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A salty-sweet smell smacked Keonna in her broad nose and awakened her. ³Mmm«never smelled anything like that in Brewton,´ she whispered as she rubbed her eyes. Keonna peered out of the dusty window of the Greyhound Bus. ³Yang¶s Lemon-Pepper Wings. I¶ve gotta try that!´ The Greyhound¶s wheels squeaked as it came to an abrupt halt at the Atlanta bus depot. Keonna slipped her backpack over her smooth shoulders and shuffled towards the front of the bus. Her pristine, white leather Adidas made a dull thud as Keonna leaped from the bus and onto the hot Atlanta pavement. An emaciated man soft-shoed towards Keonna with his crooked fingers outstretched. His shiny, black skin reminded Keonna of old axle grease. ³Welcome to Atlanta, where the playas play,´ the old man rapped. ³And we ride on them thangs like ev-ery day.´ Keonna slapped a dollar into the man¶s hand as she joined in. ³Big beats, hit streets, see gangstas roamin¶. And parties don¶t stop µtil eight in the mo¶nin¶.´ The old man bowed. Keonna curtsied and then skipped across the street to µYang¶s Lemmon-Pepper Wings¶. A soft ³ding-dong´ heralded Keonna¶s grand entrance into the crowded restaurant. A tiny Asian woman, who stood behind the counter, waved her hand, gesturing Keonna to come near. Keonna read the menu on the wall as she approached the counter. ³Can I take your order, ma¶am?´ The tiny woman asked. ³Umm«I¶ll try your ten-piece lemon-pepper wings.´ ³You want to make it a combo for one-seventy-five more?´ Keonna squinted at the woman and shook her head. ³A combo?´ ³Yes. It come with large fry and large drink.´ ³Sure, make it a combo and make my drink a sweet-tea.´ ³Okay,´ the cashier replied, ³That¶ll be four-ninety.´ Keonna handed the cashier a crisp five-dollar bill. The cashier placed a tarnished dime in the palm of Keonna¶s hand. ³Have a seat. I¶ll bring it to you when it¶s ready.´ ³Thank you,´ Keonna said, as she turned towards the booths.
Keonna slid into a booth and stared out the window. Her hazel eyes narrowed against the rays of the sun, adding a touch of sultriness to her pretty face. ³May I sit down?´ Keonna snapped her head towards the husky, alto voice. A woman towered over her. The woman¶s athletic body stretched the polyester, navy blue uniform she wore to its limit, which accentuated her musculature. Sure, Officer«´ Keonna searched the woman¶s shirt for a name tag. The woman pointed to the bronze plate that rested upon the swell of her right breast. ³Sergeant Caldwell,´ the woman said, as she slid into the booth and sat across from Keonna. ³But you can call me Carla.´ Keonna extended her hand. ³Pleased to meet you, Carla. I¶m Keonna.´ ³Keonna,´ Carla began, as she shook Keonna¶s hand. ³Can you do me a favor?´ ³A favor?´ ³Yes.´ Carla drew a small knife from her belt, unfolded it and handed it to Keonna. ³Please, cut those tags off your backpack. Muggers and pimps look for girls new to Atlanta to victimize. I lost a sister to these damned streets. Been looking out for naïve, young women like you ever since.´ ³I¶m not all that naïve,´ Keonna said. ³But«thank you.´ Keonna quickly cut off the Greyhound tags and tore them into tiny pieces. ³So, what brings you to the A-T-L?´ Carla asked. ³Well, my grandma passed about six months ago and she left me with a nice sum of money.´ Keonna leaned toward Carla and began to whisper. ³It¶s over half a million. I decided to leave Brewton, Alabama ± that¶s where I grew up ± and move here to shop my demo.´ Carla¶s eyes widened. ³A demo? You sing or rap?´ ³I sing,´ Keonna replied. ³Do you sing, or do you sang?´ Keonna laughed. ³I sang!´ Carla reached into a small pouch on her belt and pulled out a larger than normal business card. The phone number was printed in large, raised numbers. ³Well, call me when you get a deal. I want to support by buying your CD.´ Keonna touched the large numbers on the card. ³Wow! I¶ve never seen a business card like this!´
³My husband owns a print shop,´ Carla replied. ³He¶s extremely near-sighted, so he came up with the ingenious idea to make business cards that people with poor vision can see and feel. I had him make mine like that, so I can market his work.´ Keonna slipped the card into the pocket of her sweatpants. ³Thanks. I¶ll be sure to call.´ ³Carla rose from the booth. ³Alright, Keonna. Good luck and be safe.´ ³Thank you,´ Keonna replied. ³Take care.´ Keonna watched Carla as she sauntered out of the restaurant and out onto the sidewalk, where she resumed walking her beat. The cashier brought the foam container of steaming, lemon-pepper wings to Keonna¶s booth. ³Here you go.´ Keonna bent close to the container and inhaled deeply. ³Mmm. Yeah, I think I¶m gonna like it here!´ Welcome to Atlanta, where the playas play, And we ride on them thangs like ev-ery day. Big beats, Hit streets, See gangstas roamin¶. And parties don¶t stop µtil eight in the mo¶nin¶.
³Help!´ Someone Help me! Please!´ Keonna tried, frantically, to free herself from the ropes that gnawed at her wrists and ankles. She strained to open her eyes, but a bolt of pain stabbed her in the temples and radiated across her face. ³My eyes,´ she screamed. ³What¶s happened to my eyes?!´ Keonna stopped struggling and tried to calm herself. ³Gotta think. Where am I? Think, Keonna!´ The last thing Keonna remembered was checking in to the Super-8 Motel on Peachtree Street and lying down for a nap. She had felt so sleepy after her meal at µYang¶s¶. ³Is this still the Super-Eight,´ Keonna whispered. ³It can¶t be. The bed didn¶t have anything to tie me to. Wait? Who«who tied me to this bed? Oh, God. Help me!´
Keonna took a deep breath to fight back the panic that was trying to claw its way back into her head and her heart. Suddenly, a loud, creaking noise broke the silence in the room. ³Hello? Is someone there?´ Keonna asked. Silence. Keonna felt the bed sink. Someone was sitting at the end of the bed. Someone big. Tears welled up in Keonna¶s eyes, but could not escape her eyelids, which were tightly shut and beyond Keonna¶s control. ³Why me,´ she asked. ³Why are you doing this to me?´ Silence. Keonna was shocked to feel hands suddenly fumbling with the bonds around her wrists. Perhaps someone had come to rescue her and were just keeping quiet so as not to disturb her kidnapper. Once her hands were free, her savior began freeing her legs. After she was completely free, she felt the bed rise, followed by a few quick steps on a wooden floor and then the closing of a door. Keonna brought her quivering hands to her face and gingerly touched her eyelids. ³Oh, God,´ she gasped. ³Help me, Lord Jesus.´ Her eyelids had been stitched shut with something that felt like fishing line. ³Help!´ Keonna rose out of the bed. The hardwood floor was cold. She felt her way around the room ± which was bare, other than the bed ± until she found the door, which was unlocked. She opened the door, took a deep breath and ventured out of the room. ³Hello? Is anyone here?´ Keonna was, once again, answered with silence. ³He must be gone,´ she whispered. ³He¶ll probably come back to kill me soon.´ A wave of panic slammed into her chest and Keonna began to stumble around the large room. Her thigh slammed into the corner of a table. She reached out to catch herself and her hands touched« ³A phone!´ Keonna turned her stitched eyes skyward. ³Thank you, Jesus! Thank you!´ Keonna picked up the telephone and tried to dial 9-1-1, but there was no number onebutton. She quickly felt for the zero-button, but it was nonexistent also. ³No,´ Keonna screamed. ³This cannot be happening«I«wait a minute!´ She thrust her hand into her pocket and withdrew the large business card. ³Carla!´
Keonna slowly traced the numbers on the card with her fingers. ³Six«seven«eight«four«five«four «five ±four«two ±three.´ Keonna typed the numbers into the phone. She jumped as a telephone rang somewhere close behind her. ³What the hell? How«?´ Keonna shook her head in disbelief and dialed Carla¶s number again. Again, a telephone rang behind her. Keonna hurled the phone across the room. ³No!´ Someone snickered in the darkness. ³It«it¶s you. Carla.´ Keonna sobbed as she sank into despair. Strong arms wrapped around Keonna and held her in a crushing bear-hug. A husky, alto voice slithered up the back of Keonna¶s neck and into her ear. ³Welcome to Atlanta.´ Welcome to Atlanta, where the playas play, And we ride on them thangs like ev-ery day. Big beats, Hit streets, See gangstas roamin¶. And parties don¶t stop µtil eight in the mo¶nin¶.
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