from a serial by Lexi Summer Hale
“Ferret, my dear.” Raven Windhand smiles brightly. “I’m so pleased you could find the time. Wine?”
“Don’t mind if I do.” Ferret takes the glass gingerly. “What’s the occasion, if I may be so bold?”
“I believe you’ve recently misplaced some property,” Raven purrs. “I’d like to do my duty as a good citizen by restoring it to you.”
Ferret frowns, sips his wine. “I’m sorry, mistress, I don’t follow. I’m not in the habit of losing shipments, me.”
Raven laughs. “I would never so insult your professionalism, my dear.” She gestures at a thug, who nods and slips into a dark passageway. “No, it’s something decidedly less valuable.”
There's a pneumatic hiss, and the thug returns, dragging something... someone by the arm.
Ferret’s blood goes cold.
“Your toy amused me, briefly,” Raven continues, taking a leisurely drag from her slim pipe. Smoke curls about her mouth. “But I’ve since grown tired of it.”
The thug is dragging a woman. Small. Raggedy golden hair. Khmai. Red and brown stains her bare skin. Eyes black with bruises. Hands and feet are manacled.
Conscious, but silent.
“Imagine my surprise when I found someone on Lotus stupid enough to try and rip me off,” says Raven, her voice relentlessly light, even as all trace of humor vanishes from her eyes. “Imagine my surprise when I found out it was one of your people.”
Ferret’s wine glass drifts away as he raises both hands defensively. “Mistress! I had no idea. I swear to you, I do. I would never sanction-”
“Relax!” Raven laughs suddenly, mirth returning to her expression. “Ferret, my dear, if I thought you were behind this, you’d be somewhere very cold and dark and cramped right now. No, I make a point of investigating these matters.” She drums her fingers idly on the justiciar’s sword pinned at her waist. “Dahlia, I hope, has learned a very valuable lesson over the course of the past few weeks. Haven’t you, my dear?”
“Do with her as you please, Ferret. Her fate no longer interests me.” Raven flicks her hand and her enforcer shoves Dahlia into Ferret’s arms. “You may go now.”
Ferret blinks several times, his heart racing. “I - yes. Yes, mistress.”
“Oh, and, Ferret?”
“Keep your pets on a tighter leash next time.”
“You alright, love?” Ferret takes Dahlia by the shoulder. “Can you speak?”
Dahlia shakes her head. She can’t look him in the eye. Ferret rummages in his pockets for a pair of lockpicks, and effortlessly unlocks her restraints, brushing dried blood from her wrists. He winces. The handcuffs had been on much too tight, and for far too long.
“Here.” Ferret shrugs out of his long jacket, and drapes it across Dahlia’s bare shoulders. With shaky hands, she tries to fasten the buttons, but gives up and holds the jacket in place instead.
“Dammit, Dahlia, what did you do?” Ferret mutters, steering her towards a passageway. “You just had to get greedy, didn’t you?”
Dahlia bites her lip.
“What was it? Eh? Slaves? Drugs? Guns?”
“W-w-” Dahlia stammers.
Ferret stares at her, eyes wide. “Oh, fuckin’ tits. Don’t fucking tell me-”
“-wine,” Dahlia finishes, and looks away.
“You bloody idiot.” Ferret clips her across the cheek. “You went after her fucking wine. Do you have any bleedin’ idea how lucky you are to still be alive?”
Dahlia looks down.
Ferret sighs. “God’s arse. Go. Fuckin’ clean yourself up. You know where the bloody safehouse is.”
Dahlia nods mutely.
“And after that,” Ferret growls, “we’re going to have a little chat about your future employment prospects, we are.”