Chapter 6: Terrible Choice
Cold water dashed in Deidra’s unconscious face, soaking her clothes. She came to coughing and sputtering, her vision swimming into focus on Heather’s laughing face. For a few merciful seconds, Deidra had forgotten what transpired. Then she regained all senses and the memory came flooding back.
With an anguished cry, Deidra struggled to her feet, determined to help her friend. She looked around suddenly confused, realizing that she was back in the stone cell. Heather stood watching her, exchanging amused glances with her men.
“You hit your head pretty hard, on those stone steps. For a second, I thought you were dead,” she laughed.
“Jim…where is my friend? Is he okay? He’s not dead is he?”
“Well, you seem fine now. Time to get back to work. The others finished cleaning the arena. So, you have a new assignment.”
“I want to know what happened to Jim,” Deidra persisted.
“Vincent here will show you upstairs. You’ll be assisting Carla,” Heather concluded and walked out.
Deidra started to follow, wanting to stop her from leaving, intent on finding out about her friend. Heather paused and glared back at her. Deidra suddenly recollected what Jim’s persistence had earned him and stopped herself. With a defeated spirit, Deidra watched Heather leave and then followed Vincent out and up the stairs to the second floor. She was immediately struck by the lavishness of the up there, in stark contrast to the squalid lower level.
As they walked up a wide sweeping marble staircase, she admired the massive twinkling chandelier dripping with multifaceted crystals which dominated the entryway. At the top of the stairs, Deidra’s eyes were immediately drawn down to the ornately patterned mosaic floor then up along walls dressed with life like oil paintings of elegant men and women in gold baroque frames and briefly up to the elaborate Le Fleur crown molding which framed the high ceilings.
At the end of the hall, Victor knocked on a closed door. A faintly heard woman’s voice bade them to enter. He opened the, shoved Deidra inside and closed it behind her. Across the room sat a woman in at a mirrored vanity table, with her back to the door.
“Well, don’t just stand there staring at me. Get over here,” she ordered.
Deidra cautiously obeyed. The face gazing at her in the mirror was the same face which had peered down at her, after she awoke in the darkness of cell. Only the skin no longer had a deathly pallor. Again, Deidra recognized her former classmate. Even with all the makeup and curls framing the face…it was her.
How long ago had the girl gone missing? Deidra couldn’t recall. It had been over a year ago now. She barely knew her. What she did recall was how the community had come together and frantically searched for her, spurred on by the parent’s tears and piteous pleas. What on earth was she doing in this place of horrors? Had she been here the whole time? Deidra spoke hesitantly.
“Caitlyn…that’s your name isn’t it? I’m sure you don’t remember me, but I used to go to your school.”
“No one has called me that in a long time. Who are you?”
“I’m Deidra Sloan. I was a couple of grades behind you, but I remember when you went missing. My whole family helped look for you. Everyone was so worried about you. Your parents were so sad.”
“My parents…have you seen my parents lately? Are they okay,” Caitlyn turned hopeful eyes to Deidra.
“They’re worried sick about you. Why don’t you call them?”
“I can’t do that.”
“Sure you can. They won’t be upset. I know they would just be glad to know you’re okay, even if you decided to stay here.”
“No, you don’t understand. The…people here would never allow it. If I tried to go home or call my family, they would kill them.”
“What? No, that’s not true. It can’t be. People don’t just go around killing people. The cops would descend on this place so fast…”
“They’ve got the cops in their back pocket. I’m telling you, these people can do whatever the hell they want. I can never leave.”
“I don’t believe you Caitlyn. You can’t let fear keep you trapped here. I’m going to get out of here and…”
“Then your family will be dead, before you’re even halfway home.”
“What? No way, that’s crazy. Stop nodding your head. You never leave this place. How would you know?”
“I know because I’ve heard about it from the girls who ran away and got caught. They went home and found their families butchered.”
“So, what you just gave up, based on hearsay? Maybe the people that run this place told them to say that, to scare you into staying?”
“You didn’t see look into their eyes. I did Deidra. Those girls were traumatized. One of them committed suicide.”
“So, you’re just going to stay here forever?”
“Yes, if that’s what it takes to keep my family safe. It’s not so bad, once you get used to it. Just do as you’re told and you can work your way up. I started out down in the dungeon just like you.”
“What kind of stuff did you have to do?”
“A lot of things I don’t want to talk about,” Caitlyn said evasively.
“What assignment are you on now?”
“I have to…entertain their guests,”
“What does that mean?”
Caitlyn pulled down her high neck collar and lifted her sleeves to reveal tiny puncture wounds in various stages of healing. Deidra didn’t understand what she was seeing. They looked like pin pricks.
“They feed on me,” she explained.
“I don’t understand.”
“Oh come on, you can’t be that stupid! Surely you’ve figured out what kind of place this is Deidra. I know you saw those…things down in the dungeon and the arena, have you seen what goes on in there? Then you know how I got these wounds.”
“How could you let them…I couldn’t do that,” Deidra murmured.
“It’s not so bad. I’m not gonna lie, it does sting when their fangs are sinking into your skin. But it doesn’t hurt any more than getting a shot. The pain is over pretty quickly and then, you just feel drowsy…sort of peaceful. Some of the girls get aroused by it, when the client is good looking. They’re very gentle with us…well, most of them are. Every now and then, you have to put up with some asshole who gets off on causing pain. If you’re lucky, one of the gentle ones takes a liking to you and becomes a regular client. Then you don’t have to worry about the bad ones getting their hands on you.”
“But letting them feed on you over and over again does something to you doesn’t it? I um, saw you down in the dungeon. Only you looked…different. I thought you were going to feed on me.”
“So, that really happened. I thought it was all a dream. Lately, I’ve been having these strange fever dreams where this overwhelming thirst torments me, until I…until I…feed on someone. But, I’m not a vampire. I can’t be a vampire. I’m still alive.”
Caitlyn looked down at her folded hands and turned back towards the mirror. She looked up again, making eye contact again. Deidra could hardly bear to see the despair and desperation on her face. She was suddenly reminded of the intelligence in the bat creatures eyes and shuddered involuntarily.
A sudden knock on the door made her jump, bringing their discussion to an abrupt end. Caitlyn was flustered. Her first client of the night had arrived and was not to be kept waiting. She needed Deidra’s assistance to lace up and tie the rear bodice of a form-fitting black leather dress and pin her long, raven ringlets up on top of her head.