Delilah looked at me calmly, “So what are you gonna do about Flame?”
I opened my mouth and closed it again, shaking my head wearily. A dull pinpoint of pain was forming between my eyes, “I’m so tired, I can’t even think straight. What I want is for all this to go away. I used to pray for my life to change. Now, all I want is for things to go back to the way they were.”
“Do you want us to distract Flame so that you can leave safely? Where will you go?”
“I have no idea. I don’t know anyone here. My plan was just to get a hotel room somewhere but now, something tells me I won’t be safe in any of the places that I could afford. My bank account was frozen and I only have a little cash.”
“Then stay here with us for a while. I owe you that much. You wouldn’t have come here, if you hadn’t been delivering a letter for my mother. You can do odd jobs around here and save up a few bucks.”
“Thank you Delilah. I do feel safe here. Maybe you could teach me how to do the brain probe thing.”
“I don’t think you’re ready for that…”
“What do you mean?”
“Have you forgotten what I told you about the well?”
“I…I’ll do anything Delilah. I don’t have a choice. Look how quickly Flame found me.”
“Alright, why don’t you go down the hall to my office and take a nap on the couch.”
“But, Flame is…”
“We’ll take care of her. Don’t worry your pretty little head.”
I started to ask what they intended to do, then decided I didn’t want to know. Delilah showed me to her office. I think I fell asleep before I even fully stretched out on her couch. When one of the dancers came and woke me up, it took me a few moments to remember where I was. She smiled and gestured for me to follow her. Instead of heading down the hall to the dressing room or the club area, she stopped at a door at the opposite end of the hall. It opened onto a set of stairs leading down into the basement.
I stood at the head of the stairs for a dubious moment, before following her downward into the gloom. It was like descending into another world. The brick became concrete and exposed stone gave way to dirt floors. Rather than the open space I expected, the basement was segmented into a maze of rooms with rough wooden doors.
As we walked past the first door, I heard the crack of a whip followed by moaning. I gave my guide an alarmed look. She smiled and winked. It dawned on me that this was where clients who wanted…special services went. I shook my head and chuckled.
We rounded a corner and I realized the dancer had stopped walking, I turned and looked inquiringly back at her. She shook her head and pointed me towards an open door. I walked in and froze at the sight of Flame handcuffed to a support beam, under a bare light bulb. Delilah’s voice came from a darkened corner of the room.
“Don’t worry Patricia. She can’t hurt you chained to a post. I figured you could practice your abilities on her.”
“How did you get her down here?”
“Let’s just say, the bartender made her a special drink. But enough about that, let’s get down to business.”
“Huh? Oh Delilah, I wouldn’t even know how to start…where to start.”
“That’s why I’m here. How about asking her why she’s here?”
One look into Flame’s angry eyes and I read all of my misdeeds. Guilt paralyzed me. I’ve always dreaded making people angry. Under her unwavering glare, I felt like a whipped puppy. She smirked at my impotence and I cringed. It was high school all over again. I felt the same fear of ridicule, followed by self-loathing for my weakness. Delilah came up behind me and placed a hand on my shoulder, startling me out of my self-defeating thoughts. I was instantly embarrassed. Delilah’s voice was surprisingly gentle.
“Why the hesitation?”
“Delilah, she’s not going to tell me anything. Look at the way she’s glaring at me. Flame hates me. Even if she did answer my questions, I wouldn’t trust the information.”
“Did you forget? You’re an empath. Read her and see for yourself whether or not she’s telling you the truth. If she lies to you, then reach into her mind and take the information.”
Delilah made it sound so easy, it gave me hope. Then I looked back at Flame’s mocking smile and my confidence shrank again. Why did I feel so guilty? It’s not like her hands were squeaky clean. After all, she was either there to kill me or drag me back kicking and screaming so that Plum could kill me. I felt a spark of anger and it gave me the strength to make eye contact with Flame without cringing.
“Are you going to tell me why you’re here?”
“Don’t stand there and act like you have no idea what’s going on. You stole from us Patricia! Why do you think I’m here?”
“If I give you everything back, will you and Plum leave me alone?”
“Sure kid, untie me so we can shake on it.”
Flame’s smile didn’t reach her eyes. I didn’t need my abilities to detect the sarcasm. It was a no win situation. I threw my hands up and looked at Delilah. She gave me an exasperated look.
“So that’s it? One implied threat and you give up? You want to level the playing field a little don’t you? Here’s your opportunity. As Plum’s lap dog, Flame is a wealth of information. Surely there are things you’ve always wanted to know. At the very least you can find out what Plum plans on doing next.”
“Save your breath. I’m not telling you a damn thing,” snapped Flame.
Delilah smiled and rubbed her hands together eagerly, “You heard the woman Patricia. You’re going to have to go in and take what you want.”
“What? No Delilah, I don’t think I can do that.”
“Relax, I’ll show you how. This will be fun.”