Delilah had cobbled together outfits from her own closet and packed all but one in a duffel bag for me. I was grateful to have changes of clothes. She left the room so that I could get dressed.
“How nice,” I said aloud.
Plum’s skeptical voice sounded in my head, “Yes it is nice isn’t it? A little too nice if you ask me.”
“No one asked you, ” I thought angrily.
“Relax darling don’t get your panties in a bunch. I’m merely making an observation.”
“And what would that be,” I wondered.
“Isn’t it obvious? People are never nice for no reason at all.”
“Oh here we go again. You and your conspiracy theories.”
“They aren’t theories sweetheart, they are cold hard facts. If you removed those rose-tinted glasses of yours once in a while, you would see that people rarely ever do things for others unless there’s some sort of payoff. Even if it just makes them feel good about themselves.”
“Leave me alone Plum, I don’t feel like arguing with you right now. It’s too early in the morning. I don’t really care why Delilah is being so nice. The only thing that matters is that she’s helping me.”
“And that my dear is the reason you’re in this predicament.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean you never stop and ask yourself the tough questions. If anything makes you uncomfortable you avoid it, like the plague. Maybe, if you had asked yourself why I was being so nice, you wouldn’t be in this mess.”
“You know what Plum? I’m getting a little tired of your smug sanctimonious attitude. It’s easy for you to sit back and judge me, as though you have the slightest idea who I am and what I’ve been through.”
Plum snickered unpleasantly, “Cue the violins. You know darling, I was wondering how long it would take for you to play the victim card. My goodness. That thing must be frayed at the edges by now.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“What do you think it means? Don’t tell me you are unaware of how many times you retreat from an argument by pleading that you’re a victim and consequently not responsible for your actions or lack thereof. You seem to think you’ve cornered the market on hard times. Well I’ve got news for you sweetie, everyone has a hard luck story. Life hasn’t been all moonlight and roses for me either. The difference between me and you is that I don’t wallow in misery, or turn a blind eye to it. If something goes wrong, then I try to learn from the experience and make sure it never happens again. I don’t make excuses.”
It was my turn to laugh. “Now who thinks they have cornered the market? I learn from my mistakes too. Do you think I’m not paying attention? It’s not like I stumble through life with my eyes closed you know.”
“I’m not so sure about that one.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Do me a favor Patricia and stop saying that. People have better things to do with their time than to spoon feed you answers. You’re always asking people what they mean by things. It’s very annoying. You’re a reasonably intelligent girl. Use the brains that God gave you. Stop being so lazy.”
“I’m not being lazy.”
“That’s exactly what you’re doing. The amazing thing is that you fail to realize that what makes you vulnerable is the unwillingness to pay attention and figure things out on your own. It’s easier to go around with your eyes closed and depend upon other people to guide you. The problem with that is most people will always tell you only what they want you to believe.”
Delilah bustled into the room and ended the argument. I felt Plum retreat into the recesses of my mind. Things moved quickly after that. I was hustled out to a waiting van with some of the dancers from the club. Delilah took me by the arm and led me to the back of the van. I didn’t know what to think, when I was greeted by the sight of an inflatable mattress. Delilah saw the look on my face and hastened to explain.
“I guess I should have explained before we got out here. You’re going to need to be unconscious for this trip. We can’t have Plum knowing anything about our numbers or plan of attack.”
“That’s fine, I’ll just go to sleep. To tell you the truth, I didn’t sleep that great last night.”
“You don’t understand Patricia. In order to keep Plum from listening in while you are sleeping, I’m going to have to shut down the whole works.”
I didn’t like the way she waved at me from head to toe. All at once, I became acutely aware that the dancers had silently moved in uncomfortably close behind me while Delilah and I talked. Plum’s voice in my head sounded alarmed.
“Do I need to tell you that something is very wrong here?”
Delilah was smiling apologetically. I glanced around at the others and they grinned back at me as though we were sharing some funny inside joke. For one fleeting moment, I relaxed and considered that perhaps my sense of alarm might have been an overreaction. Plum sounded annoyed.
“You’re doing it again Patricia.”
Sensing that I was about to shut her out, Plum softened her tone.
“Look Patricia, I know you are feeling a little cornered right now and you don’t want to believe that your friend means you any harm. It’s natural for you to avoid those feelings, but I implore you not to do it. Look at the situation, as though these people were strangers. If you’re feeling pressured then speak up and stop worrying about seeming ungrateful.”
My first inclination was to argue, but her words had the ring of truth to them. Delilah was again taking my arm to guide me into the van. I felt hands at my back gently pushing me forward. Plum was fairly shouting at me to do something.
“Wait a minute, I’m still not sure what you mean when you say shut down the works,” I said hastily.
“Get in and I’ll show you what I mean,” urged Delilah.
“No, explain what you mean. Then I’ll tell you if I am willing to do things your way.”
Frustration momentarily creased Delilah’s smooth features. She quickly masked her impatience with a smile. Her hand dropped from my arm. The hands at my back fell away. Mentally congratulating myself caused me to lose focus for a moment. I failed to process the almost imperceptible way Delilah shifted, so that her right hand was momentarily out of my sight. Plum was trying to get my attention, but I thought I had everything under control and refused to listen. The next thing I knew, Plum had somehow taken over control of my body and spun me around in time to see one of the dancers with a syringe. She was about inject me with something.
“What are you doing,” I blurted incredulously.
“Calm down Patricia, it’s just a little propofol,” explained Delilah placatingly.
“Isn’t that the stuff that killed that singer?”
“Don’t worry Patricia it’s harmless ,if you use it correctly.”
Two of the dancers grabbed me from behind and attempted to empty the contents of the syringe into my arm. Adrenaline fueled panic gave me almost superhuman strength. I shook them off and ran into oncoming traffic, narrowly missing being struck by a truck. One risked glance over my shoulder showed me that the group was caught completely off guard by my sudden departure. I made good use of those few moments, weaving through morning rush hour traffic to the other side of the street and doing my best to find some way to disappear.
After what felt like hours of panicked running, with them at my heels, I was breathless and my exhausted body forced me to stop. I darted in to a narrow passageway between two buildings. Bent over by the effort to catch my breath, I dimly became aware of Plum’s voice.
“Are you tired of running like a scared little rabbit yet?”
“If you’ve got a better idea, then I’m all ears.”
“Let me use a little magic.”
“I don’t know Plum. There are four of them and only one of you. How are you going to defeat four witches?”
“What makes you think those fools are witches?”