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|Well, I had to reupload this due to the timewarp. But I got an illustration now! Done by Cecily, who can draw much better than I.||
Dragon’s Awakening, Ch. 7
Cepha folded his arms over his muscular chest as the old man walked up to the door of the inn and knocked. This was his plan for dealing with the boy? He could have at least picked a nicer place! The door looked like it was about the fall off its hinges and there was no way the roof would hold water out of the rooms below it.
A sliver of light brought Cepha’s attention back to the doorway. As the door swung open, a burly man stepped through, making of show of flexing his thick arms. “Whada’ya want?” he growled. Cepha had to hold back a laugh. The idiot bouncer actually thought he would win in a fight!
“Where’s the owner?” Caul asked. His voice didn’t tremble, but Cepha could smell that the man was nervous. But that made no sense, there was no way this man could beat him in a fight. Why was he so jittery?
“She’s not seeing anyone.”
“She’ll see me.”
The man put his hands on his hips, the muscles on his shoulders straining the seams of his shirt. “And who are you?” he asked with a sneer.
Caul raised an eyebrow, a sardonic smile curling the edges of his lips. “I’m her husband.” Cepha frowned at that. The old man had never mentioned a wife before.
“The hell you are,” the bouncer retorted. “Ms. Brenner ain’t got no husband.”
“Are you sure about that? Why don’t you go and ask her?” The man glared at Caul for a minute before stepped through the door, closed it, and Cepha heard a lock slide into place.
He turned to the old man. “You never said you were married.”
Caul’s already nervous scent spiked a little as he glanced at Cepha out of the corner of his eye. “You never asked.” Cepha glared at the man for a minute. How many other secrets was the lying old bugger keeping under that excuse? Before he had time to ask, the door swung open, its hinges squealing madly.
A squat black woman with her hair tied up into a severe-looking bun stepped through the door. She stepped up to the old man, and stared at him for a few seconds. “Caul?”
He laughed. “It’s good to see you, Monica,” he began. Before he could go any further, the woman raised her hand and sent him reeling back with a vicious slap. A grin split Cepha’s face. He’d been waiting for someone to do that for months. Too bad, though. He would have loved to have been that someone.
“What in the hell do you think you’re doing here?” she hissed, her green eyes glinting coldly in the dim light of the doorway.. “I told you to never come back here, and I meant it. I want you gone, now!”
Caul raised his hands. “Now, just wait a minute, Monica. Let me explain-” Another blow cut him off. Cepha hadn’t thought it possible for his grin to get any wider, but it turned out he’d been wrong.
“Cey mou ter muscareth tio necreh tey untin,” she said quietly. The grin slid off Cepha’s face. She wouldn’t have the muscareth who killed her son? What the hell did that mean? She turned away and stepped through the door. “I want you off my property. Now.” Cepha watched her go, torn between laughing at the old man or asking him what she’d been talking about
Caul kneeled down to a figure sprawled on the pavement. “This isn’t about us, Monica. This boy needs a place to stay.”
She glanced over her shoulder. “So find another inn. Boston has more than one.”
Caul shook his head. “He’s narame, Monica. I can’t take him anywhere else. Look.” He picked the boy’s head up, and Cepha grimaced. In the dim light of the doorway, the boy’s deformed face was grotesque. The jaws and nose had pushed forward about four inches, forming what could only be described as a bill. But almost nothing else had changed. A full head of hair, no scales, just that massive swelling of his lower face. Caul reached down and brought one the boy’s hands into the light. From the center of each finger an inch-long talon had erupted.
“I can’t take him anywhere looking like this,” Caul continued. “If you don’t help this boy, his death will be on your hands.” The woman stopped, her back stiffening. “You’ll be no better than I am.” Cepha’s eyes flicked between the two. What the hell was going on? What was that old man hiding from him?
“Bring him in,” she said after a minute’s pause. Caul reached under the boy’s armpits to drag him into the inn. “No, not you. You are never to come here again, do you understand?” She turned to Cepha. “Bring him in.”
Cepha raised an eyebrow. “Why should I?”
“Do it,” Caul hissed. Cepha glared at him, but he reached down to the sprawled figure. Hooking the boy under the armpits, he hauled him up.
“Hold on.” The woman said. “I can’t have him going through the common room like that. He’ll cause a riot.” She glanced around, her eyes settling on Cepha. “Do you have a shirt?”
Cepha pointed to a bloody tourniquet wrapped around the boy’s arm. “He’s already wearing it.” That had been Cepha’s best shirt, too. What a waste.
“Fine.” She gathered up the hem of her plain, sturdy dress and ripped off a large piece. Draping it over the boy’s face, she loosely tied it behind his head. “Okay, bring him inside.” Dragging the boy up the stairs, Cepha stepped into the fire-lit common room of the inn. Men sat at the tables, drinking beer and rolling dice. A few glanced over their mugs to Cepha, but most seemed more interested in their gambling.
“Over here” The owner said, pointing to a small, half-hidden doorway. Cepha groaned; this boy was getting heavy.
“Aren’t the rooms up there?” He nodded to a narrow flight of stairs along one wall.
She waved at the men in the common room. “Theirs are. But I’ve got other rooms for you and him.” She waited for him to lug the boy over to the door before a large, jingling key ring appeared in her hand. Cepha watched her pick through the keys impatiently. How could she tell the keys apart, anyway? They all looked identical to him. Before he could ask, she finally found the key she was looking for—Cepha couldn’t see how it was different from any other—she slid it into the lock, and opened the door.
Cepha dragged the boy through the doorway into a well-lit hallway. The woman stepped through the door and closed it before turning to Cepha. “That leads to the building next door. You’ll find stalls big enough for the both of you to change, if you like.” She opened the door and stepped through. “But wait a while before doing that.”
“Where are you going? I can’t keep this damn fool alive by myself.”
She nodded. “Neither can I. He needs a doctor.” With that, she closed the door and Cepha heard the lock slide home. He glanced down the hallway. Wonderful; he had to drag this boy’s limp form almost twenty feet before the passage opened into the room. Just wonderful.
With a groan, Patrick Ester heaved himself out of his bed and shuddered when his feet touched the chilly wooden floor. He blindly grabbed at the bedside table, felt something thin and cold, and put his glasses on his face. Squinting into the darkness, he reached toward the soft glow of the small oil lamp. He turned a knob on the lamp, brightening the room; the dying fire did not provide enough light.
Who in the blazes was knocking on his door? Who was up at this hour? Decent, respectable city folk did not go cavorting around this time of night!
The knock at the door came again, louder this time. “Hold, on. I’m coming,” he muttered, rubbing his bleary eyes. Probably another bloody house call. That was the problem with his occupation: people always assumed you were ready to jump out of bed to try and cure their every ache and pain. And most of them who did it were so poor they had no possibility of affording his fees.
Slipping into a robe his wife had made him earlier that month, he sighed at a rip in the hem. When was that woman going to learn to sew? Well, that’s what he got for marrying a pretty girl: too few skills, too many kids. He glanced across the small room to the bed where his wife slept and smiled a bit. She did have her good points though. Maybe when he sent the person at the door off, she would do that thing she’d done earlier. One could hope, couldn’t he?
Stepping out of the bedroom into the narrow hallway, he picked his way over the cold floor to the thick wooden door. He opened it to see a squat negro woman with her hand raised to knock again standing on his porch. A yawn escaped his throat.
“What do you want?” He knew the answer before she said it.
“You’ve got to come with me,” she began, before he cut her off.
“I don’t make house-calls in the middle of the night.” He pointed up to a sign above his door, where the phrase “No house calls” was plainly visible in the dim light of the oil lamps that dotted the street. “Though I guess you couldn’t read that, being a negro and all. Tell your master to come to speak with me in the morning.”
The woman stiffened. “I’m no slave.” Patrick frowned. He’d forgotten about that. Bloody liberal President going and freeing all the negros. “And I need you to come with me. Now.” The doctor blinked. Who the devil did this woman think she was?
“I told you: no!” The doctor sighed, “You freedmen, you’re all the same. Just because some twit with a beard and a hat signed some piece of paper, you think that you own the world, don’t you?” The woman didn’t answer. Instead she pulled a small bag out of her dress. “Well I’ll tell you here and now: I will not come with you”—the woman dropped a small nugget of gold into her palm from the bag—“and I don’t work for niggers”—another piece of gold fell from the small bag, this one bigger than the other—“and the only place I’m going is back to be-” he broke off as the woman pulled a brilliant diamond necklace from around her neck and placed it next to the two pieces of gold.
“Patrick?” a groggy voice called from the house. “Come back to bed, love.”
The doctor glanced back down the hallway that led to the bedroom, then to the wealth in the woman’s hand. “What seems to be the problem?” All bleariness was gone from his voice, now.
“Stab wound.” She glanced down at the gold, then back up to him. “Three times as much if you can save his arm.”
He licked his lips and turned back to the hallway. “ Honey?” he called. “I’ll be back in the morning,” he called. The negro woman grinned.
Monica stepped away from the door and walked back to the road. She stopped at the curb and turned back to the house. A few minutes later, a man stepped onto the porch, a large parcel at his side. Caul watched him glance around and follow Monica off the porch. He squinted-- a habit more than anything, his eyes could see as well in dark as light—at the street a hundred feet below him.
The cool night air hissed softly over his wings. But that was better than the loud whoosh of his wing beats. He had to be careful not to flap when he passed over Monica. That took almost all of his attention; gliding was not a skill the areth’yncain mastered well. Most couldn’t do it for more than a few dozen feet. Caul could do it longer, but then he had unusually large wings for his length. At twenty-one feet long, he had a fifty-four foot span. Most areth’yncain of his length had wingspans of about forty-five feet.
If Monica even suspected she was being watched she might run the boy out of her inn. In is condition that might prove fatal. Caul had seen the boy’s wound: a bone-deep gash from shoulder to elbow. If he was lucky, it would only form a disfiguring scar. If he was not lucky—if it became infected—then there was only one option: amputation from the shoulder.
And so Caul flew as quietly as was mortally possible. The boy’s dismemberment would not be on his back. He would not be responsible for creating a cripple. Not again.
He stared down at the pair, now far behind him. But were they far enough? He decided to risk it. Beating his leathery wings as fast as he could, he heaved himself higher into the air. After a few minutes, he leveled his wings out again. Immediately, he felt the air rushing past his face speed up. Maybe “gliding” wasn’t the best term. Areth’yncain wings didn’t glide well. More like they fell forward. Not like birds. He’d seen hawks glide for hours, barely stroking their wings. Feathers must have some advantage over scales.
As he swept over the city again he searched for the pair he was following. The city had a surprisingly active nightlife. Thieves, cutthroats, sailors, prostitutes, all the normal dredges of society were out in force. But there were just as many horse-drawn carriages out on the streets of Boston. Many of the larger homes had lights blazing in the darkness. Probably some kind of party.
It took Caul several minutes to find Monica. She was taking a different route to her inn than she had taken to this man’s house. But why? Did she know she was being watched? No, that was impossible. She probably didn’t want to attract attention to herself and the man. For some reason, tramecain did not like the idea of cross-color relationships.
Judging from the way that the man stayed at a careful distance from Monica, he was no exception. He never came closer twenty paces to her. Not so far that he wouldn’t be able to follow, but far enough that the night might hide shield him from association with her. He must have been relying on an old maxim: out of sight, out of mind. As long as people didn’t see him with the black woman than the two would never be grouped together. Fool.
He was surprised, though, that Monica allowed him to do that. She had always been extremely sensitive about that kind of thing. She had never been a slave—no one could imprison an areth’yncain like that—but her family’s freedom had not been looked well on by the slave owners. She had never elaborated farther than that, but Caul had seen the scars running across her back; someone had whipped her. Usually, Monica would have stood right next to the man, or even led him by the arm. Just to embarrass him. Caul guessed it was some form of revenge, though she had always denied it.
Not tonight, though. She was rushing through the streets, the man barely able to keep up. If she wasn’t careful, she’d leave the man behind. Caul doubted that someone from such a respectable neighborhood would know where her inn was.
Caul’s stomach turned over once and he sighed. What a time to get hungry. It would have to wait, though. There were more important things to worry about. Things like that boy’s life. Like why Monica was bringing some unknown man back to her inn.
Caul’s wings missed a beat. What? That wasn’t important! Was it? Surely there was a logical explanation. The man must be a doctor. She was just trying to save the boy’s life. Or maybe he was a patron. Caul frowned. That didn’t make sense; a man like that would never risk his image by being seen in an inn like Monica’s.
Did it matter if she was bringing him back to her inn? They were only married in name, now. Before tonight, she hadn’t even spoken to him in twenty years. So was it actually unfaithfulness?
Caul blinked. What was he thinking? Monica would never do that, not with a tramecain, in any case. The man was tramecain, right? He had to be. If Monica was in the hurry she looked to be in, she would have flown. Unless she wasn’t dealing with another areth’yncain. Still, there was always the chance. Caul shook his head. No. There was no chance. None. Then why was he worrying about it so much? It wasn’t like she loved him anymore; not after what had happened.
Caul’s stomach rumbled again, much louder this time. He beat his wings harder to gain altitude. He needed to feed. To hunt. Most of all, though, he needed to get as far away from that woman as he could.
Matthew yawned as he glanced around the darkened room. He half expected to see her, right there among the mats and the men. He hoped she would be there. He would have given anything to hear her laugh once—just once—over the heavy snoring and the unintelligible mutterings. To see her wild, unkempt hair in the dusty moonlight that filtered into the room.
Anything at all.
But there wasn’t anyone there. No frizzy curls blocked the silvery beams; no giggling warmed the cool night air. He’d known there wouldn’t be anything like that, really. She was dead. Wishes wouldn’t change that. Nothing would bring Elizabeth back
His vision blurred. Matthew rubbed his eyes and blinked a few times. It must have been the dust floating in the room. He wasn’t crying. Grown men didn’t cry. He just needed to get out of the room, that was all.
Stepping onto the chilly floor, he twisted his neck until it cracked loudly. Careful not to wake any of the men sleeping on the floor, he picked his way to the door. To be honest, he was lucky he wasn’t one of the ones on the floor. He’d drawn a long straw.
Opening the door, he froze when the hinge squeaked loudly. Several of the men rolled over, a few more groaned, but none of them woke. Matthew stepped through to door and closed it quickly. Who cared if it squeaked? He was already out of the room.
He stepped across the dark hallway and fumbled with a door handle for a minute before easing it open. A small oil lamp burned dimly on a bracket next to the door. Reaching over and taking the handle, he lifted the lamp free of its mount. Turning a small knob rewarded Matthew with more light.
A small table sat against one wall, and he walked over to it. He dropped into a hard, uncomfortable chair and set the lamp down, being careful not to put it on one of the papers that covered the table. Reaching down, he picked up a large book stuffed with loose papers and opened it to the latest entry.
It was a logbook, full of figures and numbers. Running his finger across the page, he blinked. Who had bought a barrel of powder? There was more than enough gunpowder for another two weeks! It would have to come out of his pay. At least the man would learn to check the stores before buying something. There wasn’t enough money to allow people to spend it frivolously.
That man wouldn’t be happy, but he’d have to accept it. Maybe he’d like to try and balance this army’s budget. No, that would never do. He’d ruin things so bad that Matthew would never be able to right them. Besides, what would Matthew do if he didn’t have his numbers?
Sure, he complained about the tedium sometimes, but there was a certain enjoyment to be had from dividing this by that, adding the number of guns and of bullets. And math made sense, at least. More sense than the world, anyway. No matter where he went, two plus two always equaled four. Nine divided by three equaled nine. It was consistent, logical. There was a certain comfort in that, really.
And there was always the chance of learning something new. Matthew allocated a little money every couple of months to buying a new book on mathematics. His reward, so to speak, for putting himself through the monotony of accounting. The commander didn’t know. And if he did, he didn’t seem to mind. Besides, anything that helped his mathematical abilities would benefit the group as a whole. Right?
The latest book had been absolutely fascinating. It had been about something called “trigonometry.” Exceptionally useful type of mathematics. Trigonometry made it easy to find the distance between any two places, as long as you had another one to measure from.
Matthew paused in his calculating, and frowned into the musty book. They would need more chickens soon. He might have to cut the soldiers’ pay again, or there wouldn’t be enough money. The commander might favor more—direct—methods of dealing with the monetary issues.
Matthew shook his head. There wouldn’t be any need for that. He just had to free up some extra money from the tangled finances. If he cut the pay by a cent a month, the men wouldn’t notice. Most of them didn’t even count how much they received before spending it on the “necessities”: food, drink, and women.
But that wouldn’t really be enough. Matthew would have to cut back somewhere else. There was always the money set aside for guns and ammunition. Taking money from that was dangerous, though. If a gun broke, then there might not be enough money to fix it or—may the need never arise—replace it.
Mathew scowled into the logbook. If he couldn’t find some money somewhere then it was going to be a hungry month. Living off crackers and dried meat was not a pleasant time, not by any means. Maybe if he cut the men’s pay by two cents a month-
“What are you doing?”
Matthew gasped and spun around to face the commander, who was giving him a hard stare from the doorway. Stepping into the room, he never took his eyes off Matthew.
Matthew took a deep breath. Maybe he’d be able to convince his heart not to jump out of his chest, but it was unlikely. What was the commander thinking? Just sneaking up behind him like that? Only blind luck had kept Matthew from dumping ink all over the logbook.
He waved at the thick book. “I was just going over the day’s expenses.”
The commander raised his eyebrow. “At this hour?” A large grandfather clock on the floor rang twice. Matthew blinked. How had the man made the clock chime? He shook his head. It had to have been a coincidence. “Well?” The Commander asked softly.
How was Matthew supposed to answer the question? Sorry, sir, but nightmares about my dead sister keep me awake at night. Real men don’t let silly things like nightmares affect them like that; he’d be ridiculed for the rest of his life! .
“Yes, sir. At this hour.” The commander’s gaze flicked around the cluttered room before returning to Matthew. Without saying a word, he walked over to a chair and grabbed a large pistol off it. Checking the gun for bullets—apparently finding none—he sat down on the chair. He fixed his hard brown eyes on Matthew.
“I need to have the best possible fighting force I can, Mr. Lewis. If one of their problems reduces their fighting ability—lack of sleep, for arguments sake—then it becomes my problem. Fatigue slows a man down; in this business that will get him killed.” His eyes glittered coldly in the lamplight. “Is there anything you want to tell me?”
Matthew swallowed loudly. “No, sir.”
The commander raised an eyebrow. “No nightmares?”
The breath caught in Matthew’s throat. “Wha-What would I have nightmares about?” he stammered.
“No sane man can see the things we see and not have them, Mr. Lewis.” The words seemed to hang in the air, and for a long time Matthew didn’t respond. What could he say? The commander simply sat his chair, eyes still fixed on Matthew; a glare to make a man squirm at ten paces.
“How is he holding up?” Thankfully, the commander’s glare softened.
“The survivor? He’s sleeping.” The commander paused for a moment. “He was unconscious when we found him. He didn’t’ come to until almost ten-thirty.”
“What did you learn?”
“Only a name: Jacob Acheron.”
“No, but be patient. He’s had as rough a time as any two of us.” The commander’s face took on a more distant look. “You should have seen him fall asleep. Out like a candle in a thunderstorm.”
Matthew hesitated a moment. “You will ask him, won’t you?”
“It’s still too soon for that.”
“But if anybody deserves to have a chance for revenge its him.”
“I can see that, Mr. Lewis. Rest assured: I will give him the chance. He’s just not ready yet.” He looked away for a minute before standing up. “I suggest that you get some rest. You’ll be needing it.” He walked over to the door and opened it. He had almost stepped through when a thought struck Matthew.
“Sir?” The commander stopped and glanced over his shoulder.
“Do you have nightmares?”
The barest hint of a smile flickered across the commander’s face. “Goodnight, Mr. Lewis,” he said as he stepped through the door.
Opening the thick wooden door that led to the areth’yncain-sized rooms, Monica invited the doctor into the room. She could smell his nervousness—no doubt he didn’t like being in an establishment owned by a nigger—but she could hardly tell to look at him. He smiled politely as he stepped through the door, even thanked her for holding the door open. A smile flickered across Monica’s face. It seems that manners could be bought.
“Where is the patient?” he asked, just a touch to quickly. Nervous to be done and on his way home, no doubt. Monica pointed down the hallway to the rooms.
“Down that way.” He quickly walked down the corridor into the room, and stopped to look around. Monica hoped that the man staying in the room had been sensible enough to duck out of sight or –the preferable option—change to his human shape. It would do the injured boy no good if the doctor lost his mind from fright.
Monica stepped through the doorway behind the doctor, and glanced around at the room—she’d had to buy the house next to her inn and shell it out to make it big enough—before sighing with relief at the sight of a man sitting against the wall twiddling a piece of straw in his hands. He’d had enough sense not to change.
A low groan reached Monica’s ears, and she turned to face the unconscious form lying on the hay. The doctor turned as well, nodded to himself and then walked over to the boy’s prone form. Kneeling down—and without so much as glancing at his patient—he carefully laid out a surgeon’s kit that had hung at his side. Within a few minutes, the boy was surrounded by an impressive array of knives, clamps, and saws. Then the doctor looked up.
He had been off to the boy’s left, so Monica got an excellent view of the blood draining from his cheeks at the sight of the boy’s face. The strip of cloth Monica had torn off her dress might have hidden the massive deformation from a drunken man in a dark and smoky room, but as close as that doctor was to the boy, Monica would have been worried if he hadn’t noticed.
Under different circumstances his reaction might have been comical. He froze, the blood gone from his cheeks. After a few minutes he blinked, and glanced over at Monica. “What is this?” he asked, pointing at the figure on the floor.
Monica didn’t answer at first. Instead, she glanced over to the man with his back against the wall, now watching with mild interest. She nodded at him, and a bit of tension fell from her chest when he rolled his eyes and sighed. At least he understood.
Walking over to the boy, she untied the ripped piece of cloth that hid his face and lifted it away. To his credit, the doctor didn’t scream—his mouth dropped open, but no screams. “This is your patient. Let’s talk about what you’re going to do and what you’re not going to do.” She pointed to the bloody tourniquet wrapped around the boy’s left arm. “You will save this boy’s life, you will not amputate his arm. You will be well rewarded, and you will not be harmed. Is that clear?”
The doctor’s mouth moved up and down a few times before a he managed to squeak, “Yes.”
Monica nodded. “Good.” The man stared down at her, wide-eyed and unmoving. She pushed him toward the boy, “Get to it!” He stumbled to the ground, looked at her, to the boy laying next to him, then back to her. Biting his lower lip, he rose to his knees, and began to work. Monica stood watching him for a minute before sighing. He would do his job for the moment, though once his shock at seeing such disfigurement wore off he would stop. It wouldn’t take more than half an hour for the man to put down his knives with some ridiculous excuse or other about “who he doesn’t work for.”
Monica glanced over the doctor’s shoulder and a humorless smile flickered across her face. There were other ways to motivate a man than shock. The most effective was fear. And she certainly could supply that.
The doctor suddenly stood up, fixed his eyes on the black woman, and pointed to the boy on the floor. “I have to go,” he stammered. “My wife will be waiting for me, it’s late.” He glanced towards the door and took a step towards it.
The woman stepped in front of him, blocking his exit with her wide body. Cepha quietly rose from his prone position to his feet. This would be too good to miss.
“Doctor, I must insist that you finish with the boy first. Imagine the harm it would do my business if people thought I let just let people die in my inn!”
The doctor shook his head. ‘I don’t care, I have to get home, my—”
“Your wife can wait until morning, Doctor Ester.”
He glared at her. “No, she can’t, girl.” Her face fell from a polite smile to a frosty glare. I’m going home now!” He tried to brush past her, but the woman put her squat black form in front him again.
“I’m afraid, Doctor, that I’ll not be able to permit you to do that.”
The man frowned, no doubt taken aback at being told “no” by a black woman, before recovering. He stepped up to the short woman, towered over her. “What are you going to do to stop me, nigger?” What little warmth had been left in her eyes disappeared.
“If I were you, Doctor Ester—” he scoffed loudly, Cepha guessed it was at the idea of her being his equal “—I wouldn’t worry about what I’m going to do.” Her eyes moved from him to Cepha. “I’d worry about what he is going to do to you.”
“Perhaps you failed to notice,” he said snidely, “ but that boy is unconscious. What is he going to do to me?”
The black woman—Caul had called her Monica?—shook her head. “Not him.” She nodded toward Cepha. “Him,” she said softly. The man sighed loudly and turned.
Hi there. The blood drained out of the man’s face so fast that Cepha would have sworn the man heard him. But no, that was impossible.
Cepha groaned as he stretched his cramped wing muscles, spreading them apart as far as the room would allow, which was farther than he expected. He could almost extend them completely, and their tips were well over thirty feet apart. After folding his wings to his sides, he stretched his aching neck a bit before returning his eyes to the man.
Cepha growled slightly. Hadn’t anyone taught this man that it was rude to stare? And if he ought to close his mouth; he was making a mess on the floor. With more than a little regret, Cepha cut the growl off; the man wasn’t any good if he died of fright where he stood.
Monica stepped between the two of them, breaking the man out of his trance. His eyes flickered between Monica and Cepha, and his tongue went around his quivering lips. “What do you want from me?” he whispered. Cepha sighed. It was so much more exiting when they screamed.
“We want you to finish your treatment, Doctor. Once you do that, this will all be a memory. You’ll be able to go home; to crawl into bed with your wife. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
“Yes,” he murmured.
Monica nodded. “Then you have a choice: to finish this and go home to your wife, or to refuse to treat my customer and enjoy less—” her eyes flicked to Cepha again“—pleasant circumstances.
Cepha was not surprised when the man chose to pick up the knife again. He closed his eyes and sighed. Why couldn’t they try and run, for once? It just figured, didn’t it?
When he opened his eyes again, he noticed the black woman was staring at him. With a last glance at the working doctor, she heaved her ponderous body beside Cepha.
“I just wanted to thank you-” she began
Thank me for what? Cepha shot back. For ruining my best shirt on someone as useless as him? For playing you’re leverage? How about feeding me instead of thanking me? That’s a better idea. She grimaced and turned to walk away.
Cepha let her go without saying a word. He didn’t need or want her gratitude. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep, but the man’s working was too noisy. Cepha glared at the man’s back. Even unconscious, the boy was a hassle to him. Cepha had no doubts that he was going to be more trouble than he was worth.
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