The little room was dark, thin bars of light from a few solitary spotlights criss-crossing the walls and heightening the shadow. There appeared to be no windows or doors, just solid walls and one lonely grate in the corner of the ceiling. He was sat in the centre of the room, the faintest sheen of a circle surrounding him and the light of silver chains binding his limbs. There was no sound save for his laboured breathing, wet and bubbling and in obvious pain.
The wall slid aside with a soft hiss and a solitary figure stepped from the darkness beyond. His nostrils flared and then he lifted his head slightly in acknowledgement. The damage was clearer now, thin strips of light catching his face to reveal bruises, blood, open wounds. His visitor didn’t respond, walking into the room and slowly circling. The soft click of her shoes seemed to echo loudly in the little space as she completed her journey and stopped in front of him. He lifted his head properly, wincing in pain as there was an obvious cracking sound somewhere in his shoulder.
“Sofia… To what… do I owe-”
“Shut up, Cuorene.”
“You… look nice.” He gave a small smile as he looked her up and down. “Heels is… rare for-”
“Shut up. You’re in no position to flirt.”
He took a deep breath, falling silent and staring at her. She stared back, her gaze hard as she took him in.
“Why’d you do it?”
“Is she… dead?”
“Of course. You threw half her innards across the room. Not even a werewolf can survive that without help.” She frowned. “They must have told you. You’ve been in here long enough.”
“I… forget.” His eyes grew a little distant, as if he was seeing something not in the room, a brief tremor running down his arms. She glanced down at his hands wrapped in the silver chains, her nose wrinkling in disgust.
“Jesus, Cuorene. How could you be so fucking stupid?”
“She… had it… comi-” He coughed, a little blood trickling out the corner of his mouth. The circle around him flared slightly and he let out a low groan.
“So what? You think I wouldn’t have loved to mash her smug little bitch face into broken glass given half the chance? But I didn’t, because I’m not a fucking moron,” she snapped. “And now I have to put on this stupid costume and finish her project because you let her get to you. How could you let her get to you? You’re better than that!”
They looked at each other in silence again. The frustration was clear on her face, but as she looked him over it slowly changed. He took another deep, pained breath. Cartwright stared down at him with something that might have been pity or regret.
“Christ, they’ve messed you up. I thought werewolves were supposed to be able to take this shit?”
“They’ve got… a whole special… regimen, just for me.” He seemed to struggle to speak. “I’ve had worse.”
“I’ll be… out of here… soon.” He shook his head slightly. “They can… only punish me for… so long.”
“And then what?” She frowned. “You think they’ll just let you back like before, all hunky dory? You fucked up big time.”
“Maybe I’ll get… a new job then.”
Cartwright scoffed, hands on her hips. “Don’t make stupid choices, Cuorene. You’ve been in this job long enough to know the price. You can’t walk away. You know that if you do, they’ll never stop until everyone you love is dead, and then you as well.”
He grinned at her, spitting a tooth out onto the floor. “Now what makes you think that I’d do something stupid, Sofia? All my choices have been excellent so far.”
“Mmmmhmmm.” She pointedly looked him up and down, reaching out and pressing her foot against his kneecap. He let out a groan of pain as she twisted slightly and then she pulled away, reaching out to lift his head so she could meet his gaze. He grinned again, a little weaker this time. “It certainly seems that way. Tell me, is all of this for just Luther then? It’s been a week now, I figure they’d have gotten bored of making a point. After all, as bad as it is for us to kill each other, she brought it on herself. It was only a matter of time really, they had to have expected it.” She tilted her head. “You’re too valuable an asset for them to just throw away. You can’t still be here for that. Or is it because of your Silver Fang?”
He stared at her silently, the grin fading. She looked into his eyes as if she was searching for something, and then pulled back with a hiss of frustration, turning away. “Shit. She was right. What the fuck have you done?”
He didn’t answer, his head slumping again as he seemed to give up on trying to hold it up. She paced back and forth in the room, heels clicking loudly on the floor. “Fuck’s sake. Crane says she’s been made queen or something. He said that everyone can feel it, that it was like somebody took the spirit world and shook it like a baby.” She gave a snort of disdain. “His words, not mine. Were you supposed to stop that happening? Cos if so, you’ve fucked up.”
“Then what? What could have made you so stupid as to snap and kill Luther? What could possibly be worth this, have led you to be fucking tortured in the basement?” she snapped, turning sharply back to him. He didn’t answer, head still resting against his chest. The insides of his ears were dark with dried blood.
“They’re going to let you out soon,” she said after a while. Her voice was cold, distant as she stared at him. “I saw the paperwork on your PA’s desk. They’ll give you some time to recuperate, think about some things. Then you’ll be back on the job. There was a pile of paperwork with her name on it. It was in the amber files, Cuorene. You know what that means.”
He stiffened a little. She sighed. “If you’re going to… Shit. Don’t do anything, Curoene. Please. We were almost sort of friends. At the very least, I could respect your skill. I’m asking you to be smart and just do the job.”
He just sat there, the circle on the floor glowing a little and the chains trembling slightly around his limbs. Eventually she turned and walked back towards the wall, pushing at something so that it slid open again. She paused slightly, looking back at him.
“If you’re stupid… Pray if they send someone after you, it’s me. Crane’s been waiting a long time to take you down, he’ll pull out every stop he has – and they’ll give him the means. Even you can’t stand against the full weight of Pentex, no matter how good you are. And Maddox…” she shuddered. “You don’t want Maddox. At least I’d be quick and clean.”
Blood dripped onto the floor as his fingers dug into his palms, hissing as it hit the shimmering circle at his feet. She turned and left him alone in the darkness.