Eli and I had finally finished our rehearsal shift, my throat sore to a degree that surpassed any tension in my muscles.
Every single time that we fine-tuned a routine we ended up yelling at each other about form and posture and whatever else could use criticizing. This time had been no different, even though Eli had been suspiciously angelic in the time it took me to get over the emotional blockade of being in Lousiana-after that it was right back to malicious demon child.
I was just leaving the tent, having done a bit of practicing after Eli had gone off to do whatever it was he did.
And then I noticed Wiseacre seemingly appearing out of thin air, strolling by with his gold-tipped cane and a satisfied smirk on his face.
He gave me a knowing, somewhat intimidating look the way he always did and was quickly out of sight, the words he'd said in my direction almost lost to the wind but still ringing loud and clear in my ears.
"Here's a bit of advice Camilla dear; never lose sight of both your past and your debts."
If anyone else had said that to me I'd have probably yelled at them to pronounce my name properly and not to ever call me 'dear', but the sinister edge to his voice had given me enough of a start that he'd enough time to disappear again.
Was that some kind of a threat? Did he somehow know about what had happened in Louisiana, or that I wanted to leave his beloved circus that I owed, according to him? Even though I hadn't breathed a word of it to anyone?
Some of his thugs must've been rummaging through my things or checking my records.
I shook my head to regain control of my frazzled brain, walking towards my dressing room and eventually breaking into a jog.
For the first time in a very long time, I was scared.
Wiseacre was like a master puppeteer, able to cut the strings of a rogue marionette.
That marionette was me, if what he'd said wasn't a coincidence.
My hands pushed the door open and slammed it shut behind me, locking it with shaking fingers. Yes, it was a false sense of security. Wiseacre had the keys to every room and car, and enough manpower to break down a hundred doors.
But it made me feel just a bit better momentarily.
Until I saw that the room was trashed.
His message was clear as day. To stop preparing for a life beyond the circus, because he had the power to keep me from ever leaving, or having anywhere to go.
I started picking things up, moving in a zombie-like fashion.
And then I heard a knock at the door.
Part of me thought to barricade it but, realizing that if Wiseacre decided to have someone off me they wouldn't be knocking, opened it.
Nixie walked into the room, looking frustrated and worried at the same time.
I shut the door behind her, turning to watch her sit on one of the stools.
"What happened in here?" she asked before I could say anything, looking around with an eyebrow raised.
My secretive side considered making up a cover story but, wanting to have at least one person aware of my potential demise, threw caution to the wind, grabbing a seat myself.
"Wiseacre's goons happened. He's been digging and found something that he didn't like."
"Wiseacre. It was bad enough when he kept the circuit going on for so long and stretched Kaveh and Ensi to their limits, but now he's taken them God knows where and wants nothing more than to blackmail me into the Stone Age."
That sounded seriously unpleasant.
"Well...what will you do?"
She looked pensive for a moment, before leaning forwards with a glint in her eyes.
"I want to do some digging of my own and find out just what it is that our fantastic ringleader is up to, don't you?"
I felt the glint spread to my own gaze.