Monday, February 27, 2017

Maywitch Chapter 34: House of Cards

Previous chapter: Heat Haze
The pale blue light filtered through the blinds, sending blurry lines across the white walls. Kay had to stare into space for a minute before remembering where she was. She slowly rolled over and pulled the sheets up to her chin, despite the heat.

Sure enough, Nadia was sprawled out on the bed as well, lying on her stomach with her head turned away from Kay. She let her eyes wander down Nadia’s hair before looking away and suppressing a sigh.

They really, really shouldn’t have done that - and not just because they had both fallen asleep afterward instead of having someone stay on guard. It wasn’t a matter of regrets, but more of a matter of what the hell they should do in such a perilous situation.

Before she could think about it any more, though, Nadia stirred and rolled over. Her eyes slowly opened, registering only a small amount of surprise when she saw Kay’s face.

“Morning,” she mumbled, closing her eyes again.

“Morning,” Kay replied.

Nadia’s eyes flew open and she sat up halfway, causing the sheets to fall from around her shoulders. Kay instinctively glanced away, though she had already seen it all anyway. “Neither of us stayed on guard. That’s my fault,” Nadia murmured.

“No, it’s not,” Kay said, raising a hand in a half-wave. “All’s well that ends well, and we had the security bracelets on, anyway…”

She trailed off as Nadia met her eyes. Sighing, Nadia dropped her gaze and sat up fully before swinging her legs out out of bed. “I should shower. Wanna come with?”

Kay wanted to go, but she found herself shaking her head. “I need some food first,” she mumbled as she sat up. “I’m starving.”

Nadia’s face fell slightly, but her lips twitched back up into a smile as she strode into the bathroom. “If you change your mind, that’s fine,” she said as she disappeared from view.

When she heard the shower turn on a minute later, Kay rubbed her eyes and rolled out of bed, knowing that someone should check the security feed and make sure everything was still in working order. As much as she wanted to revel in the endorphins and everything that had happened the night before, their responsibilities weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

She reluctantly threw on a t-shirt and shorts before scurrying into the living room. Once she was satisfied that the cameras and security system settings hadn’t been tampered with or disabled overnight, she turned her attention to the cans of food that had been brought upstairs the previous days. She couldn’t focus well, though, and she nearly cut herself on the sharp edge of the lid when she opened a can of tuna.

She paused, set the can opened aside, and leaned against the counter. She had to get it together. There were feelings there, sure. But did those feelings really stem from Nadia, or were they really just feelings for a human source of comfort?

Then again, she admitted to herself, those feelings had been brewing for a while - maybe even years, if she took the time to think about it, but she pushed that thought away. There was way too much baggage, drama and outright trauma burying whatever feelings may have been there in the past.

If all else failed, at least last night had been fun, but it was hard to take any satisfaction in that when they were facing imprisonment, death, or simply losing their jobs. All three of those scenarios would likely result in separation from each other. Maybe it was best to not get attached - let alone try to play house in the midst of this.

She shuddered and shook her head. It was too late for that, she thought as she continued opening the can of tuna.

A few minutes later, as Kay leaned against the counter stabbing chunks of tuna with a fork, Nadia emerged from the bedroom. She had put on a camisole and boy shorts, to Kay’s mild disappointment.
“Tuna for breakfast? Aren’t you sick of it yet?” Nadia asked as she opened the cabinet across from Kay.

“Kinda, but I think we need the protein,” Kay said between bites.

Nadia popped open a can of fruit and reached for the utensil drawer, sending her wet hair falling into her face. “Y’know…” The word hung in the air for a long moment, and Kay heard Nadia take a deep breath. “About last night--”

She suddenly stopped, and before Kay could even react, there was a squeak of a floorboard and a soft thud as Nadia dropped to the floor. “Someone’s here!” Nadia hissed as Kay knelt. “I can sense them - get all the way down!”

Kay obeyed, sprawling out on the hardwood floor. “Is it someone from Maywitch?”

“I’m pretty sure it is, and if I’m right, I’m sure she’s not alone.” Nadia began to army-crawl across the floor toward the TV.

“Who is it?” Kay asked as she followed.

“No promises, but…” Nadia grabbed the remote from the coffee table and flipped through the camera feeds before settling on one. “Yeah, that looks like Holly.”

Kay’s heart dropped. A black-clad figure with short twist-outs hovered in the shadows at the side of the driveway, and though the camera feed was grainy, Holly’s tall frame was unmistakable.

“There’s no way she’s alone,” Nadia said as she continued flipping through the feeds. “Why isn’t she bothering to hide, though?”

“It’s probably a trap, right?”

“Probably. What else could it be? Better question, though, how the hell did she know to come here--”

Both girls flinched as there was a sharp knock on the front door. “That was fast,” Kay muttered.

Nadia flipped to the feed showing the front porch. Holly had apparently hurried to the door, and she glanced over her shoulder before looking up at the camera mounted to the side of the house.

“Gardner sent me,” Holly yelled. “Well, Wojtec did, anyway. Lux pacifica.”

“Are you shitting me?” Nadia hissed. “How would Wojtec have known about this place?”

Kay shook her head. “What’s the likelihood that Maywitch has access to someone with Reading or lie-detecting abilities? Maybe they pressured Gardner to spill.”

“Unlikely. She’s tougher than that. Even if they put a gun to one of her colleague’s heads, she wouldn’t give away our location - not with stakes this high.”

“They wanted you to move as soon as I got here,” Holly yelled from outside. “Come on, I know you’re in there. I’m not bugged or anything, either; Wojtec made sure of that.”

Kay and Nadia looked at each other. For the first time in a while, pure fear was visible on Nadia’s face, and she hesitated for a long moment before calling back: “How do we know you weren’t followed?”

“We don’t, but George’s team seems to be already catching onto you anyway. Wojtec has been looped in on George’s investigations and is monitoring the situation closely. He wouldn’t have sent me if he didn’t think you would be discovered soon.” Holly looked over her shoulder again. “Let’s go. I parked up the street.”

“Sounds like Wojtec managed to avoid suspicion despite being close to Gardner,” Kay murmured.

“I guess that little knockout punch Gardner gave him ended up working the way she hoped,” Nadia said. “Okay. Hear me out for a minute, Kay. Part of me wants to try to keep hiding here, because being out in the open is dangerous as hell with the Grimoire.”

Kay nodded in agreement, and Nadia continued: “But I have to wonder how much longer we can really keep hiding here. If Wojtec bothered to send Holly, then that’s a sign that we’re running out of time. If Holly’s lying, then the plan has gone to shit anyway. Either way, we have to come up with a new plan.”

“It sounds to me like the plan up til now has hinged on borrowed time, anyway.”

Nadia smiled. “Didn’t we know that from the beginning?”

“Well, at least we made the most of it--” Kay stopped, realizing her phrasing was ambiguous at best, and Nadia raised an eyebrow. “Let’s get out of here,” Kay murmured as her face turned red.

“Alright, Holly, we’re coming outside,” Nadia yelled toward the door. “I swear to every god that exists, though, if you’re betraying us, I’ll kick your ass.”

“That’s fair!” was the muffled response.

“Go get the Grimoire, will ya? I’ll carry it, though,” Nadia said to Kay as she scrambled to her feet.

“I’ll get the backpacks.”

“We shouldn’t bother with our car, right?”

“Nope. Maywitch probably put out a notice to law enforcement about it already. Holly’s may not be tagged yet.”

Nadia disappeared into the bedroom, and Kay darted down the basement stairs. Within three minutes, they had grabbed the absolute necessities, thrown on their backpacks, and peeked out the front door where Holly stood waiting.

“I parked at the resort up the street - I didn’t want to risk leading them straight here, just in case I missed something.”

“Good call,” Nadia said. “GPS was disabled on the car?”

“Yup. I dunno how Wojtec pulled that off, but…” Holly smiled as she jogged toward the shoreline. “I walked down the road here, but we might blend in better on the beach, right?”

“And Maywitch will be less likely to pick a fight with a bunch of civilians present. Let’s go,” Nadia said as she turned to follow Holly.

There was a soft crack in the trees to their right, and Holly stopped and held out a hand. “You heard that?” she whispered.

Kay murmured a fire spell under her breath, and the vial of wormwood in her pocket began to grow hot. Nadia tensed, her eyes narrowing, but she sighed and waved a hand after a moment.

“Tierra, you can come out now,” she called. “If you didn’t even bother to cast a silence spell, then you must want something with us.”

Holly’s eyes grew wide. “You can’t be serious!”

A soft rustling sound answered her as a tall, dark-haired figure came into view through the foliage. Tierra wore a placid expression as she raised both hands and stepped over several low shrubs. “I’m not really sure what to do with y’all, but I mean no harm,” she said. “I decided to follow Holly of my own accord. I saw Wojtec tampering with the car and figured out something was up. I’m not here on anyone else’s behalf, though--”

“How?” Holly said, her voice shaking.

“I lost you for a minute, but to make a long story short, this place made it onto a list of potential hiding places that I was privy to. George looped me in on the list, but there were other places he thought you all were more likely to be at, so he was saving this spot for a little later.”

“Plus, you’re the best mage we have, when it comes to aura-tracking, so I’m sure that made it easier to catch up with Holly,” Nadia murmured. “So are you going to make yourself useful, or are we going to have to kill you?”

“I’m on your side… Though I want a say in what happens next.” Tierra shot Nadia a glare. “But we have to hurry and get away from here, since George will probably check here within six or eight hours. Let’s go to my car.”

“How do we know we can trust you?” Holly hissed, her hand hovering dangerously close to her pockets. “I can’t believe you--”

Tierra’s eyes grew wide, and she held up a hand. Kay watched as she turned halfway and stared beyond the resorts to the south

The roar of a helicopter could be heard faintly in the distance.

“Shit,” Kay said. “Tierra, did they follow you?”

Tierra sighed and ran a hand through her hair. “My phone has been turned off, car GPS disabled, and aura concealed to the best of my abilities, so I don’t know how—”

“Did it occur to you that they might have bugged you some other way, in case you betrayed them, too?” Nadia said. “George was probably two steps ahead of you and bugged you if you were privy to his plans--”

“Well how do you know Holly wasn’t bugged?”

“Because Wojtec had me take precautions to prevent that! Did you take any precautions, or did you just charge after me?” Holly snapped.

“This isn’t what I wanted. That bastard,” Tierra muttered, grinding her foot into the dust.

Holly let out a harsh laugh. “It isn’t, huh? Then what the hell were you—”

“Enough, Holly,” Nadia said, glancing toward the resorts. “I hear you, but let’s worry about her intentions later. We gotta go.”

“Go where, though?”

Nadia set off at a jog toward the main road. “West side of the island, hopefully cut down to the bridge and see if we can’t hitch a ride or just stay out of sight for a few hours,” she yelled over her shoulder.

“What about my car?” Holly asked as she began to follow.

“Not an option. For all we know, they’ve located it by now--” She froze and whirled around yet again. “What was that?”

The four stood in silence until a sharp yet distant pitter-patter reached Kay’s ears. “Please don’t tell me that’s gunshots,” she murmured.

“Let’s move! Whatever’s going on, we have to keep the Grimoire away from it!” Nadia yelled as she charged ahead.

The other three followed, stumbling over shrubs and rocks as they darted across the uneven terrain. When they reached the main road, Nadia slowed down for an instant to check for cars, then sprinted across into the woods.

Kay could feel leaves, twigs and spiderwebs grabbing at her face as she ran. The dense foliage left no room dodge any obstacles, and it was all she could do to follow the path Nadia forged for them. Behind her, she could hear Holly and Tierra panting and struggling to keep up.

She realized she had no idea how wide the island was, or if there was any real chance of them making it across without being caught, but it was worth a shot. Hiding was not an option - not with their lack of knowledge of the terrain. If Maywitch had already recruited local law enforcement to help hunt the four down, they could be kettled and captured within the hour.

Whatever happened, she would protect the back in front of her. Nadia, who had already sacrificed so much for Maywitch, deserved that much.

A shadow flickered overhead. The roar of her pulse pounding in her veins nearly drowned out Nadia’s cry of warning: “Something’s up there!”

A split second later, something slammed Kay against the ground, and she saw stars dancing against her eyelids as several cries of pain registered in her ears. As she struggled to sit up, she opened her eyes, and her blurred vision could only make out a tall, gray-skinned form standing a few short feet away.

No comments:

Post a Comment