Chapter ThirtyMature

'Then get talking,' Abril demanded, not wanting Savannah to steal her limelight.

'Like I said, patience.'  The man wriggled in his chair, the knots around his wrists and ankles were too tight for him to move too much.  'Could you undo these ropes?  I'm feeling a bit uncomfortable here.'

'Do you really think we're that stupid?'  Demitri spat, a significant amount of venom in his voice.

'It was worth a try,' the man shrugged awkwardly.  'If you don't ask you don't get.'

'Alright,' I said, trying to regain control over the situation, 'stop stalling and answer the questions we're asking.  Who are you?'  I almost sighed with relief when he decided to comply.

'My name is Ox,' he said calmly.

'I'm assuming that's not your real name.'

'I could be very hurt by that comment,' he said, pouting his lips and letting the bottom lip wobble.

'Except you won't be,' said Savannah threateningly, 'because that's not your real name.'

'OK, I admit it's a code name,' he said, dropping the big-eyed puppy look, 'but did you really think I would give you information that would betray my master so easily?'

'I don't know,' I said, crossing my arms and standing with my feet apart.  'You tell me.'

'I suggest that if he doesn't talk we move towards more... persuasive methods.'  Savannah seemed to be enjoying this a little too much for my liking.  The way she was scanning Abril's desk for anything she could use as an instrument of torture  was beginning to worry me.

'Demitri.  May I have a word?'  I slowly stepped away from Ox, not taking my eyes off Savannah.  It would be just like her to make her move as soon as I looked away.

I moved towards the door and as Ash stepped aside to let us pass I whispered to him, 'watch Savannah.  If she moves in to attack, stop her.'  He nodded and let us out.

As I turned to face Demitri when we were in the bar, his eyebrows were already raised questioningly, waiting for me to speak.

'I don't know where to go next,' I confessed.  'We can't know he's telling the truth and if he is it's because he knows we won't trust him.'

'Then we're going to have to get tough with him,' Dem said simply.  'I can't see any other way of getting things out of him tactically.  Hopefully he'll respond to brute force.'

'OK then.  Force.  It's the only way.'  I moved to go back in but Demitri put a hand on my elbow, stopping me.

'Are you sure you're OK to go back in there?'  He was putting on a face I didn't see him wear often.  Eyebrows forming a 'v' in the centre of is forehead where he was frowning and his eyes narrow and searching.

'Why shouldn't I be?'

'He's a slippery one, that's obvious.'  There was a pause.  By his expression and slightly trembling hands I could tell Demitri wasn't too sure if he wanted to say what he was going to say next.  'And I'm worried about you.  I don't want him to get to you and hurt you.'

I laughed, trying to make the mood lighter.  'But he's tied to a chair Dem.  He's hardly going to be able to beat me up.'

'That wasn't the kind of hurt I was thinking about.'  There was a slightly awkward pause where neither of us could look at each other and I suddenly became very interested in the small stain on the bottom of my shirt.

'I think we should go back in,' I suggested after I'd built up enough courage to break the silence.

'Good idea,' Dem replied instantly, reaching past me to knock on the door so Ash would let us in.

The atmosphere in the office was so tense I would have preferred to stay outside.  Savannah was now sitting in a corner, her arms folded and her bottom lip sticking out, Ox was looking even more ruffled than when I'd left the room and Abril was standing up against the wall.

'She managed to lay a punch on him before I could stop her,' Ash whispered as we entered the room.  'She's not happy about having to back off.'

I thanked him and held back, letting Demitri lead our interrogation.

'OK then, Ox.  Who is it you work for?'  Dem's tone was cool and calm, nothing like the state he'd left the room in.

'Ah, now that would be telling,' Ox said cockily, a smile spreading gradually over his face.

'I'm not sure you quite understand me,' Dem said, a big, fake smile on his face.  I blinked and missed Demitri's hand shooting out and grabbing Ox by the neck.  I had to force myself not to react, telling myself Dem knew what he was doing and he wouldn't actually hurt him.

'If you think I'm going to crack under physical pressure then you're wrong.'

'Ah see now you've given yourself away.  I've interrogated enough people in my time to know when they're scared, and right now, I can tell you are shitting yourself.'  Ox gasped for air as Demitri's arm tensed, putting more pressure on Ox's neck.  'Now, the name of your leader, please.'

'You really have no idea,' Ox said, unable to laugh as I guessed he wanted to because of Demitri's hand clamped around his neck, stopping the movement of his vocal chords.

'You'd better start talking or I might be tempted to finish you off,' Demitri hissed.

'You wouldn't dare,' Ox replied, his eyes searching Dem's face for any signs he might be bluffing.

'Try me,' Dem challenged.  There was a horribly tense moment, where both men were eyeballing each other, no-one in the room knowing which way the conversation would go and if we would end up with a dead body on our hands.  Ox obviously bought Demitri's act because he surrendered.

'If you let go of me then I'll talk, I promise.'  Demitri let go, Ox springing back upright and choking slightly from the release of pressure.

'OK then, talk or I'll have to think of something more dangerous to try out on you.'

'Stop harassing me, I'm going to talk.'  Ox took a deep breath, rubbing his neck where Dem had left a red handprint and began.  'My real name is Clay Marshall.  I work for this group who call themselves 'The Twelve Zodiac's'.  That's why I've got my code name Ox.'

'So what's your leader's name?'  I moved in next to Demitri, not wanting to miss this moment.

'I can't tell you his real name, because I don't know it.'  He paused, waiting an annoyingly long time before speaking again.  'But everyone knows him as 'The Dragon'.'

The End

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