The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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“Has Benny gone out?” Janine asked, rolling onto her front on the bed and tilting her head at Sam. He nodded, closing her door quietly behind him and puffing out a sigh. “What’s the matter, baby? You look tense.” He grunted, sitting on the edge of the bed. Janine got to her knees, rubbing his shoulders. “You want to talk about it?”

“It’s Madison. She’s doing my nut in.” Janine’s brows furrowed.

“What has she done? Is Jase still not making her work?” Sam scoffed and rolled his eyes,

“Not just that, you know she tried to get out last night?” Janine tried to conceal the fact that she was slightly impressed with a shocked expression. She knew she’d overheard something in the hallway. Sam nodded as he continued, “yep and you know what Jase did?” she shook her head. “Stopped Benny from cutting her.” She pursed her lips. She was happy for Madison but at the same time, no one had ever stopped Benny where the other girls were concerned. Jealousy took a bite at Janine.

“That’s... very unlike Jase.” She chose her words carefully. Not so dissimilar to Madison, she knew she got things easier in the house as well. Sam looked over his shoulder at her,

“That’s exactly what everyone else is saying. The whispers are already starting about why he’s not making Madison work. It’s only a matter of time before he hears it and people start thinking he’s gone soft.” She smiled at him,

“Jase? Soft? You’ve got a better chance of getting a lap dance from a nun. Let’s not forget this is the same guy that killed every girl in this house, other than me, all because drugs went missing. And that was only because you spoke up. Then, when he eventually found out who did take all the product, he blowtorched their lips off. What was it he said?” Sam frowned at the memory, the smell of burning flesh tinged his nostrils as he recalled the gruesome scene.

“If he wasn’t going to take the opportunity to talk when he was asked, he wouldn’t have the opportunity ever again.” He replied. Janine nodded, running her tongue along her upper lip. She scooted to the edge of the bed, going over to her dresser and picking up the box of cigarettes, sliding one out and tossing them to Sam.

“There’s definitely more to it than this; there has to be. Jase isn’t the kind of guy that... that just lets people off the hook for things.” She insisted, but Sam didn’t have much of a reply. Instead, he just shrugged, toking his cigarette and staring at the floor. She was right. Jase was the last person to let go of things. He wasn’t forgiving in the slightest yet with Madison it seemed she could do whatever she pleased. The whole plan, Sam could understand, could even see it working. What he didn’t understand was why? What wasn’t Jase telling him? Why was he so dead set on getting Madison to surrender peacefully?

He decided not to mull over it, he’d already told Janine too much.

“Come on if you want to come downstairs for a bit then,” he muttered, standing up and leaving the room. Janine remained where she was for a moment. There had to be so much more to Jase and Madison.

She quickly accepted it was unlikely her questions would be answered before following in Sam’s footsteps.

Jase and Adam were sat in the living room, at the table, smoking and talking about shifting the cocaine they’d received from Ramon. She sat down next to Sam as he rolled a joint.

“Go get it, we’ll test it out,” Adam said to which Jase stood up, jogging upstairs to grab the package.

“Benny’s away. You can come and sit downstairs if you still wanted to get out of the room.” He said to Madison.

“Is this a trap?” she asked, her eyes narrowing as she sat up. Jase scrunched his nose in confusion.

“Why would it be a trap?”

“Because of last night,” she shrugged.

“I’ve taken care of it.” The floorboards creaked behind him on the stairs as she followed him down. “Although Benny’s not here, I still wouldn’t try any funny business. Sam and Adam are, and the front door is locked,” he warned.

“I’m not about to take the chances. Don’t worry.”

Janine stared at Madison as she walked in behind Jase. She wasn’t completely sure why she’d come downstairs; it wasn’t like they had activities set out.

“You can make a cup of tea or something if you want,” Jase mumbled as he sat back down at the table with the package. Madison chewed the inside of her lip, turning to go out into the kitchen. Janine leapt up off the sofa and followed, pushing the door closed so there was only an inch gap.

“Why you?” she asked quietly, Madison’s brows furrowed as she looked over her shoulder before flicking the kettle on.

“What do you mean?” Janine pulled a chair out, propping her feet up on the table and folding her arms as if she was examining Madison.

“Jase is quite possibly the cruellest one here, what have you got on him as to why he’s treating you differently? Because everyone sees it.” Madison’s hands clammed and she felt her heart pick up the pace. She shrugged, trying to seem nonchalant.

“I don’t know.” Janine rolled her eyes,

“I’m not going to snitch on you, if there’s anyone you can depend on in this house, it’s me.” The kettle clicked as it reached boiling point and Madison filled her cup, stalling for time to think of a response. The best she could go for was no reply at all, at least then, she couldn’t get in trouble. Stirring her tea, she tapped the spoon on the edge and placed it on the draining board by the sink, picking her mug up and blowing on it. “How he is right now isn’t normal behaviour. There’s a reason,” Janine continued.

“I don’t know Jase; I couldn’t tell you why he’s acting differently towards me if he is,” Madison said dismissively. Janine pursed her lips, glancing at the clock. It was half one.

“How old are you, seventeen?” she asked, Madison nodded. Janine sighed. “You’re young. I know the boys are scary, so I don’t blame you for not telling me anything - if there is anything to tell - but one thing you need to take note of, Jase isn’t pleasant to anyone. He doesn’t have a conscience, and I’d be very careful with whatever it is you’re doing, for your own sake and for ours. He might not hurt you, but he isn’t above hurting us to teach you a lesson so on behalf of the other girls in this godforsaken shit hole, tread carefully.” She stood, placing a hand on the door when Madison halted her in her tracks as she spoke,

“What should I know, about Jase, I mean?” she asked, unsure if she genuinely wanted the answer. Janine’s words had made Madison question herself and how far ahead of him she actually was. And if anyone was going to give her any useful information, it was one of the other girls. She felt like she could trust Janine, to an extent. She’d followed her into the kitchen of her own accord and attempted to caution her. Janine chewed the insides of her cheeks in thought.

“Whatever you do, don’t trust him. He’s very old school, and he will silence his closest friends if it keeps him in the safe zone. He’s been here a long time. He knows how everything, and everyone, works. I can promise you this, there are no good intentions where you’re concerned. Whatever it is he’s playing at, you are not on the winning side.” She stood silently for a second, letting her words sink in before continuing. “Jase likes to play games. The only way you can survive in a man’s world is to be like them.” With that, she left. Madison wasn’t stupid, Janine’s last words were words of advice. She was doing what she could to help Madison survive in the house, to survive Jase.

She had to start thinking like him.

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