Nichademus stood, staring out of his window at the city spread before him. A flat grey sky showed the slate city for what it was—dull, grey and dirty. He hated this city. Despised it, in fact. He couldn’t wait till his authorities sent him elsewhere.
One of his powerful hands rested on the bust of a woman’s head. It was the only good thing about his assignment here. Nichadeemas had seen it in the window of a dark, smelly little shop and right away knew that he had to have it. The sculpture was amazingly realistic and portrayed a beautiful, slender woman with her hair partly swept back from her face. But it was not the expertise of the craftsmanship that had attracted Nichademus. Rather, it was the expression on the woman’s face. It was a strange mixture of love and fear. The emotions were so real that they were almost tangible, and every time his fingers traced the familiar forms of her face he almost expected to feel the emotions come alive in his hands. Fear. Rarely did an artist try to portray fear in his art and Nichademus had never seen such a successful rendering. It gave him great pleasure.
There was a nervous knock on the door.
“Who’s there?” Nichademus was agitated that he had to raise his voice to respond.
“It’s me, my lord.”
“‘It’s Jerd, my lord’, not ‘me’,” Nichademus muttered with annoyance under his breath before answering. “Come in. And you had better be bringing me good news.”
The door opened without a creak and the wide, pale-faced Jerd stepped in. He smelled of his last meal, as usual. Nichademus did not give his underling the courtesy of turning to meet him.
“I’m afraid, sir, that I don’t have any good news yet. I’m very sorry sir. There has been no sign of Eyse. No reports at all.”
Nichademus felt a sudden surge of fiery anger rise in his chest and quickly calmed it, replacing it with icy calmness. He had once been a man of violent and passionate fury, but he had long ago learned to control it.
“Go back to your duties Jerd.”
The large man left without another word. Jerd was relieved to be allowed away from the terrifying presence of Nichademus.
Once he was gone and his heavy footsteps could no longer be heard, Nichademus turned and left the bust on its stand to look out at the grey city alone.
When Mindie heard the footsteps coming, she got to her feet and tried unsuccessfully to straighten out the creases in her navy blue dress. The door swung open with a bang and Nichademus filled the doorway, his powerful frame silhouetted by the flickering torches in the hallway behind him.
“Why has he not taken the bait?” Nichademus’ voice was not angry, but as cold as the stone that surrounded them.
“I don’t know. Maybe he was waylaid,” she answered the first thing that came to mind.
“Or maybe you lied to me.”
“What would be the point of that? I made a fair exchange for the information you wanted. Besides, if you don’t capture him, I I’m dead. I know that.”
“You’re buying for time.” He walked menacingly towards her. “For whatever reason, you’re weaving tales for me to keep me from what I really want to know.” He now stood so close before her that she could feel his warm breath on her forehead and she could not help looking up at him with something akin to terror in her face. She quickly tried to hide the emotion, but he had seen it.
A crooked smile tilted his perfect lips.
He put his hand on her neck to feel her racing pulse.
“Yes, you should be afraid.”
Mindie pulled away from him, till her back was against the cold stone wall. He only moved with her. She was so trapped and helpless. A tear of fear and frustration squeezed itself out of her eyes. Showing her weakness before this man she hated suddenly turned her emotions into anger.
“I told you the truth!” she shouted so loud that Nichademus took a slight step back. Her angry words echoed away into the catacombs where they reverberated off of water and stone. “I turned my heart inside out when I betrayed him. For you!” she continued shouting. “Now leave me alone and wait for him to show up or go look for him or something!” It was a while before her shouts echoed their way back into silence.
“One more day,” said Nichademus and he left, shutting the door silently behind him.
Mindie collapsed to the ground and wept. She was, after all, merely human.