On Monday morning during the third week of September, Brielle woke up to a knock at the door and Bandit let out his usual long cluster of barks. The children had spent the night at Grandma Bennett’s house the night before and it was the first day in a long time that Brielle had the opportunity to sleep in.
As the loud knocking continued, Brielle rubbed her eyes and looked at her bedside clock. It was almost ten o’clock.
Suddenly, amid the knocking, she heard the muffled sounds of sobs. This compelled her to jump out of bed and run to the door.
It was Kim and she was crying.
“Kim, come in, come in! What’s the matter?” Brielle cried.
Popeye also came rushing up to the porch and put his arm around Kim.
“Kim, what happened? Did Hank do something to you?” Brielle asked as she let them both inside.
Sobbing at the Door
“No, Hank didn’t do anything to me, Brielle. It’s much worse! Raina is missing, Brielle. She hasn’t been heard from since yesterday. She and her husband Paul just found out they’re expecting their third child and she’d gone to the doctor. That was the last place people saw her! Paul’s been calling everywhere and there’s been no sign of her!” Kim said tearfully.
Brielle looked at Popeye.
“Raina’s a good friend of mine. She’s one of the few people who were good to me back in high school! Oh, God, Popeye! What if…what if…!” Brielle said as she began crying.
“Now don’t you, cry. Brielle! Listen. We’re going go look for her, okay?” Popeye promised.
“How? Search the whole county? There’s no way we can do that!” Brielle replied.
Suddenly, Brielle’s smartphone rang. She grabbed it and looked at the screen.
“It’s Grandma. I gotta answer this because the kids are with her,” Brielle told them.
When she answered, Grandma’s panicked voice sounded from the other end of the call.
“Brielle, have you heard from Kim?” she asked.
“Kim’s here now, Grandma,” Brielle told her.
“Okay, I guess she’s told you that Raina’s missing.”
Popeye spoke up.
“Brielle, can I talk to Mrs. Bennett for a second?”
Brielle handed Popeye the phone.
“Mrs. Bennett, can you keep the kids for a few days? I need Brielle to help me with a few things,” Popeye said.
“Of course, Popeye. If it’ll help you out, I’ll keep the kids and Brielle can help you with whatever you need help with. Okay?”
“Thank you kindly, Mrs. Bennett,”
That night, Brielle took her cellphone and dialed Popeye’s number.
“Are you ready?” Popeye greeted after three rings.
“You bet I am,” Brielle said.
Ten minutes later, Popeye swung by in his black Escalade and picked up Brielle, they then went to the bottoms. Popeye spoke as he drove the truck down the highway.
“From what I was told by my secret but reliable sources, they have a secret arena down here somewhere. Where they host fight clubs. You and I are going to do a little detective work. If this is where they took Raina, chances are she may either be dead or held captive somewhere.”
“Oh, God! I hope it’s the latter!” Brielle said in a tone of dread.
At a private arena down in the bottoms, about ten miles from town. People were cheering and making bets, holding their money up.
Popeye and Brielle hid behind some bushes on the hill overlooking the arena, each looking through binoculars.
A Horrid Discovery
“Do you see her anywhere, Popeye?” Brielle asked.
“Not yet. They haven’t even gotten started yet. The last of the people are still arriving,” Popeye answered, “Maybe the game is behind schedule.”
“Game? A sick game is what this is,” Brielle said in disgust.
“Yep. An extremely sick game! A diabolical game!”
Brielle’s eyes widened when she saw two very familiar faces in the crowd. Then, another two familiar faces.
“Well, look who just arrived!” Brielle whispered sarcastically, “The couple from Hell, Grant and Misty. Why am I not surprised? Sick creeps! And I also see Bobby and Rita!”
“I see you, Mr. Crabtree.” Popeye barely above a whisper, in a sing-song tone, “
When the last of the spectators took their seats, Rita walked out in the middle of the arena with a microphone and spoke into it.
“Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready to see a good fight!” She announced, then paused as the crowd cheered. When the cheers died down, she spoke again. “We’ve got an exciting fight tonight! I’ll present the fighters and you can all start placing your bets!”
“Oh, Lord Jesus!” Brielle whispered.
A door opened on each side of the arena and suddenly, a woman stumbled out into the arena as if someone had pushed her out the door. She looked around as if she didn’t recognize where she was. But Brielle recognized the woman. Her eyes widened and she gasped in horror.
The Arena in the Bottoms
“Oh, no! Oh, Lawd!” Popeye said in horror through his teeth.
Brielle jumped up but Popeye grabbed her and pulled her back down.
“What do you think you’re doing!” he said harshly through his teeth.
“I don’t see any sign of Raina! But we gotta help these women!” Brielle cried.
“Shhhh! Keep your voice down! If they catch us, we’re both going to be the next entertainments for these assholes!” Popeye said anxiously, “I know you want to rescue these women, Brielle! But there’s nothing the two of us can do! There’s at least a hundred of them and they’ll eat our lunch if they catch us anywhere around here!”
Brielle whimpered and tears rolled down her cheeks as she continued to watch through her binoculars. Suddenly, another woman was pushed out of the door on the opposite side of the arena and she too didn’t look like she recognized where she was. The audience again cheered.
Rita lifted her microphone to her lips and spoke once more.
“In this corner, we have Tiffany. 5 ft 3 and 106 lbs! In this corner, Teena, 5 feet 8 inches tall and 130 lbs!” She announced before the audience cheered once more!
“There are no rules, no limits, no boundaries in this fight! Anything is fair game! It’s no holds barred! It’s a fight to the finish! Are you ready! Let the fight begin!” Rita yelled excitedly.
The two women danced around the arena, keeping their eyes on each other and their dukes up. Their fists were wrapped in tape, and they were wearing no protective gear, no head gear, no knee or elbow pads, no chest or abdominal protection- nothing.
Suddenly, Teena charged at Tiffany and knocked her to the ground with one punch.
Brielle gasped and winced as she watched the smaller girl get pummeled. Teena kicked Tiffany in the ribs twice, then got on top of her and delivered a cluster of punches to her face and head. She then jumped up off her, stood over her, and motioned for her to get up.
Tiffany lay on the dirt and the first traces of blood could be seen on her newly battered face. She writhed in pain. The audience cheered, most rooting for Teena, a few others rooting for Tiffany.
Brielle gasped in both shock and horror as her entire body stiffened and she dropped the binoculars.
Caught in a Dilemma.
Brielle felt so dirty. In her mind, she had let both women down, but especially the woman who appeared to have died. Throughout the last fifteen years, she had seen so many videos to fights and brutal beatings. People had pulled out their phones and filmed the fights instead of reaching out to the innocent person getting pummeled and Brielle had always looked down on the filming bystanders. But it felts as if she had just become one of the kinds of people she despised.
Yes. Brielle was in a situation where she needed to stay hidden and gather evidence, or they would have killed her and Popeye both on sight. However, this truth did little to assuage her shame.
Brielle had watched as the cold hands of death had snatched away an innocent person and she could not help her. She felt so helpless!