Saturday, September 10, 2016

Maywitch Chapter 11: Trapped

Previous Chapter: The Reader
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When Kay finally woke up the next day, the sun was already shining brightly through the front window. She could hear Dustin’s voice in the kitchen, and when he emerged a minute later, he thrust a bagel at her. “Cream cheese in the kitchen, if you want it,” he said. “But hurry up. I just got a call.”
She blinked heavily as she took the bagel. “What time is it?”
“It’s noon.”
“Sorry.”
“No, I let you sleep,” he said, shrugging. “Silence spells are handy.”
She smiled as she sat up. “Thanks. You’re a pretty good host.”
“Yeah, girls crash on my couch more than you think.” He smirked as he walked down the hallway. “No time to shower, but we’ll worry about that later.”
“Where are we going?”
“Can’t tell you that.”
“How much longer til I’m vetted?”
“You’re halfway there. I read through your cellphone and there was nothing suspicious.”
Maywitch had apparently made a pretty convincing phone for Lisa Michaels, Kay thought as she feigned annoyance. “That’s kinda rude. I hope you at least didn’t look at the photos—”
“What? There were only a few cat photos!”
“It’s the principle of it.” She sighed. “But I guess it’s fair.”
He pulled a duffel bag from a hall closet and walked back to the living room. “Let’s go,” he said. “We’re getting picked up in two minutes.”
“You don’t have a car? Who’s picking us up?”
“You ask too many questions,” he said as he unlocked the front door. “Grab your shit. I already got the lumericite. Let’s go.”
Kay grabbed her backpack and followed him outside. “We only got a half-hour drive, and you can change and stuff when you get there,” he said.
A beat-up gray sedan was idling a short distance away. Dustin threw the duffel bag into the backseat and climbed into the front passenger seat. “Get in,” he said.
The driver’s face wasn’t visible, but Kay caught a glimpse of shoulder-length gray hair. Her stomach leapt into her throat as she climbed into the car.
“Morning,” she said, hoping to conceal her nervousness.
“Morning,” the driver said. It was a woman’s voice - and it took Kay less than a second to recognize it as Renaya’s.
Kay set her hands in her lap and watched as they pulled away from the curb. “So where are we—”
“Coffee, first,” Dustin said, handing her a thermos. “We’ll need you awake.”
Kay smiled and took it. “Oh? This’ll be an exciting day, huh?” She took the cap off of the thermos and took a long sip of the lukewarm coffee.
“Curb your enthusiasm,” Renaya said. “You’re only coming with us because we can’t leave you alone.”
“Well, we’ll need you for some stuff,” he said, smiling, “but nothing exciting. And it’ll be a lot of waiting.”
Kay sipped the coffee again. It was pleasantly sweet. “Okay. No complaints.”
“Yeah, and that better not change once we give you some busywork,” Renaya said.
As she took a longer swig of the coffee, Kay fought back a bitchy comment. She handed the thermos back to Dustin. “I’ll have more later, thanks. What about—”
She trailed off. Small, fuzzy spots of black had begun to dance in front of her eyes. Dustin’s coffee had been spiked, likely with a sleeping potion.
“You guys, what…?” She felt her head sag forward, and before she could finish her sentence, she was asleep.

“We’re here!” someone said loudly in her ear. “Wake up.”
Kay grunted and jerked upright. Renaya was leering at her from the front seat. “Have a nice nap?” she asked. “Nothing personal. We just couldn’t have you knowing where you are.”
Dustin stood outside the car, looking uneasy. “Lisa, you good? I might’ve made that a little strong. Didn’t mean for you to be out for more than twenty minutes.”
Kay rubbed her eyes. It took her a long second to realize that he was talking to her. “Oh - yeah,” she mumbled, “you sure did. What was that for?”
“Until you’ve proven yourself a bit more, we can’t let you know anything, including the location of our base,” Renaya said as she climbed out of the car.
Kay bit back a scowl. That line of reasoning was uncomfortably familiar. “Alright,” she said, trying to act casual. “I mean, it wasn’t a bad nap. Wish you coulda warned me, though.”
The sedan had pulled up outside of a massive house with wood siding. It was a few decades old, but well-maintained, and Kay found herself wondering how they could afford such a place - or who they had killed to get it. The massive pine trees around the house sent looming shadows over them, even with the sun almost directly overhead.
“Come on,” Dustin said, waving her toward the door. “You can continue your nap inside.”

For the rest of the day, Kay alternated between napping on the couch and reading the faded copy of Das Kapital on the living room table. No one gave her any work to do until dinnertime, when Renaya waved her into the kitchen.
“Cut these up, will ya?” she said, pointing to a cutting board full of vegetables.
Kay grabbed a knife from the counter and set to work. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Renaya pouring vegetable stock into a large pot. Renaya’s face was calm - too calm, Kay thought, for all the death and destruction she was responsible for.
For a fleeting moment, Kay could focus on nothing but the knife in her hand. She was close enough that she could stab Renaya in the neck and fight her way out, escaping into the woods in under a minute. It would be a fitting end to the woman who had played a role in Juan’s death.
Later, Kay told herself, forcing herself to begin chopping vegetables. Intel first. Protect Mom - and Holly, and even Nadia, for that matter.
Renaya didn’t seem to notice Kay’s ill intent, and less than thirty minutes later, they had quietly prepared a small feast of stuffed red peppers and vegetable stew. “Everything’s vegetarian here, by the way,” Renaya said as she nodded to the table. “Hope that doesn’t bother you. Sit and make yourself a plate.”
She walked off with a bowl and a plate in hand, and Kay sat down heavily at the table. She ladled herself a bowl of stew and ate quickly, realizing how hungry she was after a long day.
Ten minutes later, Renaya returned. “As soon as you’re done, go to your room for the night,” Renaya said. “You aren’t sharing a room with anyone right now, but if you get up for anything other than to go to the bathroom, we’ll notice.”
Kay smiled shyly. “I understand,” she said. “Um, how much longer until I can help?”
Renaya’s expression relaxed, and she smiled back. “Aw, that’s nice of you,” she said. “Soon, okay? Gonna need a lot of lumericite real soon.”
Kay nodded, hoping her eyes hadn’t just betrayed her terror. She was going to run out of time sooner rather than later.

Kay barely slept in her windowless room, which she guessed used to be an office or drawing room. She was awake and reading a battered copy of Frankenstein when someone knocked on her door.
“Morning,” Dustin’s voice said, “Can I come in?”
“Yeah,” Kay said, setting the book aside. He was quite the gentleman, for someone who had drugged her the day before.
He entered and closed the door behind him. “Is there any real limit to how much lumericite you can make?” he asked. “Renaya wants to know as soon as possible.”
She shrugged. “Not that I know of. Don’t forget, I very rarely make it.”
“Okay. I guess we’ll find out. We need a lot within the next four days.”
Kay nodded, trying to ignore the sweat starting to appear on her hands. “Where do you plan on using it?”
He frowned. “Can’t tell you that yet.”
“I need to know so I can adjust for humidity,” she said. “You want the best product possible, right? There’s a difference between using it in Las Vegas and, say… Houston.”
He tensed, and for a moment, she worried that the lie that Gardner had taught her wouldn’t work. Humidity did matter with lumericite, but it was the humidity of the production site that mattered, not the place one wanted to blow up. “Well, I’m sure it’s pretty humid, but I’ll check,” he said. “Hot, too. Does that matter?”
“If you could tell me what we’re trying to blow up, I could maybe make some suggestions,” she said. “I might not be too helpful, but I could tell you if the amount you wanna use is enough, or if you’re basically wasting it.”
“I think we’re already getting good advice, but I’ll pass that along,” he said. “Stay here for a while longer. We’ll let you out to do work and get breakfast soon.”
She resisted the urge to roll her eyes as he left. She was tired of being treated like a captive instead of a worker.

An hour later, Dustin came back and walked her to the kitchen, where Renaya handed her a biscuit and a mug of coffee. “Sorry, our grocery run got delayed,” she said. “We got your ingredients, though!”
Kay smiled. “Just say when, and I’ll get started.”
“We’re doing this someplace hot and humid, and the target is a concrete and steel building. Tall and modern architecture. Heavily populated, but we’re being careful about our targeting.”
Probably a major city, Kay thought to herself. How many major cities were also hot and humid besides Houston?
Her heart plummeted. They better not be targeting Houston.
“I see,” she said, her smile wavering. “I’ll tweak the ratios a little, then, to account for the humidity.”
“How much do you know about explosives in general? We got someone pretty well-versed in physics helping us, but anything you got to add would be helpful,” Renaya said.
Kay shook her head. She considered making something up to try to minimize their damage, but didn’t want to get caught in a lie. “They probably know a lot more than I do,” she said. “I just know how much you need, and stuff.”
“Get to work, then,” Renaya said, setting a bag of rock salt on the table.
As Kay complied, Renaya and Dustin stood idly by the sink, where the breakfast dishes were soaking. “I forgot to ask more details about last night,” Renaya said. “How was it? Sorry you had to go so suddenly.”
“I’m glad I went. Both girls seem legit. One of them is pretty scared, though. I think she’s just following the other," Dustin said.
“What, Billie?”
Kay paused. That was Holly’s code name.
“Yeah. We’ll have to keep a close eye on her. I believe their couple story, though,” Dustin replied.
“Are you certain? It seems weird that a couple would stumble upon us like this. It makes more sense that we’d attract…” Renaya paused and tilted her head. “Loners.”
Kay’s hands were shaking, and she took a long sip of coffee in an attempt to hide her nervousness. If anything happened to Holly’s cover, both her and Nadia were as good as dead.
“I’m pretty sure. You should see the way the other one, the tall one, thinks about her when she thinks no one is watching.”
Kay choked, spitting coffee back into her cup. Dustin and Renaya turned around. “You good, there?” Dustin asked, his voice almost mocking.
Kay smiled and hoped her distraught expression would be hidden. “Uh, yeah. Sorry. That was funny, is all. You read their… feelings?”
He grinned back, and Renaya seemed to relax. “Sure did. If I was straight, I would’ve blushed,” he said. “I’m sure you can imagine.”
“I can’t, actually. Pretty sheltered. Got homeschooled for a long time.”
Renaya let out a sharp, biting laugh and turned toward the door. “Thanks, Dustin,” she said over her shoulder.
He shook his head. “Anyway, you’ll get to meet the new girls soon enough,” he said to Kay. “They’ll arrive tonight. Dunno if they’ll be as helpful as you, but Kyle will come up with something for them to do.”
“Kyle?”
“He’s our best recruiter,” Dustin said, his smile fading. “A little too good. Senses auras clearly, but can’t read their intentions like I can. Every time I’ve vetted his work, though, he’s found something special, you know?”
Kay nodded, but her heart still felt uneasy. Their aura modifications back at Maywitch had been designed to attract attention from mages with evil intentions, but Nadia and Holly hadn’t planned to be recruited so quickly. Plus, if Nadia had fooled Dustin’s Reading abilities, that either meant that she had complicated feelings like Kay’s, or was plotting something nefarious.

That, of course, could be lethal for the other two Maywitch spies.
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