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Staked: Chapter Eight

I woke up stiff, every joint aching. My ears rushed as if I were held underwater, my mouth felt full of dust, and my head hurt. I looked around blearily, but couldn’t see anything. I could smell a strange combination of body odor and something musty and sour.

I wrinkled my nose.

“Who gave you the authority to bring her in?” a voice snapped above me. I stayed still, trying to figure out what was going on.

The words hadn’t been directed at me, as I’d feared, but when the answer came I realized I recognized the person speaking: Jahal.

“Just because we’re working together on the other project, doesn’t mean you have any authority, as you say, over me or our organization.”

“Unless your action endangers us all.” A third voice came from across the room––low-pitched and masculine, further away from me than Jahal was, I thought. Two men and a woman?

“I pinged you when my people told me she’d been collected,” Jahal said. She sounded defensive, but mostly angry. “Besides, you saw the report from last night, didn’t you? It makes sense now, why she wouldn’t sell that dump. If she’s one of them, she was probably suspicious.”

“Are you sure?” said the first voice. It was low and masculine, and too close for comfort. Worse, it was getting closer––it sounded as though he was bending over me. “I didn’t get that read from her profile.”

“I’m sure,” Jahal growled. “If anything, it’s safest to question her now. We need to find out where––”

She was interrupted by the first man, his voice coming from somewhere directly above my right ear. “She’s awake.”

I turned my head to the voice, trying to see the face that went with it, but realized in horror that it wasn’t dark: a blindfold covered my eyes. I went to pull it off, but my hands were bound behind my back. The stiffness in my muscles was due to having my arms tied behind me.

I tried to make sense of my position. I sat in a chair––my ankles seemed tied to the legs––and my arms were bound behind me. But why?

“Fine,” Jahal snapped. “Shoot her up and let’s find out what she knows.”

A cold pinch on my arm startled me the rest of the way awake. Panicked, I struggled against my bonds. I shouted, but a gag muffled my screams.

“Give it a few minutes,” the third voice cautioned.

I could hear the smirk in Jahal’s voice. “Oh, I think we can start sooner.”

The gag came off, large dirty fingers pulling it none too gently out of my mouth, but the blindfold stayed. I had no way of knowing where I was or how I had gotten there. I took a deep breath, trying to come up with options. My cuff had a tracer––surely Pietra would notice I was missing and come after me? My heart sank as I realized it still lay in the bag that I’d been using to collect my things, which might still be in my office but probably wasn’t on me anymore..

Jahal had apparently gotten tired of waiting. She leaned close enough that I could feel her breath on my face. “A girl came to you for help around the last time we spoke. You sent her somewhere, do you remember?”

Shoot her up, Jahal had said. A fog was stealing over my brain, but I knew that I didn’t want to give her or any of her friends the time of day.

“Fuck you,” I said as calmly as I could. I expected her to hit me, but instead I heard an annoyed grunt and a chuckle from the man closer to me, and then silence. My head hurt and I was tired to a chair and blindfolded, and I didn’t feel like giving the lunatics any satisfaction, much less try to remember something for them.

What were they even talking about?

A numbness crept over me like a lead blanket, slowly erasing my body, until I just drifted free.

“It’s been long enough,” a deep, faraway voice said. “Try again.”

“There was a girl, who came to see you in the Star, last night.” Jahal spoke slowly, sounding smug, but it was a struggle to follow what exactly her words meant.

“My bar,” I managed. ”Someone blew up the Star.”

“Yes, before that,” she prompted.

“My beautiful bar…”

She cut me off. “Do you remember the girl?”

“A girl…?” Oh. “Yeah, she wanted to come work. That wasn’t going to happen.”

“Do you remember where you sent her?”

“To the Lady,” I said. “Seemed like the best place.”

“And what do you know about the Lady?”

I tried to shrug, but for some reason I couldn’t make my shoulders work. “Nobody knows anything about the Lady.”

A sigh of exasperation. “Where did you send the girl?”

“To the Lady.” Hadn’t I just said that?

A different voice spoke. “What were the directions?”

I told him.

“But the lady isn’t there anymore,” Jahal said.

I tried to shrug again. This was annoying. Why can’t I move my shoulders? “Then someone will tell me later. Maybe they’ll tell you, too.”

I heard hints of furious whispers while I tried to find my fingers. I think they’d melted away somewhere, and I wanted them back.

“This is useless. She knows nothing.”

“If you have a private feud with her, fine. But you’re risking everything. Keep us out of it.”

The woman laughed, the sound thin and sharp. “I’m fine with risks. Risks are what got me where I am. She may not know anything, but she’s been a thorn in my side. I’m looking forward to pulling her out and throwing her on the street.”

I heard footsteps, and then a door closed somewhere in the distance.

“Little miss goody two-shoes,” Jahal’s voice hissed in my ear. “Fucked up your work, couldn’t keep your place together, and you still looked at me like something you found on the bottom of your shoe.”

That wasn’t very nice, I thought dimly. She was crude and angry, but it didn’t bother me much for some reason.

“I could kill you now,” she continued. “But really, I’d rather you and your prissy morals have the chance to find out what the real world is like.”

I didn’t bother trying to shrug this time.

“Do it,” I said.

A hand clamped over my mouth, and fingers pinched my nose closed. I bucked against them in rising panic, desperate to breathe. The fingers released and I frantically inhaled, only to snort in a cloud of something with the air. I coughed, but the hand over my mouth stayed put, forcing the substance deep into my lungs.

There were more footsteps, and a lot of movements and sounds that I didn’t understand happening all at once. Another, rougher hand was clasped over my mouth. I thought that I was moving, and realized that I knew where my hands and feet were now.

Probably.

I could just hear Jahal’s voice behind me, fading into the distance. “Dump her somewhere interesting.”

Someone moved me around for a while, but I was distracted by the sensation of warmth spreading through my limbs, replacing the numbness.

After a while––I wasn’t sure how long––the hand moved away from my mouth. My feet were back on the ground, and then I was being spun, around and around and around.

I giggled at the playfulness of it all as my blindfold was pulled off and I was shoved away, stumbling until I collided with a wall and slid to my knees.

Silly people.

Silly game.

It took a long time for my vision to settle, and when it did, I was in a place I didn’t recognize. That was fine, though––what I wanted more than anything else right now was an adventure.

I stood up, stretched, and smiled, unfamiliar sensations running through my veins.

This was going to be delicious.


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