Something in the man’s eyes scared Felicia. She had been used by some of the worst scum in Evan’s domain, but they were nothing compared to this one. His eyes were empty, devoid of humanity, or mercy. She truly feared for her life for the first time since she became a slave.
Each step he took was deliberate and brought him closer to her. He passed his long knife, back and forth, before his eyes before it disappeared. Was he a magician? An entertainer hired by Evan? The word in the slave quarters was that he was some sort of specialist from up north. From a distance, he appeared quite handsome, but he made Felicia shiver when he was so close.
Felicia wanted to grab the blanket and pull it back up, but she was too nervous to move. She was comfortable her nudity, she spent more time out of clothes than in, but the blanket would put a layer of protection between her and the man Evan had given her too. She kept her eyes on his, and tried to relax. Evan wouldn’t give her to someone that would hurt her too badly. She was one of his favorites. Wasn’t she?
“Do you know who I am?” he asked as he pulled a chair up and sat beside her.
“You’re the man from the north,” she said, “I don’t know any more than that.” She knew a little more, but she was a slave, and masters did not like their slaves knowing too much.
“I seriously doubt you know as little as you pretend,” he said. “Slaves are often ignored by free men, so they are loose with their lips when they should be silent.” He sits back in the chair, places his hands in his lap, and says, “now, why don’t you tell me what you know, and why you are in my room.”
She looked at him for a moment, trying to decide what to do. His smile looked real, but the warmth never reached his eyes. She suspected that he would kill her without regret if it became necessary, but she doubted he would do it for fun. He was cold and heartless, but he was not a psychopath. “I know you’re from the north, that Evan brought you down here for a job, and that he terrified of you.”
“Terrified.” He scratched his chin in thought, the rough texture of a four-day-old beard rasping beneath his fingers. “Why do you suppose that might be?”
“Well,” she said, “I heard that you fix problems for the Syndicate, so I’m guessing he’s worried that you’ll see him as a problem.” The man never looked anywhere but her face. It was comforting at first, but she was lying naked, on his bed, and he paid her no attention. Her body was the key to her place in the world, but it meant nothing to him. She wanted him to look, to be attracted to her, to use her like the slave he was, but he made no indication that she was anything more than a source of information.
“So if he is so afraid of me, why would he give me you?” He turned his head, looked at the door for a moment, then looked back at Felicia.
“To show you he’s not a problem?” she offered.
“Or to bribe me,” he said.
Felicia blushed. She started to ask if it worked, but a soft clang from outside stopped her cold. “What was that? she asked.
“I believe it is some of Evan’s men come to kill me, and most likely you as well,” he said as he drew a long bladed knife from a concealed scabbard on his back.
“Why would he do that?” she asked. “I’m one of his best girls.”
“You are a sacrifice he is willing to make in order to silence me,” he said as he stood. “You may want to hide under the bed. This will get messy.”
“Why wouldn’t he tell me? I could have kept it secret and helped him,” she said. The man raised an eyebrow and she quickly put her hands up to ward away his questioning gaze. “Not that I would have, but he could have trusted me.”
The northern man smiled and said, “they never tell you the part where you’re the bait, so you can’t screw up and let the fish see the hook.” He grabbed the blanket from around her ankles and pulled it up to her waiting hands. “Now get under the bed and let me work.”
Felicia wrapped the blanket around her body and rolled off the bed as something on the other side of the door smashed into it. Once, twice, three times, there was an impact, but still the door, and its chair reinforcement, held. She slid under the bed and the man pulled away the chair. Moments later, there was another crash on the door, only without the chair backing it up, the latch shattered and two men stumbled into the room.
The northern man thrust his sword into the throat of the first, withdrew it and disemboweled the second. Felicia watched in horror, from her position beneath the bed, as the blood and viscera poured onto the floor beside her, moments before the bodies fell. He killed them so fast that they didn’t have time to scream, but she did.
Her shrieks filled the air as two more men, wielding knives and clubs, rushed into the room. They were prepared this time and put up a fight, but the stranger flowed between them like smoke, avoiding their weapons, but never missing with his own. One by one, they fell before him, their lives forfeit the moment they were ordered to murder him.
Once the last man had fallen, there was silence. Felicia stopped screaming and the man stood still, his breathing slow and measured. He reached down and wiped his sword, and another, smaller blade, on the few clean patches of blanket left. “Come out,” he said, and Felicia obeyed. “You’re going to have to leave,” he said. “More will come, and they won’t care that you didn’t help me.” He checked his backpack that sat on the small table in the corner. He noticed her clothing sitting on the floor nearby, picked it up and handed it to her.
“Where will I go?” she asks. Tears stream down her face, marking a trail through the blood that stains her cheeks.
“I don’t know,” he said, “but the brand will mark you as slave in any of the cities, so I would travel far from here, maybe head west, and stay away from people as much as possible.”
“Will you take me with you?”
He shook his head as he put his pack on his back. “I can’t. I’m not leaving just yet. When I do, I’ll be heading back to Gary, and they would see you as a slave, and I won’t keep a slave.” His voice was hard, but there was no malice. He might as well have said he didn’t keep pets. She knew he did not look down on her for what she was, but he was no savior.
“I…I understand,” she said as she dropped the blanket and got dressed.
“I’m sorry it has to be this way,” he said, “but you don’t want to come with me.”
“What is your name?” she asked as she pulled up her skirt. she was not allowed to wear much clothing, so getting dressed never took long.
“Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know your name. You’ve either saved me, or sentenced me to death, tonight, whichever way; I would like to know your name.” She stepped up to him. She no longer feared him, though she understood the danger she was in with him around. There was peace in understanding.
He looked down at her and smiled. “My name is Bernard.”
“Thank you, Bernard,” she said before she rose up onto her toes and kissed him. She was surprised when he kissed her back, but not disappointed.
She dropped back down and stepped back. Bernard reached into his pocket and pulled out a fist full of gold and silver coins. “Take these, and run away. Make a new life for yourself away from here.”
Felicia’s eyes grew wide at the sight of so much money. It was more than she had ever seen one place, ever. She took the coins with trembling hands. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“You are welcome,” Bernard said as he walked past her and left the room.
- Apocalypse Runner 03-12-12 (mywriterscramp.com)
- Apocalypse 1952: Bernard Wolfe’s Limbo (thefinchandpea.com)
- INMON: Ailing Mind :: Really? (coevalcornucopia.wordpress.com)
- Happy Birthday InMon (usaukwoods.wordpress.com)
- If wishes were dragons… (usaukwoods.wordpress.com)