At first, I think I’m seeing double. Then I spot the subtle differences. The gun in one hand and the piece of pipe gripped tightly between ten other sweaty digits. The danger in one set of eyes. The way the blonde on my left sways slightly. Her face gaunt, pale.
“It’s amazing Sophie’s sick twin had the strength to knock you out.”
“She didn’t, though, did she.”
“Well, I know that but how come they didn’t figure it out?”
I strain against the ropes that bind me to the creaky chair. The knots are good and tight. It takes an experienced hand to achieve that. And escape from it.
“Don’t even think about trying to escape!” Sophie barks, advancing with menace in her eyes. This has been a long time coming. I’ve pushed her quite far. “Or I’ll spread your brains as far across this warehouse as I can.” The muzzle of the revolver comes to rest on my forehead. The room is perfectly still. The silence only broken by the click of the hammer being drawn back.
“You are going to have to tread carefully here…”
“Errr, did you forget I’m immortal?”
“No, but getting yourself shot surely isn’t part of the plan. You are without any of your mortal supports. What are you going to do, magic a knife out of your backside?”
“Have some faith, will you? I am the best, after all.”
“Doesn’t look like it from where I’m sitting.”
“Trixie, do you think he’s going to help me if you do that to him?”
Sophie–Trixie, turns back to her sister, the rage instantly slipping from her features.
“It’s alright, Dix,” she coos. “I’ll make sure he tells us. Just check in on the bait and make sure he’s alright.” Trixie nods towards the blonde man, just about holding himself in a sitting position on the floor behind them. He’s just at the edge of the single bulb that swings lazily across the space. As the light flicks across his features, I can see the bruises that have been inflicted on him since he came into my care. As her sibling moves off, Trixie returns her attention to me. “Oh, sorry. My sister sort of ruined the big reveal. I’m not Sophie, you idiot.”
I look shocked. She started the theatre between us, and it only seems fair that I continue it.
“You might live in my head, but you don’t know everything. Some of my work has been in motion for a while.”
I clear my throat, make it look like I’m trying to regain control of the situation.
“And who are you, Trixie?” I don’t need to know, but it helps me if she thinks I do. It buys me some much-needed time.
“What does it matter to you?” She increases the pressure of the gun against my skin.
“That will leave a mark.”
“Do you have any helpful contributions to make?”
“Just doing my best to make light of the tricky situation you’ve gotten yourself into.”
I just resist the temptation to sigh out loud.
“Don’t I have the opportunity to hear more about the person that is going to put a bullet in my brain?”
“STOP IT!” Spittle sprays across my face. The threat is removed from my forehead as Trixie lifts her weapon high. She silently raves at me, unable to find the words.
I prod again. “What?”
The blonde bristles, and her face is suddenly right in front of mine.
“You know as well as I do that I can’t kill you! You are so arrogant. Do you think that if I could find out where you were holding some blonde bimbo’s brother, I couldn’t also suss out who you are? Don’t you realise that’s why I’m here? I know all about you, Dolus.”
“I don’t know what you mean.” I grin slightly, the lie so transparent. The revolver reappears in front of me, and Trixie taps it pityingly against my temple as she speaks.
“You are a god,” tap, “and I have got one over on you,” tap, “how does that make you feel?”
I shrug and am rewarded with her bringing the butt of the gun down on my crown. It hurts but serves a purpose. I twitch slightly, as if I’m trying to lift an arm to rub at the sore spot. There’s no need for a lie here. I can just push her with an inquiry.
“Am I right in thinking you don’t just want the glory of your achievement?”
She steps back, her gaze still burning daggers into me.
“Now we are getting somewhere! You aren’t half as stupid as you appear.”
“I won’t disagree with that.”
“I imagine that even you can connect the dots.”
I keep quiet. I can’t say it myself, so I wait for her to fill the void. “The Rod of Asclepius. That’s what all this is about. The land documents you had me liberate. The interest you placed in that lawyer. The questions I had to ask of those illegal immigrants. You know where it’s buried, and you are going to dig it up.”
Once again, she closes in, and my arms twitch, almost nervously. “I don’t know why you want the staff of healing, but once you have it, you are going to use it to save my sister.”
“How long does she have before the cancer takes her?”
Trixie lifts her eyes to the ceiling. They glint in the swinging illumination, and a tear rolls down her cheek. As soon as it drips off her chin, she refocuses on me, her gaze narrowing.
“What does it matter to you? You don’t have any qualms about beating someone up just to get what you want. You are sick and twisted, but,” and she sucks at her bottom lip, “I need your help to save my sister’s life.”
Her face comes to rest just in front of mine, and I can see how genuine she is. It must be terrible for her, being brought up with a sibling at her side, and now facing the prospect that it is going to be ripped away from her. I don’t understand much about family, mine have never meant much to me, but I can imagine her pain. I give her a slow nod, trying to display empathy for her situation.
The piping catches Trixie squarely in the side of her head. At the same moment, I push the ropes off myself. I stand tall, flexing my stiff muscles, and take in the bloodied blonde mess before me. She doesn’t stay down for long but instantly freezes mid-lunge as a voice rings out through the desolate space.
“That’s quite enough.”
Trixie goes white as she twists and comes face to face with the gun she dropped.
“What…what are you doing,” she stammers. “I’m saving you!”
I want to mimic her words about being stupid, but I can’t be that honest with her. That’s what this is all about, freeing me of this inability to speak my mind. I choose to use a question to ram my point home.
“Did you think you were here to rescue Sophie’s brother?” I beam as her attention flits from the battered man who is stiffly looking down the gunsights to me and then back again. “Have I introduced you to Paul, the actor?”
“But…but…” Trixie stutters, fear getting the better of her. “What…where’s Dix?”
“Sorry,” Paul’s voice is only just above a whisper, “I had to do what was necessary.”
“Wh—” She doesn’t even finish the word as she spots the corpse of her sister, a dark, ugly mark clear across her throat. The piping that was used to silently kill the sick woman lays at her side. Trixie screams and throws herself at my latest accomplice. The gun fires as the pair fall to the ground. Paul lets out a grunt as he strikes the floor. Sophie claws at him like a wild animal. She grabs for the gun, trying to wrench it from Paul’s hand. He resists, his features turning a deep red from the effort. Trixie’s stronger, but it’s going to come down to who wants it more. Both faces contort as they struggle over the weapon.
“Don’t you think you should stop this?”
“It’s not really my place.”
The gun goes off again, and Trixie slumps forward. I can hear sobbing. Finally, I give in and push the woman off Paul. Slowly he rises to his feet and dusts himself off, but it’s an unconscious movement. He’s just operating on instinct. He’s not a killer. He’s never thought about hurting anyone. Well, he hadn’t before he fell into my pocket. Suddenly, Paul grabs at his mouth, but he’s not quick enough, and the vomit spews forth. The soft pitter-patter of chunks on the floor slowly revives him from his stupor. He gags once more before finally looking at me. We hold each other’s gaze for a long time. Quietly he asks, “Does this make us square, Mr Dole?”
I look from the unseeing eyes of Dixie to the lifeless body of Trixie, a pool of red slowly spreading out around it. Paul follows my look and nods. “But after that, right?”
“What do you think?” I walk forward, no longer interested in what’s happened here. The women have served their purpose, and then some.
“And that means they deserved to die?”
“One of them was going to anyway, and it was her sister’s choices that brought them to this moment. There were other ways this could have ended. It was her decision.”
“You could have played it differently. You didn’t have to let this happen. No one deserves to die for your quest.”
“She moved her pieces the way she wanted. I countered mine in the way I saw fit. Checkmate.”
“And that’s it, you win, and she, and her sister, die? What have you become? I won’t let you forget this in a hurry!”
“Neither will I, you heartless killer!”
Wait, that voice is new…oh crap!