home without it,” Mort said. Without another word he started down the short corridor the steel door had so recently transited.
Blood pooled on the floor where the door, still embedded firmly into the concrete block wall, had traumatically ended the life of the guard who’d been outside the girls’ cell. On the floor next to the pool of blood lay a revolver and a machete.
Mort picked up the pistol, handed it to Tessa. “You might need this.”
Tessa held the pistol by the trigger guard, using only her thumb and forefinger. She looked at it like the pistol was a snake that might bite her and said, “You’re kidding me, right?”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake,” Susan said, reaching for the weapon. “Give it to me. I know what to do with it.”
Mort regarded Susan with a penetrating stare. “Yes, I believe you do,” he said.
A set of stairs leading up to the left had another door blocked their exit. Unlike the door on the girls’ cell, this one was a simple wooden door but with a deadbolt lock securing it.
Looking up the flight of steps, Abby said, “This isn’t a jail is it.”
“Nope,” was the only answer she got from Mort. “Wait here, I’ll go open the door.”
None of the girls argued with him this time.
Susan, by virtue of being armed with the pistol, positioned herself where she could look around the corner and up the stairwell. The other girls lined up along the wall between the corner and the open door to their cell. Tessa stood next to Susan, after arming herself with the machete left behind by their deceased guard. Ella stood between Abby and Maria, whimpering while the two girls tried to comfort her.
Mort made his way quietly to the top of the stairs and listened. Someone was on the other side of the door and it sounded like whoever was there was sliding a key into the lock. Confirmation came a moment later when Mort heard the deadbolt slide back and the doorknob began to turn.
Mort's story continues in Episode 18
- Soul Collector, Episode 18, Mort Hints at Who He Works For
Mort continues on his mission of collecting souls for hell and hints to Susan who he works for as he does.
© 2021 DW Davis