Chapter _; book ii
Working chapter title: Dismantle. - (part 1)
*author note: there are still edits to be made, but i wanted opinions on it. :)
She should have known better, she scolded herself; her instincts had told her this was a mistake - she should have listened. What a moron, she thought, how could she have been so stupid?
Malcolm would pay for this, of that she was sure. She would take this debt from him in flesh, if she had to.
Thick, short fingers gripped her hair tightly, close to her scalp, and tugged her to the left, down a shadowed alleyway she didn't recognize. She didn't make noise, more concerned with keeping up any image of strength she could rather than how much of her hair Fausto was yanking out. The pain was the least of her worries. She tripped and had to regain her balance quickly, while keeping up with the large men and dancing over dips and craters in the stone road, before Fausto decided it would be easier on them all if he just threw her over his shoulder.
She preferred to have her feet on the ground, even if it meant stumbling half-blind through back alleys in Italy, crouched over and dragged along by the roots of her hair. It didn't bode well for upcoming events, but she couldn't weigh herself down with that kind of thinking. She had to focus on more important things, like where she was and how she would escape.
She'd get away, she assured herself; what other option did she have? She had to survive this, if for nothing else than for the satisfaction of beating the living crap out of Malcolm.
He'd gotten her into this whole mess, afterall.
Finally, they reached their destination and Fausto forcefully shoved her forward, releasing her hair and letting her fumble to remain standing. She wanted to be indignant, to show a little temerity in the face of danger, but she held her tongue. Antagonizing her enemies would not convince them to spare her life, nor would it distract them well enough to allow her a moment to escape.
It would not benefit her, except to sate her pride, and so she said nothing.
She was standing in a narrow alley, facing a tall brick wall. Dead ends had always made her skin crawl, the way some people avoid basements or the woods at night. Facing the three men with her knives far off in the hotel room, she realized exactly how awful dead ends could be.
She recognized Acilio's dramatic accent coming from behind her. "Welcome, Atherin. You don't look well, why don't you have a seat?" He wasn't actually making a suggestion, she knew, but the sharp snap of his fingers told her he was doing more than being snide.
Those familiar sausage fingers wrapped around both of her arms and forced her to her knees. "Is this how you treat guests, Acilio?"
He laughed, but the sound was bitter. "Salvatore has something for you, la mia puttanella."
A shiver ran down her spine. There was something about his tone that unnerved her, an edge that led her to believe there was some seriously harmful event planned for her. Suddenly, the concept of escape seemed much farther away. Their shadows played out useless immitations of the motions going on behind her.
He said Salvatore's name and nothing else. Perhaps it was the nothing else that shook her confidence. Heavy footfalls approached her from beyond her vision. The hands gripping her arms tightened, putting more pressure than was necessary until she was certain there would be wide, dark bruises in the morning. Fausto was directly behind her, Salvatore approaching her left. Her heartrate sped up as she tried to keep her breathing regulated. She couldn't appear terrified, that would only encourage them. Her palms practically burned with the need to feel a smooth, cool hilt against them. She wanted to struggle, wanted to get her arms free and snap a couple of necks, but she knew better. She was in no position to fight, not yet. There were three men, and she only had the coordinates of two of them. It wasn't wise to start a fight she wasn't sure she could win. Whatever they planned, they needed her alive if they wanted anything from her.
They did, she knew, or they'd have killed her already. Something pricked against the back of her neck and she realized, just a little too late, that Acilio wasn't going to cuff her or whack her in the face. No, she realized, it wasn't anything quite that simple minded.
The injection took no longer than three seconds, but by the time she could feel the syringe being pulled out of her neck, she was already struggling to keep her eyes open. The colors around her began to change, to grow stronger somehow, and more alive. The old stones of the road nearly glowed beneath her, a comforting illumination though she knew it wasn't supposed to be happening.
From behind her, she could hear the men talking but her head felt heavy and attempting to discern what was English and what was Italian through his thick accent seemed tedious and unimportant.
Her head oscilated from one side to the other, her neck limp, and she marvelled at the swirl of colors before her.
It was getting harder to focus on any one thing, but she had been able to pick out a few key words. She'll be dead, of course, being her primary concern, but followed closely by other trigger words. Words like beat, break, and bury. Her mouth felt incredibly dry, and every attempted swallow became harder than the last.
A moment of recognition came over her and she drank down a big gulp of air. They had used scopolamine on her, she recalled the far-off confusion and flickering hallucinations from her time in rehabilitation. On the edge of her vision, thought she counted five shadows on the wall, but when she tried counting again, there were only four.
She could hear voices arguing behind her, but the words were too jumbled for her to make out. She shuddered, her entire body convulsing with the movement, unexpectedly freezing. She blinked until her eyes hurt, trying to shake away the hallucination of a blizzard that had taken over her surroundings. Her teeth chattered.
She didn't anticipate the rough hands that lifted her from the ground and slammed her into one of the long brick walls trapping her in the alley. She gasped desperately, all of the oxygen having been expelled from her lungs with the force of her collision, but she couldn't get more than a few quick gulps of air. A fist came from her right and hit her with a brilliant force. Her vision shook for a moment and she shut her eyes, hoping that not seeing things just before they happened would lessen the reality of them.
A knee crashed into her abdomen and the sharp cracking noise could only mean one thing: broken ribs. She didn't get the chance to cry out before one of the three men pulled her off the wall and spun her around. Without hesitating, he shoved her forward and she smashed into the same wall, dizzy. The coarse texture of the bricks scratched at her face and she could smell the blood. A gash above her eyebrow began to bleed heavily, dripping into her eyes and tinting the world a bright red.
"Acilio," her voice was uneven, barely above a whisper, but it held every ounce of self-preservation she had in her body. She pushed further, spitting out the blood that had already run down to pool between her lips. She turned her head enough that she could see figures to her right, bulky blurs of shapes and shades. "Let me go. There will be repercussions for this."
Laughter sounded all around her and she panicked, deeply terrified by the noise for a reason she couldn't place. She scrambled to push herself off the wall, using all the strength she could gather in her arms, until she turned herself enough to face the fuzzy silhouettes of her assailants.
Distantly, she realized something.
She was going to die. In a back alley in a country she couldn't remember the name of, behind buildings she didn't recognize, at the hands of three men she would have been able to take down any other time. Her kneecaps felt as if they were encased in jell-o.
How, she wondered, had she allowed them to stick a needle in her? What had convinced her to go anywhere unarmed? When had she grown to be so foolish, so inane?
Knuckles connected with her nose and a fresh burst of blood spilled down her face, hot and thick, and she bit back a yell. Her entire nose felt swollen already, every beat of her heart pounded and ached in the middle of her face, and she knew he'd broken her nose. Swimming in the forefront of her consciousness, she realized, for the second time, that this could all be traced back to Malcolm.
Every broken bone, every bruise, every cut, was his fault.
The realization made her angry, and she felt more aware for a split second, but it was fleeting and before she could harness it, her chance was gone. Her muscles felt flimsy. Another punch hit her on the side of the mouth. Immediately, she tongued her teeth and discovered two had been loosened by the blow. Through the thickening fog that clouded her awareness, she couldn't figure out the mechanics it required to spit out the dislodged teeth.
Someone grabbed her hair again and pulled her head up so her face was upturned to the sky. The sun shone directly in her eyes, and even with them closed, it's brightness was blinding. A knife blade pressed into her sore left cheek and lingered there, a wordless commination she didn't have a chance to escape. Even with the drugs making her perceptions and reactions sluggish, she knew what steps to take to free herself.
And, more importantly, arm herself.
One step to the right, rotating her torso ninety degrees to the left, she could do one of two things: kick in Fausto's kneecap, or use his hair-gripping arm to throw his body over her, probably dislocating his shoulder. The single flaw in her plan of action was how lax and unresponsive her muscles were.
"Where are your friends, Atherin?" Acilio's voice came from beside her, close enough to her ear that she could feel the heat of his breath. She shook her head, her mouth unable to decipher the command to speak.
la mia puttanella - my little whore