Delilah cracked her knuckles and leaned forward, placing elbows onto knees. Flame watched her impassively. I sensed her bracing herself.
“First things first Flame. Does Plum know where Patricia is yet?”
“Not exactly,” Flame murmured.
“I see, so she knows Patricia is in New York but not exactly where she is. Interesting. Patricia, you described Flame as a lap dog. Why is that?”
I felt myself blush involuntarily. My strict Catholic upbringing made me feel shame over the snarky choice of words. I wondered where Delilah was going with that question. Embarrassment made me a little slow on the uptake. Misunderstanding the question, I began stammering.
“W-Well, I was upset…”
“This isn’t a confessional Patricia. I’m assuming you called her a lap dog because she does Plum’s bidding right?”
“I…well, yes that’s true.”
“How tightly does she grip the leash?”
“Does she constantly have to report back or is she more like Plum’s right hand?”
I gave it a few moments of thought. Not for the first time, I wished that I had paid more attention to the people around me in that house. My obsession with Plum had overshadowed everything else. I couldn’t remember much about anyone else around us. When in doubt, always go with your gut.
“Flame wasn’t Plum’s right hand. She acted like she was but, I got the feeling she was little more than a guard dog.”
Delilah nodded as though I had confirmed what she already suspected. Flame glared at me and I felt her anger wash over me. As it receded, I caught a trace of humiliation. So, I was right. Delilah gave me an approving look and immediately looked perplexed.
“So, why would Flame not immediately let Plum know that she had found you? She sat out in the club for a long time.”
“Maybe she was waiting until she had me.”
“That’s possible, but I doubt it. Your Plum sounds like the type who likes to call every shot. Flame here looks like a good tracker but not necessarily smart enough to make the right decision when magic is involved.”
“Then you don’t think she’s a witch?”
“Definitely not, a witch wouldn’t submit to being tied up unless she had a trick up her sleeve. Pardon the pun but Flame isn’t that bright.”
Flame hurled obscenities at the two of us, daring us to remove the handcuffs. Delilah laughed and shook her head, smiling broadly. Flame tried ineffectually to lunge at her. She looked so ridiculous straining against the handcuffs that I had to laugh. I looked over at Delilah in time to see the smile slide off of her face. She stood up and rushed around behind Flame and pulled her into a chokehold. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
“What are you doing Delilah? You’re going to kill her!”
“Relax, I’m just putting her to sleep for a few minutes.”
“Did you not see what she was doing with her hands? She’s trying to channel Plum.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“You’ll see soon enough. Now be quiet, I only have a few minutes left.”
I opened my mouth to ask another question and thought better of it. Delilah removed the black scarf holding back her curls and tied it over Flame’s eyes, cinching it tightly. She called the dancer back in and sent her off after something. I watched in fascination as she used her heel to trace a pentagram into the dirt floor around Flame. She completed the task and murmured an incantation under her breath.
The dancer returned with three other scantily clad dancers. She handed Delilah a vial and each dancer secreted themselves in a different shadowy corner of the room. Delilah unstoppered the vial and poured its contents into the valley in the grooves of the pentagram created by her heel. Delilah returned to her seat and we waited quietly for Flame to come to. She slowly sat up straighter and turned her head slowly from side to side.
“I know you two are still here. I can smell you.”
Delilah looked over at me and rolled her eyes, “You can smell us? Then you’re actually a halfway decent guard dog.”
I laughed and elbowed Delilah.
Flame snarled at me, “Now that I’m blind and bound, you’re feeling bold huh? You’d be laughing out of the other side of your mouth, if my hands were free. What’s with the blindfold? Do you think that’ll keep me from channeling Plum here?”
“On the contrary, I’d like to meet her.”
“Well, take these handcuffs off..”
Flame sighed exasperatedly and resigned herself to working with her hands cuffed behind her back. I watched in fascinated silence as she relaxed her body in stages, humming deeply to focus her attention inward. Seemingly all at once, she went limp. The next movements weren’t her own. Plum was with us. I recognized the poised posture and arrogant tilt of her head. A sly smile played across her lips. She blew her breath out sharply and the blindfold fell away from her eyes.
“That’s better, I like to see who I’m dealing with. Aren’t you going to introduce me to your little friend Patricia,” Plum purred.
“You’re not going to be here very long, so you don’t need to know her name,” I said with a bravado I didn’t feel. Her eyes were boring into mine.
“My aren’t we suddenly brave. Do you think she’s going to save you?”
“Save me from what?”
The angry smile that spread across her face made my blood run cold. In it, I saw a foreshadowing of the danger to come. I wanted to warn Delilah but couldn’t seem to tear my eyes away from hers. My mind went blank. All of the well-reasoned arguments I had come up with for returning the stolen items and parting ways with Plum dried up under the heat of her glare. She shouted a word that I had never heard before and the handcuffs suddenly fell away from Flame’s wrists.
I shrank back in horror as she stood and prepared to lunge at me. Delilah waved her hand and flames shot up from the pentagram. It halted Plum’s aggressive advance only momentarily. The dancers emerged from their hiding places, hands raised with palms open towards the pentagram, chanting in unison with Delilah. The flames grew higher and brighter. Heat blasted my face and knocked Plum back a couple of steps. She quickly recovered from her surprise and turned to focus her energy on stopping Delilah’s voice.