“I wasn’t trying to steal from you, ma’am,” Layke tried to protest, knowing it was no use.
“Don’t bother talking to her!” a voice shouted from a cell.
“Just fight her and get it over and done with!” another voice said.
“Enough!” the guard roared, advancing towards Layke.
“No, please,” Layke begged.
“No mercy,” a quiet voice said from behind him, and Layke turned around to see a wall of blackness. Something hit the side of his face right on his cut, and the not-yet-healed cut spilled blood again.
“Don’t you dare escape again,” the guard said, punching Layke in the stomach. The breath left him, making him wheeze in an attempt to breathe. “That’s right, suffer, you brat.”
More blows came after that, the next harder than the last. Layke feebly tried to fight back, but it didn’t work. His blows were too weak to do much damage to the guard. Finally, he tried the last tactic that he could. He darted to the side then darted to the next. The guard growled, raising her arm for another blow. Layke ran towards her, kicking her in the groin. The guard stepped back, snarling. That clearly hadn’t had the effect that he had hoped for.
Layke took the opportunity to sprint past the guard. He turned back, and the sight he saw was unexpected. A hand had reached out of one of the cells and had grabbed the guard’s sleeve. The guard was dragged up to the cell and thumped, over and over again, on the bars. Whoever is in there must be strong, Layke thought, impressed. Then his thoughts turned to the matter at hand; the key. Where was it?
“Layke,” a voice hissed. Layke turned around, and was faced with an old woman. She was wearing a matted fur boa, and her hair was in tangles.
“Who are you?” Layke asked.
“You don’t know me, do you?” the woman asked, sighing. “Didn’t think I’d look like this?”
“What do you mean?” Layke asked, before it slowly dawned on him. “You’re Linda?”
Linda nodded. “I know, my appearances always come as a bit of a shock to people.”
“You mean you’ve helped people like me before?”
“No,” Linda said, shaking her head. “No-one’s ever been thrown in my cell before.”
Linda still hadn’t answered Layke’s question, but he let it go; there were more important matters at hand.
“Where’s the key?” he asked. Linda’s hand went up, and something rusty and grey hung from it. “You got the key? How?”
“Easy. I waited until you two were fighting then snatched it off the guard’s belt. Who said old ladies couldn’t have nimble fingers too?”
Layke shook his head in disbelief. “You are amazing.”
“Thank-you,” Linda said, then walked to the nearest cell and started unlocking it.
“What are you doing?” Layke asked.
“If your women get to escape, then the rest of the prisoners do, too.”
The cell was unlocked and the door kicked open. The person inside it was huddled in the corner, staring up at them with wide eyes.
“Don’t hurt me,” she said.
“We won’t,” Linda answered. “We are here to help you escape.”
“No, no you aren’t,” the woman said, crawling further into the corner. “You’re just here to hurt me, like all the guards before me did.”
“I’m not a guard,” Linda said, smiling kindly. “And he certainly isn’t a guard,” she said, gesturing to Layke. The woman looked up at them.
“Are you really here to help me escape?” she whispered.
“We are. Now hurry, darling, before the guard becomes conscious again,” Linda said. Layke looked, and true to her word, the guard was lying unconscious on the ground. There were many dents on her head. It gave Layke the shivers, thinking of how strong the person inside the cell must be to make impressions on the guard.
“Linda,” Layke said, a thought suddenly striking him. “Some prisoners might actually be real prisoners.”
Linda nodded. “You’re right. I know who’s who and I’ll save the ones who are innocent.”
“If you say so,” Layke said. Then he stood back. Soon, all the cells containing Waiye’s women were unlocked, and they all crawled out, hungry and worn.
There were still two locked cells, though. Layke walked over to the first one, and wondered who could possibly be in there who wasn’t worthy of being saved.
“Don’t worry,” Linda’s voice called over to him as she walked towards him. “That one’s to be saved.”
The door was unlocked, and a man walked out of it, holding his head high even though he was bruised and battered. He was heavily built and had huge muscles. He was tall, too, and all in all made a very imposing figure.
Then Layke realised that he had been in the cell where the guard had been smashed against the door. Layke’s eyes widened, and he looked up wonderingly at the man.
“Thank-you,” he whispered. The man looked down at him.
“For knocking out the guard,” he said, nodding. “You’re welcome.”