The sky darkened, ushering in the moon. And when the moon was ushered in, so were many more customers.
As soon as one of Cassandra's most frequent patrons left the apartment, someone completely different appeared at Cassandra's door. Lizzie.
Lizzie Ellington, who was a merchant of the same industry as Cassandra, entered Cassandra's tenement with a face devoid of color. Her short-cropped blonde curls were greasy with sweat, and she slammed the door behind her. With shaking hands, she locked the door and turned to face Cassandra.
"Emi was just killed," Lizzie whispered in a broken voice.
Emi Tro, one of Nicu's most sought-after "urchins," had always been one of Cassandra's bitterest enemies, always flaunting her beauty and popularity to those who were less frequented. Still, Cassandra had tried to be civil to Emi, because Lizzie idolized her.
Plopping down on her bed with a thunk, Cassandra felt her jaw drop involuntarily. All she could manage was a stilted "You're joking."
"Apparently, a drunken patron didn't want to pay Emi for her services and became so enraged that he killed her," Lizzie said, relaying the information numbly.
"You're joking," Cassandra repeated softly.
"I'm not. This is real, Cassandra. It could've been one of us." Lizzie shivered and sank to the floor. "I want out of here, Cassandra. I'm tired of this. I don't want to be murdered."
Suddenly filled with fear, Cassandra yanked off one of the cheap necklaces Hadrian had given her. Hadrian seemed like the type of man who wouldn't hesitate to kill anyone who stood in the way of his pleasure...Cassandra was not safe when she was around him.
"Let's leave this place, Cass," Lizzie whispered, eyes filling with tears. "I want to get out of here."
"It's all we've ever known."
"That doesn't matter!" Lizzie shot back, and that was when the tears finally fell. "It doesn't matter, it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter!"
Surprised by Lizzie's outburst, Cassandra threw her hands in the air. "Sorry," she mumbled.
"Morris came to me again," Lizzie whispered. "He said he was finished with a lifestyle of shame, but he came back again. I guess it made me realize that no matter how hard anyone tries to leave a lifestyle, he or she will always go back to it. Maybe you're right. Maybe we'd be foolish to leave this business."
Morris, a man who had once meant the world to Lizzie, had left Nicu a few months before, saying that he was finished living like a rogue and wanted to make something of himself. But apparently, even determined people like Morris couldn't keep from returning to old habits.
There was no hope.
But there was another knock at the door.