Dylan Woodger is a college student who is captured and tortured by the mafia. After amnesia obscures the last three years of his life, Dylan learns that he has stolen three million dollars from a ruthless mafia boss. When, how, and why – he doesn’t remember. But someone betrayed him and gave him a drug that erased his memory. He was then given over to be tortured.
Determined to recover his memory, Dylan begins delving into the events of the past. As he struggles to put the pieces of his past back together, Dylan finds himself wrapped up in a path of vengeance made even more perilous by the presence of assassins, gangsters, and detectives. But as each new piece of the puzzle falls into place, Dylan realizes that no one is who they seem, especially himself. He now has links to rapists, white supremacists, and murders. People who claim to be his friends are hiding secrets from him. And his girlfriend is beautiful, but that’s all he knows about her. Who are these people? And who is Dylan? Even he doesn’t know!
WHO WAS I? Dylan J. Woodger
Where was I? I wasn’t sure.
What time was it? I had no clue.
Why was I here? I didn’t know
What I did know, was that it was fucking cold. I could feel undergrowth beneath me. My eyes darted around. There were trees as far as the eye could see. I had a raging headache. I couldn’t move my hands or feet. I looked down at my prone body and saw rope wrapped tightly around my ankles. I couldn’t move my hands — they were tied behind my back. My wrists hurt, and whatever bound them also cut into my arms. I had a pain in my shoulder. It hurt bad. But it was nothing compared to the pain that I would suffer once I fell into the hands of the Utica Mafia.
But we’re not there yet.
In my mind, it was yesterday that my mother dropped me off at Hamilton College. I went to sleep, then woke up in the woods. It was warm and sunny when Mom left me. But now, I woke up in the freezing cold. I thought it was August and I couldn’t figure out how it could get so cold. And why was I tied up? And could the pain in my shoulder be…a bullet wound? But how could it be a bullet wound? I’d never been shot at!
I knew I had to get outta there, or else I’d freeze to death. Most people aren’t experts in rope tying. Usually, the average person without formal training doesn’t know how to do a good job. And this rope tying definitely wasn’t the work of a professional. So I felt confident I could escape. I managed to free my arms with some wriggling though it took more skin off my wrists. Then I focused on freeing my legs. I kicked off my shoes and pulled my feet out of the rope. Once my feet were free, I used my hands to pull the leg bonds down. I was now free, but still clueless. Who had done this to me? One thing I knew for sure: this was the work of an amateur who didn’t know how to properly tie someone up.
Oh, and I noticed something strange about myself. I grew facial hair and had put on some muscle. But when did that happen? I hadn’t looked in a mirror, but I doubted I was the same baby-faced boy my mom had dropped off that morning.
Just then, I heard a group of men shouting out of sync. “Hello, is anybody here? Hello?”
I felt relieved. Did the police send out a search party for me?
I was eager to get out of the cold, and my first instinct was to shout, “Over here!”
That was my first mistake.
As the men approached, their boots crunching on twigs and fallen branches, I rushed over to them. I kept my left arm still — the pain of
moving it alone caused my vision to flash white and my ears to ring. I stumbled a bit, but soon I could see them clear enough. The men wore plain clothes, just any random winter jacket and jeans someone might get at the nearest Walmart. They weren’t uniformed as you would normally expect police to be.
“Thank goodness you’re here. I thought I would freeze to death.”
The men looked at each other in confusion, until one of them finally said, “Are you here with anyone?”
“No,” I replied. “I found myself tied up and managed to escape, just before you got here.”
“This guy is lying to us,” one of them said. “This must be an ambush.”
“An ambush? What are you talking about?” I struggled to keep my voice even. “I just woke up, and I haven’t seen another person until you guys showed up. I’m glad you got here, though. Can you please take me home?”
Just at that moment, one of the men pulled out a gun and pointed it at me. My hands flew out in front of me, and my blood ran cold when I saw the barrel. “Wait, hold on! What are you doing?”
“You better tell us right now. Is this an ambush? ’Cause if bullets start flying, you’ll be the first one to die.”
“No, sir. I promise, this isn’t an ambush.”
“So where’s our money?” he demanded.
I was confused. Then I thought I had pieced it together. “Yeah, okay. You guys obviously want money for going through the trouble of finding me. That’s fair. My mother’s pretty well off, and she probably offered a reward to find me. I’ll make sure you get it. That’s how these things work, right? So can you please take me home now?”
The man kept the gun pointed at me. I heard a click and knew he had cocked it. I realized then, that this was no ordinary search party.
“What’s going on here?” I asked, with fear creeping in.
The man with the gun shouted at me. “Stop playing games and tell us where our money is!”
I furrowed my eyebrows at him. He was an olive-skinned man. I pegged his age at around forty. He was bigger than average with shaggy black hair and unkempt facial hair.
“You’ve got me confused with someone else,” I said. “I don’t have anybody’s money.”
“Nice try, kid, but I’m not a babbeo. Whatever tricks you’re trying to pull, they won’t work. Stop acting like we’re suckers and tell us where our money is! I’m not gonna ask you again.”
Babbeo? I wondered. What language is that? Could it be Italian?
“Look, I already told you that if you take me home, my mom will be glad to help you with some money. Now can we please—”
Before I could finish speaking, the man with the gun slapped me with it. I grabbed my jaw and fell backward. My head exploded with pain.
One of the men said, “Shit, Tony. This guy is useless. Let’s finish him off and get outta here.”
Another man replied, “Wait, Tony. The boss sent us to collect the money. We can’t kill him. We have to make this kid talk.”
“All right,” Tony said. “Let’s take him back to the warehouse. And then we can really start having fun.”
I knew what he meant by “fun.” They were going to torture me. “Help!” I screamed. “Somebody help me!”
A loud bang rang out. Before my ears could even begin ringing, the bullet ripped into my thigh, stopping like red hot steel somewhere inside of me. My vision flashed white, and I fell to the ground. Pain pulsed out from the wound. I wasn’t aware of myself at that moment. Maybe I cried out, or maybe it was more of a scream. What I knew, though, was that Tony had shot me in the leg.
“Shut the fuck up!” he said, waving the gun around. “I better not hear one more word outta you, or the next bullet is going straight through your head. Don’t test me!”
The men grabbed the ropes I had untied and started binding me. All the while, I felt my pants getting soaked with warm blood. My temples pounded with my racing heart as I begged for my life. “Please, you have
to believe me. I haven’t taken anyone’s money!”
One of the men said, “Well, if you didn’t rob us, then explain how you got that bullet wound in your shoulder. Huh?”
The men paused and waited for me to answer. For a moment, I forgot about the pain in my leg. I looked over my shoulder, and I could see someone had bandaged me up.
“I don’t know where I got this from,” I said.
“Don’t lie! I specifically remember shooting someone in the shoulder when the guys who robbed us were running away. You mean to tell me that’s a coincidence?”
“Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Please let me go.”
Tony went into a rage and began kicking me relentlessly in the gut. I tried to curl into a ball to protect my stomach which was near impossible thanks to the rope bonds. “Stop pretending to be dumb!” he said. “You’re getting on my fucking nerves!”
“Tony, relax!” one of the men said. “Remember, we gotta keep this guy alive until we know where our money is.”
The men gagged my mouth with a dry kitchen cloth and carried me into their van. Then the van drove off. The windows were tinted black. I tried kicking. I tried screaming. But none of it worked. After they placed me into the van, one of the men pulled a bag over my head. I couldn’t see a thing, but I could still hear them speak. One of them sounded like Tony—a baritone smoker. He was apparently speaking on the phone.
“Yeah, Vinny,” he said. “Tell the boss we found someone…I don’t know who it is…I already told you, I don’t know who he is! It’s just some kid who’s putting on an act.”
I heard Vinny shouting on the other end of the call. “You didn’t even ask him his for fucking name, Tony?”
Tony jerked the bag off my head and yanked the gag from my mouth. “What’s your name, kid?” he asked.
I scrambled for a plan. Should I give him a fake name? What if they catch me in a lie? That wouldn’t be so smart. I thought about whether I should cooperate. Then I simply said, “I’m not saying a damn word.”
At that point, Tony pulled a knife from his pocket and repeatedly stabbed my leg wound. White-hot pain seared through my mind. I nearly passed out from the pain and the sight of blood pouring out of me.
“Stop! Please, stop!” I cried out.
One of the men said, “You could make this a lot easier, kid, if you just tell us your name.”
“Dylan!” I screamed. “My name is Dylan!” “Dylan who?” Tony asked.
“Dylan J. Woodger!”
The pain in my leg was so bad I could barely breathe. I trembled uncontrollably. Soon, I felt lightheaded. “Can you please wrap my leg?” I
begged. “I’m bleeding badly. And I—”
Before I could finish speaking, Tony gagged me again and pulled the bag over my head. He continued talking on the phone.
“Okay, Vinny. He said his name is Dylan…Dylan Woodger…Yeah, we’re on our way to the warehouse, and—”
At that moment, I heard the shriek of a police siren. “Shit!” the driver muttered.
“What is it?” Tony asked
“It’s a cop! We’re being pulled over.”
A wave of obscenities reverberated throughout the van. “Everyone, calm the fuck down!” Tony yelled.
I felt something hard being shoved against my crotch. It was the familiar feel of a gun.
“You better not say a word, kid,” Tony said, “or I’ll shoot you in the balls.”
The van halted abruptly. A minute passed. I heard footsteps outside on the road, the glide of shoes on gravel.
“Hello, Officer,” the driver said calmly, “What seems to be the problem?”
“License and registration,” said the cop.
“Sure. Not a problem.” The driver gave the cop his license and registration.
“Do you know why you’re being stopped?” “Was I speeding?”
“No. Your van has tinted windows. Tinted windows are illegal in the state of New York.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know that,” the driver said. “I just bought this vehicle last week, and the car dealer failed to mention that. I’ll be sure to get the windows changed.” The driver laughed nervously. “So, I guess I’ll take that ticket and be on my way.”
“Not so fast,” the cop said. “I still have a couple of questions to ask you…Where are you coming from?”
“Oh umm…We’re just a few fellas going out hunting in the woods.
We just got finished not too long ago, and now we’re heading home.” “And where’s home?” the officer asked.
“Well, you’re only allowed to hunt animals between November first and December twentieth. Hunting season ended last week.”
“Yeah, sorry about that.”
“I’d like to check your vehicle.”
“Sure Officer. Go right ahead. I’ll unlock it for you.”
When I heard the rear door unlock, I nearly let out a cheer. It was as if the officer could hear my heart pounding its way through my chest. But as soon as I heard the rear door of the van creak open, a barrage of bullets tore open the air. I heard a body drop to the ground.
One of the men inside the van hissed, “Shit, he’s still moving. He’s probably got a vest on.”
Another man said, “I’ll go finish him off.”
“No! Hold on.” Tony stopped him. He pulled the bag off my head and said to me, “I want you to see what happens to those who get in our way.”
Tony stepped out of the van. Through the open door, I could see the officer on the ground, writhing in pain and begging for his life. “Please,” he said, “Don’t do this…I have three kids and a wife.”
At that point, Tony fired two gunshots straight into the officer’s head. Blood splattered onto the pavement. Tony got back into the van and said to me, “I wanted you to see that, so you know we’re capable of killing anyone. If you fuck with us, you’ll end up joining this guy here.”
Excerpt from The Orientation of Dylan Woodger by Chiuba E Obele. Copyright 2022 by Chiuba E Obele. Reproduced with permission from Chiuba E Obele. All rights reserved.