When I heard the knock on my dressing room door, I picked up the lamp from my vanity and turned the doorknob slowly. I was small in comparison to Wiseacre’s thugs and the grand scheme of things, but in any event I wouldn’t go down without a decent fight. In no way was I prepared to see Camille walk in, looking extra pale and trying her best to fake a smile.
With a cry of relief I dropped the lamp and launched myself at her only to pull back from the hug in pain.
“Nix are you ok?” Camille’s smiling façade was gone in an instant and she was looking me over with worry.
“Oh no, we’re not talking about me,” I winced and massaged my ribs. “Where the hell have you been? We’ve been scared sick since…well, since Stinger lost his freaking mind and jumped onboard the crazy puppet train.”
Her smile was back, looking a little more genuine this time. “To be fair the whole thing is out of his control, but he really did a number on me and I ended up in the hospital. I was pretty drugged up and out of it the whole time so I’m sorry I didn’t let anyone know. But I’m here now…”
Camille was lying. There was just something so off about the way that she was talking to me. My first instinct was to shake her and demand she tell me the truth, but did I really want to know? She had become my closest friend on the circuit since the craziness began but the Admiral was slowly yet adamantly making sure we couldn’t trust anyone around us.
“He got me pretty good too. I didn’t stick around the hospital scene though; they were asking me too many questions I couldn’t answer. Have you got any permanent damage?”
“None, they patched me up good as new. I’m still a little tender though,” she said with a tight smile.
“What about the guy Myah saw putting you into his car that night at the theater?” I asked warily.
“I didn’t catch his name.” She averted her eyes and then forced herself to meet mine. “The nurses said he dropped me off and then left as soon as he saw I was being taken care of.”
More lies, but what could I do? I just nodded and hugged her again, hoping this wouldn’t be the last time I was able to do so. “I would gear up and squeeze in some practice time if I were you. Hospitalization doesn’t excuse us from work in Admiral Wiseacre’s Cirque du Madness. Things have gotten pretty icy around here because he knows we know something, he just hasn’t figured out how much.”
Camille’s expression was completely sober. “We’ll just have to keep him from finding out. I’ll see you later, Nix, I’ve got to go save my partner from a one-man routine.”
I grabbed her arm to stop her. “We’ve all been keeping a low profile since the Admiral’s goons keep a strict eye on us. You’d be well off to do the same—I’ll tell the girls that you’re okay.”
She gave me a strange look and then nodded before heading out. As soon as she was out of sight I raced to Myah’s dressing room. I gave a quick knock and barged into the room, startling Myah.
“Good gravy, you sure know how to shove a girl into panic mode,” she said, picking up the bottle of water she had spilled.
“I need you to pass the word to Lisette that Camille is back.”
Myah’s eyes lit up. “That’s great news!”
“Not really, she just lied to my face. She lied about where she’s been and she definitely lied about who the man was that took her. Every instinct in my body says that this was all a ruse and the Admiral took her.”
“But why would he waste his time in planning something like that? He didn’t do that with Stinger; maybe you’re jumping the gun on this one, Nix,” she said, juggling a few knick knacks in an effort to soothe my frazzled nerves.
“Or maybe I’m right and the reason the Admiral did it this way was to hit us where it really hurts. Her scar is gone, Myah!”
Myah’s juggling faltered. “What do you mean?”
“I mean it’s vanished, poof, completely gone. Scars don’t just disappear so the only thing I can think of to explain her sudden aversion to the truth and her absence is that the Admiral scooped her up and “perfected” her before doing whatever it is that he does.”
“Maybe…” Myah ran her hands through her hair and sighed. “If that’s true then our little group is dropping like flies. All we can really do is keep an eye on her tonight during the performance, and see if she’s got any new abilities or a newfound adoration for our boss man.”
I wanted to object, to rant some more about how hurt I was that Camille would lie to me but I was just so unsure of everything at this point I knew it wouldn’t do any good.
“Yeah, okay, you’re right,” I conceded. “I’m going to go stretch with Kaveh and Ensi before the show. Don’t forget to fill Lisette in right away, we’ve all got to be prepared for anything.”