After the bus I was riding pulled into the venue, I got off as quickly as I could considering I was still packing heat. I grabbed my trunk from the storage bay of the bus and turned to go supervise the unloading of my cats, but my path was blocked by Orzo’s hulking frame. It was just my lucky day.
Before he could say anything I raised my hand up to stop him. “You can tell your boss to forget it. My lions are going to get sick if I push them any harder. I’ll give the Admiral two more shows and then we’re off the circuit. As far as never working for another circus in North America bullshit, I’d be happy to take my act overseas, feel me?”
Orzo let out a deep, unsettling cackle. “Now if I were you I’d reconsider, but as it is I couldn’t care less what happens to you. If that’s the way you really feel about it go right ahead. Just know that Admiral Wiseacre is a man of his word.”
He laughed again and walked away, leaving me to ponder the implications of what I had gotten myself into. I stayed back long enough to make sure Kaveh and Ensi were unloaded properly, and that I stashed the gun securely in my trunk where no one would find it. I fed them, bathed and brushed them and let them into their temporary holding rooms while I went for a jog to clear my mind.
The Louisiana air was crisp, not too warm and not too cool. With every strike of my feet hitting the pavement Wiseacre’s mocking face flashed in my mind making me angrier and angrier. The tent circus had been a refuge for me up until now, a place to fulfill my wildest dreams. When he first approached me with a position I thought Wiseacre was a godsend, now he was looking more like a low-class criminal. But I wasn’t going to let him or his lackeys intimidate me out of the vision I had for my future. Whatever it took, I wouldn’t let him knock me down.
When I got back from my jog I paused just inside the freshly pitched tent and watched Camille and her partner practice their new routine. She gave me a tense wave before jumping back onto the bar they were sharing—apparently Wiseacre was cracking down on all the performers, not just me.
I wanted to take a shower before I took the cats on a run-through before tonight’s performance, but I was still a little nervous about my confrontation with Orzo. I cut through the outside of the tent so that I would pass the holding room Kaveh and Ensi slept in between shows. I gasped when I got there; the door was completely covered with bright red Quarantine tape. Frightened for the cats, I began ripping the tape off of the door.
From behind me I heard the pounding of feet and some angry shouting, but I ignored it. Rough hands shoved me and I hit the ground hard, ripping my shirt at the elbow.
“Can’t you bloody read? It says ‘quarantine’!” one of the security guards who was perpetually at Wiseacre’s side was yelling in my face and waving his fist at me.
“What do you mean by quarantine? My cats are in there!” I growled back, easing my way back to my feet.
He ignored me and instead pulled a cell phone out of his pocket and punched in a number. He held it to his ear and when he heard a response handed it to me. With a heavy heart I took the phone and wasn’t surprised in the least by the voice that greeted me.
“Did you have a nice run, Nixela?” the Admiral asked cheerfully.
“Stop calling me by my full name, it’s reserved for people who actually care about me. What have you done to my cats?”
“Why I haven’t done anything, Nixie, you’re such a contemptuous child. I just happened to stop by and check on your lovely animals and noticed they were looking a bit ill. Being the compassionate employer that I am, I had them sent to a nearby vet to be taken care of.”
My heart fell into the pit of my stomach. “Where did you send them? To what vet? You had no right to send them anywhere without my consent!”
“Tut tut, you should really be more considerate when someone does you a favor. They’ll be back good as new tomorrow morning, just in time to practice for the night’s show.”
I was starting to feel sick, but I knew at this point there was no other way around it. “If anything happens to them I’ll kill you.”
“I’d like to see you try. In the meantime you can help the other acts prepare for tonight’s performance since you’ll be sitting out.”
I heard the click that ended our conversation and threw the phone back at the security guard. I didn’t wait to hear what he said, I just took off running. I had to talk to someone about all this and the only person I ever trusted in the circuit was gone. I knew it was a long shot but I let my feet guide me to Camille’s dressing room anyway. I needed at least one person on my side...