Read The Stolen Ones Online

Authors: Owen Laukkanen

The Stolen Ones

BOOK: The Stolen Ones
2.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


The Professionals

Criminal Enterprise

Kill Fee


Publishers Since 1838

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC

375 Hudson Street

New York, New York 10014

USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

A Penguin Random House Company

Copyright © 2015 by Owen Laukkanen

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Laukkanen, Owen.

The stolen ones / Owen Laukkanen.

p. cm. — (A stevens and windermere novel ; 4)

ISBN 978-1-101-62478-4

I. Title.

PR9199.4.L384S76 2013 2014023351


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.



Also by Owen Laukkanen

Title Page



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Chapter 71

Chapter 72

Chapter 73

Chapter 74

Chapter 75

Chapter 76

Chapter 77

Chapter 78

Chapter 79

Chapter 80

Chapter 81

Chapter 82

Chapter 83

Chapter 84

Chapter 85

Chapter 86

Chapter 87

Chapter 88

Chapter 89

Chapter 90

Chapter 91

Chapter 92

Chapter 93

Chapter 94

Chapter 95

Chapter 96

Chapter 97

Chapter 98

Chapter 99

Chapter 100

Chapter 101

Chapter 102

Chapter 103

Chapter 104

Chapter 105

Chapter 106

Chapter 107

Chapter 108

Chapter 109

Chapter 110

Chapter 111

Chapter 112

Chapter 113

Chapter 114

Chapter 115

Chapter 116

Chapter 117

Chapter 118

Chapter 119

Chapter 120

Chapter 121

Chapter 122

Chapter 123

Chapter 124

Chapter 125

Chapter 126

Chapter 127

Chapter 128

Chapter 129

Chapter 130

Chapter 131

Chapter 132

Chapter 133

Chapter 134

Chapter 135

Chapter 136

Chapter 137

Chapter 138

Chapter 139

Chapter 140

Chapter 141

Chapter 142

Chapter 143

Chapter 144

Chapter 145

Chapter 146

Chapter 147

Chapter 148

Chapter 149

Chapter 150

Chapter 151

Chapter 152

Chapter 153

Chapter 154

Chapter 155

Chapter 156

Chapter 157

Chapter 158


This one’s for Stacia



The box was dark and stank of shit. Sweat. Urine. Misery. Irina Milosovici had lost track of how long she’d been inside. How long since Mike, the charming American, had disappeared with her passport in Bucharest. Since the two stone-faced thugs had shoved her into the box with the rest of the women, maybe forty of them. And Catalina.

Irina had lost count of how many days they’d spent in the pitch-black and silence, sharing stale air and meager rations behind the shipping container’s false wall. How many times they’d clawed at the steel that surrounded them, screamed themselves hoarse, as the box lurched and jostled on its terrible, claustrophobic, suffocating journey.

Only Catalina kept her alive. Only her younger sister’s warmth pressed against her in the darkness staved off the fear and, above all, the empty, sickening guilt.

>   >   >

For days the box had swayed with the lazy rhythm of the ocean, had shuddered with the ever-present vibrations of a big engine somewhere far below. Some of the women had been seasick, and the smell of vomit filled the box, mixing with the foul stench from the overflowing waste bucket in the corner.

Irina had passed the time telling Catalina stories. “This is the only way into the country for us,” she told her. “When we arrive in America, they’ll give us showers and new clothes and find us all jobs.”

Catalina pressed tight to her in the darkness, said nothing, and Irina wondered if her lies were any comfort at all.

Then the waves calmed. The pitch of the engine slowed. The box seemed less dark, the air slightly fresher. The women screamed again, all of them, pleading for help as the box was lifted from the ship, the lurching of the crane sending them tumbling into one another, momentarily weightless.

The box touched down again. Irina could hear a truck’s engine, and the box rumbled and shook along an uneven road for a short while, maybe fifteen minutes. Then the movement stopped and the engine cut off. A door opened in the container’s false wall.

The light was blinding. The women blinked and drew back, shielding their faces. Irina pulled Catalina to the rear of the box, far away from the light and whatever waited beyond.

Two men appeared in the open doorway, big men, their heads shaved nearly to the skin. One had a long, jagged scar across his forehead. The other held a powerful-looking hose. “Get these bitches out of here,” he told his partner in English.

“What did he say?” Catalina whispered, and for a moment Irina was angry. Her sister’s English was no good. What on earth had possessed Catalina to follow her here?

But then Catalina had always been running to keep up with her older sister, and Irina had baited the hook. She was as guilty as the traffickers, she knew.

The men dragged the women out in pairs, past the stacks of cardboard boxes holding DVD players and cheap electric razors, until the container was empty and the women stood disheveled and weak in the harsh sunlight.

They were in a shipping yard. Irina could smell the ocean nearby, but the stacks of rusted shipping containers prevented her from seeing anything but the box and the two thugs.

The men sprayed out the inside of the false compartment. They dumped the waste bucket out onto the gravel and sprayed it clean also. Then they turned the hose on the women.

The water was cold, even in the warm summer air. Catalina’s fingers dug into Irina’s skin when the water hit her, spurring her on, tempting her to run. She didn’t run, though. She withstood the spray, coughing and sputtering, and then the hose was turned off, and they stood shivering in the yard again.

The thugs began to maneuver the women back into the box. They took one girl aside, a pretty young blonde about Catalina’s age. Then the scar-faced man saw Catalina, and beckoned to his partner. “Her, too,” he said.

Irina felt suddenly desperate. “No,” she said. “Get away from her.”

The scar-faced man reached around her, grabbed at Catalina. Irina blocked his way, ready to fight. To claw at him, to hurt him. She would die before she let her sister go.

But the thug didn’t try to kill her. He studied her for a moment. “Whatever,” he said finally, and moved on down the row of women. “The bitch is too old anyway.”

He picked out another girl instead, a black-haired girl even younger than Catalina. Dragged her away from the container, the young blond girl, too, and then the scar-faced man’s partner was herding Irina and Catalina back into the box with the rest of the women, confining them in the darkness again.

>   >   >

since the day of the hose. Days passed in between. The box rumbled and lurched, and the girls heard traffic outside, cars and trucks. The box rarely stopped moving. Irina screamed for help, but no help ever came.

The doors opened. The thugs peered in, spoke to each other quickly, unintelligibly, scanning the huddle of women. The man with the scar on his face climbed into the box and chose two girls at random. Another blonde, perhaps twenty, and a very young brunette. He dragged them out of the box by their hair, ignoring their screams, and came back for two more women, and then again, until he’d taken a total of ten. Then the doors closed and were locked, and the box resumed its journey.

The next time the door opened, the scar-faced man took only two women. Irina clutched Catalina and fought with her sister to the rear of the box, desperate to avoid being chosen. She screwed her eyes tight, heard the screams from the unlucky ones, and only breathed again when the men sealed the compartment.

The box rumbled onward. There was more space in the darkness now. The men had taken almost half of the women away. Sooner or later, they would come for the rest. They would come for Catalina.

The men had been careless when they’d sealed the box. The lock on the compartment door had failed to engage properly; it rattled and shook with a promise that hadn’t existed before. Irina crossed the compartment and pushed at the door. Clawed at it. Punched it until it swung open to the mountains of cardboard and the rest of the container.

Already the air seemed fresher. Here was opportunity. Let the men do what they wanted to her, but they would not get Catalina. She would get her sister home.

“Come on,” she said, pulling Catalina to the doorway. “The next time they come for us, we’ll be ready.”

BOOK: The Stolen Ones
2.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

A Silent Terror by Lynette Eason
The Corpse in the Cellar by Kel Richards
Initiation by Phil M. Williams
The Harlow Hoyden by Lynn Messina
Love of the Wild by Susan Laine
Bun for Your Life by Karoline Barrett